"Damn it! Damn it!" With a trembling body, Zhang Qian cursed furiously beneath his breath.

He had performed beyond his usual limits in the examination, and he thought that it would allow him to soar through the ranks. Yet, contrary to all of his expectations, he still failed to get into the top fifty. Not only that, as if adding insult to his injury, it was that Zhang Xuan bastard who took the final position, squeezing him out of the Elite Division!

He had been thinking that with the authority he would gain from getting into the Elite Division, he would be able to teach that fellow a lesson. But as if the heavens were playing tricks on him, the situation somehow evolved to this point.

"Brother Yunfeng, it's that Zhang Xuan fellow who made a move against me. He was also the one who squeezed me out of the top fifty as well!" With clenched fists, Zhang Qian complained indignantly to a young man not too far away.

Zhang Yunfeng was another candidate from the Zhang Clan who managed to qualify for the Elite Division. He was ranked in the 46th place in the examination.

"I know, but you brought it upon yourself." Zhang Yunfeng glanced at Zhang Qian and harrumphed indifferently. "Even I would hesitate to approach those from the Glacier Plain Court carelessly, but you eagerly rushed up to them as soon as you arrived, wanting to fawn on them. You are really courting trouble!"

"I admit that I was too arrogant and deserved to be humiliated, but that fellow showed blatant contempt for the Zhang Clan in public, saying that those from the Zhang Clan would put a leg into any affairs that concern a beautiful lady... And you really can't begin to imagine the haughty tone he took when he said those words too! We can't allow him to get away with defaming the Zhang Clan so easily!" Zhang Qian exclaimed indignantly.

"Don't even try using those little ploys of yours on me. Nevertheless, regardless of whether he has shown blatant contempt for the Zhang Clan or not, he was indeed rather arrogant to make a move on you even after you have expressed your identity. Don't worry, I'll teach him a lesson later on and make him learn that just that bit of talent he has won't be enough for him to act so smugly in the Sanctum of Sages!"

"Thank you, Brother Yunfeng!" Hearing that the other party was willing to step up for him, Zhang Qian's eyes lit up in excitement.

Zhang Yunfeng's bloodline was far purer than him, reaching the level of Tier-1. On top of that, the other party's cultivation was also significantly higher than his, reaching Grand Dominion realm primary stage. If the other party was willing to make a move in his stead, that Zhang Xuan fellow would surely be thrashed.

"Un." Zhang Yunfeng replied impassively.

To him, a fellow who had originated from humble lands was just a short disturbance to his cultivation. It wasn't a problem worthy of his note.


"Moving on, these are the people who have qualified for the Ordinary Division!" Ignoring the crowd's astonishment, Elder Liu waved his hand grandly once more.

Silver lights gathered in the sky, and one by one, names flickered into existence.

It didn't take too long for all 450 names of the candidates who had made it into the Ordinary Division to appear. After confirming that Zhang Jiuxiao's name was amidst them too, Zhang Xuan heaved a sigh of relief.

Zhang Jiuxiao's ranking wasn't too high, ranging in the 460s, but nevertheless, what was important was that he had cleared the entrance examination and successfully became a student of the Sanctum of Sages too.

As for the others who had journeyed here with them from Qianchong Empire, Ma Minghai and six others had managed to clear the examination too. Their rankings weren't too good, but on the overall, their group did fairly decent in terms of passing rate.

After revealing the list of students who had made it into the Ordinary Division, Elder Liu continued, "Now, I'll be announcing those who are qualified as listening in students!"

Then, with a wave of his hand, another list of five hundred names appeared.

All in all, the Sanctum of Sages accepted five hundred normal students, inclusive of both the Elite Division and Ordinary Division, and five hundred listening in students each intake.

Soon after the list of five hundred listening in students was revealed, excited and disappointed murmurings swiftly rippled across the crowd.

Zhang Xuan took a swift look at the list of listening in students and noted that four of them were from their Qianchong Empire group too. All in all, eleven out of the thirty-three of them had got into the Sanctum of Sages, so it was a passing rate of one-third. As compared to the results of the previous years, this could be said to be not too bad.

Waving his hand casually, Elder Liu said with a firm voice, "Those whose names are in any of the lists, please remain in the area for a while longer. As for the rest, do head down to take a rest!"

Despite Elder Liu's polite choice of words, the authoritative undertone in his voice showed that it was a command instead of a request.

No matter how indignant those disqualified candidates failed, they knew that it would be utter foolishness to question Elder Liu's judgement. Thus, they could only depart in dejection.

