Chapter 30: Hellhole

Chapter 30: Hellhole

The main reason why Zu An was dissatisfied with the effects of the Ki Fruit was due to his lack of common sense when it came to cultivation. One must know that ordinary cultivators in this world had to spend months or even years cultivating in order to raise their cultivation by a single step. Even Plum Blossom Twelve had trained diligently for over two decades in order to reach his current level, only to be caught up by Zu An overnight. 

There was probably no one in this world who wouldn’t be shocked by the current rate at which Zu An was growing.

On top of that, the Phoenix Nirvana Scroll, aside from being able to activate the keyboard, was no ordinary artifact. It offered the cultivator the unconventional method of raising his cultivation through undergoing beating, and its effects also far surpassed that of most cultivation techniques. It was due to the lack of a realistic contrast that Zu An thought that Ki Fruit was less incredible than it truly was.

Zu An continued drawing the lottery, and it was yet another Ki Fruit. In the end, after using up 22,200 Rage points, he drew a total of 16 Ki Fruits.

“Is this the only thing I can draw from now onward?” Zu An muttered in disdain. Doing a quick calculation, on average, he obtained a Ki Fruit every 14 draws.

He couldn’t help but wonder if the chances of obtaining a prize were 1-in-10 or 1-in-20. If it was the former, he was really darned unlucky. If it was the latter, it seemed like his luck was still fairly good.

Considering how handsome I am, it must be the latter!

Zu An swallowed the Ki Fruits one after another. He used a total of 3 Ki Fruits to fill up the fourth formation, 5 Ki Fruits for the fifth formation, and 8 Ki Fruits for the sixth formation. With that, he finished all of his Ki Fruits.

One thing that Zu An couldn’t help but notice was that the number of Ki Fruit he needed to fill up his formations looked oddly familiar to him. Wait a moment, isn’t this the Fibonacci sequence?

As a qualified keyboard warrior, he had to be familiar with all sorts of complicated-sounding terms on the internet so that he could appear smart on the internet forums. He was aware that there was a lot of things in the natural world that obeyed the Fibonacci sequence, such as the arrangements of cones, pineapples, tree leaves, number of petals on a sunflower, beehives, wings of a dragonfly, the golden rectangle, the golden ratio, and so on.

However, he didn’t expect this golden finger of his to obey the golden ratio too. Was the Fibonacci sequence actually some hidden rule of the universe?

Zu An couldn’t feel happy about this discovery as he knew that the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence grew exponentially bigger down the sequence, which meant that the amount of Ki Fruits he would need in the later stages could potentially reach an astronomical sum.

He suddenly recalled the Marrow Cleansing Pills he had eaten earlier in the day, and he felt gladdened that he had increased his talent. Otherwise, if he had to rely solely on Ki Fruits, he would be doomed!

In the end, it was still much more reliable for him to get beaten up instead.

Zu An did a quick calculation, and he found that the rate at which his cultivation grew when he was struck by the Wailing Whip was faster than when he ate the Ki Fruit, and his talent was only at lower Ding back then!

But again, he couldn’t possibly look for a woman to beat him up every day, right?

Heaving a deep sigh, Zu An reached out to get himself a cup of water to drink. Unexpectedly, when he grabbed the cup, the cup suddenly shattered in his hands. This made him blink his eyes blankly. It took a while before he realized that this was a result of a sudden increase in his strength.

Out of curiosity, he did a few more experiments to test out his strength. In the midst of doing so, he gradually grew accustomed to the changes in his body.

Back when he was at the third step of the second rank, his strength was roughly equivalent to that of 4 adult men. However, now that he was in the sixth step of the second rank, his strength was comparable to that of 20 adult men combined.

All of a sudden, Zu An suddenly thought of something. He took out a paper and wrote down a couple of numbers to do some calculations. When he finally put down his brush once more, there was a conflicted look on his face. It really obeys the Fibonacci sequence. If I total all of the numbers in the sequence before, it adds up to 20.

“What are you doing?” A sinister voice suddenly sounded by the doorway.

Zu An lifted his head and saw Old Mi standing at the entrance of the room. His skin still looked withered like dried orange skin, and he was so thin that it felt like he was going to be blown away by the wind.

“You’re here.” However, Zu An dared not to look down on him. His instincts were telling him that this enigmatic old man was a dangerous person to mess with.

Hm? Why would I think that he’s dangerous? Is it because he looks ugly?

