ACO 9

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Chapter 9: The Three Trials

Qiu Shengjun pushes Lu Xiankai into a hall of surprise men and women as he shouts, “You will join them as initiates from now on.”

Lu Xiankai smiles weakly as he mutters under his breath, “As soon as we are here, he has become another person…”

He quickly looks around and saw that there are fifty men and women in the hall who seem to be terrified when they saw Qiu Shengjun.

Qiu Shengjun turns to ask the two Master Practitioners that are near him, “How good is this batch?”

Zhong Jinmen says, “Enlighten Celestial Shengjun, real celestial practitioners are few.  The majority are trying their luck to be a protégé so that they can earn a living.”

Qiu Shengjun nods quietly. In the distant past, the celestial clans’ protégés were all celestials. However as the feuds between the celestial clans began to escalate, many of the celestial clans began to recruit the mortals as protégés. The mortal protégés are not true celestial practitioners, did not possess any celestial auras and unlike the celestials who can live for centuries, they are mainly cannon folders for the more powerful celestials.

However, even cannon folders have their good uses. It is because even well-trained cannon folders can also bring down a celestial with their swords. The lives of the celestials are precious for they are few in numbers and it takes a hundred year for a celestial to be born.

Qiu Shengjun says aloud, “Did you see the green stone that is in the middle of the hall? Line up and focus on it one by one.”

Zhong Jinmen immediately rounds the protégés and says to the initiates, “We shall see who among you are able to become protégés of the Honor Ode Clan today.”

Lu Xiankai moves unhurriedly to join the already formed queue as he yawns softly.

The atmosphere is tense as the initiates excitedly place their hands on the green testing stone. However there are only a couple of initiates who are able to change the green stone to yellow at their touch. For those that succeeds in turning the green stone to yellow, they will be initiated today as protégés of the Honor Ode Clan and will be imparted the superior celestial arts of the Honor Ode Clan.

As for those that fails today, they will be the second rate protégés and will only be imparted external arts like swordplay and herbalism.

Lu Xiankai smiles to himself, “Those who are celestials among the group are those that are able to overcome this trial. The results have already been decided even before the trials have begun. Or maybe there will be some mortals who are gifted with the celestial aura?”

When it is time for Lu Xiankai’s turn to take the test, failing is to be expected for he has completely sealed his celestial force into his blue scabbard.

Qiu Shengjun did not look surprise at all as he steals a glance at Lu Xiankai who smiles in return.

Lu Xiankai sighs while thinking, “Is he laughing at me or is he mocking me? Failing this test is to be expected and within my own expectations.”

Zhong Jinmen turns to the other Master Practitioner, “Protégé brother Wuxi, there are five initiates that are able to pass this round of testing. I’m going to take them to the next hall for their briefing. The rest is up to you now.”

Wuxi bows respectfully before he looks at the remaining group to say, “The next trial will begin very soon now at this same hall. I hope that there will be more of you that can pass. It is because the third trial will be your last chance. Those who fail will have to enroll again.”

With that, he claps thunderously with his celestial force and almost immediately six protégés begin to walk into the hall, each carrying an urn and placing it on the table in front of the remaining protégés.

Lu Xiankai is able to sense the nervous air among the initiates as he ponders, “It seems that they have taken this trial before? From the look of it, this trial won’t be easy.”

And now, including himself, there are only 46 initiates that are remaining.

Wuxi says aloud, “There are six urns in front of you. The urn contains divine pills. However, only a fifth of the divine pills are real.”

He pauses to let this knowledge sink in before smiling broadly, “You will need to find the real divine pills from each of the urn in order to pass the second trial. After all, being able to differentiate a divine pill and its potency is crucial to your future survival and attainment.”

The initiates begin to murmur nervously among themselves, “Only 1 in 5 of the pills is the real. We have to do it six times? That means that luck cannot play a part. It is a different test from the last trial?”

Master Practitioner Wuxi roars into laughter and he is followed by the laughter of several protégés, including Qiu Shengjun. He calm himself down before saying, “Previously, many of the initiates are able to discern the composite of the divine pills. It is only because only the lower grades of the divine pills are tested and these divine pills are readily available. This has only causes the quality of our physician practitioners to drop. Therefore if you are able to pass this trial, you will be initiated into the ranks of the Honor Ode as physician practitioners. If not the trial of the swords will await you for the third trial.”

Lu Xiankai nods silently. It seems that the Honor Ode values celestial practitioners above all else. This is followed by the physician practitioners and lastly the ones that can use a sword well.

Wuxi continues as he smiles broadly, “Who wants to be the first?”

Lu Xiankai is in no hurry to take the second trial and wait for his turn. He is at least confident in his ability to sniff the divine pills out. After all, he is very familiar with herbalism and has even concocted several rare divine pills in the past.

So he waits for the initiates to sniff the pills one by one as they gather six pills nervously to show it to Wuxi. Out of the forty initiates in front of him, so far, only seven initiates are able to pick the divine pills correctly.

When it is his turn to pick the divine pills, he is confident in his strides as he examines the pills inside the first urn. After sniffing a few pills, he is able to discern the divine pills and just pick one.

He did it for the second to the fifth urn as he muses. It is too easy, isn’t it?

When it is time for him to pick the divine pill from the sixth urn, he is now ballooning with conceit as he examines the pills in the urn. From the composite of these yellow pills, he knows that the composites are mostly Lofty Dews and Giga Roots. However these pills either lack the Justice Stems or the Silver Metallic Leaf. These four ingredients will create the Nine-nine Rejuvenation Pill.

