Liang Yuan turned his back, unwilling to say more.
There was slight remorse on Yu Xiaobao’s face as if he thought Jing Shan’s words made sense and hurried back to his bed to cultivate.
As for Shi Nian, he looked very thoughtful but gave no indication of what he was thinking about.
After that incident, the days seemed to pass in peace.
The Primary faction did not approach Jing Yue again, and he mingled with his roommates every day.
At first, they were a little stiff, but they could not bear Jing Yue being thick-skinned! When they were chatting, Jing Yue interrupted forcefully; when they were practicing swordplay, he took the initiative to give pointers; even during class breaks, he pestered them relentlessly. After some time, apart from Liang Yuan who still treated him coldly, Shi Nian and Yu Xiaobao became more cordial.
Gradually, Jing Yue felt the tension within the inner gates. The disciples between different factions rarely interacted, and even the lecturers from different factions were very ‘selective’.
He also learned that the Primary faction was provided with special resources and training opportunities by the Golden Core Zhenren; the Noble faction occupied the most Enforcer positions in the inner gates; only the Civilians had nothing, simply relying on the sheer number to support them.
Scarce resources and unequal treatment were sources of contradiction.
However, humans were bound to have wants and desires, which formed the root of ‘inequality’.
Jing Yue had not thought of a good solution, so he remained in the inner gates for now.
This day was bright and clear.
On the Frostcloud Sect’s martial arts court, thousands of disciples sat in sequence.
Their cultivation was level-3 Qi Refining and below, while the lecturer at the podium was a Foundation Establishment core disciple, currently teaching the basic swordplay of Frostcloud Sect.
The lecturer retracted the sword influence that he demonstrated before asking, “Is there anyone willing to come up here to give it a try?”
In the audience, a disciple stood up. “Shixiong, can I try?”
The lecturer nodded. “Of course, you may select an opponent.”
The disciple exclaimed, “Thank you, Shixiong.”
Thereafter, with one step at a time, he approached Jing Yue who was practicing at the corner on his own.
“Are you Jing Shan-shidi by any chance?”
Jing Yue, “Yes, I am.”
The other party clasped his hands. “I’m Long Ritian, level-2 Qi Refining. Are you willing to spar with me on stage?”
Jing Yue, who was constantly brainwashed by blue phoenix, was not unfamiliar with the term. He was extremely thankful that blue phoenix was not here with him at the moment…
(TN: Long Ri Tian 龙日天 in modern slang it means ‘dragon f*cking heaven’, but literally Ri just means ‘day’.)
Jing Yue pursed his lips, trying hard to control it from curling up at the corners, and said solemnly, “I’m not willing.”
Long Ritian, “…”
He did not expect Jing Shan to reject him outright and said in a daze, “You dare not?”
Jing Yue, “Long-shixiong is very strange. You’re already a level-2 Qi Refining, so why are you not sparring with someone of the same level? Why are you approaching a Shidi like me who’s one level below? Could it be that you’re afraid of them, so you’re trying to take advantage of me instead?”
Long Ritian was mocked by Jing Yue and wanted to get angry, but wanted to justify himself at the same time, so he could not find any excuses for a long time.
Fortunately, the lecturer helped him out, “Jing-shidi may be young but talented, so I’m sure Long-shidi appreciates this. Your cultivation levels are not too far apart and don’t require any magic techniques to spar with each other, and you can stop before things get ugly, so don’t worry about it.”
Jing Yue stared at the lecturer for a long time. The other party was a member of the Primary faction and cooperated so well with Long Ritian to force his hand, so it was likely that the Primary faction was starting to provoke him.
Or rather, they were exerting pressure on him.
He felt Yu Xiaobao surreptitiously pulling at the hem of his clothes as if trying to imply that he should not go, but since the opponent had chosen this day for a performance, so how could he decline?
“Very well then.” Jing Yue stood up.
The both of them walked up the stage one after another. Long Ritian unsheathed his sword, an evil smile playing at his mouth, “Jing-shidi, since you’re so worried about my higher cultivation level, should I give you three moves?”
Jing Yue did not hesitate, “Sure, thank you so much.”
