“Today is a joyous day for the cultivation world.” Firecloud was presiding over the ceremony. His gaze concealed a trace of supreme arrogance, one with a shred of haughtiness and detachment. He spoke softly even though his voice seemed to echo at the side of everyone’s ears. “In the cultivation world, time is exceptionally precious. I wish not to delay the time in everyone’s lives, thus, all proceedings shall be carried out without complication.”
“According to regulation, the ceremony is divided into three stages. The Qualifier, the Test of Potential, and the Signing Ceremony.” His voice not yet fallen, Shadowslay’s voice rang out like a well-practiced rehearsal. “After a quarter of an hour, the Qualifier will officially begin. If you are knocked off the stage, take the initiative to concede defeat and bear the lost. Do any of our guests have objections to this?”
No one said anything. No one dared to say anything.
The ten-thousand-plus people in the arena were dead-silent. However, a brilliant ray flashed through the eyes of the sixty students of Nantong Province’s graduation, at the same time. They, who were the focus of the legions of crowds.
They hadn’t heard about the Qualifier, but it was a name that couldn’t be any more blunt. As long as they used their heads, they could imagine why it was called this. Likewise, they were without a trace of dissent.
Thirteen champions, any one of them would be unwilling to submit beneath another! At their branches, they were already first in their class. Here, they were looking forward to ascending the apex even more, under the focus of ten thousand people!
No one answered him. Approximately ten seconds later, Shadowslay nodded in satisfaction/ “That’s good… All of the students have been boarding at the branch for a long time, so they’re probably unaware of the Qualifier’s origin. It’s a practice that Heavens Law holds once every five years.”
“Cultivators don’t only struggle against the heavens and the world in the battle for their destinies, but more so against their fellow man.” Firecloud said calmly like a monarch overlooking the myriad masses. “Of all who have trod out of Heavens Law and entered the cultivation world afterwards, everyone is both a comrade-in-arms, but also a rival. In the struggle of ten thousand, only a single man alone can cut across. This is the true nature of cultivation.”
“If demons are in your path, behead them. If humans impede your way, subdue them. If the heavens obstruct you, destroy it. One can only press on ahead until they reach the other shore of Core Formation.”
“Tell me.” He chuckled, looking towards the youths whose blood had been stirred to a boil by his words. “Do all of you have this self-confidence?”
Regardless of whether they were a student or not, all the young people present nearly roared together, their voices shaking the entire arena!
“Very good.” Firecloud waved his hand, and in the next second, an ornate jade chest about fifty centimeters in length and ten centimeters in width suddenly appeared before him and Shadowslay.
The chest was crafted from a faint azure jade, and its whole body was without the slightest flaw. If such a beautiful jade was placed in the world, there was no doubt it would fetch a high price at auction by some jade enthusiast. But presently, it was nothing more than a magnificent stage piece.
Absent of flaws, it was like an entire piece of naturally formed jade. In spite of this, there wasn’t a person who could ignore that in the second this chest was revealed, it left an impression that nearly stopped their beating hearts!
Core Formation spiritual pressure!
It was like ocean tides or drifting clouds. Though it was silent in its coming, it spread over every nook and cranny of the entire Unrivaled Beneath the Heavens Arena!
It was different from Foundation Establishment… If said that Foundation Establishment was the external manifestation of spiritual force, with attacks like a fire god burning the heavens and a peace like autumn wind in a bamboo forest, then Core Formation was a kind of true terror and awesome might. Nothing needed to be said and nothing needed to be done. It was a type of reticence like the might of the sea, enough to cause not one person in the arena risk looking straight at the chest.
“Every Qualifier, there is a grand gift from a Dao Master. This is this graduation’s prize…” Among the endless crowd, an aged, wizened hand was trembling in excitement. “I’ve attended graduation countless times, and each prize from a Core Formation master that’s taken out has always made me shake in my boots…”
“Grandma… Y-You said this pressure is a Core Formation cultivator’s might?” On the other side, a young boy excitedly lowered his voice and said, “Inside the chest, there’s really a…”
“Of course, it’s an excellent item granted by a Core Formation cultivator!” The grandma was even more excited than her grandson, both her eyes fairly reddened. “I don’t know what it is this time… but each time, it’s a genuine treasure! It defies imagination!”
