The Gemstone Chronicles – Chapter 3

Neldor is a small city, with a population of roughly 120,000. It lies near the center of Morn, and is known for its craftsmanship. Neldor has five outer gate walls, and is a roughly pentagonal shape, with a large, imposing gate on each side. Guards cover each entrance, keeping a tight watch. However, security was relatively lax. Neldor was, after all, in the center of a heavily defended and powerful kingdom, and it was unlikely anything would attack Neldor. Another significant detail was the fact that a branch school for the Morn Main School occupied a small front here.

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All the cultivation schools in Morn are known as the collective “Morn Cultivation School.” All the schools belong to the same family. However, some branches are better than others, and the branch in Neldor was one of the best branches. Therefore, the city placed a great deal of emphasis on cultivation, and raising strong cultivators. Because of this, the King’s men would come by each year, to test young students on their innate strength and cultivation aptitude, as well as to search for Lords Bloodline owners.

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Dale and the elderly man walked up to the city gates, dust-stained from travel. They stood at the back of a small line, quietly waiting. Dale looked around, always eager to observe new people. He saw several small families, all with at least one kid around his age. Near the front of the line, he saw a boy his age with his mother, looking about proudly.

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“Name and reason for entry.” said a guard with a bored look on his face, as Dale and his grandpa walked up. The guard wore a small set of bronze armor, with two swords strapped in to each side.

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“I am Taric Qian, and this is my nephew, Dale Wensworth.” said the elderly man. “We have come to participate in the Cultivation Aptitude Test.” Dale’s grandfather gestured at Dale.

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The guard glanced at them again and then looked at Dale, with a slightly less bored look. “Alright, go on in.” He said, waving them forth. The guard looked on to the next group, repeating his questions.

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Immediately after entering the gates, we walked into a large crowd. There must have been 500 people loitering around, listening to a man in a red king’s guard outfit. He wore it rather well, and gave off a well-put together aura. The man in red waved about, standing upon a small pile of rocks, calling out.

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“Listen up! Hear, hear! A Dragon has been spotted flying to the north! Any information on where this dragon went, and if it returns will be generously rewarded by the king! This is a national matter, please uphold the utmost scrutiny!” he cried, glancing about imperiously.

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“Grandpa, why do you think the dragon was fleeing to the north?” Dale wondered. Dale remembered the Dragon they had seen earlier today, and was more curious than afraid.

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“I’m not too sure myself, but it didn’t look as if it was fleeing, or even in a hurry.” The old man said. “Put it out of your mind for now. Today, you need to focus on your test.” Dale’s grandfather started walking through the crowd, forcing his way around the gathering.

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“Yes sir!” Dale yelled, eagerly dreaming about the upcoming test. His grandfather hadn't given him much information, saying that all he had to do was "touch a rock." Very uninformative, in Dale’s opinion.

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After pushing their way through the crowd, Dale and the old man made their way to the center of town. They passed through several different streets, seeing a wide variety of shops and stores. Blacksmiths, alchemists, tailors, and more decorated everywhere they walked. Neldor really was a diverse trade city, Dale thought, his eyes shining, as he took in new sights. Whenever Dale had previously been to Neldor, they usually stayed in the town market, and didn't often travel down to the main square.

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Finally, they reached the central square, though calling it a square was a bit of a stretch. It had 5 different connecting streets, leading to a large pentagonal shaped area. Dale wasn’t quite sure why they called it a square, but he just went with it. Inside the square were several tens of children accompanied by adults, milling about. Two large tables were being setup by 4 men clothed in red robes.

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“All testees please line up! Please line up! We will begin the testing process in less than 30 minutes! Please line up!” yelled one of the officers helping set up. Next to him was a relatively old man, in what looked like his late 50’s, with a greying beard, and a very weathered face. He gave off a tough, no nonsense kind of air, and had a menacing gleam in his eyes. On his robes was a medal indicating his status as the King’s Ambassador, and therefore, the one giving the test.

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On the tables, the guards finishing setting up lay a large crystal. It appeared to be some type of clear crystal, with hardly any spots or imperfections.

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“What’s the rock for, Grandpa?” Dale asked. He’d never seen something like that before, it gave off a bit of an eerie feeling.

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“That is what they’ll be testing you with. It’s called a soul crystal. By holding on to it, the rock will attempt to form and match your soul’s innate strength. By using it, you can tell how powerful a level your strength is at. You need to reach the condensing level, or the 10th layer of innate strength, in order to successfully form a core.” he explained.

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“I know, I know,” Dale said, excited beyond words. Dale dreamed of conquering the world, like all the stories he had read. He hoped he would prove exceptionally powerful in his coming test.

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They quickly moved into line, and patiently waited as people ahead of them were tested. From the sounds of it, not very many people were pleased with their results. Directly in front of them were a young boy and his mother. He had blonde hair and golden-yellow eyes, eyes that gave off a slight glow. The kid turned towards Dale, “Hi! My name is Feng! What’s yours?” he asked.

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“I’m Dale! Nice to meetcha.” Dale said, shaking his hand, “You nervous?”

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“Pfft, this test is easy,” said Feng, “All you do is stand there and touch a rock. I’m confident, heh.”

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“I don’t think it’s hard really, I’m just nervous.” said Dale, looking around at the other testers, “I hope I have a Lords Bloodline!”

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Feng gaped at him for a second, “You do know how rare those are right? No one in our entire province has one! No one alive in the Kingdom of Morn has one! Even the King doesn't have that!"

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“I know! But well, you never know, right?” said Dale, his enthusiasm undampened.

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“I guess,” said Feng, “Haha, you never know!” The golden-eyed boy laughed loudly. Several other kids looked at him curiously.

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The two boys went on to talk back and forth about their lives, while the old man and the mother of the other child watched. Several minutes passed thus, as testees filed past, some with happy looks, some sad, but all looking determined.

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Finally, it was their turn.

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