Bao bi and the rest of the group headed out from his mansion toward the main square of the city. They didn’t have to move far before the crowds grew to the point that moving forward became difficult. During this period, the entire city nearly reached a state of celebration. Vendors came from neighboring cities and even foreign countries to sell their goods. Food stalls formed in the streets. From the point people signed up for the actual competition, the square would be extremely noisy.
In previous years, Bao bi had always ignored the celebration. He wasn’t a particular fan of large crowds, and the only people he’d ever consider taking, Liao An and his mother, either wouldn’t or couldn’t. That was different this day, as his mother was wearing her best and had her arm on Bao bi. This drew a lot of attention to their group, to the point that it even made the prince and princess feel a bit anxious.
“We should have come in a palanquin.” Xiong Mengyao sniffed dismissively while looking at the crowds with dismay.
“Young lord, you shouldn’t be so impulsive.” Jiang Wenyan spoke up. “All who wish to join the sect must walk to the steps of the Xiao sect humbly with their feet. It is custom. You must also be wary. You may be a top genius of this year, but only this year. Every year carries their own geniuses, and right now there might be those that are your equal to you in this very crowd. This doesn’t even stand to mention your seniors in the sect, who have already spent time mastering techniques you couldn’t even imagine.”
“Yes, Senior Wenyan. Disciple understands.” Although there was an adequate level of respect in his voice, his eyes showed a bit of impatience as if he was dismissing his elder’s words.
Jiang Wenyan didn’t notice this, because his eyes weren’t focused on Xiong Mengyao as much as they should have been. He had said the words earnestly. Restraining arrogance was a major task seniors must do for all incoming juniors. The fact that Xiong Mengyao would one day be his superior made it all the more important that he at least comes to a level of tolerance for those beneath him. However, Jiang Wenyan couldn’t focus on such a thing, as his eyes kept wandering over to the beautiful Xaoi Lan. She hadn’t glanced his way and had kept her arms tightly wrapped around her son’s arm, and her impressive chest pressed against his shoulder.
Her eyes had focused on her son, smiling to herself and occasionally reaching out to fix his hair. The level she was doting on him publicly gave her away as a loving mother infinitely proud of her son. To those who didn’t know the pair, and that was mostly everyone, it looked like a lucky kid who had caught the heart of an older beauty.
He wasn’t the only one looking either. Jiang Ying Yue was watching them from behind while biting her purse, clearly distraught. Jiang Bo could only smile helplessly. It seems like all of the women’s eyes in this group were on Bao bi, who was by far the smallest and least impressive of the group. It was bewildering.
While the girls fretted over him, and everyone else stared at him with looks of jealousy, Bao bi’s own appearance was the most maddening. He took it all in stride as if none of this was unexpected. In truth, Bao bi had walked into innumerable sex conferences with a beautiful pornstar in his hand. There were plenty of porn fans who could be called maladjusted, so being the center of attention, receiving looks of envy, and the feel of a beautiful woman aggressively close was completely natural to Bao bi.
The one nice thing about having such a retinue is people started to step aside and allow them to pass through the crowds. Part of this was because Jiang Wenyan had a Xaoi sect badge. There were also whispers of people who recognized the prince and princess or Xiong Mengyao. Although, while any three of these should have generated a lot of talk, it was not necessarily any less than the strange boy being held closely by the beautiful woman.
Thanks to all of these factors combined, it did not take particularly long at all before the group to reach the set of tents with tables where a group of outer disciples was signing up people for the competition in ten days. People came from all walks of life. They came from countries far away, and various foreign-looking people were mixed into the crowds with everyone else. Even a prince from a foreign nation would have to walk up and humble themselves before the Xaoi sect on this day. One could say it was the first test.
“Hello, Jiang Wenyan here. I present Xiong Mengyao, as well as the honorable prince and princess, Jiang Bo and Jiang Ying, for your examination.” Jiang Wenyan spoke extremely politely.
As far as inner disciples went, he was fairly low on the list, and some of those in front of him were even his seniors. They might not be much stronger than him, but he was already pushing middle-age, while many of these were youths only a year or less in. Despite both being disciples in the second realms, the difference between him and these promising youths in status was night and day. He probably would have been one of the ones writing down names under the direction of such youths if he hadn’t requested special permission so that he could serve his family.
“Ah!, Jiang Wenyan.” A bright-eyed youth behind the counter raised an eyebrow. “So, you’re bringing family from the royal palace.”
Any mortal who said these words would have a sense of awe, but to an outer disciple like him, the palace was a place of mortals. He said it without any excitement of fanfare.
“Yes, as well as…”
“Xaoi Bao bi!” A voice cried out from behind the table.
Bao bi blinked, looking up as a large and muscular brute of a man came walking up to the table. The youth who was writing down the names grew flustered under the sudden appearance of this man. Even Jiang Wenyan sweated over seeing him.
“X-Xaoi Wang! Can I help you?” The disciple in the chair shook as the imposing man stood behind him.
“I’d recognize this kid from anywhere!” Xaoi Wang snorted.
He was in the third realm, the Mortal Maturation Realm, and by far the strongest man Bao bi had ever encountered. He had begun to think he knew what was normal, but in a single day, he had met two people that were already stronger than anyone else he had previously encountered. Bao bi also had a vague feeling like he knew this guy, but he couldn’t figure out from where.
“Ah… who are you?” Bao bi asked.
“You!” Xaoi Wang’s eyes flashed angrily. “I knew you were a few years younger than me, but I waited for you to join the sect, and you waited until now?”
“Bao bi,” Jiang Bo elbowed Bao bi and whispered. “This is Xaoi Wang. He’s a direct disciple of the Xaoi sect. Accepted at birth. He reached the third realm by the age of sixteen! He’s the top outer disciple in the Xaoi sect. Some think he’ll become an inner disciple any moment now.”
“S-senior Xaoi Wang… do you know this boy?” Jiang Wenyan asked, his voice filled with respect and caution.
Internally though, he was cursing his luck. He didn’t have the right to even clean Xaoi Wang’s shoes. It was clear that Xaoi Wang had some unresolved hostility with Bao bi. Why did his idiot relatives have to befriend this idiot who offended the wrong person? He ended up speaking hoping to mitigate the situation.
“If this man has offended you. Please allow me to take care of it.” Xiong Mengyao spoke up.
He had been hiding an irritated expression behind a fake smile. After everything, he had expected signing up to be an event filled with praise. Now, he was completely being overshadowed. Not only was Bao bi’s mother drawing attention, but now Bao bi was as well. If he could resolve this somehow, especially by throwing Bao bi under the bus, then it might even be possible that he formed a good relationship with Xaoi Wang. This would only have benefits for his future.
“Ah… it’s the boy who gave you the spirit stone.” Xaoi Lan suddenly spoke, lightly patting Bao bi’s shoulder.
Bao bi still took a second, but he finally remembered the boy. The last time they had met, this boy had been Jiang Ying Yue’s age, and Bao bi was a toddler. No sooner had his eyes flashed with recognition than they darkened. Li Jie had also tied into that event. He had fancied Bao bi’s mother and had even forced his entire family to flee their home. The reason his mother had to remain indoors and they had lived as refugees in the city had been because of that bastard.
Although Bao bi had killed several of those involved with the event accidentally, Li Jie had slipped away. It left a sour taste in his throat he didn’t even realize he still had until he saw this living reminder. He knew that this boy didn’t have any connection with the event. The bright-eyed arrogant youth had seemingly only been thinking about cultivation from the beginning. How old would he be now? He must have been around 18 now. He had seriously grown, and he was filled with powerful-looking muscles. He had a body-builder physique for sure. Bao bi had enough experience to know that strength didn’t necessarily translate to muscle though. The strongest men weren’t the buff, muscular men. The muscles that looked good didn’t necessarily translate to strength and vice versa.
“Oh…” Bao bi nodded as he recognized the man. “Sup?”
“I see what it is…” Xaoi Wang formed an ugly grin. “You waited until you’re fifteen! You’re one of those idiots who held off joining until their last year hoping to impress everyone. I expected better from you.”
His words put an ugly expression on Xiong Mengyao’s face, but he quickly hid it. He was someone who had done just that.
“This kind of tactic deprives you of the resources you desperately need as a Xaoi sect disciple. Those three years you could have been growing exponentially, not to mention training in better cultivation methods. In exchange for being the biggest fish in a small pond, but refusing the enter the big pond will restrict your growth overall. I’m afraid while you might have defeated me once, you won’t be my match now.”
Xiong Menyao’s expression continued to grow more and more fake as Xaoi Wang’s casual words delivered blow after blow. He truly had wanted to make a big splash and had thus held out until the age of fifteen. He had thought himself accomplished by being 15 and in the top of the low tiers of the 2nd great realm. However, when one thought about it, Xaoi Wang reached the third realm at the age of sixteen, only slightly older than Menyao was now, and was about ready to break through to the middle tiers. It would be years before Xiong Menyao broke into the third great realm. How far would his cultivation had been at this point had he joined at twelve and used the resources of the sect to help him grow?
Jiang Wenyan could only give him a sympathetic look. This kind of thing was exactly the risk someone took by trying to make that splash. The hope was that they’d get noticed and taken under the wing of someone like Xaoi Wang. That was why you would do such a thing, with hopes of becoming the subordinate to someone truly great. However, it was clear Xaoi Wang looked down on people who did such acts of bravado, and this had caused a good mental blow to Xiong Menyao.
Jiang Wenyan thought that this might be good for him. One could easily become too arrogant, so it was best he saw his limits early. Although he hadn’t even joined the Xaoi sect yet, if he could shake off this disappointment then he could truly rise to new heights. Unfortunately, this was all just an aside. Xaoi Wang didn’t even put the genius whose pride he wounded in his eyes. Those eyes were completely on the unspectacular and nondescript Bao bi.
His words caused everyone a great deal of confusion. Even Xiong Menyao put away his listlessness when he finally processed what Xaoi Wang had said. Bao bi had defeated him? How could that even be possible? When would they have even met? It was true that the pair shared the same surname, and might even be related distantly, but they were separated by gaps that even close family couldn’t overcome. An example of that is how Bao bi had never met his own grandparents since they were in the sect and he was not.
“Excuse me, senior Xaoi Wang, you seem to be confused.” Jiang Bo spoke in a tight voice. “Xaoi Bao bi here is only twelve. This is the first year he’s been able to apply.”
Although Xaoi Wang had given him an annoyed look when he spoke, his eyes quickly flashed with shock by the time Jiang Bo was done. Bao bi was only twelve? That… that wasn’t possible! When he was eleven, he had been overbearing and cocky and had challenged a kid who looked to be around 8. He had let the mortal kid punched him, and he had underestimated the strength of a human and overestimated his defense as a 1st realm disciple. Since then, seven years have passed. He was now eighteen.
Since he was fifteen, he had been volunteering to do these events exactly because he wanted to encounter Bao bi. He had already been born into the sect and didn’t need to qualify at all. He went out of his way to be here hoping to encounter that rival from his youth. When Bao bi didn’t appear that first year, he had been extremely disappointed. He had thought that perhaps maybe he was of a year, or that Bao bi might have been too scared to come that first year. Thus, he had kept volunteering. This was the last year they were going to allow him to waste his time getting involved with these selections.
At his level, they were considered beneath him. Currently, he was the highest-ranking official here, and in charge of the new disciple selection. Just as he had given up hope of ever seeing Bao bi, that guy had appeared before him. He naturally assumed he had held up until his final year. It never occurred to him that the child he had aged at around eight was only six! It had already taken him a lot to accept that a mortal eight-year-old was able to knock him to the ground at eleven. However, had he been only six, it’d be infinitely more embarrassing.
In reality, Bao bi had only been three, but no one present would ever be able to believe such a thing. That was what Bao bi thought. Then…
“Ridiculous! There is no way he is only twelve.” Xaoi Wang cried out angrily. “That’s impossible!”
“Is there a problem?”
The issues happening at that table had attracted a mysterious man who had seemingly appeared from nowhere. Everyone gawked at him, but they quickly saw his robes and realized he was an elder from the sect. Some of those who were not at the table instantly bowed. This was an individual who would never make an appearance in public to mortals. Bao bi quickly realized that he couldn’t even see through the man’s cultivation. That certainly meant it was higher than even Xaoi Wang!
Of course, this event had an elder overseeing it. While Xaoi Wang was tasked with taking care of everything regarding the selection, the Xaoi sect wouldn’t leave something as important as incoming disciples without someone at the top looking over his shoulder. That man was this elder. He was there to make sure nothing unexpected happened, as well as guarantee the safety of the participants. Other than their guard, the other reason the prince and princess could walk in public without fear of assassination was that their safety was guaranteed by the sect.
Any entry who was hurt before the results of the examination would meet a swift and brutal justice from the sect. No country would ever dare to try to pull something. This man had the power to easily wipe out the entire line of a royal family with the wave of his hand. To suddenly appear at this table filled with a bunch of nobodies only brought even more eyes on the strange group.
“Elder Chen!” Xaoi Wang who had been acting loud and rude suddenly grew extremely respectful and even lowered his head to the man.
Although he was older than all of the rest present except maybe Jiang Wenyan, it was difficult to tell how old he was. He had an ageless quality to him, that made it difficult to tell if he was in his twenties or his fifties. His eyes were filled with a wise light, and his temperament was as gentle as an ocean current.
“You seem to be causing quite a commotion, my young junior. I hope there is an adequate explanation.” The man said, his hands behind his back.
“S-sorry! It’s just, this boy is claiming to be younger than I believe him to be.”
“Hmm?” He raised an eyebrow and looked at Bao bi, who looked right back without any deference.
Even Jiang Bo and Jiang Ying Yue had their heads down now, but Bao bi looked him right in the eyes. The man frowned at this but didn’t say anything. Bao bi wasn’t even a disciple yet, so it was foolish to punish him for break rules he didn’t even know.
“Then… test him.” The elder rolled his eyes. “To register, you need to log their cultivation and skeletal age anyway.”
“Ah! Right!” Xaoi Wang blushed, slapping his forehead.
He had forgotten about that in his rush to call out Bao bi. In the end, Bao bi’s cultivation and age would be revealed by the stones. These were numbers that couldn’t be faked.
“Get the stones!” Xaoi Wang hit the poor outer disciple who was still sitting there while everything around him devolved to this point.
“Y-yes!” He immediately fetched the exam stones.
Had Xaoi Wang not interfered, he would have tested them all already anyway, so he had them at the ready.
As Xaoi Wang crossed his arms and grinned at Bao bi, Bao bi frowned slightly. Up until now, he had faked his cultivation and age. It looked like he wasn’t going to be able to hold it back any longer.