Yun Ruoyan swiftly stored the amaranthine sun in her storage pouch.
“Using those ahead of her as bait… Haha, this little girl is really quite interesting,” the short fifth elder laughed.
The first elder smiled and nodded, turning to glance at Li Mo. Beneath his hood, he could see his favored disciple’s lips curl up—Li Mo was happy for Yun Ruoyan, but, at the same time, somewhat worried for her.
The second elder snorted. “Just because it’s in her possession now doesn’t mean that she’ll be able to keep it! There’s still quite some time before noon. It won’t be an easy task for her to hold out until then!”
Although the second elder wasn’t on her side, his words weren’t wrong. This was Yun Ruoyan’s most pressing problem at the moment. She glanced up at the sky, judging that there would be about an hour until the end of the trial. She had snatched the amaranthine sun in plain sight of all the other competitors, including Wang Meng and the youth fighting with him.
Naturally, the other cultivators’ gaze gravitated greedily to Yun Ruoyan’s storage pouch. She climbed up the cliff, looking alertly at her surroundings. She had no intention of handing over anything that was in her grasp!
“The treasure’s in her hands! Snatch it!” someone shouted, and the cultivators who were climbing up the cliff made a beeline in her direction.
Zhuo Yifeng guarded Yun Ruoyan, his two legs hooked against the cliff as he pulled his bow taut and provided a stream of friendly cover that prevented the other cultivators from getting close to her.
Wang Meng looked toward the youth who had subjugated the steel-plated centipede with him, and that youth looked back. The two of them had a nonverbal exchange as they each attacked the centipede beast with their maximum output of spiritual energy.
As soon as blademasters reached seventh-rank, they would be able to extrude spiritual energy from their bodies as an attack, but this was generally quite cost-inefficient and reserved for finishing blows. However, the two youths both used this costly technique to transmit spiritual energy through their weapons into the soft flesh of the steel-plated centipede.
After an intense period of quivering and shaking, the steel-plated centipede’s body, almost twenty feet in length, fell from the cliff.
“These two youths aren’t bad either!” The corpulent fourth elder narrowed his gaze, clearly intrigued by Wang Meng and the other youth. He was just about to announce that his next disciple would be between the two youths when the silent third elder spoke up.
“Sorry, but I’ve reserved the thinner youth as my disciple.”
“What do you mean, ‘reserve’?” The fourth elder’s face scrunched up in dissatisfaction as he faced the icy third elder.
“That’s the Wang family’s famed pillmaking genius, Wang Meng,” the third elder explained. “Many years ago, I sent someone to the Wang family specifically to recruit him, but the head of the Wang family refused the offer on his behalf. Wang Meng suddenly asked to participate in the trial this year, and I granted him an exception. As the head of the pillmaking facilities, I’ll naturally be Wang Meng’s mentor.”
“Not all students talented at pillmaking have to choose that as their focus, do they?!” The fourth elder crossed his arms and frowned.
“Fourth Elder, don’t worry. Isn’t that other youth equally talented?” the sixth elder jumped in. “That’s the heir of the Zhao family from the Chen kingdom, Zhao Qiang. His cultivation isn’t any worse than the Wang lad.”
Although Zhao Qiang’s cultivation wasn’t worse than Wang Meng’s, he wasn’t a pillmaking genius like Wang Meng. Over the years, any student that displayed overwhelming talent in pillmaking had all ended up in the third elder’s pillmaking facilities. As a result, the third elder had what essentially amounted to a monopoly on pills. This left the fourth elder extremely frustrated, and he refused to give in to the third elder as always.
Back in the secret realm, Wang Meng and Zhao Qiang turned to Yun Ruoyan after dealing with the steel-plated centipede.
“Miss Yun, I don’t want to make things difficult for you. Hand over the amaranthine sun.” Because of the relationship between Li Mo and Yun Ruoyan, Wang Meng first decided to ask for the treasure politely.
“Young Master Wang, since I was the one who obtained the amaranthine sun, I won’t hand it over. If you want it, you’ll have to snatch it from me,” Yun Ruoyan replied.
“Why waste your time arguing with her? The treasure belongs to whoever can snatch it!” Clearly, Zhao Qiang agreed with Yun Ruoyan’s logic, and he leaped in her direction.
He found a foothold not too far from Yun Ruoyan, whirling the iron hook in his hands in a circular orbit while imbuing it with spiritual energy. Not only were those from the Chen kingdom outspoken and straightforward, they were also particularly vicious with their attacks. Zhao Qiang’s motions telegraphed his intention to get rid of Yun Ruoyan in one fell swoop. The iron hook swung in her direction with a sonic boom. Even if your cultivation’s comparable to mine, I bet you can’t defend against such a direct attack!
Of course, Yun Ruoyan was well prepared. Using the bracelet’s power, she raised her peak seventh-rank cultivation to peak eighth-rank, infused the spiritual energy into her dagger, and caught the iron hook as the onlookers watched on in shock.
Zhao Qiang felt as though an unusually strong pulse of spiritual energy were flowing from Yun Ruoyan to him through their entangled weapons. Blindsided by the nature of her attack, Zhao Qiang took the blow head-on and spat out a mouthful of blood on the spot.
