Tan Zhongchi’s words of encouragement was completely different than the other Palace Masters. His speech did not contain many heroic words, but each of his movements and words could make his disciples follow wholeheartedly. They were inspired and ready to give their lives for the Green Cloud Palace to obtain a good result. They wanted to win a smile on their master’s face.
Naturally, it was all due to Tan Zhongchi’s attitude towards his disciples. It was equivalent to an attraction from his personality. After all, not everyone in the Stargaze Palace was fortunate to have an overprotective senior.
After the gathering at the Green Cloud Palace and giving reminders to the Core disciples, Tan Zhongchi walked out of the Palace and gave some encouragement to the Advanced and the Initial Stage disciples. Then, he said: "In our Green Cloud Palace, we do not curry favor by holding back, everyone, go with all your efforts and strengths. Regardless of the grade, everyone should go to this exam with the reputation of the Green Cloud Palace as the priority. We must not become arrogant by winning and not give up after losing. Everyone, do your best."
"Now, come with me to assemble at the main Palace. Everyone, stay in an organized line and don’t act disorderly." After he had finished the reminders, Tan Zhongchi led his disciples to walk towards the main palace.
After people had assembled at the main Palace, the year-end exam would begin with excitement.
The vast area outside the Main Palace could hold at least one hundred thousand people. Currently, the five factions of each of the five Palace Masters, and the other disciples of the Shakyamuni and Elders all neatly assembled in their pre-assigned areas.
Across this square, the tens of thousands of disciples from the Stargaze Palace did not seem crowded.
The disciples of the Second Palace Master held a high and respectable position. Thus, their divided area appeared significant. Tan Zhongchi led his line of disciples and told Zhou Fu and the other Core disciples to maintain order. Then, he walked towards the Main Palace.
The other Palace Masters also arrived and walked inside the Main Palace.
Before the start of the exam, all Palace Masters, Shakyamuni and Elders still needed to have a meeting.
When Tan Zhongchi walked closer to the Main Palace, the other Palace Masters carried a somewhat playful expression. However, Tan Zhongchi did not mind. He knew that more or less; these people were planning some little tricks inwardly.
In the past years, the line of the Head Palace Master had earned the best grades of all in the year-end exam. The disciples of the other Palace Masters were powerless to disrupt the position of the Head Palace Master.
Usually, the disciples to Tan Zhongchi had taken second place. After all, since he was ranked as the Second Palace Master, he had his own unique teachings. It was reasonable for his disciples to have an overall better strength.
However, because of this slightly leading points, the rest of the Palace Masters could not accept it. Each time at the year-end exam, these guys would have grand ambitions as they wanted to pull down the position of the Second Palace Master. They wanted to replace him and become the second most powerful faction.
Tan Zhongchi was not unfamiliar with these little schemes they had.
"Humph, in the past years, you guys could not surpass me when I did not have Qin Wushuang, the hidden trump. This year, don’t even think about getting one over me." Inwardly, Tan Zhongchi had a trace of disdain.
His goal was to aim for three spots in the top ten. He hoped to achieve a closer score to the disciples of the Head Palace Master and did not plan to compete with the other few Palace Masters.
Inwardly, Tian Zhixing, the Fifth Palace still felt some resentment over the matter with the West Chu. However, this Fifth Palace Master was a good-humored guy and was not someone that would hold a grudge. Only, he joked: "Second, for this year-end exam, do you have some hopes for your disciples?"
"Tell me your ambition first." Tan Zhongchi never followed this trend.
Zhong Wuyin, the Third Palace Master was the biggest competitor of Tan Zhongchi and the one who desperately wanted to suppress him. After all, he had the closest ranking with Tan Zhongchi. One was the Second Palace Master, and the other one was the Third. He never stopped desiring to suppress Tan Zhongchi.
Hearing Tan Zhongchi’s words, Zhong Wuyin, the Third Palace Master said: "For this year-end exam, there would be no question. At least, they would have the top five of the ten spots. The rest of the four lines will compete for the other four. Each Palace would be able to have one of the top ten spot, it would depend on which Palace to get two spots."
Tan Zhongchi had also sensed Zhong Wuyin’s little thoughts. However, he did not take it to heart: "Third, can you be better than this, the ranking competition has not even started and you are in a rush to distribute spots? We earn these spots through strength, and not by talking from us old guys. Who said we could only compete for five spots?"
Of course, Zhong Wuyin was not convinced when he heard that Tan Zhongchi speaking with a confidence tone. He said with a faint smile: "Second, from your tone, you seem to want to challenge the lines of the Head Palace Masters?"
Leng Qiuchi, the Fourth Palace Master who was known for having a cold-face suddenly smiled: "Challenge the Head Palace Master? It would be an act to not know your own strength. Our lines do not have the strength to compete with disciples to the Head Palace Masters. Give it a rest."
Naturally, Tan Zhongchi heard that these two guys was not convinced by him being the Second Palace Master. However, he did not get angry and rolled his eyes. Then, he just ignored these two.
