The admission test was still ongoing, and within the Flameyellow Stadium, there were still disciples battling. Once that was over and the Flameyellow Scions Institute reached its full intake capacity, it would take a few days to settle some administrative matters before the ranking test was conducted.
Li Tianming still had a small period of time to prepare for the test, and he was ready to spend all his time on cultivation once he left Mu Wan’s place. Disciples' residential areas were allocated by the chief mentors, and all he needed to do was to collect his key. To his surprise, the one distributing the keys was his old classmate, Lin Qingyu.
“Where’s Fang Zhao?” asked Li Tianming.
“There’s still quite a lot happening back in the stadium, and I’m just here to help Chief Mentor Mu Wan first,” she replied.
“Find me a secluded place then,” Li Tianming requested.
“Sure.” Lin Qingyu handed him his key. His place was quite a distance away from everyone else’s.
“Qingyu, see you around.” Li Tianming took the keys from her and was about to leave. To be honest, Lin Qingyu had treated him fairly, and at least she didn’t bully him even given his current situation.
“Tianming.” Before he could leave, the girl called out.
“Yes?” Li Tianming turned back to look at his old classmate.
“Fang Zhao was really pissed at you because of what you said the other time. He said that he will ‘pay you a visit’ one of these days,” Lin Qingyu explained. “If he comes looking for trouble, just stay in your room, or report him to chief mentor.”
“What level is his cultivation at now?” Li Tianming was not surprised by his decisions. If Fang Zhao thought of himself as superior just because he had three years wrong, Li Tianming was about to prove him wrong.
“Second level Spiritsource, going third,” Liu Qianyang recalled.
“Ha, three years and he only managed to get to second level Spiritsource from ninth level Beast Vein. Tell him he’s welcome to find me anytime.” Li Tianming brushed it off. Even if Li Tianming was the one who helped him fend off bullies three years ago, just because of their altercation a few days back that hurt his ego as the ‘senior’, Fang Zhao threatened to beat Li Tianming up. Li Tianming couldn’t care less about this kind of person.
“Why must you seek trouble...” Lin Qingyu shook her head.
“And what makes you think he can definitely overcome me?”
“Fang Zhao’s talent may not be much in this institute, but remember, he is no longer just that fifteen year old boy.”
Li Tianming listened to her reminder, before leaving with a smile.
While they were talking, a small group of freshmen had gathered around them. But when Li Tianming walked towards their direction, the crowd dispersed automatically, as if Li Tianming was carrying some kind of plague. Ever since he returned to the institute, no one other than Chief Mentor Mu Wan was willing to even get close to him.
“Is he an idiot?”
“Senior Fang Zhao wants to teach him a lesson, and he still dares to talk back?”
“I don’t get it, why would Chief Mentor Mu Wan accept a delinquent like him? Shouldn’t have joined the Muwan class… ”
“How stifling, to be in the same class as a loser who should have died three years ago.”
“Lin Xiaoting was still too kind, I would have executed him instead three years ago.”
“Forget it, I think Chief Mentor Mu Wan quite likes him...”
Such discussions were nothing new to Li Tianming, their accusations even lacking creativity to him. Ignoring the onlookers, Li Tianming found the house allocated to him.
Lin Qingyu had indeed given him a secluded place that hadn’t been occupied for a couple of years. The place was piled with weeds when Li Tianming arrived, and he took some time to burn them away before starting with his cultivation.
Important tasks awaited him. Not only did Li Tianming need to practice the four battle arts he had just learnt, he also needed to refine more beast ki with crimson gems in order to raise his level of cultivation. With only a few days to the ranking test, it was a race against time.
The Confounding Mirage Walk, Nine Flying Bolts and Netherfire Ghostclaw had all performed wonderfully during the admission test; those battle arts had suited him well. But with his current mastery of those battle arts, he couldn’t compare to the likes of Chen Yao or Lin Xiaoxiao, which meant that he wouldn’t qualify to enter Heaven’s Sanctum.
Thankfully, he still had time for some last minute effort before the crucial point. If he couldn’t make it into the sanctum with this test, he would have to wait for the next opportunity. But Wei Jing couldn’t wait. Even with a good supply of clear spirit grass, she may not be able to last that long.
From there on, Li Tianming spent every single second he had locked up in his room, focused on his cultivation. As for the little chick, it was absolutely delighted with being able to eat spirit gems to its heart’s content. Everyday, it gobbled down crimson gems like peanuts, the powerful spiritual energy from the gems engulfing it in fire constantly. But Ying Huo was used to it, and when it really couldn’t deal with the blaze, it would hop onto Li Tianming’s shoulders and direct some of the flames to him.
With enough determination and a clear goal in mind, their cultivation was more effective than ever. Coupled with their superb talent and a comfortable supply of gems, Li Tianming and Ying Huo made incredible progress.
Finally, after downing three hundred crimson gems, they successfully made it to ninth level Beast Vein! It was the peak of the Beast Vein stage, signifying that all nine beast veins on their body were developed and pumped with beast ki.
