Chapter 205: Sleight of Hand

“How could it be?!” Wang Meng glanced at the herb in Yun Ruoyan’s hand, stupefied. “I clearly saw you putting the amaranthine sun into your storage pouch!”

As a pillmaster, Wang Meng was very confident with his vision: Yun Ruoyan had clearly put the amaranthine sun into her storage pouch, and her hand had been empty afterward.

After I went to all that trouble to obtain the herb, do you think I’d give it up so easily?! Yun Ruoyan had placed the amaranthine sun into the storage pouch, and then directly into her pocket dimension. As long as no one else discovered the secret behind her silver bracelet, they wouldn’t be able to identify the trick that she’d used.

Qiuqiu confirmed to her that no one present would be able to discern the pocket dimension hidden in her silver bracelet. Even Li Mo had only found out about the bracelet because he could sense Qiuqiu’s aura, not because he could sense the bracelet’s secret. And even until now, all he knew was that the bracelet was a seal for Qiuqiu; he knew nothing of its other functions.

“That was only a sleight of hand,” Yun Ruoyan explained, removing a very similar scarlet herb from her robes. “Coincidentally, I had a few scarlet herbs that looked exactly like the amaranthine sun, and the herb that I placed inside my storage pouch was one such. The real amaranthine sun was always on my body.”

“That’s impossible!” Zhao Qiang looked at her dubiously, having seen her put the herb into her storage pouch with his own eyes. “This is only a regular herb, but the herb that you put into your storage pouch clearly had a red aura!”

“Like so?” Yun Ruoyan turned to Zhao Qiang as she raised the herb in her hands high up. As she circulated spiritual energy through her body and infused the herb with it. The white spiritual energy shone from the herb, turning red due to its coloration.

“I simply used a little trick to distract you.” Yun Ruoyan smiled and looked toward Wang Meng and Zhao Qiang. “I certainly wouldn’t hand over a spiritual treasure so easily.”

Even Wang Meng, who was usually adept at keeping his thoughts and emotions hidden, began to flush. How could he have been tricked by such an unremarkable girl?! And yet he could do nothing about his rage and shame in the public eye.

Zhao Qiang was equally enraged by Yun Ruoyan’s trick. She was an ugly girl who looked no more than fourteen—and yet she was both a practiced cultivator and a sly trickster!

“Haha, wonderful, wonderful!” The sixth elder, youngest of the six, began to laugh uproariously, clapping at the drama. “This girl’s quite an interesting character!” 

His age was easily identified relative to the other elders: of the remaining five, two had white hair, and three had grizzled. Only the sixth elder had a full head of black hair.

The first elder smiled, nodding at Cang Song, who quickly announced, “In that case, neither of you need proceed with the battle. Shui Yun, Mo Yun, continue with the appraisal.”

The remaining youths had since removed their spoils from their respective storage pouches and handed them over. Lin Qingxue and Lin Qingchen had obtained a considerable amount of loot at the foot of the cliff, but it wasn’t much in comparison to the other youths. After all, during the three days of the trial, they had only hunted an eight-legged evil spirit on the first day. Their early lead had drawn the ire of their fellow competitors, and the affair with Rong Yueshan had tied up a considerable part of their resources. Relative to the other youths who had been diligently hunting and gathering herbs, their spoils were below average.

“I don’t need my portion. This herb is enough,” Yun Ruoyan stated. Quantity was important, but the sage-grade amaranthine sun easily trumped any other student’s spoils in terms of its quality alone. Yun Ruoyan was confident of her placement even if that was the only thing she submitted for appraisal.

Of the remaining students, Zhao Qiang and his team performed significantly better than average. Although his team only consisted of four people, their spoils easily exceeded those of other eight-man groups. The four of them would surely be able to enter Kongming Academy, but Zhao Qiang didn’t seem particularly happy despite the envious glances being shot his way. Xu’er, are you alright…?

“Miss Zhao’s surely alright,” a youth beside Zhao Qiang comforted him. “She’s likely just hurt.”

Shui Yun and Mo Yun continued making the rounds, appraising every student’s spoils. After an hour, they were finished with their evaluation. They handed their results to Cang Song, who passed it to the first elder for the final pronouncement.

Of the twenty available spots, Yun Ruoyan took the lead solely with her amaranthine sun. She was quickly followed by Zhao Qiang, then Wang Meng, then…

Pei Ziao!

In shock, Yun Ruoyan looked all around her surroundings and found Pei Ziao in a corner of the hall. His face was pale and bloodless, and Yi Qianying was supporting him from the side.

