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Chen Chang Sheng didn’t notice the stares that were falling upon him.
Since Luo Luo entered Li Palace, he hadn’t enjoyed this type of pampering for quite some time, having returned to it once again, he quickly adjusted and became accustomed to the treatment; not to mention, he was currently pondering something and thus, lacking in concentration.
For the Academic Exam, he had confidence in placing at least within the top 3, the problem was, Gou Han Shi would probably also place within the top 3; even Tian Hai Sheng Xue’s results shouldn’t be poor, with these things in mind, if he wanted to place first upon the First Banner then he had to at least enter the final match in the Duelling Stage.
This meant he had to win another 5 matches. Of course, if Gou Han Shi, Tian Hai Sheng Xue and the four scholars from Scholartree Manor who had been amongst the last to hand in their papers were all to be eliminated early, then the pressure he faced would be greatly reduced. The problem was, he couldn’t see this as to being something that could possibly happen.
Guan Fei Bai, Liang Ban Hu and Qi Jian were all potential opponents, there was also Zhuang Huan Yu, who had remained particularly quiet today; the one who made Chen Chang Sheng feel the most anxious and cautious however, had to be that youth that didn’t mingle with the crowd.
That wolf-tribe youth didn’t have any results in the academic phase, therefore, no matter what their results were to be in the duelling phase, it would not be enough to place first upon the First Banner; hence, he wasn’t in a direct competition with that youth, but what if he were to match up with that youth in one of the next few matches?
No one wanted to match up against that youth early on; Gou Han Shi and Tian Hai Sheng Xue should also be the same in their thinking.
The short resting interval quickly came to an end, Lady Official Li and the handmaidens cleared up the food boxes and left the match grounds.
The second round to the Duelling Stage was about to start and the area before the Tower of Purging Dust gradually quietened down. In comparison to the first round, the mood was even more restive and tense, this was because the first 15 examinees were going to enter this round of matches.
The first 15 examinees to cross the River Qu were all very strong: there were the four from Li Shan Sword Sect; two from Star Seizer Academy; one senior from Holy Maiden Peak; Tian Hai Sheng Xue, who was standing at the fore with a look of cold indifference; and Zhuang Huan Yu, who was quietly standing beside a fellow student.
That wolf-tribe youth name Zhe Xiu stood on the outskirts of the group, solitary as always; only one person that didn’t know anyone.
The second round had more or less the same rules as the first, only majorly differing on two points:
Firstly, opponents were no longer chosen by the higher ranked examinee, nor was it decided by the examiner; it was to be decided through the method of drawing lots, also, following rounds would each have a separate lot drawing; the opponent an examinee would face, was left entirely up to fate.
Secondly, starting from the second round, the loser will no longer be escorted out of the Education Palace, but will stay at the match grounds; this was because there were only 64 examinees left, in order to confirm who would enter the Three Grades – the examiners couldn’t ensure that marking would be absolutely fair – the losers might have to compete in a second tournament.
Before the matches, lots were drawn. From a certain perspective, the drawing of lots was even more important than the actual matches, if one could draw a relatively weak opponent, it would essentially mean passing the round, but if one was to be unlucky enough to draw an opponent like Gou Han Shi, what could you do?
Dozens of gazes followed the hand of the clergyman who was in charge of the lot drawing as it left the box, before finally resting upon the slip that had an examinee’s name written within.
“Orthodox Academy, Xuan Yuan Po,” the clergyman then picked out a second slip, glanced at it and said: “Against Li Shan Sword Sect, Gou Han Shi.”
The area before the tower was dead silent, it took a long period of time before any of the examinees gave a reaction; multiple cries of exclamation arose.
Since Qiu Shan Jun unexpectedly didn’t enter this year’s Grand Examination, in everyone’s eyes, the strongest participant this year was unquestionably Gou Han Shi. They all naturally assumed his name would appear much later, who could have guessed that in the very first match, the examiner would have drawn his name.
