"Hua Xi, fifteen years old, at the Woman's College of Qinghuai, at the twelfth level of Fire-Observing State, from Yitai City."
"Chen Zhiqiao, seventeen years old, at the University of Ciban, at the tenth level of Fire-Observing State, from Ciban Special Administrative District."
"Mo Zong, eighteen years old, at the Associated University of Base, in the Golden State, from the Second Special District."
As the main preacher introduced them, the three girls participating in the selection of female priest walked in from the outside of the praying hall, making their way to the grand hall on a long platform carved with complicated figures and lines. The order of the candidates being introduced seemed to be random, but it was everyone's knowledge that Hua Xi and Mo Zong were two favorite candidates for the selection; the order was evidently pre-arranged.
"Jiang Yuxia, sixteen years old, an exchange student at the University of Stargate, originally from the College of Divinity, in the Golden State, from the priest clan."
As expected, the fourth candidate introduced was the most favorite candidate for this selection of female priest.
Countless gazes were fixed on this girl with black hair who walked soundlessly with a tranquil bearing.
It was until today that many people didn't know that she was a member of the priest clan. The teachers and students of the College of Divinity and the University of Stargate couldn't help but utter surprised cries.
Following the voice of the main preacher, the candidates entered the praying hall one after the other, strolling forward on the long platform.
Regardless of how much attention they were receiving, the girls were not affected in the least, showing a serene expression on their faces.
More than one hundred candidates for the female priest had been selected from various districts of the planet.
The names, Cultivation states, educational levels and family backgrounds of these girls were reported by the media in great details; no secret had been concealed.
As the name of Zong Lizi was announced, she drew a great deal of attention.
"Zong Lizi, sixteen years old, an exchange student at the University of Stargate, originally from the New Era Institute, at the eleventh level of Fire-Observing State, from the Mingshen Neighborhood."
The people in the dark and tedious underground neighborhoods had been trying to change their living conditions and classes over the years; and they had applied a great deal of effort for it.
Becoming the female priest was undoubtedly the simplest and best way to achieve it. And many brave girls had ventured in this attempt.
Unfortunately, compared to dreams, reality is often very cruel.
Without extra help, like the guidance of experienced teachers and the input of related knowledge and the training of related etiquette, none of the girls from the underground neighborhoods had ever passed the primary selection.
Zong Lizi was the first one from an underground neighborhood to have passed the primary selection in history.
However, she was not the most favorite candidate. In the eyes of the audiences, Jiang Yuxia, Mo Zong, and Hua Xi were three girls who were most likely to be selected as the next female priest.
Both Mo Zong and Hua Xi had an outstanding family background. The former was a mistress of a famous family, which owned the largest resource transportation company on this planet.
The family background of the latter was even more impressive. It was said that she was a distant relative of the Hua Clan on the Main Planet even though it was quite distant.
Their life histories were similar to Jiang Yuxia's. They were trained by their clans for contending for the next female priest ever since they had displayed an outstanding talent and potential.
Thousands of gazes were fixed on the long platform in the praying hall.
Tens of thousands of eyes were watching the pictures in the night sky.
Billions of people were watching the TV screens at home or by the streets.
The whole of the planet focused their attentions to the praying hall in the deep part of the prairie and the selection of female priest.
A worker was hanging on the alloy cliff between the fourth and fifth platforms below the canyon on the eastern side.
He was touching the monitor quickly with his right hand, operating more than one hundred drones on the cliff, which were making repairs with tools.
The filthy water leaked out from the cracks on the alloy sheets nearby, dripping onto the rock walls. It was believed that it wouldn't fall down to the Chaoyang neighborhood, renowned for its poor environmental condition, and yet an offensive odor permeated the air.
The worker concentrated all of his attention on the monitor on his left wrist, paying no heed to the awful smell. As Jiang Yuxia appeared, his heart skipped half a beat. He thought that the black hair was billowing right in front of him and that the beautiful girl was approaching him. His right hand shook a little reflexively.
