Chapter 155 - Another Round
After the match ended, Lin Zixin took a deep breath and looked over at the Nine Jade Palace's tent.
"The next match - Lu Mingshu from Nine Jade Palace challenges Huo Jiang from the Sapphire Blood Sect."
There was an uproar among the tents.
"What's going on? They just fought yesterday!"
"This is going against the rules!"
"How can you go against the same person twice?"
"But if it's against the rules, why didn't Mister Lin stop it?"
"Wait!" somebody exclaimed. "The rules say that participants can't challenge the same person twice, right?"
"The previous time, it was Huo Jiang who challenged Lu Mingshu… but now, it's the other way around."
Everyone looked at each other in confusion. Can you actually do that? Wow, I never would've thought of it.
Generally speaking, upon reaching the challenger round, there was rarely anyone who would let emotions affect their decision-making. If two people had a rematch, the losing party would have an 80% chance of losing again, and the winning party had already gotten the loser's points. Even though it wasn't against the rules, no one had ever done it in the history of the Qilin Festival.
Lu Mingshu jumped on stage and looked toward the direction of the Sapphire Blood Sect.
Her eyes were cold. Combined with her fair skin, she looked like an iceberg.
In the eyes of others, this Eldest Miss of the Nine Jade Palace was a weirdo. She had the classic Dongyue woman's look - defined facial features and fair skin. Dongyue women were well-known for being lovable and delicate; they reminded people of the apricot flowers that bloomed in spring. However, looking at Lu Mingshu, one couldn't see any signs of her being lovable or delicate. She stood there like an ice sculpture; beautiful and clean, but chilly as well.
After a while, Huo Jiang jumped up on stage.
"Miss Lu, isn't it obvious that you already won yesterday? What do you still want?" Huo Jiang bit his lips. The calm he had yesterday was long gone. One could easily tell that he was scared.
Under Lu Mingshu's attacks the day before, he totally had no chance of counterattacking. Without his concealed weapons, it would not even be possible to injure her. Speaking of which, she stole his concealed weapons in the end. Recalling the scene yesterday, her precision and concentration scared him.
To summarize it; the confidence that he had yesterday was long gone, and he was now afraid of Lu Mingshu.
"Sir is unwilling to fight?"
Huo Jiang shook his head and smiled bitterly. "It's obvious I'm no match for you."
"Oh, well that's fine. We don't have to fight." Before Huo Jiang could thank her though, she added, "I'm interested in your concealed weapons. Could Sir let me try them out?"
She had already stolen his concealed weapons yesterday, what was left for her to even try out? She stole his weapons and didn't return them, and since he was at fault in the first place, he didn't dare to ask for them back. He felt his heart drop. What the hell, does she want me to give her all of my concealed weapons…? Wait… is she serious?
Huo Jiang looked at her, eyes widening in shock. "Miss Lu! Why…? Would you stop pestering me?"
Lu Mingshu put on a thin smile. "Me pestering you? Sir is making no sense. You can challenge me, but I can't challenge you?"
"What…" the hell? Who cares about the fight? I'm talking about you stealing two of my concealed weapons already and yet you still want more? Greedy!
However, Huo Jiang did not finish his sentence. Using concealed weapons against her in the first place wasn't something to be proud of.
"What's Miss Lu doing?" Qi Sheng asked.
Kou Wei scratched his chin. "I don't know, but she sounds just like you when you're trying to extort me."
"Senior Brother!" Qi Sheng protested.
Kou Wei smiled at him. "Let's just watch."
On the stage, Huo Jiang went into a fighting stance. "Since Miss Lu is so persistent, then I shall fight you."
Lu Mingshu started to attack immediately after he finished his sentence.
Ding! Ding! Ding!
Their weapons clashed against each other.
The match was nothing but boring. Huo Jiang didn't even try to fight back, and he didn't use his concealed weapons either. He just took her attacks silently.
Many people were shaking their heads.
"This Lu Mingshu is going overboard! Huo Jiang has basically surrendered, and yet she still wants to fight?"
