“Cat?” Qin Ye was just about to leave the shop when he suddenly paused in his steps and turned around to look at Master Ning, “What cat?”
“You don’t know?” Unexpectedly, Master Ning appeared even more astonished when he heard this, and then he immediately shut his mouth, “It’s nothing much.”
Qin Ye was gazed intently at Master Ning. He finally realized the effects of the rules set by Li Tao.
With a population size that was well in the millions, it was simply impossible to have no hunting zones throughout the entire city. Even if the government did their level best to weed out the hunting zones as soon as they appeared, there would most certainly be some hidden ones remaining. These hidden zones were precisely where the evil ghosts lay drooling and staring at their next meals with bloodshot eyes, yet dared not make a single move.
A single move could very well spell death.
This was what their instinct told them.
That said, there were invariably some who weren’t able to resist the urge. Therefore, Qin Ye posited that their teaching credits could very well be linked to the activity of these hunting zones. After all, with such a massive population size, there just wasn’t enough cultivators stationed in Mount Tai City to go around.
Besides, the remaining hidden ghosts were very likely well hidden, almost akin to the thinnest of bones hidden in a fillet of fish, tasteless, and yet impossible to completely weed out. Such phenomena incidentally served as the perfect platform for training the newly established team of instructors, through the issuance of teaching credits.
Li Tao had left them with several conditions for their stay in Mount Tai City. The final condition which he had laid down was this - they were not to strongarm the innocent or the unaffiliated.
“Are you sure?” Qin Ye refrained from pressing too hard as he asked of Master Ning.
Master Ning gulped nervously. His chest rose and fell slightly with his ragged breathing. Several seconds later, he gritted his teeth and waved his hand, “Little Chen… see our guest out… see our guest out on my behalf.”
As he finished speaking, he bowed deeply to Qin Ye and returned to the backroom behind the shop.
“Not bad.” Arthis spoke up shortly after they took their leave. She appeared to have more to say, but before she could even get to that, Qin Ye’s phone vibrated loudly.
Giving credit where it was due, Momo was truly an amazing app.
It had access to all the audio and video functions of the phone, and it could even send vibration or voice alerts through the phone.
Like now, for instance.
Qin Ye switched on his phone and saw a voice call request from none other than “Head of Faculty, Zhou Xianlong”.
Qin Ye answered the call without hesitation.
He was immediately pulled into a group voice call. He skimmed through the list of participants in the call, and noticed that all of the instructors who had come to Mount Tai City for the instructors’ training were all present.
“Dear instructors, I hope you’ve settled in well.” Zhou Xianlong’s voice was as stereotypically deadpan as ever, “Right now, I’d like to give an update of everyone’s teaching credits thus far.”
Meanwhile, Su Feng had been drinking heartily at a nearby restaurant, and his face was completely flushed. As soon as he heard what Zhou Xianlong was about to announce, he quickly covered Lin Han’s mouth with his hand, and everyone around listened intently.
On the streets, a middle-aged woman who was just picking out clothes put on her headphones silently and waited with bated breath.
Elsewhere, in a KTV lounge, several young men and women also made a hush gesture with their fingers and pressed the pause button on the console remote. The entire room was instantly shrouded in silence.
At this moment, approximately two hundred people scattered across Mount Tai City immediately dropped what they were doing and perked up their ears to listen to the announcements.
Five seconds later, Zhou Xianlong’s voice continued, “S9527, awarded with +5 teaching credits. A8574, penalized with -10 teaching credits. A1298, penalized with -10 teaching credits. A5648, awarded with +5 teaching credits. S3221, awarded with +5 teaching credits…”
Zhou Xianlong’s voice resounded from the group chat. Thirteen instructors’ registration numbers had been mentioned.
And yet there were only three who had been awarded credits. In other words, there were ten who had received a penalty of credits!
“I’ll now announce two further interim orders.”
He continued in an unhurried fashion, “Firstly, unless you’ve already been registered as a squad with the headquarters, you are not to discuss with other instructors pertaining to the method or process of earning or losing teaching credits.”
“Secondly, at the end of these upcoming two months, all instructors who have accrued a total of less than 60 credits shall immediately be dismissed.”
“Don’t worry, we won’t disclose the cause of dismissal to your former department or office.”
The single stone of information instantly made waves!
Who would have guessed that a seemingly peaceful study trip would suddenly rend its veil and reveal such a hideous true appearance underneath?!
