Chapter 1158: Heart Tempering Bridge
“Zhang Clan?” Zhang Xuan’s face darkened.
Back then, Wu shi and Guild Leader Han had told him that the little princess of the Luo Clan was betrothed to a powerful Sage Clan, and said Sage Clan was none other than the Zhang Clan.
As such, he could not help but feel deeply uncomfortable upon hearing that name.
He might have been able to remain calm before any other matter, but just for this single matter, he could not maintain his composure.
If he could, he would not have pummeled Feng Xun so viciously after hearing that the latter had confessed to Luo Ruoxin.
Mu shi nodded. “This is still a conjecture on my part at the moment, but I do believe it to be so.”
“Wait, that doesn’t sound right.” Zhang Xuan frowned as he recalled what Mu shi had said earlier. “Since the Sanctum of Sages serves to cultivate the offspring of Sage Clans, surely Zhang Jiuxiao should be able to enroll into it directly. Is there any need for him to come to the Qingyuan Empire to vie for this single slot?”
“The Sanctum of Sages is indeed much more lenient toward the Sage Clans. While the Conferred Empire Master Teacher Pavilions only acquire a nomination slot each year, each Sage Clan obtains at least ten slots each year at the very minimum. For behemoths like the Zhang Clan, they acquire at least thirty slots each year,” Mu shi explained.
“However, for a clan as large as the Zhang Clan, thirty slots are only sufficient for them to send in the inner clan members with purer bloodlines. As for the clan members from the side families, whose bloodlines are thinner, they basically stand no chance whatsoever. As such, they scatter themselves among the Conferred Empire to vie for the other nomination slots in order to enroll into the Sanctum of Sages. Once they get in, they are entitled to the best cultivation resources and the most outstanding heritages. To the side families of powerful clans, this is an ideal opportunity for them to change their fate, so no one is willing to allow this opportunity slip through their fingers.”
“With them around, doesn’t that mean that the local prodigies of the Conferred Empires don’t stand a chance at all?” Zhang Xuan asked in displeasure.
There was only a single nomination slot in each Conferred Empire, and if the side families of the Sage Clans sent their members over, wouldn’t the local prodigies stand no chance at all?
“Survival of the fittest, this is something that can’t be helped. If there is a prodigy in the Conferred Empire who can surpass the member of the side family, the prodigy will naturally obtain the slot. Otherwise, the nomination slot can only be given to the member of the side family.” Mu shi shook his head.
Even the offspring from the Sage Clans were not above the rules. They dared not openly snatch slots from the Conferred Empire Master Teacher Pavilions, but they were still allowed to compete for it fairly.
If their skills surpassed those of the local master teachers of the Conferred Empire, the slot would only be allocated to them.
The Sanctum of Sages only accepted the strongest experts on the continent. If one was inferior to their competitors, it would only mean that they were not qualified to join the Sanctum of Sages. The rules were that simple, direct, and harsh.
“You’re right.” Zhang Xuan nodded.
This was just like the Combat Master Selection. As the students of his Hongyuan Master Teacher Academy had the strongest fighting prowess, it was natural that they would all be picked. The other three Master Teacher Academies had outstanding students as well, and many of them would have stood a chance had they not been put against the candidates of the Hongyuan Master Teacher Academy.
It was unfortunate for them, but they only had their own bad luck to blame.
That was how harsh the world of cultivation was.
Nevertheless, the presence of the Master Teacher Pavilion still brought around some degree of meritocracy. Even if an individual had a humble background, as long as they had sufficient talent and were willing to work hard, they would be able to make a name for themself as well. Take Zhang Xuan for example, despite being a mere orphan from the Tianxuan Kingdom, he had still been able to slowly scale up the ladder and eventually become the principal of the Hongyuan Master Teacher Academy.
“While Zhang Jiuxiao is only from a side family of the Zhang Clan, the talent that he possesses is undeniable. Despite being only twenty-seven this year, he has already reached the astounding height of a 7-star high-tier master teacher, a Saint 3-dan pinnacle expert. His fighting prowess and capabilities are unmatched by any master teacher in the Qingyuan Empire Master Teacher Academy, so naturally, the nomination slot went to him,” Mu shi said.
