“Little Mo, stop using your feminine charm on the children! They are to become the future pillars of the sect. What are we going to do if you corrupt their hearts and minds?” The elder had a twinkle in his eyes as he shook his head in exasperation.
“All of you, hurry up and make your stand. Don’t just stand there and hope that your seniors will make a better offer, no such thing will happen.” The elder scanned the new disciples calmly with his cloudy eyes, which put pressure on all of them for some reason.
“I want to join the Way Seekers Alliance,” a young man with an alert look in his eyes standing next to Gu Suihan in commoner’s clothing took a step forward and declared his intention without hesitation.
“You have made a wise choice, my dear junior brother. I’ll take care of getting you a partner, alright?” Miss Mo covered her mouth as she laughed, her laughter sounding like pearls falling into a bowl, bright and pleasant. She motioned to her maid to bring the young man over to stand behind her and even patted the young man’s shoulder as a form of encouragement.
“I will join the Four Directions Court,” spoke a young man as he stepped out.
“I will join…”
As the new disciples came forward one by one to express their intentions, the three leaders began to smile to themselves at the same time.
Perhaps it was just a coincidence. Or perhaps it was the will of heaven.
The two disciples who had special Spiritual Roots took turns to explain that they had already been taken in as a disciple by elders in the sect. They just needed to activate their Roots and would become a direct disciple to the two elders. The two elders in question were from the Third Peak and they never bothered themselves with joining any clique because their method of cultivation was different from the rest. Other elders backed them, so they never lacked resources. Also, they insisted on remaining neutral, like Li Rong’s father.
This piece of information disappointed the three leaders, but there was nothing they could do about it.
After Nan Xingyuan chose to join the Way Seekers Alliance, the disciples were split evenly among the three groups. Each group had one level eight and three level sevens. The only person who hadn’t chosen any team yet was Gu Suihan, who was still busy reading the sect rules at the back of the crowd.
“Who else is there?” The three leaders counted their new members and realized there was one person who was unaccounted for.
“There’s still Gu Suihan.” Li Rong looked carefully at the crowd and solved the mystery for them.
The three leaders instantly flipped open the evaluation book in their hands.
Gu Suihan. Gift: Eight Geng Gold. Aloof and distant mind. Vicious and ruthless personality. Suspected to have been heavily involved in the robbery of one of the Royal Court’s tax ships from a few years ago. Severed ties with his clan later. Character needs to be further examined.
After they all read the evaluation of Gu Suihan, different expressions spread across their faces.
“Hoho, this person is a little too aloof and unfeeling.” Miss Mo laughed faintly and left first without even talking to Gu Suihan about joining her team.
“He’s too heartless, so that’s not in line with the beliefs of the Nobles Clan.” Lord Fang closed the booklet in his hands, laughed heartily and walked away as well.
“He has moral issues, so he will not fit well with us.” Senior Brother Wang hesitated for a moment, but still left with a sigh anyway.
The three of them were concerned with slightly different things, but the result was the same. Or perhaps it was because they all felt that it was better that all three factions were balanced in terms of power and potential talent, so they decided to just leave Gu Suihan out altogether.
“In that case, please return to your respective Compounds for now. Details are inside the Sect Rules booklet,” said the elder in a slow voice as his eyelids drooped. “You’re dismissed.”
Li Rong made a face as he tried to look through the crowd and finally spotted the calm faced Gu Suihan with a small bag in hand.
“Oh dear, nobody wanted you!” Li Rong stood next to Gu Suihan and teased him, “Poor thing! Your life is going to get more difficult in the future.”
“Huh?” Gu Suihan finally snapped out of his daze and asked in a confused voice, “What’s going on?”
“Did you not notice what happened just now?” exclaimed Li Rong in shock as he widened his eyes at Gu Suihan.
Gu Suihan looked puzzledly at Li Rong and started making his way towards the East Compound as he asked, “Notice what?”
Li Rong was speechless. He stared at Gu Suihan for a few moments before finally uttering, “Just now, the Four Directions Court, the Nobles Clan and the Way Seekers Alliance came over to take disciples under their wing. You didn’t say which one you wanted to join, and they already had all the disciples they wanted, so they all eliminated you without any discussion.”
“Oh?!” Li Rong raised an eyebrow and felt like he really couldn’t understand Gu Suihan.
“I didn’t intend to join any of those groups in the first place,” said Gu Suihan with a calm look on his face. “It’s better that they eliminated me. At least I won’t end up offending anybody.”
“Hur hur,” Li Rong laughed hollowly when he heard Gu Suihan’s answer. “Do you really think you’ve not offended anybody?”
Before Gu Suihan could answer, Li Rong went on, “Out of all the high-level gifted disciples, you’re the only one with no family or faction of power to support you and you don’t have any additional resources from elsewhere to help with your cultivation either. Besides, in order to play safe, they might decide to join hands and make your life difficult from time to time. And you think you’re going to be fine?”
“Oh,” Gu Suihan continued to respond as calmly as before. Li Rong was about to explode from his frustrations when Gu Suihan said, “I’ll just kill anybody who’s in my way.”
“Do you really think that the sect works the same way as the rest of the world? Or do you think that the world of cultivation works just like the world of ordinary folks?” Li Rong felt that Gu Suihan’s thinking was too simple.
