After Failing to Influence the Protagonist Chapter 2

Chapter 2 Selection

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Yunxiao’s Highest Peak, Changji.

Pei Jing emerged from the cave and suddenly noticed the blossoming peach flowers outside.

Among the pink and white petals and green leaves, a small yellow bird, feeling tired and sleepy, pecked at the ground absentmindedly.

Pei Jing found it interesting and gently woke it up by poking it with a finger.

The little yellow bird startled and nearly lost its balance on the peach branch. Luckily, it realized it could fly and flapped its wings, landing cautiously on Pei Jing’s shoulder. It trembled with fear, looking at Pei Jing with its round black eyes, but still obediently shook its body. A small piece of paper fell from beneath its wings, shining with a faint silver glow, and floated in the air, revealing a line of words under the sunny sky.

It was a message left by Pei Jing’s master.

Lost in thought, Pei Jing finished reading and then plucked the little yellow bird off, offering a half-smile as he said, “Master went on a journey, and left me in charge temporarily. Does that mean he truly trusts me?”

The little yellow bird felt unjust and struggled to break free.

Pei Jing ceased teasing it and let go. “If I find time, I might stew you for a meal. Just remember, delivering the message isn’t without consequences.”

The little yellow bird kept its distance, wary of him, but couldn’t resist throwing a reproachful glance.

Pei Jing chuckled. It was early spring, and a thin layer of ice still covered the branches. His robes fluttered in the passing wind, carrying snowflakes. It felt serene and pure. As the wind subsided, the peach blossoms rustled, and a few delicate snowflakes landed on the tips of his hair, freezing in place.

Chen Xu arrived, brandishing his sword, and witnessed this sight upon reaching Changji Peak.

Pei Yuzhi emerged from beneath the peach blossoms. With an ancient hairpin and ink-black hair, dressed in white like snow, at first glance, he truly looked comical.

He gave a slight tug at the corner of his mouth. People who didn’t understand Pei Yuzhi praised him to the skies. Those who knew him a bit better couldn’t help but cringe upon hearing those praises.

Pei Jing let out a laugh and said, “You’re quite loyal, Brother. Did you wait for me outside the mountain gate for years?”

Chen Xu shot him a disapproving look and said, “Behave yourself. Today is the day for selecting disciples in the sect. Don’t act so carefree!”

The Dust Breaker Sword was unsheathed, emitting a clear sound as it hung in the air. Pei Jing leaped up, his white robes swaying, and turned back with a puzzled expression. “When did they ask us to join in the sect’s disciple selection?”

Chen Xu stood beside him with his sword. “For this year’s entrance selection, the Sect Master changed the system. They plan to conduct another round of selection among the two hundred newcomers entering the sect, choosing ten individuals to enter the Inner Peaks directly. And it’s up to us to decide those ten.”

Pei Jing sneered, “Interesting. I guess the previous sect competition upset our Master because not a single person from the Outer Peaks could enter the Inner Peaks. Those elders in the Inner Peaks are simply being unreasonable, demanding kids in their teens and twenties to perform miracles. If they truly had such abilities, why would anyone bother becoming their apprentices?”

Chen Xu rolled his eyes in response. “Alright, is the Sect Master really going to get worked up over this? Besides the mischievous things done by you, Pei Yuzhi, I haven’t seen the Sect Master lose his temper.”

He hadn’t done anything mischievous. However, it was true that he had unintentionally turned their revered Master, once a dignified and virtuous grandmaster, into an easily irritated elder.

Pei Jing didn’t want to dwell on those awkward matters and simply asked, “Is this your attitude towards the temporary Sect Master?”

Chen Xu rolled his eyes. “If you were to become the Sect Master, Yunxiao would be in trouble, no doubt.”

Pei Jing concentrated his energy in mid-air, causing raindrops to form and gently fall on Chen Xu’s face.

“I don’t know if Yunxiao will be in trouble or not, but from what I see, you’ll be the one in trouble first.”

Caught off guard by the raindrops, Chen Xu nearly lost his balance on his sword, fuming with anger. “Pei! Yu! Zhi!”

Without the authority of the Sect Master to keep him in check, his annoying and unpredictable temperament became even more exasperating!

Pei Jing paid no attention to his furious outburst and kept his gaze ahead, a relaxed smile on his face. “Well, that’s fine too. Let’s go and meet the new faces.”

Chen Xu remained silent, his expression conveying a mix of emotions.

Were the disciples of this generation cursed with bad luck?

The two of them traveled from Changji Peak to the sect’s entrance on their swords. They paused before reaching the suspension bridge.

During the sect’s establishment, their ancestors had set a rule that this spot must be crossed by foot. At the entrance of the suspension bridge, a piece of green stone stood, bearing the words “With unwavering dignity, verified by the sword”. Beside it were three random and disorderly carvings, creating a rather jarring sight.

