Early in the morning, many teenagers could be seen running towards the Black Paradise Sect’s main entrance from every direction. Some, like Xiao Fang, came from another province entirely.
The Main entrance had two relatively large doors, each were roughly 4 meters by 3 meter wide. Carved on the surface of the doors were naked women in interesting poses. Some laying on clouds other in a more erotic positions, and right above the doors were a few elegantly written characters reading: “Black Paradise Sect”. Seeing these large doors were enough to make any man drool.
The crowd grew larger and larger till finally someone suddenly materialized infront of them. She was gracefully sitting on the top of the large doors and she looked as though she was a deity looking down at the world.
“Quiet down, the exams will begin very soon. There are three parts to this exam. Remember to always be on your guard, because there are many things in there that could possible take your life. The exams will be seperated between men and women. If you are a man then turn right upon entering through these doors. If you are a woman turn left. Fail to follow these simple instructions will result in your immediate failure. Enter now and do your best, but remember… be careful”.
The woman suddenly disappeared. Some mistakenly assumed it was due to her incredible speed. However, Xiao Fang knew she was merely an illusion, because her figure contained no substance when his eyes were closed.
This reminded him of something his grandfather once told him:
“Trust not eyes, nor ears, but heart. Because your senses can be deceived, but your instincts can not. This is your sixth sense, and it is developed through battle. Remember, only the blind can see the shadows in the dark”.
When he first heard him say this, he took it with a grain of salt and thought it was just the senseless ramblings of a senile old man. However, after he learned that his father had been sparring against him blind, he could only wonder if his words contained some profound truths.
“Shadows… in the dark”, Xiao Fang thought deeply before sighing in defeat.
The door finally opened, and as soon as it did everyone rushed in. Shoving each other with little regards for courtesy. Xiao Fang was in the back of the group he was confident there would be no benefit from being in the front so he leisurely strolled along while admiring the interior of the exam hall.
The crowd eventually made a stop at the next door. Suddenly a middle aged man appeared, standing on top of the door.
“Listen up. This year the exams are rather straightforward. You will not be entirely graded on performance like in the past, instead it will be a race to complete all three challenges. So if you reach the end but fail the challenge, we will know, and you will fail. Only 1500 out of the roughly 50,000 here will pass, and the top 5 to finish will be awarded special gifts. You all have 2 days to complete the exam. I wish you all the best of luck. The exam starts now!”
The man vanished, then the doors shot opened. In an instant everyone charged inside, pushing, pulling, even directly attacking one another, it was simply a stampede.
Xiao Fang, who was earlier at the back, soon found himself in the middle of the pact. Just a minute later, people in the front started screaming loud enough to make the people behind them slow down. There were many traps on the floor, ceiling, and walls. Xiao Fang could only scoff at the amateur craftsmanship of the traps as he was speeding past them.
Soon enough he was at the front of the pack, and a few minutes after that he was too far for anyone else to see. When it came to speed and traps, he was completely unrivaled.
“If I were to lose to this inexperienced group of children the elders back home would certainly cough up mouthfuls of blood”, Xiao Fang thought.
After running for a bit less than 30 minutes, Xiao Fang reached another door, but he was unable to open it. Suddenly the middle aged man appeared on top of the door like he did back at the previous door.
“This will be the your first challenge. Each of these spheres contains a saber-toothed cat. Destroy a stone sphere, then take the cat’s beast core”. The man then suddenly vanished. Xiao Fang felt that there was something off about what he was seeing, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.
Xiao Fang approached the closest sphere to him then tapped it once. The sound bouncing off the sphere revealed its hollow interior and the contents inside.
Xiao Fang unsheathed his sword.
Despite growing up in the Divine Sword sect, he only learned a few sword skills. This was because he spent nearly all of his time practicing one technique.
Technique name: Divine Sword
1st level: Iron Cutting Stone
> Minimum prerequisite: 1st stage of the Body Strengthening realm
> To cut stone with an iron sword
2nd level: Iron Cutting Iron
> Minimum prerequisite: 1st stage of the Body Refinement realm
> To cut iron with an iron sword
3rd level: Divine Sword Cutting Air
> Minimum prerequisite: 1st stage of the Solid Body realm
> The air around the blade becomes sharp
4th level: Divine Sword Cutting Sea
> Minimum prerequisite: 1st stage of the Profound Body realm
> A projectile strike, splitting sea.
