In the eastern reaches of the Southern Empire, sitting on fertile plains and stretching for over a thousand miles, stood a large city. This city was named Ning and it overawed its surroundings.
Ning City was famous and had been peaceful for over a thousand years, never experiencing any destruction or turbulence. Because of that, it was even more prosperous and its accumulations of wealth and treasures reached astronomical figures.
They naturally attracted numerous covetous eyes, but no matter how the surrounding forces changed around them, Ning City remained calm and stable throughout, a silent and formidable force.
Over time, although no one knew their depths, there was no other side around them that dared to have any ideas about them.
But as time passed, there would eventually be rumors that came out. Whispers said that behind Ning City stood a powerful family which lived in seclusion, their strength unfathomably deep.
This was a rumor without any solid evidence at all. But every 20 years, Ning City’s Ning Mansion would openly recruit servants. They would select a group of outstanding young cultivators and then these outstanding young elites would disappear shortly afterwards.
Speaking of this, it seemed quite scary. But every now and then, one or two of the earlier selected cultivators would reappear at Ning Mansion with a far deeper cultivation, and they would wield tremendous authority there.
When combining the above factors, it was only then that the various factions guessed there was a large secluded family standing behind Ning City. And, the reason that Ning Mansion chose to recruit servants every 20 years was all in order to seek out suitable servants for this family.
Cultivators with status and background certainly wouldn’t bet their future on the chance they could become a servant. But, for those cultivators that were alone and had nothing to depend on, this was a chance. If they could take hold of it, then perhaps a few years later they might accomplish something.
Of course, there were risks. After all, where were those chosen people taken to? And what happened to them? But if one wished to obtain anything in this world, they had to pay a certain price. At the very least, even if they weren’t selected, they could still enter the Ning Mansion. To many people this was also a good choice.
Ning Mansion ruled over Ning City.
The 20 year interval approached. As time passed, Ning Mansion posted announcements that they would be seeking servants, and it was clear that Ning City became more lively.
A good number of cultivators arrived from all over. They wished they could find their own lucky chance in this large and bustling city.
The Xu Family had lived in Ning City for generations and was considered one of the most senior families there. Although their influence wasn’t too deep, their status actually wasn’t low. Of course, a great deal of this was because the Xu Family had the qualifications to recommend servants to Ning Mansion. Moreover, in these past years, a good number of their recommendations had been chosen.
That was right. The servants recruited by Ning Mansion had to be recommended by others; not every cat and dog could hop in as they pleased. A person needed to have a clean background as well as a guarantor. If there were certain confidentiality measures taken, then the hidden secrets of Ning Mansion would have already been publicized throughout the world.
Xuada was a name. It had been passed down from over 1000 years ago to today. When someone became the Patriarch, their name would immediately be erased, replaced by Xuada only. Thus, this name was quite famous in Ning City, and there were few who didn’t recognize it.
“Where did Uncle Xu go today?”
“Master Xu, have you considered that nephew in my sect? His personality and foundation are without question.”
“Xuada, how many people is your family preparing to recommend this time?”
That’s right, not everyone had the qualifications to be called Xuada. This was a display of status and position.
A skinny and white-haired man: this was the current Xuada. He lightly smiled as he greeted the people gathered around him.
Behind him was a young man in black robes. His appearance couldn’t be considered too handsome, but his dark eyes were bright and there was a presence around him that left a good impression on everyone.
“Eh, Xuada, where did you bring this young man in from?” A fat and bald man sitting next to the window on the second floor of the restaurant asked. He had heard that the Xu Family’s list of names had already been decided.
Xuada smiled. “This junior is part of my distant family. He has some talent in alchemy, so I brought him over to see if Ning Mansion might like him.” He stroked his beard as he spoke, a smug look in his eyes.
As he expected, there were loud gasps in the crowd and many people revealed looks of envy. No wonder the Xu Family hadn’t fallen for so many years; their methods were incredibly wise. They had even managed to find a young man with the qualifications to be an alchemist. Even Ning Mansion always held a certain respect for alchemists. It could be seen that he was basically a shoo-in to be selected now.
After exchanging some greetings and making sure that everyone had a good look, Xuada chuckled and led the young man away.
Within the Xu Family, chaos reigned for a moment. Everyone was left restless by the fact that a completely unknown stranger was brought in. However, with Xuada’s endorsement, everything soon returned to normal. In order to be the Patriarch, one had to be shrewd and wise; they wouldn’t make careless mistakes.
With the identity of a distant relative, the young man was soon placed appropriately within the ranks of the Xu Family’s youths. Now they only needed to wait for Ning Mansion to begin accepting servants.
Sitting in a clean and simple room, the black-robed youth revealed a helpless smile. With his current status, doing things like this seemed a bit beneath him.
But in front of the Nascent Soul great dao, if it was beneath him then it was beneath him.
This young man was naturally Qin Yu. Today’s events had been simple. In the past, in order to conceal his identity he had used a soul confusing technique to control a man called Xu Cheng and enter Heavenseek Pavilion.
