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Chapter 979: The reward that caught Ning Cheng’s eye

The newly-arrived group sat down in the most conspicuous place at the front of the public square, right next to the alchemy platform. Sheng Huotian’s gaze quickly zeroed in on Ning Cheng; he then smiled at him and gave him an encouraging nod.

At this moment, the public square had already filled up with nearly three thousand people seated in an orderly manner. Yet, it was so spacious that it also felt empty at the same time. Ning Cheng’s spiritual consciousness carefully swept out and detected more powerful people seated quietly within the crowd. Even the bigwigs from the major forces such as Man Huishan, Shi Tianhe, Le Jiesheng and Fei Feng had come here and were seated quietly. Ning Cheng also saw the Star Stepping Tower’s Tower Master sitting in the crowd, still dressed in black. 𝗶𝗻𝙣r𝑒𝑎𝚍. 𝘤𝑜𝘮

Looks like this Alchemy Discourse holds great significance for everyone here.

Sounds of drums suddenly emerged out of nowhere and seeped into everyone’s mind. At the same time, the restrictions on the Pill Union’s public square also activated, which meant that no one else could enter or leave this place.

Once the drum sounds stopped, the man wearing the pitch-black pill sage’s robe stood up and slowly walked onto the stage.

He first gave a respectful bow to the work of the alchemy sages from the past before turning towards the crowd and speaking up in a slow but clearly audible voice. “It’s time for another bi-centennial Alchemy Discourse. I, Sichen Qiutian, as the Union Master of the Pill Union, will preside over it. Welcome to all the fellow Daoists who came here to discuss their Daos of Alchemy and the daoists and sect masters who have come to listen to the alchemy discussions. I heard that the opening of Illusionary Fruit Orchard this time brought to light many alchemy masters, which makes me very happy. I hope that this times’ Grand Essence Alchemy Discourse can surpass all the previous ones.”

Everyone here knew that every time, just before the start of the Alchemy Discourse, Sichen Qiutian would discuss his understanding of the Dao of Alchemy. In fact, it had become a tradition within the Grand Essence Realm. As such, everyone seated in the public square turned unusually quiet to the point that one couldn’t even hear anyone breathing. For an alchemist legend like Sichen Qiutian, no one could tell when he would return to seclusion or even leave the Grand Essence Realm. As a result, all the alchemists here considered it the most supreme of all opportunities.

“Pills, for alchemists, is the same as the truth[1]. The Dao of Pills is also the Dao of Man and Heavens[2]. It’s also an Eternal Dao[3]. The alchemist uses the jade cauldron to extract the essence by using the cauldron’s fire and forming it into a mysterious bead[4]. But to do this correctly, one must understand yin and yang and understand creation. They must chase after the two streams of the yellow road[5], the three natures of the essence[6], and gather the five elements to harmonise the four images[7]....[8]”

“This is the path of lesser pills and the path of greater pills. Gather the yin and yang, gather the five elements. Ditch the heaven and earth, and question the laws........ Can the dao of greater pills surpass the daos of man and heaven? Can it surpass the Eternal Daos? I don’t know. But I do know that the Dao of Pills[9] has no end. Put your hands behind your back and peer into the depths of the cosmos, and you’ll find it anything but ordinary........”

Sichen Qiutian didn’t speak in a loud voice, but his voice reverberated in everyone’s ears. It even seemed to contain an indescribably pure dao rhythm, which caused everyone to listen to his words as if mesmerised. Even those who didn’t walk the Dao of Alchemy found their insights into their respective daos growing substantially. Some alchemists even gained enlightenment through those words, and many things that confused them became simplified.

Even for Ning Cheng, whose Dao of Alchemy was utterly different from Sichuan Qiutian’s philosophy, those words still benefitted him greatly.

The day passed as if it had trickled away in an instant. Even after Sichen Qiutian stopped talking, many people remained immersed in his philosophy and his Dao of Alchemy. Some even found themselves unable to extricate themselves from it willingly.

