"This place is much more extravagant than Zi Jue's," Glenn murmured as he was pushed forward in the crowd.
He couldn't wait. He peeked into the hall eagerly and saw a loosely dressed man sitting in the middle of the sitting room. The man's face was exactly as the girl who adored Glenn had described. It was covered by a thin film of mist or something.
'Is this what a sorcerer looks like?' Glenn wondered.
On the desk in front of the sorcerer stood a transparent crystal ball, which was oozing out some soft light, and the light wrapped the hall in a mysterious aura. Adding to the mystery was the constant croaking sounds from a red-eyed frog, which was crouching next to the ball.
Seeing a sorcerer for the first time, Glenn was thrilled in delight, and his blood was pumping faster as he kept on staring.
"It was her! The little girl at the Zi Jue Residence!" Glenn noticed a chubby brown-haired girl standing still behind the sorcerer, and her lips were pouting as if to say she was not happy about all this.
"Isn't she the girl who had thrown Canine Olfactory Enhancement onto the ground at the Zi Jue Residence?" Glenn said. And since Glenn last saw her, he had learned that she had huge power as the governor's only daughter!
'So that fat man whom Lord Zi Jue was obsequious to must be her father, the governor!' Glenn thought in his mind.
There were two other pupils who were standing behind the Sorcerer. Like the governor's daughter, they had been tested as qualified to learn sorcery but were selected at the Sorcerer's previous stop. The two looked a lot like each other.
"They must be a pair of siblings, or they may be related in some other way," Glenn murmured.
The boy of the sibling pair was as disdainful as the janitor was. He was flinging overbearing looks at the other candidates who were waiting in long lines for the test. But the girl was a little bit timid as she was being closely watched by so many people.
"Being selected from among thousands of candidates as students for sorcery-learning must feel good, not to mention the fact that all the rich noblemen and lords would be really nice to them. It's like being catapulted to fame," Glenn guessed.
The boy was Chris Hank, and the girl was Nina Hank. They were from an ordinary hunter family. Since they were chosen as would-be sorcerers, the local lords had been buttering them up as a tavern girl would do to the guests.. All this made Chris feel that he was the chosen one, a decider of fate, and the center of the world.
"It must be very hard to have the potential to be a sorcerer student. If that was not the case, then why would Sorcerer Apollo just be accompanied by the siblings and that stupid janitor. As for this chubby girl, her father might have bribed the sorcerer! And it's likely she will be the only pick in Bi Seer city."
As Glenn was thinking about that, Sorcerer Apollo spoke:
"Mental strength: six points. Failed! Next one."
Color faded from the face of the girl whose trembling hand was touching the crystal ball before. She then left hurriedly at the urging of other candidates.
"Another one failed..."
"Looks like we won't stand a chance."
The throng of people sighed. A whole day had almost passed, and no one, except for the daughter of the governor, had passed the test. The remaining crowd would have left were it not for the one gold coin they had paid.
"Mental strength: 5 points. Failed! Next one."
The next test-taker curled his lips and sneaked out of the way.
As Glenn was marching closer to the forefront of the waiting line, people who had failed the test continued to pile up. He began to feel anxious.
"It's not easy to get picked!"
It was the turn of the boy in front of Glenn to take the test. His name was Wade. He was the son of the owner of the Moon Restaurant, the most sumptuous place in Bi Seer City. So, Glenn guessed that he must have innumerable gold coins.
Wade stood before the crystal ball. He then put his left hand on it. As the ball began to radiate soft light, he closed his eyes.
"Mental strength: 9 points. F..." The word "failed" didn't finish.
The observant Glenn had noticed Wade tucking a bag of stones into the Sorcerer's cloak. And the first thing that came to Glenn's mind was that Wade had bribed the sorcerer.
After checking the stones, Sorcerer Apollo said instead:
"Get behind me."
Wade became thrilled and said: "Thank you, master!" Afterwards, he went behind of the sorcerer.
Glenn's face darkened. He had nothing precious to offer the sorcerer, and he knew the sorcerer wouldn't have any interest in the only gold coin in his home.
Glenn's mind was disturbed. He arrived at the crystal ball, not knowing what to do.
"Put your hand on the crystal ball, and then close your eyes." Sorcerer Apollo ordered.
On hearing the sorcerer's order, Glenn did as he was asked instinctively.
The moment Glenn touched the ball, he felt that the hall had become very quiet. It seemed as if it was shrouded by a huge transparent cauldron.
"Eh? What happened?"
