With the formation obliterated, it was near impossible to determine the cause of what happened to Bao bi. After an elder was sent out and evaluated the formation for five minutes, he came up with the verdict of inconclusive. It was just a fancy way of saying he didn’t know what went wrong. The two disciples that had done the alterations breathed easier. They must have done something wrong. Not only was the disciple Bao bi able to survive ten minutes, but there were also noticeable side effects. They would likely both be punished, but since they weren’t found out, the punishments would be manageable. Those watching, especially among the disciples, had their own theories as to what happened.
“He was cheating, right?” One disciple whispered.
“He used some kind of cheat device. Remember in the beginning when he didn’t react at all?” Another noted.
“Well, look at him now all bloodied. You think he did that to himself?”
“It wasn’t intentional. He probably used some relic passed down from his family and didn’t realize that the Xaoi sect’s power couldn’t be tampered with. Hmph… it serves him right.”
Jiang Bo and Jiang Ying Yue wore ugly looks, shooting glares at the people who were saying these kinds of things, but they were mostly ignored. Too many people were having this conversation, and it was spreading into the stages as well. Bao bi was currently being treated, so he wasn’t aware of it, but the other two refused to believe that their friend would cheat in such a manner. How would he even do it?
It should be noted that during this time when most people were distracted, Liao An quietly took the stage at all. She also showed no signs of experiencing pressure, and the second ten minutes was reached she stepped off the platform to absolutely no fanfare. She passed through the first test like a ghost. The same could not be said for Bao bi, as an increasingly larger level of unrest seemed to be building. Some of those who wished him harm grinned and then intentionally worked to spread the fire, hoping that he would be disqualified. This would suit their needs just as well.
However, before things could go too far, the elder who had been the main speaker spoke to the one who checked the formation. After a brief discussion, he held up his hand, instantly silencing the crowds and earning everyone’s attention.
“It is unknown what happened in this situation, but the Xaoi sect will take personal responsibility. The disciple known as Bao bi will be allowed to continue to the second round. The Xaoi sect is currently administering spiritual medicine to allow him to recover quickly, and he will be at the level of every other contestant by the time he goes. However, he will be considered rankless in the next event, and given no future leeway.”
With the elder making such an announcement, it was set in stone. Most people nodded and accepted his degree. It was fair and just. It wasn’t clear if it was Bao bi’s fault or not. Although the majority believed he had done something to cheat, the Xaoi sect graciously gave him the benefit of the doubt. They would allow him to continue and even healed his wounds. If he lacked the ability, he would certainly fall in the next round.
While that was most people’s feelings, a few wore hateful or unhappy expressions. “It’s more than he deserves.”
“Offering medicine for cheating trash? The Xaoi sect is far too kind.”
“They should offer everyone medicine if this bastard deserves medicine.”
Although they were discontent, their voices didn’t rise once again, as the elder had already made his verdict and they weren’t going to contest it. Jiang Ying Yue and Jiang Bo waited as Bao bi was taken off the platform. He was given a pill to take, and also a basin of water to wash off his blood. The medicine they gave him was as miraculous as people believed, as by the time he washed off the blood covering his body, there wasn’t a single wound to see.
When he finished, he returned up to the platform, meeting up with Jiang Ying Yue and Jiang Bo. Ying Yue shot her brother a look, and he only rolled his eyes. He understood immediately what she wanted to tell him. She was informing him that he should not ask Bao bi if he cheated or not. He was certain Bao bi would never cheat, but believing something and hearing it from the person’s lips were two different things, and it would be nice if Bao bi confirmed such a thing, especially with so many other contestants running their mouths.
“Ai… that hurt…” Bao bi stretched. “Although, those drugs they gave me are amazing.”
“Drugs?” Jiang Bo blinked. “That was spiritual medicine. It’s something only available to cultivators. That pill likely cost more than your family’s entire estate!”
“Mm!” Jiang Ying Yue nodded. “I heard that a single pill could cost up to 15 spiritual stones.”
“Spiritual stones have so little value?” Bao bi asked.
“How can that be the case? That’s just how rare and difficult it is to make spiritual medicine. You need an immortal who practices alchemy. There are only a one or two in the entire country that focus on this discipline.”
“Oh? Alchemy? I learned a bit of that. I wonder if I could make something like that with the recipe.” Bao bi announced. “Come on. I suppose we should get going.”
Jiang Bo and Jiang Ying Yue couldn’t help but shoot Bao bi a look of disbelief. He casually said that he knew alchemy, but that wasn’t something that they could believe. After all, alchemists were revered among the immortal cultivators. Part of the reason there were so few ways that the practice was far too expensive. Every ingredient had to be gathered at the risk of an immortal’s life, and in the beginning, the failure rate was extremely high.
