“Everyone, gather round! The try-outs are about to start!”
A gong crashed as an old peak lord squawked for everyone to come around. The other peak lords flocked towards him like a gaggle of geese, shouting over one another.
“I bet two sacks of gold that Xin Niu will get the flag first!”
“No way, my Tian Cheng will get the flag first. Three golden boxes of ten-thousand-year-old ginseng that he’ll kick Xin Niu’s ass to the curb!”
“What are you two even talking about? Those two are dating, dating!”
“How the hell didn’t I know!? I’m his peak lord, for crying out loud!”
“HAHAHAHA I’M BETTING FIVE DIAMOND FANS THAT TIAN CHENG WILL HELP XIN NIU GET A FLAG…”
The main grand hall turned into a place of chaos as the peak lords gathered together in what looked like a tangle of arms and legs. The grandmaster sighed deeply. Each time there was a gathering, his noble peak lords descended into a pack of goodness-knows-what. It was a good thing the recruits weren’t around to hear them, otherwise who knew what they’d think?
He projected his voice and coughed into his hand. At once, the crowd of peak lords quieted down and dispersed sheepishly.
“My martial sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters,” he rose up at the podium, looking every bit as elegant as an immortal as his long brows waved in the wind. “Today is a day of honour – we’ll be welcoming new and young talents to our peaks. Many have left us over the years for various reasons, but many will also join our ranks today. Let us toast to this auspicious day and look forward to many glorious days ahead.”
The peak lords chorused and drank after him. As soon as he settled his cup down, however, the din and shouts placing bets began again.
“……” The grandmaster fell silent, standing alone at the podium as a cold wind blew by his ignored self.
“A-Ye, A-Yang, are you ready?” asked Sun Quan. He’d gone outside to join the rest of the disciples and recruits, some of whom were also seniors looking out for their junior peak members.
Before the try-outs, even those born and raised in the sect didn’t have an assigned peak yet. Some other disciples were also trying to get new people to gun for their peak, so they chatted up a storm with any potential recruits there.
“We’re ready!” replied Xian Ye and Xian Yang in unison. Sun Quan patted them and nodded.
“Give it your best shot,” he said. “Remember, touch the flag at the same time, just like you practiced.”
The twins nodded and thumped their chests valiantly.
“We’ll do it! Once we officially join the peak, we’ll earn get more allowance to put a sausage in your mouth every day!” they declared.
“You two!” Sun Quan was flabbergasted. “Not so loud!”
“I’ll bring you sausages every day too, if you need any,” offered Xin Chen helpfully. Sun Quan shoved him away.
“You! Stop talking about sausages!” Sun Quan frowned. “Anyway, just go already! It’s starting now!”
The gong was struck, signalling the start of the disciple try-outs. At once, every unofficial sect disciple or hopeful cultivator in the crowd darted towards the various flag poles, striking, blocking and parrying as they went. Each peak only had one or two allocated spots, so it was rather crucial to get in that day, or they would have to wait for the next event to enter a particular peak or get into the sect.
Xian Ye and Xian Yang’s skills were obviously a cut above the rest. Their sword skills had changed over time and improved tremendously. Even their mother couldn’t believe it.
“My little boys have grown up,” she wiped a tear from her eye, her one ugly earring dangling as she did so. “I’ve always known I couldn’t keep them in Xian-Nu Peak forever, but ah, how wistful I feel!”
She stood up and called over the gallery. “Boys, you’d better get into Sun Guang Peak today! Mommy’s counting on you!”
“How much did you bet on them?” asked one peak lord, who was sitting nearby.
The Xian-Nu peak lord smiled seriously. “Honestly? Every last item in my room…”