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Traversing the sea of trees and crossing the green river; the former tested an examinee’s divine sense and perception, while the latter tested their True Essence capacity and utilisation. The trial might have seemed simplistic and frivolous at first glance, but in actuality, it was clear in its objective and criterion, the Grand Examination lived up to its reputation.
Leaving the Dallying Forest lead to the North-eastern area of Li Palace, the so called “other shore” referred to the Southern shore; how was one to reach it?
Chen Chang Sheng looked towards the riverside, towards the examinees that currently had heavy expressions upon their faces.
He heard the footsteps of many people in the sea of trees behind him, some close, some far. He knew that many examinees wouldn’t be able to leave the forest and more still that wouldn’t be able to cross the river; it seems many were going to be disqualified in this martial phase.
He ignored the many weird stares that were falling upon himself, and silently stood upon a rock by the riverside. Gazing upon the meadow on the Southern shore and the indistinct figures that were currently situated at the pavilion near the woods there, he started contemplating something.
Liang Ban Hu, Zhuang Huan Yu, Guan Fei Bai and Qi Jian had all already crossed the river; he had exited the forest just in time to see Gou Han Shi and Tian Hai Sheng Xue arriving on the Southern shore, but where was the youth that had been first to finish the Academic Exam? Was he currently still in the forest?
Crossing the river directly, without the aid of any tools, wasn’t something overly difficult for those with sufficient True Essence and skill in cultivation arts. But for the more common examinees, it was something exceedingly difficult.
Those who were confident, had immediately crossed over upon exiting the forest, the ones remaining on this side of the river were currently wavering in indecision.
At this moment, a student from the Thirteen Divisions of Radiant Green came out of the forest, after listening to the rules she directly headed towards the River Qu without any hesitation.
With a gust of chill wind that descended from above; her skirt gently fluttering, akin to leaves dancing in the wind; she simply walked over to the other shore.
The examinees left on this side of the shore looked at this scene enviously while sighing, apart from its Sacred Art and its core secrets, the Thirteen Divisions of Radiant Green specialised in discipline arts that lightened the body and raised dexterity, but this type of discipline art, like the core secrets to Li Mountain’s sword arts, was something they would never allow to leak outside of their own school.
The other examinees could only continue looking on in envy, while the more common examinees who would never have the chance to come into contact with such a high level discipline art became even more dejected.
A disciple from the Longevity Sect’s Precipice of Violet Qi angrily said: “We all cultivate different discipline arts; this type of exam isn’t fair.”
The examiner replied: “As long as you can cross, you will pass, there’s nothing that can be fairer.”
The disciple from the Precipice of Violet Qi said: “So even if I was to bring the personal steed of my Sect’s Elder and fly across while mounted, it will still count as passing?”
The examiner replied with an indifferent expression: “If you could, it’ll be your ability.”
The disciple from the Precipice of Violet Qi was speechless – there were many tools that could be used to allow a cultivator to fly for a short distance, but the rules for today’s trial were very clear on banning their usage.
As for birds that could carry a person, these were extremely rare, apart from the Red Geese used by the military, most were the personal steeds of the various Sect’s Elders; how could a mere disciple take one with them?
More importantly, topics of the Grand Examination were highly guarded, this year also had many differences from previous years, who would have thought of the need to bring a flying bird with them?
The student from the Thirteen Divisions of Radiant Green effortlessly reached the opposite shore, this scene stirred envy from those present, but also caused the wavering examinees to gain some confidence and courage.
An examinee from the Northwest’s Snowy Mountain Sect started their own attempt, they lowered their right leg upon the River Qu and on contact, ice began forming underneath.
“Snowy Mountain Sect’s frigid qi is indeed impressive,” said an examinee in admiration.
The examinee from the Snowy Mountain Sect had a stern expression on his face as he carefully headed farther across the river, his left leg touched upon the river’s surface and another layer of ice immediately formed beneath his foot.
