The disciple selection was underway, and contestant after contestant went across the bridge and stepped on a platform to be tested. The pressure continued to be raised until they finally collapsed. Some put up interesting fights, growing sweaty, letting out shouts, or even tearing off their clothing. While this was showy, the outer disciples were facilitating the challenge only looked on in scorn. None of this would allow anyone to stand a second longer. Ultimately, the pressure of these platforms couldn’t be circumvented. You either had it or you didn’t.
The people who could not last ten minutes were many. Some couldn’t even last five minutes. They were laughed off stage until the one who had been announcing commented that most normal men couldn’t even last so long. To show him, he took a regular mortal man. This was someone from the audience who wasn’t even a cultivator. He was extremely muscular and fit, and seem proud of his strength.
“If you last even five minutes, then I will accept you into our sect.” The announcer declared.
This caused a great deal of shock and attention. People watched with interest as this large man got onto the stage. He was down in under a minute. After that, these mere mortals stopped shouting out jeers at the cultivators who fell under five minutes. As for the mortal man, he was carried out in a stretcher, unable to walk any longer.
“I will go.” Jiang Ying Yue stood up.
“Sister!” Jiang Bo straightened, looking over at the platforms. “Are you sure?”
Over half of the contestants had already been eliminated. There was now a group of a couple hundred who had passed. The number who had left were far greater. They had been forced to leave, their heads low in shame. A few had entered the crowds to watch, but another left, too ashamed to be seen. As for those that had won, they sat down and started resting.
It was an undeniable fact that those who had gone first would be able to sit and rest longer than those who went last. The last couple of people who went would have almost no time at all before the start of the next challenge. They’d be pressured to the point of collapse, only to have to immediately begin the next challenge. Everyone who was still preparing themselves for the challenge could feel that clock ticking down. Jiang Ying Yue was younger than her brother and perhaps a bit more impatient.
Since the pressure wasn’t dependent on age, it also wasn’t purely based on cultivation level. Ultimately, it was a test of willpower. It stood to reason that older children had great willpower, so the younger kids were at the greatest disadvantage. Even Dian Ai had only managed to remain for a bit over 11 minutes, although she was only ten, so such a feat was impressive for her. Others had already reached twelve or even thirteen minutes despite not being higher in cultivation compared to Dian Ai.
Those that lasted the longest also drew the attention of many of those in the audience. The mortals drew to these high scorers for their betting, while a few of the cultivation disciples kept an eye at incoming disciples that may join their factions or become competitors of their factions.
Yes, even within the sect, the disciples had various factions. The strongest factions had an inner disciple who was leading them. They would follow him in the hopes of gaining protection, resources, and the chance to become inner disciples. Other weaker factions only banded together to protect themselves. Although Bao bi didn’t know this, there was one particular faction who happened to be part of this year’s disciple selection who was aiming for him, and they were the ones waiting in the shadows to sabotage his platform.
“I will go, brother. I can do it!” Jiang Ying Yue declared with confidence that she didn’t have.
Her eyes drifted to Bao bi. He gave a nod.
“You can do it. And if you fail, there is always next year.”
Bao bi always had a way of simultaneously saying the right thing and the wrong thing at the same time. Jiang Ying Yue took his mental blow and then crossed the bridge nervously. Jing Bo had stopped meditating to watch his sister, and Bao bi had joined him. He had to admit that he was a little anxious on her behalf. They had been so excited about her skill, so if she was eliminated here, it would truly be pitiful.
She found a platform and then stepped on the stage. To most of those watching, she barely registered. There might have been a few eyes that flickered to her, recognizing her as the princess, but for most, she was just a stranger in the crowd. Bao bi and Jiang Bo, naturally, watched her quite carefully.
Some time passed, and Jiang Ying Yue’s face had turned red. Her breathing was growing disordered as well. She remained standing, but each minute her face grew more pained. Her body began shaking, and she teetered slightly.
“You can do it!” A shout rang out next to her, causing her to turn in surprise.
