As it turned out, the unqualified factions were immediately excluded from the competition. Though stringent, the rules were applied equitably to everyone. As a result, the rejected candidates, though crestfallen, took their leave without crying foul.
After all, the godking’s officials showed no special favoritism to anybody. They simply followed their orders to the letter.
It was almost Fiendstar’s turn when a bald fellow from another faction wolf-whistled at Han Shuang.
“Mistress Han, are you sure you’re in the right place? Do you have the requisite advanced gods? If not, you can add my name to the list. Provided you and me become one happy family, of course!”
The man’s tone was obscene, and his laughter even more depraved as he harassed her with innuendoes.
Han Shuang’s eyebrows shot up. “Zhao, are you trying to take liberties with those looks of yours? Didn’t they castrate you after you molested a woman a few years ago? Why are you running your mouth off when you don’t have what it takes?”
The bald fellow reddened as he swore, “Piss off, that’s bullshit! Why don’t we find a quiet spot so I can show you?”
“That I’ll decline. Someone will chop off that toy of yours sooner or later.”
“Hehe, Mistress Han, I’d let you do it if you’re into that sort of thing, but I’m afraid your scrawny arms aren’t up to scratch.” The fellow’s abuse continued unabated until a solemn-looking elderly official suddenly hectored, “Old Zhao the Seventh, keep quiet or I’ll kick you out! Don’t test my patience.”
Insufferably smug just a moment ago, the baldy didn’t dare make a peep after the official rebuff. He obediently tucked his tail between his legs, returned to his zone, and made himself scarce.
“Lowlife.” There was no other way for Jiang Chen to qualify this kind of wretch.
“Fiendstar Sect, you’re next.”
Her eyes shining, Han Shuang pronounced loud and clear, “Fiendstar is ready for the inspection. We’re at your service, my lords.”
Rather than a long-winded speech, her short declaration befitted the occasion. Her four elders in tow, she walked to the designated area.
Inside, some of the mansion’s core elders sized up her group.
One of them asked with a smile, “Sectmistress Han, I see two new faces. Are they rising stars from your sect?”
“Hehe, not exactly. They just tend to keep a low profile and rarely make waves. This one is Elder Zhen Huan, and this one Elder Zhen Shi. They’re uncle and nephew.” She turned to the two newest elders. “Elders, these honorable gentlemen are notable figures of the godking mansion. It’s a rare occasion to meet them in person, so you should make their acquaintances.”
Jiang Chen smiled faintly. “Greetings to you all, my lords.”
Jiang Huan’s cooperation came a little more grudgingly. These fellows didn’t hold a candle to his light, but he had to act the part today.
The mansion experts didn’t mind either way, seemingly not paying them much heed.
One of them smiled at Han Shuang. “Sectmistress, Lord Crimsonwaters is adamant we stay impartial. So just in case, please don’t fault us.”
Han Shuang smiled brightly. “Don’t worry, I fully echo his approach. Equal opportunity for all, I say. You have my whole-hearted support.”
The mansion experts froze. Was her cordial attitude meant to soften them so they’d loosen the rules?
Her response came as a surprise. Were the two unfamiliar elders enough to help them meet the requirements?
All would be well if so. They’d be pleased to see Fiendstar pass the inspection fairly and truly.
The procedure itself was simple. Each examinee had to infuse his divine power into a crystal wall that would shine with a number of lights equal to their cultivation level in the divine realm.
Seven lights would indicate the seventh level, the pass mark for the inspection.
First to step up to the plate, Han Shuang easily succeeded.
It took a little more effort for Elder Ge and Elder Xu, but they ultimately did their part as well. After all, both were honest to goodness seventh level gods.
Jiang Chen smiled when his turn came up. As he circulated his divine power, one light appeared on the wall, followed by a second. He slowly but inexorably reached seven lights, and in less time than Elders Xu and Ge to boot.
What did that imply?
The officials showed some surprise. They couldn’t help steal a few glances his way, curious about this newcomer.
“Sectmistress Han, your sect is going places, it seems.”
Han Shuang smiled back, feeling a weight off her shoulders. “Your praise is too high, elders. We passed by merely the skin of our teeth.”
Jiang Huan effortlessly kept his side of the bargain as well, causing seven lights to shine just like his nephew and ushering Fiendstar across the finish line.
“Congratulations, Sectmistress Han. Your sect has qualified. The difficulty was higher than normal this time around, so not everyone was as lucky as you.” One of the officials chuckled as he offered his congratulations.
Han Shuang beamed with joy. She took advantage of the situation to ask, “My lord, how many factions have qualified thus far?”
She obviously had to fish for information while the officials were still in the mood.
“There’s harm in telling you. Out of the five spots, three will certainly go to the strongest factions. The other two are a toss-up between five or six sects. If you can defeat two of them, you’re almost guaranteed to become one of the winners. But every qualified faction has met our standards. None of them are pushovers.”
It was more or less as she’d surmised. But despite the challenges, they’d come too far to give up at this stage.
“Many thanks, elders. Our sect will do our utmost to bring honor to Crimsonwaters and the godking.” She displayed just enough deference to stroke the ego of the godking’s men.
If they weren’t bound hand and foot by the rules, they wouldn’t have minded giving Fiendstar a little help. Unfortunately, their liege had brooked no leeway. Any semblance of special treatment would be punished by death.
“There’s no need to stand on ceremony, Sectmistress Han. Strength alone will decide the final outcome. Lord Crimsonwaters will be glad to witness your success if your sect’s powerful enough.”
“Anyway, our day’s not done yet, so you and your men should go, Sectmistress. The competition proper starts tomorrow. Don’t be late.”
An excited Han Shuang nodded. “Of course. We’ll be there early, you can count on us. When it comes to determination and drive, we won’t lose to anyone!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
I wonder if Jiang Huan had given it his all, would he have blown the wall to pieces?