Chen Mo looked at the Qing Family’s deeds and properties, which were quite dazzling to the eye. The Qing Family owned considerable assets in several of the surrounding counties and commanderies. At a glance, the Qing Family had practically brought everything they possibly could.
Qing Yuanshan and some others cautiously watched Chen Mo’s face for any changes, trying to search for any hints. What a pity that all he could see in the man’s eyes was a placid lake, no ripples.
After a while, Chen Mo set down the pile of deeds.
“Uncle Yuanshan, are you truly planning on swearing fealty to me?” Chen Mo slightly smiled and asked.
“The Qing Family has committed many an offense against you in the past and pleads with Your Highness for forgiveness. Starting today, the Qing Family will definitely be Your Highness’ arms and legs. We will do our utmost to jump into scalding water and plunge into raging fire for Your Highness.” The prostrate Qing Yuanshan’s vocabulary about loyalty could be said to sound tragic and moving.
When Chen Mo came to Chuan Province, he had no interest at all in establishing his own power, however, he had no reason to refuse something sent directly to his doorstep. He was not unreasonable, nodding: “Thank you, Senior Yuanshan and the rest, for your deep affections. Then Chen Mo thus shall not refuse.”
Qing Yuanshan sighed in relief. Before he came here, he was already mentally prepared to accept the Chen Family young master’s mockery and ridicule, an arrogant and bossy authority. Prior to this, who let the Qing Family give Chen Mo such a poor attitude. But they never imagined that Chen Mo would be so easy to converse with. He had not the slightest intention of making things difficult for them. Those addresses of “uncle” and “senior” made Qing Yuanshan feel warmth in his heart.
This brat had broad perspective and was unfathomable. He feared Wan’er was no match for the boy.
While Qing Yuanshan’s heart had regretful thoughts, on the other hand, he also recalled that if the Qing Family could secure the support of the Chang’an Mansion’s Fourth Highness, this could be considered an unexpected turn of events, a blessing in disguise.
“Has Qing Wan been well as of recent?” Chen Mo asked.
“Ah, Wan’er has most recently been diligently training for battle in the Divine Warrior Examination’s provincial examination. Many thanks for your concern, Your Highness. Wan’er has truly been presumptuous in the past, and she has taken to proper guidance.” Qing Yuanshan answered.
The others affirmed in succession.
“Wan’er views this Divine Warrior Examination as particularly important.” Qing Song’gu’s implication was that when the time came, she wanted to see who was stronger between herself and Chen Mo.
Chen Mo smiled. Qing Wan, the arrogant girl of Heaven, actually did not disappoint. After suffering consecutive blows, she was able to become even more bold the more she was pressured. This was an outstanding characteristic for a warrior.
“When the time comes, I will also use full power.”
Qing Yuanshan and the others were about to say something but hesitated.
Chen Mo asked: “Seniors, is there something else the matter?”
“There is another matter we wish to request for Your Highness’ aid.” Qing Yuanshan grit his teeth, bracing himself: “This pertains to the Star General.”
“The Star General?” Chen Mo feigned ignorance.
“We will not hide this from Young Master. The Qing Family Ancestor had gone to Azure Dragon Mountain to challenge the Star General. The result was an unfortunate death…This cannot be blamed on other people. Blame rests solely on the Qing Family for being too reckless. But that Star General killing the Qing Family Ancestor has the meaning of being a demonstration. Young Master once saved the Star General, so we earnestly request that Young Master please clarify with the Star General on behalf of the Qing Family, to give us leniency.”
“Of course this will not be a problem. Regardless, you are now my people. If the Star General comes seeking you out, I will definitely show myself.” Chen Mo righteously declared.
They were put at ease. Then, they chatted awhile.
“We shall not disturb Young Master’s preparations for the Divine Warrior Examination and shall now take our leave.”
Seeing them off with his eyes, Chen Mo then handed these deeds over to an assistant. “Iron Blade, how go things at Chen Qing’s side?”
“The people at Changluo are not aware at all that Young Master is currently capable of learning martial arts.” Iron Blade answered.
“That so?” Chen Mo grunted, “I will enter secluded cultivation for the next few days in preparation for the provincial examination. Go monitor Chen Qing’s side.”
