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Chapter 35: Jade Chest (Two)

"Today is a joyous day for the cultivation world." Firecloud was presiding over the ceremony. His gaze concealed a trace of supreme arrogance, a shred of haughtiness and detachment. He spoke softly even though his voice seemed to echo at the side of everyone's ears: "In the cultivation world, time is exceptionally precious. I wish not to delay the time in everyone's lives, thus, all proceedings shall be carried out without complication."

"According to regulation, the ceremony is divided into three stages. The Qualifier, the Test of Potential, and the Signing Ceremony." His voice not yet fallen, Shadowslay's voice rang out like a well-practiced rehearsal: "After a quarter of an hour, the Qualifier will officially begin. If you are knocked off the stage, take the initiative to concede defeat and bear the lost in every case. Do any of our guests have objections to this?"

No one said anything. No one dared to say anything.

The over ten thousand people in the venue were dead silent. However. a ray of brilliance flashed in harmony at the back of the eyes of the sixty students of Nantong Province's graduation who were the focus of the multitudes of crowds.

They hadn't heard about the Qualifier before, but it was a name that couldn't be even more straight forward. As long as they put on their thinking caps, they could imagine why it was called that. Likewise, they were without a trace of dissent.

Thirteen rank ones, any one of them would be unwilling to submit beneath another!

At their branches, they were already first in their class. Here, they were looking forward to ascending to the apex under the focus of ten thousand people even more!

No one answered him. Approximately ten seconds later, Shadowslay nodded in satisfaction: "That's good… All of the students have been boarding at the branch for a long period of time, so they are probably unaware of the origin of the Qualifier. It is a practice that Heavens Law holds once every five years."

"Cultivators do not only struggle against the heavens and the world in their fight for their destinies, but more so against their fellow man." Firecloud said calmly like a monarch overlooking the myriad masses: "Of all who have tread out of Heavens Law and entered the world of cultivation afterwards, everyone is both a comrade-in-arms, but also a rival. In the struggle of ten thousand, only a single man alone can cut across. This is the true nature of cultivation." 

"If demons are in your path, behead them. If humans impede your way, subdue them. If the heavens obstruct you, destroy it."

"One can only press on forwards until they reach the other shore of Core Formation."

"Tell me." He laughed, looking towards the youths whose blood had been stirred to a boil by his words and chuckled: "Do all of you have this self-confidence?"

"Yes!"

Regardless of whether they were a student or not, all the young people in the venue nearly roared altogether, their voices shaking the entire arena!

"Very good." Firecloud waved his hand, and in the next second, an ornate jade chest approximately fifty centimeters in length and ten centimeters in width suddenly appeared before him and Shadowslay.

The chest was crafted from a faint azure-colored jade, and its whole body was without the slightest of flaws. If such a beautiful jade was placed in the world, there was no doubt it would fetch a high price at auction by some jade enthusiast. But presently, it was nothing more than a magnificent stage piece.

In the absence of flaws, it was like an entire piece of naturally formed jade. In spite of this, there wasn't a person who could ignore that in the second the chest was revealed, it left an impression that nearly stopped the beating of their hearts!

Core Formation spiritual pressure!

It was like an ocean tide or drifting clouds. Though it was silent in its coming, it spread over every nook and cranny of the entire Unrivaled Beneath the Heavens Arena!

It was different from Foundation Establishment… If it was said Foundation Establishment was the external exercise of spiritual strength with attacks like a fire god burning the heavens and a peace like autumn wind in a bamboo forest, then Core Formation was a kind of true terror and awesome might.

Nothing needed to be said and nothing needed to be done. It was a type of reservedness like the might of the sea, enough to make not a single person present dare to look directly at the chest.

"Every Qualifier, there is a grand gift from a Core Formation master. This is this graduation's prize…" Among the over ten thousand people, an aged, wizened hand was trembling in excitement: "Old me has attended the graduation countless of times, and every prize from a Core Formation master that is taken out has always made me shake incessantly…" 

"Grandma… Y-you said this pressure is the might of a Core Formation cultivator?" On the other side, a young boy excitedly lowered his voice and said: "What's inside the chest is really a…"

"Of course, it is an excellent item granted by a Core Formation cultivator!" The grandma was even more excited than her grandson, both her eyes fairly reddened: "I don't know what it is this time… but each one on every occasion has been a genuine treasure that people simply find hard to imagine!"

