When all the exam candidates at the Arena C heard that Yan Liqiang wouldn't have to stay there to continue in the competition, each and every one of them secretly breathed a sigh of relief. There were still a few rounds to go, if Yan Liqiang was going to stay there, that would be too much pressure for everyone else.
Soon after that, Yan Liqiang, under the lead of the academy bureaucrat and the envious and astonished gazes of countless exam candidates in the surrounding area, passed through the dense crowds and the few arenas that were currently hosting the fights at the side, and was directly led to the front of the audience seats in Arena A.
"Greetings, Headmaster Shen and Lord Shi!" Yan Liqiang bowed towards Shen Hongbing and Shi Changfeng neither humbly nor arrogantly.
Shen Hongbing and Shi Changfeng both looked Yan Liqiang up and down with their keen and sparkling eyes. While Yan Liqiang was in Arena C, they only saw him from the side and there was also some distance between them, so both of them couldn't get a clear view of Yan Liqiang. Now that Yan Liqiang was brought in front of them, only then they realized that he was quite young and that surprised both of them. Yan Liqiang's countenance was simply too young compared to the mostly sixteen or seventeen-year-old youths here today.
"How old are you this year?" Shi Changfeng immediately asked.
"This is also your first time participating the martial arts examination?"
Shi Changfeng laughed, extremely happy. "Not bad, not bad at all! I have been in Pingxi Prefecture Martial Arts Academy for many years and during the Martial Arts County Trial Examination every year, I have toured all around the counties in the prefecture. I haven't met a fourteen-year-old who has already trained the Tiger Roaring Consecutive Fist technique to that level for many years. Such a rare, rare opportunity indeed! It seems like Pingxi Prefecture Martial Arts Academy will be recruiting another young elite today from Qinghe County!"
"Thank you, Lord Shi, for your flattering compliment! Liqiang is only a little lucky. Qinghe County has many talented people and is a place where the elites gather. I will do my utmost in the competitions later and fight for the opportunity to be enrolled in Pingxi Prefecture Martial Arts Academy!"
Despite Yan Liqiang's young age, he was still being modest and prudent at this moment without any signs of short temper or arrogance that young people had. He also knew how to speak appropriately and had the demeanor akin to that of an influential clan's disciple. This made Shi Changfeng even more impressed by him as he inwardly nodded in approval.
"Judging from the maturity of the Tiger Roaring Consecutive Fist technique that you used in the arena today, it's evident that a lot of time has been devoted to it. Why were you kicked out of the arena so easily during the preliminary exam two months ago and even sustained heavy injuries? Could it be that you purposely yielded because you received benefits from someone?"
Shen Hongbing also spoke up. Within this short period of time, he had already sent people out to ask around about Yan Liqiang's background and had found out about the incident during the preliminary exam. Because of this, Shen Hongbing couldn't understand why Yan Liqiang was so weak during the preliminary exam.
Of course, the conversation between Yan Liqiang and Qi Donglai wouldn't travel so fast to Shen Hongbing and Shi Changfeng's ears. Shi Changfeng had the same question in his heart too, this was what astonished both of them the most.
Without a doubt, Yan Liqiang wasn't going to tell anyone that his Tiger Roaring Consecutive Fist technique had consecutive breakthroughs within these two months. If the truth was exposed, he reckoned that he would be dissected and by then maybe even the secret of the Muscle Tendon Changing and Marrow Cleansing Manual wouldn't be safe. Fortunately, Yan Liqiang already had a plan in mind.
"On the preliminary exam day, I was ambushed. When I was fighting with my opponent, I got bitten by an ice ant and that ultimately led me to defeat and my serious injury!" When Yan Liqiang recounted the incident from two months ago, he didn't even have to put on an act. He only had to slightly adjust his emotion and the anger shown on his face. His acting skill was so off the charts that it could even put Leonardo DiCaprio to shame.
"PREPOSTEROUS!" Shi Changfeng immediately flew off the handle. Despite his refined temperament, his eyes instantly blazed with anger, he was extremely furious. As the academy tutor of Pingxi Prefecture Martial Arts Academy, he was sent to patrol every county on the exam day. This was for the sake of invigilating the exam, to prevent any sort of tampering, bribery or fraud during the exam. Yan Liqiang's misfortune was exactly what he was supposed to prevent with his utmost effort, yet it still befell him. "That person who fought you that day might be here. What is his name? I will get someone to bring him here to question on the spot. If it is really as you have claimed, the Pingxi Prefecture Martial Arts Academy shall ban him forever. Not only that, I will also report to the prefecture governor and get to the bottom of this!"
