At the very front of the several thousands of disciples in the plaza, there stood several tens of rather noteworthy individuals. Eight of them were Core Formation cultivators who stood with calm poise, with several tens of Foundation Establishment cultivators standing behind them. They were the Hundred Possibilities Sect's institute masters and elders, but a majority of them were merely stewards.
"They're coming!" A sharp-eyed disciple saw something off the horizon and shouted in excitement. Suddenly, many low grade cultivators began to look expectantly up at the sky, catching glimpses of light in the distance. Soon, a large group of variously colored dots of light began to fly towards them.
"It's the Ancient Sword Sect. They're all using sword magic tools."
As soon as that was said, the crowd began to roil. Many of them began to point to the incoming lights with varied expressions.
"Silence! Do you wish to make a joke of us to the other two sects?" A tall old man coldly uttered with a sullen expression. His voice resonated to everyone present and caused a few of the overeager disciples to shut their mouths, bringing silence to the plaza in an instant.
When the tall old man saw this, his expression relaxed and the other Core Formation cultivators glanced at one another with a smile. They didn't seem surprised at all by this.
At that moment, the Ancient Sword Sect cultivators arrived at the plaza. A vast majority of them had flown on swords with hardly any exceptions.
A short and small old man flew out from Ancient Sword Sect cultivators and descended with a chuckle. "I didn't expect that Brother Fu would personally come to greet us. I am truly overwhelmed by your grace!"
A blue-robed scholarly man and a white-clothed young woman both descended at his side with a faint smile. From their appearance, they appeared to be married.
At that moment, the Ancient Sword Sect's young, low-grade cultivators each began to descend onto the plaza.
The tall old man calmly saluted the three and said, "So it is Brother Jiang Yun who is bringing the disciples this time. We extend a respectful greeting to you. And there is also the famous Bai Bi Swordmates, we welcome you as well."
"Enough, let's not flatter each other or we'll make a laughingstock of ourselves in front of our juniors. However, it seems that the Drifting Cloud Sect has yet to arrive. They've become increasingly disinterested in the Sword Trial Assembly. Don't tell me they've grown cowardly because they've placed last a few times?" The cultivator surnamed Jiang seemed to dislike the Drifting Cloud Sect and spoke with a trace of schadenfreude.
The old man surnamed Fu wore a wry smile, not daring to rashly reply. The Hundred Possibilities Pavilion differed from the Ancient Sword Sect. If such words left his mouth and they managed to reach the upper echelon of the Drifting Cloud Sect, they would certainly cause trouble.
But before Old Man Fu thought of how he should reply, a middle-aged man with long dark-green robes grinned and interrupted him from behind, "There is no need for Fellow Daoist Jiang to be so impatient. I've heard that White Phoenix Mountain's Fairy Song is escorting the Drifting Cloud Sect disciples this time around. She is a fine beauty that is rarely seen in our three sects. It is a pity that Fairy Song has always kept herself hidden away. Now, we finally have a chance to look upon her!"
Jiang Yun wore a face of excitement and nodded his head, "Brother Shi mentioned the Fairy of White Phoenix? I've long heard rumors that this woman's beauty is incomparable. If this woman is truly escorting their disciples, then there is no harm in waiting."
When the Ancient Sword Sect pair cultivators heard this, they wore a surprised expression. The azure-robed scholarly man astonishedly said, "I've heard the Fairy of White Phoenix possesses Heavenly Spiritual Roots, and that she was able to easily enter Core Formation in less than a hundred years. She could be said to be a cultivation genius that is only spotted once in a thousand years. It is quite surprising that we'd be able to see such a figure at the Sword Trial Assembly!"
Although the white-robed woman's expression was calm, she spoke with an enchanting voice, "That's true! Even as a woman, I hold quite some curiosity towards the greatly renowned Fairy Song. I have yet to catch sight of her. Surely she must be wondrously beautiful!"
Old Man Fu smiled and thought to say something when he suddenly shouted towards the sky, "Huh!? It seems the Drifting Cloud Sect members have arrived!"
When the others heard this, they gazed upward and saw that a huge black dot was gradually growing closer to them from the east.
"That's..." Jiang Yun's expression stirred. It seemed he knew what it was.
Once it grew closer, the others were able to clearly see what is was - a huge, monstrous bird that was flying towards them with astonishing speed. There seemed to be many cultivators standing on the bird's back.
Upon spotting the huge bird, Jiang Yun sourly said, "Humph! The Drifting Cloud Sect is merely showing off its mutated Azure Hawk. The only thing impressive about it that has mutated is its size. It is still only a grade five demon beast!"
Old Man Fu and the other Hundred Possibilities Pavilion cultivators pretended to have not heard this. However, the youths nearby gasped at the sight of such a large spirit beast. They all stared at the huge bird's astonishing figure with awe.
Each flap of its glowing azure wings brought it forward with astonishing momentum, and in the blink of an eye, it had arrived in front of the plaza. It's huge wings cast a shadow upon the entire stage and blew fierce winds downward, causing a few of the low grade disciples to lose their balance and turn pale from fright.
"Stop!" A man's voice suddenly sounded out from atop the bird. The huge bird folded its wings and floated motionlessly in the air as many cultivators began to drop down from its back.
"Yi! Isn't that Firecloud Mountain's Brother Duan? What a pleasant surprise!" When Old Man Fu saw the red-robed old man in the front, his eyes brightened and he hastily went forward to meet him.
