Chapter 26: An Ordinary Preliminary Examination
Southwind Academy was bustling with activity on this day. The atmosphere seemed to be fired up as everyone geared up for the preliminary examinations.
This preliminary examination was basically a qualifying round. Only the surviving twenty individuals would be able to represent Southwind Academy in the final examinations.
The Academy Final Examinations, as they were also known as, was a gathering of all the academies in the Tianshu Province in which they would engage in rounds of battles. All of this was part of the selection for the Astral Sage College’s strict entry requirements.
This was also to say that only by passing through this qualifying round and entering the top twenty would one have the right to struggle for a place within the Astral Sage College.
Of course, many students also understood that the Astral Sage College was a goal that was simply too lofty. If they were able to perform outstandingly during the final examinations, they would still be able to attend a respectable college in the Xia Kingdom.
Although these other colleges and institutions were not as famous, as large in scale, or as strong as the Astral Sage College, they were still viable paths for one’s future.
Hence, this final examination was the final chance for the students to demonstrate their capabilities.
At Southwind Academy’s central training field.
The entire place was swarmed with a sea of people. There were tens of rings that had been constructed to serve as the competition fields. The rules were also quite simple: one competitor had to be knocked out of the field or forced to forfeit before the time limit was over to be considered a victory.
When Li Luo and Zhao Kuo arrived in the area, they were shocked at the hustle and bustle.
“Hmph! It truly seems a little noisy.” Zhao Kuo laughed.
“Although this is considered a qualifying round, to the vast majority of the students here, this is also their final chance to demonstrate their capabilities,” Li Luo replied.
Zhao Kuo nodded as he scratched his head with a melancholic expression on his face. “I don’t even know if I qualify to enter the top 20.” With Li Luo’s sudden rise, Zhao Kuo was now considered to be the second strongest within the Second School. Looking at Southwind Academy as a whole, his chances of entering the top 20 were not small. However, this also required a little bit of luck. If he were to successively encounter individuals that were stronger than him, his overall record would also be tarnished and he might very well be eliminated.
“Everything is up to Lady Luck. Well, luck is something that’s innate, and from the looks of things, you might not survive a few bouts after all,” Li Luo casually quipped as he looked around.
Zhao Kuo’s face turned green as he scolded, “You bastard! I curse that you encounter Lu Qing’er in the very first round!”
Whilst the two bickered freely, an ear-piercing announcement echoed out from a platform overlooking the field. Everyone’s attention shifted to it, and they could see Dean Wei walking out with the rest of the teachers following behind.
“Good morning, students. The preliminary examinations are about to start. I hope that all of you here will do your utmost and display your strongest state. The ranking today will influence your future. The examinations will last three day and the results of these battles can be seen on the stone pillars situated in the four directions of the field. I will not speak any more unnecessary words and hereby announce the start of the preliminary examinations!”
As the words resounded around the field, the shouts and excitement became even more intense and palpable.
Li Luo and Zhao Kuo, on the other hand, had made their way to a stone pillar. On the stone pillar hung a projection crystal. Large amounts of information was scrolling through it as they read it.
After half a minute, they discovered their opponents for the day.
Zhao Kuo immediately heaved a sigh of relief. The two opponents he would be facing did not exceed his expectations. This was sufficient for him.
Li Luo’s expression was also indifferent. His two opponents were both from the First School, but they were not even as strong as Bei Kun.
This, however, was normal. Southwind Academy had almost a thousand students. What were the odds of him encountering a metal plate that was ripe for the kicking so quickly?
On the contrary, Zhao Kuo and him were considered to be the metal plates that no one wanted to encounter.
“It’s almost my turn. I will go and prepare myself. All the best!” Zhao Kuo looked at the time and said goodbye to Li Luo, excitedly tunneling into the mass of humans and disappearing in a flash.
Li Luo shook his head as he made his way to his own battle stage. His first round was also about to begin.
After reaching his assigned battle stage, Li Luo waited for around half an hour until the administrators announced his name, directly jumping atop in a single motion.
Li Luo’s appearance had also attracted the attention of the people around. Furthermore, he had previously beaten Bei Kun and his two friends in one go. He had once again regained a certain level of prestige.
However, not everyone had witnessed that battle personally, so they continued to hold Li Luo in contempt, thinking that his display of prowess was a mere exaggerated tale. Now that Li Luo was actually on the field, they would personally get to knock him down to size.