Only when Sichuan Qiutian left the stage and the voice of Pill Union’s Deputy Union Master, Holy Emperor Qing Yi, rang out that the people finally woke up.

“Since the fall of Pill Sage Min Kong, my Grand Essence Realm’s alchemic pursuits have grown increasingly weak. At the last Five Grand Realms’ Alchemy Competition, no one from my Grand Essence Realm could alleviate their Dao of Alchemy high enough to win entry quotas for the Grand Change Realm......”

Ning Cheng felt somewhat puzzled by Holy Emperor Qing Yi’s words and immediately sent a confused voice transmission to Jian Sanshan sitting beside him. “Brother Jian, what do Holy Emperor Qing Yi’s words mean?”

Jian Sanshan gave a solemn reply. “The laws of our Grand Essence Realm are broken to such an extent that the Daos of Alchemy, Artificing, Talismans and Arrays have grown far inferior to the other interfaces. Even if you look at the second step Dao Confirmation Holy Emperors from other paths, they are pretty much at the back of the list among the five grand realms. In fact, during the last several Five Grand Realms’ Competitions, our Grand Essence Realm ranked dead last in almost every field. Because of this, we couldn’t win any Grand Change Realm’s entry quotas.”

Jing Han and Lei Shamu entering the fourth level of the Illusionary Fruit Orchard, indicated they could refine top-quality Dao Transformation Spirit Pills. Yet they couldn’t secure a Grand Change Realm’s entry quota? Ning Cheng felt secretly shocked on hearing this.

“Just as our Grand Essence Realm’s only Dao Essence Pill Sage Union Master Qiutian mentioned. Several alchemy prodigies have emerged from our Grand Essence Realm this time. So, we believe that our Grand Essence Realm would definitely obtain better results in this time’s Five Realm Alchemy Competition. But unfortunately, because of the poor results in the past several competitions, we can only send five people to represent our Grand Essence Realm in the Alchemy Competition this time.....”

Holy Emperor Qing Yi’s words immediately caused people to whisper among themselves. Despite the low volume, Ning Cheng could still hear them clearly. He learned that they had ten people representing the Grand Essence Realm in the Alchemy Competition last time. So why did they only have five spots this time? Ning Cheng couldn’t figure it out and had no choice but to ask Jian Sanshan again.

Jian Sanshan obviously knew more than the average person and explained it. “The Five Grand Realms’ Alchemy Competition, Artificing Competition, Combat Competition and all the other competitions have the same basic rules. One of them is that if a realm consistently ranks at the bottom, the number of entry spots gets reduced for that particular realm after every competition. Five participation spots are the lowest for any grand realm till now. On the contrary, the Grand Change Realm ends up with the most because of their consistently best results ......”

Ning Cheng asked with even more confusion. “Brother Jian, the Grand Change Realm obviously don’t require them, so why do they need so many?”

Jian Sanshan smiled. “Every spot is precious. I don’t know all the uses of those participation spots. But I know that the Grand Change Realm will sell the spots they don’t need. They usually sell them to other interfaces in exchange for ridiculously high prices. But even if one of the ten major forces here wanted to purchase one of those spots, they would have to break their backs.”

“Then, can’t one sneak into the Grand Change Realm?” Ning Cheng asked again.

Jian Sanshan shook his head. “It’s impossible. The laws of the Grand Change Realm are perfect, the interface itself is unbelievably solid, and the boundary protection restrictions are beyond heavenly. Even a Dao Perfection expert cannot sneak into the Grand Change Realm without getting noticed by the Grand Change Realm’s controller. In fact, there are only two ways to enter the Grand Change Realm, one is through the Great Realm Competitions, and the second is through ascension.”

Ning Cheng sucked in a cold breath, a realm controller? He quickly asked, “Brother Jian, you said something about a controller and Grand Change Realm? Can someone actually control an entire grand realm? Does it mean that our Grand Essence Realm also has a controller? Is everything we do under the watchful eye of the controller?”

