Technology had been an integral part of life in his previous world. It brought great convenience to the world, allowing for communication or shopping to be done remotely. It allowed people to assume anonymous new identities and enjoy a life aside from the real world. Often, a person whom you addressed as your wife over the internet could very well end up being a nose-picking middle-aged man.

As formidable as the Ethereal Token was, it seemed to work on the same principles.

Upon entering the Ethereal Hall, one would be able to conceal one's identity, and the strength of all cultivators would be equalized. This meant that it would be impossible for a person to tell if the person whom they had been chatting with was a male or female, an expert or an ordinary cultivator.

"This is fine. The cultivators will be able to release the restraints they impose on themselves in consideration of their reputation and pursue what they truly want. It makes it easier for them to seek pointers from one another regarding their cultivation… This might be the motive behind why Kong shi created this system!"

Kong shi promoted education without discrimination, and he hoped to create a world where all humans could stand tall. However, cultivation resources were scarce, and one's birth, talent, and opportunities were bound to determine one's future accomplishments. His ultimate vision was simply not realistic.

In his time on the Master Teacher Continent, he had founded the Master Teacher Pavilion, but the system that he had put in place was marred by the ambitions of those who wished to climb up the hierarchy. He had created the Kunxu Domain shortly after, but it had likely made him realize that it was impossible to achieve true equality in the real world. Thus, he had founded the Ethereal Hall and created the Ethereal Tokens.

Here, one would have to cast aside one's previous identity and everything related to it. With an anonymous identity and equal strength, everyone would be on equal footing with one another.

With just a thought, Zhang Xuan's appearance immediately began changing, making him appear more ordinary. He tried clenching his fists and threw a punch out.

The strength that he could draw forth was roughly equivalent to a Saint 1-dan cultivator.

In other words, no matter how powerful a cultivator was, he could only exert the strength of a Saint 1-dan cultivator in here.

Zhang Xuan spent some time testing out his new body, but fortunately, it seemed like there was no fundamental difference between it and his real body. He began walking forward, and soon, a grand palace appeared before his eyes.

Ethereal Hall, Starlight City!

"Starlight City is a second-tier city, and Xuanjiang City happens to be under its jurisdiction," Zhang Xuan recalled based on Dan Xiaotian's explanation, and he shook his head with a smile. "It's even a regional network…"

To use the terminology from his previous world, there were only servers in the cities where the Ethereal Hall had branches. There was no branch in Xuanjiang City, so anyone trying to access the Ethereal Hall from there needed to connect to the higher Starlight City's server.


Zhang Xuan pushed the door open and walked into the palace. A huge crowd immediately appeared right in front of him.

Just like social networking games in his previous life, even though everyone had different appearances and figures, the strength that they wielded was the same as one another.

They might be far from one another geographically, but at that moment, they were seated alongside one another to trade insights regarding cultivation or even to negotiate important business deals.

Through sharing knowledge on a common platform, the rate at which information traveled would be greatly enhanced. Perhaps, this was the building block that would drive the Azure toward something similar to his previous world's digital age.

After a moment of curious observation, Zhang Xuan knew that the urgent matter at hand was to heal his injuries, so he headed to the front counter of the Ethereal Hall and called for an attendant.

"Do you have any recovery medicine here? I would like to purchase some."

"May I ask what tier of medicine you are looking for?"

The attendant was a young man dressed in a uniform, and his appearance looked considerably dashing. Of course, it was unlikely that this was his original appearance. This was similar to how many people liked to use the photos of popular individuals, such as that author named Heng Sao Tian Yao, as their online profile pictures.

"I need something that can heal the injuries of a Dimension Shatterer realm cultivator," Zhang Xuan replied.

On his way there, he had verified the various cultivation realms in the Azure, and it seemed like there were four tiers of Ancient Sages, and the names of the realms were the same. As for what lay beyond Ancient Sage, it appeared that even Dan Xiaotian himself had no idea what it was, so he was unable to satisfy his curiosity.

"We do have the Whitewood Pill and Bluesun Pill here," the young man said as he passed two jade bottles over.

