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At the next moment, Chen Chang Sheng was unsure as to if he had been mistaken, that’s because the wolf tribe youth hadn’t turned his head and was solitarily walking ahead of the group; without turning around, how could he have looked at Luo Luo?
No one noticed the change to his state, not even Tang Thirty-Six or Xuan Yuan Po, who were next to him; everyone’s attention was focused upon this perfect world; only Luo Luo noticed that something was amiss and quietly asked a few words.
“I still find something strange about today; in the duelling to come, you need to be cautious,” Chen Chang Sheng did not mention what he had just seen, nor did he hide his discomfort, saying: “If there’s any danger, then leave immediately or listen to my instructions.”
Luo Luo chose to enter the Grand Examination even without the need for results; Gou Han Shi and the others had already managed to gain an inkling on what her aim was; conversely, it was actually the involved party, Chen Chang Sheng, who hadn’t thought of her aim. Listening to Chen Chang Sheng’s warning, Luo Luo naturally didn’t have any objections, replying: “I’ll listen to my tutor’s instructions.”
The examinees followed the Li Palace clergyman forward, crossing a stretch of woods before coming to a round-shaped construction.
This construction covered an area of over a kilometre, and was around 30 odd metres in height, an extremely immense structure.
Made of stone; atop of its stone steps, its door was tightly shut, stopping one from seeing inside, all that could be seen were the black eaves overhead.
From the azure blue skies above, a lone cloud drifted close, that cloud reached the round-shaped construction and released a shower of rain; the rain pitter-pattered as it fell; it wasn’t particularly heavy, but within a short time, it had cleared away the dirt and dust that had accumulated atop the eaves; the black eaves became ever more resplendent, dazzling in a brilliance akin to jade.
“The Tower of Purging Dust is the location for this year’s Duelling Stage.”
The Li Palace clergyman turned around and addressed the examinees, before beginning to explain the rules for the duelling phase.
As with traversing the sea of trees and crossing the emerald river, in the last and most important phase of the Grand Examination, the rules were clear and simple; exceedingly easy to understand.
Examinees that had cleared the martial phase and gained the right to participate in the duelling phase totalled 113 people.
The first 15 people to cross the River Qu were automatically entered into the second round; the remaining 98 people were to fight in one-on-one matches, with the winners entering the second round to join the first 15.
One-on-one matches will continue each round until a final winner can be declared.
As for deciding the winner, this was even simpler: two examinees conduct a duel, the last one standing will be declared the winner.
The loser will be eliminated, therefore, every round in this duelling phase was important, as there won’t be any chances to make up for a loss.
The aim for most of the examinees was only to enter the Three Grades so that they may gain the privilege of entering the Mausoleum of Books, thus, the first round was the most important; as long as they could pass the first round, their chances of entering the Three Grades would be better than 50%.
As for the pairing of examinees for duels, this was also simple, to the point where it gave the impression that, as the coordinators of the Grand Examination, the Zhou Dynasty and Orthodoxy were being highly irresponsible; they had actually given the rights for choosing opponents to the examinees themselves.
Apart from the first 15, the next 49 examinees could freely choose their opponent from the last 49 remaining examinees. Those who are chosen cannot refuse, or they’ll be considered to have given up on the examination and their opponent will automatically advance to the next round.
The examinees who had made it this far were not fools, upon hearing the rules, they fully understood its implications, the crowd became resonant with the sound of discussion.
Before any of the examinees could raise any complaints or perhaps doubts, the clear sound of a bell came in from the Tower of Purging Dust.
The Duelling Stage has officially started.
The bell chimes were a signal and everyone’s gazes immediately fell upon the examinee that numbered 16th.
They were a student from Star Seizer Academy, with a large and stout body, a stern countenance and a manner that was restrained and unassuming, giving people the impression of someone that was low-key, yet not craven; very military-like.
If it were any other examinee, they would have perhaps found this situation difficult handle, or are least rather abrupt, but military personnel are focused upon following orders without fail, therefore, that youth didn’t hesitate to leave the crowd, turning their gaze upon the remaining half of the examinees.
Their gaze slowly and calmly swept across the examinees.
Facing this gaze, the bottom-half examinees that were waiting to be chosen all had differing expressions, differing reactions: some were calm, akin to not noticing anything at all; some silently let out cold laughs as an intentional provocation; some lowered their heads and lightly shifted their bodies, hoping to avoid meeting their gaze; some forced themselves to put on a smile, a scene that would make the viewer feel sympathetic.
No one could have guessed that the student from Star Seizer Academy would have chosen the disciple from the Precipice of Violet Qi as their opponent, the disciple that had previously questioned the examiner on the other shore of the River Qu.
The examinees couldn’t control themselves and started conversing: it had to be known that the Precipice of Violet Qi was a branch of the Longevity Sect, that disciple couldn’t have been the weakest amongst those present, to make such a choice, what was the intention?
The disciple from the Precipice of Violet Qi was momentarily shocked before coming to their senses and realising that they had been chosen. They calmly stepped out from the crowd, without feeling slighted from the choice – logically, the first to be chosen would be the weakest, but this disciple believed that the strength of divine sense and True Essence capacity were all just dead numbers, battles relied upon more factors; he had confidence in defeating his opponent.
The truth was also as such; currently, apart from the first 15 whose strength were slightly ahead of everyone else’s by a degree, the remaining examinees were very close in strength; it cannot be said that those who were ranked in front would definitely win against those ranked behind.
