Cloud Margin City, Wu Town, Martial Hall Palace.
Martial Hall Palace was the only place in Wu Town that recruited foreign martial cultivators as disciples. Every spring, their recruitment of new disciples would start. Because of that, the children and youths from the numerous nearby villages would rush over to participate in the entrance exam for Martial Hall Palace, seeking the path of the mighty.
This year, Martial Hall Palace’s disciple recruitment period was already over. Today, however, there was a youth dressed like a scholar standing in front of the main gate of Martial Hall Palace, pleading to be allowed in.
This youth seemed to be about fifteen to sixteen years old and had finely chiseled features, a handsome and brilliant kid; the only flaw was that his body was rather skinny and his clothes were rather tattered, as if he’d been through a lot, like a powerless scholar.
“Boy, I’ve been repeating myself over and over again, why are you so stubborn? Martial Hall Palace’s disciple recruitment period has already passed. If you really want to join our palace, wait for next spring and come again,” said a guard standing watch in front of Martial Hall Palace while impatiently staring at the youth.
Another fierce-looking guard at the scene stared daggers at the youth and snapped, “You’ve been coming here for three consecutive days. If you don’t get lost soon, don’t blame us for being impolite.”
The two guards were well versed in dealing with people who would do whatever it took to get in without knowing shame. The youth flashed a brilliant smile and laughingly said, “Brothers, please don’t do this. I, Xiang Shaoyun, am a genius only seen every hundred years in martial cultivation! So long as the two of you can compromise and allow me entry inside, I will most certainly become a disciple of Martial Hall Palace. Not only that, I will become the palace’s most outstanding disciple in history! When that happens, I will definitely not mistreat the both of you!”
“Bullshit! You call yourself a genius only seen every hundred years? Look at how skinny you are? I bet you can’t even take one of my fists!” the fierce-looking guard berated the youth, sending a fist his way.
Looking at the incoming fist, the youth called Xiang Shaoyun shouted, “Stop!”
Xiang Shaoyun’s shout seemed to have quite the effect. It carried a certain power with it, as if he was a person of authority with tens of thousands of people under his command. The fierce-looking guard stared blankly at him for awhile. The youth seemed to be exerting a strange, unexplainable pressure whenever the guard laid eyes on the youth. Despite that, the guard still coldly mocked, “Scared now ain’t ya? Quickly get lost. If not, I’ll be letting you see blood today.”
Pah, what a joke. This young master has seen all kinds of situations, why should I be scared of you? Xiang Shaoyun thought to himself. However, continuing his pitiful and weak act, he once again showed a brilliant smile and said, “Look at what this is!”
Within his hand appeared a shiny piece of stone. The stone looked pure and unblemished, greatly stirring those who looked at it. The guard suspiciously looked at the stone. Once he got a clear look, his expression shifted as if something had happened.
Xiang Shaoyun smugly laughed, “Hehe, you want this, right? As long as you give this young master a chance of entering the palace, this piece of stone—”
Before Xiang Shaoyun finished speaking, the guard’s palm swung at him, instantaneously slapping away the shiny stone in Xiang Shaoyun’s hand.
“You dare to use this piece of trash stone to bribe me! I think that if you don’t see your coffin, you won’t cry!” the furious guard shouted at Xiang Shaoyun. After he finished speaking, the guard raised his right fist at Xiang Shaoyun and sent a furious punch towards the youth’s face.
“Shit, I’ve come across someone who doesn’t know a good thing when he sees one,” Xiang Shaoyun cursed to himself. He closed his eyes without putting up a fight because he himself knew that he lacked the ability to resist.
Just as the fist was about to greet the youth’s face, a deep, sonorous voice sternly commanded, “Stop!”
The voice sounded as though there was a demon nearby, instantly freezing the guard’s fist in place. Xiang Shaoyun opened his eyes and hurriedly retreated backwards, clutching his chest while muttering to himself, “That scared me to death! Good thing I have good luck!”
As the two guards turned around, they noticed a well-built man about 30 years of age riding on a wolf and approaching them. Upon seeing this, the two guards trembled, fearfully kneeling on the floor, saying, “We offer our greetings to the nineteenth elder!”
