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“I’ve heard the gist of it.” Shadowslay said indifferently.
“Indeed, that time was somewhat long ago.” Fang Tansheng lit a cigarette. Shadowslay furrowed his brows but didn’t speak. “The number of cases when demons have acted against a provincial high official doesn’t exceed ten. That year was quite abuzz… The provincial governor’s wife died a tragic death in the spring of her beauty. The provincial governor was incensed, and within three days, he caught the offending demon and inflicted upon it a death of a thousand cuts with his own hand. But while everyone only watched this developing affair, that iron-blooded provincial governor—oh, no, he’s the deputy minister now—forgot about a single matter…”
He laughed and raised a finger. “They have families, as well.”
Patting his dapper suit, he continued, “This provincial governor has a grandson. On the second day, this grandson was delivered to Heavens Law. I remember it quite clearly… It was Tianfeng City.”
Firecloud raised a brow and Shadowslay’s gaze slightly flickered.
“Transfer to surveillance number four.” Fang Tansheng snapped his finger, not speaking to anyone in particular. In the next second, the screen switched over from Chu Zhaonan’s portrait to Chu Zhaonan’s side profile. From this minor angle, Chu Zhaonan’s position couldn’t be seen, but as the camera suddenly magnified, the top of his hand appeared straightaway, as did the object that hung at the side of his waist.
“That’s…” In the blink of an eye, Shadowslay was unable to restrain himself from making a quiet remark. He straightened up for the first time. In kind, Firecloud drew his body to full attention. A radiance flashed in his eyes, and he mumbled to himself.
“Although I am only a mortal and cannot absorb qi, with my father’s status as the regional chancellor I’m still familiar with these things.” Fang Tansheng smiled. “The Beretta 92-F… I must bluster before the two Seniors, but besides my friend Chu Zhaonan, no one can be the paragon of the Qualifier. He doesn’t even have to make three moves.”
“As for him…” He glanced at Xu Yangyi’s portrait. “Ten moves will guarantee him a certain defeat. And he will lose very, very miserably. It’s because between the two of them, he’s simply not a cultivator on the same level.”
“And myself…” He laughed, “Naturally I’ve rushed over here for my childhood friend. Otherwise, as the young lord of Beiyuan Province, how could I could I make this journey here from so far away?”
“The deputy minister happens to be surnamed Chu.” He answered the riddle and laughed faintly, saying no more. The present mood had become somewhat silent.
“So it is. This bluster isn’t unwarranted.” Shadowslay said indifferently three seconds later. “Sir Chu’s right hand is much more callused than his left and the underside of his forefinger is covered in even more scars. If my observations aren’t incorrect…”
“It was a slip of the eye…” Firecloud sipped his coffee. The expectation in his eyes flashed as quickly as it disappeared. “Only some of his spiritual force fluctuations can be sensed through the television. Regardless of young Xu’s cultivation or constitution, he has an edge over Mr. Chu in both. I had originally believed Xu Yangyi would become the paragon, but I hadn’t expected…” He turned his gaze over Chu Zhaonan’s body and said assuredly, “that Mr. Chu cultivates an arcane effort. A Gun Kata.”
“The Beretta 92-F at his waist has at least three spirit-rupture bullets worth over 50,000 each. In case a target is struck by one, all spiritual force will be unable to be used for a half-hour period. Hehe, Deputy Minister Chu is truly a man of power and affluence… to hand over an arcane effort worth over a billion for his grandson in school to use. It’s no grievance for young Xu to lose.”
Judgement was not be rendered until the coffin lid was in place!
It hadn’t even started, but the Seniors had already passed verdict. To them, the battle of Qi Condensation cultivators didn’t even need to be observed to determine the outcome. Even if they were looking through the television, their deviations absolutely wouldn’t exceed 1%!
Heavens Law’s Hundred Solutions were nothing more than elementary mathematics. Although which school of Gun Kata that Chu Zhaonan cultivated was unknown, be it the Tan School, Zhu School, or perhaps Qi School, they were at least equal to a junior high schooler's mathematics.
An advanced arcane effort wasn’t merely so simple at face value. An elementary arcane effort was totally unable to be compared against the balance between qi mobilization and bodily harmonization regarding higher-ranked arcane efforts. Relatively, the higher the rank of an arcane effort, the harder it was to trade for, and the price also became exceedingly higher. This was why the other students on the aircraft had been startled when they’d heard that the Featherwood Guard was willing to to bestow an arcane effort in advance.
The disparity of realms between cultivators who had only studied elementary arcane efforts wasn’t great. Their constitutions didn’t largely differ, but under the circumstances of their gap in experience being minor, how could they possibly be the opponent of someone who had studied the beginning of an intermediate arcane effort?