Bao bi had gotten up and crossed the bridge. Jiang Bo had been so intent on watching that he hadn’t even noticed his friend slip away. Bao bi was standing right next to the platform, and he had put his hands together and shouted toward Jiang Ying Yue.
“Xaoi B-b-bao bi?” She whispered in a shaky voice.
“Don’t give up! You can do it! Keep going! I believe in you!” He cried out.
His shouting brought the eyes of many of the other contestants. Some looked over in annoyance. They were trying to concentrate. Others looked over in disdain. Some disciple needed encouragement? How pathetic!
“Ying Yue, Keep going!”
“I-I will!” Jiang Ying Yue’s hands tightened, and her expression suddenly grew fierce.
She had looked like she was moments from collapsing, but suddenly her back straightened and she was filled with vigor. A moment before, she had felt the eyes of Jiang Bo and Bao bi on her back, and it felt like something pressing her down. However, the moment Bao bi shouted her name, her first name even, she felt like she absolutely couldn’t fall! The boy she liked was looking at her! How could she not show him what she was made of?
“Sister! Keep going! Yay! Hold on.” Jiang Bo had also stood up and run across the bridge.
He ended up next to Bao bi, slightly winded, but he immediately started cheering her on as well.
“Yes!” Jiang Ying Yue smiled a dazzling smile which caused several of the boys in the audience to temporarily be dazed.
Naturally, their yelling was catching more and more eyes, but it wasn’t just the two boys catching looks. The young beauty on the stage, desperately fighting with the encouragement of others, was enough to move numerous hearts. Suffice it to say that she was capturing many hearts at that moment.
“C-can they do that?” One of the disciples whispered to another one.
“I don’t know…” The other shrugged.
“They can!” The old disciple sitting in the immortal audience stage chuckled. “Nothing in the rules says you cannot support each other. Quite amusing…”
The younger immortal sitting next to him wasn’t as impressed. He thought the whole display was a bit undignified. The word quickly was spread that they could cheer on their friend, and the pair continued to shout. Most people chuckled or laughed it off, but once the little girl who should have fallen after eight minutes was still standing after ten, their expressions grew more thoughtful.
“I… must… keep… standing…”
“It’s okay… you’ve done it.” Bao bi threw her a smile.
It was extremely effective and seeing him give her such an approving smile, her legs gave out. She fell from the platform, almost like she had thrown herself at him to catch her. Bao bi hadn’t prepared for it and panicked slightly. Jiang Bo moved first, and he managed to catch his sister.
“Huh, what sister? Ahhh! Why are you pinching me?”
Red fast and gasping, Jiang Ying Yue still had the energy to attack her brother as she glared at him angrily. He didn’t know why she was made but wasn’t it because he had caught her instead of Bao bi?
“Eleven minutes on the dot.” The younger master spoke with a bit of approval in his voice while nodding.
She hadn’t done as well as Dian Ai, but to last eleven minutes was already impressive for a girl her age. Considering it looked like she wouldn’t even make ten minutes, perhaps there was something to this cheering thing. Other people started trying it too. Some found they didn’t have any friends willing to cheer them on, but there were always a few willing to give it a shot. It was hard to say if having a couple of acquaintances cheer helped them hold out any longer, but the testing stage had become a bit louder as a result.
Jiang Ying Yue didn’t go to join the others who had passed. Instead, her brother helped her down, and then stood up and patted himself off.
“I guess since my sister has succeeded, I need to as well.”
Knowing Jiang Bo, there was little doubt he would succeed. Bao bi knew how strong he was. Already in the 9th tier at age 12, he was unlikely to be pressed by the pressure much. Giving Bao bi and Jiang Ying Yue one last glance, he strode onto the stage.
Jiang Ying Yue remained by his platform with Bao bi as they watched the time pass. Unlike his sister that looked like she was about to fall at eight minutes, he barely showed any signs. Compared to the reactions of others, he seemed extremely cool and collected. This quickly drew notice. It wasn’t just how long he lasted, but also his age. He was one of the younger kids, but he seemed to already be outperforming the older kids.