Ning Cheng had good reason to feel so nervous. However, he also knew that such a thing might not be impossible. It felt just like his Mysterious Yellow Bead. Once it formed a world of its own, he automatically became the controller of that world.

Jian Sanshan smiled, “It’s not a bad thing to have a controller. However, even such a being cannot control the entire Grand Change Realm. If that wasn’t the case, who would willingly go to the Grand Change Realm? As for our Grand Essence Realm, originally, we did have a controller. However, our realm controller disappeared after the interface shattered. Currently, the sect alliance and the other major forces work together to manage the affairs of the Grand Essence Realm.”

Ning Cheng finally felt relieved. Even if someone was in control of the Grand Essence Realm, he wouldn’t need to rush to find a way out of this place. From what he understood, a controller of a grand realm was the same as an executive within a company, which he could still begrudgingly accept.

“Brother Ning, you have a good chance to capture a spot in the Alchemy Discourse and compete in the Five Grand Realms’ Alchemy Competition. You shouldn’t miss it.” After Jian Sanshan finished speaking, he admonished Ning Cheng in a supportive way.

Ning Cheng was just about to ask a few more questions when he heard Holy Emperor Qing Yi’s following words. “In this Alchemy Discourse, our Grand Essence Realm will select five alchemists to represent our Grand Essence Realm in the Five Grand Realms’ Alchemy Competition. The alchemists representing our Grand Essence Realm in the Five Great Realms Alchemist Competition will each receive a Heaven Essence Fruit, apart from the support of all the major sects and clans......”

When the crowd heard the words ‘Heaven Essence Fruit’, the entire venue erupted in a silent uproar. It was a priceless dao fruit. Taking out five of them at once as rewards was indeed an unimaginable gesture to anyone in the crowd. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that no one could put a price on this dao fruit.

Although the Illusionary Fruit Orchard produced many dao fruits, even a hundred of them wouldn’t be as valuable as one Heaven Essence Fruit. Even if Jing Han and others entered the fourth level, they could only, at best, obtain a tiny number of Dao Transformation Dao Fruits. But even those dao fruits combined wouldn’t compare to one Heaven Essence Dao Fruit in value.

After all, the Heaven Essence Fruit was a genuine Dao Essence Dao Fruit. But more importantly, it was one of the best Dao Essence Dao Fruit, a law-infused dao fruit that could help a first-step Dao Confirming Holy Emperor comprehend the second step. One could even say that obtaining a Heaven Essence Fruit almost guaranteed becoming a second-step Dao Essence Holy Emperor.

Even Ning Cheng felt moved by such a reward. He had harvested dozens of dao fruit trees from the Illusionary Fruit Garden. Yet, never saw anything on the same level as the Heaven Essence Fruit. In fact, the most valuable dao fruit he obtained from the orchard was still a lot short compared to the Heaven Essence Fruit.

“..... As far as we know, one of the rewards for the first place in the Five Great Realms’ Alchemy Competition is a top-quality wood-attributed spirit vein. Apart from the first place, the rewards for the second and third are also just as precious.......”

Hearing those words, Ning Cheng had long since tossed aside the part about the Heaven Essence Fruit. Instead, his head immediately filled up with thoughts about the top-quality wood-attributed spirit vein.

Because of their scarcity, elemental-attributed spirit veins were much more valuable than attribute-less spirit veins. And the most useful of them all was naturally the wood-attributed spirit veins, especially a top-quality wood-attributed spirit vein.

In the Illusionary Fruit Orchard, Ning Cheng already wanted to get his hands on the wood-attributed spirit vein. Now that a top-quality wood-attributed spirit vein appeared as an actual reward, he immediately decided to do everything in his power to go to this competition. Whether he could get the first place or not, he had already made up his mind to fight for this top-quality wood-attributed spirit vein.

