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In general, climbing a mountain isn't an extremely difficult task for anyone, except the physically unfit, or as you may know: that fat kid. This mountain wasn't impossibly steep too, you didn't have to use your hands for some rock climbing. However, the mountain's size was daunting.

Unable to see how far the peaks reached, Han Lingyun knew those 6 hours wouldn't be a walk in the park. And many had already begun the climb. In fact, it was truly chaotic with those thousands of kids scrambling up.

Han Lingyun kept his pace, focused on his footing and breathing, and overtaking many in the process. 'Hehe going up mountains is a bit of my specialty.' He emptied his mind as he took one step at a time, forgetting those around him. Many abandoned after 1 or 2 hours: it was actually a big ask for 10 years old to have the will for this arduous task, so they abandoned even though many were not at their "limit". On the other hand, a couple of hundred kids were clearly separated from the main group by nearly jogging up. Twenty were a cut above the rest and on a race to reach the entry gate first, running for most of the climb.

 

3 hours later, Han Lingyun's legs started to hurt due to the constant climbing. His breath was shorter and he was sweating all over. He wasn't used to these prolonged efforts. He made a short pause to control his breath, stretch his legs a little to try and spread the lactic acid. Then he focused his mind and decisively soldiered on.

 

After 4 hours of climbing up, Han Lingyun finally arrived at an imposing gate, stuck between 2 tall peaks and boldly announcing WHITE TIGER SCHOOL.

"Congratulation for making it up in 4 hours and 7 minutes. You are the 942nd to arrive. Here is a bottle of water if you need, you can wait on the stone square. May I know your name and hometown?". A gentle voice greeted him.

'Geeze there is a lot of competition!'

"Han Lingyun from Cemone city" he responded between heavy breaths.

Han Lingyun took a seat on the wide-open area with already many kids all around, some already here for 2 hours. 'It seems everything that I will do is noted down, even my performance to climb up.' he mused.

'Well, I should use the next two hours to rest to the maximum. I might need every bit of energy I can muster for the selection.' He laid down at some empty space after some stretches, like many others around him. Some were visibly very relaxed but many felt tense. Except for a small group of elites, the others were not confident to enter the sect as a disciple.

 

"TIME IS UP!" a booming voice shocked Han Lingyun out of his sleepy state, resonating down the mountain path. "THOSE OF YOU THAT DID NOT MAKE IT UP CAN COME BACK DOWN AND WAIT, DISCIPLES WILL COME FLY YOU TO OTHER SECTS OR BACK TO YOUR FAMILIES THIS EVENING."

As the echo of the powerful voice receded, an elderly wise-looking man in a long robe walked to the front of the plaza. He grabbed everyone's attention by just being there. He gave an impression of absolute calm, a stark difference to the owner of the booming voice.

The old man smiled, "Now for the 4176 remaining candidates, you will have to take some additional tests. Your performance will be graded, then a ranking will be calculated based on your overall scores. Only the best 800 will be offered a position of disciple. Too bad if you rank 801st, it means that your potential is too low for the White Tiger School's standard. What is evaluated roughly falls into 4 categories: your talent, your physical capabilities, your cognitive abilities, and your behavior. Remember, we will calculate your future potential, we don't only care about your current performances. For us you are just ants at the moment."

The mass of candidates was separated into smaller groups of roughly 50 candidates each. To quicken the proceedings and finish them in one day, the tests will be held simultaneously by different groups who will then rotate. An elder was assigned for each group, and led them to one of the testing grounds, Han Lingyun was just following the flow, being assigned to GROUP G. They arrived in front of a tent, where the candidates were called one by one inside. Han Lingyun entered to find a stunning young woman.

She quickly pointed: "Hi please sit down". The young woman didn't give Han Lingyun any time before starting. "I will be reciting a list of numbers. Please repeat them after me: 1-6-2-7-6-3."

Han Lingyun quickly repeated "1-6-2-7-6-3."

The woman explained,

"I will be increasing by one additional number each time: 1-6-2-7-6-3-8."

"1-6-2-7-6-3-8."

"1-6-2-7-6-3-8-5."

"1-6-2-7-6-3-8-5."

This test of short-term memory was quite easy for Han Lingyun, who wasn't quite sure what was its point. The back and forth continued and continued.

"1-6-2-7-6-3-8-5-2-6-6-8-3-5-1-9-8-1-5-8-2-5."

