All eyes within the atrium were completely wide in shock at what they had just witnessed. Although all those within were part of the War Hall, and were the staunchest of those within the sect, they still couldn't believe their eyes.
They never thought they would ever see the day when someone had the guts to attack the Vice Sect Leader. Not only that, but it was a young first year boy.
Not a single sound filled the atrium as all those within stared at John and the Vice Sect Leader. Although they didn't know what was going to happen next, they knew John was a dead man.
The Vice Sect Leader stood there silently, completely unharmed by John's attack. However, her rising aura, growing ever more violent, betrayed her otherwise calm demeanor.
John stared right back at her, not cowed at all.
"The Elder's said that the War Hall is used as punishment for those within the sect who do wrong. Surely what I just did is worthy of such a punishment," John replied. His response caused the Vice Sect Leader to narrow her eyes as she stared at him.
His response caused all those within to widen their eyes once more, and hushed discussions broke out amongst them.
"What did he just say?"
"That was his reason? Is he okay in the head?"
"Clearly he has no idea what he's just done. He's dead."
After a moment of silence, the Vice Sect Leader finally spoke out.
"Are you not afraid that I'll kill you right here and now?"
While John had considered that a possibility before he attacked, he doubted she would do such a thing. Regardless of the reason, cultivators usually disdained killing those weaker than themselves, as it was beneath them to do such a thing. They would only draw ridicule by doing so.
Not only that, but John figured the Heavenly Lightning Sect wouldn't severely punish a talented disciple such as himself for something so trivial. Based on his cultivation technique, John needed to join the War Hall. He needed human blood essence, and would do almost anything to obtain the opportunity to do so.
"No, not really," John replied quickly, his demeanor still calm and collected.
Those within couldn't believe their ears, and waited with bated breath at what would happen to John. After a moment of silence, the Vice Sect Leader turned around once more and began to leave the building.
Her voice trailed out behind her.
"Elder Thame. Take him to the trial hall. If he passes, he can join the War Hall. Afterwards, take him to the Bottom Layer Crypt for three days as punishment."
A small, intrigued smile hung on her face as she left.
After a brief bout of silence, the room exploded into an uproar of discussion. The disciples and Elders within who had witnessed the event couldn't believe it. Each of them thought John was a dead man, but the Vice Sect Leader had left without so much as a slight retaliation.
However, they looked at John with slight pity as they heard his punishment in the crypt.
Elder Thame walked up to John and shook his head in disbelief.
"I don't know if you're the bravest person I've ever met, or the dumbest. Probably both."
"Well, it worked, didn't it?" John replied with a smile. Although he had no idea what the crypt punishment was, it was worth it as long as he could join the War Hall.
"Yes, but at quite a cost. Don't be too happy yet," Elder Thame responded. "Not only do you have the crypt punishment, but you also are going to be on the Vice Sect Leader's shit list going forward. Life in the War Hall is not going to be easy for you." ...
John shrugged at such words. Life as a cultivator was not easy, and any punishment was worth it as long as it resulted in increasing his strength.
"Come, I'll take you to the trial hall," Elder Thame said to John.
The two of them walked out of the administrative hall, and towards another part of the War Hall grounds. The two of them worked for several minutes, before they arrived in front of another large castle.
They entered the main castle gate, and John followed Elder Thame inside. The main atrium was similar to the administrative building, although the only thing John could see was a large stairway in the center of the atrium.
The stairway descended down into the earth, and John followed Elder Thame down the staircase into the depths below. The stairway descended for nearly a mile before finally opening out into an expansive dungeon like cavern.
John's eyes widened slightly as he witnessed the sights within. There were hundreds of dungeon cells, each holding someone within. Those within looked quite miserable, and some seemed to be on the verge of death. The cells contained men, women, and children no older than himself.
Powerful formations surrounded each cell, locking those inside.
As John closely inspected those within the cells, he was surprised to find that each of them excluded a malevolent aura, as if the souls of all those they had killed still clinged to them. A dense scent of blood wafted off each of them.
"Elder, what is this place?" John couldn't help but ask.
"These are the holding dungeons for the most sinister and vile criminals of the Yuan Continent. Most here are cultivators of the sinister path, who practice taboo blood arts and use the lives of innocents to raise their cultivations," Elder Thame replied.
Elder Thame led John deeper into the dungeon. They passed by hundreds of caged cultivators, and each of them looked towards John and Elder Thame with bloodthirsty eyes. Clearly, they would not hesitate to kill the both of them if they managed to escape.
Elder Thame walked to one of the other Elders stationed in the dungeon and whispered some words in his ear. The Elder nodded and scurried off.
Elder Thame returned to John, and escorted him into the deepest depths of the dungeon. Eventually, the two of them came to a small arena, surrounded by a screen of light.
'Clearly the light is some sort of formation.'
John inspected the arena, curious as to why an arena was in the same room as a dungeon full of criminals. The two of them waited there for a short while before another Elder arrived. The Elder was escorting one of the criminals from the dungeon. It was a boy around his age, and a cursory glance told John that he was in the mid Qi Condensation Realm.
Elder Thame waved his hands, and the screen of light parted. The other Elder threw the boy into the arena, and Elder Thame turned to look at John.
"Enter inside. Your trial to enter the War Hall, is to kill him. He's killed hundreds of innocents and dozens of other cultivators, so don't show him mercy. Also, no matter what happens inside, we will not interfere, even if you die," Elder Thame said to John.
A perplexed look appeared on John's face, causing Elder Thame to think John was unwilling to do so. He sighed at John's actions, although it wasn't completely unexpected.
The trial for entering the War Hall was to fight and kill another cultivator. The Heavenly Lightning Sect used death row criminals for such a trial. Only those who were willing to fight with their life on the line, and kill their enemies with no mercy would be allowed to join the War Hall, as only those who could do so could thrive on the battlefield.
The Heavenly Lightning Sect had originally allowed first years to join the War Hall, but the pampered first years, who had yet to experience the true horrors of the cultivation world, died in droves during this initiation trial. They were either scared stiff while fighting someone who was truly looking to take their life, or were unwilling to take the lives of others.
Such fears and naiveties would only spell their death out on the battlefield.
The sect had then decided that first years were too inexperienced, and that the cost of losing first years was not worth it. As such, they had placed a ban on first years joining the War Hall, and only allowed the more seasoned disciples to attempt to join.
Elder Thame figured John was one of these youths, who were all talk and no bite. However, his expression quickly changed as he heard John speak up.