As long as he obtained this spirit vein, the various medicinal gardens in his Mysterious Yellow Bead, as well as the dao fruit trees, would take on a new life.

“Brother Ning, don’t think that the Heaven Essence Fruit is the only reward. In fact, reaching the top five and representing the Grand Essence Realm in the Five Grand Realms’ Alchemy Competition means a harvest no lesser than the Heaven Essence Fruit.” When Jian Sanshan saw the golden glint in Ning Cheng’s eyes, he thought Ning Cheng was moved by the Heaven Essence Fruit.

He never even considered that Ning Cheng had set his eyes on the wood-attributed spirit vein. Although he didn’t question Ning Cheng’s alchemic talent, reaching first place in the Five Grand Realms’ Alchemy Competition would be impossible.

Don’t look at the fact that only five people from the Grand Essence Realm would participate in the Five Grand Realms’ Alchemy Competition. The pill sages from other interfaces participating in the competition would easily be in the dozens. There would even be a few Dao Fusion Pill Sages among them, a class of experts that the Grand Essence Realm couldn’t even hope to fight against.

“You mean the support of the major sects and clans that Holy Emperor Qing Yi mentioned?” Ning Cheng asked.

Jian Sanshan nodded. “That’s right. It happens every time someone appears to represent the Grand Essence Realm in the Five Grand Realms’ Great Competition. It also doesn’t matter if it’s in alchemy, artificing, or any other major path. All the major forces will fawn over you. However, there is a caveat; if you manage to secure entry quotas, you must assign a part to them. They will also throw all kinds of cultivating resources into your lap to compensate for this. In fact, if you want to, you can even sell your participation spot to them for an astronomical price.”

“Then, how many quotas will the first place in the Five Grand Realms’ Alchemy Competition bring in?”

Jian Sanshan gave an honest reply. “I don’t know. I only know that no matter which competition it is, only the top ten would be rewarded with the entry spots.”

Ning Cheng, however, already understood a few things about the competition from Jian Sanshan’s words. No wonder it was difficult for the Grand Essence Realm to obtain a decent ranking. Right now, only five people could compete for the top ten ranks against hundreds of mighty pill sages. It also meant that there would be at least a few Dao Fusion Pill Sages among them. With such odds, let alone taking the top spot, even taking the tenth spot might prove challenging.

[1] The word ‘truth’ here is one of the translations for the word ‘Dao’. Meaning, it could be potentially taken as Pills being the same as Dao.

[2] This phrase here is a shortened version of ‘Dao of Man/Humanity and Dao of Heaven’

[3] ‘Dao of Humanity’, ‘Dao of Heavens’ and ‘Eternal Dao’ can also be translated as ‘the way of men (as in all beings)’, ‘Heavenly Dao (as in all the Daos in existence)’ and ‘everlasting dao’.

[4] “Bead’ here can also be translated as ‘pellet/pill’.

[5] “Yellow road/path” here refers to the path that connects the underworld (world of the dead) and the ‘overworld’, i.e. the world of life.

[6] I’m not sure as I couldn’t find any exact reference to these words, but one of the translators from the community said that the ‘three natures/creations’ could reference the ‘three faces/reflections of self’. According to this, a person had three different faces, one for self, one for the close ones, and one for the rest.

[7] The ‘four images’ refer to the four sacred images in Chinese folklore: the Azure Dragon, the White Tiger, the Black Tortoise, and the Vermillion Bird.

[8] This was one of the hardest lines to translate till now as different translators we corresponded with came up with different translations. Ultimately, we all collectively decided to stick with the translation that was the closest to the raws. For this reason, I’ve also added as many notes as possible to make it clear. If anyone has a clearer translation of these lines, please do share it with us and we will upload it with due credits.

[9] I’m not sure if this is a typo from the author’s part but he hasn’t ever used the words ‘Dao of Pills’ till this point. It was always ‘Dao of Alchemy/Pill Making’

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