While it was true that the administrator of the One Thousand Demons Formation was merely an intelligence that had gained consciousness after countless years of moving spiritual entity through its pagoda, it still had the basic temperament of the Xaoi sect. He might seem to be rough and sadistic on the outside, but his reason for existing was to make sure that only those with the skillset to survive made it into the Xaoi sect.
Passed the violent exterior, he genuinely cared about the disciples and wanted to see them succeed if they had the ability. His high demands only saved lives, weeding out those that lacked the strength to grow in their cultivation. Once they were in the Xaoi sect, things would only grow more difficult for them, especially if they lacked the ability, so he took his lofty and trusted position very seriously.
That said, the sudden appearance of that strange and terrifying woman had left him feeling exceptionally complicated. It wasn’t like he was the most powerful entity within the Xaoi sect. He was well aware that he was a frog at the bottom of a well compared to others within the sect. However, it wasn’t a matter of feeling inferior or threatened when it came to her. It was more like he felt insignificant. Her power was so vast that he couldn’t even see it, and that left him in an awkward and uncomfortable state.
He had originally predicted that this young disciple had some strange and unexpectedly powerful roots. While many disciples of the Xaoi sect believed it to be the most powerful entity in the region, the administrator was at least had some awareness of how large the world truly was. The Xaoi sect was only one sect of the Xaoi clan. The Xaoi clan was also only one of many clans, so it stood to reason that there could be powerful people in this world like the woman he had just encountered.
Perhaps, a more powerful clan or sect wanted to sneak one of theirs as a spy into their sect. He couldn’t imagine why this sect would draw that kind of attention, but such things happened all the time, and while the Xaoi sect certainly had enemies and competitors that they would unsuccessfully try to prevent from doing so, a clan of such might was a different matter entirely. Not only would it be wise to allow the disciple to enter, but also to treat him like a king of kings so he had only good things to say when he inevitably left the sect and returned to his origin.
In that case, while it was strange that they might not have the ability to pass the sect competition, perhaps there were some unique circumstances. A person’s Dao could manifest in many different ways, and it was possible that this young disciple’s strength was not in the ability to battle or fight. In that respect, it’d make a lot of sense that a powerful sect might send a rare and unique talent to a lower sect in the hopes to help them become more rounded. It’d be someone they were worried wasn’t quite sufficient enough to pass the rigors of this test.
That’s what he had been thinking up until the moment he had seen the parameters that the girl had given him. Rather than simpler or specific parameters that might cater to his strengths, something that would have helped the administrator figure out a hint to his true identity, he had received what seemed like a death sentence instead.
Of course, the administrator could sense the second the young boy entered his pagoda that he possessed a mere skeletal age of ten years and that he had already reached the 2nd realm. This was already exceptional and was part of the reason the administrator had jumped to the hypothesis that he came from some powerful sect. Yet, at that strength, the boy should be able to easily pass this pagoda. Meanwhile, these new parameters were something that even someone in the 3rd realm would struggle with. Someone in the 2nd realm would be slaughtered facing such powerful enemies.
Despite his fear for the woman masquerading as a child, there was no way he’d believe that woman was truly the age her skeleton suggested, the administrator didn’t want to snuff out such a talent either. He decided he would do his best to try to help the kid out. If he was threatened, he would rescue him. He ceased his game of torturing other disciples, and instead focused all of his attention on a single boy on screen. As the rest ran on autopilot, he decided to check out just why this boy had the intention of such a powerful entity.
He looked at the screen, where a young boy appeared. He didn’t look particularly remarkable. He looked to be about thirteen, which is why skeletal age was a better indicator than appearance. For a thirteen-year-old, though, he’d be on the short side. He had a strong chin, short brown hair, and a somewhat fit physique. He certainly didn’t look physically imposing, and in a crowd of young heroes, he’d certainly be overlooked every time. His brow was furrowed. Had he noticed that his opponent was taking too long to arrive? The administrator realized he had been putting off too long, and began to carefully create his first opponent to probe his ability.
The real reason Bao bi had such a look was that he was realizing that the urge to use the restroom wasn’t alleviated upon entering the pagoda. He had a slimmer of hope that once he was brought inside, such feelings from the “real” world would dissipate, at least until the end. Unfortunately, such a thing wasn’t possible.
