Chapter 137 – Round One
Everyone waited patiently in the side hall.
“Little man, are you working for the union?” One of the middle-aged participants narrowed his eyes at Ye Wei. Ye Wei’s posture was seemingly uncomfortable and rather out of place.
“No.” Ye Wei shook his head.
“Well… are you… Is it possible, you’re here for the qualification exam?” The middle-aged cautiously questioned Ye Wei while widening his eyes in disbelief.
“Yes!” Ye Wei gently nodded while sitting in the corner. He was trying his best to keep a low profile. It was not in his interest to introduce himself, directly or indirectly, near Lu Feng.
The middle-aged man gave Ye Wei a strange judgemental look. ‘Isn’t one young brat enough? That arrogant Lu Feng is only twenty-two, and this kid is what? Like ten years younger than that? Someone needs to do something about martial family’s kids getting in here all because of their damn connections!’
Slowly realizing how strange it was for Ye Wei to sit all alone in the corner, Lu Feng and the people around him began to shown interest, and they all looked over in his direction.
Before they could get a good look at Ye Wei’s face, an official from the Ning City Union Branch entered. He had the skin complexion of a middle-aged man. He was dressed in a long, gray robe. Embroidered on the cuffs of the robe were seven tiny star shapes.
“Silence!” The official scanned around him. His hoarse voice quieted the sound of the chatter.
Everyone closed their mouths and looked respectfully at the man in the gray robe; however, humbleness looked slightly awkward on Lu Feng’s face.
Ye Wei, like everyone else in the room, focused on the official, but most importantly, he felt relieved the crowd shifted their attention away from him.
‘A seven-star Runemaster!’ Ye Wei pupils dilated. He was startled as he noticed the embroidered stars close to the official’s hand.
A Runemaster’s rank is not exactly only related to cultivation but instead involves a distinguishment between a Runemasters’ knowledge of runes and their contribution to the Union. Green Moon City’s Master Mu, who was a ten-star condensed prime Warrior, was merely a five-star Runemaster.
A member’s privileges were directly proportional to their rank. Most notably, when a member became a ten-star Runemaster, they will gain the right to command some of the Runemaster Union’s armed military force.
The Runemaster Union’s influence spread to every corner of land where men lived. Their army, the power behind such influence, could only be matched by the Royal Green Army.
This was one of the reasons why Master Yi, a ten-star Runemaster, was feared by many influential figures in the region. Even though he based himself in a tiny city in the middle of nowhere, if needed to, he could send the union’s army anywhere he wanted. With the cost of a terrifying amount of contribution tokens and a small squad of the union’s forces, they were able to reduce any city in the region to debris.
Before his deep voice spoke again, the middle-aged official’s stern gaze slowly examined everyone. “A lot of you have have taken part in this exam before, more than once if I may add, for those who don’t recognize me, do not cheat!”
Zuo Qiu Ming’s static gaze made everyone in the side hall respectfully stand up straight. His intimidation and authority rose the hair on the participant’s arms and left some secretly shaking inside.
He cleared his throat and took a deep breath, “I, Zuo Qiu Ming, represent the Runemaster Union, any cheating will be seen as provocative behavior against the union, which we do not tolerate! Anyone who is caught cheating, regardless of your reason to do so and your family background, will be executed immediately. No exceptions! Even if you are the dynasty’s leader!”
“Sacred statue!” Zuo Qiu Ming satisfyingly nodded as he saw the humble faces, his devout voice echoed the hall.
The ground shook, a three-meter tall Combat Master statue rose with a deafening rumble. Its golden glow radiated an immense pressure. Ye Wei felt the coercing presence both within his body and his mind. He found this experience similar to what he felt at the tournament when Ning City’s returned prime Warrior leader gave the opening speech.
Under the mental influence, all the participants’ minds were clouded. Nothing concerned them except the insuppressible need to bow and worship the Combat Master.
“Bow to the sage!” Zuo Qiu Ming lowered his head, bent his back forward. Everyone else followed suit. Although Ye Wei was not affected by the coercing presence, he too bowed to the figure he greatly respected.
“And the last bow!”
“The Combat Master invented mystic scrolls and set up the union, for every Runemaster and cultivators who look to become one. He is our master, and we serve him! In no case may any of you show disrespect to the founding sages!”
After everyone had bowed three times, the golden shine of the statue faded as well as the presence, ‘Very well, let the examination begin!’ Zuo Qiu Ming said.
“Your first task is to refine mid-level Spirit stance, Quadruple Spirit Sword. Your aim is to improve it by a level before this stick burns out!” he pulled an incense stick out of his interspatial bag.
‘Quadruple Spirit Sword?’ all the contestants included Ye Wei frowned, displeased since they heard the stance name they were not familiar with. They were wary, knowing how difficult it was to refine a stance of that level, the first task of the exam and already it was a difficult one.
None of the participants imagined the first task would be this hard, after all, stance refinement was usually a time-consuming process. Lu Feng, on the other hand, appeared casual and relaxed.
Zuo Qiu Ming flicked his sleeve and rose his right hand, leaving behind a trail of brilliance. After twists and turns, a sequence of runes appeared in front of him, with the spark on this fingertip he lit the incense stick held in his other hand.
