“Master Cang, I’m heading toward the southern tower in order to find my master,” Yun Ruoyan replied.
“There’s no need,” Cang Song replied kindly. “I just came back from the tower, and he isn’t present.”
“In that case, is the first elder around?”
“The first elder left with your master, and neither of them are back at the moment. If there’s anything urgent or pressing, I may be able to help.” Cang Song glanced at Yun Ruoyan appreciatively.
Yun Ruoyan had reported the horse thieves she had seen as soon as she had entered Kongming Academy, and Cang Song and the other provosts had specially questioned Yun Ruoyan about what she had seen. Since both Li Mo and the first elder weren’t present, it seemed appropriate to report the matter to Cang Song.
As a result, she described what she had witnessed yesterday and recounted the conversation between the black-robed man and Li Furong.
“Were you able to see what the man looked like?” Cang Song was easily as shocked as Yun Ruoyan herself about the whole affair.
Yun Ruoyan shook her head. “Initially, I was listening in from the outside, and I couldn’t see their actual appearance. When I tried to peek inside, I was discovered almost immediately, so I ran away and hid instead. I never had the chance to see the black-robed man’s true appearance.”
“In that case, let’s not alert anyone just yet,” Cang Song replied. “I’ll dispatch some men to observe Li Furong from afar. Those who even dare contemplate stealing Kongming Academy’s all-seeing mirror surely aren’t ordinary, and we have to wait for the first elder to return before we can come up with a proper plan.”
Yun Ruoyan nodded, then followed Cang Song out of the southern college and toward the main plaza. Today was the first day of term, and according to Kongming Academy’s traditions, all students old and new had to head to the plaza for a massive schoolwide roll call.
By the time Yun Ruoyan followed Cang Song there, the plaza was already filled with people. Even the old students who had been out on trials and expeditions of their own had returned, and almost a thousand students roamed the plaza.
On stage, only one of the six elders was present: the sixth elder. For a mere formality like a schoolwide roll call, the elders would usually choose not to show up. Indeed, the sixth elder was only present for a specific reason.
Yesterday, Zhuo Yifeng had gone in search of the first elder to discuss his changing colleges. However, the first elder hadn’t been present, so he went directly to the sixth elder instead. Naturally, the sixth elder was very excited to have such a talented student join his college.
The reason the sixth elder had appeared at the roll call today was in order to personally admit Zhuo Yifeng to the central college.
“Sister Ruoyan, we’re over here!” Lin Qingchen and Lin Qingxue both waved at Yun Ruoyan as soon as they saw her. Yun Ruoyan bade farewell to Cang Song, then went to rejoin her cousins.
The five colleges were split into five separate factions, each lined up in orderly rows on the plaza. Yun Ruoyan and the other incoming students had all dressed in the white robes of the academy, and the blinding sea of white in the plaza was quite an astounding sight indeed.
Cang Song walked up to the stage, where the sixth elder and other provosts seemed to have been waiting for him.
“Senior Cang Song, why are you only here now?” one of the provosts of the central college asked. “The sixth elder and the other seniors all arrived quite a while ago.”
The other provosts had been in the same generation of disciples as the elders, but also didn’t have sufficient cultivation to join the six elders. Being a sword saint was a prerequisite to being an elder, and Cang Song had the highest cultivation among the provosts. However, he had been stuck as a ninth-rank blademaster for almost ten years, and it would be highly unusual if he were to make it to a sword saint in his lifetime.
Cang Song smiled and answered the question vaguely before bowing to the sixth elder.
“No need for courtesy.” The sixth elder smoothed his mustache. “When you get to the central college’s students, I’ll take over for you.”
There were over a thousand students, and reading each one’s name was a rather taxing task. According to custom, the central college’s students were the last to be read out, after the other four colleges; by then, about four hours would have passed.
The busy elders cherished every bit of their time, and even four hours was a precious commodity to them. The other provosts didn’t quite know why the sixth elder would be willing to spend so much time on a simple ceremony, and they could only agree.
Shortly after, Cang Song began leading the roll call. It started with the eastern college, with the eastern provost reading out the students’ names. He stood with a register of students in his hands; as he read their names, they would raise their own identification token.
Yun Ruoyan discovered that, after each name was read out, the provost would touch a finger to the name in his register, and the student’s identification token would glow. The tokens all seemed to glow different colors: some were red, some blue, and some other colors entirely.
“I wonder if I’ll advance in rank this year…”
Just as Yun Ruoyan was wondering what these colors represented, two senior students next to her began chatting away.
“You were yellow last year, weren’t you? You should certainly be green now…”
“That’s not certain! When I first entered the academy, I was red for two whole years!”