“Don’t mention… argh…”
Before Long Ritian completed his sentence, his sleeve was already pierced by the sword’s vitality. If he did not dodge in time, his hand would already be severed!
Was he not supposed to stop before things get ugly?!
He heard snickers from the crowd and fury welled up in him, so he lifted his sword.
“Long-shixiong, aren’t you giving me three moves? That’s just one!”
Long Ritian wielded his long sword and stabbed forward. Jing Yue stepped sideways to avoid it while shielding himself with the Purple Wood Sword and managed to block the opponent’s next move.
When it came to the Frostcloud Sect’s basic swordplay, no one in the world would be more familiar with it than Jing Yue. As soon as Long Ritian twisted his wrist, Jing Yue already knew what move he would make. When Long Ritian wiggled his butt, Jing Yue already knew…
Cough, cough. In short, he knew it too well.
As a result, a weird scene happened on the court.
Everyone witnessed Long Ritian, who had a higher cultivation level, being firmly suppressed by Jing Shan. Not only did he fail to break his opponent’s defense, but his clothes were also slashed to pieces by his opponent, leaving it tattered like a beggar’s.
If not for Jing Shan’s mercy, he could not have held on for such a long time.
The murmurs from the crowd grew louder. Long Ritian became more anxious. He felt completely trapped in Jing Shan’s rhythm, and no matter how he attacked, he could not break free from his opponent’s control.
He refused to believe it, but the facts were in front of him. In desperation, Long Ritian retracted his sword and retreated, taking advantage of the time gap to activate his spiritual energy, the sword left his hold and flew directly towards Jing Shan!
Yu Xiaobao exclaimed nervously. He saw Long Ritian’s sword dancing around Jing Shan, the afterimages of the sword nearly blurring his figure.
“Long Ritian is extremely talented in sword Dao and was once praised by Yan Qi-zhenren. Once his spiritual energy is activated, his sword vitality can even suppress a cultivator at a higher level than himself. It’s not something that can be stopped by Jing Shan who’s merely a level-1 Qi Refining.” Off the court, Liang Yuan commented.
Yu Xiaobao, “But Jing Shan is also very strong. I really didn’t expect him to display such perfect swordplay without activating his spiritual energy. It’s almost flawless!”
As usual, Liang Yuan responded with a ‘Hmph’ but did not refute.
Shi Nian, “But I think A-jing is in danger now…”
To everyone’s surprise, Jing Shan moved as quickly as lightning and his defense were impenetrable. The faster the sword moved, the faster Jing Shan reacted, and the entire court was filled with the clanking sounds of crossing swords, the beats so rapid that people’s hearts constricted tightly.
Long Ritian felt as if he was facing a towering cliff, and he had only experienced this sort of pressure when facing Jing Shan. His spiritual energy was quickly depleted and his body was getting overwhelmed. If this continued, he would lose the battle due to fatigue!
No! He must not lose to this kid!
If he could not complete this mission, he would be punished! It could even affect his cultivation resources!
A menacing glint flashed through Long Ritian’s eyes. He made a signal with two fingers and retracted his sword again.
Halfway through his sword’s retraction, a short dagger suddenly detached from the blade of the sword and attacked Jing Shan in a lightning-quick move!
Yu Xiaobao and Shi Nian exclaimed in fright while Liang Yuan froze on the spot.
Many people stood up in shock and even the lecturer looked solemn. If this move landed on Jing Shan, he would most definitely be gravely injured! When Wu Chen-zhenren questioned it, Long Ritian might not get into trouble as the opponent, but as the supervisor of the fight, he could not shirk from his responsibilities!
In the first place, they only wanted Jing Shan to make a fool out of himself!
At this time, however, Long Ritian was already consumed by malice, so how could he stop himself? He was caught in the pleasure of defeating his opponent and activated his sword once again.
Two swords, one long and one short, one after the other, unstoppable and unavoidable!
The lecturer was so anxious that he nearly rushed up to the stage, but suddenly, Jing Shan leaned backward, his body fluid as a puddle of water, almost parallel to the ground, and narrowly evaded the short dagger that was aimed directly at his stomach.
