After Tianming and the others had come to the sect, Qingyu started smiling a lot more. Ying Huo's antics often caused her to burst into laughter.
"Big Brother, there's another rank that's higher than direct disciples and doesn't fall under any of the elders. They're allowed to train in Prime Tower, the most sacred place in all of the sect. Those disciples can stand on equal grounds as the elders in the council and are senior to even normal exalted masters," Qingyu suddenly said.
"Oh, a higher rank? What is it called?" Tianming asked.
"Prime disciples, eh? So they're even above direct disciples in rank...." It seemed that these singled out ones held a really high rank. It was probably the equivalent of the elysian children of Heaven's Elysium.
"That's right," Qingyu continued, "every prime disciple is among the most ridiculously talented people in the sect. As long as they’re allowed to mature, they'll definitely be as powerful as the elders. A new generation of prime disciples are selected every decade. Each generation usually only has one or two, or even none. However, the current generation who are under twenty is an exception; there’s four of them in this generation. All of them are really famous figures in the Grand-Orient Realm. They are, without a doubt, the best geniuses the sect has to offer." Her eyes lit up with adoration at their mention.
"There’s four of them? That many? How powerful do you reckon they are?" Tianming asked curiously.
"They probably managed to reach the peak of Unity at sixteen or seventeen, or perhaps even break through to the Heavenly Will stage," she said enviously.
"Hell." They were too overpowered. Tianming had thought that he would be among the top among the geniuses of the Grand-Orient Sect. How would he be able to compete with these prime disciples? They could rival Li Yanfeng at the age of sixteen!
"Did they grow up stuffed full of medicines and herbs?" he said.
"Of course not. Those four are all descendants of elders, and have their personal guidance. Basically, they started cultivating at the age of three. They would've been training for more than ten years by the time they’re sixteen." At age three, Tianming was still playing in the mud. "For instance, Yuwen Taiji's eldest son has had the guidance of the third and ninth elders since childhood. Coupled with his saint beast, his talent is unreal. Him becoming a prime disciple was something everyone took for granted."
This prime disciple had come from one of the largest clans in the Grand-Orient Sect. After all, the third elder of the council was Yuwen Fengtian and the ninth elder of the council was Yuwen Taiji. With a grandfather and father like that, along with a saint beast, his rise was almost guaranteed. The elders’ ranking wasn’t based on their power, but rather their contributions. Every time a reevaluation was called, Yuwen Taiji's rank would advance. Perhaps he would surpass his own father, Yuwen Fengtian, one day.
"What's that prime disciple called?" Tianming asked.
"Now that's an intimidating name," he said with a chuckle. That was Yuwen Taiji's eldest son, and now, Tianming was Li Wudi's 'eldest son'. They were destined to not get along. Yuwen Shendu was probably at the peak of Unity, or even at Heavenly Will. While Tianming was twenty, he wasn't that much older than Yuwen Shendu. Even so, the actual time he’d been cultivating wasn’t really that long.
Using age to judge one's talent simply didn't apply to him.
"Are you afraid of the Yuwen Clan?" Tianming asked, seeing Qingyu's gaze shifting.
"Then what do you want to do?"
"I want to avenge my parents. That's the only thing I ask for in this lifetime of mine," she said.
"That's too hard for now. Let's do something else and take our time," he said, giving her shoulder a pat.
"But Big Brother, could you put your mind to doing anything else before you killed Lin Xiaoting?"
He couldn't, which was why he understood how she felt. "Life is long, and karma will definitely come. These crooks will eventually have to reap what they sow, and we'll make sure they get a good taste of what they grew. When the time comes, I'll stand with you."
"Big Brother, it's fine. I should do this myself—"
Before she could finish, Tianming hushed her and said, "Don't make any decisions yet. We'll see when the time comes."
"Okay!" she said with a nod. Perhaps she saw some hope in his words.
"Alright, let's continue the introduction. Apart from the elders, what other kinds of seniors are there?"
Qingyu sat straight up and said, "The elders have the highest rank, and each of them control an immortal mountain. There’s ten hall prefects on each mountain who are in charge of resource distribution, conflict resolution, and normal operations of their immortal mountains.
"Under the hall prefects are the exalted masters who guide the disciples in their cultivation. They may take personal disciples, though their ranks remain inner disciples.
"Each immortal mountain has ten hall prefects and tens of exalted masters, so roughly a hundred or so per mountain. Most of the hall prefects and exalted masters are saints. They form the backbone of the Grand-Orient Sect. Elder Ye Qing's son, Ye Shaoqing, is one of the hall prefects of Azure Immortal Mountain—the highest ranked, in fact. He’s also an exalted master at the same time.
