Since there was no way to block him, kicking him out was option B! This was Zhuo Fan’s plan cooked up from the moment he heard of the third round’s condition.
As this round was based on speed, cutting the old coot’s speed would make it harder for him to enter the finals.
With an evil smile, Zhuo Fan watched Vicious Pill King. The latter had been duped already, so why would he keep paying the brat any more attention?
He was going as quickly as he could to finish the refining. And indeed, the best alchemist in the empire wasn’t one to disappoint, speeding through the process like a bullet. In but a few breaths, he was done with refining the ingredients.
Next was forming the pill.
Raising an eyebrow, Zhuo Fan wasn’t the least bit worried. There were some things that even though one knew they were wrong, they still couldn’t stop themselves from doing them. Because they were still holding an interest in those things, and Vicious Pill King was no exception.
“Ahe-he-hem…” Zhuo Fan coughed lightly, “Elder Yan, I noticed your pill’s ingredients and decided to run by you the Ninth Heaven Roaring Dragon Claw’s secret I used in the second round.”
His ears perked without his knowledge, despite knowing it was one of Zhuo Fan’s ploys, despite being certain that this secret was bogus. No matter how bad it looked, and felt, the temptation was too great. He wanted to know more about such a magical refining skill, especially since he was an alchemist.
He was only a breath from forming the pill’s shape but now the process was halted. His speed was now under Zhuo Fan’s complete control.
Laughing inside, Zhuo Fan still kept a serious face, “Oh, going by its name, it has a dragon and claw in it. So your hand must also take the shape of a dragon claw…”
[What a load of obvious bull!]
Vicious Pill King was clear as crystal of Zhuo Fan’s scheme and didn’t want to listen, but he only got his ears to blame for betraying him.
Yet, hearing the mention of a secret, he stopped to listen more closely. But what reached his ears was nothing more than some superficial talk from Zhuo Fan.
He felt like crying. So wretched that he wanted to cut his ears off.
With no choice, he turned to Xiao Ya and blabbed like a little kid to his teacher, “Judge, this brat is disrupting my refining!”
“What, Grandmaster Song is hindering you? How?” Xiao Ya looked skeptical.
With a red face, Vicious Pill King gnashed his teeth, “The brat keeps gallivanting in my ear and distracts me!”
Silence followed throughout the arena, then shortly followed by rambunctious laughter!
An alchemist’s most important feature was his state of mind. [What kind of alchemist are you to mess up your refining from a few words? How did you become the best alchemist in the empire anyway?]
Everyone looked out with mocking smiles. This never ever happened before.
How could they have known Zhuo Fan’s words struck a nerve? He didn’t want to listen, but his ears were a whole nother matter.
Everyone would feel the same if they were in his stead.
The more he heard the maniacal laughter, the redder Vicious Pill King got. His face was thoroughly caked in mud.
Xiao Ya’s eyelid twitched, and cursed, “Elder Yan, you’re not a child. Why are you complaining to me about such a simple matter?”
“Yeah, we’re just chatting and getting to know each other. Why did you have to go out and tattletale?” Zhuo Fan liked to make a mountain out of a molehill and jested.
This launched the crowd into another round of laughter!
Getting his anger under control after a few breaths, Vicious Pill King shouted at Xiao Ya, “Wench, aren’t you a judge? Do you even care? Why aren’t you kicking this brat out?”
“Fine, fine, fine, I do care, alright?” Xiao Ya shook her head helplessly and giggled an apology to Zhuo Fan, “Grandmaster Song, I appreciate it if you would not speak with Elder Yan as he refines. Why not come into the guests’ corner for a drink?”
Raising an eyebrow, Zhuo Fan said, “Fine, I’ll listen and won’t talk!”
True to his words, Zhuo Fan’s lips were sealed. Then, the next second, Vicious Pill King found the world around him got quiet and turned to see the other competitors. Most of them reached the step to complete their pill while he was only at the molding phase.
He sped up at once and gathered all the refined mixture into one place and took the final form of a pill.
“5th-grade pill, completed!”
Another shout, another finalist. In total, there were seven who qualified for the Pill King round.
Vicious Pill King wiped the cold sweat from his brow and rushed urgently to finish the pill. Although worry had not left him in regards to a certain punk, fearful he might be up to something.
For the remainder of the process, he divided his attention to Zhuo Fan’s every move. Who, at this point, was on his best behavior, as if he abandoned any thoughts of thwarting Yan Song’s progress.