Immediately after, he took advantage of the momentum and turned a somersault, his toes landed on the long sword that arrived next and he sprang into the air with one kick. He floated to the top of Long Ritian’s head, held the hilt of his sword with both hands and made a stabbing motion.
At that very moment, the tip of Jing Yue’s sword was less than one inch away from Long Ritian’s scalp. The latter could almost feel the chill from the sword down to his very bones, and his back was drenched with cold sweat.
In the next moment, however, he felt that the weight had lifted off his head, and the killing intent disappeared in an instant.
He heard Jing Shan’s voice in his ears, “Shixiong, thank you for relenting.”
After a long while, Yu Xiaobao finally came back to his senses and heaved a sigh of relief together with Shi Nian.
Liang Yuan recalled the words he had spoken and felt his face hurt.
Someone next to him sucked in a deep breath and exclaimed, “That Jing Shan… he’s so strong! I heard he’s only eleven! When I was eleven, I’d not even achieved the absolute level of Body Forging yet!”
“I’ve heard of him before, but since there are many disciples brought back by the Zhenren this year, I didn’t pay much attention. Now, it seems like there’s another tough opponent in the next Inner Gates Competition!”
“He’s so talented. Why is the Primary faction making things difficult for him?”
“Don’t you know? He declined the invitation from the Primary faction, saying it’s got nothing to do with him.”
The lecturer heard the discussion among the disciples and could not help glaring at Long Ritian.
That idiot! He could not even do such a simple thing properly!
He walked up to Jing Shan and announced reluctantly, “Jing-shidi has won this round. It can be seen that the outcome of the spar is not solely limited to a person’s cultivation level. If the difference is not too big, as long as the moves are used appropriately, there’s a chance of defeating a stronger opponent.”
He paused and glanced at Jing Shan from the corner of his eye, before saying abruptly, “Mu Feng, you’re very accomplished in your swordsmanship. Would you like to practice with Jing-shidi and give him some pointers?”
A youth in white robes stood up and replied, “Yes.”
An odd silence fell over the crowd once again.
Apart from the members of the Primary faction, one word appeared in the minds of all other disciples—despicable!
It seemed that the Primary faction would not give up today.
Yu Xiaobao trembled and whispered, “Isn’t that the legendary Mu-shixiong, undefeated among disciples of level-3 Qi Refining and below?”
Who else could it be? Apparently, this person had been at level-3 Qi Refining for many years, but based on his capability, he could attain level-4 much earlier. Despite that, Mu Feng deliberately remained at level 3 so that he could solidify his spiritual energy, so his accumulated energy was inconceivable!
Such a person was used to deal with Jing Shan?
The Primary faction was shameless!
Everyone expected Jing Shan to refuse. After all, even the lecturer could not force people to compete with each other.
But Jing Shan merely asked, “After Mu-shixiong, will there be anyone else?”
Mu Feng could be regarded as a composed person, but even he could not help his embarrassment, and said awkwardly, “No more.”
Jing Yue inclined his body slightly, his gaze swept from the lecturer to Mu Feng, before smiling thoughtfully, “Let’s begin.”
The lecturer sighed in relief, thankful that the brat was too full of himself and fell headlong into the trap.
The other disciples shook their heads in disappointment. Even though they were astounded by the strength displayed by Jing Shan just now, his current opponent was Mu Feng. The latter was two levels higher than him, maybe even three.
No matter how perfectly Jing Shan wielded his basic swordplay, under the suppression of the difference in cultivation, everything would be in vain.
Before the swords were unleashed, the outcome was already determined.
Unbeknownst to anyone, however, the moment Jing Yue turned around, his eyes were already covered under a layer of frost.
Author’s Note: Mini-theater
Blue phoenix: Why aren’t you called Long Aotian?
Long Ritian: My mother said that Ritian is more awesome than Aotian!
(TN: Aotian 傲天 = referring to conquer the heaven. Ao is usually associated with pride and arrogance.)
Jing-jing: It's enough to play with you once, but you insist on doing it again and again, so shameless to the extreme. How did you cultivate such virtues? All the good disciples have been led astray! So angry!