After exiting the tournament grounds, Garen walked along the black corridor and rushed towards the tournament venues of White Cloud Gate trainees.
A medical team in white suits in the corridor rushed into the tournament grounds. They put Benjamin who was in the ring onto a stretcher then quickly passed by Garen.
Garen looked at Benjamin on the stretcher.
"I won the first round…" he mumbled.
Walking along the corridor through several corners and break rooms, Garen soon reached a small room with a sparse crowd.
He gently opened the door. The interior had the exact layout as the tournament grounds earlier.
In the ring, Collin was leaning on the pillars panting. Her whole body felt weak, and there were blood stains all over her face and body. Her opponent was a slender young man with a cool air about him. He didn't have on him any trace of having been in a fight.
From the looks of it, Collin could still hang on for a little longer. Even though she was at a disadvantage, but the outcome couldn't yet be determined anytime soon.
Garen didn't stay. He just casually looked at Collin, and let her see him, then decisively turned around and walked towards the other tournament grounds.
After that, he visited the tournament venues of the rest of the trainees.
Simon had won easily. He was up against an average opponent whose Secret Martial Art was relying on a burst of pace, but that had been completely inundated by him.
Carrie and her opponent were difficult to set apart.
And lastly, Rimridor.
Garen walked into the tournament venue.
In the ring, Rimridor silently stood his ground, and managed to strike his opponent to the ground with one punch. He had a blank look on his face, and there was a strange air about him.
His opponent was a young boy with a short stature. The youth was wounded all over his body—he must have been struck to the ground multiple times—but this time he still managed to slowly get up, albeit with some difficulty.
"You want more?" Rimridor said casually. He was wearing a pair of black cuffs; both his elbows were bent so it made his arms seem like two sharp gimlets. "If we go on like this, you'll die."
He adopted a lightning-quick Shot Form and viciously struck the youth's chest. The blow caused the youth to rebound off the ring ropes.
"I…admit defeat!" the youth struggled to spout those few words out. His head slumped, and he fainted.
"No fun," Rimridor said indifferently. He waited for the referee to announce his victory, then somersaulted down from the ring and walked to Garen. "Eldest Senior Brother, why are you here?"
Garen frowned slightly. He sensed an inexplicable temperament on Rimridor, similar to Eldest Senior Sister.
"Your combat skills…were they taught by Eldest Senior Sister?"
"Yeah." Rimridor casually nodded.
Garen was slightly worried, but he wasn't sure why. He patted Rimridor's shoulder and didn't continue the subject. "Time to go to the next tournament."
Rimridor nodded, and followed Garen out, leaving the slightly deserted tournament ground.
Both of them came out from the door and went their separate ways. Garen found his next tournament venue based on the room number: 17.
As he reached the corridor of the room, he saw that the entrance was already crowded. Most of them were students wearing tight yellow clothes. Garen wasn't sure which sect they belonged to.
Garen furrowed his brow a little, and slowly walked forward.
The first brawn he touched felt his whole body shudder all of a sudden, and automatically avoided him and gave up his place. Then the second one, and the third…
A series of people, those that Garen touched, all voluntarily parted to let Garen pass. Even they were confused as to why they were giving way to Garen.
Garen slowly walked into the room through the middle of the crowd, as if it was parted seawater revealing a narrow aisle; it made him unusually conspicuous.
Inside the room, Jaden and the crybaby girl from Celestial Circle Gate were already there. When he saw how everyone politely gave way to Garen, Jaden was impressed.
"See that, Long Er? That's the Vibration that can only be mastered by a true expert! This guy…so powerful!" Jaden was in awe.
"Vibration?" The girl still had tearstains on her face. She stared at Garen menacingly, and was shocked to hear what her Senior Brother had said. "He can master Vibration? Senior Brother, do you not see it? Vibration is a threshold only mastered by the top ten level of experts!"
"Stop talking. By mastering Vibration, he is already qualified enough to become a contender for top ten! Just watch this tournament," Jaden whispered as he dragged Long Er to an inconspicuous corner. He was worried Garen might make Long Er cry again.
Garen walked in through the crowd. His strong and tall body was extremely proportionate, his stride calm; his face didn't show the slightest trace of anxiety of someone about to compete in a tournament.
"You kid! How dare you shove me!" a brawny man with stubble clad in black roared and shoved Garen.
His hands were on Garen, but he didn't manage to move him. He was stunned.
He shoved hard again, twice, but there was no reaction. It was like pushing against a high wall: it was impossible to move.
"The weak can only rely on such means to win, huh?" Garen looked down at the stubbled man in front of him, and casually waved a hand.
The brawn crashed onto the side wall like a swatted fly; his eyes rolled and he blacked out.
The crowd was in an uproar. Everyone avoided him like the plague; no one dared to stand too close to Garen.
"Margent was dealt with just like that!"