“As you command.”
Several days later, the Divine Warrior Examination’s first phase provincial examination finally began.
Azure Dragon Town, martial arts field.
At this moment, there was already a frothing tide of people. All of the town’s warriors were gathered in one hall. Some commoners had also come to observe. The qi and blood on the martial arts field was like fire, with no hint of winter’s chill at all. At the center of the field were several glossy stone pillars. Adjacent to them were several pre-arranged elevated platforms. Banners were erected in the surroundings; they were the Great Chong Dynasty’s “Thousand Chong Mountain” flags.
The Divine Warrior Examination was a major assessment held once every four years in the Great Chong Dynasty. Only warriors age twenty or lower were able to participate. The Divine Warrior Examination was altogether split into three phases, the provincial, metropolitan, and court examinations.
Those able to successfully pass the Divine Warrior Examination’s first phase provincial examination were known as graduates. According to the Great Chong Dynasty’s laws, there were bonus policies involving 10 years of tax exemptions. If a clan wished to grow, then it was necessary to produce graduates capable of becoming nobility.
The provincial examinations were conducted using cities or towns as units. Each fief was allowed only one slot for direct promotion and five reserve promotion slots. Promotion slots could directly be promoted to interviews, and the reserves were to battle against the alternative warriors of other towns, finally deciding on another single candidate.
The competition could be said to be very intense. In years past, Azure Dragon Town’s graduate candidates all alternated from the Qing Family, Tao Family, and Shen Family.
Prior to this Divine Warrior Examination, the Qing Family’s Qing Wan was believed to be the best candidate. As Azure Dragon Town’s number one noble daughter, she was a genius warrior. In the previous Divine Warrior Examination, Azure Dragon Town’s graduate title was obtained by her elder brother. If things went as expected, the Qing Family was extremely likely to seize two consecutive provincial examination candidacies in the Divine Warrior Examination. This was a deep honor for the Qing Family.
However, a surprise nevertheless arose in the last few days.
“I heard that the Qing Family has already sworn fealty to Chen Mo.”
“The Qing Family is quite aware of the situation and adaptable. Their Ancestor is dead, and the other noble clans have already been snooping on them in the dark. Now, with Young Master Chen Mo’s background, I think this Qing Family has actually obtained a blessing in disguise.”
“Though that may be the case, in the end, by relying on another person’s charity, they have become servants. Originally, I thought that if Qing Wan was able to win in this Divine Warrior Examination, the Qing Family could step in among the influential clans. Now, they stumble at the final step.”
“Who let them offend a Star General. They already ought to thank Heaven that they were able to prevent the extermination of their family.”
“However, I truly didn’t think that cripple Chen Mo would surprisingly be so abnormal. We really were fooled by him in the past.”
Everyone was in a hubbub, a tremendous clamor.
The things that happened this winter in Azure Dragon Town honestly were once in a century. A trash young master skyrocketed, beating down the Qing Family with his strength alone. Then, a Star General appeared and was met with a chase to kill, resulting in Qing Family Ancestor Qing Bugai’s untimely death. Now, the Qing Family was relying on Chen Mo for support. These incidents truly were too much to take in, making people tongue-tied.
The moment Chen Mo stepped onto the martial arts drilling field, he could feel that atmosphere that could scorch Heaven. Following his appearance, those chatting people stopped their conversations one after another. The clamoring people began to privately whisper into each other’s ears. Now, in Azure Dragon Town, Chen Mo was considered to be fully worthy of being the man of the moment.
Azure Dragon Town had a population in excess of a hundred thousand, with ten thousand of those being warriors.1 Those that met the age requirements for the Divine Warrior Examination numbered in the high hundreds. Chen Mo more or less could tell at a glance there were no opponents worth noting.
Chen Mo found himself a seat, warming up his qi and blood, using the Nose Locking Art to slowly cultivate.
The results of his cultivation over these past few days were not bad. His strength was already fully in Qi And Blood Eight Turns, and he had minor accomplishment in training the Divine Hawk Eyesight. He was able to discern the flight of a bug from a thousand meters away. Most recently, he was also training his lip reading in concert with the Divine Hawk Eyesight to completely attain previously unimagined results in information gathering.
Several moments later.
