“Hey, did you hear? The Blue Robed Challenger publicly announced that she will be participating in this year’s Outer Sect Exam! It seems like she really was someone from the Vacant sect! I hope we will finally be able to see this genius tomorrow”
“Don’t forget about that Cheng Hao! After she defeated her last opponent last night, she announced that she was actually weaker than this Cheng Hao in both cultivation and fighting strength! According to her, he has even higher talent than she does!”
Two young men had just come back from their morning routine of a ten kilometers dash, a hundred push ups, a hundred sit ups and a hundred squats… Apparently some expert had told them that it would help their body become superhuman in just three years!
Anyways, the two were walking and gossiping about recent events when a blur passed by them.
One of them turned.
“What’s wrong?” The other one asked.
“Nothing, I just… Never mind, lets go eat breakfast and remember, no Air Conditioning!”
Hearing that, both men sighed and headed over their own house. If the person who had turned were to know that the one blur he had just seen was actually the same person they had been talking about just then, the Blue Robed Night Challenger, Xiao Wu, who knows what they would have done!
The eight and a half years old girl had just come back from her own daily routine of absorbing the Purple Qi from the East and had just made another breakthrough in her Purple Moonlight Senses Enhancing Technique.
Now, she also got a speed boost for a short period of time as well as heightening her already powered up senses even more. Right now, she had an increase of about five times a normal person’s senses when not going all out. When she did, it was slightly less than a dozen times a normal person’s senses.
As soon as she got home, she walked straight into Cheng Hao’s room. Right at that moment, Lu Fang was squeezing a wet towel and putting it over the child’s forehead. When he noticed the girl had come in, the Reverend Martial Artist shook his head and pointed at the untouched bowl full of delicious food by the bed.
“Still hasn’t woken up, uh?” Xiao Wu sighed as she realized that her brother still had yet to recover. According to Lu Fang, he had already completely recovered the internal injuries last night but he still hadn’t woken up.
“Maybe his consciousness is elsewhere, maybe he is just tired, I don’t know” the old man had told her when she had asked.
Meaning? The only thing they could do was to wait. Still, she couldn’t help but worry ‘The exam starts in less than twenty four hours, if he doesn’t wake up, no matter how much of a genius he is, he will not graduate to an Outer Sect disciple before next year’s exam… Brother, please, recover soon!’
Xiao Wu walked out in the backyard and called out her Black Dragon Aura Sword. She let it cut the air around her as she did complicate hand signs. At first it was a still a tiny bit difficult to control it, but now she got the hang of it and could use it almost as easily as she could control the true Black Dragon Sword.
Since she had broken through in the Purple Moonlight Senses Enhancing Technique that morning, she also tried to break through to Basic stage with the new amount of insight she got from her battles and the deeper understanding of her techniques!
She successfully accumulated the nearby Qi with the help of her Martial Ways and then proceeded to accumulate the three Qi seas (Note: each one for the different types of Qi she had sensed).
She guided the strands of purple, black and white energy into her sea of consciousness where they slowly turned first into small drops and then proceeded to enlarge until they became the same size as the one she had condensed before.
Finally, she created three Qi Seas, each purer and bigger than her previous Qi Sea that she used to condense the Pseudo-Core. After all, this tier of Qi was a whole stage higher than the previous Sea had been. Even without Goldy’s help, she still successfully created three Qi Seas for all of her three sensed Qis.
‘If big brother had seen this, he would undoubtedly have been proud…’ She sighed and focused on the matter at hand.
“Right now I am an Aura Student. Since I have broken through, I should now be able to at least control double the amount of Aura I could while still in the inferior stage” she nodded to herself “I think this is the right time to create my second Aura Manipulated Object… A replica of the White Tree Shield!”
Xiao Wu waited no longer and sat down in the backyard. Sure, it wasn’t as hidden as her own room. There was still the chance of somebody seeing her if he came behind the house. However, staying in her room right now wouldn’t help her: whenever she tried, she would start to think about the wounded Cheng Hao, thus limiting enlightening and improvement due to her distraction.
That is why she chose to cultivate in the backyard instead of her own room.
Xiao Wu immediately sunk into the meditative state, gaseous Qi surrounded her: her Aura. It was the same color as her hair, both purple and blue, and occupied the space of two meters in every direction from her body. Since she had broken through, she could now control twice the amount of Aura.
She began drawing the outline of the shield and the gaseous Qi followed her movements. Slowly but surely it condensed into the shape of a round, two-dimensional shield.
