"Outer disciples? How is that possible? They were at the middle Qi Condensation Realm at fourteen years old!"
John couldn't believe it. He figured they would at least be inner disciples, or maybe even core disciples, but the truth was far from that.
Elder Ragur chuckled slightly.
"Like I said, only the most talented youths on the entire continent get to enter our sect. Hopefully this will paint a good picture on how hard you have to work to succeed in this place."
John nodded his head in agreement, but was still slightly dazed.
'This sect keeps surprising me. But the stronger it is, the better chance I have to get home.'
While thinking about home, John decided to ask Elder Ragur about Leah and Elliot some more.
"Elder Ragur, I met Leah and Elliot in my homeland, and they said they were on a sect mission, but said no more. How come they were able to get to my homeland, if it is so far away and dangerous to get to?"
If Leah and Elliot were able to get to his homeland, maybe John would be able to return the same way.
Elder Ragur sighed and shook his head slightly.
"Unfortunately, it's not that easy. The sect has its reasons for searching your homeland, and quite a large group of disciples were escorted by a Heaven Tribulation Elder there, as he had some business to attend to as well. The only true safe way to make it across the Great Desert is to be escorted by a Heaven Tribulation cultivator, but getting their help is sometimes harder than crossing the Great Desert by yourself."
"Then, if they were on a mission, do mission's often go to that land? Could I perhaps not join one of those missions?" John asked hopefully.
Elder Ragur shook his head once more.
"I'm afraid that the mission those two went on was quite special. Other than that, no other mission has visited those lands in decades, so I would not count on another mission popping up in the meantime."
John was hopeful for a good response that left some room for him to get home, but it was quite the opposite. He thought about maybe telling the Elder about the pocket realm as a bargaining chip to head back home, but his clan rules forbid the revealing of the pocket realm no matter the reason.
'If push comes to shove, I might have to reveal it. But in the meantime, I'll keep it a secret and try to find some other way home, or at least a way to send a message to my clan.'
John looked back towards Elder Raur and asked another question.
"So without the help of a Heaven Tribulation Elder, I can't cross the Desert? Didn't you say that Meridan Forging cultivators could cross?"
"They can, but the road is still dangerous in that realm, so most choose to avoid it. Only Heaven Tribulation experts are truly safe in that place," Elder Ragur responded. ...
John stopped asking questions, and sunk deep into thought.
'So it seems that either I'll have to reach Meridian Forging myself, or get the help of a Heaven Tribulation Elder. This might be harder to get back home than I thought.'
John and Elder Ragur continued to walk for some time, and the Elder explained all the various buildings and their purposes. Many curious gazes of young sect members stared at John, as he was a newcomer and was being personally escorted by an Elder.
Eventually, the two of them made it to the Enforcement Hall grounds.
Unlike the rest of the sect, which was white, gold, and blue, the enforcement hall sported darker colors, and the buildings were mostly black and dark red. The architecture style was also more foreboding, giving the Enforcement Hall grounds an eerie feeling.
Elder Ragur noticed John's curious stares at the buildings and laughed slightly before explaining.
"The Enforcement Hall grounds are darker, and the architecture is more brutal as to install some fear in the disciples. If they were brought to a cheery place to be punished, do you think they would be scared?"
"I suppose not," John replied.
"Come, I'll show you to your room."
The Enforcement Hall grounds had dozens of buildings of various sizes and purposes. The largest of them was the Judgement Hall, which was where those who did wrong were brought to have their punishments decided, as well as imprisoned if necessary in the grounds below.
The two of them walked into one of the smaller buildings, which was still several stories tall and several hundred yards wide.
The Elder brought John to a particular door, and pushed it open.
"This is your room. You can stay here until the entrance exams start. I'll be back in a few days to hand out some duties for you, but in the meantime make yourself at home. Just don't stray away from the Enforcement Hall grounds, as you're not a true disciple yet."
John nodded his head and thanked the Elder for his help, before entering the room and closing the door.
The room was several dozen yards wide and long, and was quite spacious by John's standards. It contained a bedroom, kitchen, as well a mediation chamber. John entered the meditation chamber, which was quite spacious as well, and took in a deep breath of fresh air.
"The Qi density in the air is slightly higher than normal around here. There must be some formation that gathers the Qi here."
John sat down and assumed a meditative position. He calmed his mind and cleared any excessive thoughts.
"It's been quite some time since I've last cultivated. With the pocket realm and everything afterwards, I haven't been able to cultivate in a few months. Considering the strength of the youths in this sect, and with the entrance exam in three months, I have some catching up to do. I think it's about time I enter the Qi Condensation Realm."