The First Academy of Cultivators didn’t want a single riff-raff to be part of their team of instructors!
It only wanted the best of the best - the crème de la crème!
The earlier sparring competition had only been a small part of the overall assessment. Martial ability was in no way reflective of one’s overall prowess.
“How could it be?” Lin Han was jolted back from his stupor by the earth-shattering news, “Little Qin was awarded five teaching credits? How did he get them? And those with less than sixty teaching credits would immediately be dismissed? Why didn’t they tell us earlier?”
“Shut up!” Su Feng’s eyes were now filled with a bright gleam of clarity as he glanced at his phone, “It was our oversight.”
As though responding to everyone’s bewilderment, Zhou Xianlong’s voice continued through the voice chat, “We’d given everyone sufficient hints through our announcements in the bus earlier. Dear instructors, let me say this again, you are all elites from Insignia Province. And as an elite, it should almost be part of your second nature to understand the situation in a particular place, make a judgment call, and seize any opportunity or flee from any dangers.”
“You will soon lead our first batch of students who are arriving from all four corners of the country. Some of our students even hail from well-reputed sects whose legacy dates back to the pre-Qin era. Some of their ancestors were even the founding fathers of modern day cultivation as we know it.”
“Some even hail from clans whose legacy dates back to the Three Kingdoms era.”
“In fact, some of our students even hail from the era of Confucianism which dates back eons ago.”
“There are Taoist disciples, Buddhist disciples, Confucian disciples… all of them will be gathering in the First Academy of Cultivators when matriculation begins. Each and every single one of them will be relying on your experience and knowledge, and it will be your duty to lead and imbibe them with the knowledge of the type of enemy we are facing!”
“Our foe is one that we’ve never faced before - a force that is unseen, and whose ways and means simply cannot be understood by science alone! If you don’t have the requisite acute senses required for the job, you wouldn’t be teaching anyone - rather, you would be leading them to their graves!”
Then, his voice softened once more, “And what I find most regrettable is despite the heavy responsibility that falls on the Faculty of Combat, all but one gallant instructor are indulging in drinks and enjoying life? Do you think that sixty days is a very long time? Do you think that sixty teaching credits is very easy to obtain?”
“Let me leave you with these parting words. With great power comes great responsibility. If you want to enjoy the benefits, privileges, and even fame that come with the First Academy of Cultivators, you will have to show us with your actions that you are worthy of it!”
Beep… The voice chat group went dark.
Everyone grew silent. However, there was not a single instructor in Mount Tai City whose blood and passion wasn’t boiling right now.
The middle-aged woman who had been picking out her clothes suddenly paused. The shop attendant asked her with concern, “Is something the matter? Is this not suitable? We’ve got other selections…”
“Sorry, something urgent has come up.” The woman dropped the clothes in her hands and quickly left the shop. Her eyebrows were already knitted tightly together on her otherwise soft appearances.
“Where did I go wrong?”
“How did these instructors earn their credits? That’s right… sixty days only gets us sixty credits. So why is an A-grade assessment a full one hundred credits? Where do the other forty credits come from?”
There was silence in the KTV lounge as well. Seconds later, a middle-aged man stood up and addressed everyone respectfully, “Everyone, I’m making a move first.”
As soon as he left the lounge, he immediately picked up his phone and opened his Momo app, “Number three, summon everyone right now. Let’s meet back at Insignia University.
Back at the restaurant, Lin Han’s mouth was still somewhat agape. The faces of every single member of the Blaze Squad was flushed with embarrassment.
They had just been ridiculed…
And the ridicule had even emanated from the person-in-charge…
“Bloody Hell! Little Qin’s gone too far, hasn’t he?!” Lin Han slammed his glass on the table, “Boss, stop eating! Old Man Zhou is watching us right now!”
“What’s the hurry?” Su Feng continued to sip at his wine glass placidly with a bright glimmer in his eyes, “It was our mistake. After all, we can’t afford to lower our guard when it comes to matters of the netherworld… But that said, we shouldn’t be in a hurry either. Let’s wait and see what other rules this little game might have…”
Back at the funerary street, Qin Ye muttered incoherently to himself as he unplugged his earphones.
“This is a selection competition. And it’s begun the moment we stepped foot into Mount Tai City.” Arthis muttered.
Qin Ye rubbed his chin thoughtfully. His previous postulations had all been confirmed by way of the announcement. Furthermore, they had even made it clear that any instructor with less than sixty teaching credits at the end of the two month term would immediately be dismissed. How could Qin Ye possibly relinquish such a juicy, fat piece of meat that the Special Investigations Department was?