What could be considered as only two dimensional in Aura manipulation? Simple, if one used only one layer of Aura to condense an object it would be counted as two-dimensional, if more where to be stacked it would turn three-dimensional. Of course, the increase in difficulty increased greatly as it would be basically turning ‘square numbers’ into ‘cubic numbers’, turning a flat surface into an object with volume, the difference was insane!
A few hours passed. Finally, hovering in front of her was a glowing circle with the drawing of a white oak depicted on it. Although it was really simple and was only a meter long, half of what the real White Tree Shield was, it looked sturdy nonetheless. It also slightly curved towards the outside so that it could be also used as a blunt weapon instead of a simple flat orbiting disk.
That simple change in the two-dimensional structure had actually been the most difficult part in the whole process. The girl grimaced ‘Simply changing a two-dimensional object a little was so difficult… How difficult is it going to become when I am going to actually create objects with three-dimensions?’
Xiao Wu had exhausted virtually all of her aura and she would have to wait the Advanced stage to be able to manipulate anymore.
She stood up and in her eyes was excitement! She had graduated from an Aura Student to an Aura Scholar just like that! She waved her right hand and the Black Dragon Aura Blade appeared hovering behind her beside the White Tree Aura Shield. She bent her knees and threw a rock one meter in front of her.
In a flash, Xiao Wu quickly appeared two meters away from her previous position. When the stone fell on the ground, it split in three pieces and then broke into splinters. The cuts from the sharp Aura Sword were clean and elegant, while the brute force from the blunt Aura Shield that broke the rock into splinters was just that: a strong unrefined force that bore great might.
Xiao Wu looked at the aftermath of her full power attack and smiled ‘Although these are not as powerful as the real deal, they alone are more than enough to fight high level Basic stage cultivators! This should be just enough to pass the exam!’
There were only a few hours left to the exam and she was happy to have another ace up her sleeve!
She walked back into the hut and threw herself on the bed, almost falling asleep immediately, barely having the time to recall the two Aura Objects back into her body.
“Tomorrow morning… It will start soon!” As she was about to fall asleep, she couldn’t help but think about her brother whom still hadn’t regained consciousness “Brother… Please get well soon!”
With those thoughts in her head, her mind clouded and she fell asleep, hoping to sleep comfortably throughout the night.
Unfortunately, panic and fear would not help her in sleeping peacefully. Instead, nightmares haunted her dreams: she dreamt of failure, she dreamt of being unable to protect those she cared about and she dreamt of Cheng Hao waking up only to find her as an Outer Disciple and thus resenting her for not waiting for him…
Although it was still four in the morning, the outer Ring of the Mysterious Light-Shadow Sect, the Sixth Ring, was bustling with activity and virtually all of the disciples were heading toward a special location in front of the Sixth Wall, the barrier dividing the Sixth Ring from the Fifth Ring.
Here, hundreds of thousands of cultivators had gathered already and even more were coming. Soon, most of the few millions of Vacant disciples living in the Sixth Ring would get here.
Most were cramped as there wasn’t much space, only those few people that had reached the Advanced stage could fly in the air, unhindered by the chaotic situation below them. There were still two hours before the event that moved so many disciples to join together started.
In her room in hut 5742, Xiao Wu opened her green eyes as she woke up. She got up from the bed, ate breakfast and showered. She put on her sect robes, tied her hair into a ponytail and hardened her features with the special make-up.
During that one month he had disappeared from the sect, Cheng Hao had also used that hide his true appearance: it was truly miraculous. She also checked her expression and changed her voice a bit to make her look a bit more masculine.
After having done all that she relaxed and headed towards Cheng Hao’s room and the hope that had filled her eyes got washed away when she saw Cheng Hao still hadn’t woken up. She headed towards his bed and knelt beside it, so that her face was on the same level that Cheng Hao’s was.
She kissed his forehead and with a trembling voice, she began speaking “B… brother… I-I…”
“Go.” Someone responded.
The voice came from above so it was most definitely not Cheng Hao’s. It was also bit deeper and seemed more like the voice of a boy in his late teens.
She looked up and saw the golden dragon, Goldy, hovering in mid air above Cheng Hao’s figure. Since it wore glasses with golden rims and small lenses, coupled with the long, red beard, it somehow resembled an old man.
It was reading a book and was so completely engrossed with the story that at times it would laugh, while others tears would well up in its eyes. The Golden Snake finally sighed and lifted its head from the book.