“To tell you the truth, the side families of Sage Clans don’t possess a particularly high standing, and the resources that they are entitled to are severely limited as well. For one as young as him to have achieved such accomplishments, on top of possessing considerable talent, he must have put in quite a bit of hard work as well.”
“Un.” Zhang Xuan nodded. He could relate deeply to that.
Indeed. Talent without diligence was futile. Even a prodigy would achieve little in their life if they refused to devote themself to their work.
Again, taking Zhang Xuan for example, it had taken him an entire year of blood, sweat, and tears before he was able to earn his current accomplishments. The difficulties he had faced over the year were truly hard to describe using words.
Zhang Xuan turned to Mu shi and asked, “I’ll definitely have to head to the Sanctum of Sages, but how can I obtain the slot?”
Now that he knew that Luo Ruoxin was likely to be at the Sanctum of Sages, he definitely had to head there as well. Regardless of the means, he was determined to obtain the nomination slot.
“You only have one chance. In twenty days, the Sanctum of Sages will send an envoy over to escort the nominated candidate over. If you can successfully become a 7-star master teacher, obtain a cultivation of Saint 3-dan pinnacle, and defeat Zhang Jiuxiao in every aspect before then, naturally, the qualifications will go to you. The timing is extremely rushed, but I fear that there is no other way,” Mu shi said.
“Twenty days?” Zhang Xuan pondered for a moment before nodding decisively. “Alright.”
If it was just two to three days, he have needed to rush a bit. However, twenty days was more than sufficient for him.
“Alright?” Mu shi looked at Zhang Xuan doubtfully. “If I recall correctly, your cultivation is still only at Saint 1-dan pinnacle. You are still two whole realms away from reaching Saint 3-dan pinnacle…”
“Oh, I accidentally made a breakthrough to Saint 2-dan pinnacle last night,” Zhang Xuan replied with a smile as he leaked out a little bit of his cultivation.
Due to the unique nature of the Heaven’s Path Divine Art, as long as he did not intentionally display his cultivation, not even Mu shi would be able to discern his current cultivation realm.
“Accidentally? You made a breakthrough to Saint 2-dan… pinnacle?” Mu shi’s lips twitched wildly. He felt something stifling in his chest, and it took him a long while before he managed to sooth it. Sighing deeply, he remarked, “Senior Uncle sure is a talented individual.”
Back when they were still in Qiu Wu Palace, the other party had only been at Saint 1-dan pinnacle. Yet, over the span of a single month, he had managed to advance a whole cultivation realm. The rate of advancement of his cultivation was truly unheard of in history!
“However, I fear that just this much might not be enough. There is a huge gap between the Spiritual Perception realm and the Embryonic Soul realm, and even if you do achieve a breakthrough within the next twenty days, it’ll take at least several years before you will be able to fuse your soul into your Origin Soul perfectly!”
Mu shi was not too optimistic about Zhang Xuan’s chances.
Beyond Saint realm, progressing past every single realm was like venturing into a whole new world. Even the most talented of prodigies would require several years before they were able to fully grasp a cultivation realm and advance to the next level. To be honest, attempting a breakthrough within a short twenty days… was nothing more than a pipe dream.
“And more importantly, Zhang Jiuxiao isn’t an ordinary Saint 3-dan pinnacle cultivator. He has built up a powerful foundation, allowing him to match cultivators far stronger than he is. Ordinary Saint 4-dan cultivators are no match for him, and even I would only stand a fifty percent chance against him after my breakthrough,” Mu shi explained with a frown.
As an ex-inner clan member of the Mu Clan, he had cultivated top-notch cultivation techniques and battle techniques, granting him strength far surpassing that of ordinary master teachers. Yet, despite his recent breakthrough to Saint 4-dan, the other party was still able to match him equally with his Saint 3-dan pinnacle cultivation. Just this in itself was sufficient to show how fearsome an existence Zhang Jiuxiao was.
“You stand a fifty percent chance against him?” Zhang Xuan asked contemplatively. A moment later, he added, “Mu shi, do you mind testing my strength?”
“Test your strength? Sure!”
Knowing Zhang Xuan’s intentions, Mu shi took him to the training grounds within the Master Teacher Pavilion, and crossing his hands before his chest, he said, “Feel free to make a move. I have not reinforced my cultivation after my breakthrough yet, so ultimately, I am still a Primordial Spirit realm expert. It would be good for you to experience the true might of a Primordial Spirit realm expert so that you are mentally prepared. Don’t worry, I won’t use my full strength…”
Before Mu shi could finish his words, a figure suddenly appeared before him, and before he could even process what was going on, he saw a fist abruptly flying for his chest.