“Are you sure?” On the other side of the venue, Deputy Branchmaster Qi looked greedily at the chest, tightly pursing his lips. “Are you sure it’s that item?”
“A hundred percent.” Chu Tianyi’s voice carried a trace of stifling hoarseness, and he sucked in deeply, locking his eyes onto the chest. “Besides myself, no one here knows. They were actually willing to part with that item…”
Firecloud sat in front of the chest, his expression seemingly placid, yet he and Shadowslay were already revolving their spiritual force to the utmost limit! This was the only method they could use to endure without recoiling backwards by several tens of feet.
This wasn’t their first time doing this...
This chest had passed through Heavens Law headquarters to be placed in front of him. The initial exposure had long passed, but every time he looked at it he felt that the prize this time… was a treasure of extremely terrifying proportions! This was a treasure that even the Fortuity Profound Elixir couldn’t compare to!
They had previously studied it. The box was engraved with invisible seals. It was unknown which Core Formation master had left them, but as long as someone wanted to forcibly open the box, the resulting spiritual attack would be an injury grievous enough to force them to recuperate for decades!
Thus, even they didn’t desire that which was contained inside! They could only sense… a boundless aura like mist within. So, while they didn’t know what the object was, it gave people the most primal hungering for it!
“What on earth is inside?” Firecloud forced down the shock in heart, his Adam’s apple faintly bobbing. He swiped his right hand over the jade chest, and it vanished without a trace.
“Ahhh…” In the arena, countless soft voices converged together into a stream of sound. Even Foundation Establishment cultivators had to repress their desire to stay far away from the tiny box. Whether they were separated by a distance of several hundred meters or not, they still felt the uneasiness of their breathing.
“This is this year’s prize.” Firecloud secretly sighed in relief. If he could, he would be unwilling to so much as face this kind of unknown oppressive might. “It’s a bit different from the previous years’ prizes. I wasn’t told which Core Formation master bestowed it, or what this object is.”
“There’s only one thing that is the same as usual.” He stood up and cast his gaze over the sixty people on the arena, and said loudly and clearly, “The paragon of the Qualifier shall obtain this treasure.”
His voice couldn’t be considered loud, yet in the eyes of the sixty students it was like pouring oil on a fire! The Qualifier didn’t need to be explained. They were clear on what it represented. No one opposed it. Especially, the thirteen champions. None of them would admit that someone else was stronger than them. However… this was simply their thoughts from moments ago.
If said before, they still only had an unconscious intuition regarding the Qualifier. Yet after Firecloud had informed them of the prize that the champion would come to possess, the look in everyone’s eyes changed.
It was a reverence from the quiet silence just now brought by a Dao Master’s treasure that seemed to immerse every single pore and each individual cell in a sea of oppressive might. In a flicker, this emotion caused their competitive spirits to reach the peak! They would drag themselves up to the summit!
What was inside? A mystic medicine? A treasure weapon? Or perhaps… a supreme-grade spirit stone?
No one knew, but because of this anonymity, it gave the astonishing, mysterious chest an even more enigmatic aura! No matter what it was, the prize could be nothing else than a once-in-a-century chance! A cultivator’s opportunity to arrive at the world’s zenith! The initial step that would allow them to flap their wings and ascend the skies!
“Senior, is the Qualifier the ranking method for us graduating students? To determine the number one?” Because he had been overcome by excitement and expectation, a student’s voice was evidently somewhat hoarse as he cupped his fist and asked, “Could Junior understand it as ranking based on battle, and the last one standing will be one who is qualified to obtain this treasure?”
“Correct.” Shadowslay answered serenely. None had seen that up until the moment he’d stowed the chest away did his tightened fists finally relax little by little.