With the first contestants decided, the clergyman didn’t give them any time to prepare or adjust, taking the two examinees towards the Tower of Purging Dust.
All that could be seen was the door to that round-shaped construction slowly opening, beyond the door was pitch darkness, akin to some yawning abyss that could make a person shudder; the clergyman ushered them in before immediately closing the door behind them.
Looking at the tightly closed wooden doors, the examinees felt surprised; was this year’s examination going to forbid spectating?
The Li Palace clergyman looked at everyone indifferently and said: “Due to special circumstances, this year’s duelling will be behind closed doors.”
Upon hearing these words, the examinees abounded in chatter, with some directly looking towards the direction of the Orthodox Academy group, particularly Chen Chang Sheng.
They were suspicious that the arrangements were due to him. If the duelling was to be behind closed doors, there wouldn’t be any way of knowing details behind the battle, not mentioning the possibility of cheating, at the very least, were Chen Chang Sheng to lose, the Education Board would at least be able to preserve some of their dignity.
Chen Chang Sheng naturally knew that the arrangement had nothing to do with him; he looked towards the wolf tribe youth that was standing by himself solitarily, then quietly thought to himself that the closed-door duelling might have been requested by this person.
The Tower of Purging Dust had its wooden doors tightly shut, upon the black eaves above, scattered rain passed by its perimeter: pitter-patter, pitter-patter.
Being unable to see inside the tower, it was unknown as to how the first match was progressing; not even any sounds could be heard.
The atmosphere outside of the tower became somewhat tense, perhaps due to not being able to see or hear anything, leaving everything to the imagination, thus, the examinees became increasingly nervous with some choosing to cross their legs and sit upon the floor, closing their eyes and calming their minds, ignoring the situation.
Not long after, the doors to the Tower of Purging Dust opened.
The examinees all turned their gazes, even those who were sitting on the floor, like as if nothing could ever disturb them, had instantly opened their eyes.
The one who came out was the student from Star Seizer Academy, his face was pale and the collar to his uniform was ripped wide open with the faint stains of blood visible, yet his expression remained calm and relaxed.
An examiner from the Thirteen Divisions of Radiant Green went to help treat his injuries, all that could be seen was a green light flashing out from stairs above; an aura that made everyone feel calm and comfortable shrouded the area.
Under normal circumstances, being able to see this female lecturer’s Saintly Radiance of healing, would cause the examinees to give nonstop praise in admiration, but at this time, their concentration was solely focused upon the result of the duel.
The disciple from the Precipice of Violet Qi did not come out.
Qi Jian went up to the Li Palace clergyman and asked: “Sir, our junior disciple is…?”
The bluffs of the Longevity Sect are of one voice, branches of the same sect.
Qi Jian is a disciple of Li Shan Sword Sect, enquiring about the status of a disciple from the Precipice of Violet Qi was something considered logical by many people. Only Chen Chang Sheng found this scene slightly puzzling, not understanding why it was the younger Qi Jian, who was evidently unused to handling these affairs, who had made the enquiry and not Gou Han Shi.
His seniors had yet to say anything, why had the junior brother been the first to voice his concern?
Chen Chang Sheng noticed that Gou Han Shi’s expression was calm as usual, Guan Fei Bai and Liang Ban Hu did not have any sort of response, seemingly finding Qi Jian’s action to be normal.
The Li Palace clergyman answered: “The loser cannot remain here, the person you are asking for has already been escorted out of the Education Palace, at this moment they should be at the Hall of Resplendent Bravery getting their injuries treated, there’s no need to worry.”
Qi Jian turned his head to glance at Gou Han Shi, seeing that his senior didn’t have any response, he returned.
The Li Palace clergyman glanced at the list in his hand, then turned his gaze towards the examinees and said: “Where is examinee number 17, Huo Guang?”
The moment he finished, a young scholar slowly walked out from the crowd.
That scholar wore an ochre coloured cheongsam, the stare between his eyes seemed to convey a cover of frost, his expression aloof and proud to the extreme.
He had the qualifications to back that pride.
Upon seeing him walk out, the bottom-half examinees had a turn in expression; the tension was higher than when the student from Star Seizer Academy was choosing their opponent.
That was because this scholar came from Scholartree Manor.
That scholar was the one who had previously gotten into a quarrel with Tang Thirty-Six in the Dallying Forest.
The atmosphere at the match grounds grew ever more tense, very few examinees dared to meet his gaze, many secretly prayed that he wouldn’t choose them.
The clergy had arranged for the bottom-half examinees to stand in the Western section before the Tower of Purging Dust.
That scholar’s gaze swept across the match grounds, turning towards a certain direction.
It turned towards the woodlands; covered densely in evergreen trees that could blot out the sun, it was a fair distance from the Tower of Purging Dust and thus, none of the examinees were standing there.
Luo Luo didn’t like basking in the sun, even if it was an artificial one inside the Pope’s Green Leaf World.
Therefore, Chen Chang Sheng had taken everyone to stand in that location.
The group from Orthodox Academy, were standing by the woodlands.
That scholar from Scholartree Manor’s gaze had fallen upon the woodlands, upon the group from Orthodox Academy.
Chen Chang Sheng’s expression was calm.
Xuan Yuan Po did not have any reaction; he was staring at an ant near his feet vacuously.
Luo Luo held a silk handkerchief and was using it to fan Chen Chang Sheng.
Only Tang Thirty-Six had some sort of reaction.
His brow twitching, head raised, staring at the scholar from Scholartree Manor.
His expression, indescribably proud, akin to saying: choose me, come choose me.