Under Xiao Nanren’s guidance, everyone was led through the halls and onto a path that led through the forest. Past the forest path was a steel bridge about a kilometer long, and just past that was a seemingly ordinary cave with a faint but mysterious feeling to it.
Upon seeing this cave, Bai Yunfei’s first and most immediate thoughts were to go in and investigate this cave to see if there were any bearded old men or any precious treasure inside, but when he thought about what this place was, his mind immediately thought of something, “This is the destination, so is this where that ‘crafting examination’ will be held?”
Xiao Nanren came to a stop just a few steps before the entrance of the cave to talk to one of the more bulky-looking males standing guard. “Senior Tiechui, this is the applicants for the next round of examinations. I entrust them to you now.”
After nodding to the guard, Xiao Nanren turned back to the others and spoke to the applicants, “I was only responsible for leading you here. From here on out, the personal student of the second elder, senior Li Tiechui will be in charge of overseeing your next examination.”
This announcement had been enough to shock the majority of the people here. This docile and village-boy-looking person was actually one of the personal students to one of the elders!? Many of them had just thought that he was merely a guard to the cave itself.
“Li Tiechui… is this what the second elder meant by ‘Tiechui’ earlier?” Bai Yunfei thought back to when the second elder had ordered Song Lin and the others to report to ‘Tiechui’ for punishment at the base of the mountain. Based on names alone, this person had to be the one in charge of doling out punishment to the students of the school.
Was the one in charge of punishment really someone that looked so simple and straightforward? A feeling of skepticism began to arise in Bai Yunfei’s head…
An honest smile began to form on Li Tiechui’s face. Laughing out loud, he said, “Well now, are you the future students? I am your senior, Li Tiechui. Now, don’t be so nervous, the following examination is very simple. Follow me through this cave, and the examination will begin. It’ll end as soon as we… walk out from this cave. Haha…”
Not ever did anyone think to hear such an examination like this. Even Bai Yunfei was left confused—what in the world did this mean?
“Hehe, there’s no need for you all to guess. You’ll come to know what I mean soon enough. Let’s not waste any more time or else we’ll waste daylight trying to get down the mountain. Everyone, follow me now!” Li Tiechui waved his hand and strode straight into the ‘mysterious’ cave.
A single person strode straight from the crowd and right after Li Tiechui. It was Ye Zhiqiu; he had taken the initiative to follow Li Tiechui, prompting a smile to appear on Bai Yunfei’s own face. Taking a step of his own into the cave, Bai Yunfei was followed by Mo Xiaoxuan, Yi Xan, and the others.
With Xiao Nanren leading everyone into the cave and out of sight, the other students guarding the cave began to laugh to each other, “There’s still so many people willing to enter this place? This isn’t a cave where strength can help you…”
It took only just several hundred meters of Li Tiechui leading them through the cave before Bai Yunfei began to grow disappointed. He wasn’t the only one, everyone else behind him had started to grow disappointed as well.
There was nothing in it!
The entire passageway through this cave was quite dark with only a few white-colored stones illuminating the inside. Aside from the stone walls and ground, there was absolutely nothing else to be seen. Not even a blade of grass.
But still, after another several hundred meters into the cave, Bai Yunfei began to feel an oddity. It wasn’t an oddity pertaining to the cave, but to the people around him!
“Brother Bai, have you realized it too?” A grave voice whispered to him from the side. Bai Yunfei turned his head, only to see Ye Zhiqiu right next to him.
Nodding, Bai Yunfei replied, “Some of the people here look unwell, as if they’re being weighed down on. But…”
“I don’t feel that feeling however.” Ye Zhiqiu nodded in agreement.
“Is it because of our strength?” Bai Yunfei guessed.
However, Ye Zhiqiu shook his head and pointed to their right. Over there, a mid-stage Soul Warrior could be seen with sweat dripping down his flush-red face, and right by his side was an ordinary kid just barely in the double digits without a fluctuation on his face. The little boy would constantly stare at the stones that shined light into the cave, a face filled with curiosity, but that was the only emotion to be seen on his face.
And then, another few hundred meters later…
“Brother Bai… I… I don’t feel… so good.” Zhong Xuhao pulled weakly at Bai Yunfei’s sleeves with a pale face.
Startled, Bai Yunfei hurried to ask him, “What? What’s wrong?”
“I don’t… know… the place just feels… strange around me…” Zhong Xuhao turned to look around himself before looking back to Bai Yunfei, “Or maybe it’s the air… the entire cave is strange. It feels like… like it’s trying to stop me from going forward… the more I walk, the harder it gets…”
Bai Yunfei and Ye Zhiqiu gave each other a confused look before turning to Mo Xiaoxuan and the others, “What about you?”
“Nothing.” Mo Xiaoxuan, Yi Xan, and even Liu Mang shook their heads.