“That was what he would have wanted, don’t you think?” The Golden Snake smiled and removed the glasses. A warm wind blowed and carried them along with the book, putting them on the table next to Cheng Hao’s bed.
On the cover of the book, there were the words ‘How I Sealed My Master In An Ancient Tomb For Revenge And Got Away With It’.
Seeing the Golden Snake was serious, Xiao Wu smiled. She bowed and was about to live when the bright voice of a young child reached her ears.
‘Be careful, sister!’
She stopped in her steps, a shocked expression on her face: that voice… was Cheng Hao’s!
She looked back but the child was still in deep slumber. Goldy also didn’t seem to have noticed anything unusual as he kept reading.
She sent a last glance to the sleeping Cheng Hao and hurried outside towards the crowd of people gathered around a tall stage.
The Golden Snake’s expression warmed up and then spoke with the child laying on the bed “Cheng Hao, Cheng Hao… You better wake up, or that child will regret her decision for her whole life…” the snake changed the wet towel on top of the young man’s head with a new, fresher one.
He smiled and he sent another stream to pick up the book and glasses from the small table “Just know, I still haven’t forgiven you…”
After a while it muttered under its breath “If you help her though, I will. Wake up Stupid Hao, don’t leave me alone… My Friend” A single tear dropped on top of the child’s sleeping head…
“Join us, the Tigers Of The Mountains! Together we will conquer this Outer Sect exam and form our Alliance in the Outer Sect!”
“Don’t listen! Join us the Wolfgang and become a part of our pack as we make our name known in the Outer Sect!”
“Only fools would join weaklings such as them! Join us, the Golden Blades, and aim much higher! We look for comrades that will accompany us in our journey to the Inner and even Core Sect!”
“All women come with us sisters and join our Heavenly Flowers Alliance! Come, so that we can show that we are in no way inferior to those good for nothing men!”
Men and women, young and old, were currently shouting out loud, trying to lure in people to join their group. If they passed the exam and joined the Outer Sect, they would form their own Alliance there.
In the path of cultivation, if you were weak there would be no other choice than joining with other powers, these Alliances were just that: a group of cultivators whom banded together to fight together against more powerful foes and pass challenges that they would not have been able to pass alone.
As Xiao Wu pushed her body towards the stage, easily squeezing in because of her small frame, dozens, hundreds of people kept recruiting fellow Disciples to join their own Alliance. Suddenly, a young man in his late teens or early twenties, his cultivation in the low level Basic stage, noticed her sneaking around.
Her steps were accurate, she moved without wasting any movement and her age above everything else shocked the young man. He immediately stepped forward and called out to her:
“Hey, young brother over there! Are you interested in joining our alliance? We are called the All But In Blood Alliance!” He also bowed in her direction giving her a lot of face.
Xiao Wu stopped and examined the young man in front of her: he was tall, he wasn’t that handsome but he was in no way ugly, his face was pleasant to look at and his manners as well as his straight figure gave others the impression of a well-mannered youth. His long, straight brown hair were also tied into a ponytail and in between his eyebrows there was a hint of courage and valor.
Xiao Wu could see that the youth had no bad intentions and seeing that he also mistook her for a male, she thought that he probably shouldn’t have approached her for her body…
She bowed in return, also giving the man face “May I ask what Senior’s Alliance is like?”
Seeing that the other had not ignored him and had even given him face by calling him a Senior the youth was elated.
He immediately walked up to Xiao Wu and explained “Just like the name suggest, we are all brothers in all but blood! We treat each other as brothers and help each other when our brothers need help. If one of our brothers is bullied, of course we will help them! You, as a Junior, are really polite and generous. If you don’t mind this senior’s request, I would truly be happy if you could call me ‘Brother Lai’. My name is Fan Lai, may I ask for Junior’s name?”
Xiao Wu pondered for a while then smiled and nodded “That is but an easy task, I have no qualms about that. Big Brother Lai, my name is Xiao Li and wouldn’t mind if senior wants to call me Junior Brother Li!”
Fan Lai smiled and exclaimed “I welcome Junior Brother Li to our All But In Blood Alliance! From now on, we are brothers in all but blood!”
Xiao Wu suddenly looked conflicted as she asked “Brother Fan Lai, you see, I have an older martial brother. He isn’t here right now but you wouldn’t mind if…”
Fai Lai hit his chest with his left fist “Of course! The brother of my brother is also a brother of mine! Why should he not be? If he wants to, he can join our alliance the next moment we meet!”
