Raising his guard, Xiao Chen put on a smile. "Senior Brother, is there a problem?"
"Are you the Han brothers?"
"Yes. I'm Han Chen. This is my brother, Han Feng," Xiao Chen replied with a smile as he pointed to Xiao Han next to him.
"Hm, not bad. Go on in."
The three people successfully entered the cabin. The cold sea wind assailed their noses with the pungent fishy smell. It wasn't until dawn that the ship left the shore and sailed into the endless sea. There were about four to five hundred people on board. Besides the sailors and some seniors of the Skygale Sect, the rest of them were this year's new disciples.
This wasn't like the recruitment of the Three Pure Sect. Most of the recruits were outstanding ones from smaller sects. They had more or less some foundation in cultivation, with some even reaching the middle-stage of the Qi Refining Realm. This caused everyone to look at one another with some arrogance.
The ship sailed on the sea for an entire day and night. The wind was calm and the waves were quiet. The Senior Brothers of the Skygale Sect were constantly talking to the recruits, either telling them the deeds of their sect and the Purple Manor or teaching them some basic training methods. They didn't put on airs and were rather easy-going.
When dusk fell, the hull suddenly shook violently. Everyone became a little uneasy. Then, a dozen senior brothers stood up to maintain order. "Don't panic, everyone. Please remain on your seats and don't run around."
"Roar!" Suddenly, there was a deafening roar and the whole ship shook even more violently. The sea that was calm only minutes before had given rise to tall waves that rose hundreds of feet high. It was as if the sea was demonstrating that the heavenly power of nature shouldn't be easily violated.
Just as everyone was alarmed, a shadow of lightning in the water swam toward the ship. There was a loud bang and the whole ship was nearly overturned by the unknown creature. Everyone screamed and began fleeing in a panic.
Suddenly, there was a loud crash and a legendary weather-controlling dragon came out of the water. The dragon was twenty feet long, with green scales, five claws, and a bearded horn on its head. No one had ever seen such a fierce beast before. For a moment, they were completely petrified.
Xiao Chen noticed that than the dozen of Skygale Sect disciples weren't in a hurry and presumed that this rain-summoning dragon to be a sort of mythological animal that was responsible for protecting the mountain. It wouldn't truly hurt anyone. It seemed like they were about to reach the Skygale Sect.
"Roar!" Following yet another roar, a column of water of dozens of feet high crashed on them. The impact shook the hull and nearly overturned the ship again. Water columns attacked one after another. Before long, a foot-deep of water had accumulated inside the cabin. If this continued, the ship would soon sink.
Everyone had been deathly terrified since the beginning. The dozens of Senior Brothers realized that something seemed to be wrong. One of the more courageous ones ran up to the deck and saluted the dragon. "Please calm down, Dragon Lord! The ship is full of new disciples of our sect this year."
With a loud bellow, the dragon finally stopped attacking. It swam to the front of the ship quickly and looked at the new disciples inside one by one through the porthole. The disciples were so terrified to see such a large dragon head that they didn't even dare to breathe. After a long time, the dragon appeared to not to have noticed anything and returned to the bottom of the water with a roar.
With calm restored in the sea, the crowd was finally relieved. The dozens of Senior Brothers had been so nervous that they were sweating, unable to comprehend why the Dragon Lord would act so abnormally today.
"Don't be afraid, everyone. That was the divine beast of the Skygale Sect earlier. It's welcoming all of you Junior Brothers."
A young man exhaled slowly. "Er... It's better to have less of such welcomes." Everyone burst into laughter. It seemed like they didn't realize that they had almost died in the sea.
The ship sailed for a little longer before they saw an island. At first, it was only the size of a millstone. It wasn't until the ship got near that Xiao Chen discovered that the island was as big as Cloud City.
Hundreds of people set foot on the island one after another. The scenic island was covered in lush greenery. In the center was a large mountain. Some buildings on the mountain were hidden in the clouds. That was probably where the Skygale Sect was located.
