With Qin Wushuang’s protection, Miao Zhongxia did not encounter any threats while he was getting his own jade plates. Soon, he found his seventh jade plate.
After they left this place, Qin Wushuang made a promise with Miao Zhongxia to spread the information about the ambush to everyone. When they met the other Stargaze disciples, they would warn them to prevent them from suffering a great loss.
Since Qin Wushuang had finished collecting the jade plates, he no longer had any burdens. Thus, he was much more efficient in spreading the information than Miao Zhongxia.
Especially at night time, they needed to stay alert if that person intended to harm them. As per the rules, whoever attacked their enemies would influence the overall grade of that country.
Thus, something like the sneak attack was not honorable behaviour and had rarely occurred during the preliminary round.
However, Qin Wushuang had been the target of such an occasion. From his estimation, people of the Vermillion Empire would not be this boring and had no motive.
For sure, the biggest suspect would be the Heavenly Lake Empire and even the Archaic Mysteries Sect.
Before the sky had darkened, Qin Wushuang arrived at the border to file a complaint to the three leaders.
Of course, he knew that such complaints would not work. After all, he had no evidence and did not even know who had made the move.
When he was returning to the exam zone, coincidentally, Qin Wushuang met Senior Brother Wei Yi. His expression seemed unhappy. When he saw Qin Wushuang, he immediately greeted him.
"Junior Brother Qin, how are you doing?"
"I’ve already finished collecting the jade plates, Senior Brother Wei, how about you?"
Wei Yi said: "I also just finished. I heard our colleagues saying that some people had viciously attacked you?"
"Yes." Instantly, Qin Wushuang explained what had happened at the cliff in detail.
Apparently, Wei Yi was feeling annoyed because of this matter. After hearing Qin Wushuang’s words, he nodded: "Since we’ve already finished collecting the jade plates, I think I know his intention. Most likely, this person is not only trying to stop you from getting the jade plates, he also wanted to murder you."
"Senior Brother Wei, who do you think he could be?"
Wei Yi shook his head: "Among the opponents, there are only three people that have the skills to ambush you. The Archaic Mysteries has one, and the Dragon and Tiger Sect have two. The other opponents may have the intention, but not the guts nor the power to do it. Thus, most likely, that person is targeting us."
"You also met him?" Qin Wushuang asked curiously.
Wei Yi shook his head: "I am luckier than you. He has not yet made a move on me. However, since that person had the time to deal with you, he would have already finished collecting the jade plates. I am worried that since he could not deal us, he would target our friends from the Stargaze. Even if he did not kill them, he could harass them to prevent them from finding the jade plates…"
With a stern expression, Qin Wushuang nodded: "Yes, we must lookout for him. How about this, Senior Brother Wei Yi, we should go in two directions in search of our other colleagues. It will be like the mantis stalking the cicada, unaware of the oriole behind. Even if that person wanted to make a move, he must beware of biting his own feet. He would not dare to make a move."
Wei Yi sighed: "We can only use such a method. We are in the light and he is in the dark. However, Junior Brother Qin, I feel that Luo Guiyun of the Archaic Mysteries is the most suspicious. For this person, regardless of which one of us met him, we must follow him and dog him until the end of the competition. What do you say?"
A trace of cold light flashed across Qin Wushuang’s eyes as he agreed: "Ok, Luo Guiyun…"
Qin Wushuang slowly sp
oke this name. He knew that this Luo Guiyun was the First disciple to Gao Yue, the head of the Archaic Mysteries sect. He was the strongest among the younger generation in the Heavenly Lake Empire. He also had the Natural Spiritual Roots, was slightly older than Wei Yi and had a much more consolidated level than him.
Regardless of this Friendly Competition or other future competitions, this person would be destined to be their greatest enemy. Qin Wushuang calculated inwardly.
He went into the other direction with Wei Yi and started to patrol within the three hundred miles of testing ground. Although this method was somewhat stupid, it was the only they could do at the present.
Fortunately, no accidents happened that night.
Under Qin Wushuang and Wei Yi’s protection, Zhou Fu, Zhao Muzhi and the others did not meet with any surprises while they searched for their jade plates. When the third day was coming to a close, these two also collected all the jade plates one after another.
With three sharp whistles, it marked the end of the preliminary round. Zhou Fu and Zhao Muzhi had become another two perfect scorers of the Stargaze Palace.
Next, Deng Bohu and Miao Zhongxia had each acquired nine and eight plates. Without a doubt, these two would qualify.
After all the participants had come out, all of them handed in their jade plates and waited for the scores to be tallied.
However, the ranking of the grade would be announced the next morning.
All the participants that were acquainted with each other gathered together and talked about their gains and losses.
In the early next morning, everyone gathered outside the major platform outside the Archaic Mysteries Sect to wait for the announcement on the final results. To enter the semi-final would not only be an act of glory, they would also receive rich rewards later on.
Especially those smaller sects outside the big three, although they knew they didn’t have a great chance to enter the semi-final, they were still carrying some hope.
If by luck, one of their disciples entered the semi-final, their sect would definitely get good luck and enter the stage with everyone. It would be extremely beneficial to the future growth of the sect.