In the end, the Sanctum of Sages wasn't a charity organization, and the true nature of the entrance examinations was to sieve out the proficient from the non-proficient. An inevitable result of that, there were bound to be those who would be left behind or eliminated.

Unfortunately, their failure here would set them behind by a great deal. If they wanted to make a comeback, they would have to pay a far higher price than the others.

In less than ten minutes, only a thousand people were left standing on the square.

"First and foremost, allow me to welcome all of you into the Sanctum of Sages!" Elder Liu tapped his finger in the air, and identity tokens immediately appeared in the hands of each and every one of the qualified candidates. "These are the jade tokens representing your identity. They will be automatically updated to reflect your respective roles as a student in the Sanctum of Sages."

Zhang Xuan glanced at his jade token before glancing at the others around him.

The jade tokens for listening in students were light-blue color, those in the Ordinary Divisions had light-yellow tokens, and those in the Elite Division like him had black tokens.

Taking a closer examination at his jade token, he noted that there was a character, '圣 (Sage)' carved in seal script on it, and it emanated an air of ancient yet grand history. There were also some miscellaneous inscriptions by the side of the jade token resembled the eyes of a human, as if signifying that the predecessors were looking over one.

With a flick of his finger, Zhang Xuan dripped a droplet of blood onto the jade token, and it immediately fused into it. Instinctively, he sensed that as long as he had the jade token with him, he would be able to freely walk through the protective formations surrounding the Sanctum of Sages without triggering them.

At the same time, Zhang Jiuxiao had also claimed ownership of the jade token in his hand, and the elation on his face was impossible to miss.

As an offspring from the side family, he wasn't a highly regarded member of the Zhang Clan. However, with his successful enrollment into the Sanctum of Sages, there would be a vast change in his standing.

"Perhaps, I might even be able to attend the Annual Assembly this year!" Zhang Jiuxiao thought with his eyes glowing with excitement.

The Zhang Clan would organize an Annual Assembly each year, and only the inner clan members and accomplished members of the side family would be invited to participate. Under normal circumstances, Zhang Jiuxiao wouldn't have been worthy of receiving an invitation, but now that he had become a student of the Sanctum of Sages, his standing within the Zhang Clan would surely ascend to new heights. With his newfound status, he was already qualified to attend such high-tier clan assemblies.

"This is all thanks to Zhang shi!" Knowing that he would have never been able to achieve so much without Zhang Xuan's help, Zhang Jiuxiao instinctively shot a grateful glance toward the latter.

While he was an offspring of the Zhang Clan, the Zhang Clan hadn't offered him much help in his cultivation and development as a master teacher at all. On the other hand, it was Zhang Xuan who tirelessly guided him along, not spurning him despite the hostility he had directed toward the other party previously. He had nothing but deep respect toward the young man's character and depth of knowledge.

At this moment, Elder Liu's voice sounded once more, "The entrance examination might have ended, but I can still see disappointment and regret in many of your eyes. So, the Sanctum of Sages will be conducting a Challenge of the Defeated so as to give you one last opportunity to rise through the ranks!"

"That's wonderful! All I need is just an opportunity like that!"

"Is this for real? The Challenge of the Defeated is rarely conducted, so who could have thought that we would actually encounter one here. This time, I shall become an official student of the Sanctum of Sages by hook or by crook!"

Upon hearing the announcement, the eyes of the candidates immediately lit up in excitement.

While it wasn't common that for a Challenge of the Defeated to be conducted, it did occur a couple of times in history, so most candidates were still aware of its existence.

"The rules of the Challenge of the Defeated are simple. Listening in students will get an opportunity to challenge a student of the Ordinary Division, and if they were to emerge victorious, they will be able to claim that student's position. Similarly, students of the Ordinary Division will be able to challenge a student of the Elite Division, and they will be able to claim that student's position if they win. Everyone will only get one opportunity to choose and challenge an opponent, and those who fail the challenge will have to suffer a penalty." Elder Liu announced.

"I believe most of you should be familiar with these rules, so I shall not elaborate too much on it For those who are still a little unsure, feel free to refer to the identity token you have just received."

"Refer to the identity token?"

Zhang Xuan extended his Spiritual Perception into the jade token in his hand, and the many rules of the Sanctum of Sages immediately appeared before him. There was indeed a portion regarding the Challenge of the Defeated.

This challenge was established for the sake of equity. The strong would rise through the ranks whereas the weak would be eliminated and cast away. In other words, survival of the fittest. However, the act of challenging someone who was more 'senior' to one could be considered as a highly disrespectful act, so failure would mean incurring a penalty.

There were various different types of penalties possible, ranging from paying compensation, physical punishment, to issuing a public apology. This was up to the winner to choose.

