Of course, martial artists couldn’t fight against strong firearms. But the forces behind them, the combination of martial arts enthusiasts, their communities and their influence was still a force to be reckoned with.
The police cars clearing the way was primarily to separate the martial adepts from normal people. After all, some of them were monsters unaffected by small firearms.
Garen got to know more about the Secret Martial Arts scene from Raydon.
The Secret Martial Arts scene was divided into the Northern and Southern sects. The Celestial Circle Gate and the Crimson Sand Sword led the Southern sects while the Gramdon Sword Sect led the North.
It was unclear to them what the situation in Northern side was, but the Southern scene was very chaotic. Small sects came and went every decade. Even some middle-sized sects fell from power. Only the unshakable Celestial Circle Gate and the Crimson Sand Sword thrived on throughout the years.
The biennial exchange held by Celestial Circle Gate was less of a communication event for all sects and more of a show of power between it and the Crimson Sand Sword.
Inside the main hall, an opera show started after the clown performance, and after that was a diva battle which made all the men start howling.
Two divas with hot bodies walked on the stage and started fighting. Whoever lost would strip off a piece of clothing. The blood of male audience sitting below started boiling.
However, the Celestial Circle Gate had full control of the situation. The two ladies left the stage in their underwear.
A band immediately followed the fight, and a couple waiters started serving the guests with an appetizing soup.
People watched the show while waiting for their friends and sect members to gather. As time went by, there were more and more people inside the hall. From ten to twenty people in the beginning to around sixty later on.
After dinner, Garen and Raydon followed the Celestial Circle Gate’s disciples out of the hall, they crossed the corridor and a garden and arrived at their respective rooms to rest.
The next morning, they were led to a practice ground for some morning exercises and flexing their bodies. Garen then returned to the main hall with the Raydons, waiting for people from the White Cloud Gate to arrive.
Raydon’s Orthogon Sword Gate already had a female disciple there.
Garen was still by himself.
On stage, the performance from yesterday repeated. After breakfast, Garen waited until noon. Finally he saw his fellow disciples from the White Cloud Gate come in after a few Celestial Circle Gate disciples.
"Senior Brother, how are you here so early?"
"Good morning, Senior Brother."
Four young people wearing white training uniforms came to Garen in a line and respectfully greeted him.
There were two guys and two girls, their ages ranging from fifteen to twenty.
"I’ve been waiting for the whole morning. You guys are so slow." Garen stood up and smiled. "All right, sit down and get some food. Tomorrow is the main tournament event. You all have to reach your best forms and don’t lose face for us all."
"Yes!" four disciples replied uniformly as they sat down around Garen.
Scenes like this had happened for countless sects over the course of a few days. People around them did not care for it.
The five disciples watched some opera. The main hall was filling up as more people from other sects came in.
The group was very patient, a disciple from the Celestial Circle Gate had come earlier to hand them the event schedule.
Garen had already watched the show yesterday, so it was boring watching it again. The other four were not paying attention either, showing great anticipation for tomorrow’s tournament.
"This is an opportunity for the disciples to show off their strength. They have also formed a tournament ranking among themselves."
Raydon was sitting close to Garen, the two sects had pulled their tables together. As time went by, they were getting closer.
"There is a ranking for normal disciples and one for the Secret Martial Arts disciples. Of course the latter is the more important one, but a sect’s overall strength is estimated by the overall rankings."
"Does the overall ranking include the masters?" Garen asked in a whisper.
"Of course, but what’s different from the disciples is that the strength of older Secret Martial Arts masters is relatively fixed. They can’t improve too much in a short period of time. Normally these masters only compete once in a few years, which is why the younger disciples are the deciding factors of the rankings."
"If that’s the case, shouldn’t every sect send out their best disciples to compete?" Garen was puzzled
"Naturally, but this ranking is not fully representative of a sect’s strength. Some disciples have graduated from their masters, and thus, cannot come to this tournament.
Which is why the major purpose of this ranking tournament is to find out who is the strongest among the young generation of disciples. Even if it’s rather inaccurate in estimating a sect’s overall strength," Raydon explained.
Garen then understood. Fei Baiyun’s other three disciples had already graduated. Therefore, they did not meet the requirements of this tournament. Bringing Garen to this tournament was probably also intended to enrich his experience.
Afterall, this exchange was held once every two years, so he could try again if he didn’t make it this time.
The White Cloud Gate was already one of the bottom small sects. It wasn’t easy to drop even lower.
After thinking this through, Garen started chatting with Raydon. The middle-aged man introduced some famous sects and gates to him.
