There was a chill in that pair of eyes. The fuming Mo Yao disciple instantly flinched and subconsciously took two steps back.
The gentle disciple at the side put aside his brush, stood up, and said to him, “Shidi, you’re probably too tired. Take a rest. I’ll get someone else to replace you.”
The younger disciple was still staring at Rong Bai as if he could not look away. The more he looked, the more the coldness overwhelmed him. He only returned to his senses when his shixiong waved a hand in front of his eyes.
He fled past the pillar gate in a state of near panic.
The elder disciple called for another person, then turned to Song Ci and said with a smile, “My shidi is impatient. Please forgive him if he has offended you.”
It was then Song Ci noticed that this gentle disciple was actually one of the two Mo Yao disciples he had met the other day in the City of Le Yu.
He wondered to himself how unlucky this man had to be. That shixiong of his back then had a violent temper, and now this shidi was no different. Poor guy would have no peace in this sect.
Rong Bai unobtrusively withdrew his hand from the table. He smiled sweetly and said, “It’s all right.”
“Come over here. I’ll continue to do the registrations for you guys.” The genial disciple waved both of them over.
Wen Changchu had been watching the show as he registered himself earlier on. Having completed his registration, he was waiting for them at a side.
“Ping Luan, Ping Luan. Choose this.” Wen Changchu yelled from the side.
It was not clear if Rong Bai had already decided beforehand or if he was just complying with Wen Changchu’s wishes. He answered, “I choose Ping Luan.”
“What about you?” The disciple asked Song Ci.
Song Ci was naturally ready to follow Rong Bai and did not hesitate to choose Ping Luan too. After the disciple made a simple record, he put aside his brush and stood up. He called over another person and said, “Please take my place for the time being. I’ll bring these three in. I’ll be back in a moment.”
“Little Shishu, please watch your steps.” The man gave a respectful bow.
“Let’s go. Follow me.” The little shishu beckoned to Song Ci and buddies.
After stepping through the pillar gate, the scene before them widened. There was a vast expanse of wilderness in front of them. Grasses rose in shallow waves as the breeze swept past.
A massive palace was situated in the wilderness ahead. There were three layers of white stone steps in the center. On both sides of the stairs stood two massive pillars that were even sturdier than the ones at the pillar gate.
There was a wide white stone door above the stone steps, with both sides of the eaves textured and carved in blue. There were four magnificent words of inscription above the door: Mo Yao Immortal Sect.
Song Ci thought this magnificent palace could rival that of the Imperial Palace. What’s more, it even exuded a divine aura.
“My name is Zhu Yishu. You can call me Zhu Shizhang because in the upcoming month, I will teach you some simple spells to cope with the trial in the second month.” Zhu Yishu explained as he walked ahead of them.
“Zhu Shizhang.” Wen Changchu greeted him with familiarity. He walked up to Zhu Yishu in a couple of steps and smiled deferentially. “Do we have to wait until we pass the trial before we are split up among the various schools of study?”
“That’s right. You must pass the trial to become disciples of the Mo Yao Sect. When the time comes, you will be given a name and attire. If you have an outstanding aptitude, the venerable elders may even accept you as their disciple and personally impart their skills to you.” Zhu Yishu replied.
Rong Bai suddenly asked, “How many elders are there?”
Zhu Yishu did not expect him to ask this question and turned to look at him in surprise. Rong Bai’s eyes were arched in a smile, looking rather harmless and innocent.
Zhu Yishu did not think much of it and patiently answered, “There are two elders. Elder Qing Yi is the shixiong of the sect master. He rarely shows his face, and he should be cultivating in seclusion these days, so you probably won’t come across him. The other is Elder Qing Yuan, the sect master’s shimei. She is in charge of all big and small matters in the sect. You will see her if you pass the trial.”
“What about the sect master?” Wen Changchu asked.
