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Chapter 28: Unrivaled Beneath the Heavens (Two)

"I seem to have heard the gist of it." Shadowslay said indifferently.

"Indeed, that time was somewhat far off ago." Fang Tansheng lit a cigarette. Shadowslay furrowed his brows, but didn't speak nevertheless: "The number of cases of the provincial level that caused a high official to take action involving demons does not exceed ten. That year was quite a buzz… The wife of the provincial governor died as tragic beauties often do. The provincial governor was incensed, and within three days, he caught the offending demon and delivered to it a death of a thousand cuts by his hand. However, while everyone only watched this developing affair, that iron-blooded provincial governor, oh, no, right now he's the vice minister, forgot about a single matter…"

He laughed and raised a finger: "They have families, as well."

Patting his dapper western suit, he continued on: "This provincial governor has a grandson. And then on the second day, he was delivered to Heavens Law. I remember it quite clearly… it was Tianfeng City."

Firecloud raised a brow and Shadowslay's gaze faintly fluctuated.

"Transfer to surveillance number four." Fang Tansheng snapped his finger, not speaking to anyone. In a  second, the screen switched over from Chu Zhaonan's portrait to his side profile. From this momentary angle, his position couldn't be seen. But moreover, as the camera immediately magnified, the top of his hand appeared straight away and so did the object that hung at the side of his waist. 

"This is…" In a blink of an eye, Shadowslay was unable to restrain himself from making a quiet remark. His body straightened up for the first time.

In kind, Firecloud straightened out his body. A radiance flashed in his eyes, and he mumbled to himself.

"Although I am a mere mortal and cannot absorb spiritual energy, with my father's status as the regional chancellor, I am still familiar with these things." Fang Tansheng smiled: "The Beretta 92-F… I must bluster before the two seniors, but besides my friend Chu Zhaonan, no one can be champion of the Qualifier. He doesn't even have to make three moves." 

"As for him…" He glanced at Xu Yangyi's portrait: "Ten moves will guarantee him a certain defeat. Moreover, he will lose extremely miserably. It is because of the two of them, he is simply not a cultivator on the same level."

"And myself…" He laughed: "Naturally I've rushed over here for my childhood friend. Otherwise, as the young lord of Beiyuan Province, how could I could I make this journey here from distant parts?"

"The vice minister happens to be surnamed Chu." He answered the riddle and laughed faintly, saying no more.

The present scene had become somewhat silent.

"So it is. This bluster isn't unwarranted." Three seconds later, Shadowslay said indifferently: "Sir Chu's right hand is much more callused than his left and the underside of his forefinger is covered in even more scars. If my observations are not incorrect…"

"A slip of the eye…" Firecloud sipped his coffee and his eyes flashed in expectation as quickly as it disappeared: "Only some of the fluctuations of his spiritual strength can be sensed through the television. No matter that young Xu's cultivation or constitution, he has an edge on both over Mr. Chu's. I had originally believed he would obtain the championship, but I hadn't expected…"

He turned his gaze over Chu Zhaonan's body and said assuredly: "He cultivates an arcane effort. A gun kata."

"The Beretta 92-F at his waist has at least three spirit-rupturing bullets worth over a fifty thousand each. In the case a target is struck by one, any spiritual strength will be incapable of use within the period of half an hour. Hehe, Vice Minister Chu is truly a man of power and affluence… to hand over an arcane effort worth over a billion for his grandson in school for use. It is no grievance for young Xu to lose."

Judgement was not be rendered until the coffin lid was in place!*

It hadn't even started, but they had already passed their verdicts. To them, the battle of Qi Condensation cultivators didn't even need to be viewed to determine the outcome. Even if they watched the television, their deviations absolutely wouldn't exceed 1%!

Heavens Law's Hundred Solutions were nothing more than elementary mathematics. Although it was unknown which school of gun katas Chu Zhaonan cultivated, be it the Tan School, Zhu School, or perhaps Qi School, they were at least equal to that of a junior high schooler's mathematics. 

An advanced-grade arcane effort wasn't only so simple at face value. At the same rank, but the higher the grade, an elementary-grade arcane effort would be completely unable to match with the mobilization of spiritual energy, the harmonization with regards to the body, and equilibrium of both sides. Relatively, the higher the rank was of an arcane effort, it was much more difficult convert the channels and the price was likewise exceedingly higher. This was the reason why the other students on the airplane had been stirred to fright when they had heard that the Featherwood Guard was willing to to bestow an arcane effort in advance.

The disparity of realms between cultivators that had only studied elementary arcane efforts wasn't great. Their constitutions largely didn't differ, and under the circumstances of their gap in experience being miniscule, how could they possibly be the opponent of one who had learned elementary or intermediate arcane efforts? 