In other words, while it was an opportunity for weaker candidates to rise through the ranks, they had to make sure to work within the limits of strength.

"Begin!" With a resounding bellow, Elder Liu waved his hand, and a round dueling ring gradually emerged from the ground.

On the other hand, the crowd swiftly went through the names they had seen on the name lists earlier in their minds so as to decide on whom they should challenge.

"I want to challenge the candidate who is ranked 500th in the entrance examination, Xue Ning!" a voice suddenly sounded from the crowd.

It was from one of the listening-in students.

"I recognize him. He's Zhao Qi, the first place amongst the listening-in students, ranked 501th in the examination. I knew that he would want to challenge the candidate that is one rank above him!"

"That's to be expected. Considering how there is only a rank difference between the two of them, the disparity in their capabilities shouldn't be too great. No matter what, he would have to give it a shot, or else he would regret it for life."

"Indeed. Anyone in his position would be reluctant to give up without a try!"


The crowd remarked as they saw someone amongst them standing out to issue a challenge.

It was just a single rank of difference, but it made an entire world of difference of being a listening in student and being an official student in the Sanctum of Sages.

No matter who was in Zhao Qi's shoes, he would have to at least give it a shot. After all, how could one possibly be content to retire just like that when they were only a single step away from reaching the peak?

Hu la!

After issuing the challenge, Zhao Qi leaped onto the ring.

"As you wish."

A young man also walked out from the crowd and stepped onto the ring as well.

Taking a closer look, Zhang Xuan realized that the young man was no other than the person who had fought with him over the Tianchen Brew back at Qianchong Empire, only to lose fifteen concentrated high-tier spirit stones to him in a bet—the Third Young Master of the Xue Clan, Xue Ning!

In that battle back then, the latter ended up vomiting for a long while due to moving too quickly, and he had been mocked by many due to that incident as well.

But over the past few days, perhaps motivated by the experience with Zhang Xuan, he actually managed to take his cultivation a step further, reaching Quasi Leaving Aperture realm.

While that kind of strength might not mean much against the ridiculously talented geniuses of the Sanctum of Sages, there was no denying that he was also amidst the cream of the crop of mankind.

"Xue Ning, what were the tests you have faced in the Mountain Gate examination? What kind of duel do you want to accept Zhao Qi's challenge with?" Elder Han Zhu asked.

The Sanctum of Sages didn't just select its students on the grounds of strength but an overall evaluation of capability. For this reason, the challenger would have to surpass the challenged in the latter's field of specialty in order to prove that he was worthy of taking the latter's place.

"The reason why I was able to clear the selection is due to my attacking speed and might. As long as he can defeat me while his cultivation is suppressed down to my level, I'll admit my loss!" Xue Ning declared confidently with his head raised up high.

Even though the Xue Clan was only a Tier-3 Sage Clan, its ultimate technique, Golden Silk Thread, was not to be underestimated.

Had he not met with an anomaly like Zhang Xuan, the battle technique would have very well made him nigh invincible in his power class.

Otherwise, he wouldn't have been able to clear the Mountain Gate examination to become a student of the Sanctum of Sages either.

"A fight? Very well!" Zhao Qi nodded. With a ferocious howl, his cultivation realm swiftly plummeted down to Quasi Leaving Aperture realm as well.

Hong long!

A moment later, the duo was already clashing with one another.

The both of them were indeed worthy of their titles as geniuses. Ingenious maneuvers were dashed out one after another, and powerful shockwaves rippled relentlessly into the surroundings. For the time being, the both of them seemed to be equally matched, making it difficult to discern who wielded the upper hand.

"Zhang shi, who do you think will win?" Zhang Jiuxiao asked curiously.

"Xue Ning seems to be in an advantageous position in terms of his skills." Zhang Xuan replied.

"My thoughts exactly!" Zhang Jiuxiao remarked. Then, with a curious gaze, he turned to face Zhang Xuan and asked, "Right, Zhang shi. What kind of test did you encounter in the Mountain Gate examination? I'm curious to know how you were able to get into the Elite Division!"

The young man before him seemed to be a master in every art, be it in terms of cultivation, master teacher, appraising, painting... It was as if there was nothing he didn't know, nothing he didn't specialize in.

As such, Zhang Jiuxiao simply couldn't help but wonder what capability did Zhang Xuan rely on to get into the Elite Division.

"How I got into the Elite Division?" A look of rumination appeared on Zhang Xuan's face before he replied,

"Well, I guess I slept my way through?"For those who have forgotten, the bloodlines of Sage Clans can be categorized into below Tier-2, Tier-2, Tier-1, Earth-tier, and Sky-tier



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