“I’ve gained five teaching credits. In other words… I’ve triggered one of the conditions of the task that they have in mind. The cat?”
Arthis built on, “There’s more than that. The Judge-class expert surnamed Zhou revealed quite a bit of information through his announcement earlier. Firstly, we’re not the only ones who’d thought of this. There are a total of thirteen instructors who have the same ideas about this trip as well. Unfortunately… most of them were penalized instead.”
“That’s a warning.” Qin Ye squinted at the funerary street behind him, “They must have violated one of the conditions that had been laid down by Vice Principal Li Tao. I’m guessing it’s probably the one that prohibits us from strong arming the innocent or the unaffiliated. They must have flouted that rule in their desperation to urgently see results. Furthermore, the Head of Faculty was implicitly telling us that everything we’re doing is completely under his scrutiny. We would be wise to refrain from creating a ruckus.”
“At the end of the day, it’s all about displaying keen senses and acute observations of one’s surroundings and circumstances.” Arthis further added, “As a Judge-class expert, he could scrutinize the movement of every single cultivator across Insignia Province if he so desired. This is why I’d complimented you for how you’d handled the situation earlier and refrained from strong arming them into disclosing what the cat was all about.”
Qin Ye shoved his hands into his pockets and continued to plod along the street.
Even if Master Ning isn’t willing to disclose this information, there’s always Master Ma or Master Gou.
Thus, Qin Ye went around the funerary street, asking practically anyone he could whether they knew anything about the “cat”.
20% of them evidently knew something about it, but not a single person was willing to disclose any information about it.
It was almost as though it was a topic of taboo.
“Interesting.” One hour later, he came out from the other side of the funerary street, “I’m afraid… I’m afraid that they’ve all discovered or heard of the existence of a hidden hunting zone, but they’ve also been tasked by someone not to disclose any details to anybody.”
“Who?” Arthis asked casually.
“I can’t think of anyone else apart from the Special Investigations Department. It looks like the academy has already prepared some after-class entertainment programme for us even before our arrival in this place…” The wind picked up and swept Qin Ye’s bangs to the side. Qin Ye smiled faintly, “At the rate that things are going, I don’t think we’re going to be too bored during the next two months here.”
“Do you even have the luxury of time to consider such things?” Arthis sneered, “The thirteen of you are no longer the only ones searching high and low for these points right now. I’m afraid all of the other instructors in this place would have begun to make their move as well. Why don’t you… just activate your infernal eyes, locate the hidden hunting zone, and dispose of it?”
Qin Ye shook his head, “Old Man Zhou harbors an inexplicable hostility against me. If he finds out that I’m short-circuiting the entire process and getting straight to the results, I’m afraid that things aren’t going to look up for me.”
“So, what now?”
Qin Ye smiled and picked up his phone, “Now? Some questions don’t have to be asked by way of word of mouth.”
He switched on his phone, tapped on the search function, and typed in “Mount Tai City Forum”.
Three relevant search results immediately showed up.
The first was the Mount Tai City local forum. The second was the largest Mount Tai City entertainment forum, and the third was a Mount Tai City community.
He clicked on the first option. As soon as the next page loaded, he immediately noticed a red-framed sticky post pinned at the top of the list of threads.
“Has anyone seen my cat?”
“It’s actually here…” Arthis exclaimed with disbelief. However, Qin Ye simply smiled, “It’s only natural… Cultivators also need an outlet for communication and interaction. But how tech savvy do you think cultivators can possibly be? Do you think they’d even know how to create their own website? Do you think that everyone is like the Special Investigations Department?”
He answered his own question, “If they’re going to interact with each other, how do you think they’re going to do it? It’s easy. They would simply mix their true message together with a seemingly innocuous one and make an arrangement with the moderator to bump the post to the top of the forums or make it a sticky post. Given that the world is overflowing with reports of supernatural encounters these days, such posts won’t be awkward or out of place at all. And of all those who read these posts, those whose eyes it’s intended for would immediately understand the underlying message behind it, and those who don’t understand it naturally will never be able to decipher it either.”
He clicked on the sticky post.
“Have you… seen a cat like this?’
“It’s got a pure jet black coat of fur, and it’s extremely skinny.”
“It… it’s been showing up at my door at midnight. And then… it would simply stare straight at me, almost as though… there was something standing right behind me…”Previous Chapter Next Chapter