The outcome was doomed to be a complete steamroll. An overwhelming advantage.

"I shall hold my judgement over these children until later. I shall treat him as a personal successor should he enter my camp. If nothing unexpected happens, none are worthy except him to be this year's champion of Nantong Province." Firecloud swept his eyes over the screen: "Young Xu isn't shabby, too. It is regrettable… if it were not for Mr. Chu, he would be the favored candidate to be the most powerful. The prize of a Core Formation master is enough for a Qi Condensation cultivator to struggle for thirty to forty years."

"It is reported that he killed a berserker alone." Shadowslay neither hurriedly or slowly: "That Qi kid from Chaoyang City, Anlu City's Wang Zhuo, Pingfeng City's Zhao Yiming… These rank ones degree of accomplishments are merely ordinary."

"Indeed, their arrogance is deserved for Qi Condensation. However… it is this and nothing more." Fire Cloud sighed: "Hehe… to be born brilliant, why must there be others that shine brightly, as well."**

Shadowslay was silent for several seconds and finally nodded slightly: "A minor spirit vein is insufficient."

"Add on a bottle of Spirit Accumulating Liquid." At this moment, Firecloud was without the slightest hesitation. Looking at Chu Zhaonan's portrait, he already held a light in his eyes and said with his voice firm and decisive: "A single bottle takes three years of bitter cultivation to obtain. It is not easy to come by for myself, as well."

It was silent once again. After another minute passed, Shadowslay nodded: "You may." 

No one glanced at Xu Yangyi again. Since Fang Tansheng spoke of Chu Zhaonan's status, and moreover after he made clear his own standing, Xu Yangyi's rank wasn't important anymore in their minds.

The value of the runner-up… Was there any difference to it than that of the tenth rank to Foundation Establishment cultivators?

There was only the champion, the rank one of a major province. Only a champion was worthy of stirring their emotions, their fancy, and deserving of being accepted as their disciple! Only when one was a champion were they worthy of nurture that mobilized their resources and all of their heart! Only then was one deserving of them passing down their Dao legacies!

Before Zhuge Liang, what brilliance did Zhou Yu possess to be favored?

Xu Yangyi didn't know of all that was occurring here. He was presently following Zuo Lun's lead, walking through a brightly-lit, spacious channel. 

The channel inclined downwards, and several doors and several people could begin to be seen. After a couple minutes, all they were able to see was the lonely channel that seemed like it had no end as well as hear the thumping echo of ten people in military boots within. 

Finally, the road came to a head. However, just as they exited, they were completely stunned. 

What had emerged before their eyes… was an immense arena!

It was an arena of pure stone. If a person who had watched the old anime Dragon Ball were here, they would have the exact same feeling. This was because the venue was nearly the same in appearance as the World Martial Arts Tournament!***

The sole difference was that there were azure talismans carved on every stone on the initial row of walls in between the arena and the viewing stands. The entire composition was a tremendous array closely encircling the gigantic arena! On the ceiling, there were four large characters that were several hundred meters in length. They were extremely eye-catching!

Unrivaled Beneath the Heavens!****

The present location was completely different from the clamor and order of the region of the branch above. Each stone was seeped in a heavy ancient air, so far that quite a few stones had moss climbing up on the sides. It seemed like two extremes. An ordinary channel without anything extraordinary in particular had connected the past and the present. Above was the domain of science and technology, and below was the world of cultivation!

There weren't any other flashy ornamentals. Only slabs of uniformly-aligned stones like they had been measured with a ruler. There existed only a single major irregularity and that was the end of the subterranean arena couldn't be seen. It could be imagined that if a competition was held here, and the stands were packed with people, a strike would cause mountains to collapse and seas to bellow; how blood boiling would the roar of the crowd be!

Spacious, tremendous, and large, it in itself was enough to make the hearts of men tremble.

"Shocking, isn't it?" Although Zuo Lun had come here on many occasions, he still immersed himself at this moment in the extraordinarily gigantic arena. His voice held a trace of hoarse fanaticism: "At the beginning of the nation's founding, the modern day Heavens Law was formally established. There was a mountain in Nantong, one without name, and there was a Core Formation master named Floatingcloud. With his hand as the tip of a spear and his wrist like a halberd, in the space of a night, he transformed this nameless mountain with a snap of his fingers into a cascade of several millions of stones that were a meter in length and half a meter in width. Against the upstream river current, the millions of stones slinked through the bottom of the river bed without the influence of men by their own accord. They traveled nonstop to Fengyi as if there was a person conducting them and constructed this 'Unrivaled Beneath the Heavens' martial stage."

