Chapter 71 – The first test (i).
Surprisingly, Zilan was able to enjoy a very sound and comfortable sleep despite having to undergo a very important test the next day.
Among the people who were participating in this times entrance examination he was probably the only one who was able to act as such.
Even Fujo, was feeling the pressure. Of course, the kind of pressure he was enduring was somewhat different from normal participants as instead of just wishing to pass, he was looking to make a statement. After all, with his family name behind him, a mediocre performance would be simply unacceptable.
With the rise of the sun, came the morning.
A commotion was stirring among the members of the Alchemy Association as today was a very special day.
“The first test is about to start. I hope something interesting happens this year as well.” Exclaimed one of the people who intended to watch the first test.
“Ha! I doubt anything like last year is going to happen again. That record that lasted so many years was broken by the genius Jipende, do you really think something as earth shattering as that could happen again? That Jipende is now a disciple of Master Cheko, which just goes to show how talented he really is.” scoffed another by-passing member.
“Who cares? It’s just a small scale record, all the major ones that were left by the Elders are still standing today. If one of those gets broken then something really big would have happened. That kid only broke the record of most [finds] which means his perception is good and nothing else.” stated a short, proud looking Alchemist.
Immediately all the people who heard him started laughing while shaking their heads at the short man’s foolish comment.
After that, they all dispersed and left the location.
The reason for all the intrigue around the entrance exam was actually not very complicated. In fact, it was really only the first test that received so much of the spotlight and that was simply because it was actually the only test set by the Chairman himself out of all of the tests.
Its popularity also received a sudden increase this year after the previous year, a few test takers actually came close to breaking some of the past records, with one of them shockingly succeeding.
Naturally, Zilan knew none of what was transpiring outside the Purple Heart, Two Flames camp. He had just woken up and after freshening up, he was ready to leave.
Fujo and Kifo who did not have quite the rest Zilan had were waiting for him outside the stone house however, unexpectedly Amani and about thirty other camp members were also there.
As usual, a calm, unperturbed smile could be seen on Amani’s face but unfortunately the same could not be said about the rest of the camp people. All of them were at least one cauldron Alchemists with some of them even having two cauldron pins on their chests thus they found it not only strange but also unacceptable that they’d have to silently await a no-name Half-Breed before departing.
Seeing this Zilan could only bitterly smile. The situation Amani had put him in was definitely not favorable.
“If Senior had just called out, this junior would have immediately come out.” said Zilan as he slightly lowered his head.
Amani didn’t respond, only nodding his head before setting off.
Fujo slightly chuckled as he approached Zilan,
“Hehe, Uncle can do some strange things sometimes. Don’t think about it too much.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Zilan as he slowly shook his head.
“Where are we going?” asked Zilan.
“The Ethereal forest.” Responded Fujo with glowing eyes.
“Is it special in some way?” noticing the change in Fujo, Zilan couldn’t help ask.
Instantly, a sneer from one of the camp Alchemists who overheard his question sounded out.
Zilan paid no attention to the other party, only waiting for an answer from Fujo.
“Say another word in front of me and see if I don’t act.” Barked Fujo as he glared at the person who abused Zilan.
The entire group immediately turned silent upon hearing their young Masters threat.
They were all aware of the power and influence that Fujo held. A single request from him and hell would reign down on them.
The Alchemist who had thought it was a good idea to put Zilan in his place didn’t dare to even breathe when Fujo’s gaze locked onto him.
“This bastard. Not only does Master Amani treat him well but he also has support from young Master Fujo. Just who the hell is this trash?” cursed the one cauldron Alchemist.
The people around him, also took note of this and decided to save their frustrations with Zilan for later when the two Masters weren’t around.
Seeing this, Amani’s smile unnoticeably grew wider. He then waved his hand towards Fujo before saying,
“The Ethereal forest is one of the Chairman’s personal gardens. Within it resides countless spirit herbs and rare creatures that if captured would make the refining of various high ranked items infinitely easier. However, without the Chairman’s permission no one apart from the Elders can enter them. The compulsory entrance test, is one of the few times vast amounts of people are allowed into one of his gardens, which depending on the person could either be a great opportunity or a hopeless disaster.”
