Liu Bubai’s eyes widened in disbelief.
He had been trying so hard but he was still struggling to break the barrier of the sword master level.
In the end…
Fang Lang attained the sword master level shortly after reaching the fourth level. He made it seem so effortless as if breaking through was like poking a thin film.
This… this was unacceptable!
Liu Bubai felt betrayed. When Fang Lang joined him in the Gathering of Swords, he was just in the fifth grade. Oh, was it sixth… hmm? Probably a seventh-grade sword disciple.
He was hiding his true colors the whole time!
Liu Bubai had misplaced his trust!
He had lost his only bragging right to Fang Lang.
The spiritual energy on the fourth floor was roaring violently—it was quite a substantial amount. Without having at least a ninth-grade cultivation discipline, one would be crushed by the pressure.
There were only a handful of students at level four, including Fang Lang.
All of them were gaping at him.
Fang Lang was like a deity descending from Heaven when he rose from the third floor to the fourth with the runes above his head. His body was constantly vibrating due to the torrents of spiritual energy pouring on him. Even though his Spirit Suit was simple and fuzzy, it was extremely eye-catching!
This meant Fang Lang had advanced into a sword master!
The Luojiang Academy students who possessed higher ranking on the honor scroll could not believe their eyes. Fang Lang was a nobody before he participated in the Gathering of Swords. He was nowhere close to their caliber and they would not even waste a second to look at him.
However, Fang Lang had improved significantly since the Gathering of Swords!
The geniuses present felt slightly dejected.
Nevertheless, their disappointment was brief.
They did not give up. After all, they had to walk their own path.
It was useless to feel envious or admiration as the Imperial Examination was just around the corner. They should take this opportunity to benefit as much as they could from the Spirit Pagoda!
After Fang Lang’s successful advancement, he continued to bathe in the spiritual energy shower with closed eyes and open arms.
With the aid of the Grade-Rush Card, the advancement process was smooth sailing without any hindrance.
He got it in a single attempt!
The satisfaction and fulfillment he was feeling almost made him yell out loud!
He felt the dense spiritual energy coursing through the enlarged passages in his body and the spiralling blade energy core in his center. Fang Lang understood he had unlocked a new world and he was finally qualified to challenge those geniuses who were aiming to be the champion in the Imperial Examination.
Fang Lang closed his eyes and took his time to experience the various sensations of the new realm. The sword master realm was entirely different from the sword disciple realm. First of all, his strength was enhanced significantly. He also gained an increase in attacking lethality and finally, defense and protection offered by the Spirit Suit.
The sword master level was a stepping stone in his cultivation journey!
According to the Tang Dynasty’s Sword Scripture, cultivation at the sword master level requires one to transform the spiritual energy core in their energy center into a blade energy core, allowing the blade energy to flow through the meridians in the body. At the final phase, the blade energy would morph into sword waves and the cultivator would advance into a third-grade sword master, the sword wave realm.
Sword mastery cultivation was not an easy journey. The cultivator had to maintain the absorption of spiritual energy and the blade energy conversion rate simultaneously.
This process required a huge amount of time and effort, not to mention it largely depended on the core’s ability!
After becoming a sword master, one could decide on their training method. This would help enhance the conversion rate of spiritual energy into blade energy. The Sword Scripture stated it was essential to choose a training method if one wished to advance to the sword wave realm.
This was also the reason why sects were implemented, because the practice methods, techniques, secret techniques and spells were all distinct. These were strictly controlled by the imperial courts and sects. If one wished to practise cultivation, they had to either join a sect or the military.
The practice method also defined the future of a cultivator and set the limit of their growth, hence the importance of the Imperial Examination.
Fang Lang remained in the Triple Binding Mode while he absorbed the spiritual energy. The spiritual energy circling him was thick and dense—he was enclosed in a dome of mist.
The determination in his eyes sharpened.
He had just entered the sword master level and his energy center expanded in tandem.
Fang Lang sat cross-legged as he stabilized his cultivation. He utilized the spiritual pressure to compress and distill the purest form of spiritual energy into his energy center.
This was one of the benefits of the Spirit Pagoda.
The key was not only to absorb spiritual energy but to ensure the spiritual energy would not desolate one’s cultivation!
Time was ticking away.
Fang Lang did not hurry to the fifth floor. Instead, he stayed on the fourth floor to reinforce his cultivation.
Not too far away, Liu Bubai started to calm down after processing the fact that Fang Lang had surpassed him by advancing into the sword master realm first.
There was nothing Liu Bubai could do.
He turned aside to glance at Ni Wen. He was stunned when he saw the strange energy vibrating at the center of her forehead. It was a mana flux.
Ni Wen’s body was releasing spiritual energy that slowly formed a translucent shield around her!
Spirit Shield, the sign of a spell master!
Ni Wen had advanced too!
This naturally talented peasant girl was finally able to shine with sufficient nourishment of spiritual energy.
Liu Bubai was devastated as he had been the one who announced to the world he would definitely break through in the Spirit Pagoda!
His strong emotions motivated him to continue pounding at the barrier of the sword master level.
Even if he was carried, he would do it with dignity!
Silence was restored in the Spirit Pagoda.
Fang Lang spent half a day adjusting and stabilizing his cultivation at a sword master level. Throughout this period, other students but Fang Lang had paused to take a break.