Again, the three leaders walked out together. From their expression, it seemed the result of this preliminary round held no suspense.
Indeed, when the list was put out, the three empires had equally divided the eight spots among themselves from the twenty-four spots available in the semi-final. Not one less, and not one more.
One did not know whether it was a coincidence or if they had done it intentionally. It was similar to the past preliminary rounds where there were no surprises regarding the division of the spots.
This way, at least in this round, the three empires did not establish any wins or losses for the moment.
Regarding the side of the Stargaze Palace, without a doubt, Wei Yi and Qin Wushuang were the leaders. Both Zhou Fu and Zhao Muzhi had also performed well and gotten perfect scores. Then, it was Deng Bohu and Miao Zhongxia. The seventh place was Lu Shaonan, the second disciple in the line of the Palace Master.
There was a tie in the eighth place. From the line of the Head Palace Master and the Third Palace Master, Huang Chaoyang and Lv Teng had gotten the same marks.
This time, strangely, Tan Zhongchi did not argue as he let Huang Chaoyang go up and persuaded Lü Teng to withdraw.
Lü Teng also knew that from the past rules, if there was a tie, it would depend on the ranking of of the Palaces and his own ranking. And he had ranked ninth in the last Core Ranking competition that was below Huang Chaoyang. Thus, regardless of reasoning or logic, he should withdraw. Although he was competitive, he had no complaints and followed the rules.
This way, all eight semi-final contestants of the Great Luo had emerged.
After a day of rest, tomorrow would be the start of the semi-final.
When the list was set, regardless of personal gains and losses, it was all in the past. Now, everyone would focus their attention on the upcoming semi-final. They had completely pushed their personal gains and losses to the back of their minds.
When they returned to their temporary residence, Zhuo Buqun gathered all the disciples and comforted those disciples that did not manage to enter the semi-final and alsp gave out some words of encouragement.
He said: "Guys. This is a rare opportunity. The Great Luo has always achieved many good results during the Friendly Competitions. However, we have never achieved first place in a competition hosted by the Heavenly Lake Empire. To the extent that we have always placed last. This time, we have a chance!"
All the eyes of the disciples showed a trace of fanaticism. They watched Zhuo Buqun and waited for his next words.
"The Friendly Competition is not as simple as you are seeing it now. The situation behind it is connected to our benefits and gains. Most importantly, the rights to explore the Endless Eastern Sea is on the line!"
"Our Stargaze Palace is able to become the number one and holds supreme authority in the Great Luo Empire not because we took the Virtuous Cloud Mountain Range, but because we could always get some benefits from the vicennial exploration of the Endless Eastern Sea. These benefits has always been our great capital. To put it simply, how could the five Palace Masters stay ahead of others and enter the Advanced Stage? Did we just rely on our talents? Not entirely!"
There was a hint of enticement in Zhuo Buqun’s tone: "On the path of training, although talents and hard work is important, you must also never ignore fortuitous opportunities and chances. The five of us are able to stay ahead of others because we relied on the special fortuitous opportunities during the exploration of the Endless Eastern Sea."
Tan Zhongchi and Tian Zhixing also nodded to agree with Zhuo Buqun’s words.
"Although, in the past few hundred years, many seniors of the Stargaze had paid with their life for exploring the Endless Easter Sea. You could say it was a narrow escape. However, why are the Three Eastern Empires still going one after another to acquire more spots to explore the Endless Eastern Sea? They are pursuing this special fortuitous opportunities!"
There was a trace of sadness within Zhuo Buqun’s tone: "From my generation to your generation, how many decades have passed? How many Friendly Competition have passed? And now, how many Upper Sky warriors does the Stargaze Palace have? Where did those disciples in between the years go?"
When the disciples heard this question, a trace of coldness shone through their heart. Before, they had also pondered such questions. Not many of them were past the age of forty. And their teachers were close to two hundred years old. For sure, there were many generations in the middle. Where were those people? Although some of them had become Shakyamuni and Elders, wouldn’t it be impossible to have so few elite warriors in these many years?
"Perhaps, you’ve already guessed. Many generations of Stargaze disciples before you all participated in the Friendly Competition and went to explore the Endless Eastern Sea. However, within the past hundred of years, not one of them had returned…"
When Zhuo Buqun said that, there was a trace of a strange light in his eyes: "Now, this responsibility is about to fall on to you. Will you embrace the challenge, or withdraw from it? In this Friendly Competition, use your performance to tell us your answer. At the same time, tell the answers to your predecessors!"
It would be their decision to make. It would be an easy one.
If one chose to embrace the challenge, even if they were to win first place in this Friendly Competition and got the chance to explore the Endless Eastern Sea, they would face a life threatening situation.
If they chose to back out and lose the chance to explore the Endless East Sea, once the other two Empires had succeeded in the exploration and acquired the fortuitous opportunities, the Stargaze Palace would get left very far behind in the next generation. From that point, the entire Great Luo would always remain behind the other two Empires.
All the young people had realized that it was not a decision that only concerned their own future, it was a decision that would decide the fate of the entire sect, and even the entire nation!