Zilan nodded in understanding. He then turned towards Fujo and asked,
“So what is the first test about?”
Before Fujo could speak, Amani’s voice sounded out,
“That will be explained when we reach the grounds.”
With Amani in the lead, the group moved quite fast. It wasn’t long before they had arrived at a large array and after flashing his gold badge, it instantly activated, transporting the entire group.
After a moment of blurriness, Zilan’s vision quickly cleared and he found himself in a place that could only be described as magical. Between two large mountains laid a huge basin which housed a magnificent forest.
As far as the eye could see, a myriad of beautifully coloured foliage spread out throughout the basin. The fragrance that permeated the air causing everyone that took it in to have their cultivation stir, by itself can be counted as a treasure let alone the source of smell.
“Amazing.” whispered Zilan as he watched a flock of hundreds of peculiar birds fly across the sky at extreme speeds.
It wasn’t just him who found this place wondrous, in fact everyone in the group including Amani was in awe when looking at the beautiful or rather the ‘ethereal’ scenery.
Amani quickly recovered his mind set and began walking towards the gathering location. As everyone present was a cultivator, it took less than twenty breaths to arrive.
“You all stay here. Fujo, Zilan and Kifo follow me.”
The camp members of the Purple Heart, Two flame moved towards the spectator’s area where thousands of people were gathered before a large light screen that was currently blank.
As for Zilan, Amani showed him, Fujo and Kifo to the participants’ area which unsurprisingly was right at the entrance of the Ethereal forest, before leaving.
After a few minutes, the light screen suddenly flashed and a view of a nearby hill could be seen. Exquisitely crafted tables and seats, were spread out on the top of the hill, with a few old people sitting calmly on them. Some of them even had their eyes closed, as if the whole thing had nothing to do with them.
However, as soon as the image appeared everyone, be it the spectators or the participants all immediately quieted down as they respectfully looked at the old people on the screen.
“Some Elders have come out this time!” whispered a shocked spectator.
“Sshh…Elder White Snow is about to speak.” warned another much older looking Association member.
As if on cue, the screen then focused on the White Gorilla Elder known as Elder White Snow.
“I hope you all rested well.” His voice powerfully spread out throughout the basin, causing many people to tremble.
“The Chairman’s test is compulsory and has never changed after many years. Unfortunately as time has gone on, performances have been getting more and more disappointing.
This time we hope everyone can put in their best efforts to break some of the records set by myself and my Brothers long ago. Of course, there will be many rewards for this accomplishment so make sure to work hard so as to not regret it in the future.” Although, his words were spoken powerfully there was still a noticeable frustration and slight sadness that could be detected.
For the great Alchemy Association to flourish, they required geniuses to appear that in the future could take up the positions of Elder. After all, no one can live forever, even the Chairman could not possibly defeat Time.
However, for the past few decades, although many talents have appeared, clear cut future leaders had yet to appear and in truth anyone who could equal them when they were youths were extremely sparse.
That is why after last year’s surprise of a few good seeds, this time the Elders wished to give some incentives to push the prospects. Especially in the first test since it was without a doubt the deepest test.
Of course not all the Elders were for this proposal for various reasons but those that were could be said to be divided into three groups.
The most common were Elders who lacked great status and were now looking for a genius to groom who in the future could form a camp that would boost his/her standing. Then there were the Elders who were competing and could not let their rivals nab a great asset like last year when a record breaker joined a camp under the Second Elder.
As for the third group, those were Elders who had secret, unknown motives.
“The first test will now begin. Your aim is to collect as many rare items as you can and bring them out with you.
The rest will be explained in the jade dials.”
As soon as Elder White Snow said that, countless finger-sized jade dials darted through the air and appeared before all the participants.
Meanwhile, many people in the spectators’ area were going off.
“The Elders are personally rewarding great performances in this years tests. Ahh! Why couldn’t I have waited two more years before taking the test.” Lamented an Alchemist who felt wronged.
It wasn’t only him. In fact, many people were crying out about how unfair this years rules were.
However, a select few simply remained silent as they gazed at the light screen. These people were talents who knew that even in past years if they had shown great results, they would have been rewarded as well.
It was only that this time, the Elders seemed to have suddenly publicised their desire for talents for unknown reasons.