"There’s another rank in the sect on the same level as hall prefects: the chiefs. They aren't affiliated with any particular immortal mountain, but rather the council of elders. They’re the executive branch of the council. There are hundreds of chiefs in the sect, and they all reside on Grand-Orient Sacred Mountain to manage sect operations.
"There's another rank that doesn't belong to any immortal mountain. The Grand-Orient guardians. When most of the outer disciples mature, and aren't eliminated from the sect and don't make the cut as exalted masters, they become guardians. The guardians are the main combat force of the sect. Most of them are stationed within the sect, but many reside in the Abyssal Battlefield. There’s also some scattered all across the Grand-Orient Realm to defend the sect branches.
"Additionally, there’s ninety-nine mountain lords for the ninety-nine mountains of the outer sect to manage the cultivation of the outer disciples. Mountain lords have the same status as exalted masters."
Tianming now had a rough understanding of the hierarchy and geography of the sect. Not counting nominal disciples, the rank and promotion roadmap starts from outer disciple to inner disciple, then direct and prime disciple. As one ages past a certain point, they would graduate from disciple status. The weaker ones would be eliminated and sent to the branch sects, which were analogues of the Heaven's Sanctum in Vermillion Bird.
The average ones would be inducted into the Grand-Orient guardians, to serve the sect. The talented ones would become exalted masters or mountain lords, and those beyond them became hall prefects or chiefs. The most terrifying talents would join the council of elders. Naturally, without backing from a clan, no normal person could advance to hall prefect or beyond, unless they truly were ridiculously talented.
"This is a rather hierarchical and competitive place, after all," Tianming concluded. It was the first time he had seen a sect that strictly regimented. He figured that Heaven's Elysium wouldn't be that different, and perhaps it was even more convoluted. In other words, Lady Long truly did have a rather high ranking. It was no wonder Ling Yichen would attend her like a servant.
Tianming craved to be on the same level as an elysian child, or prime disciple. However, he had to start from where he was, first.
By now, an azure mountain was in sight. From a distance, the peak of the mountain resembled a deity standing with arms held out in greeting. That was where the name Azure Immortal Mountain came from. There were many buildings scattered around the mountain, numbering in the thousands. Most of the inner disciples lived there; only a few like Qingyu, and others from the Li Saint Clan, would stay with their clans at their respective mountains instead.
Tianming obviously belonged in the latter category, too. Even though he was an inner disciple of Azure Immortal Mountain, he wouldn't even go there often. He reckoned he would mostly be active at Grand-Orient Sacred Mountain and Fatepath Peak in the future.
"Exalted Master Ye is starting his lecture soon. I'll take you along with me."
When they reached the rear of the mountain, they kept their lifebound beasts in their lifebound spaces. Tianming and Qingyu entered a rather wide and elegant courtyard, at the center of which were hundreds of seats, each spaced out from the others by more than three meters. Currently, most of the seats were occupied.
One had to sign up for lectures from exalted masters in advance; taking a spot without doing so wasn’t allowed. Qingyu had done so beforehand, and took Tianming to a seat near the corner.
"Even though today's lecture is about Unity, many disciples at the first level of Unity are attending as a refresher. It's pretty effective."
It was no wonder he saw many disciples who were already first-level Unity beastmasters. Only some young boys and girls around the age of fourteen really needed to listen in.
"Big Brother, you're already twenty. Don't you feel awkward attending lectures with thirteen-year-olds?" Feiling ruthlessly teased.
"Nonsense. If I’d been born here, I'd be an exalted master by now," he replied.
"You're bragging again. Any more of that and I fear Azure Immortal Mountain will collapse from the weight of your ego."
"You're underestimating me again. Hehe, there’ll be consequences when I end up giving you a sound face-slapping, you know."
"I know you wouldn't dare. Don't try scaring me."
"Well, slapping your face might be a no go, but your butt, on the other hand..." Tianming snickered mischievously. Teasing her was among his favorite pastimes.
"You wouldn't dare! I'll get Meow Meow to scratch you. It'll listen to me."
"Huh, if it dares I'll give its balls a good flicking." The poor cat was still asleep in the lifebound space, completely oblivious. Feeling a sudden chill, it hurriedly shielded its 'jewels' with its tail.
At that moment, Qingyu warned, "Big Brother, Exalted Master Ye is here. Don't make any noise."
He nodded. Currently, his biggest obstacle was breaking through to the first level of Unity. So he wanted to know what this soon-to-be elder Ye Shaoqing had to say about it.
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