Chapter Thirty Three The First Step
Many White Goat Cave students ran quickly towards the gorge.
Seeing those students running happily, Nangong Caishu became even more angry.
She finally could not stop herself from walking next to Ding Ning who had a calm expression. She said in a low voice, “Do you know what the entry tests of White Goat Cave are?”
Ding Ning shook his head and said softly, “I don’t know.”
Nangong Caishu was speechless, her limbs growing cold in her anger.
“I know you are very angry now. You help me by saying so much but all that was ruined by my words. But do not worry, I should be able to pass.” Yet Ding Ning smiled and said softly to her.
“I really do not understand what you are thinking. Tests like this have nothing to do with confidence, and you should know that it is better to have less matters than more.” Nangong Caishu inhaled deeply and said, controlling her emotions.
“I also want to have less matters …” Ding Ning glanced at Su Qin who was standing by the tablet, and said softly, “A matter of whether I should be allowed to enter the sect or not can draw people to my side.”
Nangong Caishu immediately stilled.
Following Ding Ning ‘s gaze, she saw Su Qin and Zhang Yi’s different expressions.
One was absolute cold and just.
The other was great worry.
Almost all the White Goat Cave students gathered on the mountain path were standing opposite them, clearly leaning towards Su Qin.
“So even if you stand up for me, I will still have trouble joining the sect.” Ding Ning turned to look at her and said in a low voice. “I do not think that Su Qin will rise higher than Zhang Yi in the future because he is wrong from the start. The ones of high status and power will forever stand on the side of those with even greater power and status. Even though Li Lingjun has created such a reputation and drawn in people, the decision for his return to his country is still in the hands of the Chu Dynasty’s powerful people.”
Nangong Caishu frowned and couldn’t help but look at Ding Ning. “I admit that your words sound logical, and I also admit that you have great foresight. Yet the entry tests for all sects will test whether you have the possibility of becoming a cultivator. Insight and wisdom will only be something that is emphasized after you pass the tests.”
“Thank you for your concern. However, I fear the more concern you have for me now, the more trouble I will have after joining the sect,” Ding Ning said softly with sincerity. “While White Goat Cave has merged with Green Vine Sword School, most of the disciples will cultivate here. The closer they feel I am to you, the more they will dislike me.”
Nangong Caishu’s brow furrowed even tighter. She could hear Ding Ning’s gratefulness and understood that Ding Ning spoke the truth. However, Ding Ning was still discussing matters about after joining the sect. Did he really possess the ability to pass the tests where there were no shortcuts?
At this time, the sound of rushed footsteps came from the mist behind the gates of White Goat Cave.
Two students running at the front each held sandalwood boxes. Behind them were at least forty White Goat Cave disciples.
These students had already heard that a common youth had been allowed to join without being tested today. Naturally, they felt discontented. Because they were not as radical as Shen Bai and the others, they had waited in the valley for the result rather than block the way in anger like Shen Bai’s group. When they heard the argument on the path had drawn in Eldest Senior Sect Brother and Second Senior Sect Brother, and this common youth had suggested he would undergo the tests, these students could not stop themselves from coming out to watch.
For these students who were already in the sect, the annual entry tests were a great must-see.
It was not a must-see because they might be pretty junior female disciples or any great talents joining the sect, but more for the feeling of superiority.
The kind of pleasure one felt could not be described when they thought about how they had managed to pass the tests under great mental pressure in the past and watched as large group of people failed.
But now, looking at Ding Ning standing outside the gates, these White Goat Cave students felt greatly different.
Ding Ning was calm, an absolute kind of calm, not a calm that was false. There was no hint of nervousness in his eyes.
Looking at this kind of calm, Su Qin’s sharp gaze grew more biting.
“Do not think the entry test is just playing house.” Waving his hand to have the two sect junior brothers holding the boxes to stand beside him, he looked deeply at Ding Ning and said slowly, “Each year, over a thousand people from Changling and the major cities come here to be tested. These people are considered exceptional in their localities, otherwise, they will not come here to embarrass themselves. Yet of all these people, only dozens pass through the tests. So I hope you can be serious, and careful.”