How could a mortal cultivator in the first realm who didn’t even have the support of a sect be able to practice any alchemy? Bao bi spoke with such sincerity though, that the siblings could only assume that he had somehow confused what alchemy was. The three left the testing platform, starting to get frowns from various test administrators as they appeared to continue to loiter. They headed onto the platform for those who had succeeded. Naturally, Bao bi immediately drew a lot of notice, as many felt he had no right to stand on that platform.
“Hehe… look at this kid.” A burly kid spoke up, approaching the three friends as soon as they took a step on the platform.
He was muscular and had his sleeves ripped off his tunic, showing thick and powerful arms. Behind him were two smaller kids which seemed to be his followers. The three men might have surrounded Bao bi, but the Jiang siblings stood firm on either side, preventing them from taking advantage. The one who seemed least aware of the imminent danger was Bao bi himself, who seemed to be lost in thought.
“Aren’t we all children?” Bao bi blinked.
“Some of us more than others.” The boy snorted before pointing a thumb to himself. “My name is Qi Xue. I’m in the youngest group. But, even if you’re in the advanced-aged group, I’m going to put you in your place!”
“Huh, but I am in the youngest-aged group as well?” Bao bi declared.
“What?” Qi Xue looked Bao bi up and down incredulously.
Any way anyone looked at it, although Bao bi wasn’t a large or imposing person like Qi Xue, he looked much older than he was. That said, it wouldn’t be hard to believe Qi Xue should have been in the advanced-aged group either given his size. Yet, it was clear he was unwilling to accept that Bao bi was as young as him.
“Y-you’re a cheater!”
Bao bi winced at those words. While he was being healed, he had ended up missing all of the scornful words aimed in his direction. He had noticed a few dark looks, but he had assumed it was just general jealousy that their group had all passed. Yet, Qi Xue’s declaration had struck a worry deep inside Bao bi. He lowered his head and sighed.
“You’re right. I cheated. I am deeply sorry about it, but I feel like I wouldn’t have the opportunity if I didn’t.”
Jiang Bo and Jiang Ying Yue both let out cries of shock, spinning to look at Bao bi. The larger boy’s eyes popped open and his mouth fell. Bao bi just flat out admitted it. Jiang Bo stared at his friend dizzily, unwilling to accept that he had done the unthinkable.
However, Bao bi’s words were completely sincere. As for what he was talking about, wasn’t it the fact that Bao bi was reincarnated? It was pointed out that mental maturity had a great influence on willpower. The last exam used pressure to stress children and determine if they had the willpower to remain standing. Bao bi was reincarnated. Combining his two ages he was actually in his fifties! How could that be anything but cheating?
It had been bothering him for some time that he was essentially competing against children. After dealing with Liao An for so long, he had soothed his pride with comments like children in this world were so advanced. However, once going on that circle and feeling how much pressure the other kids were experiencing, he could only feel even more appreciation for them and wonder if he was truly cut out for such a thing.
Naturally, he couldn’t tell people he had the memories of another life. As for how he could join the Xaoi sect without being in this competition, he didn’t know a way. Basically, he had no choice but to cheat. Of course, there was the second thing. He had cheated! He definitely had an advantage that interfered with the test, which was the god-tier formation carved into his bones by Tigra shortly after birth. He didn’t know about them, and they were at a level where no one on this planet would detect them, but it was still technically a cheat.
That said, if anyone had known the truth of the situation, they wouldn’t doubt Bao bi’s willpower in the slightest. After all, Midnight had pressured him herself, and for the briefest moment had channeled a whiff of her godly power on him. He had remained standing in a situation where any other child would be ground to dust. The only reason she hadn’t intervened further after Bao bi was bloodied was that she had done nothing wrong.
The Midnight Queen did not make mistakes, thus when a mistake happened, she would not acknowledge it. Her disciple staring at her with lines on her forehead was thoroughly ignored, although on the inside the Midnight Queen was feeling a strange feeling that she hadn’t experienced in a million years. It had been so long since she had felt such an emotion that she didn’t even fully recognize what it meant. That was the feeling of embarrassment.
“Look, punk. You don’t belong on this stage!” Qi Xue finally recovered from his shock, and took a step forward, holding out his fist in a threatening manner. “In the next round, you’ll be ground to dust!”
As he walked away, it wasn’t long until Bao bi’s words spread across the entire platform. As his cheating was confirmed, more and more disciples grew angry. However, they had to hold back their words, as the elder had already made his decision. Of course, the elder was well aware of the whispering going on in the crowd and even had heard Bao bi’s guilty admission.