Zhang Xuan took the two jade bottles, pried open their lids, and took a careful look at them. He could not help but marvel at just how detailed the world that Kong shi had created was.

He was well aware that he was in an illusory world, but the spiritual energy and medicinal energy harnessed within those two pills felt so tangible that he could not help but wonder if they were actually existent.

But I have never heard of these two pills before though, so I don't really know which one will be more useful to me…

In the end, the Azure and the Master Teacher Continent were two different worlds. While both worlds had apothecaries, their practices and techniques varied greatly from one another, so he was unable to accurately gauge the healing properties of those two pills. He was just about to ask the attendant for more information when an idea suddenly popped into his head.

He placed his finger on the Whitewood Pill lightly and muttered, "Flaws!"

Since he was able to use the Library of Heaven's Path with his soul, was it possible for him to use it here as well?

Weng!

There was a jolt in his head, and a book materialized in the Library of Heaven's Path.

It works! Zhang Xuan's eyes lit up in delight.

Even though the pills were fake, it seemed like the Library of Heaven's Path was still able to process the information in the Ethereal Hall to analyze its strengths and weaknesses before compiling that into a book.

"The Whitewood Pill uses the Whitewood Grass as its main ingredient, making it excellent for healing the soul injuries sustained by Dimension Shatterer realm cultivators…"

"The Bluesun Pill uses the blood of saint beasts as its key ingredient, and it has remarkable effects in healing one's physical wounds and recovering one's zhenqi…"

The bulk of my injuries lie in my physical body and my zhenqi, so I guess I should choose the Bluesun Pill!

Having made up his mind, Zhang Xuan relayed his intention to the attendant.

"The Bluesun Pill will cost 20,000 Ethereal Coins each. May I know how you wish to pay for the pill? Do you have an Ethereal Card?" the attendant asked with a sweet smile on his face.

"20,000 Ethereal Coins?" Zhang Xuan's eyebrows leaped up.

He did not have a single Ethereal Coin with him, so 20,000 Ethereal Coins was clearly far out of his league! Besides, what in the freaking cow was an Ethereal Card?

So far, it had been roughly four hours since he had awoken, but he had already gotten a clear glimpse as to the purchasing power of the Ethereal Coin. If Dan Xiaotian sold the residence that he was living in, he would receive five thousand Ethereal Coins at most, which meant that the entire residence was only worth a quarter to this Bluesun Pill…

I guess it's time for me to start earning some money once more… Zhang Xuan rubbed his glabella in distress.

He had finally climbed to the apex of the Master Teacher Continent, commanding greater clout than anyone else. He had thought that he had finally struggled out of poverty and would never have to worry about money again, but in the blink of an eye, he was reduced back to the penniless lad he used to be. It sure was exasperating!

He suddenly thought of the times when he had impersonated as Yang shi to give others guidance so as to earn the money required to solve Zhao Ya's affliction. Was he going to have to do the same in the Azure?

While it was convenient for him to assume an anonymous identity here, he was a humble and low-profile person at heart! There was nothing in this world that he detested more than showing off in such a manner!

Sighing helplessly, he raised his head to look at the attendant before him and asked, "May I ask what kind of ways there are to earn money quickly here?"

"Earn money?"

Those words made the attendant realize that the person standing before him did not have the means to purchase the Bluesun Pill. While he did not reveal anything on his face, the warmth in his eyes cooled a little.

He had thought that the other party was a big fish, asking for a 20,000 Ethereal Coins pill as soon as he walked up to the stall, but as it turned out, the other party was poor!

"The easiest way to earn money is through fighting open duels in the city's dueling ring," the attendant replied nonchalantly. "As long as you don't leave the dueling ring, the amount of money you can earn will increase by twofold each round. In the first round, you can earn one hundred Ethereal Coins, and this will increase to two hundred Ethereal Coins in the second round, four hundred Ethereal Coins in the third round, and so on. All in all, as long as you don't lose, you should be able to earn Ethereal Coins quickly!

"As long as you are able to win eight rounds consecutively, you will be able to rack up enough money to buy the Bluesun Pill."

"I see…" Zhang Xuan nodded in response.

