After the internal energy test ended, the children asked about the expected rankings. Jin Mu gave a rough estimate of the results.
It seemed that the order would be Son Hee-il, Yu Su-rin, and Jun Myung, with Yi-gang not making it into the ranking.
Receiving the lowest score in the internal energy test was that fatal.
The reactions were mixed. The expressions of the children as they left, especially Son Hee-il, who was beaming with joy.
In Yi-gang’s case, his expression was calm.
But that was due to his nature of not easily showing his inner thoughts on his face. His mind was in turmoil.
The thought of serving those kids as martial brothers for life felt like the sky was falling.
He stood there silently for a long time.
Jin Mu also realized that Yi-gang’s condition was not normal.
“I called you several times, but you didn’t respond.”
Jin Mu scratched his cheek. A hollow laugh escaped him at the sight of the stunned Yi-gang.
“This, I haven’t asked yet because it seemed amusing to watch.”
He decided to talk about the point that had been bothering him until now.
“You’re entering as the only librarian candidate in the Grand Library, right? After taking the test for the honor flower disciples.”
Yi-gang nodded his head.
“Then, you’ll become a direct disciple of Senior Yu Jeong-shin.”
“Um… That’s what I understand.”
In martial arts sects, the tradition of one master having only one disciple was exclusive to sects with mystical teachings. In a large sect like the Azure Forest, the master-disciple relationship was a bit different.
For the disciples, once they were assigned to a faction, the seniors took care of and guided the juniors.
However, there were cases where exceptionally talented children were taken as direct disciples, just like the Grass Flower Hall Head took Yeop Su-nam. This time, there was a very small age gap between the third and second-generation disciples, so such cases were almost non-existent.
But Yi-gang’s situation was a bit different.
There were currently no second-generation disciples in the Grand Library. Since the previous librarian, Dam Hyun, was confined in the Repentance Cave, Yi-gang would become a direct disciple of first-generation disciple Yu Jeong-shin.
“Being a direct disciple of a first-generation disciple. You will…”
Jin Mu said with a smile, trying to hold back laughter, “Not as a third-generation disciple, but as a second-generation disciple, Jin line disciple like us.”
Yi-gang was shocked. He had naturally assumed he would be entering as a third-generation disciple.
“That’s why I told you to call me brother. Since we’re going to be martial brothers anyway…”
“I’m hearing this for the first time?”
“Wasn’t it properly conveyed? Haha.”
Jin Mu scratched his chin. Yi-gang was dumbfounded. Why had no one told him this crucial fact?
“There are also the adults’ circumstances. Accepting a young master from the Baek Noble Clan as a disciple, the opinion was that he couldn’t be received as a third-generation disciple.”
It seemed there was also an issue of face between the Azure Forest and the Baek Noble Clan.
Jin Mu added more, “In fact, I was opposed to accepting you as a second-generation disciple.”
Saying so, Jin Mu put his arm around Yi-gang’s shoulder.
“If some spoiled brat came in without qualification, as the great disciple, I couldn’t accept it.”
“But, watching you, it didn’t seem too bad. Getting a cute youngest junior brother, euhahaha!”
Yi-gang broke free from the embrace of Jin Mu, who was acting overly familiar.
Now he understood what the Forest Lord had said. That there was no need to dwell on the ranking in the promotion exam. It was literal.
“Should I also tell Hee-il and the other kids? Should I talk to them?”
Yi-gang covered his mouth with his hand.
“Let’s leave it for now.”
Because the corners of his mouth were trying to rise.
“Huhuhu, shall we?”
Jin Mu nodded his head as if amused.
And Jin Mu kept his promise.
Until Son Hee-il, who hadn’t realized until the end that Yi-gang had become his senior, made a mistake in front of the Disciplinary Hall Head.
“I will carry out my sentence and enforce the strictness of the sect rules. You’re prepared, aren’t you!”
The Disciplinary Hall Head, Do Beop, was holding Son Hee-il with one hand. Even though Hee-il wasn’t fully grown yet, it was impressive strength.