He slowly crossed the River Qu, ice forming beneath his feet, akin to snow lotuses slowly blossoming as he passed; extremely picturesque, yet, this gave observers a sense of apprehension as it was literally stepping on thin ice – at this point, no one dared to open their mouths, they all stilled their breath as they nervously observed, afraid that they might disturb this examinee’s crossing.
It didn’t take long for the examinee to reach a distance of over 100 metres, but at that moment, an infuriating wind descended from above, causing the examinee’s body to start swaying, he struggled for a moment to maintain control, but upon realising he wouldn’t be able to endure any further, he gave out a loud cry, gathered his energy and bounded for the opposite shore, creating ripples on the river surface that produced scattered sheets of thin ice.
Sadly, the examinee’s remaining True Essence was insufficient for supporting him and he sank into the waters of the River Qu with only a distance of 20 odd metres (~22 yards) left to the Southern shore.
Examinees that were observing this scene felt pity for his failure; it also once again greatly reduced the confidence they had for passing the Martial Trial.
An examinee from Star Seizer Academy started his attempt shortly after, directly mounting his sword and flying across the river. This did little to restore confidence to the other examinees. Flying on a sword might look rather gallant, but the requirements on True Essence and skill was proportionately high, amongst those who had successfully crossed the river, only the four disciples of Li Mountain and Zhuang Huan Yu had used this method.
On the Southern shore of the River Qu, a student from Star Seizer Academy and several other examinees from the Capital who were familiar with the examinee that had just crossed were waiting, they went up to congratulate them on their crossing.
With the passing of time, examinees continuously exited from the forest, but upon hearing the examiner’s explanation for the rules to crossing the river, the joy they had felt at getting through the forest immediately dissipated.
At this moment, the crowd suddenly parted and the examinees all began movements of a formal greeting.
Luo Luo had arrived.
Luo Luo moved towards where Chen Chang Sheng was and said: “Sir?”
The look on her face indicated that she had a question.
Chen Chang Sheng answered: “Let’s wait for Xuan Yuan Po and Tang Thirty-Six first.”
Not long after, Tang Thirty-Six came out of the sea of trees; his green robes swaying, without a stray leaf in sight; feathered fan gently waving; a picture of refinement and solitary pride, but Chen Chang Sheng noticed the faint signs of annoyance upon his face, it was clear he had encountered some sort of incident inside the forest.
That was probably correct, Tang Thirty-Six was part of the second wave of examinees to leave the Hall of Zhao Wen, logically, he should have left the forest long ago.
“What’s wrong?” asked Chen Chang Sheng.
Tang Thirty-Six replied: “I met one of the scholars from Scholartree Manor in the forest.”
Chen Chang Sheng was slightly taken aback, the Dallying Forest was immensely large and had countless different routes, for two examinees to step upon the same path was extremely unlikely, he himself hadn’t met anyone else whilst inside of the forest.
“What happened after? Don’t tell me you ended up fighting after a squabble?”
Tang Thirty-Six replied with an expressionless face: “We obviously didn’t fight; firstly, there were examiners observing, secondly, I can’t necessarily see myself winning against that person; but for someone to dare to contend with this young master over a path, there naturally had to be a contest of words. Don’t worry, when it comes to arguing, I’ll never lose.”
Thinking back upon the Ivy League gathering where he and Luo Luo had humiliated Xiao Song Gong, Chen Chang Sheng didn’t doubt his ability to win an argument, conversely, he felt a little sympathetic towards the scholar from Scholartree Manor. But for Tang Thirty-Six to admit he couldn’t defeat that scholar from Scholartree Manor, this caused him to feel a little cautious.
At that moment, a scholar from Scholartree Manor came out from the sea of trees.
Shortly following this, the other scholars from Scholartree Manor also exited the forest.
The four of them gathered together and began discussing something in hushed tones before looking towards Orthodox Academy; one of the scholars had an angry expression on their face.
This scholar was evidently the one that got into an argument with Tang Thirty-Six, and had been punished by him through words.