"Are you sure?" On the other side of the venue, Vice Branch Master Qi looked greedily at the chest, tightly pursing his lips: "Are you sure it is that item?"

"A hundred percent." Chu Tianyi's voice carried a sliver of stifling hoarseness, and he sucked in deeply, locking his eyes onto the chest: "Besides myself, no one here knows. They were actually willing to part with that item…"

Firecloud sat in front of the chest, his expression seemingly placid, yet he and Shadowslay were already revolving their spiritual strength to their utmost limit! This was the only method they could use to endure without recoiling backwards by several tens of feet.

This wasn't their first time doing so...

This chest had passed through Heavens Law's headquarters to be placed before him. The initial exposure had long passed.. 

However, every time he looked at it, he felt that the prize this time… was a treasure of extremely terrifying proportions! This was a treasure that even the Fortuity Profound Liquid could not compare to!

They had previously studied it. The box was covered in carvings of invisible seals. It was unknown which Core Formation master has left them, but as long as one wanted to forcibly open it, the resulting spiritual attack would be an injury grievous enough to force them to recuperate for several tens of years!

Thus, even they did not what was contained inside!

They could only sense… a boundless aura like mist within. So while they did not know what the object was, it gave people the most primal hungering for it!

"What on earth is inside?" Firecloud forced down the shock of his heart, his Adam's apple faintly bobbing. He wiped his right hand over the jade chest, and it vanished without a trace.

"Ahhh…" In the arena, countless soft voices converged together into a stream of sound. Even Foundation Establishment cultivators had to repress their desire to stay far away from the tiny box. Whether they were separated by a distance of several hundred meters or not, they still felt the uneasiness of their breathing.

"This is this year's prize." Firecloud secretly sighed in relief. If he could, he would be unwilling to so much as face this kind of unknown oppressive might: "It is a bit different from the one years ago. I wasn't told which Core Formation master bestowed it and wasn't told what this object is, as well."

"There is only a single aspect that is the same as usual." He stood up and cast his gaze over the sixty people on the arena and said loudly with each word enunciated: "The champion of the Qualifier shall obtain this treasure."

His voice couldn't be considered loud, yet in the eyes of the sixty students it was like pouring oil on a fire! The Qualifier didn't need to be explained. They were clear on what its meaning was. No one opposed it. Especially, the thirteen rank ones. None of them would admit another was stronger than themselves. However...

This was only their thoughts from moments ago.

If it were to be said, then they had previously still only had an unconscious intuition regarding the Qualifier, but after Firecloud had informed them of the prize the champion would come to possess, the look in everyone's eyes changed. 

It was the sensation of reverence from the quiet silence moments ago brought by the treasure of a Core Formation master that seemed to immerse every single pore and each individual cell in the midst of a sea of oppressive might. In a flicker, this emotion caused competitive spirit to reach their peaks! They would drag themselves up to summit!

What was inside?

A mystic medicine? A treasure weapon? Or perhaps… a supreme-grade spirit stone?

No one knew, but because of this anonymity, it gave the astonishing mysterious chest an even more mysterious aura!

No matter what it was, it could be nothing else than a chance that was hard to come by even once in a hundred years! A cultivator's opportunity to arrive at the pinnacle of the world! The initial step that would allow them to flutter their wings and ascend the skies!

"Senior, is the Qualifier the ranking method for us graduating students? To determine the number one?" Because he had been overcome by stimulation and anticipation, a student's voice was evidently somewhat hoarse as he cupped his fists and asked: "Could junior understand it as ranking based on battle, and the last one standing will be one who is qualified to obtain this treasure?" 

"Correct." Shadowslay answered serenely. None had seen that up until he had stowed the chest away did his tightened fists at last slowly loosen up.

