A man in his early thirties, sitting in the corner of the hall, breathed a long sigh of relief.
There was no applause in the audience. The entire hall was only shrouded with an oppressive silence as everything ended. Moments later, Zhou Xianlong was the first one to stand up to applaud. Gradually, the applause began to spread and grow among the lecture hall, and the sparse pitter-patter of claps grew into an uproarious applause from everyone around.
There were some who were disappointed, and some who were resentful. But where there was a gathering of people, there would be competition. And where there was competition… those who failed to forge forward would naturally be left behind.
Qin Ye also applauded lightly as he swept his gaze around the hall. A number of people returned his gaze with an amiable look of their own. Simultaneously, his Momo app began to buzz frantically with notifications - hundreds of friend requests poured in all at once.
This time, he didn’t reject a single one of them. In fact, he accepted all of them almost immediately.
The probationary instructors who had failed to be retained couldn’t necessarily be said to have departed empty-handed. After all, those who could be earmarked by the First Academy of Cultivators for the position of instructor were all undoubtedly the cream of the crop. Who knows, the friendships forged through their time here could very well come in useful in the near future.
Xu Anguo smiled faintly as he looked around, “Thank you, everyone. We’ll take a ten-minute break now. Once the break is over, we’ll continue with the other orders of business. All newly-minted instructors are reminded to stay behind. As for the other probationary instructors, we’ve made transport arrangements to send you back to your original posts.”
His final statement represented the formal establishment of the circle of official instructors of the First Academy of Cultivators. All others were left with no choice but to take their leave.
Ten minutes later, the circle of official instructors was once again seated in the lecture hall. This time, the person speaking at the lectern was instead Zhou Xianlong.
As though foreshadowing the somber nature of business to be disclosed, he glanced placidly at the remaining instructors and coughed lightly as he began, “We’ll go straight into the first order of business.”
“Pursuant to the regulations, the first stage of your assessment is broken up into two parts. The first part is for the selection of excellent official instructors. I’ll take this opportunity to congratulate all of you seated over here. The fact that you’re still here means that you’re the elites of the elites.” It was Zhou Xianlong’s style to keep things short and succinct. He held up two fingers, “The second part will take the style of elimination. The instructors who placed top three in the first part of the assessment would automatically join the ranks of the outstanding instructors. In this regard, only outstanding instructors have the right to vie for the position of an associate professor and beyond.”
Qin Ye nodded his head. Su Feng and the rest were right. The ranking system was structured in the form of a pyramid. Those who stood at its peak would naturally enjoy access to the best of resources. And the others… although they enjoyed far better treatment than any of the provincial or municipal cultivators, it was still no more than crumbs off the royal dining table.
The First Academy of Cultivators was clearly established to ignite a fierce sense of rivalry and competitiveness in its students and instructors alike!
The air of competitiveness gave rise to an atmosphere that was far more becoming of a world of cultivators.
The sky's the limit, and all who fail to constantly advance would be relegated to the back of the pack.
Qin Ye was able to discern a far greater extent of these implications with his experience. He continued listening intently.
Zhou Xianlong continued, “The second part of the instructors’ assessment shall commence as soon as the semester formally begins. The exact details pertaining to your assessment shall only be disclosed when the school semester begins. Alright. Now, let’s get to know our students a little bit better.”
He snapped his finger, and a massive LED screen lowered right behind him.
Amidst the silence in the room, the pitch-black LED screen began to glow with a silvery-white lustre, dividing the screen into two parts. Shortly after that, approximately one thousand identity tokens showed up on the screen with a cacophony of popping sounds, almost as though they were pellets that had been shot directly onto the screen!
Qin Ye took a deep breath. Teaching was a brand new concept to him. To think that I would actually be able to stand on at a lectern to educate other cultivators.
I’m an Emissary of Hell…
Has this husky already gained the wolf king’s trust…?
Everyone watched the screen excitedly. Each of the rectangular identity tokens had the same person’s silhouette with a question mark on it. That said, the entire screen of tokens were divided into over twenty large areas. Some areas had more tokens, while others had less.
“There are exactly one thousand two hundred students.” Zhou Xianlong took out a pointer and tapped it gently on the screen, “They come from all four corners of Cathay, and each area represents a different faction. This is also the first thing you have to understand.”