The old man chuckled and smiled, "Hardly. I've held quite the impression of you ever since I last saw you in the Yun Province!" At the same time he was speaking, he swept his gaze past the many people behind him.
Old Man Fu casually said, "Brother Duan wishes to look for Chang Zhen? That's too bad. Junior Martial Brother Chang is currently handling affairs outside of the sect. However, he should return by the end of the assembly!"
The red-robed old man appeared slightly disappointed, but his expression soon recovered. "So it's like that. It can't be helped. Being able to talk about old times is quite a problem of chance. Back to the matter at hand then! This is Junior Martial Brother Yu. There should be no need for introductions, as everyone should recognize him. As for Junior Martial Sister Song, I believe this should be everyone's first time seeing her. Let me introduce you!" He pointed to the stunning blue-clothed woman behind him.
Old Man Fu looked at Cultivator Song with narrowed eyes and gasped. "I've known of your grand reputation for many years as the Fairy of White Phoenix! Now that I've witnessed your elegance, I must say that your reputation is well deserved!"
The blue-clothed woman gently smiled and replied, "Senior Martial Brother Fu wrongfully flatters me. I hardly deserve the title of Fairy!" The woman had an aura of peaceful charm to her, causing the nearby low grade male cultivators to look on with thumping hearts. Although a few of the high grade cultivators were better off then their bewitched juniors, passion flared within their eyes as well.
Next, the Drifting Cloud Sect's Core Formation cultivators greeted the Ancient Sword Sect.
Although Jiang Yun appeared indifferent, he reluctantly uttered a few words. As for the white-robed young woman, she stuck close to Cultivator Song and began to enthusiastically speak with her as if they were sisters.
Despite this, Cultivator Song maintained an elegant demeanor throughout, revealing not the slightest flaw in her actions.
The following matters were simple enough. Once the Hundred Possibilities Pavilion finished their formailies, they brought the two sects to their respective huge courtyards and had them rest for the day. The official competition would begin on the next morning.
The night peacefully passed by. With the coming of the second day, the three sects fiercely began the competition.
The competition was conducted in three groups of thirty with each sect sending ten of their own disciples into each group. Each group would then battle among themselves in a single elimination format until only four were left. The final twelve disciples would then draw ballots and fight for the top ten rankings.
Because there weren't many disciples competing, there was no need to have multiple fights occuring at the same time. The fights were to be held sequentially on the same stage. As for how the order was decided, there were lots that were drawn by each of the group's leaders. As for the judges, they would come from the sect that didn't belong to either of the competitors, making it quite fair.
With countless Hundred Possibilities Pavilion disciples densely surrounding the stage, a bald man stood at the center of the stage and slowly announced, "The first fight is between the Drifting Cloud Sect's Han Li vs the Ancient Sword Sect's Yao Feng!"
Following the bald man's announcement, a disciple walked out from each group of disciples. A torrent of whispers began to pour from the surrounding Hundred Possibilities Pavilion disciples once they clearly saw the contestants.
"Am I not mistaken? One is a Qi Condensation cultivator at the eleventh layer and the other is a Foundation Establishment cultivator!"
"The difference in their cultivation is far too great!"
The Ancient Sword Sect cultivator looked at his opponent with a strange expression. Soon after, disdain momentarily appeared on his face. He felt it would be extremely easy to deal with an opponent with such shallow cultivation.
As for his opponent, he was a youth with a common appearance that was tightly frowning as if he felt perplexed and anxious.
Of course, the Core Formation cultivators of the three sects were separated from the rest of the disciples. They were floating in empty space above the light barrier and leisurely chatting.
"Brother Duan, does the Drifting Cloud Sect truly plan on abandoning this Sword Trial Assembly? How was an eleventh layer disciple able to prevail through the selections? Was he someone you brought to make up for a lack of numbers?" Jiang Yun couldn't help but laugh upon seeing the Drifting Cloud Sect disciple.
The red-robed cultivator calmly replied, "Huh, eleventh layer? Not bad! I recall that he was only at the tenth layer when he acquired victory in the selections. It is quite impressive for him to have cultivated so quickly!"
Jiang Yun wore a doubtful expression. "What? He made it through the selection at tenth layer? Are you joking?"
This time, the red-robed cultivator merely replied with a silent smile.
When Jiang Yun saw this, he felt slightly apprehensive and said nothing else. He began to pay attention to the stage below.
"Match start!" The bald man from before suddenly shouted.
As soon as the Ancient Sword Sect youth heard this, he had a red and a blue sword fly out from the sheathes on his back. They floated above him as green light flickered from his hands, forming a green light barrier around him. Afterwards, the youth quickly formed a hand incantation, intending to have his flying swords attack.
But before he could carry out this well-practiced series of actions, he suddenly spotted sixty fireballs heading towards him in an overbearing wave of blistering heat.
"Ah!" The youth loudly shouted in alarm and his face became deathly pale.
However, he was someone who had experienced many battles and quickly regained his composure. He gave up on using his flying swords to attack and immediately fell to the ground, dropping the light barrier around him. In that same moment, he felt his body covered in cold sweat, but he soon felt a furious rage overwhelm him as the wave of fireballs brush past his head. Wishing to make a show of Han Li in revenge, he was about to jump up when a black leg blurred in front of him, relentlessly stomping down on his head. Suddenly, the world around him turned black.