“Hall Master Wang!”
On the top floor stood a man clothed in all black. A suppressive pressure rained down as he assessed the scene before him.
“Greetings, Lord Hall Master!”
Every outer disciple in the hall dropped to their knees as they recognized who they now stood before them.
This old man was the Administration Hall’s Hall Master, and one of the few people who had reached the ninth stage of the Martial Path. In the ten stages of the martial path, every third stage represented a valley, requiring the body to reach new heights before making a breakthrough. In the entire Azure Sky Sect, only a handful of people, one of whom was the Sect Master, had reached the ninth stage of the Martial Path.
While the Hall Master spent most of his time in the Administration Hall, he was rarely involved in hall matters directly.
“Administrator Yang, I understand your displeasure. While your feelings are justified, he has passed your test, has he not? There is no need for you to continue making things difficult for this young man. As per his reward, please retrieve an outer sect uniform, cultivation technique, and weapon for him. Personally.”
“Y-yes, Lord Hall Master. It will be done immediately, Lord Hall Master.”
The old man nodded. Briefly, he paused to look at Lin Yun before turning to leave.
The administrator let out a tense sigh, knowing he was lucky the Lord Hall Master had not formally punished him. The humiliation that he, a Hall Administrator, had to fetch items for a sword slave was punishment enough.
“Follow me.” He grunted as he led Lin Yun to the second floor.
As they watched Lin Yun disappear up the stairs, all the disciples of the Azure Sky Sect praised Lin Yun for his luck. If it wasn’t for the Hall Master’s making his appearance, Lin Yun would not have walked out of there in one piece. Zhou Ping cursed silently as he waited for someone to help him. In all of the excitement, the outer disciples had completely forgotten he still lay crumpled in the corner.
The second floor of the Administration Hall was forbidden ground in the sect. Every technique in the Azure Sky Sect was stored here. New disciples were only allowed up here once and were only allowed one cultivation technique and one martial technique each. In the future, they would have to earn the right to come here again.
Administrator Yang pointed at the shelf before them, “Go on. Anyone in the third stage of the Martial Path can choose from the martial techniques here and over there is where all the cultivation techniques are stored.”
Lin Yun was unphased by Administrator Yang’s cold attitude. His eyes darted excitedly over the contents of the shelf before him, “Azure Sky Art, Thunder Gale Art, Aqua Jade Art…”
Once a sword slave, always a sword slave. He probably has no idea what he’s looking at.
After all, anyone with talent would have asked him for advice.
“Administrator Yang, I’ll take this one.”
“Pure Yang Art?” It took everything he had not to laugh as he read the cover. While it was true those who cultivate the Pure Yang Art would have robust internal energy, the cultivation technique progressed too slowly. Most of the people in the sect who picked it had ultimately dropped it.
“Are you certain?”
Administrator Yang smiled, “You have keen eyes. This cultivation technique is pretty good, and it suits you well.”
Lin Yun was not fooled by Administrator Yang’s disingenuous approval, but it did not matter. He had already memorized all the cultivation techniques on the shelf, a picture of it all burned into his mind. After a brief analysis, he was confident in his choice. The Ten Stages of the Martial Path were meant to lay the foundation for the body, and the dense internal energy provided by the Pure Yang Art was undoubtedly the most suitable for long term progression.
The martial techniques were displayed similarly to the cultivation techniques, but were separated into three ranks: Foundation, Intermediate, and Advanced. After some thought, Lin Yun picked an intermediate sword technique, the Flowing Wind Sword. This technique was widely known for its lethality and agility.
“This Flowing Wind Sword requires a high level of comprehension, and even many inner disciples have a hard time learning it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Administrator Yang almost felt bad after seeing Lin Yun making another ‘wrong’ choice. The Hall Master had given him this job personally. The last thing he wanted was for Lin Yun’s poor choices to come back on him.
“I think I’ll be fine, but thanks.”
“Impudent!” Administrator Yang scowled as he turned away. If the sword slave wanted to make poor decisions, so be it.
Next was the Weapons Chamber. Lin Yun had barely begun looking before the administrator forced a weapon into his hands. Pulling the sword out of the sheath, Lin Yun began examining it. Surprisingly, it wasn’t bad! The sword was forged with Azure Steel, the standard for disciples of the Azure Sky Sect. He had seen his fair share of these during his time as a sword slave. Based on its markings, it was one of the highest quality Azure Steel swords one could find.
But as he was finishing up his inspection, the end of the blade shattered, its shards falling to the ground. The sword was only left with half of its body.
“What’s wrong?” Administrator Yang took the sword and looked it over carefully. In the end, he couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it and cursed, “Grab another one. It seems the person responsible for buying swords must have bought a shoddy one.”