He had made a misjudgment earlier. It was true that limiting everyone's cultivation to Saint 1-dan did reduce the power difference among everyone, but that did not mean that they were equally powerful.

Depending on one's interpretation of cultivation, fighting style, and reflexes, there could be a vast difference in the fighting prowess of different individuals even if they did have the same zhenqi capacity. If anything, it would be even more testing on one's skills and techniques.

Besides, just because everyone's cultivation was suppressed to the same level, it would be naive to think that an ordinary Saint cultivator would be able to defeat an Ancient Sage cultivator. The precision of their control and battle experience would make a world of difference.

The Ethereal Hall could not erase all inequality among cultivators, or perhaps it was not its aim to do so. By reducing the power difference among cultivators, it would put the emphasis on techniques and skills, thus motivating cultivators to work on those as well.

"May I know where the dueling ring is? I'd like to register for the duels," Zhang Xuan said.

"You can register for the duel here. However, I would like to remind you that your opponents get more and more difficult with each round that you win. While you are winning more rounds, the opponents you are paired with are doing the same," the attendant said.

"I understand." Zhang Xuan nodded in response.

This was basically the same as the 'Ranked Matches' in games from his previous world. If you were a Conqueror, the opponents you were paired with would be roughly around the same tier as you so that it would be a comparable match.

But over here, regardless of whether his opponent was a Diamond or a Conqueror, it made no difference at all. He would crush them all one after another!

In any case, he could use the Library of Heaven's Path here, so there was no one who had an advantage over him.

"That's good. You'll have to pay the registration fee, five hundred Ethereal Coins," the attendant said.

"Five hundred?" Zhang Xuan's eyebrows shot up in astonishment. "Why is it so expensive?"

"The Ethereal Hall doesn't just provide the location to conduct these duels; it records the video and provides a live feed of the battle to the other cultivators as well. All of this costs money, so naturally, there has to be a fee as well!" the attendant replied.

"But I don't have five hundred Ethereal Coins. Is it possible for me to use my possessions as a deposit instead? Or else… could I borrow the money from you for the time being? I'll return it twofold to you once I win the battles!" Zhang Xuan scratched his head in embarrassment.

Money was truly the greatest woe of a hero.

As a godlike figure worshipped by countless on the Master Teacher Continent, it was embarrassing how he could not even take out five hundred Ethereal Coins here. If word spread, it would really be a huge embarrassment!

"If you don't have the money to pay the registration fee, I'd advise you not to participate at all." The attendant finally reached the limits of his tolerance and snapped impatiently.

A person who could not even take out five hundred Ethereal Coins actually wanted to purchase a pill worth 20,000 Ethereal Coins. It was as if he thought that he could easily win the duels and earn a fortune for himself. Just where in this world did this naive lad come from?

Furthermore, how in the world could he trust the other party to return his money when they did not even know one another? Impossible!

"This…" Seeing through the attendant's derision, Zhang Xuan sighed deeply and said, "My Ethereal Token should be worth more than five hundred Ethereal Coins. I should at least be able to use it as a deposit for the duel, right?"

Since the Ethereal Token was distributed by the Ethereal Hall, the system should be able to accept it as a deposit.

"I guess that works. However, I'd just like to offer you one last piece of advice. If you fail to repay your debt within three days, the Ethereal Token that you are using will be resealed, preventing you from using it ever again!" the attendant replied.

Since the Ethereal Hall was able to allow cultivators to connect to them via the Ethereal Token, naturally, they were able to terminate the connection as well.

"I understand." Zhang Xuan nodded.

Seeing that Zhang Xuan knew what he was getting into, the young man impatiently processed the request. Some time later, he passed a card over to Zhang Xuan.

"This is your Ethereal Card, and stored inside are the five hundred Ethereal Coins you have borrowed. As long as you sign up for the duel, the sum will automatically be deducted from your card. Similarly, the reward for your victory will automatically be stored within your card, so you need not worry!"

Seeing that the process was automated, Zhang Xuan was relieved to know that he would be spared from much trouble. He quickly put the card away before heading toward the dueling ring.

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