Sure, dark horses arose occasionally in martial bouts. There were examples of peak emperor realm cultivators defeating great emperors. The rarity didn't make it impossible. There were always some unique geniuses that conquered in the face of adversity. Some even performed reverse sweeps.
However, such occurrences were fairly rare as a whole. Whenever an instance of this did occur, it would be widely publicized as a story to encourage the weak. They were usually labeled miracles, and rightly so.
Pill King Hui was a master of many subjects, but he was no miracle-maker when it came to martial dao. More importantly, Emperor Peerless wasn't a great emperor fresh into his power. His fame was long-standing and well documented. The great emperor distinguished himself even amongst his peers. How could a man who led the wandering cultivator community be so easily defeated?
Pill King Hui had perhaps entertained delusions of grandeur before the fight began. But when he engaged in combat against the great emperor, he sadly realized his deluded naivete. They were not on the same level.
Emperor Shura had given him an Imperial Advent Defense Talisman and Onslaught Talisman as temporary boosts to his strength. But in the heat of the fight, he hesitated. The talismans he had received were extremely precious. He'd planned on using them, but was there really a need to?
Given the state of things, he could maybe last two hours more even with them. Unfortunately, the time limit for these rounds was four hours. Even if he wanted to struggle towards a tie, he had to last two more hours. Could he hold out for that long?
His body wasn't necessarily even able to maintain both talismans at the same time. Moreover, they only lasted two hours each. He had absolutely nothing for the two remaining hours. Was he going to struggle against a thousand-year great emperor with ninth level emperor realm?
That was simply absurd!
Pill King Hui was reasonably talented, but he had no supernatural gifts with martial dao. He didn't have the capital to fight someone so much stronger than him. He didn't have any confidence for doing so against Emperor Peerless especially.
Emperor Shura saw it too. Before Emperor Peerless, the moderately capable Pill King Hui had no chance whatsoever. It was a luxury of luxuries to hope for four hours of resistance, unless the pill king had some trump card up his sleeve.
The battle yet continued.
Though Emperor Peerless didn't go for the throat right away, he nevertheless attacked with tremendous ferocity. His emperor domain took the initiative immediately, and within several exchanges, he had full control of the flow of battle. The emperor's display of strength comforted the four monarchs a little and astounded them as well.
"As expected of a great emperor! Pill King Hui is like a child before him."
"How could it be any other way? It's always been said that Emperor Peerless is one of the forerunners of the wandering cultivators. I didn't expect his cultivation to be this impenetrable. He hasn't used any of his signature moves yet, but I don't think he's very much worse than Emperor Peafowl himself."
Emperor Peafowl was one of the strongest great emperors in the Upper Eight Regions. If Emperor Peerless was comparable to him, that made the wandering emperor's abilities notable indeed.
"Emperor Peerless can definitely win this one," confirmed Plumscore Monarch.
"Yes. If Emperor Peerless wins this one, then we will be tied once more. Four wins, four losses, four ties," smiled Chronobalance Monarch.
Wildfox Monarch smiled wryly. "I'm not worried at all about Emperor Peerless, but I'm not sure about the three other rounds. Even Brother Cloudsoar can't guarantee he'll win his bout. As amazing of a genius as young lord Zhen is, against Emperor Shura, he'll still…"
He cut off mid-sentence. The score was even, but things weren't looking good for Sacred Peafowl Mountain.
"Let's not be too down," said Chronobalance. "Young lord Zhen is very composed. Perhaps he has a plan up his sleeve… a few unplayed aces, maybe? Or what if Miss Huang'er defeats Li Jiancheng? Everything is possible in the world of martial dao!"
Miss Huang'er, defeat Li Jiancheng?
Wildfox Monarch glanced between the two in puzzlement. He couldn't see how the girl had the ability to defeat Shura's top disciple. He was uncertain if young lord Zhen himself would be able to, in fact.
Not that they were intentionally belittling him, but the young lord had obtained only eighth in the Ranking of Young Lords. Li Jiancheng had ranked first! That in itself wasn't a decider, but young lord Zhen was much younger than Li Jiancheng as well. They hadn't made their way in the world for nearly the same amount of time. It was quite likely that young lord Zhen wasn't as mature in martial dao as Shura's young lord.