He took the lack of an opponent as a blessing and began to desperately look for a place to go. His stomach was rumbling worse by the second, and if he didn’t expel the toxins he had earned from that healing medicine, it could cause significant problems. He appeared to be in some kind of dojo. It was a roomy place with wooden pillars and the floor was lined with straw mats. Bao bi found that he was wearing his typical outfit, but he didn’t have any weapon. There were also no weapons on the sides. His eyes did lock on a pot though. It wasn’t ideal, but when you had to go.
He took a step forward it only for a form to materialize in front of him. It was a young person who looked to be about the age he appeared to be. He was dressed completely in black, and his face was also covered. Only his piercing black eyes could be seen. Bao bi suppressed a groan. Couldn’t the program wait just a bit longer? Bao bi’s opponent didn’t pull out a weapon, so at least there was that.
The opponent began moving forward, and Bao bi couldn’t help but groan as he reluctantly turned to face him. This naturally was caught by the administrator, who frowned as he watched Bao bi. His lofty opinion of the boy began to drop as he found his lack of spirit. Was he wrong? Was this boy just some kind of lazy disciple? Perhaps he was a relative to someone big, yet had no talent of his own. Was that why he was approached? In that case, perhaps the woman’s intent was for him to kill the boy?
The two finally engaged in combat. The opponent moved first, giving a solid strike using the Xaoi Heavenly Punch. Bao bi blocked the strike directly, although the consequence was his gut gurgled unhappily. He decided that his best option was to end the battle quickly. He immediately lashed out with his attack, and the enemy flew back with a crunch. Bao bi had practiced enough against spiritual beasts that he could feel that this was a death blow.
“A single strike…” The administrator muttered. “I suppose there would be nothing special about him if he couldn’t’ at least take someone out at the same cultivation level.”
Although Bao bi was a lower level and should have started with an easier opponent, the scary woman’s regiment had demanded something worse. Out of curiosity, the administrator decided to split the difference and pick someone at the same cultivation level. However, he was able to block a solid punch and defeat his opponent in a single hit. This showed he was already much stronger than the opponent he faced.
The administrator was just about to send the next enemy, increasing the difficulty, when he saw the boy immediately race to the side, where there was a pot. He looked on as Bao bi lowered his pants and sat on it. A moment later, there was a roar. The administrator’s eyes nearly popped out of his head, his mouth falling open.
He had tested thousands of disciples. It was true that some disciples would piss themselves in fear, and even a few would lose control of their bowels, especially when they were being disemboweled, but this was the first time he had ever seen a student pull down his pants and go. For this boy to do such a thing in this place… did he feel like this was so little a challenge that he could just take a break? Or was it something more? Was he mocking the administrator? Doing such a foul thing in his pagoda, wasn’t that the same as just crapping on him?
As the administrator watched him relieve himself, he grew more and more furious. He looked at the woman’s directions once again and concluded on his own. This woman must want this boy dead. He clearly had offended her at some point, but for whatever reason, his position prevented her from doing it herself. Thus, she had recruited him to make sure an accident happened.
It wasn’t often, but some did die in there. The administrator had never deliberately killed anyone. If such a thing happened, he’d be removed by the Xaoi sect almost immediately. However, death didn’t always mean literally. Simply destroying their martial arts spirit was the same as death for a cultivator. The mind could only handle so much, and if someone experienced something particularly brutal, there was always the chance of a heart attack. As long as he forced Bao bi to experience a particularly brutal death, then there was a chance he could destroy Bao bi mentally and emotionally.
Bao bi didn’t even remotely know about the existence of the administrator, Liao An’s interaction with him, or his ultimate conclusion. Bao bi finished up, ripping off a sleeve and using it to wipe. If everything in this world was restored to normal, even physical damage, then he should appear with his sleeve undamaged once he left the pagoda. Thinking along those lines, he stood up and stretched. He was very thankful that the program had given him enough of a break to finish. Little did he know that this was because the challenge he was facing was being radically altered on the fly.
There was a flash, and another person appeared. They looked identical to the person that Bao bi faced before. Just as he was thinking that, he frowned slightly. No, this person gave off a different feeling from the one before. His cultivation level was much stronger. Bao bi still wasn’t perfect at it, but he’d guess he was in the higher tier of the 2nd realm. In other words, he was almost a full realm beyond the previous opponent.
Bao bi didn’t think he had ever versed someone as powerful before. Those loose cultivators and assassins he had encountered before weren’t even comparable to some from the Xaoi sect. Between someone taught in a sect and someone taught loosely, the sect trained would win every time. This person gave off an oppressive feeling for Bao bi. Thankfully, he had used the restroom and was now in much better shape to take on this challenge.