Crack! Crack! Crack!
Three swords in a row broke as soon as Lin Yun unsheathed them. Administrator Yang glared at Lin Yun, “Sword slave, are you doing this on purpose?”
Lin Yun was known in the sect for his skills in sword maintenance. He couldn’t be this clumsy even if he wanted to play a joke on the administrator. Lin Yun was confused himself, “I wish I was strong enough to do that on purpose! I have no idea what’s happening. Mind if I pick one?”
“Dream on! Wait here.” Administrator Yang sifted through the swords in the chamber, periodically looking back to glare at Lin Yun. When he saw one in the corner, his eyes lit up. It was an old, rusted blade, perfect for an impudent sword slave!
Administrator Yang stopped him before he could unsheathe the sword, “Try it when you get home. That’s the last sword you’ll get. If it breaks you’re out of luck”
Lin Yun couldn’t blame him. He felt bad for breaking all those swords. He decided it was best to move on.
Before he left, Administrator Yang asked once more, “Are you sure you don’t want to swap the Flowing Wind Sword for another technique?”
“Heh, you’ve got guts, kid, I’ll give you that. But this technique relies on comprehension. It’s not something that a sword slave like you can handle. This is your last chance. Don’t come crying to me when it doesn’t work out.”
Administrator Yang smirked as he watched Lin Yun leave. He couldn’t wait for this stubborn, insolent sword slave to come grovelling back when he realized what a terrible choice he’d made.
Four hours later, Lin Yun had returned to his wooden shack and had changed into his new uniform. It was a stark white robe with an azure overshirt, quite the refreshing look compared to the rags he normally wore.
Standing in the clearing outside his wooden shack, Lin Yun unsheathed his sword and began to perform.
If only Administrator Yang could see him. An ordinary person could only dream of being proficient with the Flowing Wind Sword in half a month's time, but Lin Yun had done it almost immediately.
“This doesn’t seem that hard.” It took Lin Yun only four hours to achieve initial mastery, gaining full comprehension of this technique’s foundation.
Aside from the foundation techniques, the Flowing Wind Sword had three ultimate moves: Wind Assembling, Reflective Shadow, and Traceless Blow. Judging from his progress, it would not take long for him to achieve lesser mastery.
Lin Yun’s mind wandered as he looked over the rusted blade in his hands. The sword was two-fingers wide and 1.1 meters long. The body of the blade was teal in color, too corroded and chipped to reflect anything. When he rapped it with his knuckle, the sword replied with a dull thunk. Lin Yun was certain that this sword must be made of metallic wood.
Aside from metals, swords could also be forged with animal bones, stone, and even metallic wood. However, those cases were rare. Metallic wood wasn’t meant to be a literal description, but rather a category of flora that were comparable to metal in strength. There are many flora in the world that could be forged into swords, with Ancient Construct Wood being the most famous.
When Senior Hong imparted his sword maintenance skills to Lin Yun, Senior Hong gave him a Sword Compendium, with all the named swords recorded in it. Within the compendium, there were many, many treasured swords made from flora.
Despite knowing all this, Lin Yun couldn’t tell the origin of this sword. Judging from its dull luster and lack of aura, the sword was most likely useless even if it had been forged with precious metals. The value of metallic wood swords relied heavily on appearance and aura. Without any maintenance, the sword would eventually become worthless. However, Lin Yun was still happy. At the very least, the sword did not break when he held it. As long as he took good care of it, he would be able to get some use out of it.
Sheathing the sword, Lin Yun excitedly took out the Pure Yang Art, “It’s time to practice the cultivation technique.”
It was impossible for him to have a future without the cultivation of internal energy, and only someone in the third stage of the Martial Path could be considered a martial practitioner. Hence, Lin Yun folded his legs together and closed his eyes.
Focusing his attention inward, Lin Yun carefully tried to circulate the internal energy within his body in accordance with the Pure Yang Art. This was not an easy task. His early attempts caused the internal energy in his body to go into turmoil.
By the time he started to grasp at it, the sky had turned dark. As stars started flickering in the sky, Lin Yun could barely contain his joy. He finally managed to cultivate the Pure Yang Art. Calming himself, Lin Yun entered into a profound state.
Along with the internal energy circulating within his body, he managed to see his five viscera and six organs. The sensation was magical.
A martial practitioner was required to reach the third stage of the Martial Path and must have performed internal vision before they could officially start the martial way. Lin Yun was so focused on his cultivation he failed to notice an old, broken blade lying within his Dantian. On it were nine shackles that extended into the darkness.