Glenn opened his eyes and found that everyone in the hall stood rooted to the spot, and every movement they made was in a very slow motion -- the governor's daughter was still pouting her mouth, crying, and a few drops tears of hers were in mid-air; Chris was grinning evilly, showing his long teeth; a gold coin which had been collected by the janitor was being thrown into the wood box behind him very slowly.
"Has everyone stopped moving?" Glenn asked himself. "No!"
At the time, Glenn noticed several bowls on a desk at the corner. The bodies of the bowls were imprinted with sophisticated whorls, which were too expensive for ordinary families to afford. In the bowls, there were cakes and fruits served for the candidates. But no one had actually come to enjoy them. So they were more decorative.
And two jellyfish-like creatures were swimming around over the fruit platter in the bowls. Many tentacles of varying colors protruded from their body and they had eyes all over their body.
"This is incredible! What are they?"
Glenn could feel that his body was shaking. He had been hankering for the sorcerer world, but now, he had only known a tip of that big iceberg, yet he had been consumed by fear. It was so different from the world he understood.
He steadied himself, summoned up his courage and took a few steps forward to have a closer look at the two peculiar creatures, but they seemed to have been frightened, and with a push of their tentacles, they swam into the nearby wall.
Glenn gazed, yet as he approached the desk, he discovered an abnormal candlestick among four other ordinary ones. Although a candle was burning on the top of it, the torch itself was actually a roasted pig head.
"It's a normal candle. I saw it. I was admiring the exquisite patterns on it." Glenn wondered.
The pig head moved its eyes slowly in Glenn's direction and stared at him.
An eye contact was made. A weird atmosphere permeated in the air.
The ghostly things gave Glenn the creeps. At the time, a howling sound took Glenn by surprise. Glenn turned and tracked the voice to a paper man coming out of a book.
"Haha, I've cultivated to the highest level!. Neither the heaven, the earth nor the fierce dragons can stop me any more."
A complacent, loud voice broke in this terrifyingly silent world. Glenn was surprised but not frightened, maybe because his nerve was numbed or something. He turned back to track the voice, and he found a book.
"It is a book titled 'Becoming a Xian through Cultivation'!"
The book was about how a man fell in love with a noble girl and how the hero cultivated himself and finally defeated the dragons and proved himself to the girl's family, who disapproved of their love. There was nothing special about it; it was just a conventional book to kill time. But there were some illustrations in the book, depicting scenes where the hero fought with the dragons.
"What the hell?" Glenn stuttered.
A man had broken a paper of the book and was coming out of it. He then rose his upper body up slowly and looked around in astonishment.
He was the hero of the book. His figure and features bore exact semblance to the hero of the book. Yet he was still a thin paper.
The paper man suddenly became serious as he caught sight of Glenn. The next second, he pulled out a paper sword and pointed it at Glenn.
"Who are you? Are you a Xian, too?" The paper man asked impatiently.
At the moment, the lines between the wood slabs on the floor formed a long rift, which opened and closed as if they were the lips of a mouth, copying what the paper man said.
But Glenn and the others in the hall didn't fall. It was as if there was a fantasy and the rift kept repeating the paper man's words, like a parrot.
Then, like a bolt of lightning, a giant scarlet tongue spewed out from the deep gap and coiled around the paper man several rings and tied him up. Glenn noticed that the huge tongue was made up of a countless number of snakes, which were entangled together, and each of the snakes were biting the paper man greedily.
The tongue then retracted back into the darkness of the gap with the paper man who was still stuck to it, as if it was a compressed spring returning to its original state.
"This is not real!" Glenn was stupefied, trembling on the spot.
Suddenly, the crystal ball shone with radiance. Glenn could feel that his hand was dragged away from the crystal ball. All of a sudden, people in the hall were moving again, and noise buzzed.
"Mental strength: 12 points, not bad. Get behind me."
Glenn's face was blanched. He rose up and got behind the sorcerer's back.
Glenn moved his eyes around, but everything had returned to normal. The cauldron was gone, the gap was closed, and people were moving at an ordinary speed.
"Damn it! How could he be so lucky to get chosen?!"
"Oh, my. My kid once bullied him, will he take revenge?"
Everyone in the hall hummed, but they became quiet after the sorcerer gave a cold snort. The governor's daughter and Wade, who were beside him, gave him a weird look. Noticing Glenn was dressed in servant's' clothes, they lost interest in starting a conversation.
1: The Xian (also known as the Taoist gods) are a race of superhumanly powerful humanoid beings who have been worshipped by the Chinese and other East Asian cultures from 2000 BC into modern times. Essentially minor deities, often referred to as Immortals in other novels.