"This is the most atrocious thing I've ever seen in all my years of attending the Qilin Festival."
"Such a petty girl! What's the use of being so powerful when you have such a bad attitude?"
She forced Huo Jiang to the corner, not giving him anywhere to go. As he was about to surrender, Lu Mingshu started speaking; "Sir doesn't have a good life in the Sapphire Blood Sect, am I right?"
Upon hearing that, Huo Jiang stood rooted to the ground.
Lu Mingshu attacked again and spoke, "I heard that you competed for a genuine successor disciple spot three times and never once succeed. That's sad."
Huo Jiang had fire in his eyes. Yes, he sucked; he couldn't become a genuine successor disciple even in such a small clan. But…!
"A day before the Qilin Festival, somebody approached you…."
Huo Jiang's eyes widened, and he looked at her in shock.
Lu Mingshu remained calm. She eyed the spectators and was assured that the rooftop was too far for others to know what they were talking about.
The sword-energy enveloped both of them. From afar, one would think that they were fighting furiously when, in reality, Huo Jiang wasn't even counterattacking.
Huo Jiang was feeling confused.
Lu Mingshu attacked again, smiling. "You don't have much time left, right? If you don't do well soon, you might be abandoned by your sect."
Huo Jiang was speechless.
The person who came to him said the exact same thing too.
Indeed, he didn't have much time left. The Sapphire Blood Sect was a small sect, so they didn't have many resources to provide for all their disciples. If he didn't prove that he was worthy, he would be abandoned. If not for this, why would he take so many risks?
"Actually, your concealed weapons don't do you much good anyway." Lu Mingshu smiled thinly. "You didn't beat me with them, and you won't beat anyone else that's way above your skill level, right?"
Huo Jiang gave her a death stare. "So what the hell do I get if I give them to you?"
"I won't expose you!" Lu Mingshu smiled. "That person gave you more than some weapons, am I right?"
Lu Mingshu had a sweet and melodious voice, yet it sounded like the devil in Huo Jiang's ears. "Sir, either you gain a chance to break through to the Spirit Realm, or you can continue to be who you are. Choose for yourself."
Chapter 156 - The Taste of One's Own Medicine
Huo Jiang couldn't wrap his head around what he was hearing.
In order to convince him, that other party gave him a price that was high enough to make him willing to take risks. The price was something that a disciple of a small clan would never get in their life.
But Lu Mingshu? She was forcing him to give her all his treasures without any reason.
No, not just "without reason"… she was robbing him!
But did he have a choice? From what she said, it proved that she was aware of the story. Once it got out, the reliability of the Qilin Festival would be affected, and, without a doubt, the king of Zhongzhou would definitely punish everyone involved. Not only would he get punished, he would drag his entire sect down with him. Between the sect's reputation and an ordinary disciple like him, it was obvious how the elders would react.
The sword-energy was wrapped around him. Huo Jiang felt chills run down his spin, and he sighed.
Asking him to give away these treasures was like forcing him to cut his own flesh. As an ordinary disciple, being able to get his hands on such a thing was like gold falling from the sky. He planned to use these items to craft a treasure tool, or at least exchange them if he was unable to do it himself.
If he had known this is what would happen, he would have changed the deal and exchanged these items for resources instead.
But what could he do at this point? He was already at this stage, so he had no other choice.
Huo Jiang took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He slightly moved his weapon.
The sword-light shone, and the concealed weapon attached to the sword.
Lu Mingshu gave Huo Jiang a smile and put it into her mustard seed pouch.
"Could you tell me how you discovered them in the first place?" Huo Jiang asked
"Easy." Lu Mingshu looked at him. "This concealed weapon is quiet and hard to see, but since it goes after the target automatically, it would make some noise by vibrating when I change my direction because of the air resistance. As long as I was fast enough, I would hear it."
Huo Jiang remained silent. It had been a few years since he first received the concealed weapons, yet he had never realized its true value. However, Lu Mingshu realized after one match with him.