He spoke as if he was reciting scripture or chanting psalms. Coupled with the enormous arena, it made a person unable to help but to let themselves be taken in by this fantastical scene.

He seemed to have become drunk on Daomaster Floatingcloud's magnificent accomplishment, and after a long time, sighed deeply: "China's twenty-four martial stages have come completely from the hands of a Core Formation master. Unrivaled beneath the heavens doesn't speak of the top ten, but certainly of the top fifteen." 

His mood seemed to have infected everyone. As everyone's eyes looked at the four massive characters of 'Unrivaled Beneath the Heavens', they faintly flickered to a degree.

Xu Yangyi pursed his lips and seemed to have seen an elderly man of outstanding bearing set apart from the masses wearing what might've been a tunic, Tang suit, or possibly a changpao. With a passing move, the colossal mountain blew apart into rubble like a blade had hacked into it. Afterwards, the several million stones traversed across the sky and submerged themselves at the bottom of the river, crossing the Yangtze for few thousand miles. Against the upward current, from north to west, they constructed the extremely tyrannical characters of unrivaled beneath the heavens! 

How domineering was this? 

How imposing was this? 

How leisurely was this?

Accompanied by clouds and water, made neighbor to the void and sky. A spirit different from that of the masses.*****

"A life like this… Are there still any other pursuits?"

He tightly clenched his fist, thirsting for the other's strength. At this moment, he had never been more impassioned!

A few minutes later, Zuo Lun returned from his reverie and gently made a move with his left hand. A red paper crane split from one into ten, and following his leisured motion, slowly moved away ten stones on the martial stage that were so seamlessly fit together that nearly any artificial vestiges couldn't be seen, revealing ten pitch-black gates. 

Followingly, the paper crane flew into the pockets of the ten students, and Zuo Lun laughed: "These are your room cards. Don't lose them."

"In these five days, you may make your arrangements by yourselves. However, the graduation ceremony will officially begin five days later. Nantong Province has sixty people graduating this year. It is necessary all of them be on this stage."

He finished speaking and walked away, not even turning his head back.

Xu Yangyi's gaze faintly flickered. He glanced silently at Chu Zhaonan. 

Zuo Lun hadn't mentioned the matter of the Qualifier. 

The other hadn't spoke of such an important affair. He didn't find it to be odd and even thought that all was as should be. 

Which cultivator wasn't striving against the heavens? A journey of heavenly defiance? A cultivator that relaxed at any time was afraid that someday a great accomplishment would be difficult to come by. Although they hadn't seen true Foundation Establishment seniors, they could imagine that regardless of which one, not to speak of reigning supreme be it past or present, was at least of great willpower and a mighty lifetime of perseverance. As for a Core Formation master, such a realm couldn't be reaching with determination. Neither in fate nor fortune could one be lacking.

These ten people held the splendid reputation as "The Illustrious' of the Contemporary Era"!

Thus, he came by this inevitable inference: it wasn't said in order to observe them.

"Is someone watching…?" He narrowed his eyes and quietly swept his gaze over the gigantic martial stage that had no end in sight.

"Who is it? CSIB? Featherwood Guard? Bountiful Treasures Pavilion?" He stuffed his hand in his pants pocket walked towards the direction that the paper crane guided: "It can be considered a painstaking process in order to select the true elite."

"The Qualifier is the graduation ceremony's true climax!"

* 盖棺定论 aka don't pass judgement on people until it was over. I reeaaally wanted to translate this as "It wasn't over until the fat lady sang" 

** 既生瑜,何生亮啊 - I translated this as "to be born brilliant, why are there others who shine as bright. This is a chinese idiom made famous by Zhou Yu during the three kingdoms period. It is in reference to Zhou Yu lamenting that while his talents and skills are excellent, his rival Zhuge Liang rivaled and surpassed him. He is conflicted because he thinks himself to be all the heavens require, but boom Zhuge Liang comes and ruins his party. Kinda hard to put this in context in the story because it is almost like waxing poetry 

*** These Dragon ball references though. I had troubles picking up on Dragon Ball as an "idea" vs a "thing" LOL

**** 天下独步 - Unrivaled Beneath the Heavens/Outstanding in the whole world, etc. Many ways to translate this.

***** 相伴云和水,为邻虚与空。一灵真性在,不与众心同 Is a line used by Wang Chongyang, one of the seven immortals from Chinese history. He says these four lines as he leaves behind the mortal world. If what I translated it as is unclear, I will tell it straight up here. He is pretty much saying that he has surpassed this world i.e accompanied by clouds and water and neighbor to the void/sky. The latter part of the verse clears things up by distinctly separating him from other people.

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