5th level: Divine Sword Cutting Mountain
> Minimum prerequisite: 1st stage of the Divine Body realm
> Projectile strike, leveling mountains.
Despite being the sect’s signature technique, with the exception of elders that are required to learn this technique, many people in the Divine Sword sect would avoid this technique at all costs. Instead, they would learn a much simpler technique to cut stone. However, they wouldn’t be able to use that technique as effectively in a real battle.
The patriarch didn’t believe in reaching for instant gratifications, so he chose the hardest technique with the highest potential for Xiao Fang.
The Divine Sword Technique took Xiao Fang 1 year to do what many of the disciples could do in 1 month. This technique doesn’t have instant gratifications, but once mastered, a single swing is said to be able to level mountains.
Xiao Fang stared at the stone as he prepared his sword.
[ Iron cutting Stone ]
With a single motion he cut the spheres in two, also killing the saber-toothed cat within. He looked at it with shock. Though ‘Iron Cutting Stone’ allowed him to simply cut a stone, it didn’t mean it would be as easy as cutting butter. What just happened in front of him was equivalent of a woodcutter chopping a small tree down in a single swing.
Xiao Fang noticed the explosive difference between a solid body realm and a body refinement realm cultivator in terms of speed, but his strength too? This result was actually expected, but he still couldn’t believe just how much of a difference it made.
He reached into the sphere and extracted the cat’s beast core. He cleaned the blood off then put the black gem looking beast core into his spatial pouch.
30 minutes later, Xiao Fang found the door to the next room. The projection of the same middle aged man appeared on top of the door. He seemed to be in the middle of the meal before being interrupted. He put the meal down stood up then placed his hands behind his back.
He cleared his throat then, like an important person looking down at the world, said:
“The men of this sect are all exceptionally brave, if you cannot overcome fear and take a cub from the lion’s den, then you are not worthy of becoming a disciple of this sect. This is the second test, the test of bravery. Take a bone from one of the little dogs here and you will pass”. The man vanished again.
Xiao Fang watched the man with narrowed eyes and noticed him turn his head to the left and right but never looking directly at him. This told him that the images were merely a projection.
The doors opened again, but between him and the door were countless vengeful ghosts and many savage looking hounds chained to the floors.
“little… dogs”, he recalled his shameless choice for words. The dogs here were all massive hungry looking hounds.
There were about 200 meters of land between him and the door. Xiao Fang could tell the hounds were illusions, but hesitated with the vengeful ghosts. Though he had never seen one before, he had heard stories about them. He could not detect their presence when his eyes were closed, so he wondered if they were merely illusions as well.
Then he remember his grandfather’s words, “not eyes, nor ears, but heart…”. Just like that, his mind became as calm as a lake and he shot through the hellish plain. He was shifting, turning, and maneuvering eventually securing a large bone from a random hound as he approached the door.
Once Xiao Fang reached the door, he looked back up at the ghosts then scoffed, “figures, the ghosts were illusions too”. No matter how many ghosts passed through him he couldn’t even feel a breeze of wind, but when he looked down at the bone in his hand he noticed his sleeve had been completely torn off.
“When did this happen?” he thought.
Suddenly he heard his grandpa’s words ring out in his mind one last time, “Not eyes, not ears”. He then looked down at the hounds that were chained to the floor and his heart sank.
What he saw made him feel as though someone dumped a bucket of cold water on his head. The hounds’ were looking at him with their ghostly eyes. The chains now rattled even more furiously than before.
The chains that restrained the ghostly hounds were especially strange, even though he could hear the clanking of chains, when he closed his eyes he couldn’t detect them at all. The idea that he practically walked across a sea of snakes thinking it was water made him appreciate his grandfather’s words a little bit more. Xiao Fang changed his robes then walked through the door to the next challenge.