I'm not as good as her. He was convinced in his heart.
Huo Jiang leapt off of the stage. "I concede."
The match ended just like that. Most spectators were baffled and found the match boring.
It was a one-sided fight, with Lu Mingshu attacking furiously and Huo Jiang just dodging. There wasn't any suspense.
It was hard to even count the number of spectators mumbling under their breath, complaining about the match being pointless. Huo Jiang already lost the previous match, so Lu Mingshu wouldn't gain many points, and if she wanted to take revenge, hadn't she had enough yesterday? Huo Jiang was already in such a poor state yesterday.
In the main tent, the king sighed. He then turned to the queen. "That child is really stubborn. She could be the next you."
The queen smiled at him sweetly. "What, doesn't the king think its a good thing?"
The king smiled at her with love. "In my eyes, my queen is the best."
The queen blushed and giggled.
Lu Mingshu went back to her seat, and the matches continued.
Huo Jiang had given her four more concealed weapons today, so there was now a total of six weapons. According to Xiao Sang's prediction, it was enough to craft a sword.
Whether Huo Jiang had left some for himself, she didn't want to know. Even if it was extortion, one should still leave some leeway. Extortion wasn't something to be proud of to begin with.
During the afternoon, the announcement once again shocked everybody. "Cai Zheng from the Celestial Pole Mountain, challenging Lu Mingshu from Nine Jade Palace."
After hearing this, there was mumbling across all the tents. No matter how stupid one was, they would realize that something was off.
Celestial Pole Mountain's Cai Zheng… another disciple from a small sect.
For Huo Jiang, one could argue that he was trying to gain fame and simply underestimated Lu Mingshu. However, in that match, Lu Mingshu displayed her abilities, so nobody would still be so stupid as to challenge her unless they had confidence.
"Did she offend somebody?" a spectator asked.
"Interesting, huh? Seems like somebody doesn't want her in the New Generation Ranking."
"Hey! Who asked her to be so ambitious? Going around all the arenas to compete before the Qilin Festival? She ruined the reputation of many martial arts halls, there's no doubt she offended someone!"
"True, it's normal that people would hate her."
"Huo Jiang had concealed weapons. I wonder what this Cai Zheng has?"
Cai Zheng jumped onto the stage, looked toward the Nine Jade Palace tent, and sneered.
"Miss Lu is such an outstanding person. I look forward to your generous teachings!" Unlike Huo Jiang, Cai Zheng provoked her immediately.
Lu Mingshu leapt up to the stage. "Shut up and start."
"…" Cai Zheng sneered. "Be careful, Miss!"
As soon as he finished his sentence, Cai Zheng dashed toward Lu Mingshu.
His weapon was a long whip. It was silver, and it shone brightly under the sunlight. When it moved, it was like a silver snake coming for Lu Mingshu as it created huge waves of wind.
"Eh?" In the Heavenly Sea Pavilion canopy, Kou Wei strummed his fingers. "This Cai Zheng isn't bad!"
Other than some unique weapons, Huo Jiang was nothing more than ordinary. However, Cai Zheng's ability was comparable to the class people. If he was lucky, he could become a dark horse.
It was such a pity to use an opponent like that to stop Lu Mingshu.
"So what if he's good?" Qi Sheng huffed. "Miss Lu will surely win."
Kou Wei sighed. "Of course she'll win, but we don't know what price she'll have to pay this time around."
He was starting to suspect his earlier guess. When Huo Jiang challenged Mingshu, he thought that somebody wanted to take Lu Mingshu down because her presence would take up a spot on the New Generation Ranking, but now, it didn't seem like that was the case.
Cai Zheng was comparable to Shao Zhengyang. Every Qilin Festival, one or two people at their level would make it into the New Generation Ranking and gain plenty of fame and generous rewards. Convincing someone like Cai Zheng, who had a good chance to make it into the New Generation Ranking, to throw that away to take down Lu Mingshu… it would cost much more than convincing Huo Jiang.
What small or medium sect could afford such a thing? To completely stop Lu Mingshu, they would have to bribe way more than just two people.