The outcome was doomed to be a complete steamroll. An overwhelming advantage.
“I shall hold my judgement over these children until later. I shall treat him as a personal disciple should he enter my faction. If nothing unexpected happens, none are worthy except him to be this year’s paragon of Nantong Province.” Firecloud swept his eyes over the screen. “Young Xu isn’t shabby, too. It is regrettable… Were it not for Mr. Chu, he would be the favored candidate to be the strongest. A Dao Master’s prize is enough for a Qi Condensation cultivator to struggle for thirty to forty years.”
“It’s reported that he killed a berserker alone.” Shadowslay neither hurriedly nor slowly, “That Qi kid from Chaoyang City, Anlu City’s Wang Zhuo, Pingfeng City’s Zhao Yiming… These champions’ degree of accomplishments are merely ordinary.”
“Indeed, their arrogance is deserved for Qi Condensation. But… it is this and nothing more.” Firecloud sighed, “Hehe… to be born brilliant, why must there be other stars in the sky shining brightly, as well?”
Shadowslay was quiet for several seconds. In the end, he nodded slightly. “A minor spirit vein is insufficient.”
“I will add a bottle of Spirit Accumulating Elixir.” At this moment, Firecloud was without the slightest hesitation. Looking at Chu Zhaonan’s portrait with a light in his eyes, he said with his voice firm and decisive, “A single bottle takes three years of bitter cultivation to obtain. It’s not easy to come by for myself, either.”
It was silent again. After another minute passed, Shadowslay nodded. “You may.”
No one glanced at Xu Yangyi again. Since Fang Tansheng spoke of Chu Zhaonan’s status and declared his own standing, Xu Yangyi’s rank wasn’t important anymore in their minds.
The value of the runner-up… To Foundation Establishment cultivators, was there any difference between it and tenth place?
Only the champion, the paragon of a major province, was worthy of stirring their emotions, their fancy, and deserving of being accepted as their disciple! Only when one stood at the apex were they worthy of nurture that mobilized their resources and all of their heart! Only then was one worthy of having them pass down their Dao legacies!
In front of Zhuge Liang, what brilliance did Zhou Yu possess to be favored?
Xu Yangyi was none the wiser towards all that was occurring here. He was presently following Zuo Lun’s lead, walking through a brightly lit, spacious passage.
The passage inclined downwards, and several doors and several people started to become visible. After a couple minutes, the only thing the students were able to see was the seemingly endless, lonely passage. All they heard was the thumping echos of over a dozen people in military boots inside.
Finally, the road came to a head. However, just as they exited, they were completely stunned. What had emerged before their eyes… was an immense arena!
It was an arena of pure stone. If a person who had watched the old Dragon Ball anime were here, they would have the exact same feeling. This was because the venue was nearly identical in appearance to the World Martial Arts Tournament!
The sole difference was that there were azure talismans carved on every stone on the initial row of walls in between the arena and the viewing stands. The entire composition was a tremendous array closely encircling the gigantic arena! On the ceiling, there were four large characters that were several hundred meters in length. They were extremely striking!
Unrivaled Beneath the Heavens!
This landscape was completely different from the clamor and order of the branch region above. Each stone was steeped in a heavy ancient air, to the extent that quite a few stones even had moss climbing up on their sides. It seemed like two extremes. An ordinary passage without anything amazing in particular had connected the past and the present. Above was the domain of science and technology, and below was the world of cultivation!
There weren’t any other flashy ornamentals. Only slabs of stones, uniform and aligned as if they had been measured with a ruler. There existed only one major irregularity and that was the end of the subterranean arena couldn’t be seen. It could be imagined that if a competition was held here, and the stands were packed with people, a strike would cause mountains to collapse and seas to bellow. How blood-boiling would the roar of the crowd be!
Spacious, tremendous, and large, the room in itself was enough to make the heart tremble.
“Shocking, isn’t it?” Although Zuo Lun had come here on many occasions, he still immersed himself in the extraordinarily gigantic arena at this moment. His voice held a trace of hoarse fanaticism. “At the beginning of the nation’s founding, the modern-day Heavens Law was formally established. There was a mountain in Nantong, one without name, and there was a Core Formation master named Floatingcloud. With his hand as the tip of a spear and his wrist like a halberd, in the space of a night, he transformed this nameless mountain with a snap of his fingers into a cascade of several million stones that were a meter in length and half a meter in width. Against the upstream river current, the millions of stones slinked through the bottom of the river bed without the influence of men, by their own accord. They traveled nonstop to Fengyi as if someone was conducting them and constructed this ‘Unrivaled Beneath the Heavens’ martial stage.”