“Fuck!! How insufferable this is! What kind of haunted cave is this!? Why’s it getting harder and harder for me to talk!? Even my soulforce isn’t helping me! Are you guys using some sort of knockout drug in here!?”
An exasperated cry shattered Bai Yunfei’s line of thought. As he turned around, Bai Yunfei felt as if this voice was familiar to him. As soon as he turned, his eyes locked onto Li Jianren, the one he had knocked a few teeth out from before.
The wounds on Li Jianren’s face were already back to normal, but his mouth was still missing a few teeth, meaning wind would pass through his mouth whenever he spoke. Out of everyone in the group, he had the ugliest of face. It looked as if he was constipated for an entire week straight.
His angry roar gave pause to everyone around him. Even Li Tiechui, the one leading the group from the front had turned around to smile at the still cursing Li Jianren, “Little brother, what do you mean?”
“Hmph! Just what in the world is wrong with this cave, and why do I feel so sick? It feels like something’s pressing down on my soul. What demonic things are you doing here…!” Li Jianren’s right hand pressed against the cave to support himself. He stooped down from the waist, and his face was extremely red as he tried to catch his breath.
Li Tiechui quirked his lips to reveal a good-natured smile, but the light in his eyes contrasted starkly, “Hehe, I’ve said before. When you step into this cave, the examination has started. This is the examination to test your aptitude for crafting. If you’re feeling something right now, what does that tell you?”
Li Tiechui’s eyes froze Li Jianren straight where he stood. Almost forgetting about the pressure he was feeling, Li Jianren stumbled and fell onto his butt. Gasping, he said, “I—you—what are you talking about?
Bai Yunfei’s eyebrows flew up at Li Tiechui’s response. “So what he means is that… this is caused by the examination itself? To be rejected by the cave is to be without talent for crafting? How mysterious? Is there really an examination like this?”
Looking at everyone, Li Tiechui cleared his throat and began to speak, “Well then. Since we already have a few people at their limits, I’ll make it clear to everyone. This cave is used to test a person’s talent for crafting by use of some ‘tools.’ The higher their talent, the more ‘it’ accepts the person, but if the person’s talent is insufficient, then they’ll be rejected to the point where further advancement is impossible. No matter how impossible you might think this is, this is your reality.”
“For those being rejected, you’d need not worry. It won’t hurt you. As long as you retreat, you’ll feel yourself back to normal, but that also means you’ve lost your chance to join the Crafting School…” Li Tiechui could see some of the people in front of him were losing their strength already.
“The ability to go farther in also depends on your determination, but it ultimately depends on your aptitude. I’m sure senior Song Lin has told you before, but power is not the determining cause here. Even if you fail to join the Crafting School, joining another school would still be a very high achievement.”
“Well then, let’s continue on! If you feel unable to continue, one of our students will escort you out. There’s no need to cause a racket!”
After learning about the ‘mystical’ cave, everyone was thrown into a period of silence. Some of them chose to grit their teeth and continue forward with uneven steps.
At last, ten minutes later, the very first person to drop out appeared.
Li Jianren was the first to be eliminated. The one with the lowest potential to join the Crating School was somehow the late-stage Soul Warrior with the ‘best’ talent for the elemental fire!
It went without saying that he was a tough one. He had continued to walk through the cave until in the very end, he was knocked unconscious by the pressure and carried away by a student.
By the time Li Jianren was being carried out of the mountain, Bai Yunfei himself began to feel quite unwell. He wasn’t being sympathetic to Li Jianren, but rather he was starting that ‘pressure’ himself…
“Am I lacking in talent then…?”
Disappointment began to flood Bai Yunfei’s mind for a brief moment before he pushed those thoughts away and started to console himself. “It’s only a small feeling, that’s all! Maybe the finish line is right ahead, I’ll make it!”
Li Jianren’s disqualification had been the start of an infection. Not even a hundred meters later, several more people began to drop out, and soon enough, practically every ten steps led to another person dropping out!
“Brother Bai, how’re you feeling?” Ye Zhiqiu had taken note of the change that fell over Bai Yunfei and asked.
His face was a little flushed from exertion, but Bai Yunfei managed to wave his hand nonchalantly, “It’s nothing.”
The speed at which the group was moving at was slower than before, and the people walking in the group was reduced to a terribly tiny amount. After half an hour of walking, not even a hundred people were left standing behind Li Tiechui!
At last did the end finally come. Bai Yunfei’s entire forehead was already slick with sweat when Li Tiechui stopped in his tracks. Looking up, Bai Yunfei realized that they were met with a fork in the cave—this would be the very first fork they came across in this cave.
Standing before the turn, Li Tiechui turned around to smile at the people behind him, “Well then, the examination will conclude here. Everyone, I would like to congratulate you all for having the right to join our school!”
“……….” Not a single person talked about their shock.
Was the crafting examination really going to end just like that!?