On the rooftop, the fight started after some probing.
Lu Mingshu held her chest. "Using my own method against me?"
Cai Zheng grinned. "Miss Lu, could you show me the techniques you used to fight Xing Kun? I came to challenge you because of that! Please satisfy my curiosity, Miss. I want to know how you did it."
When she fought Xing Kun, Lu Mingshu used a strengthening seal to freeze his mystic energy, and that seal only lasted for one day.
As for this Cai Zheng… he had mastered a special technique that could freeze his opponent's mystic force!
Chapter 157 - Inappropriate
"Lu Mingshu from Nine Jade Palace wins!"
Everyone heaved a sigh of relief when Lin Zixin announced the result.
It was rare for a match to be so intense during the first few days of the challenger fights.
Cai Zheng was powerful, and with his techniques, he was a match for Lu Mingshu. Most predicted that the match would end in a tie.
In the last few minutes, Lu Mingshu used her Physical Manifestation of Sword Intent to defeat Cai Zheng. It was a close shave.
In the Seventh Truth Platform's area, Yu Kuang heaved a sigh of relief. "Cai Zheng is really good at hiding his ability."
He was relieved because the booklet that the Seventh Truth Platform handed out didn't mention anything about Cai Zheng knowing how to freeze the opponent's mystic force. The Seventh Truth Platform had been observing the participants for more than a year or two, and Yu Kuang dared to say that the Seventh Truth Platform had the most accurate and detailed information about all participants. The Seventh Truth Platform not finding out about Cai Zheng's secret technique showed how good he was in concealing his ability.
"It's a pity that he used it on Lu Mingshu," Wei Chunqiu, who rarely spoke, commented.
"Yeah," Yu Kuang observed. "If it was me, I can't guarantee that I would win."
Freezing one's mystic force was like taking away a part of their cultivation. There was no doubt that such a thing would ruin their normal way of fighting. Looking at how Lu Mingshu was forced into a corner until the last few minutes was a good example. Every martial artist took years and years to come up with their own pattern, which consisted of the skills and techniques they usually used and even how they dodged. Once that pattern was broken, one would be forced to change it, resulting in a huge performance drop.
Who exactly is going after Lu Mingshu? Yu Kuang bit his lips as he pondered. She came all the way from Xichuan, and she only became famous recently. Moreover, Nine Jade Palace is just a middle-tier sect. Who would pay such a high price just to take down a newb like her? It would make more sense for somebody to come after Kou Wei or Senior Brother Wei….
As he was in deep thought, Wei Chunqiu cut it off by adding, "Junior Sister Shi has been gone for quite a while, huh?"
"What?" Yu Kuang looked at him abruptly.
Yu Kuang didn't really take note of when Sect Master Jia Yan left her seat. She's a girl, so that's normal. But… it's been two hours and yet she's still nowhere to be seen?
"Junior Brother Xie isn't around either!"
Yu Kuang looked toward where the Alioth Star Lord should've been sitting. There was an empty chair.
"I'll leave first. I have something to do." Yu Kuang stood up frantically and ran off.
Seeing him run off, Wei Chunqiu chuckled.
Tan Yubing rushed over to Lu Mingshu as soon as she got down from the stage. "Junior Niece Lu, are you okay?"
She shook her head and bowed to the chaperones. "Elders, disciple will leave first."
Kang Tian nodded. "Go and get some rest. Healing is important."
Under the worried looks of the elders, Tan Yubing sent Lu Mingshu back.
Tan Yubing put Lu Mingshu down before slamming the door in anger. "Who the hell is doing all this? Are they mad?"
Lu Mingshu kept quiet and took a pill.
"Junior Niece Lu, are you okay?" Tan Yubing asked worriedly.
The previous time, it was just a flesh wound. This time, it was internal. Cai Zheng had control over Lu Mingshu's mystic force, and she got whipped a few times.
"I'm okay." Lu Mingshu coughed. "No matter who it is, the other party has shown that they aren't going to let me off. I may need to fight again today."