Each time Chen Xu passed by this spot, he couldn’t help but sigh. Shaking his head, he remarked, “Look at what you’ve done.”

Pei Jing followed his gaze, focusing on the stone, and said, “What’s wrong with it? Is the handwriting not aesthetically pleasing?”

Chen Xu retorted, “There shouldn’t be any words on this stone. Our ancestors placed it here as a warning, and for a hundred years, no disciple dared to touch it. But you, the Sect Master asked you to reflect upon it, and what did you do? You used your sword to carve patterns on it! If Yunxiao Zhenren hadn’t transcended mortality, he would’ve strangled you.”

Pei Jing calmly replied, “If you don’t understand, then refrain from speaking ignorantly.”

Holding the Cloud Slayer Sword in his hand, right in front of Chen Xu, he made a single vertical stroke from the top to the bottom of the green stone. Chen Xu was taken aback, his hair standing on end. “What are you doing?”

Pei Jing sheathed his sword and lifted his chin. “See for yourself.”

Only a faint trace left by the Cloud Slayer Sword could be seen, swiftly dissipated by a gentle glow.

Chen Xu’s expression froze with bewilderment. “What is this?”

Pei Jing explained, “This stone holds the spiritual consciousness of Yunxiao Zhenren. It’s not something you can simply carve on. When Master punished me to reflect upon the stone, it led to a moment of enlightenment. In that moment, I caught a glimpse of Yunxiao Zhenren. The reason I carved the words is because I was entrusted by the Zhenren.”

Chen Xu remarked, “You actually had such an extraordinary encounter.”

Pei Jing took a step forward, half-squatting down, and placed his hand on the green stone. He chuckled, “Do you think the world of geniuses is as simple as you believe?”

“Alright, alright, alright.”

Unashamed in every aspect, verified by the sword.

Yunxiao’s guidance and Ancestor’s expectations. Pei Jing lowered his gaze, feeling a slight chill on his fingertips, soon embraced by a gentle radiance. He smiled, reflecting on the bet he made with Yunxiao Zhenren during that moment of enlightenment. It didn’t take long for him to accomplish it – challenging the heavens and becoming the number one in the world. He felt that he had lived up to their expectations.

May the eternal spirit of our ancestors reside within this welcoming stone before the suspension bridge.

Behold the everlasting mountains and the glorious splendor of Yunxiao.

The grand hall of the Outer Peaks was already filled with people, the young generation who had gained fame through Yunxiao’s reputation. Pei Jing’s arrival caught the attention of many, sparking a glimmer in their eyes, but it also caused others to wear disapproving expressions.

Pei Jing had always projected an air of aloofness in front of others. As his snowy garment swept across the threshold, he advanced and took his place among the crowd. His silence was like a snow-covered blade, its icy gleam unsettling everyone’s hearts, leaving them too apprehensive to speak.

Several mystical water mirrors hovered above the hall, capturing every movement of the participating disciples.

The mountain gate remained closed, while young talents from all corners of the world stood at the mountain’s base, eagerly anticipating the moment. Their eyes reflected a mix of nervousness and excitement.

Pei Jing observed with curiosity, then turned his head to inquire of the responsible person, “Have you assessed their Spiritual Roots?”

A renowned female cultivator, exuding grace and elegance, who was in charge of the selection stepped forward with a delighted expression and replied, “Senior Brother, we have conducted the assessments. This time, we discovered several individuals with dual Spiritual Roots, and one exceptional candidate possessing a single Spiritual Root.”

Pei Jing arched an eyebrow and questioned, “A single Spiritual Root?”

The female cultivator smiled. “Indeed, he possesses a single Spiritual Root aligned with the water element, pure and undiluted. Many esteemed elders from the Inner Peaks have been secretly observing him.”

Chen Xu was equally astonished and commented, “Isn’t his aptitude almost on par with yours?”

Pei Jing responded, “Still a long way to go.”

He shifted his focus to the water mirrors.

Within the water mirrors, youthful faces filled with innocence and adorned with hope could be seen.

Suddenly, a resounding cry of a crane stirred up a whirlwind of emotions among the young disciples.

A formation of white cranes broke through the clouds, carrying sword cultivators dressed in blue and white robes. They stood gracefully atop the cranes, donning jade crowns and long swords, exuding an air of elegance and distinction. At the forefront was a female disciple, leaping down from the immortal crane, her dress flowing like rippling waves, radiating an ethereal beauty.

The young disciples stood there with mouths agape, gazing at the grace and elegance of their senior brothers and sisters, their eyes brimming with endless yearning.

As soon as the woman touched the ground, she let out a gentle smile and introduced herself, “I am Du Shuangshuang, your guide for this journey. You can call me Senior Sister Du. From this day forward, as you step into the gates of our Yunxiao Sect, you become disciples of Yunxiao. Memorize the ten thousand sect rules and three thousand precepts by heart and never dare to break them. Understand?”

