"Are you thinking of getting a disciple yourself, Master Lin?" Elder Qing asked as we made our way towards the Grand Hall.
"Um… I'm still thinking about it," I answered honestly.
Elder Qing nodded, "Hmm hmm, no need to rush yourself, you're still young after all, haha!"
I smiled at his joke, I was the youngest amongst the Masters after all.
In a sect, the hierarchy begins at the bottom with student Practitioners who have just joined the Sect. They will learn under teachers to control their elemental quarks of a certain element until they are able to master the Basic tier of their element.
There are multitudes of elemental quarks one can learn to control. From the four common elements of Fire, Water, Earth and Air, to specialised ones like Light, Dark, Astral, Metal, Space and many others.
Some might frown upon the learning of Dark quarks not because it is seen as evil, but more because it is proven to be detrimental to an ill-prepared Practitioner's health. I can testify to that fact, unfortunately.
Each elemental quark has six tiers of mastery starting from the bottom: Basic, Journeyman, Intermediate, Advanced, Master and Legend. The things one can with their element at each level of mastery increases exponentially.
A Basic tier Water Practitioner could summon a bucket of water with enough concentration. But a similar Practitioner at Legend tier could cause destructive tsunamis with just a flick of their hand.
Once a Practitioner masters the Basic tier of an element, they are admitted to the Outer Core Practitioners. There, they have the choice of mastering three elemental quarks to Basic tier, two elemental quarks to Journeyman tier, or one elemental quark to Intermediate tier to be promoted to an Inner Core Practitioner.
The next requirement is to master four elements to Journeyman, three to Intermediate, or two to Advanced to be admitted to the ranks of an Elite Practitioner.
Usually, the limits of Earthen Plane Practitioners are at the Advanced tiers with only a handful being able to touch the fringes of Master. Legend tiers were unheard of until the Spiritual Plane and even there they were exceptionally rare.
To be a Master in an Earthen Plane Sect you had to at least be Advanced tier in four elements to be considered for the position. The Sect will also take into account your personality, skills and attitude before conferring that title to you.
After all, the rank of Master was just below the Sect Master in terms of hierarchy and was well respected and known throughout the land. It was not a position to be treated lightly.
As for the Elder position, it is more of an honorary title conferred upon Elite Practitioners who have stayed within the Sect for an exceptionally long time. In other words, Elders are the ones with the most experience and wisdom in a Sect and usually take up the position as teachers and mentors.
Elder Qing had been with the Heaven Sect for a hundred years, the man himself already pushing on a hundred and thirty though he looks like he was in his fifties. Honestly, I had a hunch he wanted himself to appear older so he had grown his beard to the point it reached his chest, or else he just has a thing for stroking long beards.
It is a fact that Practitioners age slower than non-Practitioners because of the quarks they circulate in their bodies, so it wouldn't be a surprise to find an Elder who was way past the hundreds in terms of age while looking like they're barely sixty.
We reached the Grand Hall where most of the other Masters and Elders have already gathered without incident.
"Elder Qing, Master Lin!"
Both of us turned towards the source of the voice, finding a bespectacled old man with an even longer beard that screamed of 'sagely'.
"Oh, Sect Master Long, have you come to see the prospective disciples?" Elder Qing asked.
"Umu, it would not do well if I do not know how the new generation is like after all," Sect Master Long remarked while stroking his long beard.
Elder Qing nodded, similarly stroking his beard, "I have heard we might have a number of really good students this year. I can't wait to meet my future students."
"Good, good. What about you Master Lin? Will you take a disciple this year?"
I noticed that most of the Elders and Masters had turned their attention to me. It was not surprising since the Sect will probably give priority to my choice because of my status. In my previous life, I had chosen not to take in any disciples throughout my time in the Sect. I had spent every waking hour concentrating on strengthening myself instead of others, thus the thought of getting a disciple seemed like a burden to me.
Hmm… Since I'm aiming for an easier life, a disciple would actually help with that.
I imagined myself being served tea while imparting the wisdom I learned in my previous life to them.
Then I could train them to become stronger and they will help stop that Lightning Practitioner from destroying the world too. That would definitely be much easier than me facing that crazy strong Practitioner by myself.
Yes, that's the easy life that I wanted.
"I think I might just pick one, it's a good chance for me to experience teaching others for a change," I decided.
The Elders and Master all nodded in unison, probably thinking with my guidance, they would see another genius in the Heaven Sect and cement their position as the top Sect in the Earthen Plane for a long time.
"Good, very good," The Sect Master nodded, still stroking his beard. What is with old Practitioners and stroking beards? Do they think it makes them look sagely or something?
Well, I wouldn't know since I never bothered to grow a beard, do you know how much effort and time one needs to spend to maintain that 'sagely' and 'wise' look the Elders are so proud of? I don't doubt they spend more time trimming and grooming their beards compared to vain women doing their makeup to meet their similarly vain friends.
All that wasted time could have been spent on cultivating and train-- no no no, what am I thinking? Easy life, simple life. Yes.
That actually makes sense now. An easy life of spending half of your time stroking your beard. Not what I would go for but to each his own I guess? Looks like I misunderstood you long bearded Elders, I must apologise.
"Now then, let's go see our new students," The Sect Master announced, leading the way deeper into the Grand Hall.