After overhearing their conversation, Yun Ruoyan thought that she had a good idea of what the different colors represented. Based on the students’ performance, they would be divided into five levels: red, yellow, blue, green, and violet. All incoming students were red, and they would be re-evaluated at the roll call at the start of a new term.
There were about two hundred students in the eastern college, but their names were read out surprisingly rapidly. After only a quarter-hour, it was the southern college’s turn. The older students’ names were read out first. Yun Ruoyan and the other new students stood at the back of the line, and their names were correspondingly read out last.
Qiu Xiaocun, Wang Feng, Qin Qiang, Zhou Hui’er…
As Cang Song read out their names, the older students ahead of them raised the identification tokens in their hands one by one. As they did so, their tokens began to glow---mostly in blue, green, and purple.
After their names were read out, some looked excited and others crestfallen.
“Yun Ruoyan.” Finally, it was Yun Ruoyan’s turn.
Just like the other students, Yun Ruoyan raised her identification token up high, and it glowed a bright red. Following her were Lin Qingchen and Lin Qingxue, but not Zhuo Yifeng. Yun Ruoyan couldn’t help glancing back to Zhuo Yifeng, who was standing right behind them. She guessed that his application to transfer colleges had been successful, and was more than a little disappointed.
Lin Qingxue also looked back, with hurt in her eyes.
Zhuo Yifeng avoided their glances.
Surprisingly, it only took two hours before the four colleges were all finished with their respective registers. Finally, when it came time for the central college’s roll call, the sixth elder himself stood up and began calling out names.
“Zhuo Yifeng!” The first name the sixth elder called out was Zhuo Yifeng’s.
Amidst the crowd’s scrutiny, Zhuo Yifeng raised his identification token.
“Why are you still standing there in the southern college? Come, come here!” The sixth elder waved at Zhuo Yifeng, and he walked toward the sixth elder as all eyes turned to him.
“Elder, doesn’t this student belong to the southern college?” Cang Song’s voice was questioning. “How did his name end up in the central college’s roster?”
“Oh, this kid came and found me yesterday, saying that he wanted to join the central college instead. I was going to talk to the first elder about it, but he’s out at the moment.”
The sixth elder raised his chin. “So I decided to accept him unilaterally! As for the roster, well, I just changed it a little.”
“The matter’s set!” The sixth elder broke Cang Song off, then announced to his own students, “I won’t bother reading everyone’s names out, alright? Everyone will move up an additional level, even the new students!”
The sixth elder moved his hand over the roster, which glowed with white light. At the same time, the tokens of all students in the central college similarly glowed.
The students erupted in outrage.
“What? How could this be?!”
“The trash from the central college have always been the worst among us, so how could their rank be raised just like that?!”
“Don’t worry, it’s not the first time the sixth elder’s done something like this! No matter how they cheat, their skills won’t improve a single bit!”
Conversely, despite the grumbling of the other students, the students of the central college were each overjoyed. Being able to rise in ranking without even putting in any effort was one of the best benefits of being in the central college. As for whether their skills would develop, well, most of the students in the central college didn’t care.
“Alright, you guys handle the rest. I need to rush back to cultivate!”
The sixth elder left whistling, leaving the shocked provosts to stare at each other on stage. In the end, they could only laugh bitterly and continue with the ceremony.
The sixth elder was an… interesting character within Kongming Academy. In general, he was friendly and didn’t participate in the many squabbles amongst the elders, and even when he provided unfair advantages to students of his college, he did so in plain sight.
Furthermore, the students of the central college likely wouldn’t be able to rank up without this additional help. Even with the sixth elder’s cheating, they would only be able to skive by with a mediocre performance at best, so even the first elder turned a blind eye.
After the roll call, Cang Song had everyone return to their respective colleges.
“Don’t you leave, Yun Ruoyan!”
Yun Ruoyan was just about to head back to the southern college with the Lin siblings when a familiar voice called out to her. She stopped, turned toward the voice, and frowned.
Rong Yueshan, Yi Qianying, Pei Ziao, and Li Furong were all walking over together.
“What do you want?” Lin Qingxue stepped forward.
“Didn’t you try to find me yesterday for a direct confrontation?” Rong Yueshan’s gaze swept over the gathered crowd. “Zhao Qiang, Zhao Xu!”
The two Zhao siblings also walked over upon hearing their names, along with a few members of the eastern college. As soon as they all gathered around her, Rong Yueshan called out to the crowd, “I can confirm that Yun Ruoyan was the one who stole Zhao Xu’s pearl necklace!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter