As the elder was waiting for a replacement to arrive, there seemed to be an unrelated commotion in the crowd. People were breaking apart as a delegation was approaching the tables. A carriage came, reaching far closer to the registration tables than the crowds had allowed anyone else. Many glared at it disdainfully. It was expected that everyone walked to the registrations using their own feet. To go by carriage was the epitome of arrogance.
Technically, they were just outside of the field of registration. The people inside did have to walk up to the counters one hundred meters or so, so in the barest definition, they did follow the rules. That also was dependent on the crowds being willing and able to move out of their way so they could get that close. All of that seemed to have happened for this group, which brought them just as many angry looks as thoughtful ones. Several armed men immediately pushed through the crowds, and a tall man looked around, and when he noticed the table Bao bi was standing at, he pointed.
The soldiers immediately cleared the way, creating a procession that led directly to their table. They were cutting through the entire line, and being given complete VIP treatment. Even the prince and princess of the King of this city did not have the permission to make such a grand entrance, so just who was the person coming from that carriage? The elder frowned as he saw such a grandiose scene. It really did make a mockery of the entire event.
“She’s arrived!” Xaoi Wang excitedly spoke up as soon as the elder was about to open his mouth.
He instantly understood who this was. A young little girl stepped out from the carriage. She was very young, only ten years of age. She had a small frame and a doll-like face. She had an emotionless expression on her face, and her dazzling brown eyes caught everyone’s attention. She stood out from this crowd not just because she was beautiful, but also because she was extremely young.
“So, this is the girl.” The elder said.
The reason the age-limit of acceptance had been dropped two years was entirely because of this little girl. Her talent was unbelievable, and she had been like a wave since the moment the Xaoi sect had heard of her. A man got out behind her with dark hair and a dark expression. He displayed some similar features to her, suggesting that they were related. He immediately took her hand, and guided her down the pathway, heading directly toward their group. He wore a badge on his robes that indicated he was also part of the Xaoi sect.
The Jiang family and Xiong Menyao had the good sense to move to the sides, giving the young man and the little girl direct access to the table. Only Bao bi stood between them and the registration. It wasn’t that he wouldn’t have moved, it was just that he was already engaged with the elder. He didn’t recognize strength like everyone else. If he did, he would have noticed that the young man also had an unfathomable power. It was hard to tell if he was as strong as the elder, but that didn’t matter. Their age difference alone made his status superior. By the time he was the elder’s age, he’d be many times more powerful than the elder.
So, even if the elder was technically superior, he would defer to the young lad, who had much more potential in the sect, whereas the elder’s best days of cultivation had already passed him. Of course, there were no such complicated thoughts in Bao Bi’s mind. He simply felt that he should give respect toward the older man, and thus waiting for him. Unfortunately, the elder hadn’t dismissed him and had instead watched the newcomers hesitantly until they appeared in front of the table. The young man stared down at Bao bi with a frown, clearly displeased that someone was standing in his way.
“Get out of the way!” He barked down at Bao bi.
At first, Bao bi blinked in confusion. He didn’t know why the man had acted in such a way. He was first in line, and even if he wasn’t, it was polite to let the elder finish what he was doing.
“I’m sorry, Dian Wen.” Xaoi Wang stepped forward and shot Bao bi a glare. “Mortals just don’t know their place. Now move!”
Bao bi raised an eyebrow, looking at the elder. The elder jerked realizing he had been waiting for a response from him. He covered a smile, suddenly feeling a bit fonder of this respectful junior for deferring to him. He stepped forward before the man named Dian Wen’s rage increased.
“I’m sorry, Dian Wen. We had a faulty skeletal age stone. They’re fetching a new one. Ah… here it is. I will happily do the young miss’ measurement personally.”
Those nearby that heard the conversation mumbled even more. It was already strange for an elder to appear and do measurements on the first group. Now, another group comes in an extremely flashy manner, and the elder also gives them a lot of face? Just who were all of these people? Many powers in the city were already tearing up communication talismans to send this information back to their houses and powers. Any information on the power dynamics within the Xaoi sect was extremely useful. The bigger houses even managed to get responses. When they found out the identity of the young man and the little girl, they quickly quieted up or even took some distance.
“Very well.” Dian Wen threw out his arms and put his hands together. “Then, I, Dian Wen, submit my sister for selection.”
He didn’t offer the elder much more respect than a single nod, which quickly put their relative position as equals. No, more than equals, as Dian Wen’s arrogance bled through in his actions quite a bit and left him a bit on top.
While Bao bi hadn’t moved, the elder had. There was actually plenty of room at the table, and so Bao bi was sidestepped and the little girl approached the elder right next to him. He didn’t really mind that much. He felt it was a bit much, but some children were coddled that way. He saw the older man as an entitled big brother indulging her little sister. If he indulged her too often though, she might grow up with a bad personality. As always, if anyone realized what Bao bi was thinking, they’d want to slap him.