Several of the Tao Family and Shen Family’s elders came.
“Young Master Chen Mo!” The Shen Family’s old man stepped forward and greeted him with a smile.
Chen Mo humbly returned his greeting.
The Shen Family’s old man was very pleased. The last time he visited Chen Mo was to eat the mandarin ducks hotpot. After he returned home, he himself also commissioned one, eating it everyday. It could be said that his face was covered in grease. The Qing Family put forth all they could to swear fealty to Chen Mo, but the Shen Family’s old man believed himself to also stand on Chen Mo’s side, his mood exceptionally great.
The Tao Family head was a middle-aged man, his expression grim. He merely nodded in greeting at Chen Mo.
Then, the two of them directly sat in the supervisor seats atop the elevated platform. As the authoritative noble families of Azure Dragon Town, they were to monitor this provincial examination from start to finish.
The warriors to the side were actually not surprised to see the provincial examination’s proctors treat Chen Mo with such deference, but constantly comparing oneself with others will only result in anger. Fortunately, no matter how deferential or flattering they were, strength was the language in the provincial examination. No one had any way to cover things up. Otherwise, once news reached Chang’an, that would be an offense against the Lord worthy of extermination of nine familial generations.
“Old Friend Tao, why does your mood look so poor.” The Shen Family old man smiled and asked. “This Old Man has but heard Tao Jingfeng returned to Azure Dragon Town from the Heavenly Bow Sect. He is quick on the path to becoming graduate. Perhaps he has the qualifications to battle Qing Wan.”
“Right, why doesn’t This Old Man see Nephew Jingfeng?”
“Something has happened to him.” The Tao Family head lowered his face and replied. The disappearance of the Tao Jingfeng who returned to participate in the Divine Warrior Examination made the entire Tao Family uneasy. Their situation right now was as nerve-wracking as the Qing Family’s.
Tao Jingfeng was the warrior the Tao Family nurtured with all their might this generation. They spent considerable effort to send him to the Heavenly Bow Sect to cultivate. He was only nineteen years old this year, and they originally wanted him to return to compete against that lady from the Qing Family, but after he and Lu Kezhou entered Azure Dragon Mountain together to hunt the Star General, there had been no news at all.
Now that even the Qing Family Ancestor had been slain, how could the Tao Family have peace of mind.
Later, the most influential noble clan, the Qing Family, finally arrived.
When Qing Yuanshan and the others appeared, the atmosphere immediately changed.
The old man glanced at Chen Mo, greeting him with clasped hands as per etiquette. The old man walked up to the platform’s middle position and faced the hundred prospective warriors and thousands of spectators. He recited a lengthy speech about the Divine Warrior Examination, “culture can rule a country, martial prowess brings about peace.”
Then, Qing Yuanshan waved his hand, and a copper token was then hung atop a flagpole.
Upon looking at this token, all of the warriors were immediately stirred up and impatient.
Chen Mo knew this was the “Graduate Token,” the proof that one had passed the provincial examination. These tokens were issued by the Ministry of War, split into “jade, gold, silver, and copper” grades, and they were distributed according to the distinct martial potential of every town and city. From another perspective, it could be said to represent the military power level of each town.
Once the Graduate Token was obtained, it could be exchanged for various rewards at the town where the metropolitan examination as conducted.
A national capital like Chang’an inevitably was issued a jade level token because that place did not have “Three Flowers Overhead” warriors; it did not even have the qualifications to hold a provincial examination.2
Copper Graduate Tokens were the lowest grade, meaning that the Great Chong Dynasty did not place any particular significance on Azure Dragon Town. Although the Divine Warrior Examination was claimed to be an election by the populace fairly and impartially, this kind of impartiality was merely limited to the process. Of course, the truth was that any fairness merely for show.
After all, in Star World, warriors had never pursued fairness, they spoke using only martial force.
The time had come. Qing Yuanshan, the Tao Family, and the Shen Family consulted for a moment, and after they finished speaking, Qing Yuanshan gave the signal.
A Qing Family disciple tugged on the ceremonial cannon, firing a salute.
With a shaking boom, fireworks blossomed into red clouds in the sky.
The crowd immediately went wild.
The Divine Warrior Examination’s provincial examination had officially begun.