Xu Yangyi didn't speak. All that Chu Zhaonan had spoke of was true. Even if his spiritual strength had experienced a fall, and even if his advancement was unsuccessful, in spite of all of that...

He would not relinquish this unknown treasure to any other!

Gently sighing in relaxation, he began to revolve his entire body's spiritual strength, and a kind of feeling akin to a fierce tiger leaving confinement spread through his heart, while a blood-thirsty urge madly overtook his entire being. 

"A lion must be imperious…" His gaze silently flitted across the faces of all of the rank ones, and he lowered his eyes once more: "Whoever plotted against me… It is of no consequence. I will question them each one by one…"

"Rank ones will place against rank ones, and the others will rank against each other." Firecloud laughed: "Time waits for no man; we shall begin posthaste." 

These words finally liberated the soundless fanaticism everyone had held.

Each cultivation clans' mortals fixed their eyes on their computers unwaveringly. Their fingers placed atop familiar keys, they were prepared to carry out investigations at a moment's notice. As for the heads of the clans, their eyes were already twinkling as they looked towards the center of the arena stage! 

In the front row, Lilac, Lotus, and Vulture took a long sigh in relief. Lilac sipped at her tea, and the three of them stared steadfastly at the stage. 

On the other side, Chu Tianyi's expression was calm and his eyes half-lidded, but the mere snowy pallor of his face was like that of a napkin. On his chest, a ray of indistinct yellow light flickered luminously, but his face was without the most minute of changes.

"Are things fine?" Vice Branch Master Qi furrowed his brows and questioned: "I'm afraid even if it is a mere sliver of the oppressing might of Core Formation… it is not something a mortal can endure."

"Those are ordinary mortals." Chu Tianyi was silent for a couple seconds. After a long while, he closed his eyes and instructed the two Qi Condensation cultivators he had brought with him: "Ding Guang, Ding Yuan, you know what to do."

The two Qi Condensation cultivators slightly bowed at the waist, their gazes involuntarily hovering over their rings. 

"This item… If it is not the Chu's, then it cannot belong to any other clan."

Calm descended on the venue like the eve of tempest winds gracing the ocean surface. Shadowslay lightly snapped his fingers, and with the echo of a crisp swish, thirteen white-misty orbs of spiritual energy suddenly appeared before him. He casually grasped two of them and gently pinched them apart.

In seconds, the misty spiritual energy within wounded about like the frenzy of myriad white serpents! Left and right, they formed two names on each side in the middle of the air! 

On the left-hand side, Zhaoping City's Rank One, Luo Sanfeng!

On the right-hand side, Yuyang City's Rank One, Xu Yangyi!

"The two of you step out."

"Shh…" Simultaneously, a wisp of blood-thirsty radiance flashed through Xu Yangyi's eyes. His fist cracked as he clenched it, and as he exerted pressure on his legs, the feeling of his ligaments were wonderfully superb. With the support of his hand, he leapt on the arena stage that was no less than two meters tall. 

Beneath his feet, tiles of limestone began to stretch onwards. On the other side, a youth approximately 1.78 meters in height jumped on top of the arena stage at nearly the same moment. 

There wasn't a need for too much of an explanation. None questioned why the Qualifier had to be conducted, as well. The chest was the best explanation. 

In the absence of a full moon night or the high walls of the forbidden city, there was only a solitary immortal soaring beyond the boundaries of the heavens!*

The clan masters of several tens of cultivation families were already up on their feet, their gazes inflamed. Some were young and some were old. Some were ugly men and some were beautiful women. Some gripped the handrails tightly and some tilted their bodies forwards with rapt attention. The entire arena was so silent that not even the buzzing of insects could be heard as they looked at these two.

The first lineup… was an A5 student versus an A3 student!

* 没有月圆之夜,没有紫禁之巅,只有天外独步的天外飞仙. This is a play on a phrase from a Gu Long novel. I am unsure if I fully captured the scope of it.It is something along the lines of "It was a dark stormy night"... I think. Supposed to set up the mood.

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