“Very well.” The elder asked as the little girl walked up to him. “Your name?”
“Dian Ai.” The little girl said in a clear voice.
“Then, Dian Ai, your cultivation and skeletal age will be measured.” The elder was taking this measurement seriously, possibly to show face to Dian Wen.
Xaoi Wang looked on excitedly, glad that it was the elder doing it and not him. He had been warned that Dian Ai would be arriving with her big brother Dian Wen and had been waiting and dreading this moment all day. Dian Wen was someone firmly above him. While he might be the top of the outer disciples, he wasn’t an inner disciple. He had some hopes of reaching the position of an inner disciple, but until that day the distance between him and Xaoi Wang was great. This didn’t even mention that Dian Wen wasn’t a lower-tier inner disciple. His strength even reached that of the elder. It was a level that Xaoi Wang could only look up to and hope to reach one day, never surpass.
As for Xiong Menyao, he could only sweat. He had planned to show off this day, but one figure after another had seemingly overshadowed his glory. He wanted to ingratiate himself to the inner disciple, but Dian Wen’s personality was simply too overbearing. Bao bi’s previous display was mortifying. He didn’t have the right for Dian Wen to address him. Even then, Bao bi didn’t move or apologize!
In reality, Dian Wen didn’t care about Bao bi. In fact, in his eyes, Bao bi was nothing but an insect. Any irritation an insect gave you was fleeting. Ironically, it could be said the same for Bao bi. To him, Dian Wen was just some guy with a brother complex indulging a little girl. Neither cared about the presence of the other at all. That didn’t stop Xiong Menyao from considering ways to punish Bao bi to try to curry Dian Wen’s favor. He secretly decided that he was going to return to Bao bi’s home after he left the Jiang family and break all of Bao bi’s bones so that he couldn’t be there on the day of the Xaoi Sect Disciple Selection.
While he was making such a brutal decision, the elder handed the stone that measured profound energy over to Dian Ai. The item glowed immediately like when Bao bi touched it.
“2-2nd realm…” The elder’s voice caught in surprise. “1st tier.”
Even the elder had heard about this young girl and her talent. He had heard that she was unusually strong for her age, but she was already in the second realm! Had a ten-year-old been in the top tiers of the 1st realm like Bao bi’s errored exam, then it would have been believable, but she was only ten and already in the 2nd realm! This speed of cultivation was far too impressive. It was no wonder that the Xaoi sect was willing to lower the age limit to bring her in.
Licking his lips, he took the new skeletal age measurement device and handed it to her. He already knew her age was ten, so this was merely a formality, but he had to confirm it as well. Everyone looked on in anticipation. It was clear from her appearance that she was only about ten years of age, but appearances could be deceiving. One just needed to look at Bao bi for an example of this. It wasn’t uncommon for high talent to be hereditary, but if Dian Wen had used some means to deceive people in the hopes of getting his sister into the sect, they had to consider even that possibility.
Given that they were already at the stage where they lowered the age to accept her, it was extremely unlikely this was the case. Even an inner disciple like Dian Weng would be punished severely if he embarrassed the sect like that. Thus, even though everyone held their breath as the device resonated with her skeletal age, it was no surprise when he took the stone back and got the measurement.
“Ten.” He declared, smiling softly.
The girl herself nodded, neither showing joy nor excitement. She was well aware of her age and her cultivation status. All of this was only an inevitability. Only one person nearby voiced a word of surprise.
“Ah! She’s the same age as Bao bi!”
The woman who spoke was none other than Bao bi’s mom. Xaoi Lan hadn’t been thinking things through and had only spoken out as a mother. She had always worried that her son was some kind of a freak in the cultivation world. While Xaoi Yun only showed excitement over his son’s success, Xaoi Lan worried in the way only a mother could. Was his progress truly normal? Seeing a girl who not only met his progress but exceeded it, had quelled her worries and caused her to exclaim in excitement.
A wave went through the rest of the group. They had already declared that the previous device was likely broken. It was one thing to get a strange reading. It was quite another to have the mother confirm it. Who would know how old their child was better than a mother? However, in most cases, the mother would declare the child’s age and then the device would disagree. She’d be insisting it was broken. In this case, it was after they measured and determined it was broken that the mother had declared the age of her child.
To many present, it felt like the mother was deliberately clinging to this mistake to try to make her son seemed grander. It wasn’t abnormal for a mother to like the attention her children got, and try to give them more attention. With this girl coming out as ten in the 2nd realm, an unbelievable feat, then couldn’t her son be ten in her upper tier of the 1st realm? Even though the notion was ridiculous, some women had no shame.
Xaoi Wang, Dian Wen, and Xiong Menyao were all giving her a disgusted look. Thankfully, she didn’t know what they were thinking and only blushed because she thought she had spoken out of turn.
“Ahem…” the elder cleared his throat after giving Xaoi Lan a hard look. “Either way, Dian Ai, you have been registered. You will be a part of the first group. As the only one in the 2nd realm, I foresee no reason you shouldn’t excel. You may even get inner disciple status.”