Ten minutes came and passed, and only then was he starting to show signs of pressure. His face turned slowly red, and he began to struggle. He passed eleven minutes, and then twelve. Up until that point, the only ones that had surpassed twelve minutes were those that were in the 15 year age group. Jiang Bo was still managing to hold on. When he hit thirteen minutes, he started to look like he was going to fall.
“Come on! You can do it!” Bao bi declared. “Keep it up.”
Bao bi stood up and started cheering again. Like his sister before him, the man who looked like he was about to collapse straightened back up. He had exchanged countless blows with Bao bi. He knew Bao bi’s strength. Somehow, he had begun to see the other as a mark for him to chase after. Hearing Bao bi’s voice, he also summoned up his will, unwilling to fall so easily.
“Fifteen minutes!” The younger master cried out from the immortal observation deck. “Incredible.”
“It’s not over yet.”
The old man had once said that he had seen a 1st realm last fifteen minutes. This broke that record, didn’t it? This kid was pretty amazing.
Bao bi and Jiang Ying Yue cheered for him much like they had cheered for her. He kept it up, standing longer and longer. Another minute passed, and more and more eyes were on him. A thirteen-year-old kid was able to last sixteen minutes. Another minute. Seventeen. This was truly miraculous. Even core disciples would struggle to last this long.
“Ahhhhhhhhh!” Jiang Bo finally fell to one knee. “Damn!”
The test was over. He had managed to last seventeen minutes, forty-nine seconds. It was the longest anyone had lasted so far, and for a thirteen-year-old, it made it doubly impressive. There was silence for a bit as Bao bi and his sister helped him off the platform. However, he quickly got to his feet and raised his fist. This caused the crowds of spectators to cry out.
On the immortal observation deck, the younger man wiped his brow, realizing it was sweating. The older man looked at him with amusement but didn’t say anything. For all the tension the people below were feeling, this man was feeling more. After all, he had promised that if this disciple passed twenty minutes, he’d take him on personally as his core disciple. Such promises couldn’t be made likely, and failing to follow them would induce bad karma. He had been running his mouth, and it had almost caused him some trouble.
Well, it wasn’t like he was completely uninterested in this guy. He was quite young. He waved his hand and an attendant from the outer disciple appeared.
“Get me information on that boy.” He requested, and then cleared his throat.
“Even if he can pass this challenge, there is no saying he’ll pass the others.” The older man declared.
He wasn’t going to get excited over an impressive result. Let him see the results of all three tests and then he’d give his opinion. The younger man nodded, but he was still curious. It was likely this guy would make it through, especially after showing what he had already shown.
Down below, Bao bi stood up. “I guess it’s time I got on?”
Two disciples below looked at each other and nodded. Their actions were extremely subtle and hidden, but the short of it is that adjusted the formation subtly as they were instructed.
“Good luck!” Jiang Bo gave his friend a thumbs up. “Not that you won’t probably do better than me.”
He had full confidence that whatever he could manage, Bao bi would do better. It was just inevitable. Bao bi got onto the platform, and it activated. Bao bi… felt absolutely nothing. He looked around awkwardly, wondering when it would start. While someone could ignore the pressure that was below their cultivation, they would still realize it was there. Bao bi, on the other hand, didn’t seem to notice anything. The way he looked around slightly confused caused quite a few people to furrow their brows.
After seeing both Jiang Bo and Jiang Ying Yue seemingly break expectations, more than a couple of eyes were on Bao bi. They might not know who he was, but they knew who he was with. He was the first one to start being a cheerleader. In their minds, this also meant that he was likely the first one to cave. Weaker naturally encouraged the stronger. Some were waiting for him to fail, while others were just curious if he would also do something odd. So, when he showed absolutely no signs of experiencing pressure, a wave of confusion seemed to spread across the crowds.
No one was more confused than the disciples. They feared that in their attempts to increase the pressure, they had caused the formation to not work at all. If this boy didn’t feel pressure, then their superiors would naturally check the formation. If they found the tampering, it would lead to an investigation, and these two would end up in a lot of trouble. They was definitely sweating.