Usually at Raydon’s own gate, nobody could bear his nagging. Now that there was someone willing to listen to his chatter, it lifted his spirits. Words shot out from his mouth non-stop.
Garen sat there with him the whole day and learned many things about the Secret Martial Arts world.
The next morning, Garen led the four disciples from the White Cloud Gate and followed someone from the Celestial Circle Gate. They did not go back to the main hall, but rather headed toward a platform along the corridor.
The platform was circular, located in an open patio on the ninth floor. Four highrise buildings surrounded it, blocking the scenery.
The stage looked like a giant white concrete button in the middle of a dark well, strangely eye-catching.
The area around it was spacious, over twenty sects all had their own sections. They circled around the platform, surrounding it.
Garen sat to the left of the platform, near the entrance, with the other four disciples behind him.
He glanced around. All he could see on the four sides of the platform were people’s heads. Each sect had only five people, other than the servicing disciples from the Celestial Circle Gate. In total, there were over a hundred people. All of whom looked very young.
The oldest he could see were middle-aged men and women. They were around the age of Raydon, less than forty-years-old.
The Crimson Sand Sword and the Celestial Circle Gate stood on opposite sides of the platform. Beo was in all blue, standing across a one-eyed man on the other side. Unlike Beo, the man was smiling with a mild and polite temperament.
Garen carefully observed that man. He was the strongest man from the Celestial Circle Gate, Andrela. He didn’t look too exceptional, far from Beo’s dazzling and intrepid appearance, but Garen could tell that the man was extremely self-confident, as if he could calmly face anything in the world.
Not only Garen, any disciples who were ambitious had their eyes on these two.
The chaotic platform settled down thanks to the organization from the Celestial Circle Gate’s disciples.
A skinny elderly man with a long beard jumped onto the platform holding a big brass bell.
"The ranking tournament officially starts now. We will begin with the lowest ranks from last time. Which sect would like to challenge first?" His voice was not loud, but everyone could hear him clearly.
Garen took out a piece of paper which listed the rankings of the twenty-seven sects.
White Cloud Gate was ranked seventeenth.
"I’ll go first." A man in black clothing jumped onto the platform. He ripped off his clothes and threw them off the stage. "Encore Fist Sect, Laffer Draco. I challenge the Knife Fist Sect!"
Just then, a flat chested woman rushed onto the stage. "Nola, Knife Fist Sect!"
Without any more words of greeting, they started fighting. Hitting back and forth, their forms and techniques looked rigorous, but their hits were shallow and soft. The impact sounded weak. Oobviously, they both lacked strength, and their martial arts were focused on technique rather than strength.
No more than ten seconds later, the man in black was pushed off the stage. The sect he came from sent another disciple up the stage, which also got pushed down quickly. There was clearly a huge skill gap.
Normally, a match would not last a long time. The slightest mistake could be the deciding factor between people of a similar level. If they were close in strength, the result would depend on their current state of mind.
Garen sat in the audience and watched casually. The starting matches were only show matches between disciples without Secret Martial Arts.
Match after match ended on the platform. Some disciples with conflicts also used this place to solve their problems.
Soon, the White Cloud Gate was challenged by the eighteenth ranked Fighting Association. The challenger was a hot blond girl with blue eyes. She had just defeated her challengers from the nineteenth ranked sect. She had beaten four opponents all by herself and was still able to challenge the seventeenth ranked White Cloud Gate.
"Let me!" Behind Garen, a sturdy young man stood up excited. "Senior brother, can I go?"
The young man was middle of the pack among the four disciples. His Explosive Fist Art was not rank one yet, but his skin was still stronger than that of normal people. He was also very strong for his age.
"Simon, you think you can handle her?" Without master Fei, everything was up to Garen to decide. This was also an opportunity for him to solve problems on his own.
Simon nodded. "I watched her matches. Although her legs are well trained, her overall strength is weak. I just have to find an opportunity and take control of her lower body."
"Fine then, don’t disappoint our White Cloud Gate," Garen told him. The overall ranking didn’t depend on this match, but mostly on the Martial Adept disciples. Yet if they lost too many matches, it would still have a negative impact on the ranking.
"Got it senior brother, don’t worry." Simon smiled, and saluted his three other friends.
"Get lost, we all know you only wanted to fight because she’s hot." A girl waved her hand speechlessly.
Simon laughed as he earnestly climbed onto the platform and walked in front of the blond girl.
The opponent straight up gave him two side kicks, hitting Simon’s arm, and made a loud thud.
Simon stood steadily, his face showed a complacent smile.
"You are too weak!"