"1-6-2-7-6-3-8-5-2-6-6-8-3-5-1-9-8-1-5-8-2-5."

….

"1-6-2-7-6-3-8-5-2-6-6-8-3-5-1-9-8-1-5-8-2-5-3-9-1-3-4."

"1-6-2-7-6-3-8-5-2-6-6-8-3-1-5-9-8-1-5-8-2-5-3-9-1-3-4."

Finally, Han Lin had stumbled with the sequence of 28 numbers. The stunning young woman raised an eyebrow at Han Lingyun's performance as she noted down the results.

"Very good. You can leave on this side." Her bright smile momentarily dazed the young Han Lingyun before he quickly shook himself up as his curiosity was nibbling at him.

"Excuse me Elder, can I ask what is the point of this test?" Han Lingyun hesitantly asked.

"Haha, I am no elder little one, I am still a disciple only from a previous generation. Anyway, there are a couple reasons, first it is to check if you are not too dull, but this is not the main test for this. Still, we don't need idiots that go and kill themselves for whatever reason, that would be a waste of time and resources. The second objective is to note down which future disciples have a potential for a specialization in pill making or array formations but all this is way too early for you and won't concern you for at least two years." The young lady seemed much more inclined to answer Han Lingyun questions after his praiseworthy showing.

"Thank you El… disciple for the explanation." Han Lingyun bowed.

"Come on now go go, you are slowing down the line of candidates." The lady still had to shoo him off.

Han Lingyun had greatly gained in confidence after this first test, he knew that he would perform greatly above average on this one.

'Wake up Han Lingyun! It's not time to grow complacent, that was only one of the tests and I am not as confident when it comes to physical tests. Still, I hope that the potential they evaluate uses this sort of test more than physical tests. By the way it seems that my cognitive capabilities are as good as during my previous life. However, my personality seems quite different and has greatly been impacted by my first 10 years, I feel more like a 10-year-old with additional knowledge than like a 35-year-old.'

As Han Lingyun was musing, the group was led to another tent. This time, the elder leading them took the time to explain the next test, mainly because another group still hadn't finished taking the test. "Here we are going to test your talent for cultivation."

One of the candidates raised his hand "But Elder, wasn't our talent already tested before coming to the sect?"

The elder patiently responded "The disciples that tested you only had the tools to determine whether you have a spirit root, but it can also be of various grades. Here, we will assess your level of talent on a scale from 1 to 5. Well to be precise, the disciples that tested you could also determine if you have a grade 5 talent but don't worry too much about the details.

You see, cultivation is separated into different stages or realms: the 1st is body strengthening, then qi condensation, then foundation establishment, core formation and so on.

A grade 1 talent is the worst and someone with that level of talent will never be able to reach a cultivation at the foundation establishment realm, at least without any extraordinary circumstances or the use of extremely precious resources.

Most of you will have a talent of grade 2 or 3. The best disciples of the year should have a talent at grade 4, making them cultivate faster. In theory they will not be encountering any bottlenecks before reaching the foundation establishment stage.

Every couple of years, a grade 5 talent would pop up. They are often referred to as cultivation geniuses. Oh, and in addition, this test determines if you have any special affinities."

Some of the children started having stars in their eyes as they imagined their bright future if they had a grade 5 talent, having already forgotten that if it was the case, they would already know before coming to the sect.

However, the atmosphere in the group in front was a bit weird. While some students where acting smug, others were crying. The elder pointed at them. "Oh, and I forgot to inform you, having a grade 1 talent is eliminatory. Those crying ones won't enter the White Tiger School. Still, they might be picked up by some of our weaker sister sects."

The atmosphere changed as the children digested those words. Han Lingyun wasn't faring better. 'Shit, this isn't something I can control. It's so arbitrary, even If I have a grade 1 talent, I could compensate with hard work.' Of course, he was just blaming the injustice for something seemingly random, it was in fact a waste of resources for the sect to support disciples with a grade 1 talent.

He felt terribly nervous as he entered the tent. Two stern looking elders were on both sides of a large round table, with a two-meter diameter mirror on top, in a scene similar to the talent test of the city of Cemone.

"Place your hands on the mirror."

Han Lingyun took a deep breath and decisively executed the order. A single question kept repeating itself in his mind. 'What will my final talent be?'

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