His spiritual sense had gotten used to such intensive absorption of spiritual energy.
In the far corner, Liu Bubai finally attained the sword master class. Tears of joy almost rolled down the corner of his eyes.
At this moment, Fang Lang stood up and stretched his body.
The System’s notification hovered in front of his vision.
‘Spiritual Energy Absorption: 800 (low-grade spirit crystal)’
Fang Lang frowned when he saw the amount.
He spent so much time and effort to become a ninth-grade martial arts disciple and a first-grade sword master, yet the System did not even get a single upgrade?
The mission was to challenge his limits—Fang Lang had not reached his limits yet!
No, this was still far from over!
He… he could still absorb more!
Fang Lang raised his head to look at the fifth level.
Rumor has it from the fifth level onwards, each floor was unique and had an individual honor roll for cultivators to leave their name.
The honor roll would be renewed every three years. Therefore, only the best student of the academy could leave their name on it, the one with the most potential in the cohort of Imperial Examination candidates.
Leaving one’s name on the fifth level’s honor roll was the true entrance into the Spirit Pagoda!
Fang Lang dismissed the runes above his head and the gathered spiritual energy quickly dissipated.
Fang Lang would be digging his own grave if he continued using the runes.
Ni Wen stood with a determined expression. Her lips were pressed tightly together, as she followed closely behind him.
Liu Bubai was basking in his victory when he saw Fang Lang was about to challenge the fifth level. Liu Bubai decided to follow.
The three of them climbed to the fifth floor of the Spirit Pagoda while the other students on the fourth floor remained where they were. It was not that they did not want to but most of them had already tried and failed.
At that moment, they could only be spectators.
Outside the Spirit Pagoda, the two officials’ eyes lit up when they saw Fang Lang ascend the fifth level.
“That kid finally got to the fifth floor!”
Beside them, Headmaster Cui and Mentor Wen stared at each other with a serious expression, their eyes flickering with hope.
The officer took a deep breath before saying, “How much spiritual energy did this kid absorb in the first four levels? It’s not wise to absorb too much spiritual energy in the first four floors… he may trigger the remnants of a great person’s spiritual sense to test his willpower. The strength of the triggered spiritual sense is proportional to the amount of spiritual energy he absorbed. From weaker ones that include eighth-rank sect leaders of ordinary sects to stronger ones like Chao Xiaojian, Nan Yehuo and other aristocrats of the Tang Dynasty! He may even trigger other stronger spiritual sense remnants like…”
Halfway into his speech, the official stopped and changed the topic abruptly.
“The kid finally got onto the fifth floor. However, from this floor onwards, he’ll not only be tested on his spiritual energy absorption skill but also his determination, willpower and faith. He absorbed too much spiritual energy from the first four levels! I guarantee he’ll not go beyond the fifth level!”
On the fifth floor of Spirit Pagoda, the spiritual pressure was like violent waves crashing onto the rocky coast, creating giant splashes.
Sharing the burden of spiritual pressure would be impossible on the fifth floor. Everyone would get their fair share of spiritual pressure.
In a far corner, there was a notice board near the staircase leading to the sixth floor. A writing brush and inkstone laid beside. It was the honor roll of the fifth level.
The journey ahead was certainly not a bed of roses. The minute they reached the fifth level, Fang Lang, Ni Wen and Liu Bubai fell into a trance. Besides the enormous spiritual pressure, something was affecting their minds.
Strange phantoms started forming inside their heads.
Ni Wen saw a female spell master in a billowing robe with a staff in her hand. Her overbearing spiritual sense fell on Ni Wen, causing the girl to walk with extreme difficulty. She felt as if her will was hampered.
The image Liu Bubai saw was a white-haired guy wearing all white. He looked quite similar to Chao Xiaojian.
Ni Wen and Liu Bubai were still able to move forward even though they struggled with each step.
Fang Lang was standing still, his feet rooted to the ground.
The phantom in his mind was high up in the air, shining with the brilliance of the sun. Golden beams radiated majestically from the person seated on the throne with dragon carvings, as if he was guarding the rivers and mountains while overlooking the world!
The dragon throne, indomitable, regal…
Fang Lang finally understood the meaning behind the System’s challenge mission.
The regality was terrifying.
Under the scrutiny of the man’s gaze, Fang Lang felt as if the whole world had disappeared—only the eyes above existed, staring down at Fang Lang’s puny existence.
Fang Lang shuddered. The spiritual energy in his body stopped and his body bent down involuntary.
Suddenly, the Spirit Pagoda that stood peacefully in the center of the practice grounds shuddered. Multiple golden rays shot from the tower like a blooming golden lotus.
Then, the pagoda started shaking!
The sudden movements shocked the two officials who were still talking about Fang Lang’s limits. They gathered the spiritual sense in their eyes and looked into the Spirit Pagoda.
When they saw the phantom Fang Lang was facing…
Their expressions were replaced with astonishment, fear, shock and terror!
Their faces twitched involuntarily. They lifted their robes and knelt before the Spirit Pagoda fearfully.
Mentor Wen and Headmaster Cui also bowed respectfully.
All of them were still shocked and perplexed by what they were witnessing.
What had the boy done!
Fang Lang was just a ninth-grade sword disciple, nowhere near the caliber of a true monster.
How did Fang Lang manage to trigger the spiritual sense of the most dignified presence in the Tang Dynasty?