The sequence of eighty-three runes immediately became the focus of all the contestants. They all concentrated their thoughts and began to study the stance carefully.
Ye Wei glanced at the runes sequence structure briefly. He then closed his eyes to feel the energy flow with his Soul Sensitivity, ‘considering its many flaws, this is a powerful stance!’ he immediately realized why refining Quadruple Spirit Sword was chosen to be the first test. He noticed that the stance could be refined by different approaches. Therefore, the task could have more than one correct answer.
It did not take long before Ye Wei picked one of the paths and began to refine Quadruple Spirit Sword.
Time flew by fast; the incense stick Zuo Qiu Ming held in his hand turned to ash on the floor.
“Time’s up! Everybody’s hands down!” his hoarse voice rumbled in the contestants’ ears, shocking them out of their meditative thoughts.
Out of all the twenty-two contestants, eight looked dreadful while the rest looked either satisfied or ecstatic.
“Any volunteers to present the result?” Zuo Qiu Ming’s strict, judgemental gaze landed on the group of contestants.
“I will go first then!” Lu Feng smiled and casually walked out of the flock. He swiped his arm sideways effortlessly, and eighty-three runes appeared in a flash. A total of four twinkling spectral swords came alive. The swords floated between himself and Zuo Qiu Ming.
“Now condense!” Lu Feng’s gaze became focused and cold. The four spectral sword merged and became only two swords. Both of them were four feet long; their energy exceeded when they were in their previous form.
“Peak high-level stance!” the participants were left in awe while watching surges of Qi bursting out of the spinning swords in the air.
‘How could he upgrade the stance all the way to peak high-level!? I found it challenging just to improve it by a level as requested in such short time!” one of the returning participants mumbled to himself. He was obviously deeply shocked and envious by Lu Feng’s mastery in rune knowledge.
“Good. This youthful man is not just a handsome face…”
“Brother Lu, impressive stuff!”
“I think I just became a fan!”
The three flatterers were even more humbled than they were before the beginning of the exam Of course, as adulators, they would take any opportunity to befriend Lu Feng. They made sure he heard every fawning word they could come up with.
Lu Feng replied with an indifferent smile.
Zuo Qiu Ming nodded at Lu Feng with an appreciating look. He approved the speed and quality of the refinement and thought that Lu Feng’s talent was impressive considering the ridiculously short amount of time he gave the participants to finish the task.
He was impressed, but his experience of hosting the entrance exam reminded him that the first task was the easiest of the three. Throughout the years, he had seen many peerlessly talented contestants fall to the soul sensitivity test and most notably the stance creation test.
“Next!” Zuo Qiu Ming shouted.
One by one, the contestants went up and showed what they managed to do with the stance in front of everyone else, out of the twenty who were called up by Zuo Qiu Ming, eleven of them did not pass the test.
As the first test was the easiest, Zuo Qiu Ming was a little stunned that half of the contestants were eliminated by it.
“Little man it’s your turn now!” Zuo Qiu Ming said with a curious smile on his face. Never had he seen a child of such a young age take part in the entrance exam in his whole career. In his mind, he was impressed enough by how Ye Wei had obtained the letter of recommendation from Master Yi as informed earlier by Li Xue.
Even though he was impressed, he mumbled to himself, “Hmm, Lu Feng did exceptionally well, we haven’t had participants scoring this high for at least half a year, regardless of age, I wonder if this kid will be the same?.”
Ye Wei calmly and confidently stepped forward. He held his breath, slowly extended his arms, and spread his fingers. Allowing his will-force and Qi travel smoothly in his hands, eighty-three runes bursted out from his calculated movements.
“Zoom! Zoom! Zoom!”
Zuo Qiu Ming and the participants who passed the test nodded as they saw four spectral swords appeared above Ye Wei’s head.
They were all surprised that such a young boy was able to reproduce the stance correctly at all! They never considered Ye Wei to be able to do anything else but just look more innocent and cuter than the rest of the participants.
“Very gifted indeed! When he becomes my age he could probably get through this with flying colors!” Oblivious to the teenager’s identity, Lu Feng was interested in Ye Wei joining the force he was trying to put together.
“Condense!” when everyone thought Ye Wei’s capability was limited by just learning the stance and using it, Ye Wei’s comparatively childish voice sounded in the side hall, the four swords merged to become two five feet long fiery blades.
“What is this smoothness and strength, this is certainly a high-level Spirit stance! This kid made it!” everyone widened their eyes in shock, overwhelmed by the act itself done by just a kid!.
‘I can accept the twenty-two-year-old bringing the stance up a level, but this kid is just sixteen!’ Zuo Qiu Ming’s smile grew larger, ‘advanced high-level… wait…’ he suddenly perceived that Ye Wei’s Quadruple Spirit Sword had a different Qi flow compared to the other refined stances he saw earlier.
‘The energy burst is not as fierce comparing to Lu Feng’s; nevertheless, this stance’s Qi is sustaining incredible well!’ Zuo Qiu Ming tried to identify what exactly made Ye Wei’s stance different than everyone else, but could not accurately pinpoint it.
“Not bad, not bad at all kid!” Zuo Qiu Ming walked up to Ye Wei, gently patted his shoulder, “you are very talented and interesting!” surprised by both Ye Wei’s age and talent.