“The sect master is out traveling. I doubt he will be back anytime soon.” He smiled and stroked Wen Changchu’s head. “If you want to see the sect master, do your best to pass the trial.”
“Uh…” By this time, Song Ci, who had been remaining silent, could not help speaking up.
After answering Wen Changchu’s and Rong Bai’s questions, Zhu Yishu looked at Song Ci and asked, “What would you like to ask?”
“Are food and lodging provided?” Song Ci asked.
As soon as he asked that, Wen Changchu looked at him like he was an idiot: What kind of retarded question is that?
Even Zhu Yishu was momentarily floored. He nodded. “Yes, you don’t have to worry about food and lodging.”
“Then, it’s all good.” Song Ci breathed a sigh of relief. He did not have any special requests as long as food and lodging were covered.
Rong Bai suddenly looked up at the sky. His gaze followed an unseen object across the sky until the most eastern part. Reflected in his eyes was the azure sky under the heavens.
Like a beautiful color blossoming in his eyes. Although his appearance was that of a youth, his beauty was still breathtaking.
That beauty took away Song Ci’s breath. He stared at Rong Bai and looked up along his line of sight. There were only the wide blue sky overhead and the morning sun where his eyes were fixed. It was not as beautiful as the scenery in Rong Bai’s eyes.
When he withdrew his gaze, he stole a surreptitious glance at Rong Bai’s face and wondered, this Rong Bai appears young, but why does he always look as if he has lived for a long time?
Wen Changchu was still pestering Zhu Yishu with questions, but Zhu Yishu patiently answered all of them. Among those questions, the one Song Ci remembered clearly was that there would be another test after passing through the gate.
The first screening at the pillar gate earlier was to filter out all those who were overage.
The second screening was beyond the gate. After passing through, the youths would have to proceed to a Spiritual Assessment Stone and touch it. If it lit up, it meant that they had spiritual intelligence and could continue on to study seals. If it did not light up, then they had no innate talents and could only leave the sect.
The brighter the spiritual stone shone, the better the person’s innate talent and aptitude would be.
Song Ci thought to himself, who cares about a Spiritual Assessment Stone, as long as it isn’t a Demon Exposing Mirror.4
The massive door in the center was usually closed, opening only if something crucial happened in the sect. It was said that the last time it opened was when a group of demons attacked it.
The four of them entered the widely acclaimed Mo Yao Immortal Sect through a normal-sized gate nearby.
After they went in, Zhu Yishu took them to a nameless hall. There were more than ten long queues inside the hall waiting to be tested with a Spiritual Assessment Stone. The boys and girls who came out all cried bitterly as they were sent away by the other Mo Yao disciples.
On seeing Zhu Yishu, the Mo Yao disciples guarding the entrance hurriedly bowed their heads in a greeting, “Little Shishu.”
“Zhu Shizhang, why do they all call you little shishu?” Wen Changchu asked, out of curiosity.
“The first two gates were guarded by Ping Luan disciples, so in terms of seniority, they have to address me as little Shishu.” Zhu Yishu answered the last question with a gentle smile and said to them, “Let’s go in.”
The hall was not as noisy as expected. There was no one leaping in joy cheering or wailing in anguish, just the constant reporting of names.
There was a man who looked to be about thirty years of age sitting in repose with his eyes closed at the front of the hall. Below, a Mo Yao disciple stood beside each Spiritual Assessment Stone with a brush and a book in their hands. If the spiritual stone lit up, the disciples would ask for the person’s name. Otherwise, they would make a “please leave” gesture to send the person out.
Zhu Yishu walked up to the man and bowed his head to pay obeisances. “This disciple greets Shizun.”
On hearing this, the man’s ears twitched, and he opened his eyes. What was surprising was that he had originally looked plain, yet that pair of eyes was extremely pretty with traces of smile flashing in them the moment they were opened. “Shoushu5, where have you been busy bustling about so early in the morning?”
