(Young master Xi POV)
I swallowed the saliva I had in my mouth, clenching my teeth hard to keep the bile down my throat.
I was standing stiffly inside my own room, a young girl in a maid outfit was seated on the chair with a leg crossed over the other in front of me.
Ever since that day… That accursed day that I tried to go against God… My life had been hell.
It was an obvious outcome, if one shuns God's grace, you will be doomed to hell.
The girl in front of me uncrossed and crossed her long legs. If it was the past me, I would be salivating at the thought of caressing those smooth thighs and ravaging the girl on my bed.
Now, however, those thoughts were the furthest they can be in my mind.
The girl in front of me is someone I should never go against. Not unless I want to experience that hell again.
"That's my side of things, anything else I should know?" The girl spoke.
I kept my mouth shut, she was not talking to me of course. From what I had learned, it was a telepathy Cultivation Technique taught to them by that fox apostle using Space quarks. Something that was passed to her by God himself.
"Ah I see… High priestess Lian Li must be planning to move forward with that plan earlier than discussed. I will push things forward on my end as well. Yes, I understand. All for Master."
The girl rose from the chair and I stood a little straighter.
"Listen here, insect. I need a list of all the merchant houses that have dealings with Jin city and which goods they specialise in. I want it by the end of this week."
I gulped, "A… All? E-e-even the minor houses? B-b-but there's more than h-h-hundreds…"
The girl glared at me, prompting me to shut up.
"And? Will that be a problem?"
"N-n-no… Just that… I need time to do it… Since I… Don't have subordinates…"
I swallowed again, forcing the bile back down.
"Then find more subordinates if you have to, insect. Do I even need to tell you these kinds of things? Or should we arrange another session?"
I swallowed harder, memories of what was done to me resurfaced from the darkest depths of my mind. The screams were getting louder and louder.
I was so stupid.
That second pouchful of gold God gave me had been his final test and I failed it, spending it all on indulging myself at the local brothels and pubs while foolishly laughing at my 'luck'.
I was pretty sure the fact that I badmouthed him and conspired with my subordinates on extorting him again contributed to my suffering.
One moment I was laughing along with my plans on sending my family guards to harass him and the next I found the world spinning before my eyes.
I had blacked out and woken up in a dimly lit room, my subordinates all tied up around me and kneeling on the ground.
It was obvious they had went through some kind of torture already judging by the wounds and the lifeless eyes.
The four priestesses I had tried to court from God were within the room, explaining to me just who I had offended.
I tried to resist, and they showed me what happened to people who resisted. It did not take much for me to break.
I hadn't known how powerful they were.
Even then, they had offered mercy for me.
Nay, it was God who had offered mercy I was sure. Had God chosen to abandon me, I was sure I would have ended up like my subordinates at the priestesses hands.
I just had to prove my worth by atoning for my sacrilegious actions.
I felt hope then, I would've done anything to stop the pain from returning back to me. That was until they told me what I had to do.
My subordinates were to be my atonement.
A blade was placed in my hand.
It was supposed to be simple: silence the heretics without the usage of Elemental Quarks.
I tried to give them a quick death, I truly did. But I knew it was not that simple as the man I had first decapitated was still screaming after his head was separated from his body.
They felt everything and didn't die no matter how much I cut them, even stabbing them through the head or heart did not stop their wails.
The blade eventually broke after my frantic slashes.
I asked the priestesses for another weapon but they just stared at me in disdain.
I had to use my own hands.
I tore into each of them, trying to ignore their screams of pain as I tried to beat them to death. I scratched and tore and thrashed until my hands were all bruised and bloody.
It didn't work.
Even when their faces were punched in and their bodies a mangled mess, the screams still continued to echo off the walls.
I realised what they meant for me to do when they told me to silence them.
I had no choice.
I only did it to stop the screams.
The room was finally silent after I was done.
All ten bodies completely gone.
Now, only I can hear the screams deep within my core.
I have taken in their sins.
It took me a long time to get used to the screaming, especially on sleepless nights.
That's why, I would rather die than experience another 'session'.
"N-n-n-no, I will do it! I will get it done by the end of the week!"
"Good. I will return to my room now. Do not disappoint us, insect. You were baptised personally by the high priestesses and was graced by His presence, they're both something most of us would kill for."
I nodded quickly.
"All for Master," she prayed.
"All for Master," I repeated.
With that, the girl left my room to resume her cover as a new maid of the Xi family.
For the young master of the Xi family to be reduced to such a state, it is truly laughable.
The screams seem to be louder tonight…
"As long as you remember what I taught, you girls will do fine," I assured.
Lian Li and Manami nodded.
We were standing outside a medium sized building that serves as the examination location. In a while, both Lian Li and Manami will receive their test to promote to Inner Core Practitioners.
Cai Hong was having her afternoon nap back in their room while Eris hasn't been leaving there for the whole week now.
I asked them what had happened to her and they only told me that she was 'still recovering from overstimulation'.
Hmm… Was the tour too stimulating for her? I don't remember showing her anything like that.
I had offered the healing pill but they told me it was not needed.
Oh well, I suppose she's just on her period or something.