Gu Suihan finally stopped walking and turned to look at Li Rong. “Do you really think that I’m easy to bully? Or that I’m very stupid?”
“Well…” Li Rong didn’t know what to say to that.
As they stepped into the East Compound, Li Rong brought Gu Suihan around as he introduced the place, “The four Compounds are built on the same mountain. The East Compound is on the peak, the West Compound is just above the halfway mark, the South Compound is just below the halfway mark and the North Compound is at the foot of the mountain.”
He paused for a while to pull a water bottle out from his bag, took a few sips and continued, “The East Compound has the best of everything. You could say people live like kings here. Spiritual Rice comes with every meal and sometimes there’s Magical Beast meat for sale. The North Compound gets it the worst, and they’re just a little better than ordinary folks in the mundane world.”
“If the difference in the conditions of each Compound is so vast, what will motivate the poorly ranked disciples to cultivate?”
“Haha!” Li Rong laughed loudly. “I suppose you still remember that stage made from black metal we saw earlier, right?”
Gu Suihan nodded, so Li Rong continued, “That stage is the only proper way for lower ranked disciples to move up the ladder. Your batch and anyone who joins the sect within a three-month period will get a chance to take on this challenge after three months. Each disciple will get a chance to challenge someone and two chances of being challenged every month.”
“The disciples also have to follow other rules depending on which Compound they’re from. For example, disciples from the North can only challenge those from the South. Those from the South can only challenge those from the West. Those from the East like us can be challenged three times a month and we get the chance to turn down one of them each month.”
“If that’s the case, where do we find the time to cultivate?”
“Hoho, did you think these challenges are just a way to mark your attendance and comes with nothing else?” Li Rong’s lips curled into a slightly scornful smile. “A challenger must prepare something as a bet and this bet is decided based on the prowess of both parties. There are disciplinarians from the Discipline Hall looking into this, so nobody dares to make empty promises.”
“Also, as disciples from the East Compound, we get some special privileges. We get to enter the library twice a month and we also get to use the Cultivation Room twice a month. Anybody from the East and West Compounds gets to kill someone once if they are challenged.”
The last sentence made Gu Suihan’s nonchalant expression finally look slightly surprised.
Li Rong didn’t seem to have noticed the change in Gu Suihan’s expression and just continued talking, “So, that’s what I’m really worried about. You’ve been eliminated by the three major factions, so they would probably have two ideas on what to do about you. The first one is to talk to you in private and secretly get you to join them. If you refuse, then they’ll join hands to make someone from the West Compound challenge you. Or worse, someone from the East Compound would purposely lose a challenge so that they get transferred to the West Compound, then they’ll wait till next month to challenge you and kill you.”
“Because you’re easy to bully. Also, the annual number of internal disciple vacancies for those who have leveled up are very few.”
“And you think I’d get stepped on?” Gu Suihan asked.
“No. Quite the opposite, in fact.” Surprisingly, Li Rong’s expression became solemn as he retorted, “I don’t know your exact prowess, but the one thing that this world doesn’t lack are geniuses, and the scariest people in the world are the geniuses groomed by the biggest factions. You don’t know if anybody you’ve killed has any connections with the top brass or if it will implicate someone else. Once you leave the East Compound, successfully reach Foundation Establishment stage and become an internal disciple, revenge seekers will rain down on you like fire and brimstone.”
“And why are you so worried about me?” Gu Suihan asked quizzically.
“Er…” Li Rong’s expression suddenly became very awkward. “Well, actually, besides finding you a pretty decent person, the more important part is that my father was the one who instructed me to leave the sect this time because I was supposed to have a really big chance encounter, but…”
“…but you didn’t end up running into any chance encounter. The only thing that happened was that you got to know me and now you think that I’m that chance encounter.” Gu Suihan was mildly amused.
“That’s right.” Li Rong’s expression grew solemn again and the determined look in his eyes surprised Gu Suihan for a moment.
A moment of silence later, Gu Suihan smiled and said, “In that case, I’ll give you that chance encounter.”
“If my guess is right, the chance encounter you’re looking for is a way to perfectly start absorbing Qi and awakening your spirit, isn’t it?” Gu Suihan casually sat down on a nearby bench.
“That’s right. I’ve never been short of Spiritual Stones and access to any resources, and the sect has countless cultivation techniques available to all disciples. But when it comes to absorbing Qi and awakening one’s spirit, you have to rely entirely on yourself. There’s no way any external force can help you with it,” said Li Rong with a sad sigh.
“The awakening of one’s spirit is basically the activation of one’s Spiritual Root. But how much Qi the Spiritual Root absorbs and processes the Qi will depend on one’s level of giftedness. Once Qi is absorbed into the body, it will transform one’s internal breath and strength completely into one’s pneuma. But because the quality of your internal strength and pneuma are too poor, the pneuma that your internal strength created is only a fuse of sorts.”
“At this point, you will need to rely on an external force. As long as there is sufficiently concentrated Qi for you to absorb, you will succeed in absorbing it. But here comes the next problem.”
“Most people think that they just need to absorb Qi, but they forget how much their bodies can take. Very often, even after they’ve absorbed everything they can, they realize that the Qi they’ve absorbed isn’t enough to completely hone and refine all the meridian channels in their body.”
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