Looking at the looming buildings amidst the clouds, Xiao Chen's frown gradually deepened. Was Huangfu Xin'er up there? He hadn't seen her for more than two years. He had no idea how she was doing. whether she had entered the Foundation Building Realm, whether she still remembered what she once said...
He shook his head and put aside these emotions. His main purpose this time was rescuing Senior Sister Luo and Xian'er.
One of the Senior Brothers stepped forward. "Be quiet, everyone. We must ascend the mountain before dark. There are various Barrier formations placed along the way. Stay close and don't leave the team."
Thus, under the leadership of more than a dozen of Senior Brothers, hundreds of people marched up the mountain. Xiao Chen couldn't help wondering whether the Skygale Sect was really so desperate for disciples that they would omit the examination.
At the same time, the faint sound of zither resounded in a certain courtyard on the mountain.
"Today I long to part with the willow trees; my words are accompanied by tears. He meets a stranger by a chance but doesn't get to know her. There are no affectionless people in this world, only those who have no feelings for you..."
Every line of the song was sung in such a broken-hearted way as the melody drifted far away. Under a tree, a young woman in a green dress played the zither with rapt attention. The gentle breeze caressed her sorrowful brows.
Suddenly, the sound of footsteps came from outside the courtyard. A red-clothed young woman of seventeen or eighteen, with a green frosted sword hanging from her waist, came in. Behind her was another five or six young men and women.
The sound of zither stopped.
"Huangfu Xin'er! Who allowed you to play zither here?" the red-clothed woman shouted.
"Su Wan, I'm playing zither in my own courtyard. What does it have to do with you?" the young woman replied placidly as she raised her head. She was none other than Huangfu Xin'er.
Su Wan sneered, "Your courtyard? Don't you know your name isn't on next month's entrance list for the Violet Manor?"
"What did you say?"
Su Wan gave a strange laugh. "Before, you have Senior Brother Qin watching out for you. Now he has returned to the Violet Manor and Master is still in retreat. You'd better be obedient and give up the spot to enter the Violet Manor."
"Impossible." Huangfu Xin'er refused succinctly.
Glaring at her, Su Wan unsheathed the sword hanging from her waist. She pointed it at Huangfu Xin'er. "I'm the eldest daughter of the Su family. What's a disciple of a fallen aristocratic family like you worth? You dare tell me no?"
Following the flash of a cold glint, Huangfu Xin'er drew a frosted sword from the bottom of her zither. She said coldly, "What's wrong? You want to try my Stifled Light?" Her sword looked almost imaginary and no shadow of the blade could be found on the ground.
Su Wan smiled coolly. "I can't believe Senior Brother Qin even gave you his Stifled Light. How on earth did you a little vixen like you captivate Senior Brother Qin?"
"Su Wan! Stop spouting nonsense here! There's only friendly affection between me and Senior Brother Qin!"
"Huh! Friendly affection? Who's the one who sang 'There are no affectionless people in this world, only those who have no feelings for you' earlier? Tsk, tsk. What a shameless little bitch..."
"Shut up! Senior Brother Qin didn't write that song!"
"Huh! That means you're flirting around behind Senior Brother Qin's back..."
"Shut the hell up!" The Stifled Light moved without producing a shadow. Huangfu Xin'er could no longer endure the woman and thrust her sword. Su Wan failed to dodge in time and with a tearing sound, the Sword Qi carved a small incision on her shoulder.
Seeing this, the two young men behind Su Wan slammed their palms on Huangfu Xin'er. Two sounds of collision resounded as Huangfu Xin'er took the blow of two palm attacks. She took a few steps in retreat and clutched her chest as she coughed incessantly.
"Quick! Kill this little bitch for me!" Su Wan was furious.
