Chapter 3 – Performing a Great Play
**Originally translated by Incarneous, with slight edits
Sikong Qing looked towards Yan Zhaoge, seemingly examining him closely.
They were headed towards the Sealing Dragon Abyss, an infamous danger zone. As the leader of this expedition, should Yan Zhaoge decide to make life difficult for Ye Jing, it would be difficult for Ye Jing to survive the trip.
The thoughts of the others were much simpler. Some were glad that someone as strong as senior apprentice-brother Yan was leading the training expedition. Others stared at Yan Zhaoge fervently because they wanted to befriend and curry favour with him.
The few in the know were looking at Ye Jing as if waiting to watch a good show.
Ye Jing’s eyebrows drew together tightly; after joining the clan, he had already learnt of many things.
Not only did the slightly older youth before him possess a higher cultivation and strength, he also possessed profound backing within the clan.
Yan Zhaoge’s father was an Elder who happened to be one of the highest authorities of Broad Creed Mountain. Even without accounting for martial strength, his position and authority within the clan was solidly within the top five. He was also a direct disciple of the clan leader and the strongest contender to succeed the position of Clan Chief.
Ye Jing’s fists gradually tightened. His eyes focused on Yan Zhaoge without hiding or showing weakness.
“Are these the so-called eyes full of unyielding flames?”
Yan Zhaoge did not know whether to laugh or cry at that. Now, he shifted his line of sight towards the doorway leading to the side chamber, “Greetings, Elder Cui.”
A white haired old man appeared in the doorway. Ye Jing and the other hurriedly bowed and paid their respects upon seeing him, “Disciple greets honoured Elder.”
This white haired Elder happened to be an Elder of the assignment hall just like the middle aged man who had made the request of Yan Zhaoge the day before.
To Ye Jing and the others, whether it was his cultivation or his position, he was also a powerful figure deserving of respect.
The old man regarded Yan Zhaoge with a smile on his face, “Junior apprentice-nephew Yan, you already arrived? Very good, very good.”
Yan Zhaoge replied, “Elder Cui, please tell us more regarding the matter of the Sealing Dragon Abyss to you.”
Allowing his gaze to fall upon Yan Zhaoge, Ye Jing, Sikong Qing and the others, Elder Cui smiled as he said, “Some abnormalities have surfaced in the Sealing Dragon Abyss. The local forces have already finished with the initial dealing of the matter. Your task this time is to help investigate the abnormal behavior of the Sealing Dragon Abyss by entering the Abyss itself.”
He paused for a bit before looking towards Yan Zhaoge, “In principle, this task only requires a simple report after verifying the situation. However, should your group encounter an unexpected situation that requires prompt decision making, this old man has faith in your abilities. Junior apprentice-nephew Yan, please act at your own discretion.”
Yan Zhaoge laughed, “Elder Cui overpraises me.”
Elder Cui laughed along, before his gaze shifted towards three people including Ye Jing, “You three should have each received an artifact as a reward from the youth competition. How far have you progressed in nourishing and understanding them?”
Ye Jing and the two others replied together in respectful tones, “Ever since we received the artifacts, us disciples have been continuously nourishing them even as we keep up with our training. We can already control them on a basic level.”
In this world, ordinary weapons and defensive equipment were called mortal tools. Above mortal tool grade, there existed demi-artifacts, artifacts, spirit artifacts, and finally Sacred Artifacts. These provided a huge power boost to martial practitioners; it was like giving wings to a tiger.
High-tier weapons and protective gear had the power to pierce the heavens and sunder the earth.
Unfortunately, normal craftsmen could only create mortal tools. Any equipment above mortal tool grade required martial practitioners to create it themselves. In addition, in order to refine artifacts of certain rank, a proportional strength was needed in the form of a particular cultivation realm.
That aside, artifact refinement was not something just anyone could learn. Its methods were exceedingly difficult to comprehend. The materials required were also scarce. Overall, the current world had fewer artifacts than martial practitioners of the equivalent rank.
Nevertheless, Sacred Grounds like Broad Creed Mountain were still affluent enough to award their disciples with artifacts.
Ye Jing and the others had won the first three places of the youth competition for new disciples, and the artifacts they had been rewarded with were enough to fill their peers with envy.
