Everyone was still in a daze when they were led out of the cave by Li Tiechui. Many of the people hadn’t even realized that they were being led out of the cave!
Now that he was outside, Bai Yunfei let out a sigh of relief, “Looks like I passed…”
By his side, Zhong Xuhao was taking in large exasperated gasps of air. His entire forehead was wet with sweat, but his eyes reflected no small amount of joy.
“Haha, I—I did it! I passed! Doesn’t that mean I’m… I’m finally a student of the Crafting School!?” Zhong Xuhao managed to bring his head up to ask.
Bai Yunfei and Ye Zhiqiu were silent. The both of them were skeptical and felt that there was no way this examination would be that easy.
They were right.
As soon as Li Tiechui directed Xiao Nanren and several other students to lead the drop outs down the mountain, he turned back to face the passing applicants. Smiling, he said out loud, “Haha! Not bad! This time, ninety-six people have passed the preliminaries!
“Yes, you didn’t hear wrong. This exam was only a preliminary one. You are all aware that the Crafting School is split up into the outer and inner school, I’m sure. All of you who stand here have the right to join the outer school, but the inner school won’t be so easy to join. In three days, we will have another examination to see who will be entering the inner school and who will remain in the outer school…
“Until then, you’ll all be resting in the Western Point. Prepare yourself accordingly for the true examination!”
The sun was setting beneath the mountains by now. With dusk coming, the golden afterglow of the sun brushed the landscape a golden hue, leaving anyone that bore witness to it with a distracted look.
Bai Yunfei sighed as he watched the dejected drop-outs walk down the mountain. As they were led away by Xiao Nanren, Bai Yunfei finally realized what it meant to ‘be able to see the mountain path’ so clearly. These people came up the mountains with great expectations, but now they were leaving the mountain in silence.
Some of these people were late-stage Soul Warriors, and even Li Jianren was considered to have the ‘best’ talent in terms of affinity.
Yet, here he was being led away from the school…
“The Crafting School’s examinations are extremely precise…” Bai Yunfei turned back to look at the cave in thought.
The ninety-six people that passed were later led to the Western Point and several courtyards to rest. Song Lin himself came before dusk to impart several trivial things, such as telling them to rest or to not wander off, before he left.
Later that night, Bai Yunfei sat alone on his bed thinking about the events of today.
The examination to join the Crafting School was far more simplistic than he had originally thought. He hadn’t even had to do much, but he had earned the right to become a student of the outer school anyways.
“Ugh, that’s not enough! I have to join the inner school or become one of the students of the elders, that’d be the best case scenario.” Resting his head on his hands, Bai Yunfei continued to think.
“Who would’ve thought that that cave would be used to test my talent in crafting? It’s definitely a method that doesn’t overly complicate matters though. It’s magical for sure, but there’s plenty of things in this world I don’t know about. Before I awakened my soulforce, I never would’ve thought that people would be able to fly through the sky and use the elements of the world. Even this strange Equipment Upgrade Technique is something I don’t understand… I guess there’s no point in thinking much about the cave then.
“If the amount of pressure we felt represents how talented we are at crafting, doesn’t that mean my talent isn’t too high?” Bai Yunfei conjectured with some disappointment as he thought back to the cave. “I wonder what was behind that other corner in the cave? Since it’s the same cave, the pressure in that other path is probably stronger. If we went there, I wonder how much longer I’d be able to go on? What if… what if I’m not able to join the inner school?”
Terrified by the thought, Bai Yunfei shook his mind free of such things and slapped his face to encourage himself, “I’ve got to believe in myself! There’s no such thing as absolute in this world. I’ve earned the right to become a student of the outer school, so I should continue to work to join the inner school!”
Just then, the melodious harmony of a reed floated through the air right in the middle of Bai Yunfei’s spiel of self-motivation. It was a sound that intoxified him and calmed him down immensely. Soon enough, Bai Yunfei was back to normal and was intently listening to the reed’s song.
“It’s already so late, who’s making that—oh? It’s him…” Bai Yunfei strode out of his room.
