1.We learn Tang 36 (whom I will refer to as 36) had his name changed because he came in 36th place in the Astronomer's Chart of Mythical Beasts (not sure what that is). He did this to remind himself of this disgrace so it doesn't happen again. As this conversation unfolds, a representative of Tiandiao Academy emerges and announces they will be taking 24 scholars. At read morethe same time, an ostentatious cariage appears and Mr. Tian Hai emerges (Ya'er?). The reps faun all over him and 36 explains it is because he is the nephew of the empress. He is extremely disdainful of everyone.
2.The exam begins. they must touch the sensing rock and it will measure their power; they must also bind a star. From his conversations with 36, we learn that Sheng (sorry I am too lazy to write his full name) essentially has a photographic memory and is extremely well-read. Since Sheng has not cultivated 36 expresses doubt that he can do this, and he indeed is correct: Sheng fails. However, Sheng conveniently remembered the entirety of the exam rules and successfully argues to take the written test; if he passes he should be admitted. He indeed passes but still is not admitted. We learn that the academy has been pressured by a very powerful noble (My guess is Madame Xu) and he chooses to try out for another academy (36 passed)
3.Sheng goes to Zhaixing Academy and observes a member of the bear clan, (Xuan Yuan Po?) during his test. Essentially one must stay conscious while evading a giant demon troll. He succeeds. Afterwards, Sheng gives him some medicine. Sheng enters the ring, and is able to avoid the demon by using an instrument to hypnotize it. Someone deliberately releases 3 more, and he creates a shield, hypnotizes them, and passes. Still, he is not allowed into the academy. The person in charge of the test says that if they let him in they would be violating a rule but don't tell him what rule.
4.Unperturbed, he meets 36 for food. He asks about Guaijou academy; 36 warns him to stay away and that it is impossible to solve the sword formation. 36 talks about an amazing beauty/phoenix and (Rong'er?) and Quishui Jun, whom he likens to a dragon and is the only one for her. In spite of his warning, Sheng goes to the abandoned academy...
5.Elsewhere the Pope, who designed the formation, can sense someone has opened the academy and realizes someone has finally accepted the challenge. The empress also senses it. Pope meets Sheng and says he can give him anything he wants if he chooses not to do this test. Sheng refuses, even though Pope essentially threatens to have him killed, because he has 'hope' (I myself don't know why he is so fixated on this)
6.36 is unable to dissuade him. He plans to do it. Elsewhere, the empress meets with the pope who reassures her that no one can break the formation. We learn the academy was closed because it's leader, Pope's senior, is suspected of being the black gown. Also, his senior disagreed with the empress ascending to the throne.
7.36 and Lu'er watch as Sheng solves the test with ease. Afterwards, Sheng hopes to see the Pope and gain permission to study at the academy. But he is denied an audience and told to go away...