Now, using the same methods, controlling Xuada was even simpler. After what happened in the sea region, Qin Yu’s soul was far more formidable than it was in the past. Now he was no longer just controlling Xuada, but directly altering his memories and adding himself in as a distant relative. Like this, everything was easily accomplished.
As the ruler of Ning City and the master of the surrounding 1000 miles of fertile land, they naturally had the qualifications to display their great strength.
So, the dignity and majesty of Ning Mansion was naturally at the peak. There was no need to describe it too much.
In a flower garden, a clean and white-robed cultivator was savoring tea. He asked, “Is everything prepared?”
The handsome young man across from him respectfully said, “Reporting to father, this son has carefully overseen matters. There will not be any mistakes.”
They made selections every 20 years. While the Ning Family already had a rich experience in this, they still couldn’t drop their vigilance.
After all, those people that were selected had a high chance of being truly selected afterwards.
The master of Ning Mansion, Ning Mingxuan, smiled. He clearly trusted the work of his son.
The Ning Family young master opened his mouth, a bit wary.
“What do you want to say?”
“Father, your son would like to ask a question beyond his boundaries. If this annoys you or makes you unhappy in any way whatsoever, I ask that you forgive me.” The Ning Family young master, Ning Yiran, hesitated, and then said, “Why do the lords in the main family want us to intentionally spread rumors? Don’t they want to not be disturbed?”
Ning Mingxuan frowned and put down the teacup. “You are the heir that I have chosen, so you should have the qualifications to know these things. However, you cannot mention this later at all. Do you understand me?”
Ning Yiran bowed, “Yes, father!”
Ning Mingxuan’s complexion relaxed. He thought for a moment and said, “This is because you don’t completely understand the situation. It is exactly because the figures of the main family don’t want to be disturbed that they borrow our mouths to release rumors and whispers here and there. Otherwise, with my Ning City sitting on such a massive amount of wealth, have you ever wondered why no wolves have paid a visit?”
Ning Yiran seemed to realize something. “Lord father is wise; your son is inferior.”
Ning Mingxuan laughed and wagged a finger at him. His son was extremely intelligent. The reason he asked this question today was probably just to verify this, so he could handle affairs with more assurance in the future and make things more convenient.
“Go. Clean yourself up again. Concerning the origin of the matter, you must look into it carefully. Make sure nothing goes wrong.”
“Yes, father. Your son will excuse himself.”
Ning Mingxuan sighed. Ning Mansion ruled Ning City and sat atop the surrounding 1000 miles of fertile land. Looking from afar, this was a beautiful and lofty position with endless scenery. But, he knew that only by entering the main family could one obtain true power and influence. Because no matter how much hard he worked, there were always dangers lurking beneath the water. A single careless move and he would be cleaned up and replaced.
Hopefully, the juniors he sent to the main family would have some outstanding individuals among them.
He drank a sip of warm tea. A breeze blew past, lifting up the leaves and branches.
The Ning Mansion’s servant selection continued as scheduled.
Of course, the so-called ‘servant’ was only in name. Everyone knew that as long as they were able to enter the Ning Mansion and display their skills well, they would be able to obtain a wonderful future. If it weren’t for this, then why would cultivators come to participate just so they could serve for the rest of their lives?
Ning Mansion opened their side door. All of the families that had the qualifications to recommend people began to enter the dwelling with their heads bowed low, bringing a number of young men and women behind them.
Xuada personally led the way. He was clearly an old acquaintance as he chatted happily with several of the stewards in Ning Mansion. They had cooperated together for many years so there was bound to be a certain level of trust built.
But trust was just trust; the inspection wouldn’t be eased.
“Old Brother Xu, you know the rules of the mansion. I will bring them in first and we can talk later.” A steward smiled, cupping his hands together.
Xuada nodded. “Of course.”
The steward turned and looked around. “Follow me.”
Xuada had brought five people with him, three men and two women. He was clearly a bit nervous, proven by the faint disturbed look in his eyes.
Qin Yu stood fourth in line. He lowered his head, perfectly playing his role.
Soon, the five people were brought into a strictly guarded room. The steward told them to wait here before leaving himself.
The room was empty. After the door was closed, the light within dimmed down and it seemed much colder. A bit of unease appeared on the faces of those within.
Suddenly, Qin Yu frowned. He looked around from the side of his eyes. Indeed, the four people around him had begun to lose focus and their bodies started to sway.
With his thoughts racing, Qin Yu shouted out, “What are you all doing?”
He looked up at his surroundings, a terrified expression on his face. He took several steps towards the entrance before his body stiffened and a blank look crossed his eyes.
From within the room, a secret door opened. Several old men stepped out. One of them stood in front of Qin Yu and smiled. “He is indeed worthy of being a talented young alchemist; his soul isn’t weak at all. He was actually able to respond.”
He patted Qin Yu’s shoulder as he spoke. “Follow me.”