“This disciple went to the pillar gate to help shidi with the registrations. I’ve only just got some free time.” Zhu Yishu replied.
Song Ci looked at Zhu Yishu. This person seemed to treat everyone warmly and cordially without the slightest humility no matter who they were. He could really put one at ease.
“You’ve come at the right time. Take my place for a while. My ass hurts after sitting for the whole morning.” The man beckoned to him, stood up and twisted his waist. “I’ll look around.”
Zhu Yishu responded in agreement and watched him go. Without sitting down, he stood by the seat wearing an amiable expression on his face, easing the nervousness of the people below.
Wen Changchu bumped into Song Ci’s arm and whispered, “Do you know who the man who had just left is?”
“How would I know?” Song Ci retorted.
“This man’s name is Dai Yanxing, also known as Li Yan Zhenren. He is the master of the School of Ping Luan. It was said that he once had a hand in the Massacre of Demons, and that he was just a step shy of ascending to become an immortal. But for some reason, he stayed on in Mo Yao Sect.”
“He’s that powerful?” Song Ci subconsciously glanced at Rong Bai as he began to compare them in secret.
Rong Bai was not paying attention to what was happening around him, not even to the furtive glances Song Ci was throwing him. He seemed to think about something as he slowly moved with the queue until he quietly arrived before the Spiritual Assessment Stone.
He casually put his hand on it, and the dusty gray stone gradually lit up with a white crescent light that was neither bright nor weak.
Zhu Yishu smiled warmly when he said it. “That’s some decent aptitude.”
Song Ci thought Rong Bai must have been intentionally suppressing his true power for the stone to shine to this extent.
Rong Bai stood aside after reporting his name. Song Ci stepped forward and took a deep breath. But before he could put his hand on the stone, a person walked in.
As soon as the person entered, he shouted, “Shixiong. There you are.”
The voice was not unfamiliar. It was the guy who had been making things difficult for Rong Bai at the pillar gate earlier—Zhu Yishu’s shidi.
On their way here, Wen Changchu had informed Song Ci that the man’s name was Chang Ziming, the nephew of the master of the School of Jing Si. He had always been this arrogant and domineering.
Chang Ziming saw Song Ci as soon as he walked in. He walked over to Zhu Yishu’s side with a menacing sneer on his face.
Zhu Yishu asked, “What can I do for Shouming6 shidi?”
“It’s nothing important. I’m just bored and wanted to see what my shixiong is doing.” He responded casually and deftly seated himself at the side. He pointed at Song Ci with one hand and said, “Go on.”
Song Ci thought, this guy is surely up to something.
He looked at Rong Bai, steeled himself, and put his hand on the stone.
The dusty gray stone lit up slowly with a hazy white glow. It was not long before the stone became as bright as a luminous pearl. Even so, it looked as if it would still continue to shine.
Song Ci hastily raised his hand and looked up. Chang Ziming was looking at him gloomily, pulling a long face as he wondered, “Is this lousy stone damaged?”
“Shidi, please don’t joke about it. How can the Spiritual Assessment Stone make a mistake?” Zhu Yishu said with a smile, “Song Ci, you have an excellent aptitude. Give it your best these two months.”
Song Ci nodded and obediently retreated to the side.
Wen Changchu whispered in his ear, “This Chang Ziming is up to no good. He must have tampered with it in secret.”
No one knew for sure if Chang Ziming had heard him, but he threw a hateful glare at Wen Changchu and left with a flick of his sleeves.
After Wen Changchu passed the assessment, Zhu Yishu pointed to another gate in the rear and said to them, “Leave from that gate. Someone will take you to your residence.”
“Zhu Shizhang, when will we see you again?” Wen Changchu asked Zhu Yishu with his head tilted and his eyes sparkling. He looked adorable.
Zhu Yishu could not help stroking his head. “Tomorrow morning.”
“Then, see you tomorrow, Zhu Shizhang.” He reached out and stroked Zhu Yishu’s hand, smiling sweetly.