Because of this, Son Hee-il’s face turned pale and he was trembling.
Jin Mu made a troubled expression.
Not telling him the situation until the end was just for fun, but it was a bit awkward to be caught in front of Sage Do Beop.
He explained the situation to Do Beop with a gentle smile, “Please calm down, Hall Head. It seems like Hee-il made a mistake.”
“What? A mistake?”
“Yes. He seems to have thought that Yi-gang entered as a third-generation disciple like himself. Right, Hee-il?”
Son Hee-il and the kids were startled and nodded their heads.
“That’s right! I had no idea! I wouldn’t have done that if I knew that Yi-gang was a senior.”
Son Hee-il’s expression looked very earnest.
A few second-generation disciples chuckled as if they found him cute, and some even pitied him.
“Wasn’t it a decision made by the Elders’ Council? It seems that even the Un line children were not informed.”
Jin Mu’s defense was plausible.
Even the Disciplinary Hall Head nodded, hmm, and Jin Mu thought his persuasion had worked.
“What a pity, but…”
Jin Mu had forgotten what kind of person the Disciplinary Hall Head was.
“If we make exceptions for every special case, how can we uphold the law and maintain the strictness of the master-disciple relationship. It’s truly regrettable.”
“Considering the situation, I’ll let it end with five strokes of corporal punishment.”
Son Hee-il’s face turned pale.
If one were to name the greatest stickler for principles in the Azure Forest, it would be this Disciplinary Hall Head. He was not just rigid; he was extraordinarily so.
He was the one who had detained the cherished child of the Clan Head of Sichuan’s Tang Clan for littering inside the hall.
The Tang Clan Head was furious when he heard the news, but Do Beop didn’t blink an eye. Some said Do Beop had fallen from a persimmon tree as a child and forgotten how to be flexible.
But it was for this reason that the Forest Lord cherished and supported Do Beop.
Jin Mu realized the situation had become uncontrollable.
The Disciplinary Hall Head was determined to punish Son Hee-il, who knew nothing.
“Let’s go out right now and carry it out.”
A terrified moan escaped from Son Hee-il’s mouth.
He knew what would happen to his behind if it was hit with that iron rod.
Just the thought of crawling around awkwardly after becoming the great disciple was enough to bring tears to his eyes.
He looked back at Jin Mu and the second-generation disciples, but they seemed unable to help.
Then, Son Hee-il’s eyes met Yi-gang’s.
Thankfully, or unfortunately, Yi-gang was not mocking Son Hee-il. He just slightly lowered his right hand and shook it. The meaning was unclear.
Son Hee-il had no choice but to nod his head helplessly.
Then, Yi-gang smiled and fearlessly approached the Disciplinary Hall Head.
“Hall Head, I have something to say.”
“It’s not possible. If the sect rules are broken, punishment must be given. That cannot be changed!”
“I’m not asking you not to punish. Just…”
“What is it!”
“Lend me your ear, please.”
Do Beop, surprisingly, listened attentively to Yi-gang’s bold request.
The sight of the large-framed Sage Do Beop leaning towards Yi-gang was quite amusing.
Yi-gang whispered something to Do Beop. Do Beop’s eyes widened in surprise.
“I see, that’s a valid point. Even in the rules of the Forest, it’s not only about strict punishment for every infraction.”
Although it was unclear what they were talking about, the usually rigid Sage Do Beop gradually nodded his head.
His expression even turned pleased.
“You’ve read the sect rules? Yes, it’s right for someone who wants to join the sect to read them. Still, it’s the first time I’ve seen a child who has thoroughly read them!”
“Alright, I’ll do as you say.”
Sage Do Beop finally put down Son Hee-il, whom he had been holding all this while.
“However, you must take responsibility for your junior.”
Son Hee-il, not understanding what had happened, rubbed his neck.
Yi-gang poked Son Hee-il’s side.
“What are you doing! Aren’t you going to thank him?”
“Ah, thank you for your mercy! Hall Head!”
Son Hee-il first bowed his head deeply. Into his ears, the voice of the Disciplinary Hall Head rang.