This time, the opponent’s form blurred. He had used a movement skill, trying to cause Bao bi to lose his sight. Had Bao bi not spent countless days sparring with Liao An, whose otherworldly movements were near impossible to track, then he might have been fooled. However, Bao bi’s battle experience exceeded that of most of his companions. Although he hadn’t thought about it at the time, he had trained relentlessly with Liao An, and when he wasn’t sparing against her, they were hunting spiritual beasts or challenging themselves in some other way.
He kicked out, but his opponent managed to just narrowly jump back and avoid his strike. However, if Bao bi quit there, Liao An would be upset with him. He used his movement techniques and began to advance on the enemy. He decided to refrain from going for the immediate kill. Rather, he decided to study his opponent. He had never battled someone using the Xaoi heavenly techniques before, and although he had looked at the techniques himself, he had ultimately ended up training in something else.
As he studied his enemy, he started to notice flaws. It wasn’t just that his opponent hadn’t mastered the techniques. It was more like the techniques weren’t being performed quite right. This was naturally because Tigra had taken it upon herself to fix the Xaoi heavenly techniques that Bao bi’s father had copied. The techniques that Xaoi Yun had ended up mastering were many times more profound than the techniques given to disciples.
Of course, after he was done studying them, he had wanted to show off, so he had shown his son his various moves, and had he had offered Bao bi the chance to look through the scrolls, so Bao bi had a chance to see a perfected version of the Xaoi heavenly techniques, and in comparison, the actual technique practiced seemed a bit off. The opponent tried to retaliate, and he exploited a weakness, delivering a fatal strike.
Seeing Bao bi defeat his second opponent, the administrator was starting to get a feel for his ability. Of course, he didn’t know that Bao bi was still holding back. Bao bi was trying to get a feel for this fighting style and learn how to counter it, just as Liao An had taught him. This was something most children wouldn’t do. They were far too eager and excited to hold back, and being as this was a test, they were there to try to get the best numbers. Few students thought in the same terms that Bao bi did, so the administrator hadn’t realized this.
Of course, the administrator saw Bao bi exploiting a weakness and defeating his opponent as a personal slight. He wanted Bao bi to suffer for everything that had happened. He wanted Bao bi to die! This time, as there was a shimmer, three new opponents appeared. They were all as strong as the last one, but now they were brandishing weapons. Bao bi’s eyebrow twitched slightly. He knew that the difficulty was going to ramp up, but wasn’t this a bit excessive?
The answer was that it was excessive, and it was a combination of Midnight’s brutal decision and the administers growing disdain. Bao bi didn’t know this, but this battle was only getting started.
Outside of the pagoda, the audience watched in anticipation as disciple after disciple stepped onto the platform. As the crowds thinned out, those that had wanted to wait behind were given glares by the Xaoi disciples who were watching over the event. They didn’t want to be kept waiting because someone wanted to wait. In the end, they were pressured enough to enter the pagoda too. By that point, a few had already been kicked out. These were the ones who had quickly died. Some were shaken, others were embarrassed, and a few were angry, demanding a second chance. None of them were offered any mercy.
If any had thought that being first would mean their name ended up on the letter board, giving them a few moments of fame before they were knocked off the list by their betters, this didn’t happen. The administrator must have had a threshold where all failures were automatically discarded. Their names were tossed out, as well as their place within the competition.
It was nearly a half-hour before the first person came out that scored on the board. They were panting hard as they came out, but their back was straight and they held an air of dignity to them. They glanced up at the letter board and gave a nod as if they expected as much. However, their sense of pride was eliminated a few moments later, when another twenty contestants came out. The numbers hit the board, and he was knocked down to 13th in an instant.
Those who were in the top ten spoke excitedly, but more followed, and soon they were knocked down the list as well. These people who had similar times also had similar scores. People quickly began to catch on that those who were remaining within the test longer were also had the time to score higher. In short, the longer someone was in there, the more likely they were higher on the list.
Those disciples returned to the waiting platform, and silence began to permeate the group. They all anxiously watched the board as the number of completed contestants grew. They were pushed down the list more and more. The hope in their eyes slowly diminished as they reached that thousand mark, and then passed it. Perhaps, it would have been less cruel if they were like the initial failures and had never been put on the list at all. Now, they could only slink away in embarrassment, having only reached first place for a fleeting moment, but it was ultimately all a lie.