A drone bumped onto the alloy structure, creating countless sparks before it tumbled down.
The worker, after glancing at the falling drone, thought helplessly that he had to hand in a report again. Then, he resumed watching the live broadcasting on the light screen.
There were seven neighborhoods below the canyon in Shou'er City.
The New Era Institute was located on the seventh level; more precisely speaking, the institute was located on the seven and a half level because it was built on the cliffs that were lower than the seventh level.
The students of the New Era Institute didn't leave when school was over. At the guidance of the fat president, they were all in the canteen watching live broadcasting.
The program on TV was the selection of female priest. As the camera aimed at Zong Lizi and the main preacher announced the New Era Institute, loud cheers went up in the canteen.
"Ah…when did the student Zong dye her hair?"
"I'm afraid she is too different from the others."
"You people don't know anything. She came from this place, and is suppressed by the people above for sure. How could she draw attention if she didn't make herself look different?"
"You might have noticed, the student Zong shows a much better bearing after she has stayed at the University of Stargate for a few months."
"Yeah, a very good bearing."
Hearing the discussions among the students, Lu Shuiqian clenched her hands increasingly tighter. Nobody had agreed with her when she commented that Zong Lizi had a good bearing and they all thought Zong Lizi was as cold as an icy mountain without any emotion; but what were they doing right now?
Seeing the red hair burning like a flame on Zong Lizi's head on the light screen, she couldn't prevent her tears from falling down as her jealousy ran amok like a spreading fire.
To say nothing of participating in the selection of female priest, she couldn't even go up to the surface of the ground. But why did Zong Lizi have such a luck?
The Mingshen underground neighborhood was situated at the lowest level, one thousand meters below the cliff on which the New Era Institute was located.
The conditions were much better here than the Chaoyang underground neighborhood; the drops of filthy water seldom fell down, nor would the remains of broken drones drop down from the sky so often.
There was a common storefront in the dimmest part of the neighborhood; it had no window and its iron door was closed tightly. The only items were those placed untidily on a table under the lamp light.
Mr. Dan, who had made counterfeits for forty years, pushed the magnifying glasses off his face and furrowed his brows slightly when he heard the noise outside the store, wondering what was happening.
He pulled the iron door open with some effort and arrived on the street that hadn't seen any sunlight for dozens of days, and followed the noise of the people to the night market.
The usually desolate night market was crowded with people that day. It turned out that the owner of the barbecue stall had brought out a large TV set generously from his home.
Mr. Dan pursed his lips in contempt, thinking they were a bunch of "rats" who had never seen the sunlight in their lives and got so excited simply by watching TV. As he was about to leave, he suddenly saw a familiar face on the screen. He couldn't help but halt his steps and watched the scene more carefully after wiping the glasses with his cloth. After he was sure that the girl was indeed someone he knew, wondering what was going on.
"This student Zong often came to my barbecue stall to eat meats and drink grape wine. I have always thought this little girl was outstanding. Which one of you knows the flavor of my barbecue better than she?!"
The owner of the barbecue stall muttered excitedly while turning over the skewered meats on the barbecue stove and smoking a cigarette. The ash of the cigarette was blown off and dropped onto the barbecued meats; it was unclear how the meats would taste like.
The crowd around the barbecue stall couldn't help but laugh out when they heard this, claiming that he was too boastful.
Everybody in the neighborhood knew that little girl. And they were all fully aware that she was poor and also quite frugal; so there was no way she would have come here to eat beef and drink wine.
The owner of the barbecue stall got upset when he found the others didn't believe him. "You guys don't know a freaking thing. She has even ordered the eggplant!"
The boss of the gaming parlor was also smoking a cigarette at the moment. He watched the scenes on the TV screen with his right foot resting on a stool, feeling sentimental.
"I know this little girl. She is very kind and submissive. The cool temperament she is displaying right now is merely a staged show, to fool those idiots above."
He suddenly came back to his senses and slapped someone before him, cursing, "You have dared to steal my money! Do you wish to die?!"
