John and the others read the stone tablet, eager to see the rankings of the Core Disciples. According to the Elders and Sect Leader, the rankings would determine what rewards were given after the exam, and John was sure that having a higher rank would be beneficial for more than just those rewards.
The higher he was ranked, the more valuable he would become to the sect, and the more likely they would be to help him and his clan with the Crimson Valley Sect and Bloodfiend Sect.
Adam Fenks had his name listed in dead last, at tenth place. Although John had helped him forcefully qualify as a Core Disciple, it was not earned, and so he was put in dead last. However, last place as a Core Disciple was still miles above the highest ranked Inner Disciple, and so Adam was unable to complain about that.
Several other familiar names popped up as John read down the list. Sixth - Mae Fairie, Fifth -Hartley Randel, Fourth - Russell Barde, Third - June, Second - Mason Light.
Discussions immediately broke out within the crowd to discuss the rankings, while all those ranked as Core Disciples had varying reactions to the rankings. Mae and Hartley smiled in happiness at their rankings, clearly pleased that they had done so well. Russell yelled out in rage, not at the rankings, but at his own poor performance according to himself.
June stared at her rank indifferently, while a cold look appeared on Mason's face. He had confidently stated that he would come first for this entrance exam to both his clan and many others, and had been fully confident in doing so.
He had successfully cultivated one of his clans most powerful techniques, and his combat prowess was extremely terrifying. After a moment of disbelief, Mason stepped forward and bowed to the Sect Leader.
The Sect Leader smiled, as if anticipating such an action, and gestured for Mason to speak.
"Sect Leader, it's not that I don't trust the judgment of the Elders, but I would like to know how the rankings were calculated? I refuse to believe that his talent is higher than mine, or that he did better in the combat trial. It's true that he came first in the Trial of Pain, but surely a pain trail isn't the main basis for the rankings? Not only that, but his cultivation is far weaker than mine, and that should count for something as well, should it not?" Mason asked in a respectful but questioning tone.
An Elder stepped forward, and all the youths in the courtyard recognized him as the one who had greeted them at the front gate at the start of the entrance exam. A scroll appeared in the Elder's hands, and he quickly read the contents on the scroll before looking down at Mason below.
"Since you refute these rankings, I will directly compare your and John's performance, and why the rankings are as such," The Elder replied in a calm tone.
Although the sect could refuse Mason's request, such a thing would be looked down on by many. Transparency was a big part of creating a competitive yet respectful environment within the sect.
"Trial one, the Essence Qi and Talent Test : These trials are calculated on a pass or fail metric, and you both passed the trial easily.
Trial two, the Illusion Formation Test : You completely saw through the illusion formation on the third illusion. John saw through the illusion formation on the second illusion," The Elder continued. ...
Hearing that John performed better on the illusion trial caused a frown to appear on Mason's face. He considered his soul to be quite strong, and was sure he had done the best or near the best, but John had still beaten him.
However, both him and everyone else was sure that the most weight was assigned to the combat test. The Heavenly Lightning Sect was a combat based sect, and so such a thing should be the most important of all.
Mason was confident he did the best of all the competitors regarding this test, and so he felt the need to question the results.
"Trial three, the combat test. You successfully advanced to the final combat phase, and against the final beast, you lasted fourteen minutes and thirty eight seconds before conceding. This was the longest anyone lasted against the final beast, and for that you should be proud."
Hushed discussions immediately broke out throughout the crowd, and many youths stared at Mason as if he were a monster. Fighting against a beast a minor realm higher in cultivation was an almost impossible challenge, and lasting against one for fourteen minutes was beyond impressive.
The hushed discussions immediately changed direction however, as many thought about John's performance. Despite Mason doing incredibly well against the beast, he was still ranked below John. Either John truly did better in the combat trial, or more weight was assigned to the other trials.
The Elder paused for a moment to let the hushed discussions die down before he continued. "In the third trial, against the final beast, John Fenix fought for one minute and fifty eight seconds."
Before the Elder could continue speaking, the crowd began to noisily discuss what they had just heard.
"One minute fifty eight? Compared to fourteen minutes? What's going on here?" One youth asked.
"Remember the Elder at the start of the trial that greeted that boy? He clearly has connections within the sect. Maybe it's rigged?" Another chimed up.
Many similar discussions broke out, and the Elder in charge furrowed his brows as the discussions grew in volume. Mason's face flared with a confident look, and he was just about to speak up once more, when...
"Silence!" The Elder yelled out, immediately hushing all the discussions.
The Elder glared at the youths and the crowd who had interrupted him.
"As I was saying, John Fenix fought for one minute and fifty eight seconds...however, that was the time it took for him to slay the late Qi Condensation Beast…"