Giving Lian Li and Manami a good luck pat on their heads, I entered through the double wooden doors.
Inside, the room was pitch black except for two areas, a large table with three seats and a podium facing the table.
Two Elders were currently seated at the table.
"Master Lin, good afternoon," one of the Elders greeted.
"Elder Xiao, Elder Hong, good day," I waved my hand in response.
"Umu, we are testing your two disciples today, aren't we, Master Lin?" The other Elder asked, relaxing in his chair.
"Yes, Elder Hong," I affirmed, taking my seat in between them.
"Ha! Not even a year and his disciples are promoting to Inner Core Practitioners, I remember back then when you jumped straight into the Elite Practitioners within half a year!" Elder Xiao laughed.
"Truly a genius blessed by heaven," Elder Hong patted my back.
I gave them a wry smile, "Alright, let's just begin. Should we just call in both?"
"I have no problems with that."
"Umu, neither do I."
"And while we're at it, I'll just do both the theory and practical at the same time so we can just get this over and done with?" I asked.
No reason to drag this farce out since I literally am their teacher and am fully aware of their capabilities. I'm sure the two Elders would also rather be somewhere else rather than doing this.
Unless you have a fetish for power play and watching students squirm in their seats while taking their tests, you'll probably be extremely bored being an examiner.
"They're your disciples after all, Master Lin. You know them best."
"Ha ha, we're just here to see you work, Master Lin, don't mind us too much."
Elder Xiao stroked his beard, "In fact, we're only here as a formality, really. If you hadn't insisted on not showing favoritism, we would've just promoted your disciples without much preamble."
I translated that as "I would much rather be in my room grooming and stroking my beard than waste time testing some students here" in my mind.
"Ahaha, I did not want to set a bad example for the others after all," I laughed.
"Nevertheless, just do what you feel you need to do, Master Lin."
I nodded and gestured to the Air Elemental that was guarding the door, prompting it to open it for my two disciples to enter.
They take their place at the podium in front of us, both of their demeanors completely calm.
"Ok, Ms Lian Li, Ms Manami, we won't waste your time here so let's just begin if that's ok with the both of you?" Elder Xiao addressed them.
Lian Li and Manami glanced at me, seeing me nod before giving their assent.
"Very well then… Master Lin, if you would."
I nodded, "Lian Li, list the requirements before a Practitioner can consider their element to be at intermediate tier."
"Ability to summon an elemental and obey the summoner's command and ability to combine Elemental Quarks of the same tier," Lian Li rattled off confidently.
"Manami, demonstrate a combination."
Manami reached out her palm, it took barely a second before a translucent blue flame appeared, showing her successful combination of Fire and Astral quarks to form Spirit Fire.
Both Elder Xiao and Elder Hong nodded, impressed.
"Manami, what are the basic groupings of quarks?"
"Base Quarks and Combination Quarks."
I hummed, "and the difference between the two?"
"Base Quarks can be materialised directly, but Combination Quarks can only be materialised by combining Base Quarks."
I turned my attention to Lian Li, "Lian Li, other than the common four quarks, list four more examples of both groups."
"Light, Dark, Astral and Space for Base. Energy, Lightning, Metal and Magma for Combination."
"Demonstrate a Combination Quark."
Lian Li closed her eyes and Lightning began sparking off her body, giving her an ethereal glow.
"Perfect. Explain the process of using a Cultivation Technique."
Lian Li released her Lightning and opened her golden eyes, "The first step is visualization of the intended effect as described in the Technique, then to circulate your quarks as described in the Technique. Lastly is to realise the Technique into the material world."
Manami nodded, stepping closer to the podium just as Lian Li stepped back.
"The Cultivation Technique I will demonstrate is the 'Astral Sound Projection'."
Huh, I was a bit surprised that she chose that Technique, it's a Technique that was well known to be used in pranks.
Using that Technique allows someone to create, store and play certain sounds under certain conditions.
You could, for example, store the sound of someone screaming on the head of a doll, and making the sound play when someone pulls the head out.
The best thing about this is that if one knows the intricacies of this Technique and is proficient in Space quarks, they can hide this Technique after casting it and no one below Elite level Practitioners will be able to tell a sound is playing because of this Technique.
Even better is that you can use Space quarks to specifically target a person, making it such that only that specific person can hear these sounds.
Yeah, it's quite a malicious pranking tool.
Holding out her fist, she concentrated as a glow began emanating around said appendage, indicating her successful materialisation of the mentioned Technique.
She gently rapt her knuckle on the podium, a soft 'tap' sound echoing out from her action.
Manami took a step back, a few seconds passed before the same 'tap' sound echoed again, repeating every few seconds.
"Very good, you can cancel it now."
Manami nodded and did as instructed.
I pushed my chair back to look at the two Elders in turn, tilting my head in a silent query of what they thought.
"Well, I have no doubt we'll be seeing them again to promote them to Elite Practitioners very soon," Elder Xiao said while nodding his head.
"Umu, no doubt about it. As far as we're concerned, they have passed with flying colours. Congratulations Master Lin, Ms Lian Li and Ms Manami," Elder Hong cupped his hands to me.
Alrighty! With this it's onward to the tournament arc!
Why are you looking at me like that?