The young disciples, overcome with excitement, their faces flushed, responded in unison, “Yes, understood!”

“Very good.”

Du Shuangshuang nodded in satisfaction, making a hand gesture. In an instant, the immortal cranes hovering in the sky spread their wings, casting a shadow over the land. Descending gracefully, they touched the ground and bent their necks, awaiting the arrival of the young disciples.

The young disciples, still inexperienced and overwhelmed by the grandeur before them, felt a mix of nervousness and confusion. It took them a while to step onto the cranes cautiously, not wanting to make any mistakes. Just as they were adjusting themselves, a whistle pierced the air, and the white cranes took flight, spinning and twirling in the sky. This sudden movement startled the young disciples, causing them to scream in surprise. Gradually, as the white cranes stabilized their flight, the bewildered youths looked around and realized they were soaring high above the ground. They gazed upward in amazement, surrounded by a sea of clouds and bathed in a radiant golden light, as if they had entered a wondrous painting. The young disciples, who had never witnessed such a sight, stood there with wide-open mouths, completely awe-struck.

“Is this Yunxiao?” someone asked, their voice filled with awe.

“It’s unbelievably beautiful,” another person remarked in amazement.

Du Shuangshuang led them to the edge of the suspension bridge, leaping off the backs of the white cranes. Before the young disciples, there appeared a bridge floating amidst wisps of clouds and mist. Below, there stretched an abyss of immense height. Some of them turned pale, their voices quivering as they asked, “S-Senior Sister Du? Are we supposed to cross this bridge?”

Du Shuangshuang smiled and explained, “Indeed, this bridge is your first challenge upon entering Yunxiao. As you walk along this bridge, you may encounter illusions along the way, but remember, don’t trust anything you see. Stay resolute and cross the bridge.”

The young disciples still had yet to regain their composure, their faces showing lingering traces of shock.

The suspension bridge lacked any handrails. It was constructed simply with connected wooden planks. One careless step could lead to a disastrous fall. However, having endured numerous hardships to arrive at Yunxiao, how could they allow fear to hinder their progress? After calming their emotions, they mustered their courage and nodded in unison. “We understand.”

Du Shuangshuang smiled in satisfaction. “Alright, one by one, step forward,” she said, taking a step back to give the group of young disciples enough space.

She keenly observed their every move, taking in their actions.

Inside the grand hall, Pei Jing asked Chen Xu, “There are illusions on the suspension bridge? How come I wasn’t aware of this?”

Chen Xu replied, “You have a lot of things you don’t know.”

Pei Jing responded, “Well, then could you enlighten me?”

Chen Xu shrugged casually. “They call them illusions, but they’re just simple tricks to fool the junior disciples in Qi Gathering Stage. It’s nothing more than spooky ghosts, bloody mountains, and raining corpses—just something to frighten people.”

Pei Jing paused for a moment, his expression showing a hint of curiosity. “Oh.”

Chen Xu’s description of these frightening tricks was enough to haunt the inexperienced young group for a lifetime. With fearful thoughts in their minds, they cautiously stepped onto the bridge, moving hesitantly, wishing they could just walk in a straight line with their eyes shut.

To their surprise, within a single second, the entire scenery around them changed.

The once serene blue sky transformed into a sinister, blood-red color, and a thick, putrid-smelling rain started pouring down.

The rain was also red, making the path beneath their feet treacherously difficult to traverse—it was slippery and sticky. The young individuals were filled with terror, silently reassuring themselves that it was all fake. However, as the blood rain landed on their faces and bodies, an intense and maddening itchiness penetrated deep into their bones, forcing them to scratch. Yet, with every scratch came an agonizing pain.

Drenched in the blood rain, the young disciples’ vision became blurry. Suddenly, gusts of wind carried the mournful cries of tormented souls and malevolent spirits. From the edges of the bridge, pale, ghostly hands slowly emerged, attempting to seize their feet.

It felt as if they had entered a realm of nightmares. On the suspension bridge, many of the young individuals succumbed to their most primal fears—screaming, panicking, and desperately running. However, the more frightened they became, the more ghosts and monsters appeared, relentlessly pursuing them.

The first person became flustered and, overcome by fear, accidentally fell from the suspension bridge. The sound of their startled screams struck a chord of sympathy within Pei Jing’s heart. However, in Yunxiao, no one would be harmed, and the young individual was quickly rescued by a nearby disciple. Nonetheless, upon landing safely, tears streamed down their face, lamenting the missed opportunity.

On the suspension bridge, everyone felt a sense of apprehension. However, there were a few individuals with a calmer disposition who remained unaffected by the cascading blood rain and the persistent presence of ghosts. They quietly and resolutely moved forward.