Xu Yangyi didn’t speak. All that Chu Zhaonan had talked about was true. Even if his spiritual force had experienced a fall, and even if his breakthrough was unsuccessful, in spite of all of this… he wouldn’t relinquish this unknown treasure to anyone else!
Gently sighing in relaxation, he began to revolve all of his spiritual force, and a kind of feeling similar to a fierce tiger leaving confinement spread through his heart. Meanwhile a bloodthirsty urge madly overtook his entire being.
“A lion must be imperious…” Xu Yangyi’s gaze silently flitted across all of the rank ones’ faces, and he lowered his eyes again. “Whoever plotted against me… It doesn’t matter. I’ll question them each one by one…”
“Champions will place against champions, and the rest will rank against each other.” Firecloud laughed, “Time waits for no man; we shall begin posthaste.”
These words finally liberated the soundless fanaticism that everyone was holding. Each cultivation clans’ mortals fixed their eyes on their computers. Their fingers placed atop familiar keys, they were prepared to carry out searches at a moment's notice. As for the clan heads, their eyes were already twinkling as they looked towards the center of the arena stage!
In the front row, Lilac, Hibiscus, and Vulture took a long sigh in relief. Lilac sipped her tea, and the three of them gazed steadfastly at the stage. On the other side, Chu Tianyi’s expression was calm and his eyes half-lidded, but the mere snowy pallor of his face was like that of a napkin. On his chest, a ray of indistinct yellow light flickered luminously, but his face was without the most minute of changes.
“Are things fine?” Deputy Branchmaster Qi furrowed his brows and questioned, “I’m afraid that even if it’s a mere sliver of Core Formation oppressive might… it’s not something a mortal can endure.”
“Those are ordinary mortals.” Chu Tianyi was silent for a couple seconds. After a long while, he closed his eyes and instructed the two Qi Condensation cultivators he had brought with him, “Ding Guang, Ding Yuan, you know what to do.”
The two Qi Condensation cultivators slightly bowed at the waist, their gazes involuntarily hovering over their rings.
“This item… If it is not the Chu’s, then it cannot belong to any other clan.”
Calm descended on the venue like the eve of tempest winds gracing the ocean surface. Shadowslay lightly snapped his fingers, and with the echo of a crisp swish, thirteen white misty orbs of qi suddenly appeared before him. He casually grasped two of them and gently pinched them apart.
In seconds, the misty qi within swirled about like a frenzy of endless white serpents! On the left and right, they formed two names on each side in the air!
On the left-hand side, Zhaoping City’s champion, Luo Sanfeng!
On the right-hand side, Yuyang City’s champion, Xu Yangyi!
“The two of you step out.”
Shh… Simultaneously, a bloodthirsty glint flashed through Xu Yangyi’s eyes. His fist cracked as he clenched it, and as he exerted pressure on his legs, the feeling of his ligaments was wonderfully superb. With the support of his hand, he leaped onto the two-meter-tall arena stage.
Under his feet, tiles of limestone began to stretch onwards. On the other side, a roughly 1.78-meters-tall youth jumped on top of the arena stage at nearly the same moment.
There wasn’t a need for too much of an explanation. None questioned why the Qualifier had to be conducted, as well. The chest was the best explanation. In the absence of a full moon night or the high walls of the forbidden city, there was only a solitary immortal soaring beyond the boundaries of the heavens! 
The clan masters of tens of cultivation families were already up on their feet, their gazes inflamed. Some were young and some were old. Some were ugly men and some were beautiful women. Some gripped the handrails tightly and some leaned forward with rapt attention. The entire arena was so silent that not even the buzzing of insects could be heard as the crowd watched the two students.
The first lineup… was an A5 student versus an A3 student!
1. 没有月圆之夜，没有紫禁之巅，只有天外独步的天外飞仙. This is a play on a phrase from a Gu Long novel. I am unsure if I fully captured the scope of it.It is something along the lines of “It was a dark stormy night”... I think. Supposed to set up the mood.
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