They were done with the first big stage of cultivation! Next was the Spiritsource stage, where their cultivation began with first forming their spiritsources. Li Tianming had experience in that, but he was in no hurry to enter that stage. At their current state, they had sufficient Aeternal Infernal Beast Ki in their body already, and the more important thing was to stabilize their foundations, and to work on the four battle arts.
Regarding Spiritsource, Li Tianming had his past experience with Midas, while the little chick had its own methods. Upon reaching ninth level, Ying Huo claimed that the Aeternal Infernal Codex in its bloodline had revealed the cultivation methods for Spiritsource. All he needed to do was to gather the spiritsources and the little chick would guide him through on the details. Spiritsource would open a new gate of cultivation for him, and Li Tianming was filled with anticipation.
Just as they got familiar with their new power, a commotion had started outside their house — Fang Zhao had showed up on his doorstep to seek some trouble. But his appearance also implied that his job at the stadium was over, and that the admission test had officially concluded. The ranking test would begin in a few days, and Li Tianming felt the looming pressure redouble.
“Li Tianming, I brought some guests for you.” Fang Zhao’s voice sounded from outside the doors, and some people were apparently tagging along.
Li Tianming took some time to pack up, before heading outside. As he opened the gate, he saw around eight familiar faces. All of them used to be from the Muwan class and were now in the journeyman class. Back when they first entered the institute, they were all friends who played and cultivated together.
Lin Qingyu was among the group too, but she had a worried look on her face. After all, she knew what Fang Zhao was here for.
Li Tianming smiled. “Fang Zhao, Qingyu, Guanxiong, Zhao Ying, Chen Kun… What a group we have here. Good to see y’all again.”
“Good, but it would have been better had you not shamed yourself three years ago. Then we would be together in the journeyman class now, instead of you playing with these apprentice kids,” Fang Zhao mocked.
“Li Tianming, you probably don’t know about this, but ever since your scandal, our whole class had been laughed at because of you.” Lu Guanxiong shook his head and continued, “And when you were finally forgotten, you just had to come back to stir up past shames."
“And I thought we were here to talk about the good old times. Why does it sound to me that you all are here to denounce me?” Li Tianming smiled.
Aside from the group of seniors, quite a few freshmen had gathered due to the commotion as well. Most of them had gotten to know each other in the past days, with the exception of Li Tianming, who was isolated in his room.
“Li Tianming, are you scared now? Who was the one that taunted me a few days back and asked me to pay you a visit?” Fang Zhao licked his lip, his expressions menacing.
“Nah, I’m just saddened to have to beat up people whom I thought were friends,” Li Tianming replied, his boldness shocking the group. They had heard about how cheeky he was ever since his return, and it seemed that those rumors were justified.
“No point wasting time speaking to a fool. Fang Zhao, go beat some sense into him.”
“Show him that someone who had been crippled for three years can’t compare to us in the journeyman class.”
Under their persuasion, Fang Zhao gladly accepted the ‘honour’. He pointed at Li Tianming and declared, “Don’t blame me, I’m doing you a favour here. Next time you meet other seniors, you better remember to pay them the respect they deserve so you don’t get beaten up again.”
“So I’m supposed to thank you instead.” Li Tianming smirked, his nonchalant attitude making Fang Zhao even more annoyed.
“Whirlwind Zestful Crane!” Fang Zhao summoned his lifebound beast.
It was a snow-white, red-crowned crane, with only the tip of its tail black in color. The crane was noble and elegant, its wings magnificent when spread out. Like its beastmaster, it had a haughty look on its face.
The Whirlwind Zestful Crane was a low-tier five-star lifebound beast, the minimum benchmark for the institute, and it was a wind-type avian beast. While it may not look much, at second level Spiritsource, Fang Zhao and his beast were a powerful duo.
“Ying Huo, this crane is female, any thoughts?” Li Tianming said to the little chick on its shoulders.
“Too ugly, not my cup of tea,” the little chick spat.
Li Tianming had suspicions about its sense of beauty. “Huh? It’s a crane, how’s that not good enough for a chicken?”
“After personally experiencing the gentleness of Chief Mentor Mu Wan, all other chicks and birds just don't cut it anymore.” The little chick grinned.
“What a pervert.” Li Tianming rolled his eyes, drawing out his Thunderfire Chain at the same time.
Fang Zhao was in second level Spiritsource and was also the same age as Li Tianming, making him a worthy opponent. Had Li Tianming not lost Midas, even without the Saintbeast War-Soul, he would be a disciple of the journeyman class too. It was likely that he would be even stronger than Fang Zhao. It was a good time to check whether he had caught up with the years he had lost!
Opposite Li Tianming, Fang Zhao had drawn out his third grade beastial weapon, the Wind Calling Rapier. It was well-sharpened, cutting through the wind as Fang Zhao dashed towards Li Tianming.
From what Li Tianming remembered, Fang Zhao prided himself for his skill in movement arts. Such an opponent was definitely more threatening than Chen Ding. Not only was his speed faster, but his Whirlwind Zestful Crane had its own spiritsource abilities too.
But that wasn’t going to stop Li Tianming from giving him a good beating!