After sniffing all the pills and much to the annoyances of the initiates that are still waiting for their turn for taking a much longer time than necessary, Lu Xiankai is smiling weakly to himself, “All the real divine pills have been taken by the ones before me. Is the Nine-nine Rejuvenation Pill so easy to identify or they are all so plain lucky?”

Finally, Lu Xiankai heaves a soft sign as he takes a random pill and gathers all the pills that he has collected to Master Practitioner Wuxi.

Master Practitioner Wuxi looks at him before he says coolly, “Good try but you’ve got the last pill wrong.”

Lu Xiankai turns to look at the other waiting initiates as he comments, “Do you think that you can pass just by rushing me?”

Immediately several of the initiates shouts angrily, “You! You are the failure! Not us!”

Wuxi silences them with a stern look, “Do you still have any respects for us?”

Immediately everyone keeps quiet.

It did not take long for the remaining initiates to take the testing and all of them have failed; it is exactly just as Lu Xiankai has commented.

Lu Xiankai smiles silently, “How could they have passed when there aren’t any divine pills in the sixth urn in the first place? Now there are only thirty-nine of us in this hall.”

Wuxi calls aloud, “Those of you over there, who has passed the second trial. What are you waiting for? Don’t tell me you want to forfeit your place as physician practitioner? Hurry and follow me to the Hall of Great Longevity where you will meet your new fellow protégés and masters.”

With that, he has left the hall.

Qiu Shengjun gives a jovial laughter as he looks sternly at the remaining thirty-nine initiates, “Good, good. It seems that the majority of the initiates are taking the third trial with me. The rules are simple. If you can take one sword blow from me without falling to the ground, then you will be accepted as a protégé of the Honor Ode Clan. So, who is on first?”

A fine looking man calmly walks to the center of the hall. He then displays his sword and says, “May Enlighten Celestial please give me your instructions.”

Qiu Shengjun smiles, “You have courage. Then you be on your guard and don’t die.” A beaming celestial aura then wraps around his sword and everyone is beginning to feel frightful for the first challenger.

Even Lu Xiankai is beginning to worry for the fine young man as he looks intently.

Without any further warning, there is a whoosh sound as a sword energy bursts out of Qiu Shengjun’s sword to strike with a thunderous impact upon sword of the fine looking man!

The fine looking man is forced to move back several steps back as he coughs out blood. His body is bent backward but he did not fall.

Needless to say, he has succeeded in passing the sword trial.

Qiu Shengjun nods and says approvingly, “You have passed. Step aside.”

Immediately the onlookers burst into thunderous claps and cheers.

Qiu Shengjun hums, “Who is the next challenger?”

Lu Xiankai knows that everyone is waiting for the others to take the challenge first. It is because even though Qiu Shengjun is an Enlighten Celestial, his celestial aura is bounded to be weakened at the constant sword energies display. And these initiates are not foolish for they are waiting for the best opportunity to succeed. For that fine looking man to offer to take the first challenge, he must have a lot of guts and determination.

Lu Xiankai stepped forward as he raises his blue scabbard, “I will be next.”

One maiden whispers to the other maiden, “He has such a charismatic aura…”

Another maiden comments, “Indeed…”

Qiu Shengjun says, “Draw your sword then.”

Lu Xiankai secretly curses in his heart, “Obviously you know that it is a wooden sword in my scabbard. If I were to draw my wooden sword then your sword energy would have killed me.” But he composes himself to smile before saying, “Since it is just a trial, it is unnecessary for me to take my sword out.”

Qiu Shengjun seems to be smiling wickedly as he says, “Very well then.” All of a sudden, the celestial aura on his sword seems to be doubled and it is obvious to everyone that Lu Xiankai is going to get a ‘special treatment’.

Many of the initiates begin to have jelly legs and are afraid.

Suddenly Qiu Shengjun has released his sword energy and it is much more powerful than the first sword energy!

There is a thunderous impact as the sword energy speed and explodes as Lu Xiankai raises his blue scabbard just in time to parry the speeding sword energy!

When the bursts of smoke have settled, everyone can see that Lu Xiankai was standing on the exact same spot and there is no injury on him.

Immediately, there are several murmurings and plenty of disbelief.

Lu Xiankai asks, “So I have passed?”

Qiu Shengjun looks a little disappointed but he says, “You have passed.”

Lu Xiankai breaks into a smile. That means that he is allowed to stay in the Honor Ode Clan now as a protégé.

Qiu Shengjun asks coldly, “So who is next? Don’t blame me if anyone of you is killed. I have already stayed my hand.”

One of the initiates, who has become pale mutters. “I…give up…”

Suddenly more than ten of the initiates are muttering out the same as well for none of them have any death wishes for the time being!

Nevertheless, more than twenty initiates have taken the sword trial. Among them, four are killed, ten are seriously injured. In the end there are only fifteen that have passed the sword trial.

Qiu Shengjun has not displayed the powerful sword energy that he has displayed upon Lu Xiankai. Therefore, many of the initiates wonder if Lu Xiankai has somehow got into a personal grudge with the Enlighten Celestial Qiu Shengjun.

Qiu Shengjun says nonchalantly, “Carry the dead out and tend to the injuries of the wounded. For those that have passed, I will see you in the Ode Sword Hall at the first break of dawn. Recuperate your internal injuries first. For those that have passed but should you succumb to your injuries then you don’t have to come tomorrow. I’ll consider that as a fail.”

He turns to glance at Lu Xiankai with a broad wicked smile before he walks off.

What else can Lu Xiankai do but to smile bitterly? It seems that Qiu Shengjun is all out to get back at him.

But there is only one thing in Lu Xiankai’s mind and that is Xue Yu…

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