“According to the sect rules, punishment for rudeness between disciples can be replaced by education from a senior.”
Not having to be hit with the iron rod was a relief.
But who was the senior, and what exactly did this education entail?
“Your senior will take responsibility and teach you manners. For the next month, you will serve your senior every day and receive education in etiquette.”
Yi-gang patted the bowed Son Hee-il on the shoulder.
Son Hee-il felt as if the sky was falling. He was in a situation where he had no choice but to serve Yi-gang.
But preferring that over being hit with the rod, he swallowed his tears and nodded.
Beside him, Yi-gang and the Immortal Divine Sword smiled contentedly.
The Forest Lord conveyed Yi-gang’s recent situation to Yu Jeong-shin.
“It seems Yi-gang is receiving the last of the Heaven’s Shadow Sword Technique from the Immortal Divine Sword.”
He added further.
“Even though the Immortal Divine Sword is instructing him in swordsmanship, he will need a sparring partner. The great disciple among the third-generation disciples has been helping Yi-gang daily.”
“Hee-il, you mean?”
“Yes, the boy who gets along well with your daughter, Su-rin, has become the great disciple.”
Yu Jeong-shin smiled happily at the pleasant news.
“Hahaha, it seems Yi-gang has already become friendly with the kids. I thought the strong-willed children would dislike having a young person as their senior.”
“Indeed. Yi-gang didn’t seem like the type to be so affable. Hahaha.”
They were happy without knowing the reason why Son Hee-il had come to assist Yi-gang.
Yu Jeong-shin last met Yi-gang during the test for honor flower disciples.
Yi-gang had indeed performed excellently, living up to expectations. Such a talented honor flower disciple was a first in his lifetime.
In terms of sorcery and mystics, his previous disciple, Dam Hyun, may have been superior, but Yi-gang shone brighter in other aspects.
“So the Forest Lord has permitted it. Yi-gang will continue to learn the Baek Noble Clan’s sword techniques.”
“That boy is also a lion’s cub. Keke, it’s right to leave him be if the Immortal Divine Sword of all people is overseeing his studies.”
Nonetheless, the Forest Lord’s decision was undoubtedly a generous act.
Yu Jeong-shin laughed joyfully. It meant the Azure Forest Lord cherished Yi-gang that much.
“But why are you still waiting and not quickly conducting the nine bows ceremony?” the Forest Lord asked, puzzled.
Yu Jeong-shin had decided to take Yi-gang as his disciple. That’s why he had Yi-gang enter as a second-generation disciple, not a third-generation disciple.
However, Yu Jeong-shin and Yi-gang had yet to perform the master-disciple initiation ceremony.
The Forest Lord’s expression turned serious.
“Surely… you’re not getting soft-hearted now, reminiscing about Dam Hyun.”
“Of course not. That’s a misunderstanding, Forest Lord.”
Yu Jeong-shin bowed respectfully, and the Forest Lord laughed heartily.
“That would be fortunate, but…”
“I am working to connect the boy’s major meridians. We will perform the master-disciple initiation ceremony after that task is completed.”
The Forest Lord nodded.
Candles in the underground vault of the Grand Library flickered in the wind.
In the spacious underground area, large enough to be a training ground, a complex formation was laid out. It was a technique of the Qi Men Dun Jia to gather the energy of Mount Heng.
That wasn’t all. In the center, there was a mysterious golden candlestick.
Among the Treasures, it was one of the forbidden and dangerous heavenly Treasures, the Heavenly God Candlestick.
Unlike before, there was now a candle in each of the nine branches of the candlestick.
Yu Jeong-shin’s pale complexion was due to the exhaustion of his energy in preparing the ritual.
“You’ve had a hard time, Jeong-shin.”
“Not at all, Forest Lord. It’s my duty.”
Yu Jeong-shin said, smiling slightly.
“Now, let’s call Yi-gang.”
The ceremony to aid the Immortal Divine Sword’s enlightenment and connect Yi-gang’s major meridians. All preparations were complete.
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