Upon opening the door, Bai Yunfei was able to see the spacious courtyard where a dozen stone tables had been placed here and there. On the left of the courtyard were several tall trees that were well over a century in age. The abundance of trees was enough to act as a parasol that faced the sky, but since it was winter, all of the trees were nearly naked. Only a few yellowing leaves remained stuck to the tree, giving birth to a stubborn resistance against the wind that blew.
On top of one of the more larger trees sat a rather frail-looking young man with short hair. In his hand was an emerald-colored reed pipe; the instrument previously used to create that harmony from before. It was no longer being played since the young man’s hands were now wrapped against his chest while his head was tilted up. Beholding the brightly-lit moon, the young man looked spellbound at the sight.
“Brother Ye, it’s already nightfall. Why haven’t you gone to bed? Are you thinking about something?” Just then, a voice called out to the figure.
Rather than being startled, Ye Zhiqiu tore his eyes away from the moon. Greeting Bai Yunfei, who was on a tree branch to his left now, Ye Zhiqiu smiled, “Brother Bai, did I disturb you? My apologies…”
“No no, I wasn’t able to sleep myself.” Bai Yunfei waved his hand at first. Studying the trees around them and then the night sky above, he sighed, “Out of the rest of us, brother Ye has the best talent in crafting, so why does it seem like you are more sad than you are happy?”
“Haha, brother Bai, you must be mistaken.” The other chuckled.
“I was just playing a positive ballad to calm myself. How could that mean I’ve something to be sad about?” He smiled.
Bai Yunfei’s head continued to stare up at the starry sky above him, “Keeping up appearances during the day doesn’t mean everything’s fine. Playing an instrument to calm the mood can also be a way to forget your troubles…”
This time, Ye Zhiqiu’s face registered surprise at Bai Yunfei’s words. He turned his head to look up at the stars with Bai Yunfei, but he said nothing in response.
For a moment, the courtyard was basked again in silence. Even with their troubles, the two youths were left captivated by the sight above them.
“My father is the lord of the house of Ye in Freesia City of the Yellow River Province.” Ye Zhiqiu was the first to break the silence.
“We aren’t well known in the entire continent, but a long time ago, we were an impressive clan in our province. In our golden era we even had a Soul King with us, but these days, our house has fallen into a steep decline. The battles over the years were disastrous to us, and even my elder brother became a cripple. After that, my father began to change…”
Even though Ye Zhiqiu was speaking to Bai Yunfei, his words felt more like a soliloquy. “It won’t be long now. If things go on like this, the Ye will surely become the vassal of another house.”
He paused to recollect himself. “Before, I never really cared about my family situation. I just wanted to live my life in peace, but now, all I can do is look on at my father as he ages more and more as the head of the Ye. It was his wish for me to come to the Crafting School to see if I would have any success, and hopefully, a chance to help the family overcome our crisis…”
“Again with family problems…” Bai Yunfei sighed to himself. The fact that Ye Zhiqiu was telling him this was proof that he saw Bai Yunfei as a good person to confide in, but Bai Yunfei had absolutely no idea how to console him.
However, it looked as if Ye Zhiqiu felt better already after unloading his story on Bai Yunfei. Cleaning the reed pipe in his hands, he stored it away with a smile, “But what luck I have to have considerable talent in crafting! If I can become one of the personal students of an elder, I’ll be sure to work hard and bring the Ye back into another golden era!”
Nodding, Bai Yunfei smiled in encouragement, “Haha, brother Ye, I’ve faith that you can do it!”
“Ah, brother Bai, I wanted to as—”
“I’ve found you!”
A sudden shout cut into Ye Zhiqiu’s sentence, causing the two youths to turn to the right in surprise.
The very first thing that came to sight was a single bounding figure that descended not too far away from them. When he turned his head up to look, Bai Yunfei realized who this person was—it was Fei Nian, the one he beaten back down at the base of the mountains.
“Bai Yunfei, I want a rematch!”