At this point, the Head Palace Master approached the Main Palace with large strides. He greeted with a face full of joyful smile: "Junior Brothers, you are all here early."
"Head Palace Master." Those four all went forward and cupped their hands in salute.
"Ha ha, time just slipped away. The last year’s year-end exam seemed to have just happened yesterday. Unexpectedly, a year has already past. Everyone, how did you prepare?"
"Of course, we could not compare to your faction, boss." Zhong Wuyin spoke first with a smile: "This year, my goal is to get two spots in the top ten."
Zhuo Buqun, the Head Palace Master was the head of the Stargaze Palace. With supreme prestige, he encouraged with a smile after hearing Zhong Wuyin speaking: "It’s still possible to compete for two spots from the top ten. Third, you always complained that you have few disciples, it seems that’s not that case. Do you have some hidden power?"
Revealing some pride on his face, Zhong Wuyin pretended to be humble: "Although I don’t have many disciples, I’ve always trained them strictly. Year after year, I do have some good seeds. Whether or not this set of cards are good to use, it would depend on the result of this year end exam."
"Ha ha, it would not be bad." Zhuo Buqun, the Head Palace looked at others with a smile, "What about you guys?"
Tian Zhixing, the Fifth Palace Master said bitterly: "I don’t have any surprises, I would only ask to maintain one spot in the top ten. I will not aim to achieve the best possible results, but rather trying to avoid mistakes. Overall, I was never be able to get the disciples with the best talent."
There was a saying how a crying child would get milk to drink. Obviously, the Fifth Palace Master knew this principle very well. In just a few words, he started to complain about hardships.
On the other hand, Leng Qiuchi, the Fourth Palace Master said: "For my line, we will do our best. Head Palace Master, all the Shakyamuni and Elders have gathered. Let’s being the main topic after we signed the fairness contract."
In fact, Tan Zhongchi was not willing to talk anymore. He supported the viewpoint of the Fourth Palace Master as he nodded: "Yes, a thousand words of nonsense are no match to an actual performance in the exam. Head Palace Master, let’s go through the procedures."
Zhuo Buqun nodded with a smile: "It seems that everyone cannot wait anymore. Alright, everyone, this is the fairness contract. Let’s follow the old rules. Come up with your ranking and sign your name. If any of the lines cheat, their grades will get suspended as a group. No exceptions."
Each year, they needed to sign this contract. It was to create an absolutely fair competition. To cheat would pose serious repercussions in which the groups grade would be suspended.
Thus, for such an exam, it was almost impossible to cheat.
First, the Head Palace Master signed his name on it. Next, Tan Zhongchi walked up and signed. Finally, all the higher ups in the Stargaze Palace had signed the contracts.
Finally, the Head Palace Master said: "Everyone, the contracts have been signed and will become effective immediately. All the higher ups at the Palace Master level will come out with me to announce the exam content."
All Five Palace Masters walked out of the Main Palace together and stood on the top of the stairs. They looked down and saw every eye looking at them. Apparently, they were expecting the arrival of the exam.
Head Palace Master smiled lightly and opened a prepared scroll: "To all disciples of the Stargaze, the annual year-end exam will start soon. To the old rules, the disciples of the Stargaze will be divided into three levels and so are the exam levels. The promotion and demotion rules are the same as past years—Between the Core and the Advanced disciples, there will be a change of three to five spots. Between the Advanced and Initial Stage disciples, there will be a change of thirty to fifty spots. Everyone will have their equal share of opportunities. Those who want to advance, give it all you’ve got!"
His words had caused all disciples to the Stargaze blood to boil. Each of them rubbed their fists and prepared to fight.
"Each level of exam is different with different difficulties. However, each level of exam has six contents. The content for the Initial disciples are…"
Qin Wushuang pricked up his ears to listen. Of course, he did not care about the exam content for the Initial disciples since it had nothing to do with him. He was concerned about the exam content related to the Advanced disciples.
After he had finished announcing the exam content for the Initial Stage disciples, the Head Palace Master stopped for a moment and spoke again in a clear voice: "Next is the exam material for the Advanced disciples, there are six in total—Weapon, movement, power, endurance, martial arts levels and a comprehension portion.
"For the weapons section, of course, it will test your proficiency in the use of weapons, destructive power and combat attacking power."
"For movements, you are to be tested on agility, speed and reaction. At that time, there will be examiners to tell you the exact material."
"The test for power is the easiest. You will be tested on weights, individual combat ability and others."
"The endurance portion is the most challenging one. Everyone will enter into a Spiritual Qi circle for this section. Inside the circle, it would keep creating pressure. The longer you can stay in there, the better your grade."
"The test for martial arts is also straightforward. It will test your exact martial arts levels."
"The comprehensive exam portion is the most complicated. For this portion, your examiner will announce the rules."
After having explained everything, the Head Palace Master announced: "All Advanced disciples will gather at the square in the north. There will be a total of six hundred people. Each of you will have your own serial number. Now, go get your serial number!"
Immediately, all Advanced disciples rushed toward the north of the square.