"Haish." Tan Yubing sighed. "I'll keep an eye out for you. Go and get some rest."
"Okay. Thank you, Senior Aunt Tan."
There was no time for her to talk about being polite. Tan Yubing went out to keep an eye, and Lu Mingshu entered the Heavenly Wheel to heal.
Compared to yesterday, where she was dripping with blood, she looked way better today. However, the injury today would actually take much longer to heal. Her mystic force was still frozen even now. If she didn't recover in time, it would affect her next match.
In the blink of an eye, an hour passed. Lu Mingshu could hear sounds outside her door.
"Senior Aunt Tan, how's Senior Sister Lu now?"
"B-but… oh my god, what do we do? Somebody has challenged her again!"
"That fast? Are you sure?"
"Yeah, ask Senior Sister Lu to hurry up!"
When Tan Yubing entered her room, Lu Mingshu had already exited the Heavenly Wheel.
"Senior Niece Lu…"
"Let's get going." Lu Mingshu stood up.
"Are you okay now?" Tan Yubing looked at her in worry.
Lu Mingshu gave her a stiff smile. "Whether I'm okay or not, I still have to fight, right?"
Tan Yubing hesitated for a while before replying. "Junior Niece Lu, you could concede. You don't have many points yet, so you wouldn't lose out that much. The rules also state that you can reject a challenge after having two matches in one day."
Lu Mingshu shook her head as she tidied her clothes. "I can reject, but would that person stop?"
Indeed, Lu Mingshu could delay the match according to the rules. However, since somebody was obviously coming after her, they wouldn't stop even if Lu Mingshu delayed. Delaying would only cause her to get caught up in an unwanted situation, where she didn't have enough points and had to keep fighting.
Besides, she was unwilling to back down anyway. Not even a single step!
As expected, Lu Mingshu accepted the challenge.
In the Heavenly Sea Pavilion's tent, Qi Sheng had ants in his pants.
"This is stupid! Why would she accept a challenge when she knows that person has ill intentions?"
"Mhmm," Kou Wei mumbled. The most suitable option was to reject and come back in two days when she fully recovered. He figured that Lu Mingshu would choose that option. If it was him, that's what he would do. After all, the opponent had come prepared while Mingshu was in a passive position. The best method was to maintain her strength properly.
"Haish…." Qi Sheng frowned in despair when the match started. "Why is she so stubborn?"
Lu Mingshu didn't seem to understand "at the right moment" meant. Why not moderate yourself appropriately and only attack at the right moment? Compared to just accepting every challenge like this, she would gain much more. To some people, she was just plain idiotic.
However, Kou Wei didn't want to call her stupid. From the amount of time they had spent with each other, he was aware that Lu Mingshu was nowhere near idiotic. She was smart. She was clear about what was happening, and yet she chose the stupidest way she could to deal with the situation. That wasn't idiotic, it was…
"Silly!" Kou Wei sighed. "Such a silly girl."
She was in a battle… a battle with the world and its rules. Looking at her life, it had always been like that. She had been rebelling against everything she could.
What was the big deal with her father remarrying? He was a Spirit Realm martial artist; why would he want to spend the rest of his life with an ordinary Dongyue woman? Almost everyone supported Fu Shangqin marrying the Zhou family's eldest daughter. To them, they were a match made in heaven. Meanwhile, the Lu family should have just given up on Fu Shangqin and focused on their lives, where they could have lived a good life.
For the Nine Jade Palace's internal strife, the easiest method for Lu Mingshu to get her way was to make an alliance with the Zhou family's enemy.
For the Qilin Festival, the best solution to counter her current situation was to make good use of the rules to take it slow and steady. In that way, she would surely get into the New Generation Ranking.
However, she didn't want to.
She always rejected the "best and most appropriate" solution.
It suddenly hit Kou Wei that he didn't fully understand this girl.
He always thought that she was just resisting those who oppressed her, but now he realized that it was way more than that.
She was going against the whole world and its unwritten rules.