The young hooligan was knocked to the floor. "I won't dare to do it again, boss," he said while covering his head with his hands.
The boss of the gaming parlor threw the rest of the cigarette onto the floor forcefully and gave him a kick, scolding, "How dare you steal from me! Do you think you're that ghost?!"
Zong Lizi had no intention to represent tens of thousands of poor inhabitants in the Mingshen neighborhood or even all of the underground neighborhoods; and she didn't have any nostalgia for the sunless days in the underground and the beef and eggplant that didn't taste that great. However, she was fully aware that she was the representative of those inhabitants in the eyes of all people.
She had been under a great deal of pressure since she registered for the selection of female priest; she had seen many suspicious gazes cast by the others due to her identity and origin.
She was of course very nervous at the moment. Though she didn't hope to be among the last three remaining candidates, she would like to put up a good performance.
She had participated in the primary selection at the University of Stargate and had such experience, and knew there were three main tests for the selection of female priest. Apart from the last test, the contents for the first two tests were determined, testing the memorial capability and the level of martial art of the candidates. She was confident about the former; but as for the level of martial art…she was at the eleventh level of Fire-Observing State. She was already at the level of a teacher at the New Era Institute; but it was merely an ordinary level in comparison to those talented girls.
She felt increasingly more nervous when Mr. Xia began to announce the procedure. Seeing the green ceramic bowl on the table before her, she suddenly wished that this ceramic bowl would break apart suddenly; so she would be able to gain some more time.
Jiang Yuxia noticed her nervousness; she patted on the back of Zong Lizi's hand gently.
Zong Lizi flashed a forced smile before she took a deep inhale and started breathing at a most comfortable pace.
She didn't even know that the pace at which she was breathing was the same as when Jing Jiu tapped the arm of the chair on the deck seemingly unintentionally.
The current female priest was selected more than twenty years ago.
This planet hadn't experienced such an event for many years.
It was natural that all the other girls were just as nervous as Zong Lizi. However, they concealed their nervousness very well, displaying a serene and relaxed bearing on the outside.
Only those who had true confidence in themselves wouldn't feel nervous in such a situation. Mo Zong, who came from the Second Special District, was such a person. She was a mistress of the Mo clan, in the Golden State, and went through three gene modifications. She had been trained for the female priest in the past twelve years. The thought had never crossed her mind that she wouldn't be in the final list.
She looked at Zong Lizi nearby, her eyes still serene, with a proper faint smile; but nobody could tell she concealed her contempt for Zong Lizi.
Hearing the voice beside her, Mo Zong was inclined to furrow her eyebrows; but she was afraid that she would behave not in a "serene" manner by doing so. As a result, she forced herself to keep her emotion in check, wondering what had happened to this girl from the Hua family. She seemed to like making a slight fuss; and her voice was annoyingly finicky, making the others feel dismayed.
Hua Xi was to her right side. Her slightly round face with the eyes and brows like being painted on, coupled with a naïve bearing, looked rather adorable.
Pointing to the book the preacher placed on the table, Hua Xi said uncertainly, "Big Sister Mo, the test today seems easier than what we've been practicing."
Mo Zong didn't believe her judgment. She looked at the book on her own table and found that it was a script on divinity she had never read before, saying, "It's not so hard to memorize it on the spot; but I don't think it will be this simple."
There were many ways to test the memorial capability; for instance, when Jiang Yuxia participated in the primary selection on the third level, the participants had to identify the colors and different kinds of water. In comparison, it was not so hard for these talented girls, who had gone through gene modifications and knowledge inputs, to memorize a book they had never read.
It would be hard if they were only allowed an exceedingly short time to do so; but it would be challenging for all the candidates.
The tests for the selection of female priest was fascinating that night. The announcement for the rules of the test was indeed simple enough.
All the girls were requested to memorize the book on their tables within twenty minutes; those who failed to do so would be eliminated.
Upon hearing this rule, those girls who didn't have enough confidence in themselves felt a bit relieved.
It was then that Jiang Yuxia suddenly said softly, "I've read this book before. Get me another one."
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