Pei Jing’s attention was captivated by a certain person, and he pointed and inquired, “Who is he?”

It was hard not to notice someone like him.

The sky was drenched in a crimson hue, and heavy clouds cast a somber atmosphere. He held an umbrella, and his hand was as pale as death itself.

His black attire resembled a tranquil river.

The umbrella was a manifestation of gathered spiritual energy, and as the rain fell upon it, it took on a crimson reflection.

Initially concealed among the crowd, without drawing much attention. However, in this illusory realm, his demeanor seemed to emerge, blending seamlessly with the surroundings, exuding a cold and mysterious aura.

Pei Jing furrowed his brow, deep in thought.

Chen Xu exclaimed, “Condensing qi into objects? Has he already reached the Foundation Establishment Stage at such a young age?”

Pei Jing inquired of the female cultivator, “What is his name?”

The female cultivator regained her composure and replied, “Senior Brother, he is the young man I mentioned earlier, the one with a single Spiritual Root. Chu Junyu.”

Condensing qi to form objects. It was worth noting that Pei Jing, hailed as a prodigy, achieved Foundation Establishment at the age of eighteen, while this young man appeared to be under sixteen.

Pei Jing concealed a hint of a smile and carefully observed him. Unlike Chen Xu’s excitement and eagerness, there was an element of appraisal and contemplation in Pei Jing’s gaze.

Chen Xu exclaimed with excitement, “With his strength, he can directly join the Inner Peaks.”

Pei Jing calmly remarked, “Perhaps not.”

Chen Xu couldn’t believe it and turned his head to look at Pei Jing. “Why? His talent is outstanding.”

Pei Jing smiled but stood his ground. “Take a closer look.”

In the water mirrors, the selection process continued.

The young man named Chu Junyu, if nothing unexpected happened, was about to reach the end of the suspension bridge. Amidst the chaotic realm, he held a blood-red umbrella, shielding himself from the lurking shadows.

Dressed in black, he remained concealed within the mist.

On the bridge, some individuals were tormented by the itchy and painful rain. They shouted and chased after him, hoping to take shelter under his umbrella. Ignoring their pleas, the young man continued walking forward. The pursuers, caught by the illusions of ghosts and monsters, tripped and fell behind him. Desperately, they clung to a corner of his robe, crying out for help in agony.

Meanwhile, the blood rain kept pouring down.

Struggling and seeking assistance, their cries blended with the gusts of wind.

The young man tilted his umbrella slightly, extending his hand. A thin, blood-red arc of light appeared at his fingertips, resembling a delicate blade.

It severed the robe.

Following a piercing and mournful scream, the person plummeted from the suspension bridge.

Witnessing it all, a smile vanished from Pei Jing’s face in an instant.

His voice was cool and detached as he remarked, “This young man seems excessively ruthless and devoid of empathy.”

Chen Xu furrowed his brow, explaining, “They were already competitors. Since no one was harmed, it’s not entirely unreasonable for him to act this way.”

Pei Jing asked, “Do you truly admire him?”

Caught off guard by the question, Chen Xu choked, “I’m just discussing the situation objectively! Given his exceptional talent, it’s truly a shame if he isn’t accepted into the Inner Peaks.”

Pei Jing looked up, a relaxed smile on his face, his voice casual, “He’s so skilled that this trial alone isn’t sufficient.”

Chen Xu sensed trouble brewing as soon as he heard those words. Suppressing his anger, he said, “What are you planning this time? Remember, this selection process doesn’t rely solely on you.”

“Who said I’m planning anything?” He vaguely pointed his finger into the water mirrors, his lips curling into a lazy smile. “I’m giving him a chance—another challenge. If he passes, the Elders of the Inner Peaks can rest assured. I’ll personally take him as my disciple.”

The cultivators inside the hall widened their eyes, expressing their doubts, “Senior Brother Pei… Isn’t this inappropriate?”

In Yunxiao, each successive Sect Master only took one disciple throughout their lifetime—a disciple who became both the pride of the sect and the future Sect Master.

Chen Xu grew genuinely angry. “Can’t you control your impulsive desires? The Sect Master isn’t present, so why are you accepting a disciple?”

Pei Jing silently watched the water mirrors without uttering a word.

On the bridge, the rain of blood formed a curtain. The young man seemed to anticipate reaching the end of the bridge. He halted his steps, slowly retracting the umbrella, revealing his pale and handsome face.

The umbrella transformed into crimson water in his hands, and through the curtain woven by the bloody rain, his light amber eyes peered over.

It was as if he was sharing a gaze with everyone present.

Everyone in the hall, except for Pei Jing, felt a shiver run down their spines. The mournful wind and bitter rain from the water mirrors seemed to convey struggles, hardships, bloodshed, and indifference.

The young man’s eyes exuded pure iciness, devoid of any emotions.

However, within his eyes, they glimpsed a vision of hell.

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