The two young men besieged Huangfu Xin'er, forcing her to back up all the way to the corner of the wall. She blocked one of the men's attacks with her Stifled Light but was unable to block the other's sneak attack. In no time at all, she suffered multiple palm attacks. Blood seeped from the corner of her mouth.
"Let's see if you'll keep playing your damn zither!" Su Wan picked up the Jade Zither on the stone platform and was about to throw it on the ground.
Huangfu Xin'er cried out, "No!" She weaved past the two young men with her sword and charged at Su Wan. Unfortunately, the two other women rushed up and stopped her.
With a thud, the Jade Zither fell to the ground and snapped in half with the seven strings still bound tightly together. Huangfu Xin'er immediately turned pale.
"I'll kill you!" Huangfu Xin'er erupted in fury as her murderous aura flared and eyes turned bloodshot. She thrust her sword in the space between Su Wan's eyebrows. The latter, having never felt such a heavy murderous aura in her life, couldn't help feeling stunned. She was so shocked that she forgot to lift her sword to resist.
With a thump, sparks flew. However, it was a young man's sword that swiftly cut across space and allowed itself to be snap into half by the Stifled Light. The interruption caused a slight change in direction of Huangfu Xin'er's sword, causing Su Wan to lose only several strands of hair.
Su Wan, who had narrowly escaped death, immediately recovered her senses and slammed her palm on Huangfu Xin'er's abdomen. She attacked so swiftly that Huangfu Xin'er was unable to escape. The latter coughed up a mouthful of blood as she was thrown twenty feet away.
After seeing that Huangfu Xin'er was badly hit, a woman rushed to Su Wan's side and whispered, "Sister Su, why don't we just let things slide for now? We'll be in trouble if Master finds out."
Su Wan glared at Huangfu Xin'er. "You'd better be careful. If you mess with me, the Violet Manor will have no place for you no matter how large it is. You need to understand who I am!" She flicked her sleeves and left with her companions.
Amid the gentle breeze, Huangfu Xin'er staggered back to her previous spot. She picked up the broken Jade Zither and brought it back to the stone table. However, it couldn't be put together no matter how hard she tried. Finally, her tears fell silently, drop by drop on the tail of the zither where two words were engraved: "Xin, Chen."
The wind was strong and cold at the foot of the mountain.
Everyone was climbing the steps when Xiao Chen suddenly stopped in his tracks. Behind him, Shangguan Yan crashed into him. She frowned. "Hey! The one in front! What did you suddenly stop?!"
"Oh, sorry about that." Xiao Chen smiled. Just now, he felt a sudden sharp pain in his heart. He looked at the top of the mountain. They were about 400 to 500 steps away from the square, where many people had already gathered.
When everyone arrived at the square, the Senior Brothers did a head count before leading them to the dormitory. Finally, there was a welcome banquet.
Xiao Chen and Xiao Han were assigned to the same room. They were tidying their room when they heard a sudden roar of joy from the square at the foot of the mountain. The welcome banquet must have begun.
Shangguan Yan sneaked into their room. "Hey, are you two going to the welcome banquet? Looks like the Skygale Sect is a lot livelier than our Three Pure Sect."
"Shh..." Xiao Chen made a gesture of silence and looked around warily. Xiao Han said, "You don't have to be nervous either. It's a good idea to familiarize ourselves with the environment first."
Xiao Chen shook his head. "Go ahead. I'll take a rain check. Remember to be careful when you talk."
After both of them left, Xiao Chen went out of the courtyard alone. The bright moon was rising and the sea was sparkling, reflecting the sea breeze blowing from the bottom of the mountain. He didn't know where he was going. He made a cursory sweep of his surroundings with his eyes and seemed to have spotted a beautiful shadow standing on the top of a mountain somewhere. In the blink of an eye, the person was gone.
Just as he was seeking a path to continue moving forward, a voice came from behind him, "Are you new here, Junior Brother? Why aren't you attending the welcome banquet?"