The emotion behind those exclamations were complex, apart from shock, there was also a lot of joy; within the small exclamations of shock, there was also the sense of taking joy in someone’s misery.
Just as how no one wanted to go against that wolf-tribe youth, no one wanted to match up against Gou Han Shi.
Currently, they didn’t have to worry anymore, this was because Gou Han Shi’s opponent was Xuan Yuan Po; Orthodox Academy’s Xuan Yuan Po.
The woodlands were very quiet, Chen Chang Sheng and Tang Thirty-Six looked at Xuan Yuan Po, their eyes didn’t reveal any sympathy, but seemed to be questioning.
At a time like this, sympathy was meaningless.
Xuan Yuan Po was bewildered, asking: “What should I do?”
Tang Thirty-Six said: “Can’t you see that we’re waiting for you to make a decision?”
Xuan Yuan Po looked towards Luo Luo and said: “Master, I’ll listen to you.”
Luo Luo looked towards Chen Chang Sheng and said: “Sir, what do you think?”
Chen Chang Sheng looked towards Tang Thirty-Six and said: “Why don’t you give a suggestion?”
Tang Thirty-Six didn’t even pause for thought, raising his hand and directly calling out to the clergyman who was in charge of drawing the lots: “We concede.”
The match grounds were in an uproar, no one had imagined that Orthodox Academy would choose to immediately concede the match the moment the lot was drawn, this was far too quick and decisive, or perhaps better described as thick-skinned and shameless? Sounds of ridicule could be heard from the crowd, Xuan Yuan Po lowered his head, his figure a little destitute.
Chen Chang Sheng comforted him: “Preserving your strength will allow you to have a small advantage in the second tournament.”
Tang Thirty-Six handled external affairs, looking at the examinees who were laughing incessantly, he said: “Conceding means surrendering? You’re all so great, why don’t we give the name slip to you and you can go fight Gou Han Shi instead?”
Passing on the lot that was drawn was obviously not allowed, but his words reminded a lot of the examinees that if your aim was to enter the Three Grades, then, were you to match up against a strong opponent like Gou Han Shi, whom you couldn’t defeat, conceding the match might be the best option; thinking that they themselves might be the next one to concede a match, the examinees began quieting down.
The drawing continued, the calm atmosphere once again disappeared upon the clergyman drawing the names of Tang Thirty-Six and Liang Ban Hu.
The examinees all looked towards the woodlands, no one laughed at Orthodox Academy; they had started to feel a little sorry for the academy.
Tang Thirty-Six had a calm expression, but his mood was atrocious, using a voice only those beside him could hear, he said: “Your mother, what kind of luck is this?”
Xuan Yuan Po matching against Gou Han Shi, this was the worst kind of luck, for him to match against Liang Ban Hu was not really any better.
The drawing of lots had only just started, yet two people from Orthodox Academy had already been matched against two members of the Divine State’s Seven Laws, who were widely acknowledged as to being the strongest. No matter how this was looked at, Orthodox Academy was clearly down on its luck today.
The academy’s bad luck didn’t end here.
The slip with Chen Chang Sheng’s name was drawn by the Li Palace clergyman, the clergyman then drew the name of his opponent.
Scholartree Manor, Huo Guang.
The match grounds were once again in an uproar, at this moment, even those who held an especially dim view of Orthodox Academy were in no mood to relish their misery.
The most shocking result, was the last.
Luo Luo’s opponent was… Tian Hai Sheng Xue.
The area before the tower was dead silent, the lot drawer’s voice was especially clear.
Everyone looked at the Orthodox Academy group by the woodlands while being shocked to the point of being speechless.
The group from Orthodox Academy were also shocked to the point of being speechless.
At this moment, everyone could be certain that this type of result in the drawing of lots was definitely unrelated to luck, it was an intentional blow to Orthodox Academy; this was because the probability of this happening due to chance was far too low.