Not expecting Zhang Xuan to be able to move so swiftly, Mu shi’s eyebrows shot up. He swiftly tapped into the entirety of his strength, wanting to fend off the other party’s punch. However, just as he was preparing his retaliation, he suddenly felt an overwhelming soul pressure assaulting him from the surroundings, preventing him to moving.
The punch struck Mu shi’s chest squarely, and he was knocked straight out of the training grounds before crashing heavily into the wall. Huge mouthfuls of blood spewed wildly from his mouth.
Following which, a young man’s apologetic voice sounded in his ears. “I’m truly sorry! Mu shi, are you still fine? I already tried holding myself back earlier, using just a fifth of my strength, but I didn’t think that you wouldn’t be able to receive it…”
“Pu!” Mu shi’s face paled, and another huge mouthful of blood spurted from his lips. He nearly fainted on the spot after hearing those words.
For a brief moment, he had thought that he was facing a Saint 4-dan pinnacle expert instead of a Saint 2-dan cultivator.
Against such strength, even five of him would not be an opponent for the other party.
Zhang Xuan quickly helped Mu shi up apologetically while asking with a doubtful look on his face, “Does that Master Teacher Zhang Jiuxiao only possess this much strength?”
“Cough cough!” Mu shi’s face reddened, and he coughed out yet another mouthful of blood.
While the Mu Clan did not specialize in combat, no matter what, he still used to be one of the inner clan members who inherited the heritage of the main family. His fighting prowess should have been far stronger than his peers… and yet, he was actually subdued in a single punch by a master teacher whose cultivation was far lower than his.
Just the thought of it left him deeply stifled within.
It took a long while before Mu shi was able to calm himself down. With a face reddened in embarrassment, he said awkwardly, “Actually, Zhang Jiuxiao’s prowess is slightly above mine. Nevertheless, with fighting prowess like yours, even if you don’t achieve a breakthrough, you should be able to defeat him easily!”
If Zhang Xuan was already this powerful with a cultivation of Saint 2-dan, once he broke through to Saint 3-dan, Zhang Jiuxiao would probably stand no chance against him at all.
“Other than the requirement on my cultivation, what other prerequisites are there to enter the Sanctum of Sages? If possible, I would like to ask Mu shi to train along with me so that I can get a clear grasp of the standards…”
Mu shi’s face warped in horror upon hearing those words, and he quickly shook his head. “I’m not free!”
Just a simple test of cultivation had nearly cost him his life. If that were to continue, he feared that the confidence that he had barely picked up would be shattered once more.
“What you have to do now is be promoted to a 7-star master teacher as soon as possible. That is the fundamental prerequisite for joining the Sanctum of Sages. If you do not meet this prerequisite, it’ll be futile even if your fighting prowess exceeds that of Zhang Jiuxiao’s!” Mu shi said.
Zhang Xuan nodded in response to those words.
This happened to coincide with his current goal. At the moment, he was just lacking two more supporting occupations before he was qualified to be promoted to a 7-star master teacher.
“Alright, I have already said all that I should say. I need to be on my way now, so farewell!” After saying those words, Mu shi turned around and left hurriedly.
He was afraid that if he remained any longer, he would be traumatized once more.
“Ah…” Not expecting Mu shi to leave so decisively, Zhang Xuan shook his head in disappointment.
Sighing deeply, he walked out of the training grounds and headed in the direction of Wu shi’s residence, as pointed out by a master teacher from before.
Before Zhang Xuan could get far, he heard a series of ear-piercing shrieks in his ear.
“Zhang shi, you can do it!”
“Zhang shi, we believe in you! You will definitely be able to set a new record…”
Looking past the huge crowd, he saw a long stone bridge.
A man was standing right on top of the bridge with sweat flowing profusely down his face. It seemed like he was under immense pressure.
The man was none other than the offspring of the Zhang Clan, Zhang Jiuxiao!
What is he doing?
Zhang Xuan was perplexed.
At this moment, a master teacher amid the crowd suddenly exclaimed loudly, “Zhang Jiuxiao is challenging the Heart Tempering Bridge?”