[This punk is faking again! The last time, you got me out of carelessness, but this time, I will be on guard. The more this punk is at ease, the more certain it is he is waiting for me to show the slightest slip-up!]
Squinting, Vicious Pill King laughed coldly inside, while his heartstrings were also stretched taut.
[You won’t get me a second time!]
“Judge, I finished!”
Another shout marked the taking of the 8th spot of the finals.
Vicious Pill King took a deep breath and worked hard to keep his calm while steadying the flame in his hand. Such a crucial time needed him to calm and tranquil.
Seeing the pill in his hand had taken shape, Vicious Pill King gnashed his teeth and gave his 120%. This was a key moment and failing was not an option.
The silent and unmoving Zhuo Fan looked askance at his cautious nature in making the pill.
Soon, he reached the final step. All that was left was to spur the flame and condense the pill.
Though he started to recall Zhuo Fan’s sneeze and was overly cautious of his interference. He could not be defeated a second time with the same trick.
Vicious Pill King suddenly shouted inside, and the flame towered.
At this exact moment, the nightmarish sound came again.
Vicious Pill King’s heart seized and flicked his sleeve to protect the flame while also turning his back to Zhuo Fan.
But this scare shook his focus and the flame was trembling. Luckily, he was a veteran alchemist and stabilized his state of mind in a blink, preventing his pill from being ruined again.
Sighing relieved, Vicious Pill King wiped his sweat and turned to see Zhuo Fan.
Only to find the person in question sneezing in another direction and rubbing his nose like nothing happened.
Noticing the old geezer’s look, Zhuo Fan eyed him back and cursed, “The hell you’re looking at? Yours truly didn’t disturb you!”
Stammering, Vicious Pill King was enraged, but no word came out. [You don’t need to talk to annoy me. Your presence is enough harassment as it is!]
Vicious Pill King suddenly felt dead tired. Not of the body, but in the mind. He had been on this earth for many years but never was he as exhausted as he was now.
Who could go through the refining process with one’s nerves stretched tighter than a violin?
He had to admit to one thing though. Never in his life had there been anyone acting the same Zhuo Fan did.
Noticing his master’s embarrassment, Yan Fu was taken aback. Never was there a time when his ruthless master was pushed back again and again.
Turning to the first spot, he saw Zhuo Fan with a cryptic smile, and his heart chilled for some unknown reason.
Tao Danniang saw Yan Song sullen and couldn’t help be chipper. Chu Qingcheng saw him getting toyed by Zhuo Fan and her eyes shined with affection.
The people on the terrace already laughed their hearts out.
Yan Song had been a literal plague over the seven houses but now, he was put in his place by a newbie. One couldn’t help but relish the moment.
One thing was clear though. The brat wasn’t ordinary. If any took his place, they would’ve long failed miserably.
In the end, only demon Zhuo Fan had ever beaten Vicious Pill King. They sighed. Yan Song was wicked beyond words and only someone more wicked than him, a demon like Zhuo Fan, could settle this Vicious Pill King.
Huangpu Qingyun and his men in the eastern stand watched the scared Vicious Pill King with trepidation.
[If this old bag of bones loses, the Bodhi Root will leave my grasp!]
Taking deep breaths, Vicious Pill King watched the almost finished pill and worked hard to calm his mind.
He knew what everyone was thinking which made this bout was just as important for him as it was to Zhuo Fan.
If Zhuo Fan lost, his head would roll. If Vicious Pill King lost, not only his name would be dragged through the mud, the Regent Estate would bestow him its endless wrath.
Vicious Pill King’s eyes squinted and boosted the flame in his hand. The roaming pill inside the flame also lit up in a strange light.
Vicious Pill King’s eyes flashed and his mouth perked up at a corner in hope.
[Almost there, just a bit more and I’m done with this exhausting refining. This goddamn round is so exhausting…]
A large sound came out of the blue. Vicious Pill King jerked and his towering flame shuddered and exploded.
Vicious Pill King didn’t even notice his scorched beard and eyebrows as the almost done pill was now junk!
Vicious Pill King went stiff and stared into space. He turned around to see where the sound came from. Zhuo Fan scratched his head embarrassed with a dashing smile, “He-he-he, do forgive me. I just couldn’t hold it and farted. Was it too loud?”
Vicious Pill King’s couldn’t stop trembling. He watched the beaming Zhuo Fan with his black beard whipping in the wind but was unable to make one word from the sheer anger he felt…