However, the formation was working completely right. It was running at three times the normal, and Bao bi was under an extreme amount of pressure. Liao An was watching this scene unfold as well. She had kept herself from being noticed by anyone, and was still waiting in the area to go while meditating. Anyone who glanced in her direction would see right past her at the moment. While still sitting with her legs crossed, She had been watching Bao bi’s performance, but then she became slightly confused. She was someone who could tell exactly how much pressure Bao bi was facing, and he was unaffected by it.
“Ah… this just reminded me of something,” Tigra spoke up.
“What is it?” Midnight asked.
“Remember when Bao bi was a baby and you let out too much aura and he nearly died?”
“What of it?”
“I did inscribe a tiny formation into his bones that would make him immune to pressure, remember?”
“He’s not completely immune! It’s just when it comes to the best this measly planet has! This was intended to protect him from our aura and our enemies. Oh… but right now it will be suspicious! If Bao bi doesn’t experience appropriate pressure, then they may find that formation and suspect Bao bi! What do we do?”
“Don’t worry… I will resolve this personally.” Midnight declared.
Liao An closed her eyes and then bent a single finger. Bao bi had just hit ten minutes and suddenly felt a pressure drop down on him. Liao An’s solution was rather simple. Since he could negate the pressure of a mortal world, then she just needed to increase the pressure to the level of the immortal world. He could ignore or stave off the pressure from anyone at the top levels of this world, so as long as the pressure exceeded that, he’d start to feel it.
Seeing Bao bi start to feel pressure after eight minutes, a lot of people calmed down. Maybe, he was just a strange anomaly. In truth, he was strange. His extreme constitution meant that even without the bone, he could handle an impressive amount of pressure. On top of that, he had the mind of an adult, and a powerful will. He likely would have been able to last twenty minutes had this been normal circumstances.
These were not normal circumstances. He was facing the pressure of the most powerful woman in the universe. Her power was being filtered through the body of a thirteen-year-old girl and a million miles away, and she was only giving the smallest sliver, but still. When Bao bi wasn’t crushed by her energy, Midnight frowned slightly. She had expected him to be stressed, but other than turning a bit red, he had handled it.
She increased the power. However, it didn’t seem to exhibit the result she wanted, so she increased it more, and then again. Bao bi was resisting with his ridiculous constitution, and such a thing annoyed her. After all, she was the Midnight Queen! Who dared defy her? Liao An’s finger tweaked, and then tweaked again.
In only a minute, Bao bi went from looking like he was feeling no pressure to like he was seconds from exploding. His face was dark red, and he felt like he had a mountain on his shoulders. Wasn’t the speed of this increase a bit excessive?
“Bao bi, don’t give up!” Jiang Ying Yue shouted.
He gave her a look of disbelief. How had a girl her size handled such pressure! It was far too much! Bao bi gained a completely new respect for the people who managed to survive this challenge! It just got stronger again. It was like he had upset some angry god!
The disciples who had sabotaged were watching this as well and grew relaxed as he looked like he was going to collapse. However, as nine minutes passed and he remained standing, they started to sweat as well.
“You little punk think you can defy me! You show bow before the Midnight Queen!” Midnight had seemingly forgotten the situation and took Bao bi’s defiance as a personal slight.
“M-mistress!” Tigra cried out. “We want him to survive!”
“Huh?” She tweaked the power higher again.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!” Bao bi screamed as the pressure tried to destroy him.
Jiang Bo and Jiang Ying Yue who had been crying for his success had stopped, their mouths open. Blood was flowing from his eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. His body was shaking a ridiculous amount.
“9 minutes, 57, 9 minutes, 58, 9 minutes, 59.”
Bao bi’s clothing exploded off, and a moment later there was a giant eruption of smoke exploding out as rock shattered. Midnight removed her pressure. Tigra was panting, staring at her.
“Oops.” She said in a calm voice.
The smoke slowly cleared, and Bao bi’s form came into view. He was bloodied from head to toe, and also very naked. The platform and the formation on it had shattered into a million pieces. He was in the middle of a crater, but he was still standing.