But of course, Zu An wouldn’t voice those thoughts aloud. Even a keyboard warrior had to prioritize his survival over earning Rage points.

“Hmm, you seem to have grown stronger,” Old Mi looked at him in astonishment. He’s able to make a breakthrough yet again so swiftly. It seems like the Phoenix Nirvana Sutra is indeed formidable.

“I fought with a few people when I went out earlier in the day,” Zu An replied with an honest look on his face.

“Try striking me once.” Old Mi didn’t doubt Zu An, though a huge part of the reason was due to him thinking that the latter still didn’t have any other means to raise his cultivation.

“This… I dare not do so.” While Old Mi was likely to be an expert, Zu An still couldn’t help but feel bad making a move against this frail-looking old man. It would be horrible if something were to go wrong.

“There’s no need to worry, just use your full might against me. You aren’t able to hurt me yet,” Old Mi said.

“I’ll be striking you then.” Zu An also felt that he was worrying in vain. Thus, he gathered his strength and hurled a punch toward Old Mi’s chest.

However, he didn’t use his full strength, exerting just a third of his might. As a keyboard warrior, it is unbecoming to reveal all of my cards. Hiding behind a veil of anonymity… Pui pui pui! I mean, surviving till the very end is the most important thing of all!

Other than that, he also wanted to verify one of his guesses too.

Old Mi raised his hand shakily, but he was able to block his fist without any trouble. “Not bad, not bad. You have already reached the fourth step of the second rank.”

“Really?” Zu An exclaimed in astonishment. Just as I thought, it’s very difficult for outsiders to tell my cultivation level with the naked eye. It’s the same as the last time. He was only able to discern what cultivation level I am at after seeing my punch.

That being said, it was still possible for a stronger cultivator to roughly tell what rank a weaker cultivator was at.

“Given your rate of cultivation, it’s not entirely impossible for you to reach the Master stage in the future.” Old Mi’s eyes were filled with delight. He thought that Zu An was untalented, but who could have thought that he was actually a good bud? It shouldn’t take long before the latter was ready to be possessed.

Old Mi chuckled to himself before saying, “I heard that you’re heading to Brightmoon Academy tomorrow?”

“That’s right,” Zu An replied with a stifled look on his face. There were bound to be plenty of cousins and relatives from the side branches of the Chu clan there as well. By then, his identity as the Chu clan’s son-in-law was likely to bring in a great deal of trouble. At the very least, that was how the plot usually went in novels.

What Zu An feared right now wasn’t trouble but wasting his time. He had too many things he needed to accomplish right now.

“Once you arrive at the academy, look for a child named Wei Hongde. No matter how you go about doing it, make sure to build a good relationship with him. It’ll be best if you can become his friend,” Old Mi said slowly.

“Wei Hongde?” Zu An repeated the name once more. “Who is that? Is he your cousin? What’s the reason behind getting close to him?”

“You need not bother about that. Remember, make sure not to reveal my identity to anyone else,” Old Mi replied with a smile. It was just that his smile looked exceptionally eerie with that withered face of his. “I imparted a secret art to you, so it isn’t too much of me to ask something like that of you, right?”

“Of course not! Don’t worry, I’ll definitely do my best to get close to him!” Zu An’s smile was as earnest as it could possibly get. On the inside, however, he was curious as to whether the Chu clan’s private academy would really accept an outsider with a different surname. Could he be a drafted son-in-law, just like me?

“Alright, you should rest well.” Old Mi patted his shoulder before leaving shakily.

After sending Old Mi off, Zu An retired for the night and lay down on his bed. He tried formulating a plan to obtain Yu Yanluo’s dudou, but despite racking his brain to the point that a bald spot was soon going to appear on his head, he was unable to come up with anything feasible. In the end, while muttering curses at Divine Physician Ji, he gradually drifted off to sleep.

The following morning, Cheng Shouping entered his room to wake him up with his breakfast in hand.

Seeing the food that was brought to him, Zu An suddenly felt that Cheng Shouping wasn’t so much of an eyesore anymore. It felt pretty good to have a study companion attending to his every need.

After having his meal, he dragged Cheng Shouping off to Brightmoon Academy with him. Since it was an order from his father-in-law, he had no choice but to follow it. He would just have to find a chance to sneak out later on.

“Hm? Why are we leaving the Chu Estate?”

“The Brightmoon Academy is located in the east of the city.”

“Oh…” Zu An was a little perplexed as to why the Chu clan’s private academy was situated so far away from the estate.