He pointed towards the first row. With a gentle tap, a circular emblem comprising seven different symbols appeared in the middle of the screen. There were skeletons, ghosts, bugs… This emblem represented the area with the most identity tokens - almost a third of the total number of tokens around.
“There may be a great number of cultivators out there, but we are still the First Academy of Cultivators. So what if we’re a new establishment? That doesn’t mean we have to invite only the obscure and unknown sects and organizations out there. In fact, we’d only extended the first tranche of invitations to the current A-ranked and B-ranked forces in the entire nation. These three hundred forty-seven students were all sent by the largest organization that we have extended our invitation to. These are talents that will be coming from all across the nation.”
“Does anyone recognize this emblem?”
Everyone apart from Qin Ye raised their hands.
“S9527, you don’t know it?” Zhou Xianlong statement nearly caused Qin Ye to react with a flying kick.
Can’t you see that my hand isn’t in the air?!
Just how great is your hatred for me?! Or have you already recognized the true form of this silly but cute husky over here?
“I don’t know.” Qin Ye responded with a stiff expression.
“S2328, tell him.” Zhou Xianlong turned his pointer towards Su Feng, who promptly explained, “This is the Association of Underwordly Craftsmen, founded 8 June 1951. The professional affairs of the seven underworldly craftsmen, including the phantom market, are all managed by the said association. In 2000, the association assigned the rights to manage phantom markets to the Special Investigations Department in exchange for the license to set up schools of their own.”
“They’ve presently already set up three schools across Cathay, namely ‘Flaming River Institution’, ‘Eastsea Petroleum Institution’ and ‘Sarang Life Enterprise Institution’, all of which are founded and managed by the Association of Underworldly Craftsmen. It’s a one stop shop from kindergarten straight through to high school.”
Qin Ye recorded these details discreetly. Zhou Xianlong nodded his head, “Not bad. S9527, I don’t blame you. After all, you’ve forged a path for yourself as a rogue cultivator. However, you must remember that these details form part of the knowledge you have to impart to your students as well. As an instructor - the top instructor no less - simply imparting your knowledge on purging ghosts would be sorely insufficient. That would only make them no different from a killing machine. What’s more important is to teach them more about the world that they live in. Incidentally, this is where you’re lacking and need improvement on.”
“We must first learn to conduct ourselves and manage general affairs before the pursuit of knowledge. This is the motto of all universities across Cathay.”
Qin Ye stood up and cupped his hands sincerely, “Much obliged for the advice.”
Zhou Xianlong instructed Qin Ye to take his seat with a simple gesture before turning to the rest of the class, “Instructors, I’ll say it again. There’s no doubt that each and every student enrolling in the First Academy of Cultivators is backed by a powerful sect, a reputable clan, or a massive organization. However, as soon as they step foot into the First Academy of Cultivators… we must treat everyone equally!”
“Forget about who they are; and forget about where they came from. Treat them as you would any other student with no special statuses or identities. If you’re unable to do even this…” He swept a sharp and meaningful gaze across the hall. Everyone knew exactly what he meant even though he didn’t finish his statement.
After a protracted pause, he continued, “In addition, these students are looking to you for instruction and guidance. Cultivation isn’t a science. Science is ubiquitous and equally applicable to all, but the world of cultivators is not. For instance, a shaman’s techniques can never be properly utilized by a corpse driver. Teach them to tap on their full potential. How you do this is entirely up to you.”
He straightened up and tapped his pointer on the screen, “Apart from the Association of Underworldly Craftsmen, we have the disciples of the three major Daos, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Next to that, we have the disciples of the largest sect in Cathay, with a widespread influence spanning five of the northwestern provinces, the Primordial Sect. They advocate the Way of the Primordial. Then, there is another sect with thousands of years of history under its belt, and whose influence spans three of the southern provinces, the Form-Intention Sect…”
Zhou Xianlong went on with his introduction for the better part of half an hour, and he only stopped after he had described each of these sects in detail.
Qin Ye nodded his head lightly. He wasn’t aware that there were so many hidden sects that still existed across all of Cathay!