How lucky he was! Yun Ruoyan frowned—she hadn’t felt much emotion upon causing him to fall from the cliff, but knowing that he was still alive made her feel as though she had just swallowed a mouthful of sand.

When Pei Ziao saw Yun Ruoyan’s disgusted expression, bile climbed up his throat. He narrowed his eyes, as though he would faint at any moment. Beside him, Yi Qianying whispered gently, “Brother Ziao, bear with it for a moment longer. If you pass out now, you’ll be considered a grievously wounded student and might be disqualified from the trial.”

Pei Ziao nodded, clenching his fists as he bore with the discomfort. Behind him in the rankings was Yi Qianying, followed by some other students that she didn’t know. Just as Yun Ruoyan was getting worried, the first elder called out Lin Qingchen, Lin Qingxue, and Zhuo Yifeng’s names in succession.

Thank goodness, everyone had been accepted! Yun Ruoyan let out a deep breath, and the Lin sisters excitedly grabbed onto her hands.

“I wasn’t admitted… damn it!”

“Even though some of our teammates died… to think that none of us were accepted? What are we going to tell the families of the dead?!”

Of the students that weren’t accepted to Kongming Academy after the harrowing trial, there were those that beat their chests and stamped their feet, as well as those that retreated to a corner and sobbed silently.

“Students whose names were called out should stay behind, but those whose names weren’t must now leave the hall,” Cang Song’s voice enveloped the great hall once more. “If you weren’t accepted, don’t be discouraged. You may remain at Kongming Academy as an outer disciple, then take the trial again in three years.”

A few disciples from Kongming Academy led the failed students out of the great hall as Cang Song made a few congratulatory remarks to the remainder. Shui Yun and Mo Yun directed those injured students to receive treatment at the apothecary and the rest to their cottages in preparation for the formal induction ceremony tomorrow.

Yun Ruoyan chatted with Shui Yun as she led them back to their cottages. Kongming Academy allegedly had three specialized institutions and five colleges. The three specialized institutions were targeted at blademasters, pillmasters, and forgemasters; the five colleges were divided based on the cardinal directions—north, south, east, west, and central. Each college was led by one of five elders. However, the elders were busy with their own cultivation, and would commonly leave their top disciples, themselves instructors of the academy, in charge. 

New students would begin their instruction in the five colleges under the academy instructors. Once they reached seventh-rank, they would then enter one of the three specialized institutions based on their talents. Particularly talented students would be chosen as disciples of the six elders, conferring upon them such status that even the emperors of the four kingdoms would have to be polite to them.

This revelation shook Yun Ruoyan. She had never forgotten how the Yun and Lin families had been executed in her past life. The judgment for their crimes had been set by the emperor himself; if she were to obtain this exalted status, would she be able to protect the two families no matter who tried to target them?!

Shui Yun brought Yun Ruoyan and eight other females to an unfamiliar courtyard, far superior to the rooms that they had been staying at earlier. It was more spacious and more elegant, and the courtyard even had a pond and all sorts of flowers and grasses. Furthermore, each student would get their own room.

When Yun Ruoyan walked into her room, she found that it came with its own washroom. Her living conditions were far superior to the accommodations that had been offered to her beforehand.

“These are the living quarters for official students of Kongming Academy, and the rooms you were in before were for outer disciples,” Shui Yun explained. “Each room is supplied with medicine and a clean change of clothes. As usual, food will be delivered to you at night. Please feel free to rest until noon tomorrow, at which point I’ll lead all of you to the formal induction ceremony for new students.”

Shui Yun left after the announcement. Once she did so, the weary girls began to holler excitedly, running through the rooms and picking out the one that most appealed to them. There were no more than ten girls, but far more than ten rooms. The excited students ran from room to room, trying to find the one that appealed most to them. After all, they would be stuck in those rooms for quite a while.

On the other hand, Yun Ruoyan walked around absent-mindedly, not entering any of the rooms. Lin Qingchen and Lin Qingxue followed obediently behind her.

“Sister Ruoyan, aren’t you going to select a room?” Lin Qingxue asked excitedly.

Lin Qingchen was patient, but Lin Qingxue wasn’t: she was sure that, if they were to dally, all the best rooms would be taken!

“There are so many rooms that it doesn’t really matter which one I take,” Yun Ruoyan said. “Why don’t the two of you go pick one that you like?”

“Alright!” Lin Qingxue whooped as she joined the gaggle of girls touring each room, but Lin Qingchen remained behind Yun Ruoyan.

“Qingchen, aren’t you going to pick out a room too?”

“No, there’s no need. I’ll stay right next to you, Sister Ruoyan.”

Previous Chapter Next Chapter