Li Luo’s opponent was a skinny youth at the Sixth Seal Stage. His expression was a little bitter as he was considered to be average even amongst the Sixth Seal cultivators of Southwind Academy. Although this wasn’t bad, who would ever have expected him to be so unlucky as to encounter Li Luo in the first round?
Furthermore, Li Luo had manifested a resonance and was ascending towards the skies!
“Begin.” Once the administrator saw that both parties had entered the battle stage, he gave the command to start.
The skinny youth did not hesitate to rouse all of the resonant power within him. At the same time, he quickly assumed a defensive position, clearly planning to react to Li Luo’s move instead of taking the initiative.
Li Luo did not hesitate either. Blue resonant power akin to massive tides of water surged out and circulated around him.
He dashed out like a bolt of lightning, executing an explosive resonance art.
The battle ended much quicker than anyone had expected.
In just the short span of a few minutes, Li Luo’s tempestuous assault rained down upon that skinny youth. His defense shattered instantly and he could only choose to resign.
The people surrounding the battle stage burst into an uproar. Numerous horrified gazes were levied at Li Luo, especially from those at the Sixth Seal Stage, their expressions grave and sunken. They could not tell how Li Luo could have gained such explosive power in such a short period of time. It seemed as though even Bei Kun would be inferior in this regard.
Li Luo was unconcerned with the looks he received from the audience. Once the administrator declared his victory, he jumped off the stage and disappeared amongst the crowd.
Li Luo’s second match was not long after, and it was even more relaxed than the first. His opponent was completely dispirited and did not even wish to fight, directly conceding.
Hence, Li Luo’s first day was a complete victory.
After finishing the battles, Li Luo made preparations to leave. He had to rush to the Suncreek Villa to continue his learning of resonance smithing. After undergoing this period of practice, he could gradually feel that he was about to successfully create a first-grade spirit liquid.
Right as he weaved through the crowd, Li Luo could sense someone in front of him looking directly at him. It was Lu Qing’er.
She was currently wearing white, body-fitting practice robes. Her long legs were slender and accentuated by the robes whilst it snugly wrapped around her perfect waist. Her long hair was also tied up in a ponytail that was let down elegantly. All of this gave rise to a scene so beautiful that one could only sigh wistfully when seeing her.
However, when Li Luo saw her, he could only give a helpless smile and a greeting. “Have you finished your bouts for today? It shouldn’t have been too hard.” These words were all crap. Lu Qing’er was number one in Southwind Academy. Anyone who encountered her would probably directly forfeit.
Lu Qing’er sized up Li Luo and replied, “It looks like you’ve grown stronger again. So where do you think you rank in this preliminary examination?”
“I should be able to enter the top 20. Being able to participate in the final examinations will be sufficient.” He casually smiled.
He was sincerely disinterested in competing for the highest position he could. There was no need to do so, as a higher rank wouldn’t bring about any benefits. In fact, if his ranking was too high, he might even be specially targeted by other academies.
When Lu Qing’er heard his words, she frowned. “With your strength, I feel that reaching the top ten isn’t impossible.”
“Do you really think so highly of me?” Li Luo laughed.
“Li Luo, I feel that you have no need to hide your strength so deeply. Only by fully demonstrating your capabilities will you be able to make those who doubt you shut up.”
Li Luo felt a little helpless at these words. Lu Qing’er might seem like an elegant and graceful lady, but her personality was one that only sought greater strength. Perhaps this was also why she kept tabs on him. After all, he was the only one who had the ability to suppress her in the past. Thus, she held a special interest in him.
Completely opposite of her, Li Luo’s personality was not the flamboyant sort. If there was no need to do so, he would not burst forth with his full capabilities for everyone to see.
Perhaps this was a habit that he had unknowingly picked up as a form of self-protection after his fall from grace.
“I understand. I will do my best.” Lu Qing’er did not have any bad intentions when she mentioned all this. Hence, Li Luo could only nod and agree with her before quickly finding an excuse to slink away.
Lu Qing’er continued to watch his back as he left, also feeling slightly helpless before turning to leave in the other direction.
As the two left, neither had noticed that on a battle stage not too far away was a pair of stalking eyes. A certain Song Yunfeng had been observing the two after an utterly ruinous battle.
His gaze was fixated upon the direction Li Luo had left in, completely immersed in gloominess.
“I clearly warned you… but still you wish to challenge me?”