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The two rounds of elimination matches were actually for the underdogs whom people had low expectations of. Yan Qingsang had been placed in that category.

After ascending to empyrean realm, he’d improved more than he expected with the training regime that Jiang Chen had designed. He crushed his foes and entered the next stage with no difficulty at all.

It was clear that Yan Qingsang had gone into the elimination matches angry, thinking himself dismissed by others. The selection process should be for young disciples from the second and third tier factions, not a member of the sacred land like him.

He didn’t know why he’d been singled out, but his instincts told him that it was on purpose.

His actions made his objection clear, even if he didn’t file a formal complaint.

By dealing with his two foes efficiently, he was declaring to the imperial family that he wasn’t the Yan Qingsang of yesteryear and should be taken seriously. It was an affront to require him to be part of the preliminary matches.

His dominating results surprised many people, especially those from House Yan. They remembered Yan Qingsang as a young man who would never amount to much. He wouldn’t have qualified to attend the competition even if he hadn’t left House Yan, let alone take one of the sacred land’s spots.

When he showed up, their first reaction was that he’d gained the spot through nepotism, but reality had proven them wrong!

The patriarch of House Yan stared at him with an impassive expression, masking the turbulence in his heart. Things seemed to be getting out of control. What had happened here? How did the hopeless Yan Qingsang suddenly achieve a breakthrough?

The list of a hundred and twenty-eight finalists were determined. The rest of the competition would simply be composed of one-on-one matches. There were rules in place favoring the top geniuses. Seed contestants wouldn’t be pitted against one another until the top sixteen.

Jiang Chen wasn’t one of them, so he might encounter anyone at anytime, including Xiahou Zong.

Matchmaking smiled upon him as he drew a genius from a second-tier faction on his first round, one at half-step empyrean. The youth was among one of the weakest in the competition.

“I am Qiu Ping from the Silvermoon Manor. I look forward to our exchange.” He sounded honorable, but sure didn’t act like it. He attacked before Jiang Chen even made a move, clearly hoping to catch his opponent off guard.

Not even those ten times stronger than Qiu Ping could sneak up on Jiang Chen or land a move. It was impossible for him to catch Jiang Chen off guard.

Jiang Chen’s battle spirit and determination were as resolute as a monolith once he stepped onto the stage. Qiu Ping was easily blocked before he could even get close.

Dislike flared for his opponent’s lack of integrity. If Qiu Ping had been honest with his aggression, Jiang Chen might’ve easy on the youth and spared his dignity. However, the young man had masked his malicious intent with pretty words and played dirty.

Jiang Chen wasn’t going to show an opponent like him any mercy. With a simple push of his palm, Qiu Ping was propelled into the air by an unstoppable current.

“Off you go.” Jiang Chen snorted and sent him flying like a kite. 

Qiu Ping landed with so much force that he vomited all over the ground; the one-sided match shocking many in the audience. They were startled by this demonstration of power, and speculations ran rife.

“What’s Shao Yuan’s cultivation level? He made a half-step empyrean cultivator look like a three-year-old! A first level empyrean genius shouldn’t be capable of dominating like this.”

Jiang Chen had masked his cultivation level and reeled in his consciousness, making it impossible for others to grasp his full power, wreathing a mysterious air around him.

After the match, he went offstage with a calm expression, betraying none of his emotions.

Yan Qingsang wasn’t as lucky and went head to head with someone from a first-tier faction. Their fight ran fast and furious, allowing his aggressive fighting style to finally shine.

His opponent had ascended to empyrean realm years before he had, but the two were on equal footing in the sortie. Yan Qingsang even managed to gain the upper hand a few times with particularly relentless attacks.

Their fight was one of the few exciting ones during the first round. Under Yan Qingsang’s barrage of attacks, his opponent lost control over the tempo of the fight and eventually lost.

His victory was quite a surprise. 

There were others from the sacred land who also obtained unexpected outcomes, but in a negative way. To immense shock, two of their geniuses were defeated in the first round, their opponents also top geniuses from first-tier factions.

Sixty-four competitors remained after the first round. The sacred land had eight disciples in the competition, which was still a decent amount.

“Good work, Brother Yan,” Jiang Chen remarked with a faint smile. “I kept an eye on House Yan for you when you were fighting. They were flabbergasted by your performance.”

Yan Qingsang’s eyes lit up. “Is that so?”

Jiang Chen smiled faintly. “Maybe they’re already regretting their decision.”

“Ha, they’ll be even more regretful later!” Yan Qingsang ground his teeth resentfully.

The first day of the competition was at an end.

That night, the imperial family held a private meeting, concluding that too many members of the sacred land had entered the next round.

They’d make sure that the sacred land went against one another in the next, so that their numbers would be halved. As the host, it wasn’t that difficult for the imperial family to nudge things here or there.

When the lots were drawn the second day, Jiang Chen noticed something unusual. Four candidates from the sacred land were paired up, Jiang Chen being one of them. His opponent was a member of the Five Great Gentlemen.

Yan Qingsang was luckier in the second round and drew a genius from a second-tier faction.

Moreover, bad luck also visited Gan Ning as he was pitted against Xiahou Zong. He’d been full of fighting spirit, but now didn’t know if he should laugh or cry. He knew this was the end for him in this competition.

The matchmaking was peculiar, but there was no telling what outcome lot drawing would produce. Jiang Chen couldn’t say for sure that the organizer had manipulated the result. At the end of the day, he didn’t care who his opponent was unless it was Xiahou Zong.

“You’re a rising star within the sacred land lately, Shao Yuan. It’s unfortunate that we have to go against each other. I’m not going to pull my punches. If you can defeat me, do try your best. There will be no regret no matter who ends up winning!” His opponent, Wu You, ranked second among the Five Great Gentlemen. His mentality was commendable.

Jiang Chen raised a cupped fist salute. “Brother Wu, I agree that we should do all we can and accept whatever outcome we get.”

They exchanged an understanding smile.

As the second strongest of the five gentlemen, Wu You was not to be underestimated. He was most adept at his self-determined ‘shadow strategy’. To put it simply, he moved quickly and his fighting style was unpredictable, enabling him to catch his opponents off guard.

However, Jiang Chen had no fear for a quick opponent. He was confident in his own speed and movement techniques. His fight with Wu You became a visual feast of speed.

This was one of the most powerful geniuses in the sacred land, his cultivation at third level empyrean.

The first prime was very conflicted. She wanted both of the disciples to succeed. Wu You was a distant relative of hers, while she had high hopes for Jiang Chen.

If only the match allowed both to win! She didn’t want either Shao Yuan or Wu You to stop here.

Jiang Chen appraised the way Wu You moved with appreciation. The man’s speed was remarkable. Even by using the Kunpeng Meteoric Escape, Jiang Chen could just barely keep up with him.

The deadlock was his own doing, of course. He had many ways to slow his opponent down, but Wu You was a member of the sacred land, and an honest man on top of that. Jiang Chen didn’t want to make him look bad. Therefore, he used only his speed in the fight.

He let slip many opportunities to defeat Wu You in favor of delaying the match, creating the illusion of them being neck and neck. On one hand, it would relax the other’s guard. On the other, Wu You would lose with dignity intact.

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