Over at the opposing side, Li Jiancheng's eyebrows were knotted into a frown. "Master, didn't you give two Imperial Advent talismans to Pill King Hui? Why isn't he using them?"
Emperor Shura smiled faintly, but said nothing. He understood what the pill king was thinking. If there was no victory to be had regardless, then the man was probably reluctant to use the talismans so wastefully.
A few moments more scarcely passed before Pill King Hui proclaimed loudly, "Hold on, Emperor Peerless. I'm not as skilled as you. I admit defeat!"
The pill king had enough self-awareness to know that he would die in another fifteen minutes if the fight continued. Emperor Peerless showed no signs of pulling his punches. He could even feel the older man's murderous intent. If not for the fact that the emperor cared about his reputation, he would have used his signature moves immediately to cut the pill king down on the spot. But that was no longer possible, given the surrender.
"Turning tail and running, hmm? Did Emperor Shura tell you to do that? Or maybe it was Emperor Pillzenith?" Emperor Peerless smiled coldly. He'd heard Jiang Chen say that Pill King Hui and Ce were exceptionally likely to be Emperor Pillzenith's proteges, sent to assist Emperor Shura. The emperor spared no niceties for the subordinates of his mortal enemy.
Pill King Hui gasped for breath. His hair was caked with sweat, and he was in quite bad shape. He felt like he'd just survived a brush with death. Not daring to fire back any witty retorts at Emperor Peerless's mockery, he made a straightforward cupped fist salute in surrender.
Emperor Peerless no longer had an outlet to vent his frustration. Still, he was a man who cared about decorum. He wasn't going to hunt a man down after his opponent's voluntary retreat. He represented Sacred Peafowl Mountain, and had to mind his manners in light of his faction.
"The tenth round goes to Sacred Peafowl Mountain's Emperor Peerless," announced Emperor Petalpluck.
Emperor Peerless nodded. His victory today was matter-of-fact; there was nothing worth celebrating. A faint smile was the extent of his expression. He stepped off the arena without further ceremony.
"I succeeded, young lord. Too bad I couldn't cut him down on the spot." Emperor Peerless sounded mildly displeased about allowing his opponent the chance to surrender.
Jiang Chen didn't mind, though. "Winning in the first martial dao round will help morale. Thank you for your valuable contribution, Old Brother Mo."
The 'help' to morale was just a consolation prize at best. Real strength was necessary in the martial dao arena. No matter how high morale was, it wouldn't matter without sufficient strength to match.
Still, Cloudsoar felt a bit more confidence creep into his heart. "Pill King Hui seems to be a bit stronger than Pill King Ce," he heard Jiang Chen say to him. "Maybe they thought we would send you out first. Your second opponent has already been decided. It's the other pill king."
"Don't worry, young lord," Cloudsoar nodded. "I will at least tie this round. Of course, I will also try my best to win."
The monarch didn't dare boast about ensuring victory. After all, nobody knew what Pill King Ce had up his sleeve either. It was better to maintain a confident tie, then attempt to break through a standstill after that was assured. Having decided on his strategy, Cloudsoar Monarch strode toward the arena with large steps.
"Eleventh round, Sacred Peafowl Mountain's Cloudsoar Monarch versus the Shura Retreat's Pill King Ce!" declared Emperor Petalpluck.
Cloudsoar Monarch had some supporters amongst the vassals. He had been at Emperor Peafowl's side for a very long time, a kind of steward at Sacred Peafowl Mountain. Many visiting vassals had gone through him on their visits to Emperor Peafowl. Therefore, it was natural for them to harbor a healthy amount of respect for him. Plenty of passionate applause could be heard as he made his way forward. This gave him extra confidence.
"Sacred Peafowl Mountain has really run out of talent, huh? They're sending out someone like you?" Pill King Ce looked over his opponent derisively, his expression snide.
Cloudsoar was a worldly veteran, and easily saw through his opponent's provocative ruse. "I'm one of Sacred Peafowl Mountain's four monarchs," he sneered back. "It's my right and responsibility to represent my faction here. On the contrary, I'd like to know where you crawled out from, my questionable opponent!"
"Hmph. Right and responsibility, eh? Then let me show you how weak you four monarchs really are!" Though Pill King Ce was weaker than Pill King Hui, he was no slouch at psychological warfare.