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“What the hell? That’s it?”

“There’s no winner yet! Keep going!”

“Heh, neither of them can defeat the other, so there’s no need to keep fighting. It may look like a tie, but in reality, Gan Ning’s the loser.”

“That’s right. As one of the Five, he’ll be mocked for not being able to defeat someone who just joined the sacred land.”

“That’s unfair. Shao Yuan passed the evaluation by setting a new record. He’s been labelled as a top tier genius and is being raised as such.”

“So what? Shao Yuan’s only at peak great emperor while Gan Ning’s third level empyrean. There’s a great gap between their cultivations. That you have to admit.”

“Oh, easy for you to say. If you’re so great, go fight Shao Yuan yourself! Senior brother Gan Ning’s able to alternate between attacking and defending with ease due to his Water God’s Arm. Anyone weaker would’ve lost in no time to Shao Yuan’s ridiculous speed.”

The crowd held different opinions, but all of them had to admit the fight had been a very thrilling fight between young geniuses, if not the most thrilling.

Moreover, the fight was especially newsworthy, a clash between two masters of their fields. Even though it’d ended in a tie, the fight itself had been full of amazing and memorable moments.

“Senior brother Gan Ning,” Jiang Yi called out as he approached the stage, eyes shooting daggers at Jiang Chen on the other side. “That guy cheated! You didn’t give it your all, senior brother. Otherwise, he wouldn’t still be standing upright with that smug face of his.”

Gan Ning’s expression was calm. “Alright, that’s enough. Everyone should go back to their business.”

Jiang Yi didn’t want to let it go, but he didn’t dare disobey Gan Ning. He’d always listened to the senior brother’s every word.

“It’s a shame that Miss Ying isn’t avenged,” he muttered. “That brat got lucky.”

Gan Ning threw him a cool glance, but didn’t say a word.

Xiahou Ying wore a pitiful expression like she’d been horribly victimized. Jing Yi’s anger burned hotter seeing her face. He wanted nothing more than to fight Shao Yuan himself. However, he knew the extent of his own abilities. He could see from the earlier fight that he wouldn’t be able to get back at Shao Yuan for the humiliation.

Other than senior brother Gan Ning, none of them could rival Shao Yuan. They wouldn’t be avenging their honor in a duel, they’d be asking for humiliation.

“It’s all my fault, senior brother Gan Ning. I’ve made things difficult for you.” Xiahou Ying was clever enough to stir up trouble without a trace.

“Don’t say that, Miss Ying,” Jing Yi said angrily. “Shao Yuan’s arrogant and rude! You’re not to blame here! Besides, you’re also the victim of his mockery. What an utterly crude man!”

“I can deal with a bit of insult,” she said quietly. “I’m just worried that senior brother Gan Ning’s reputation will be damaged because of me. Shao Yuan’s proven himself in the fight. People are going to target the senior brother from now on. He’s become Shao Yuan’s stepping stone.”

Gan Ning smiled faintly. “It’s common for fellow disciples to spar, Miss Ying. That’s the only way to identify our weaknesses and improve together. The general public’s comments should be taken with a grain of salt. Real geniuses won’t care about unfounded insults.”

He wasn’t going to let Xiahou Ying manipulate him anymore.

She looked blankly at Gan Ning after the response.

“Senior brother Gan Ning is quite magnamious,” Jing Yi bit out. “That guy should be grateful to you if he has even a lick of shame left in him.”

Gan Ning smiled and glanced at him. “Please see Miss Ying off for me if you have the time. I made some discoveries during the fight. I’m returning to my residence for closed door cultivation.” Like water, his dashing form slowly rippled away from sight.

Jing Yi gaped at where Gan Ning had been. He hadn’t expected his senior to leave without keeping Miss Ying as a guest or even walking her out. He looked at her a little helplessly. “Miss Ying, senior brother Gan Ning must be in a sour mood. Let me show you around this time.”

Xiahou Ying was likewise surprised by Gan Ning’s sudden change of attitude. She considered Gan Ning a figure of importance, but Jing Yi a mere sidekick. He didn’t deserve much consideration. 

She’d been polite to his previous fawning only as part of her act. Her calm evaporated after Gan Ning gave her the cold shoulder, painting Jing Yi in a much more annoying light.

“There’s no need,” she responded coolly. “I’ve already visited my teacher. I should get going too.” 