Wang Meng had been waiting for Zhao Qiang to handle Yun Ruoyan before handling him in turn. In this manner, he would be able to obtain the amaranthine sun without offending Li Mo in the process, but Yun Ruoyan’s strength exceeded his expectations.
Knowing that he couldn’t hold back any longer, Wang Meng dashed at Yun Ruoyan with his dagger.
“Ruoyan, be careful!” Zhuo Yifeng shouted from behind.
Through the all-seeing mirror, Li Mo clenched his fists tightly, more nervous than he could remember ever being. If the Feilai Blade weren’t sealed away, Wang Meng’s reckless attack would be easily dealt with, but now…
Even with the bracelet’s augmentation, it would be very difficult for Yun Ruoyan to dodge his blow. Instead, she made a panicked expression as she shouted, “Don’t kill me! I’ll hand over the spiritual treasure!”
Wang Meng stopped his attack mid-way as he clambered back onto the cliff.
“I’ll hand over the treasure,” Yun Ruoyan promised again, looking at the sun in the sky. The end of the trial loomed.
Zhao Qiang also retracted his iron hook as he called out toward Yun Ruoyan, “What’re you waiting for? Hand it over to me now!”
Yun Ruoyan removed the pouch from her waist and threw it at Wang Meng without hesitation. Zhao Qiang rushed over following its trajectory, and the two youths began tussling over it once more. In the middle of their heated fight, the end of the trial finally descended.
The midday light bathed the entire realm in a blinding light as the youths all around her vanished one by one. Finally, Yun Ruoyan felt herself being warped away as well. When she next opened her eyes, she found herself standing in the middle of a great hall, surrounded by twenty or thirty fellow youths from the trial.
“The trial’s over! We’re safe, we’re back!”
“I’m… I’m still alive!”
The youths who had been running for their lives for one reason or another began to cheer, tears staining their smiling faces. Many had entirely forgotten their goal of entering Kongming Academy.
Lin Qingchen, Lin Qingxue, and Zhuo Yifeng stood not far from each other. When they saw Yun Ruoyan, they immediately rushed toward her. However, Yun Ruoyan was looking at the two youths standing in the front: Wang Meng and Zhao Qiang. Each of them had seized one half of her storage pouch, the hook in Zhao Qiang’s hands being blocked by the dagger in Wang Meng’s.
“Silence, everyone!” an elder’s voice rang out loud and clear, quashing the youths’ conversations.
As one, the survivors of the trial turned toward the stage, where six elders sat in six ornate chairs. In front of the six elders was the man who had just spoken—the host for the trial, Cang Song.
Below Cang Song sat two rows of adults of about the same age as he was, all of whom Yun Ruoyan had seen that night she was brought for questioning—likely instructors of the same standing as Cang Song.
Behind them stood Shui Yun, Mo Yun, and the other disciples from their cohort.
“Students, you’ve all worked hard,” Cang Song began. “I’ll now announce the results of this trial. Of the hundred and thirteen students participating in the trial, seventy-five are still alive. Thirty-eight have died, and thirty were grievously injured or disabled. Only twenty will be selected as full students of the academy.”
Cang Song’s words left all the youths present shocked. Many of them were scions from the nobility of the four kingdoms, and they hadn’t been aware of the difficulty and high casualty rate of the trials. Even Yun Ruoyan was surprised at how many of the scions had died. Did Kongming Academy really not care about repercussions from the nobility of the four kingdoms at all?
Yun Ruoyan glanced at the six elders sitting behind Cang Song, likely the ‘old geezers’ that Li Mo had referred to. Before she had arrived at Kongming Academy, Li Mo had mentioned a few pieces of information about the place, but he hadn’t been able to divulge much of the more sensitive details.
However, he’d brought up these old geezers quite a few times, and they were likely the most superior existences of the academy.
“Cang Song, you may begin,” the elder sitting at the center of the six stated.
“Yes, First Elder,” Cang Song replied with a bow before turning to the students. “Retrieve your spoils from the secret realm. You’ll be ranked according to the quantity and quality of your spoils, and the top twenty will pass this trial. Shui Yun, Mo Yun!”
Cang Song turned to his two helpers and made a hand motion. Shui Yun and Mo Yun bowed, stepped out from the row of disciples, and walked toward the youths in the hall. The youths eagerly began taking out their spoils, hoping that they’d collected enough to qualify.
“What about us?!” Zhao Qiang exclaimed from the middle of the hall. “Is this amaranthine sun to be considered his or mine?”
“I was the first to claim it, so of course it’s mine!” Wang Meng exclaimed. Both youths were still holding on to the storage pouch, refusing to let go.
Cang Song glanced at the two of them before turning to the six elders, who had a short discussion. In the end, Cang Song announced, “The two of you will have a battle right now to determine the owner of the treasure.”
“There’s no need!” Yun Ruoyan announced. “I have the amaranthine sun.”
Yun Ruoyan presented the scarlet herb in her hand.Previous Chapter Next Chapter