A facade. This is all a facade. Song Ci inwardly groused to himself. This wolf pup Wen Changchu must be hiding something up his sleeve.
After the three of them left the main hall, they were taken to get a change of clothes. Along the way, the disciple leading them explained the basic rules of Mo Yao.
Song Ci was listening attentively, but then he suddenly glimpsed Rong Bai, who was beside him, turning to the side and quietly moving away from the team.
Song Ci immediately stopped in his tracks, wanting to follow Rong Bai, but Wen Changchu grabbed his wrist. He turned his head and saw Wen Changchu’s frivolous expression turned serious as the latter shook his head almost imperceptibly at him.
Dressed in a snow-white robe, Rong Bai walked under the golden rays of the sun, which swathed his exquisitely carved face under a golden veil. His ink-black eyes swept lightly over the vistas of trees and came to a stop at the back of a man dressed in blue.
“Found you.” His eyes curved into arches as he smiled.
Chang Ziming was in a bad mood when he suddenly heard someone speaking up behind him. It caught him by surprise. He had always been bad-tempered, and now he turned his head back, wanting to cuss the person, only to see a youth who looked as if he was made of white porcelain.
He zoned out for a moment before he recognized this youth as the one who had been rebuked by him earlier.
Looking around, Chang Ziming saw that he was alone, so he sneered and approached him. “What? You came here alone for a beating?”
Rong Bai smiled and replied, “I admire your courage.”
On hearing this, Chang Ziming exploded with fury, and blue light flashed from his palm as he howled. “I’ll teach you a lesson today!”
It wasn’t that he had never thrashed a fellow disciple. But with his relationship with the sect master providing him with a layer of protection, no one dared to do anything to him as long as he did not kill anyone. At most, he would just be put in detention.
So, why would it matter if he roughed up someone who had not even been formally accepted into the sect?
Chang Ziming had already considered it. There was no doubt he would maim the youth’s arm and leg and make him kneel and cry for mercy. Once crippled, the youth would never be able to join the sect.
Chang Ziming had made his calculations, but he had not even drawn his sword out of its sheath when a slight breeze rose. It was so bone-chillingly cold that he shuddered. He looked at the white porcelain youth opposite him. The frostiness in his eyes was even icier than this wind.
Yet, the youth was clearly smiling.
Rong Bai lifted his right hand slightly. A faint white light floated at the tip of his index finger. The wind around him swirled the ends of his hair into little curls. On the surface, he looked calm and gentle.
However, that powerful force was pressing up against the pit of Chang Ziming’s stomach to the point he was momentarily suffocated. He stared at Rong Bai, unable to breathe. The fear bursting from his heart instinctively made him want to retreat, but he could not even move.
It was only at this moment that Chang Ziming understood that this white porcelain youth in front of him was not a mere mortal who wanted to join Mo Yao Sect to cultivate.
Rong Bai raised his fingertip as the intent to kill flashed through his eyes. Just as he was about to make his move, someone grabbed his hand.
The hand clasped Rong Bai’s hand in the gaps between his fingers, bending over Rong Bai’s index finger in the process and abruptly snuffing out Rong Bai’s intent to kill.
- 平乱(门) (School of) Suppression, the subduing of evil and suppression of chaos and disorder. A school/branch of study in Mo Yao Sect.
- 守安(门) (School of) Peacekeeping, or the defense and maintenance of peace. A school/branch of study in Mo Yao Sect.
- 静思(门) (School of) Contemplation, or meditation. A school/branch of study in Mo Yao Sect.
- 照妖镜 Demon Exposing Mirror, a mirror that will reflect a demon’s true form in the mirror even if it looked into the mirror using a human form.
- 守舒 Shoushu; the name that the sect has bestowed on Zhu Yishu.
- 守明 Shouming; the name that the sect has bestowed on Chang Ziming.