Xuan Yuan Po could only concede defeat upon being matched against Gou Han Shi.
Tang Thirty-Six was already famous, renowned as a young genius, but his ability was still far from that of Liang Ban Hu’s and would probably have little chance of winning.
For the third match… though that scholar from Scholartree Manor, named Huo Guang, was not ranked upon the Proclamation of Azure Clouds, according to his performance in the martial phase, he should be the second strongest amongst the four scholars of Scholartree Manor; stronger than his two fellow students who are listed on the proclamation and only weaker than Zhong Hui, whom was listed at rank 9.
Even if Chen Chang Sheng was to have an extraordinary encounter, he couldn’t possibly be able to win against his opponent.
The most obvious bit of evidence was the result of Luo Luo’s drawing; for her, whom is second upon the Proclamation of Azure Clouds, the only ones she was cautious of were those who had already completed their Ethereal Opening, such as Gou Han Shi and Tian Hai Sheng Xue, yet, she was matched up against Tian Hai Sheng Xue.
Not to mention, amongst all the examinees present, only Tian Hai Sheng Xue had a family background that was comparable to hers, at least to the point of being able to display his true abilities in battle against her.
As with the area before the Tower of Purging Dust, the Hall of Zhao Wen was similarly silent.
His Eminence, The Archbishop, finally opened his eyes slowly; his slightly cloudy eyes rested upon the slip that was displayed upon the mirror, slowly turning in a cold, frosty gaze.
Mo Yu had her eyes slightly lowered, thinking about something.
Prince Chen Liu had twitching brows; his face full of anger.
Xue Xing Chuan was slightly surprised; he turned around and gave Xu Shi Ji a single glance.
Xu Shi Ji was expressionless, maintaining his silence.
The other important figures within the hall also maintained their silence.
None of the important figures gathered at the Hall of Zhao Wen were fools, how would they not be able to tell that the results were due to manipulation?
Clearly, the Education Board’s biased leaning towards Orthodox Academy had finally resulted in rousing discontent from the new faction within the Orthodoxy. Having endured all this time, they finally started their counterattack in the final phase of the Grand Examination, it was only unknown as to if they had gained personal approval from either Her Divine Majesty or His Holiness, The Pope.
“Using Southerners to fight against Orthodox Academy, this is far too unsightly.”
Heavenly Academy’s principal, Mao Qiu Yu sighed, rising up and heading out of the hall.
Hearing those words, some, within the hall, such as Li Palace College’s principal and two Bishop’s, started to show mildly embarrassed expressions on their faces.
Mao Qiu Yu’s status was high, he could say what he wanted, leave as he wanted, yet, he was still incapable of changing the results to the lot drawing.
The Grand Examination had to continue, the drawing of lots also had to continue.
The four matches of Orthodox Academy were obviously the ones to catch everyone’s attention.
For the famous young experts, Guan Fei Bai and Zhuang Huan Yu, the opponents they drew were rather weak, only Su Mo Yu’s luck was even worse than Chen Chang Sheng’s group, his opponent was… the youth named Zhe Xiu.
Hearing the Li Palace clergyman’s calling of names, a lot of the examinees finally came to know of that wolf-tribe youth’s full name.
That youth was called Wo Fu Zhe Xiu.
The surname Wo Fu was very rare and obvious as to not belonging to someone from the central plains; it was probably from some small tribe on the outer frontier.
Tang Thirty-Six patted Su Mo Yu on the shoulder and said: “You should just concede defeat; who told you to stand with us back there, bad luck is something that is contagious.”
Was it really due to luck? Of course it wasn’t, everyone present before the tower knew this, yet, it was the same as the first round; without any evidence of manipulation, you can’t raise any objections.
You can only concede defeat or attempt to achieve an inconceivable victory.
Tang Thirty-Six recommended Su Mo Yu pick the former, yet he himself had chosen the latter.
Luo Luo and Chen Chang Sheng had also made the same choice.