Ziju Min mused silently. He hadn’t paid that much attention to Yan Qingsang and only remembered the young man as part of the package deal from when Jiang Chen joined the sacred land.
He didn’t look down on the young man, but given Yan Qingsang’s level of talent and fame, it’d be close to impossible for him to gain one of the remaining four spots.
But Yan Qingsang had surprised Ziju Min in ascending to empyrean realm. “Qingsang, your past self would have no chance of participating in the sword competition. Even if you managed to get in, you’d end up being everyone’s punching bag.”
“Yes,” admitted Yan Qingsang. Before meeting Jiang Chen, he wouldn’t even be able to secure a spot in House Yan, let alone in the sacred land. Now, however, he was a changed man.
He may not be experienced enough compared to his peers in the sacred land, but he was more than competent enough.
“It’s remarkable that you’ve reached empyrean realm already. Your potential in martial dao is better than I expected. You have my support. I’ll at least give you a fair chance to fight for a spot.” By that, he meant a preliminary competition within the sacred land.
Ziju Min kept his promise and was a man of action. He made the arrangements immediately after giving Yan Qingsang his word.
Yan Qingsang was like a brother to Jiang Chen. Moreover, he’d ascended to empyrean realm, abruptly highlighting him amongst the younger generation. Therefore, it made sense that he’d be a strong contender for a spot, if not a sure winner.
More than a dozen geniuses were qualified to fight for the four spots. A preliminary competition was thus held.
Yan Qingsang was determined to prove himself. He fought with reckless abandon, which gave him an edge in the competition. Though it came down to the wire, he won two consecutive matches, securing one of the remaining spots.
The ten participants had been selected.
According to the rules, each faction was to submit their list of participants seven days before the sword competition. Four days later, every genius was required to go to the organizer and have their identity verified. Only after that could the organizer schedule the matches and made the necessary preparations according to the number of participants.
The sword competition was a rare event. Each divine nation put great emphasis on their respective ones. It was a precursor for the geniuses’ competition a few years later, which was open to all geniuses from the Ten Divine Nations. The participants would naturally be those who outperformed their peers in each nation’s competition.
Through the selection process, many geniuses would shoot to fame, and many others would fall into obscurity.
“Elder Ziju, has Shao Yuan been cultivating by the Eternal River?” the first prime asked with earnest concern.
Ziju Min nodded. “He has, and it’s been a long time. I believe he must have made great progress.”
The first prime sighed. “A few days ago, Patriarch Xiaoyao from House Xiahou came to boast about Xiahou Zong’s unparalleled talent. A fight between him and Shao Yuan is inevitable. This seat still worries about the outcome.”
Ziju Min was troubled as well. He’d always been confident in Jiang Chen, but this time was different.
Xiahou Zong stood out too much in Eternal Divine Nation. While Shao Yuan had proven himself in the trial of Nine Winding Caves, there was still a large gap between the two.
Shao Yuan had only ascended to empyrean realm a short while ago. He could at most reach second level empyrean during this short period of time. He wouldn’t fare well against an intermediate empyrean genius like Xiahou Zong.
“House Xiahou is filled with fame-seekers. Xiahou Zong is talented, but too arrogant for his own good. Perhaps that will be Shao Yuan’s only chance.”
The first prime nodded. “The list has been submitted. The participants have to be verified tomorrow. Shao Yuan won’t forget to show up, will he?”
“He knows the rules,” boomed Ziju Min. “It’ll be unacceptable for him to require our reminder.”
If Shao Yuan didn’t come out in time for the verification after they submitted the list, his spot would go to waste, and the sacred land would be subjected to mockery.
“Let’s wait. He’ll show up before our departure tomorrow.” Ziju Min didn’t sound that certain.
Early the next morning, the geniuses attending the competition showed up at the meeting spot. Ziju Min was getting anxious as Shao Yuan was still absent.
They would’ve gone to notify Jiang Chen if they could, but they knew he wouldn’t be late without a good reason. There was only one explanation: he was unable to leave because of cultivation.
The first prime was a little frustrated. “Elder Ziju, is Shao Yuan still not here?”
The young geniuses exchanged a look and realized that they were one man short. “Shao Yuan is missing, isn’t he?” one of them pointed out sarcastically. “Who does he think he is? Are we going to wait for him at time like this?”
“Agreed. He doesn’t consider the group at all.”
Yan Qingsang’s eyes twitched, but he remained silent. He didn’t want to waste his breath arguing with these people. He knew better than anyone what the competition meant to Jiang Chen. His brother would never back down now. He would come.
“We can’t wait any longer, First Prime. What if we’re late to the verification? We’re all going to be affected.”
It was rather Gan Ning who huffed. “Does the Eternal Sacred Land not have the privilege to be a little late? What are you lot yammering about?”
Upset, the genius scoffed and retorted, “If I remember right, Gan Ning, you have beef with Shao Yuan, didn’t you? Why are you defending him now? Have you been beaten into submission?”
“I’m just telling the truth,” Gan Ning responded indifferently.
As they were arguing, Ziju Min’s eyes flicked to the north. A ray of light streaked toward them like a shooting star, its speed so quick it couldn’t be caught by the human eye.
A figure landed before them in the blink of an eye. It was Jiang Chen.
“Three primes, Elder Ziju, I’ve been too focused on cultivating these days and lost track of time. I apologize for almost forgetting this important task.”
The first prime’s expression brightened. She smiled. “We were worried that you’d gotten into an accident and wouldn’t able to go to the verification. This is your opportunity to make a name for yourself and win the girl. What would you say the odds of you winning are, Shao Yuan?”
“Ninety percent.” Jiang Chen wasn’t exaggerating. He was confident that he could defeat Xiahou Zong. He’d reached fourth level, entering intermediate empyrean realm.
Jiang Chen didn’t know exactly what level Xiahou Zong was at, but he was sure the man hadn’t reached advanced empyrean realm. As long as that was the case, Jiang Chen was confident that he’d be able to defeat Xiahou Zong.
His confidence bothered, rather than appealed to, the young geniuses.
It was the first time the Five Great Gentlemen made an appearance together. Aside from Gan Ning, none of them had fought Jiang Chen themselves. They believed that the fight had only ended in a tie either because Gan Ning had pulled his punches, or he was just that much of a piece of trash.
The other four didn’t think they were any inferior to Shao Yuan. In fact, they believed they far surpassed Shao Yuan in martial dao. They wouldn’t let Shao Yuan steal their thunder in the sword competition.
Jiang Chen noticed their hostility, but he didn’t react and put it out of his mind. His goal wasn’t to triumph over the other young geniuses, but to go after Xiahou Zong and take Huang’er back in an open manner. Otherwise he wouldn’t even be interested in attending the competition at all.
“Alright, we’re all here now. Let’s depart!” The first prime’s declaration prompted the group into traveling towards the capital.
Since the sword competition had been organized by the imperial family, it was naturally held in the capital, not too far from the sacred land. Jiang Chen chatted with Yan Qingsang along the way, his gait relaxed, ignoring the hostile looks cast his way.
He’d avenged the sacred land by defeating Shi Xuan at the Skymender Festival, but he knew that not everyone here would be thankful to him.
On the contrary, his rise obstructed other geniuses’ path to success. There was no telling how many people had come to resent him in secret.
The group soon reached the location designated by the imperial family. The other factions were already there. Because of the delay caused by Jiang Chen, the Eternal Sacred Land was the last to arrive.