"That clan has fallen into a disaster over this period of time and he has gone mad a few days ago so he didn't participate in the martial arts examination today!" Yan Liqiang answered.
Shi Changfeng was clearly taken aback while Shen Hongbing who was at the side seemed to have recalled something and leaned over to softly whisper something into Shi Changfeng's ear. It was only then, the expression on Shi Changfeng's face immediately relaxed while he quelled his anger. "This must be what they call divine retribution and just punishment. This is the end of these despicable people. You don't need to be concerned about them, just do well today!"
Shen Hongbing looked at Yan Liqiang and gave him a nod. "Go have a rest at the side. You'll be joining the competition of the shortlisted one hundred candidates later!"
Yan Liqiang cupped his fist in salute towards Shi Changfeng and Shen Hongbing before retreating to take a rest in the audience area that was not too far from where they were, under the lead of the academy bureaucrat by his side.
There were already two other young men resting in the audience area. Both of them appeared to be around the age of sixteen or seventeen years old. One of them had a tanned and strongly built figure while the other looked a little like a disciple from a large clan. He was dressed in tastefully chosen training robes and was properly sitting upright. These two young men were those who had excelled and made it into top three along with Hong Tao during the preliminary exam so they had the privilege of skipping the first few rounds of fighting today. If there weren't any accidents or dark horses, they would probably also be in the top three in this martial arts exam.
When the two young men saw Yan Liqiang come over, the gaze of their eyes landed on him almost at the same time as the expressions on both of their faces brimmed with interest.
"How do you do? I'm Shi Dafeng, from Langu Town…" That tanned and strongly built youth was the first to stand up and greet Yan Liqiang.
"I'm Shen Teng…" The youth that looked like a disciple of a large clan at the side also stood up and nodded at Yan Liqiang.
"Headmaster Shen is Shen Teng's uncle…" Shi Dafeng grinned at the side, showing off his pearly whites as he supplemented some information on Shen Teng.
Shen Teng glared at him and snorted. "I got into the top three by relying on my strength and winning the martial arts competition in the arena. This has nothing to do with my uncle at all!"
Shi Dafeng laughed heartily and didn't seem to mind.
Yan Liqiang smiled and then cupped his fist in greetings towards the two of them. "I am Yan Liqiang from Liuhe Town. I'll have to ask both of you for guidance for today's exam!"
"I've heard of you in the past, but I didn't expect you to be this awesome!" Shi Dafeng was completely outspoken as he exclaimed without a care. "I have a relative in Liuhe Town, my younger male cousin. When I visited there with my father, I heard from my cousin that Blacksmith Yan of Liuhe Town has a very impressive son and that no other youths in the town can rival him. That person that he spoke of must have been you!"
"My father is indeed a blacksmith. I am only a little more diligent than the rest. Nothing really that impressive!"
"That's enough. No need to be modest. Unimpressive individuals wouldn't be sitting here!" Shi Dafeng wasn't being modest at all. He gestured for Yan Liqiang to take a seat then sized him up again another two times. "I have only met that Hong Tao from before twice. To be honest, I don't like that fellow in the slightest. I can't shake off the feeling that the guy is shady. Even if he sat in front of you, he'd look at you out of the corner of his eyes. You can tell that he's nothing good with just a glance. Little did I expect the Hong Clan to really reap what they sow in the end and got wiped out by King Cobra, though I think King Cobra has indeed done a good deed…"
"This must be their karma!" Yan Liqiang said calmly.
"Indeed. Just like what my father has always said, heaven isn't blind…"
"That King Cobra isn't a good person either!" In the end, the nature of his youth still prevailed. Shen Teng couldn't help but speak up when heard Yan Liqiang and Shi Dafeng's conversation from the side. "He isn't doing a good deed in killing the people from Hong Clan but exacting his revenge. It's a dog eat dog world. A person like him should be executed on the spot. He's nothing but a calamity if left in this world…"
"Brother Shen is right. Someone like King Cobra should be killed!"
While the three of them chatted, the competitions in each arena were like raging wildfires. After merely two hours later, apart from Yan Liqiang and the other two, the other best ninety-seven young men who participated in this exam were also selected.
The final part of the competition was carried out in Arena A. The ninety-seven youths all gathered around; Yan Liqiang, Shi Dafeng and Shen Teng left the resting area to join the crowd of those young men and stood in front. Everyone's number plates were taken away and once again put in a number-picking wooden box.
After a short moment, the final competition commenced.
Under everyone's gaze, two numbers were pulled out for the first of the finals.
"B, number 25, Zhang Tianhua and D, number 91, Hu Yihu…"
Following the names that the academy bureaucrat had read out, two youths walked out of the crowd of a hundred people and went up the arena...