Elder Cui nodded, “Artifacts are sentient. If you nourish them consistently without slacking off, they will let you demonstrate additional might when the time comes to face the enemy.”
Ye Jing and the two others promptly nodded. Even though the rewarded artifacts were only low-grade artifacts, to the current them, they were already world-changing supreme treasures.
Actually, as their current cultivation was only enough to control demi-artifacts, these low-grade artifacts could be considered extremely luxurious equipment for them.
There was only a limited amount of good equipment. If they were not part of Broad Creed Mountain, even simply owning a demi-artifact would already be heaven’s grace.
There were countless people with a level of cultivation similar to Ye Jing and them in this world who could only depend on mortal tools.
Elder Cui looked towards Sikong Qing, Ye Jing, and the others, “These eight are all new disciples. They might have also to undertake this mission, but their experience is a bit lacking. You eight, remember to take extra care.”
Sikong Qing calmly said, “This disciple complies.”
The other seven hurriedly voiced their agreement as well.
Elder Cui examined the sixteen young disciples assigned to this expedition as he stroked his beard. His gaze suddenly fell upon Ye Jing almost as if in surprise, “Hmm? Your cultivation… you’ve already successfully established a qi ocean within your dantian?! You weren’t at this stage earlier during the youth competition. In such a short time, you’ve actually improved yet again?”
Acting neither servile nor overbearing, Ye Jing replied with a smile, “The martial arts and resources provided by the clan are much superior to those of my family.”
“You’ve only joined the clan for a short time. This is mainly a result of your outstanding talent,” praised Elder Cui.
The young disciples who had joined the clan together with Ye Jing underwent a slow change in opinion at that moment, “Before, he was already number one in the youth competition, but in such a short time, he has advanced yet again. I used to think that I should be able to catch up at least a little, but who would have thought that the difference would only become bigger.”
“Even though his background isn’t as good as senior apprentice-brother Yan’s, this…is also a true genius!”
Almost as if he suddenly realized something, Elder Cui continued to ask, “This old man just thought of something. If I remember correctly, you should barely have cultivated for three full years, correct?”
Ye Jing replied, “Yes, honoured Elder. In my youth, I struggled by myself to strengthen my body and build my foundation. I truly only came into contact with martial arts at the age of thirteen.”
Elder Cui burst out with abnormally genial laughter, “Good! Very good!”
Yan Zhaoge stood on the other side observing this act, his lips twitched strangely.
“I just knew it wouldn’t be this simple. So it was waiting for me here.” Yan Zhaoge glanced at Elder Cui with a shadow of a smile.
Some of the other young disciples suddenly seemed to realize something as they secretly sneaked peeks at Yan Zhaoge.
Elder Cui looked between Yan Zhaoge and Ye Jing, stating with an appreciative sigh of admiration, “If I still remember correctly, junior apprentice-nephew Yan also barely trained for three full years before successfully establishing the qi ocean within his dantian. The heavens are assisting my Broad Creed Mountain. Another genius among geniuses has appeared!”
Everyone’s expressions gradually became restrained and ambiguous. Their gaze shifted back and forth between Yan Zhaoge and Ye Jing.
“We didn’t understand Ye Jing’s circumstances before, huh. In truth, he has only officially cultivated for not even three years!”
“This Ye Jing is actually someone comparable to senior apprentice-brother Yan. What shocking talent!”
“No, wait. Senior apprentice-brother Yan grew up in Board Creed Mountain under the personal instruction of Elder Yan. Regardless of whether it’s his cultivation environment, conditions, techniques, resources, or martial legacies, they are all superior to Ye Jing’s.”
“Looking at it that way, isn’t this Ye Jing even more… even more… my god, how is that possible?”
Ye Jing took a deep breath. He raised his eyes and calmly stared towards Yan Zhaoge with his back straighter than before, as if he were a javelin that would pierce the heavens.
Yan Zhaoge, however, did not look at him. His interest had gathered upon the still-smiling Elder Cui.
Other disciples of the younger generation might not know of this man’s intent; but how could Yan Zhaoge not know?
This old man was someone backed by his second apprentice-uncle, who was his father’s prime competitor for the position of Broad Creed Mountain’s next Clan Chief.
Yan Zhaoge’s eyes narrowed into slits for a moment, before he started laughing soundlessly.