Jing Yi wasn’t shrewd enough to comprehend the sudden change in attitude. He looked at her helplessly, eyes following her as she walked away. He wanted to keep her, but didn’t know what to say. Frustration weighted heavily in his chest, making him irritable.

He glanced at the stage that Shao Yuan just so happened to be stepping down from. Jing Yi glared at him with a venomous glare.

Jiang Chen shook his head slightly in response to Jing Yi’s scowl. There was no need to waste time on a fool. He walked past Jing Yi, ignoring the latter’s furious gaze like he didn’t exist. The half smile tugging at Jiang Chen’s lips brimmed with derision.

It was an immense blow on Jing Yi’s pride, but there was nothing he could do other than grind his teeth with hatred.

Jiang Chen calmly walked away from the arena and returned to his residence, paying no attention to bystanders’ comments. He’d fought Gan Ning with only his speed and eye arts, and had refrained from utilizing the Confounding Puppets or other tricks in the end.

The fight boosted his martial dao considerably, giving him new inspiration. His eye techniques, especially, had been greatly polished.

He was intercepted by Yan Qingsang before reaching his residence. The Yan genius looked much more excited than he was.

“Brother, I hear that you had a duel with one of the Five, Gan Ning?” Yan Qingsang was devastated that he’d missed the fight.

He’d been cultivating, oblivious to the world. The fight had already ended when he rushed to the arena after the news reached him. He felt that he’d missed so much.

“What happened? Who won?” Yan Qingsang’s eyes glinted with curiosity.

Jiang Chen was exasperated by the passion for gossip. “It was a tie.”

They walked into Jiang Chen’s residence as they talked. Yan Qingsang paused when he saw the formations all around the abode. He clucked his tongue. “Did you set up the formations yourself? Or were they already here?”

“I set them up.”

“What?” Yan Qingsang widened his eyes. “You know formations as well? What don’t you know, brother?”

Jiang Chen chuckled. “I know a little more than you think.”

Yan Qingsang was rendered speechless. He muttered, “I hear that Gan Ning is a third level empyrean expert. How were you able to tie with him?”

“Is it really so surprising?” Jiang Chen shrugged. “Gan Ning didn’t use his full strength. He was pulling his punches.”

Yan Qingsang rolled his eyes. “I don’t believe that. I hear that Gan Ning challenged you because you mocked him. Is that right?”

“That’s about it. I mocked him for a reason though, and I even went easy on him.”

Yan Qingsang looked doubtful. “If that’s the case, why didn’t he give the fight his all?”

Jiang Chen shook his head. “If he did, he’d truly be hopeless.”

“How so?”

“That fight was nothing but a petty argument. There’s a sword competition next year and a grand competition three years later. As long as he hasn’t given up on all his ambitions, he won’t use up all his tricks.”

Realization dawned on Yan Qingsang. He nodded earnestly. “Right, right! How did I not think of that?”

Jiang Chen smiled. “That’s normal. You don’t have much expectations for the sword competition, do you?”

Yan Qingsang smiled awkwardly. “That’s right. I don’t expect much for it. My goal is more long term. I know I have a later start than the others and that I won’t be able to catch up anytime soon. But I’m young. There’s still a long way for me to go. He who laughs last, laughs best. I’m not going to focus on fighting for glory in the present.”

It was obvious that Yan Qingsang had become a more clear-headed individual.

Jiang Chen sighed. “You’re not going to focus on the present, while I must seize every moment every day.”

Yan Qingsang cackled. “Level with me. Did you try your best in that fight?”

Jiang Chen shook his head and responded with a simple “no.”

Yan Qingsang’s eyes lit up. “Neither of you did your best, which means that you are strong enough to go head to head with a third level empyrean expert. Once you ascend to empyrean realm, you may be able to challenge Xiahou Zong!”

He was very excited. What he currently looked forward the most was for Jiang Chen to defeat Xiahou Zong and take Huang’er back. He’d be over the moon then.

“You’re wrong,” said Jiang Chen.

“I’m wrong?” Yan Qingsang looked at him, baffled. “What am I wrong about?”

“I never intended to challenge Xiahou Zong,” Jiang Chen said in a frigid tone. “He’s not worthy of challenging. I will crush him and trample his corpse. In my eyes, he’s nothing more than a cockroach that’s a little harder to kill.”

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