Eastern Radiance capital, Immortal Dao Temple.
100 years had gone by, and as per tradition, today the test to join the empire's most illustrious sect would begin.
Lines extended for hundreds of kilometers all the way to the city's golden gates, and some people had spent years on foot in the journey to reach the capital. The amount of people taking the test numbered in the millions. It was a once in a lifetime chance - A chance to allow martial cultivators to join the Temple as outer court disciples.
Within that gigantic maze of a city, a little girl ran.
"Passing through, passing through! Sorry!"
She nimbly jumped through the crowded streets, avoiding the people as if they were obstacles.
"Ah, heavens! The sun's already casting shade this far. It's one past midday already! I'm late, I'm late! Make waaaay!"
From up in the mountain, at the Dao Temple's gates, an old man and his disciple watched.
"Hoh. That little girl sure has good legs, doesn't she?"
"True enough. She'll be here shortly. Should we stop her, master?"
The old man furrowed his brows as he thought about it. The disciple, seeing his master's doubt, argued further:
"If she took the outer court disciple test, she would definitely pass. If she's truly talented, then she could join the inner court after a few decades. But for her to run straight to the hidden inner court test site... No matter how heaven-defying her talent is, at that age there's no chance she'll pass. We should conserve talent."
The old man then shook his head.
"No, let her pass. We have hundreds of thousands of talented people here today. Missing one or two is no problem. However, in the infinitesimally small chance she can pass our inner court test today... Hehe. We'll be able to groom someone who's truly been blessed by the Heavens from that young an age. Given time she'll become a true dragon able to roam the continent freely. More importantly, she'll be a dragon belonging to our Immortal Dao Temple."
The disciple looking at him disapprovingly. The master, seeing his face, let out a hearty laugh.
"You think I dream too highly, Zhang Yan? But our sect hasn't had any true genius for centuries now. We're renowned as the strongest faction in the continent, but that may already not be the case. It's about time we raise a true dragon again."
"Yes, master... But certainly, His Highness would object to this. As my oath demands, I'll be forced to report this once he's back."
The master mockingly looked at Zhang.
"Hah! I see you've learned how to make threats. But the sky is big and the Emperor is far away. When the cat is gone, the mice will play. Just watch for now. She's almost here."
Zhang Yan angrily replied: "Think twice, act once. I'm afraid master Yao isn't looking before he takes the leap. But fine. I'll watch for now."
Both stopped as they heard the tiny footsteps and ragged breath getting close. Soon after, the girl's tiny body appeared from the staircase.
"Haah... Haah. I present myself to take the Immortal Dao Temple's inner court disciple test. Please forgive my lateness!!!" The girl bowed profusely as she screamed.
Zhang Yan looked at her and sneered. "And here I thought this might be at least a little bit interesting. No cultivation? Girl, how old are you?"
She turned her head upwards and looked at him dead in the eyes. "Ten. What about it?"
The master turned his head and softly said "Zhang Yan."
"Fine. Have it your way. This girl's corpse is in your hands. I won't stand to look at this farce any longer!" Zhang Yan exclaimed as he turned around and left.
Master Yao ignored him and instead studied the girl. His eyes lit up with surprise.
"Good. Good. Girl, we don't allow liars in the Immortal Dao Temple. What's your real age?"
The girl's lower lip quivered as her body froze up. She looked at master Yao's face in panic as she said: "S-seven. But I'll be eight today. In just six hours I'll reach the minimum age for cultivation. Please, let me take the test!!"
Master Yao's mouth curved into a smile.
"Sure. Of course. It'd be a waste to let a kid as determined as you out for such a pedantic reason. My name is Yao Ye. Call me uncle Yao if you wish. I must resolve a small issue but I'll be right back. Your test starts in about five hours as well. I'll have a servant bring you some food. Until then, sit here." He kindly said as he turned around and entered the sect's gates.
As soon as he entered the sect's gates his kind demeanor was all but gone, and hands started shaking in excitement. He looked at one of the outer court disciples and said "Stop whatever you're wasting your time on now and go find caretaker Chen. Tell him to make the little girl's test ten times as difficult. Bring her some shark fin soup as well."
The disciple looked at him with surprise. "Ten times as difficult? That's just sending the girl to her death. Are you sure?"
Yao Ye replied with anger and disdain. "In six hours, she'll be eight years old. Do you understand? This absolutely mustn't go wrong. We'll be feeding your head to the dogs if it's not ready on time so stop replying and go find old Chen already!"
"U-understod!" The disciple ran.
Yao Ye turned around and hastily returned to the gate's stairway, greeting the girl with a smile.
"I forgot to ask, but what's your name, little girl?"
She looked up at him, nervous as she timidly said "Ming."
"Lil' Ming then. That's a very boyish name, huh. Good for a rowdy girl like you. No need to feel shy. Here at the Immortal Dao Temple, we highly value talented youngsters. Ah, before your food comes, would you like to be part of a mini-test?"
Lil' Ming nodded her head as she shifted gears into battle mode. "Please allow me to do so!"
"Haha, no need to be so tense. If you hurt your body before the main test, it'd be terrible, wouldn't it? This is very simple. Just put your hand over this stone. It'll change color based on what cultivation technique and element suits your internal energy the most."
Lil' Ming put her hand on the stone, and once more, Yao Ye smiled, assured her, and left. A more experienced person might notice the maddened glow in old Yao's eyes, but Lil' Ming didn't have the means to do so.
As soon as he passed the sect's gates, Yao Ye personally sent messages to be delivered to the Eastern Radiance monarchy, inviting all nobles to come. As the hours passed by, the Emperor learned of it, and quickly returned to the capital.
Eastern Radiance Capital, Immortal Dao Temple.
"Yao Ye. Have you gone mad?"
Yao Ye cackled, looking at the imposing figure of their ruler. A sane man would not dare to treat the blackened silhouette as disrespectfully as he did... And yet, old Yao showed no signs of fear.
"You haven't come personally, Emperor, so you wouldn't be able to see... Try to give sight to this dummy"
After doing so, the Emperor now laughed. "Good. Very good. What a good Yao Ye! You'll be handsomely rewarded for this once I'm back."
Yao Ye smiled. The test wasn't even worth looking at.
In the Martial Hall of the sect, the scared newcomers hid in a corner.
Zhang Yan wanted to spit out blood while looking at it. Ten years old? Your sister!
"So that's what ole Yao was playing at. He must have noticed it as soon as the girl started climbing the staircase. That sly fox!"
"S-senior Zhang! What's going on!"
"You must be from some other part of the country, huh. Eight years ago... Two giant dragons, one green and one red, flew over the twilight sky. They were extremely imposing, and gazing upon them made anyone who lives in this continent feel tiny. And then, they disappeared. No, it'd be more accurate to say that one of them has disappeared, at least until today. The other flew towards the capital's palace and entered the body of the newborn imperial princess. Damn. I got beaten to it by that bastard."
Back to the Temple's gates, the Emperor, laughing heartily, asked: "So there's no doubt it's her?"
Yao Ye answered "Yes. She's the right age to the seconds, and her qi stone test results were dual cultivation, fire element. More importantly... The dragons once more roam the skies, now that the girls are allowed to cultivate. We ought to treat them well, huh?"
"Yes, yes... We most certainly do."