Dian Wen raised an eyebrow. May? In his mind, this was an absolute certainty. The elder gave an apologetic smile. He was used to cautiously encouraging people so they didn’t grow spoiled. Dian Wen wanted none of that.
“Are you really ten?” A youthful girl’s voice came out, surprising both of them.
They looked down to see that Dian Ai wasn’t even paying attention to them. Instead, she had her eyes on Bao bi. At that point, she hadn’t looked at anyone or acknowledged anything, but she now showed interest in him.
“I am.” Bao bi declared, and then turned and bowed. “I’m sorry, Jiang Bo. It wasn’t my intention to deceive you. Father said that if you knew my real age, it might discourage you.”
“H-he is?” It was Jiang Ying Yue who cried out, clearly distressed by this truth.
“Ah… so, you’re that old… hahaha…” Jiang Bo had already experienced many surprises regarding Bao bi.
He had initially put him as an enemy and rival, but he had quickly found himself liking Bao bi. Bao bi was extremely even-tempered. Furthermore, since he had Jiang Ying Yue’s ring, then wasn’t he essentially Jiang Bo’s brother? The more honor he received, the better it was for the Jiang family, and especially Ying Yue. It would be great if she married a man who had high cultivation.
Jiang Bo didn’t know when he had started thinking this way, but at some point, he had stopped trying to take back the ring and had already acknowledged his sister’s union. Now, he could only laugh wryly as he realized just how impressive this friend of his was. He’d just have to work that much harder to catch up!
While those two accepted these words without complaint, the other men present could not. They wore incredulous expressions on their faces. First, the mother tried to pretend her son was ten, and now the child himself was going along with it? It was truly sad! He had the body and appearance of a thirteen-year-old. Dian Ai didn’t have such an appearance, nor to Lian An. This is because the Yin based cultivation methods they practiced were fundamentally different than the imposing methods Bao bi and Jiang Wenyan practiced.
“The truth will be determined shortly.” The elder spoke up before anyone said anything in anger they might regret. “We have already confirmed the skeletal age resonator is functional, so if it left this young man’s age questionable, then we’d need to question everyone’s age.”
With far less grandeur, he shoved the device at Bao bi, who grabbed it and held it. After a few brief moments, he gave a nod and a sigh.
“He is indeed ten.”
“That’s a lie!” Xaoi Wang was the one who had an outburst. “He can’t be ten! He’s cheating the device!”
“Xaoi Wang! Control yourself!” The elder chastised, causing the young man to lower her head. “At a high enough cultivation, one can determine skeletal age without the need for a device. It is mostly so disciples can perform the test. Although I admit I am not that adept at it, even I can sense that his age is lower than fifteen. No matter what age you thought he was, that is irrelevant, unless you wish to doubt my word.”
“N-no… elder…” He gave a bow, but he still slipped Bao bi a hateful look after the old man turned back to Bao bi.
“Bao bi, you have been registered. You will be in the 1st group. As a 7th tier in the 1st realm, I expect great things from you.” The elder declared.
He recorded the information quickly, only waving his hand over the paper to cause the text to appear like magic. He then gave Dian Wen a bow before turning and leaving. He had done his part. He had even done more than his part. What he said to Bao bi differed a bit from what he said to Dian Ai, but that also showed the difference in status between the two.
“So, I am not the only ten-year-old. It is nice to see someone like me.”
“You are in the Mortal Origin realm. You and he are nothing alike!” Dian Wen seemed annoyed again.
The girl wanted to say more, but he grabbed her hand and started pulling her back to the carriage.
“Another rival? They grow far too quickly.” Jiang Ying Yue muttered under her breath.
“Ah! Liao An!” Bao bi cried out before anyone could say anything else.
“Liao An!” Jiang Ying Yue’s true rival had suddenly appeared, so she immediately locked eyes on the elusive woman that would steal her man, only for her mouth to open when she saw the woman. “S-so pretty!”
Although she used those words, it was only because she couldn’t articulate how she truly felt about this woman. Liao An’s looks were top-notch, but if it was only that, Jiang Ying Yue wouldn’t feel so stifled. Rather, it was a womanly charm that seemed to exude off of Liao An. Her body moved with the confidence another young girl couldn’t manage. Every step was the step of an experienced woman. It made any other girl who saw her immediately feel inadequate.
“Ow! Why are you pinching me?” Jiang Bo hissed.
“You should have told me about her!” She hissed back.
“Huh? Liao An? I did though?”
Jiang Ying Yue rolled her eyes as her clueless brother didn’t seem to grasp what she meant. Although, in truth, they both thought a lot alike. While he was caught on Bao bi’s age and decided he’d need to work hard to catch up, Jiang Ying Yue too had also found a goal she must conquer. She had to become better than Liao An in every way! If only she knew she was competing against a girl known across the universe as an elusive sex goddess, she might realize just how outdone she was.