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Han Lingyun had indeed probably saved himself an embarrassing moment as the concentration and accuracy needed to inscribe strings of multi-faceted runes caused him to fail on his first 3 attempts.

And to maximize his chances, he was using a black pencil and some sort of golden liquid for the ink. These were fine precision tools.

Finally, Han Lingyun managed to complete the runes for the portable receiver. He had done the hardest part. Now he only had to inscribe additional runes on the 4 flags, mainly to fine tune the qi movement and for the detections.

 

When everything was done, Han Lingyun and his mentor left market road and headed to a valley that belonged to Elder Wen to try the array out.

There, they placed the 4 flags in a large square with the flags as the corners. They buried small piles of qi crystal around every flag. This array would be consuming a small amount of qi to operate the detection sensors. Finally, a medium grade crystal was used to fill the formation with invisible qi.

More precisely, it was invisible to qi condensation cultivators at least but Elder Wen could perceive very clearly the dome of rotating qi with his spiritual sense.

Han Lingyun sat inside the large formation, with the disk interface in hand, while elder Wen experimented by crossing the detection surface on foot, then in the air.

On both occasion, one of the quarters of Han Lingyun's disk lighted up in yellow indicating the quadrant from where the incursion was detected. On both occasions, his disk indicated a movement detection only. Elder Wen could completely contain the qi in his body if he wanted to and he was doing exactly this on that occasion.

Now elder Wen launched a qi attack to the barrier and Han Lingyun's disk corresponding quadrant lighted up in red.

Finally, Elder Wen crossed the detection while not retracting his qi, to simulate a disciple with lower cultivation passing through.

This time, the right disk quarter lighted up in orange: meaning qi and movement detection.

The initial tests pointed to a resounding success.

 

Three decrepit looking elders were arguing around a small disk, grumbling under their white beards. One was analyzing it under every angle when another took the disk from his hands.

Han Lingyun and Elder Wen were patiently waiting to the side for the verdict.

"Don't mind their antics, those 3 blood brothers have always been like that."

Han Lingyun mindlessly nodded.

 

After an incense stick worth of time, one of the three old men took a step forward and cleared his throat. "Excuse me, we would like to witness you building the formation once again."

Han Lingyun was becoming irritated, what was all that wait for? He still took it in stride, it was him being evaluated after all.

It was slightly unsettling to work with three men around you, peering at your every movement. What made it worst was that at times they added some remark: "Inefficient."

"His comprehension of that rune is catastrophic."

"Isn't that an insult to our profession?"

Han Lingyun had to lock down his senses and put all his focus on his craft, as he kept on making mistakes.

Finally, after hours of laborious work, he managed to recreate the complete formation once again.

 

The three old men sneered and started speaking to each other again. "It took him long enough." "What a waste of materials." "Hand this to me, you old fogey!"

If their mouths were foul, their hands had already started feeling the runes. They then experimented with the array and continued to analyze its every detail.

After another two hours of interminable wait, the three old men stopped the snickering between themselves and suddenly faced Han Lingyun with brilliant smiles. It was time for the final verdict.

 

Han Lingyun's expectation had been ruthlessly kicked to the ground after hours of overhearing negative points. At this point, he just wanted to hear the sentence.

All three old men started talking over each other. "Fantastic!" "Marvelous." "Remarkable." "A great achievement for that decadent generation!" "The ideas behind the concept are sound." "The rune calculations and assembly are precise." "His comprehension is extraordinary for his level and age." "A wise use of common materials." "Very ingenious indeed."

They were gesticulating wildly as if such praise wasn't enough.

 

Han Lingyun was completely stumped by the examiners' abrupt change of behavior. Maybe it wouldn't be so shocking if they had kept their previous remarks to themselves?

 

Elder Wen smiled. "So, is this disciple eligible for a grade 1 array formation master certification?"

"Certainly so, in fact he is already one. Here is your bronze token as proof. Disciple Han Lingyun, is it? Well, your identification will have to be entered in the collection of registered bronze level formation array masters right away. Old Wan, you go to the certification hall right away. It was a pleasure to see you in action master Lingyun."

