Beneath the arena, Li Jiancheng flipped back onto his feet. Bedraggled, his face was beet red with indignation. Anger, humiliation and disbelief further colored his eyes.
On the arena, Huang'er lifted Li Jiancheng's spear with a gust of wind and tossed it in front of the young lord. The impact kicked up a small poof of dust.
Li Jiancheng stared as his enemy scornfully tossed back his pride and joy. He felt like a beggar who'd been given a few coins in mock charity. The young lord actually felt like committing suicide at that moment. Humiliation filled his chest to the brim.
"The twelfth round goes to Miss Huang'er of Sacred Peafowl Mountain!" Even Emperor Petalpluck was stunned for a moment before he finally remembered that he was the judge.
Emperor Shura felt like his chest had been struck by a sledgehammer. His complexion took on an ugly bent. When he looked at the defeated and disheartened Li Jiancheng on the ground again, frustration brimmed to the fore. He still failed to be any good in the end!
Even Emperor Vastsea and Emperor Skysplitter standing behind Emperor Shura looked on with shock and disbelief. They couldn't accept this drastic turn of events at all. Why had Li Jiancheng lost? How had he lost for seemingly no reason?
That girl and her whip hadn't look like anything special at all. All she did was twist and turn it to annoy from all directions. Was it really as difficult to defend as Li Jiancheng had made it appear? They almost thought that the disciple had thrown the round.
"Brother, something's not right about this." When Emperor Vastsea finally returned to himself, he stepped forwards and whispered to Emperor Shura.
Rage frothed and boiled within Emperor Shura. He was so enraged that he wanted to send Li Jiancheng flying with as harsh a slap he could manage. However, he kept reminding himself to stay calm. This was exactly the moment when his character was tested. If he lost his cool and scolded Li Jiancheng harshly, Shura Retreat's morale would undoubtedly drop and cause the situation to deteriorate further.
He waved a hand and stopped Emperor Vastsea from speaking further. He ordered, "Go help Jiancheng and bring him back here. Victory and loss is commonplace in the martial dao world. Jiancheng has always been arrogant, so maybe this loss will be a good lesson and a wake up call for him."
It was pure sophistry. Emperor Shura was depressed enough that he wanted to rampage crazily, but he had to force himself to say words he didn't mean anyways.
Li Jiancheng wasn't actually too badly injured. He could've walked back on his own. However, the loss was so wounding that he felt unable to face his master.
"Your disciple is useless. Please punish your disciple, master." Li Jiancheng offered despondently.
Emperor Shura was angry that Li Jiancheng had failed to meet his expectations. He sighed. "Jiancheng oh Jiancheng, you didn't lose because you were less skillful than your opponent. You lost because of underestimation in the end."
Emperor Shura was a stubborn man. Any excuse for Jiancheng's loss, other than a weaker cultivation level, would do. The great emperor would save face for Shura Retreat with any plausible reason whatsoever. Frankly speaking, he knew better than anyone that Li Jiancheng had underestimated his opponent at the beginning, but that the disciple had discarded the mindset quickly after receiving that girl's first strike. The subsequent spear strike was clear indication that Li Jiancheng had fought at full strength. However, neither Emperor Shura nor Li Jiancheng had thought that Huang'er would be able to destroy the near perfect spear strike as easily as she had.
"Master, I… I find it really hard to accept this defeat!" Li Jiancheng complained. He still didn't know how he had lost the fight. Why had his Shura Divine Spear been so easily caught by his opponent's whip? The whip seemed to have ignored the very laws of space itself and wrapped itself around his spear and body out of nowhere. Everything had been indescribably strange.
"Brother, even I think that Jiancheng's loss is surprising. We underestimated that woman's cultivation. She might even be more powerful than Jiancheng. However, there still has to be another reason why she managed to defeat Jiancheng so easily." This time, it was Emperor Skysplitter who spoke up. As a great emperor, his depth of thought was deeper than others.
"He's right, master. It's as if that whip appeared out of nowhere and wrapped itself around me. Also, it felt charged with electricity. It was impossible to defend myself at all." Li Jiancheng voiced his frustrations. He felt like the whip was the main reason he lost, not Huang'er.
Suddenly, Pill King Hui broke his silence with a raised eyebrow. "That whip is no ordinary weapon. Jiancheng, I believe you actually deserve that loss."
Li Jiancheng was unhappy to hear this. "What do you mean I deserve the loss? I wouldn't be afraid of her at all if we'd fought without using weapons."
He was still confident in his own strength.
"You still would've lost to her even if you fought her without weapons." Pill King Hui's tone was direct. "Do you know where her whip comes from? Do you know the cause behind your defeat?"
"What are you trying to say, Pill King Hui? Whose side are you on?" Li Jiancheng said unhappily.