Nangong Caishu took a deep breath, and her expression grew slightly ugly.
Su Qin’s words seemed like a reminder, but in a situation like this, it was closer to a threat that could easily cause the test taker to become more nervous.
Based on her personality, she would not be able to tolerate this and would speak up, but when she thought of Ding Ning’s words just now, she managed to control herself.
Zhang Yi grew more worried. He couldn’t help but turn to look towards the building of White Goat Cave behind him. Inside, he thought, the trouble was growing. Why didn’t Master and the senior sect uncle appear to stop this?
At this time, Ding Ning looked at Su Qin and smiled. “May I start?”
Su Qin’s expression did not change. Yet his dislike of Ding Ning grew stronger.
His brow raised slightly and he said neutrally, “Since you are in such a hurry, we will begin right away.”
With creaking sounds, the old wooden boxes opened.
Everyone became nervous as the show started.
One of the boxes held a flat and square stone disk.
Inside the square stone disk was a labyrinth of swirling grooves which held hundreds of small grey pebbles. These unusually smooth grey pebbles flowed in the stone disk like water as they vibrated slightly, forming small and constant flows.
The other jade box contained a flesh-colored jade stone carved into a small soldier. The soldier held a sword horizontally to his side. While the soldier did not have his features clearly defined, this upright posture of swinging the sword had the aura of the swordsmen of the Qin Dynasty, straight, sharp, and always advancing.
“This is the Flowing Stone Disk. Because the patterns on the stone disk appears like annual rings, and the flow of stone pebbles is like water, it is called the Disk of Flowing Annual Rings. The stone disk and the pebbles are made of special materials so small vibrations can cause these pebbles to flow. However, the speed of the movement is not constant.
When these two boxes opened, just like the examiners in the past, Su Qin pointed at the stone disk and said clearly and methodically, “The first obstacle to becoming a cultivator is to calm and clear their mind. Then they will be able to meditate and look internally and feel the five energies in their bodies. This stone disk tests the ability to meditate. There are five pebbles among these pebbles slightly smaller than the others, yet the difference … is extremely small. So only those with clear minds can pick they out. According to the custom of White Goat Cave, you can pick five pebbles. If at least three are correct, you pass.”
Hearing Su Qin’s slow explanation, many students present couldn’t help but think of how their breathing sped up facing this stone disk.
The difference between the five pebbles and the others were extremely small. Even if they were put onto white paper, it would be difficult to distinguish them. Even they did not have the confidence to pass again.
In the past tests, most participants were eliminated by this stone disk.
When the box opened, it formed a natural stand.
The stone disk was put on the stand in front of Ding Ning.
Ding Ning ignored the surrounding gazes. He looked at this stone disk with hesitance in his eyes.
He was a realm two cultivator in reality. As a realm two cultivator who could kill a cultivator like Song Shenshu, he was not an ordinary cultivator. At this moment, he did not hesitate at the stone pebbles, but which method and which result he would use to pass White Goat Cave’s entry test.
But today was his formal first step into the sight of many people in Changling.
This first step would determine his future state and how he would cultivate in White Goat Cave.
He had hidden in the alleys of Changling for many years. His actual cultivation was still low. Zhangsun Qianxue had even expressed discontent due to this because in the plan he and Zhangsun Qianxue made, he originally had a long time before he would take this step.
But more and more flowers were blooming on his wall. More people like Song Shenshu were still living in luxury and peace while some people were living like ghosts, soaking in dark cold water everyday.
“I need to be more careful … careful so no one discovers the Nine Deaths Silkworm … discover Zhangsun Qianxue … careful not to die…”
He took a deep breath, repeated the worlds again in his mind, and then all hesitation disappeared from his expression.
Amid exclamations of disbelief and shouting, he reached out his hand.
From when the stone disk was placed in front of him to when he reached out, it had not been ten seconds.
His hand broke through the small flows and took out five round pebbles.
Translator Ramblings: Inter and intra-sect politics in this chapter … Zhang Yi is technically in line to be the next cave master, but since White Goat merges into Green Vine, the cards are reshuffled.