Additionally, he had keenly picked up on the academy’s second underlying agenda, which was the desire for elites, no matter the cost!
In that regard, the ‘desire’ didn’t refer to the act of selecting and taking in existing elites. Rather, the desire here was to the tune of nurturing and fostering of elites.
Once you enter the academy, everything that you once were before all fades away to the background. After all, no matter how illustrious one’s backing, how could they possibly overshadow the authority of the Special Investigations Department?
These students were coming to the academy to learn and receive guidance and knowledge. They would have to face Yin spirits, and there would necessarily be deaths. Everything that Zhou Xianlong was laying down right now was to stem any undue considerations that might militate against proper teaching and instruction!
“Everything is the same as it had been on the bus…” Qin Ye squinted as he glanced at the first row, where a jovial Xu Anguo was smiling radiantly, “Everything being said now… points to the crux of the second part of the instructors’ assessment. If one betrays the academy’s expectations, that is, if one nurtures a student with a fully developed knowledge skill tree, but remains completely undeveloped in their ability to act… I’m afraid that person will never be eligible to run for associate professorship ever again.”
“Alright. Let’s move on to the second order of business. I will now be announcing the benefits and advantages extended to all official instructors and outstanding instructors, as well as the conditions required for a promotion.” Zhou Xianlong took a sip of his tea and continued, “The First Academy of Cultivators would never have been able to attract all the S-class and A-class talents across the nation with merely the government’s support. The greatest draw is in fact our generous treatment and privileges extended to all who are here!”
Qin Ye immediately perked up his ears.
It was as though the husky had smelled the scent of dung in the air.
“There are two main categories of benefits. The first category is the tangible benefits. In other words, we’re talking about the benefits you will receive and experience directly. The most fundamental aspect of this is your monthly salary of one hundred thousand RMB. But more importantly, you will also be given fifty pieces of spirit stones every month.”
Zhou Xianlong set down his hands on the lectern, “The second category pertains to the intangible benefits. I believe… this is what everyone here is most curious about.”
He tapped on the screen with his pointer again, and the rows of identity tokens instantly vanished, only to be replaced by what appeared to be a series of underground passages. Countless objects were stored in innumerable glass cases, each of which were tightly bound by chains and covered with talismans.
The sheer number of objects stored here… was practically reminiscent of an ancient treasure trove!
“This is… a Yin horse?! Yin lingzhi?!” Even though Qin Ye couldn’t recognize these objects, it didn’t mean that nobody else couldn’t either. As soon as the images appeared, the previously silent lecture hall was immediately filled with gasps and soft exclamations.
Even Su Feng sat up with a bright, burning gleam in his eyes.
“Its age… must be well above three hundred years! Can you even find such ancient Yin lingzhi anymore?!” An old instructor tightened his grip around his armrest and nearly shot to his feet in astonishment. Nearby, another man in his forties gasped loudly as he exclaimed, “Wealth of the five emperors… and from the primeval eras to boot. This is only formed through its burial with five consecutive emperors! If one carries this artifact, he would practically be undefeatable by anyone under the level of Anitya Hellguard!”
“Is that an urn of ashes? The ashes of Buddha?” “Hang on… look, what’s that?” “Where in the world is this place?!”
Qin Ye’s gaze also turned sharp and intense. The image on the screen quickly shot through the passage filled with glass cases and finally entered a vast expanse of space!
It looked just like a data center, filled with rows after rows of cabinets on shelves. Furthermore, the shelves appeared to be indexed and remotely operated by a central processing unit. As long as one entered a reference, the computer would immediately pull out the corresponding cabinet.
Each and every cabinet was approximately one meter large. Just then, the image revealed a hand opening one of these cabinets and pulling out a long wooden chest from it.
Everyone watched with bated breath as the wooden chest was opened, revealing an incredibly well-preserved sword with a tag placed at the end of the chest. Then, the hand slowly reached in and pulled out the sword.
Buzz… In the instant the sword was removed from its chest, every single cabinet in the image began to tremble in unison!
And that’s not all. Even the instructors who were watching in the lecture hall began to feel their hair stand on end!
1. These are a type of bracket fungus used in traditional chinese medicine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lingzhi_(mushroom)