However, when he found himself standing before a cluster of magnificent buildings, his mouth opened agape. The entrance was tall and imposing, and there was a plaque with the words ‘Brightmoon Academy’ hanging on top. Every single one of these words seemed to be permeated with sword ki, giving them a sharp edge. 

Looking from afar, there were dormitories and all sorts of different buildings, such that he couldn’t see to the end of it with a single gaze. For a moment there, he thought that he had returned back to his university days in his previous life, just that this Brightmoon Academy was, without a doubt, bigger than any of the universities he knew of.

“Is the Chu clan’s private academy this big?” Zu An asked in bewilderment.

“What private academy?” Cheng Shouping was confused by that remark.

“Isn’t the Brightmoon Academy a private academy built by the Brightmoon Duke?” Zu An was starting to realize that he might have misunderstood something here.

“Young master, don’t spout nonsense! You might bring disaster to the Master!” Cheng Shouping’s face paled in horror as he quickly pulled Zu An aside to explain it to him. “The Brightmoon Academy is directly under the Minister of Ceremonies, the leader of the Nine Ministers. It serves as a facility to nurture talented individuals for the royal court…”

Under Cheng Shouping’s explanation, Zu An finally made sense of the situation. As it turned out that in this world, from the Three Lords and Nine Ministers all the way down to normal teachers and tax officials, all official positions were monopolized by the cultivators.

In order to avoid the nobles from dominating official positions—after all, those from distinguished backgrounds had an innate advantage when it came to nurturing cultivators—the emperor had ordered for academies to be constructed all over the country, promoting the idea of education without discrimination. As such, ordinary civilians were allowed to attend the academies too.

Everyone, regardless of whether one was of noble or ordinary birth, had to study in a county-level cultivator academy in order to qualify for the Three Tiered Examinations, namely the Prefectural Examination, Capital Examination, and Imperial Examination.

The names were similar to what Zu An remembered from his previous world, but the subjects that were being tested were vastly different. What was tested in his previous world was the Four Books and Five Classics whereas it was cultivation in this world.

Ordinary examinations would first be held in county-level academies located in major cities, such as the Brightmoon Academy. 

Those who performed spectacularly in the examination would be picked out and sent to Administrative Centers headed by Prefectural Generals to compete with the talents from the other counties in the same prefecture in the Prefectural Examination. Those who cleared the Prefectural Examinations would be qualified to serve as officials, but they were limited to lower-ranking positions.

Thus, most people would choose to proceed to the capital to participate in the Capital Examinations. There, they would compete with the talents selected from the various prefectures to compete for the title of the ‘Capital Scholar’.

Those who became Capital Scholars would then participate in the Imperial Examination personally hosted by the emperor himself. If one were to do well there, one would be able to rise through the ranks and start from a high point. On top of that, the emperor was also the strongest expert in this world. Just a pointer from him was enough to offset years of cultivation.

Of course, this was the path that the most talented individuals took. The majority of the people were eliminated in the county-level ordinary examinations. They could either choose to work harder and participate next year or opt for an academic position. As most officials were cultivators, they were mostly interested in furthering their cultivation. When it came to cumbersome administrative affairs, they could hardly be bothered to handle them personally. Thus, they would hire some advisors and subordinates to deal with them.

These advisors and subordinates were usually those who had failed in the county-level ordinary examinations or had no talent for cultivation at all. However, it was not a bad way out either.

Clearly, Chu Zhongtian’s intention of having him attend Brightmoon Academy was for him to walk down this path. Other than cultivation, the academy also imparted to the students essential knowledge on other subjects such as law, economics, and so on.

“Young master, stop standing there in a daze and enter,” Cheng Shouping advised him. “I’ll be waiting for you at the entrance till you’re released from the academy.”

Zu An: “…”

Shit. It wasn’t easy for me to finish my studies in my previous life, but as soon as I came to this world, I’m going to study yet again? What is this hellhole I’m trapped in?!

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starvecleric's Thoughts

In ancient China, an empire is split into multiple prefectures, and each prefecture contains multiple counties. This classification is mainly for governance and administrative purposes since they practice a decentralized governance system (aka Feudalism). Basically, it’s a bit similar to how the United States is divided into many different states, just that each state is accountable to the royal court.

The Three Tiered Examination is also sort of similar to any type of sports/esports competition, where you start from interschool, then to nationals, and finally to internationals.