Xiao Wu’s complexion eased and she also smiled at Fan Lai’s words: even if she would not have the same feelings for him as a true family member as she did for Cheng Hao, she would treat him as a big brother anyways.
After all, he looked like he didn’t harbor any ill intent and his ideals closely resembled Cheng Hao’s, even though in a slightly less fierce way…
Suddenly, the sun rose in the sky: soon it would be six in the morning and the exam would begin. Although thanks to her cultivation she could still see in the dark, Xiao Wu still breathed a sigh of relief when she saw her surrounding slowly lighting up.
Unfortunately, she could not absorb the Purple Qi from the East. Still, she was sure that it wouldn’t be too much of a problem, as she would gain many more benefits from entering the Outer Sect. Cheng Hao had also told her that, if it was only for a few times, it wouldn’t bring too much harm, especially since she had already laid the foundations.
Suddenly, a bolt of lightning descended from the sky and two people clad in white robes, each robe having a few black stripes running from their shoulder to their ankle, appeared on the tall stage… They were two Sect Elders!
The first was the youngest amongst the two, his age in the late thirties, and was an Outer Sect Elder, he slowly walked forward, eyeing the Vacant Disciples below he shouted out “You trash! Right now you are nothing more than trash, am I right? Well, here is your chance to graduate from trash to slightly less trashier trash!” Murmurs expressing their discontent at the man’s words could be heard virtually anywhere.
Xiao Wu wasn’t one of them and was instead intrigued by the man’s words: he reminded her of Cheng Hao a bit and she was sure that he would not say such harsh words unless there was a reason. The man ignored the crowd and resumed his speech.
“That’s right. Some of you won’t have the chance to reach the top and will only be a stepping stone for the strongest! I know what it feels like to be left behind and this is why I tell you… Don’t! Be the one that surpasses all others! I am sure that somewhere in this crowd there are true Dragons Among Men, so why hide yourself! Show your abilities here, in the Outer Sect Exam and rise to the top! To the top!” The Elder shouted and lifted his right hand pointing to the sky.
“TO THE TOP!” The shout from the crowd of hundreds of thousands was so loud it echoed for tens of miles. Everyone’s blood was boiling and it could be seen that, although he had said harsh words, the Outer Sect Elder actually did that so that people would give their best and also to rise everyone’s moral. This Elder would give everything for his sect, even if it meant playing the bad guy.
If Cheng Hao was here, he would have nodded with appreciation: this kind of man was a true example of a loyal subordinate.
The younger Elder stepped back and bowed respectfully to the older man clad in white. While the first Elder only had two black stripes on his robe, showing his status as an Outer Sect Elder, the older man was an Inner Elder! It’s white robes actually had three lines on them! This man’s cultivation was also pretty high as it was that of the mid level Superior stage.
Although not as powerful as Sung or Reverend experts, that old man alone would probably be more than enough to defeat all the disciples below with one strike!
The old man also spoke, his voice was a bit weaker than the young man’s but the words could still be heard clearly “You young disciples are the hope of our sect! Break your limits and fly! Don’t let your body be your prison, build your wings to fly higher into the vast sky that is the world of cultivation and martial arts!”
He waved his hands and a transportation hexagram a hundred feet wide appeared below the stage.
“This is the entrance to the Examination grounds! The first ten people to reach the end to the maze inside it will receive an additional reward! Beware of the dangers, for we won’t save you even when you are about to die. Good luck!”
The formation on the ground lit up and everyone dashed towards it. Fan Lai grabbed Xiao Wu’s hand and also ran as fast as he could “We will meet with our brothers inside! We have already done this trial in the last few years, so we more or less know the structure of the maze within! We are ten ourselves, but there is someone that doesn’t wish to get the reward, so there is a reward for each of us!”
Xiao Wu nodded and also dashed with her full speed towards the glowing hexagram. At first, Fan Lai was a bit surprised at her speed but surprise soon turned into happiness as he understood he had unknowingly befriended a true genius!
Xiao Wu and Fan Lai stepped on the glowing hexagram and felt her surroundings change: the sun disappeared and she was now in a large room. They were probably underground but she was not too sure and instead of pondering on their whereabouts she followed Fan Lai inside the maze.
Xiao Wu trembled with excitement as her eyes blazed with determination ‘The Exam has begun!’