He wasn’t angry. In fact, in some ways, it took a lot of willpower to admit your mistakes. His cheat had backfired on him, and the elder was very aware that the consequences of his actions had already been inflicted on him many times over. He had experienced pressure many times worse than anyone else and even almost died. In truth, that pressure at the end there, although he had only passively noticed it after the fact, was at a terrifying level even the elder didn’t know if he could handle. He had concluded if Bao bi could survive that, then he hadn’t needed to cheat in the first place, and there was no reason to punish him further. The elder was happy leaving things at that.
However, the main thing that bothered him was that he didn’t understand how Bao bi could do it. Bao bi had no physical object on him, so just how had he managed to avoid the pressure for several minutes? It was truly a conundrum. However, the elder also acknowledged that strange things happened all the time, so he put such a thing out of his mind. No one died, and all it took was a simple spiritual medicine to fix, so there was no point in following up on this accident. As for people angry that Bao bi cheated, he saw no reason to intercede. This would also be part of the consequences of Bao bi’s actions.
Liao An, or rather Midnight Queen, was also happy to leave things as they were. Had the elder chose to investigate further, she definitely would have made it so nothing of interest would be found. She had noticed the tampering of the little disciple children earlier but had intentionally left it so Bao bi could experience more pressure. That was before she had recalled the presence of his formation method. Either way, it was good for Bao bi to be pressured by others. It would help him grow.
At some point, the news had reached Dian Ai too. She had been sitting down and meditating when the words of his cheating passed by as a pair of girls too excited to quiet down gossiped amongst each other. She had opened an eye and looked in Bao bi’s direction only briefly before closing them again. It was anyone’s guess what she was thinking.
“Bao bi… did you really… did you use some device to cheat in the last event?” Jiang Ying Yue asked.
Bao bi jumped when he looked over at her. Her eyes were wet and her lip was trembling. He glanced over at Jiang Bo and found his expression was dark, and he seemed greatly disturbed.
“What device?” Bao bi asked in confusion.
“In the last trail! Did you mess with the platform to cause it to explode?” Jiang Bo demanded in a hushed tone.
“What? How could I do that? I don’t even know very much about formations.” Bao bi waved his hand, laughing casually. “Besides, what object could interfere with formations?”
“The platform was destroyed? No one else did that!”
“Ah… I guess your right. That was pretty weird. Are you saying that I experienced more pressure than anyone else? Ah! That had to be the case.” Bao bi let out a breath of relief. “Thank you, I was worried there that there was something wrong with me. You are good friends.”
Jiang Bo and Jiang Ying Yue both opened and closed their mouths like fish, unsure how to respond to Bao bi’s attitude. However, something about his words did strike home for Jiang Bo. He had experienced more pressure than anyone else. The formation had shattered, so that had to be true. One could tell how much pressure Bao bi experienced in those last few moments. Even if Bao bi had cheated somehow, no one could deny that he had the willpower to passed the test. The elder must have known this, and so that was why he allowed Bao bi to continue.
Jiang Bo started to relax, realizing that this wasn’t so big of a problem as he had initially thought. Either way, Bao bi was still impressive. Rather, Bao bi was probably just saying weird things again, like he felt he was cheating to make it harder on himself. Such a statuesque version of Bao bi briefly popped into Jiang Bo’s mind before he shook it off. Jiang Ying Yue wasn’t as quick to catch on but was instead swayed by Bao bi’s compliments and easy demeanor. She was younger, after all, so in her mind, if Bao bi didn’t think it was a big deal, then it must not be a big deal. Seeing her brother relax too only reinforced her feelings.
Before they could discuss any of this further, the elder who had been guiding the disciple selection cleared his throat, causing the crowds to go silent. The three realized they were the only ones still standing on the platform. Everyone else had sat down and were meditating to sort themselves up. More than that, the last of the contestants had gone through the first trial. All that remained were those that had passed the ten minutes of pressure. These were the best of the contestants, and even then, most of them would be knocked out of the next trial.
The three hastily sat down and crossed their legs. They had wasted too much time and hadn’t spent any recovering, so they had to do so quickly while listening to the speaker.
“For those who have lasted through ten minutes in the first trial, congratulations. However, you have only just passed a minimum requirement.” He waved his hand, and a new bridge seemed to appear, leading to another platform that had originally been hidden.
The crowds of spectators began to murmur in excitement as they speculated what the next challenge would be. The disciples on stage all remained quiet. Those that had tried to gain attention by being noises and strutting like peacocks had already lost. Some had joined in the audience, although most had bitterly slinked away, beginning the long journey back to their homes in utter disappointment.
“It is time for the second trial.”