This young man was actually an elder of Martial Hall Palace, Elder Zi Changhe.
Zi Changhe was an outstanding individual in the present generation of Martial Hall Palace. He came from an unknown family. After entering Martial Hall Palace, he began to display flashes of brilliance and steadily marched forward, eventually becoming the fastest outer disciple to reach the Astral Realm in that generation.
It did not take him long to be taken in by the then Vice Palace Master to be his personal disciple. Under the Vice Hall Master’s tutelage, he became the quickest to break into the Transformation Realm, subsequently becoming an overseer of Martial Hall Palace and now, the youngest ever elder in its history.
All martial cultivators started at the Basic Realm—the lowest level of cultivation. Cultivators in this realm focused on training and refining their physical bodies to be in top condition. After reaching the peak of the ninth stage of the Basic Realm, they then began to draw power from the stars in the heavens, forming their own stars within their personal natal charts. This stage was known as the Astral Realm. After reaching this realm, cultivators could draw from the might of the stars, allowing them to manipulate qi and to separate it from their bodies to attack externally. The strength of such attacks was not to be underestimated and was certainly not something someone in the Basic Realm could hope to match up to.
As for the Transformation Realm, this was when one’s astral energy was solidified, forming a protective barrier that would protect one’s physical body. Normal knives and spears would be unable to pierce through such barriers; hence, cultivators were only acknowledged as true experts in the world of martial cultivation upon reaching this realm.
For each individual realm, there existed nine stages—the higher the achieved stage, the higher one’s combat prowess. Being able to reach the Transformation Realm at such a young age, Zi Changhe was well-known throughout Martial Hall Palace, signaling that a bright future was ahead of him.
Ignoring the two guards, Zi Changhe picked up the piece of stone from the ground. After briefly examining it, his eyes flashed with astonishment, and he said, “This is indeed a high-grade spirit crystal!”
“Aha, finally, someone who knows good stuff when he sees it!” Xiang Shaoyun gleefully shouted.
“Th-that’s a high-grade spirit crystal?!” gasped the guard who had knocked the piece of crystal, his mouth wide agape.
Spirit crystals were formed by the natural energy of the world. These crystals were a huge help to any cultivator, and they contained pure energy, allowing cultivators to increase their strength with each one used.
Spirit crystals were separated into three different grades of quality—low, middle and high. High-grade crystals were of the highest grade and contained the highest amount of natural energy per crystal. The efficacy of one high-grade crystal was equal to that of ten middle-grade crystals, or one hundred low-grade crystals.
“Of course. The natural energy present within this stone is so pure and unblemished; what else could this be if not a high-grade spirit crystal?” Zi Changhe indifferently replied.
Hearing this, the guard who had knocked away the crystal felt deep regret. He was merely at the third stage of the Astral Realm. If he was able to obtain one high-grade spirit crystal, the energy within it would be enough to help him reach the sixth stage. One must know that spirit crystals were not easily obtained; even one low-grade spirit crystal would require quite a significant price to obtain it.
“Damn, why didn’t the brat say so earlier?” the guard silently cursed to himself.
“Is this spirit crystal yours?” Zi Changhe asked, turning to Xiang Shaoyun. He could see that Xiang Shaoyun was merely a third-stage Basic Realm cultivator; it was no wonder he found it strange that the boy had a piece of high-grade spirit crystal on him.
Cultivators at the Basic Realm were the most ordinary cultivators; furthermore, the third stage of the Basic Realm was at the bottom of the cultivation world, only being slightly stronger than a regular mortal. This piece of high-grade crystal would not only throw Astral Realm cultivators into a bloodbath, even late-stage Transformation Realm experts would have their eyes turn red.
Facing Zi Changhe, Xiang Shaoyun put on a fawning smile and said, “Greetings, elder. This piece of high-grade spirit crystal indeed belongs to this young one, but since it is now in your hands, this young one would like to offer it to you to pay my respects.”
“Paying your respects? Brat, you really are generous.” Zi Changhe dryly laughed then asked, “What are your motives?”
Rubbing his hands together, Xiang Shaoyun sheepishly grinned and said, “Elder, this young one has no motives. I just wish to take you as my master.”