"This guy is from White Cloud Gate, right? Who would have thought there was someone so strong in the Southern Twelve Gates?"
Garen didn't bother looking at the others. He threw away a fine needle: it was the secret weapon that the stubbled man tried to use on Garen, of which he had managed to neutralize. He walked straight to the ring and asked a stunned Celestial Circle Gate referee disciple.
"Where's my opponent? Still not here yet?"
"Uh… You just settled him…" Under Garen's piercing stare, the referee broke out in a cold sweat.
Garen was shocked. He looked at the stubbled man passed out by the wall, and shook his head slightly.
"Where is the next round?"
"…You don't have to move for the next round, your opponent will come over," the referee hurriedly explained. "Your winning time was the shortest. The future tournament venues will be determined by winning times: the shorter time would gain the home advantage."
Garen nodded, closed his eyes, and sat down cross-legged to rest.
As he quieted, the whole room slipped into a murmur of discussion. The twenty over people in the room didn't dare to speak loudly, for fear of accidentally disturbing Garen. Everyone was whispering to their companions, and would look in awe at Garen—sitting by the side of the ring—from time to time.
Jaden and the young Long Er were infected by the atmosphere too: they lowered their voices.
"An expert who has mastered Vibration… I can't believe that White Cloud Gate, one of the Southern Twelve Gates, would produce such an expert. I thought this time would be the same as before, and the Southern Twelve Gates Union would just be eliminated. I didn't expect that there would be someone like Garen."
Long Er hid behind her Senior Brother, as if she was worried she would be spotted by Garen.
"So Senior Brother, is this Garen the strongest person in the Southern Twelve Gates Union?"
"Maybe, if we don't consider the disciples trained by masters, then he should be the strongest one. The Southern Twelve Gates was originally an alliance of multiple small sects forming a strong force to counter other bigger sects and increase its influence as an organization. Most of the sects within it were of a similar level, but now with the sudden appearance of this Garen, there might be issues with the balance amongst the sects. But this isn't something for us to consider," Jaden patiently analyzed. "I've seen the strongest disciple from the remaining eleven sects, not comparable to Garen at all. This Garen could indeed be the strongest man within the Southern Twelve Gates."
"The strongest man within the Southern Twelve Gates huh?"
Garen's figure sitting cross-legged reflected in Long Er's clear pink pupils for the first time.
Upon defeating the stubbled Margent with one blow, Garen's fame was spread by the students who had witnessed it.
Margent was the elite fighter from Myriad Manifestations Gate. He broke into the final fifteen the last time around, and was the strongest core from the Southern Twelve Gates. Now he had been sent flying against a wall in one blow by Garen, and had passed out.
This instantly caused a stir amongst the spectators in all tournament venues.
In that instant, all the disciples from Southern Twelve Gates who had felt ashamed for always ranking low in the tournaments could hold their heads up high. They had always swallowed their pride in front of stronger sects, and held their tongues when they met with trouble; they were always the side to suffer. All because they didn't have strong Senior Brothers and Sisters to back them up, and it would be impossible for masters to intervene in disciple-level conflicts. After all, others would have stronger masters.
Natural selection was accepted as an inalienable principle, so the disciples from the entire Southern Twelve Gates were used to such oppression.
Now that Garen had outshone everyone, this gave all the disciples of Southern Twelve Gates hope. If he could defeat a top fifteen contender with such ease, they could have a good chance at top ten this time!
"Senior Brother Garen from White Cloud Gate is the strongest man from our Southern Twelve Gates! I heard he easily defeated Benjamin from Holy Fist Gate!"
"What about the rest of the disciples from Southern Twelve Gates?"
"It's all up to Senior Brother Garen now!"
Within the tournament room, more and more disciples from Southern Twelve Gates crowded in. The tournament venue was packed; there were people everywhere.
The voices of the students were rowdy. These disciples who had been subdued for too long finally saw hope; they all crowded over to watch Garen compete.
Garen slowly opened his eyes, and looked at a disciple not far off in front of him.
"You said everyone else from White Cloud Gate has been eliminated?"
That disciple nervously nodded.
"Yes…yes, Senior Brother. Seventy to eighty people have already been eliminated. No one from White Cloud Gate managed to enter the third round except you…"
"So that means, I'm the only one left?" Garen wasn't surprised. He looked over to the entrance: Collin, Simon and a few others were shielding Carrie as they squeezed in.
At that moment, a stout youth with fat all over his body climbed into the ring. He was wearing a white tank top, tight against his thick layers of fat, like a large stuffed balloon.
The portly youth seemed to still be chewing something, and swallowed it with a gulp. His eyes stared straight at Garen outside the ring.
"A contestant from Southern Twelve Gates? How lucky."
Garen stood up, somersaulted onto the ring and stood his ground.
The referee rang the bell.
"Let the tournament begin!"