 

"H-hum… It was a pleasure to construct my array to such wise spectators."

"Haha, what a good young lad. Don't forget to pass by the certification hall when you have the level to become a silver grade master, or grade 2 as those emotionless rats of the sun cultivation alliance put it."

 

Han Lingyun came back to his house with a new bronze token and a bronze pin to put on his robe. He wasn't obliged to display his pin though, and Han Lingyun would refrain from it for now. Why make himself special in the eyes of his fellow 2nd years? He would only wear it for the appropriate circumstances.

He had also been able to keep the two detection formations he had constructed today, and he immediately arranged one around his house because why not?

Han Lingyun had additionally received a slim bag meant to be firmly attached behind his back under his robes. That way he could transport some small flags and other array formation materials. For the foreseeable future, he would use it to keep the 4 flags and the disk of his detection formation on himself at all times.

 

After all that excitement, Han Lingyun headed back to his favorite waterfall for another intense cultivation session. Time was flying by with all his daily tasks to complete: cultivation, blackbird art training, rune research, and now array making. He had enough of missions for now, but he wouldn't mind one with his friends later on: one that didn't involve massacring bandits. And on top of all this, the next ranking competition was in less than 2 weeks' time.

 

Once again, everyone was working hard and a subtle tension enveloped the 2nd years training grounds as the next ranking update approached. This was the first time there had been such a large time gap between two competitions and it promised some large movements in the rankings.

Most of the 4th grade talents had made it to the early qi condensation realm during that trimester and many were seeing blood. None of the disciples had reached mid qi condensation level yet so some fancied their chances at the top places: they had made huge strides recently.

Some were left out from the hype and Yang Haoyu was one of them. His face was dark as he sensed his cultivation once again. He had reached the peak of body strengthening for 3 weeks already but he just couldn't take the final step to qi condensation. It felt even worse when his friends and nearly all the other 4th grade talents had now made it.

 

On the eve of the rankings, Yang Haoyu was turning around in circles in his house. He hadn't left it for a week.

'What is wrong with me? What is wrong with me? Why can't I just breakthrough like everyone else?'

As he was desperately searching for a solution, his door suddenly opened and two masked men jumped on him. Yang Haoyu didn't have the time to yell before he was gagged, blindfolded and taken away.

Yang Haoyu started to panic as he found himself unable to move. Qi was exerting pressure from all sides locking him in place. Shortly after being led out of the house, suddenly a huge amount of water crashed on him.

His blindfold and other restriction were taken away and Yang Haoyu found himself under a waterfall, with Han Lingyun and Shen Lin facing him with large grins.

"I think that cleaned him off quite well brother Lin."

"Damn it was seriously stinking in his cave of a house."

"Hehe I nearly gagged in there."

 

Yang Haoyu quickly left the crushing waterfall. "Hey you guys, what was that for?"

Shen Lin and Han Lingyun put an arm behind his back from both sides. "Brother Haoyu, you can always count of your friends if you find yourself in a dark place."

"You have really isolated yourself this last month or so, that won't be helping your state of mind."

Han Lingyun passed him a pellet. "That's a Supreme Condensation pellet, if you consume it, you will be able to breakthrough with 99% certainty. But don't beat yourself up on your cultivation speed, in fact you are not even slow. The ideal 4th grade talent would still take 1 year and a half to reach qi condensation without any resources. Just take your time and build a strong foundation for yourself. This pellet is simply to reassure you, to make you realize there is always an alternative. I would still recommend you try reaching qi condensation by your own means to improve the state of your mind though."

"Remember you can always count on your brothers; we'll have your back." Shen Lin added.

 

Tears started to well up in Yang Haoyu's eyes. "Brothers… you didn't need to do all this. I- I don't know how I could ever pay you back for today."

"Haha just be yourself, brother Haoyu."

"Thank you, brother Lingyun, and brother Lin. It means a lot for me."

"Good, let's take on a mission us 3 when brother Haoyu breaks through."

"We will be waiting for you."

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