He spoke as if he was reciting scripture or chanting psalms. Coupled with the enormous arena, one couldn’t help but to let themselves be taken in by this fantastical scene.
He seemed to have become drunk on Daomaster Floatingcloud’s magnificent accomplishment. After a long time, he sighed deeply. “China’s twenty-four martial stages have all come from the hands of Core Formation masters. Unrivaled Beneath the Heavens isn’t in the top ten, but it’s certainly in the top fifteen.”
His mood seemed to have infected everyone. As everyone looked at the four massive characters of “Unrivaled Beneath the Heavens”, their eyes slightly flickered.
Xu Yangyi pursed his lips. He seemed to see an elderly man of outstanding bearing, set apart from the masses, wearing what might’ve been a tunic, Tang suit, or possibly a changpao. With a passing move, the colossal mountain blew apart into rubble as if a blade had hacked into it. Afterwards, several million stones traversed the sky and submerged themselves at the bottom of the river, crossing the Yangtze for a few thousand miles. Against the upward current, from north to west, they constructed the extremely tyrannical characters of Unrivaled Beneath the Heavens!
How domineering was this? How imposing was this? How carefree was this?
Accompanied by clouds and water, made neighbor to the void and sky. A spirit different from that of the masses.
“A life like this… Are there still any other pursuits?” Xu Yangyi tightly clenched his fists, thirsting for Floatingcloud’s strength. At this instant, he had never been more passionate!
A few minutes later, Zuo Lun returned from his reverie and gently made a move with his left hand. A red paper crane split from one into ten, and following his casual motion, slowly moved away ten stones on the martial stage, so seamlessly fit together that almost no artificial vestiges couldn’t be seen, revealing ten pitch-black doors.
Shortly afterwards, the paper crane flew into the pockets of the ten students, and Zuo Lun laughed. “These are your room cards. Don’t lose them.”
“In these five days, you may make your arrangements by yourselves. However, the graduation ceremony will officially begin five days later. Nantong Province has 60 people graduating this year. It’s necessary that all of them be on stage.”
He finished speaking and walked away, not even turning his head back. Xu Yangyi’s gaze quietly flickered, and he glanced silently at Chu Zhaonan. Zuo Lun hadn’t mentioned the matter of the Qualifier. The man hadn’t mentioned such an important event, but Xu Yangyi didn’t find it to be odd and even felt that everything was as it should’ve been.
Which cultivator wasn’t struggling against the heavens? A journey of heavenly defiance? A cultivator who relaxed as they pleased would perhaps find it difficult to achieve great accomplishments some day. Although he hadn’t seen a true Foundation Establishment Senior, he could imagine that regardless of which one—not to speak of reigning supreme in the past or present—was at least of great willpower and a mighty lifetime of perseverance. As for a Dao Master, such a realm couldn’t be reached with determination. Neither in fate nor fortune could one be lacking.
The ten Core Formation held the splendid reputation as “The Illustrious of the Modern Era”!
Thus, Xu Yangyi came by this rather inevitable inference: this information was left unsaid in order to observe them.
“Is someone watching…?” He narrowed his eyes and quietly swept his gaze over the gigantic, endless martial stage.
“Who? The CSIB? The Featherwood Guard? The Bountiful Treasures Pavilion?” He stuffed his hand in his pants’ pockets and walked towards the direction that the paper crane guided. “Choosing the true elite can be considered a painstaking process.”
“The Qualifier is the graduation ceremony’s actual climax!”
1. 盖棺定论 aka don’t pass judgement on people until it was over. I reeaaally wanted to translate this as “It wasn’t over until the fat lady sang”.
2. 既生瑜，何生亮啊 - I translated this as “to be born brilliant, why must there be other stars in the sku who shine so bright as well. This is a chinese idiom made famous by Zhou Yu during the three kingdoms period. It is in reference to Zhou Yu lamenting that while his talents and skills are excellent, his rival Zhuge Liang rivaled and surpassed him. He is conflicted because he thinks himself to be all the heavens require, but boom Zhuge Liang comes and ruins his party. Kinda hard to put this in context in the story because it is almost like waxing poetry.
3. These Dragon ball references though. I had troubles picking up on Dragon Ball as an “idea” vs a “thing”
4. 天下独步 - Unrivaled Beneath the Heavens/Outstanding in the whole world, etc. Many ways to translate this.
5. 相伴云和水，为邻虚与空。一灵真性在，不与众心同 Is a line used by Wang Chongyang, one of the seven immortals from Chinese history. He says these four lines as he leaves behind the mortal world. If what I translated it as is unclear, I will tell it straight up here. He is pretty much saying that he has surpassed this world i.e accompanied by clouds and water and neighbor to the void/sky. The latter part of the verse clears things up by distinctly separating him from other people.
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