A small smile crossed Elder Tong’s face. “Myriad Abyss Island is being stirred into chaos right now. There’s no need to lord our superiority over them too much. They’re already taking a very humble position. I advise all of you to apply a certain amount of courtesy in return.
“There’s no need to be frigid and take things for granted all the time. Though the Rejuvenation Isles may not say anything about it, they may be discouraged by our attitude. They may think that we from Polylore are hard to deal with. They’re already buttering us up, so it’s quite cold not to get a response otherwise.”
“Why do you say that, Elder Tong? Think about the difference between Polylore and the Isles! They feel honored to grovel before us. Are we supposed to respond with a smile and a kind look?”
“Yes, there’s no need to be excessive about it. There are countless smaller entities like the Rejuvenation Isles in Myriad Abyss. It’s too tiresome to treat all of them with niceness.”
These Polylore aristocrats were intrinsically proud. They felt that their nation’s position didn’t require giving unimportant factions much face. Wasn’t the diligence they were receiving a matter of fact?
Elder Tong sighed when he heard the tone of the responses. “I’m merely a judge that you’ve appointed. That was just advice, nothing more. I don’t intend to force you to do anything. That said, let’s talk a bit about the affairs of your houses instead.
“There are eight houses whose young geniuses are gathered here. I’m sure you’ve set the rules already, yes? Those older than thirty are barred, as are those who are not yet great emperors.”
“Yes. A genius who takes more than thirty years to attain great emperor isn’t really a top rate one.”
“Quite so. Thirty is a boundary line. Someone who can’t become a great emperor by then is no longer considered a house’s best.”
The eight houses had extremely high requirements. Great emperor before thirty?
The human domain’s great emperors would be furious if they heard this. Most needed a thousand years or more. In fact, those who took only a few centuries were considered remarkable geniuses in their own right.
Even for those who lived in the Rejuvenation Isles and on Winterdraw, great emperor was an endeavor that typically took a hundred years. Thus, Winterdraw’s selection had had a similar standard. Great emperor or more, but not empyrean or over a hundred.
The best geniuses on Winterdraw generally became great emperors between the ages of sixty to a hundred. And yet the eight houses had a standard that cut the minimum in half. A few decades’ difference didn’t seem large on the surface, but was a tremendous gap to bridge at the beginning of one’s life.
Elder Tong smiled faintly. “The information you provided has already given me a rough idea. There are twenty-four total participants, three from each house. Why not decide the ranking according to individual score?”
“How should the score be calculated?” someone asked.
“Why, by the fruits of one’s labor, of course. Any questions?” The elder’s eyes glittered as he looked at everyone.
There was some consideration from his rapt audience, then a flurry of nods. “Of course. The most basic method is also the most direct and appropriate. It’s hardest to game the system this way.”
“Then that’s settled.”
Elder Tong got up with a wave. “It’s getting late. Go rest. Tomorrow, we make for the Blackwraith Mountains.”
The guests from Polylore gathered very early the next morning. Besides the two dozen geniuses about to be tried, there were elders and guards from the various houses as well. It was quite a sizable group.
Elder Tong traded a few quick words with Imperial Prince Huo, then turned to those of the eight houses. “Prepare yourselves. We leave immediately!”
The chief warden and his men personally in the lead, the expedition rolled out towards the Blackwraith Mountains. In four hours, a fleet of airboats landed in the mountain range’s outskirts.
The men of the various Winterdraw factions had awaited the guests for a long time. They were shocked to see the vehicles descending from the sky, awed at the commotion.
Important personages had come.
Even the chief himself couldn’t have commanded this kind of parade. A single airboat cost an unimaginable amount of wealth, so naturally he didn’t use such a device. Their collective gazes considered the airboats with full respect.
The chief led his men forth first, walking at the head of the pack. The imperial family’s guard and Polylore’s honored guests followed behind them.
The faction leaders all walked up hurriedly. “Greetings to the chief warden and noble masters.”
The chief warden nodded, significantly less proud than his normal self. “We’ve kept you waiting, everyone,” he stated coolly. “However, the imperial family aren’t the only ones here to watch your performance. There are other honored guests here as well. Even to the imperial family, their importance cannot be understated. You must perform to the best of your abilities. Don’t lose face for the Rejuvenation Isles. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir!” All of them were the very picture of respect. The chief was already someone they had to look up to, and the imperial family and honored guests only accentuated this.
The factions’ leaders were all extremely excited. The sheer scale of the trial and the value of its participants meant something important was taking place. Perhaps this really was a chance to shine?
The chief nodded. “Alright. Have your geniuses prepare themselves. When the forbidden grounds open, the trial will begin.”
“Yes, sir.” The leaders cupped their fists and returned to their respective camps.
“Everyone, I’ve just gotten notice that the imperial representatives are here,” announced Xie Wushuang. “They’re accompanied by honored guests of an even higher caliber, who will be observing the trial as well. This is a golden opportunity for you. I can’t promise anything, but I can imagine with my toes alone that this is a chance at greatness. If one of you displays incredible potential, you may be picked by one of the honored guests. Think of what kind of a change in your fates it would be then!”
Xie Wushang’s words hyped up the selected geniuses.
Jiang Chen observed quietly to the side. He’d seen the airboats descend himself. The remarkability of those who’d come out of them was evident despite the distance. Their local imperial family was licking their chops to fawn over the visitors. Perhaps the honored guests were from the Ten Divine Nations?
While Jiang Chen was curious about where they’d come from, he didn’t delve too deeply into the subject. He was more interested in why they’d come.
In theory, guests from the Ten Divine Nations shouldn’t have come to a place for exiles like Winterdraw. There was no notable scenery here worthy of inspection.
Are these honored guests here simply out of boredom? He noticed that there was a mixture of young and old among those guests. The young ones looked even younger than him at first glance!
Some were only teenagers. The older ones were twenty-somethings.
Are these nobles from large factions, journeying with their faction’s young geniuses? Did they pass by the Rejuvenation Isles by chance? This was the only explanation Jiang Chen had.
Even from afar, he could sense that these so-called ‘honored guests’ were an arrogant bunch. They didn’t seem to care much about the people of the Rejuvenation Isles. The egotism within their bones seeped out without realization. The distance didn’t do much to dull the sensation.
Jiang Chen didn’t really care about the guests’ attitude though. Whether it was possible for him to leave through this trial was far more important.
For the time being, he was a tiny bit hopeful, and still perfectly calm, of course. Calmness was especially compulsory in this situation.
The chief warden came over, his advisors in tow.
“All geniuses attending the trial, prepare yourselves. The entrance to the forbidden grounds will be open soon. You are permitted to stay within sixteen hundred miles from the outside in. Trespassing past that is expressly forbidden. If you break this rule, you will certainly die.
“Remember, sixteen hundred miles. There will be clear markers and reminders about the boundary.”
The prohibition was stated twice for extra emphasis.
Everyone quietly memorized this fact. It didn’t sound like a lot, but it was much more expansive in practice. There could be uncountable dangers in a single square mile in the vast mountains, and a stretch of sixteen hundred… well, it was large enough to consume a hundred thousand men, much less one or two thousand.
“Representatives, come forth with your lists of participants.”
Sin City had about two hundred in this game. As the city lord’s closest attendants, Jiang Chen and company were undoubtedly the most elite. The same number came from Nefarious Vale and Terminus Place as well.
Added together, the three factions numbered some seven hundred. The second-rate factions had about the same, after all their men were added up.
The list of names was quite weighty. The elites in it had been undoubtedly hand-picked by the respective leaders. Jiang Chen’s name was among those elites, in the form of ‘Jiang Huang’.