With a dull expression, Qin Yu followed behind.
After entering the hidden door, there was a passageway with rooms on both sides. The old man led them into the second on the left.
“What’s your name?”
Following that was a boring list of questions and equally boring responses. Qin Yu’s answers were exactly the same as the information in the old man’s hands.
After a moment, when the last question was answered, the old man smiled. He suddenly drew back and shouted out loud, “Men, grab him!”
Qin Yu sat still where he was, no change in his blank expression, as if he had no idea of what was happening.
But no one appeared in the room. The old man looked at Qin Yu several times carefully and then nodded. He looked down and recorded some information in a jade slip.
When the five people were returned to their room and regained awareness, the hidden door had been closed as if nothing had happened. The steward opened the door and led them back out, but in the hands of the five people, there was an additional jade slip.
After being examined, they now had the qualifications to participate in the inspection. Whether or not they would be chosen would depend on their own skills.
“You are Qin Ning?” Behind a table, there was an old man with red eyes and scattered eyes. He looked Qin Yu up and down, impatient in his gaze.
He had been refining pills but had been disturbed so that he could come out and manage the inspection. He naturally wasn’t in a good mood.
Qin Yu bowed. “Yes.”
“Alright, don’t waste my time. Here are materials for a Minor Spirit Pill. The furnace is there. Go!” After Alchemist Zhang finished speaking, he closed his eyes, thinking about alchemy and other matters. As he was coming upon something interesting in his mind, thinking that he would soon find the reason why he kept failing in the refinement process, he was suddenly interrupted.
Alchemist Zhang angrily opened his eyes. “What are you doing!?”
As if he hadn’t heard what was said just now.
Qin Yu was a bit helpless. He repeated, “Grandmaster, I have finished refining.”
Alchemist Zhang glanced over. The hourglass on his table wasn’t even half finished. Surprise appeared in his eyes. He said, “Give me the pill.”
Qin Yu offered a jade bottle with both hands.
He opened the bottle and tipped out the pill. It was still warm and the energy from the flames had yet to dissipate. It had been recently refined and the quality was unexpectedly high.
It was hard to tell, but this boy’s alchemy skills were surprisingly good.
“What level boundary are you at?”
“Reporting to grandmaster, if I am lucky, I can refine second-grade pills.”
A second-grade alchemist was decent. In a small sect, their status would be similar to that of an Elder. They could live a carefree life. But more importantly, this boy was young and able to fend off temptation in order to come to Ning Mansion and struggle for a spot. It was clear he was someone of ambition.
Alchemist Zhang was satisfied with this. Alchemists needed to tread forwards fearlessly and not ignore their own talents.
“You’ve passed. After today, follow by my side to work.” His complexion warmed by several degrees.
Qin Yu cupped his hands together.
Then, the selection of servants came to an end.
This wasn’t anything surprising. With Qin Yu’s current cultivation, if he couldn’t successfully pass a small scene like this, he might as well find a block of tofu and kill himself by smashing his head into it.
Thus, after this day, there was one more second-grade alchemist in the Ning Mansion.
Alchemists had a lofty status and were always treated at a higher level. With Qin Yu’s second-grade alchemy cultivation, he should be treated similarly to someone at the Golden Core realm.
He had his own courtyard, a rich monthly salary, and even a beautiful young maid that took care of his daily necessities.
Of course, it was also okay for him to do other things.
Alchemist Zhang was someone who loved alchemy and also possessed a very short temper. He was slovenly and disorderly and often disappeared into his alchemy room for days and weeks at a time. His actions led to a stream of constant complaints, but if one wanted to give advice, they had best be prepared to be on the receiving end of an endless stream of curses.
Luckily for everyone, there was the recent arrival of a young fellow called Qin Ning. He was friendly and amicable, and even though he was young he possessed a second-grade alchemy cultivation. His foundational alchemy skills were solid and he accomplished all sorts of alchemy tasks with ease. Ever since he arrived, everyone felt much less pressure on their shoulders. In particular, after Alchemist Zhang assigned Qin Yu to be his alchemy assistant, everyone relaxed and was overjoyed.
Alchemist Zhang was satisfied with Qin Yu; he even had thoughts of taking him in as a disciple. But as he thought about it, he could only gently sigh and press down the idea. Qin Ning was so young but possessed a second-grade alchemy cultivation. Even disregarding his martial talent, his alchemy foundation was bewilderingly solid. Observing his manner, he noticed he was always calm and never panicked during work. If such an outstanding young man came to Ning Mansion, it was clear he had greater aspirations.
One month later, when Alchemist Zhang finished his work and was about to bid goodbye to Qin Yu, he said, “I don’t want to let you go, but I don’t want to hinder your future. The mansion has already taken notice of you. Make sure you’re prepared.”
Qin Yu bowed. “Thank you for the reminder grandmaster!” As he left the room, he smiled.
This step of entering the Gold Noble Family was about to be completed.