"Hmph! If I was on their side, this competition would've ended already. Shura Retreat would've lost a long while ago." Pill King Hui was clearly displeased with Li Jiancheng's comment. He was relaying the truth. Not only had Emperor Shura and Li Jiancheng fail to contribute much during the matches, Emperor Shura himself hadn't managed to take a single victory thus far. For a great emperor plotting to seize power from another party, there was nothing more humiliating than this.
"Pill King Hui, where is that whip from?" Emperor Shura asked with astonishment. He didn't think that the pill king would know of its origin.
Pill King Hui nodded slowly. "I've read about it in an ancient scripture before. In the ancient times, there was an amazing bamboo called the Astral Turquoise Bamboo, or the Supple Lightning Bamboo. This bamboo can be tough, flexible, long or short. When it hits an enemy, it paralyzes them as if they had been electrocuted."
"What? That bamboo is an ancient divine object?" Emperor Shura's expression turned ugly. "Who is that girl to possess an ancient divine object like that?"
"That woman probably hails from an extraordinary background. There sure are a lot of concealed talents in Sacred Peafowl Mountain." Pill King Hui hadn't come by this knowledge himself. He was simply repeating everything Emperor Pillzenith had told him via transmission. Emperor Pillzenith was supposed to contact Emperor Shura directly, but the latter's consecutive losses made the former realize that Emperor Shura was an utterly unreliable cooperator. Disappointed, Emperor Pillzenith had sent the information to his own man instead.
Pill King Hui and Pill King Ce were his men through and through. He had raised and promoted them to their current standing. He'd sent them to Shura Retreat to aid Emperor Shura seize power from Sacred Peafowl Mountain and establish themselves in Veluriyam Capital. Emperor Pillzenith was an incredibly ambitious man, and his ultimate objective was to slowly take control of Veluriyam Capital as his men gained influence and power.
"Is an ancient divine object really this scary?" Emperor Vastsea looked a little confused. "My foundation is average, but it's not like I'm completely ignorant of the existence of these items. That fight though…"
"Of course, the Astral Turquoise Bamboo isn't the main reason behind Li Jiancheng's defeat. The biggest reason Li Jiancheng lost lies in his failure to see through the true essence of his opponent's martial dao."
"Oh?" Everyone sounded surprised when they heard this. Since when did Pill King Hui become so knowledgeable? He sounded like he knew the secrets of his opponent's martial dao.
"Pill King Hui, please enlighten us."
Pill King Hui nodded. "Simply put, it is a spatial dao. The girl was using an extremely high level space manipulation technique when she fought Li Jiancheng. Li Jiancheng thought that the whip appeared around his body and his weapon out of nowhere, but in reality she was just manipulating space to instantaneously have her weapon move wherever she wished. That's why her attacks were so bizarre."
"What? Spatial manipulation? Instantaneous movement?"
"That's right. This technique prevents you from glimpsing her attack trajectory. Since you didn't have a path to refer to, it is only natural that you were unable to predict her attacks. You wouldn't even be on guard until too late." Pill King Hui explained everything clearly.
Li Jiancheng was completely stunned. "I know a bit of space myself, but why didn't I sense any spatial manipulation at all during the battle, much less instantaneous movements?"
"Hehe. That means your so-called knowledge is superficial at best. That is why you don't understand your opponent's spatial dao at all." Pill King Hui replied indifferently.
Li Jiancheng opened his mouth but found himself speechless. Although Shura Retreat wasn't completely lacking in this area, their knowledge was indeed so superficial that they could only speak about it in general terms.
Even Emperor Shura himself couldn't find a way to refute Pill King Hui's statement because he wasn't versed in this particular dao. That being said, this dao wasn't completely invincible. For example, an expert could absolutely sense the changes in space with their powerful instinct. They could attack and defend accordingly no matter where the attacks came from.
Long story short, Li Jiancheng was just inferior to his enemy. If his cultivation and level of consciousness were stronger than his enemy's, he could've instinctively dodged out of the way even if he didn't understand her technique.
"Jiancheng, you must remember Pill King Hui's advice and learn from your mistake. Considering that girl's temperament, if you had attacked her with everything you got from the beginning, she may not have had the chance to retaliate against you. In the end, you are your own problem."
Emperor Shura didn't want to think about Li Jiancheng any longer. A loss was a loss. The great emperor had to face reality no matter how much he disliked it.
Li Jiancheng's loss meant that their earlier advantage was completely gone. This final round would literally decide everything. They were teetering on the cliff's edge and couldn't back down. If he couldn't claim a victory during this final round, Shura Retreat would be the ultimate loser of the competition. This sudden, dramatic change depressed everyone in Shura Retreat.
They never imagined that things would spiral down to such a state. Their score had become four wins, three draws and five losses after Li Jiancheng's loss. This rise and fall in charged emotion was simply too much.