Those eager to plumb the depths of Jiang Chen’s strength couldn’t help being disappointed. If the young man could only go neck and neck with Wu You, he was far from good enough. Although Wu You was one of the Five Great Gentlemen, even the best of the five was nowhere close to Xiahou Zong’s level. On top of that, Wu You wasn’t even the strongest at all.
While appearances could be deceiving, there seemed a long way to go before Shao Yuan could go head to head with the greatest genius, even if he seemed competent enough.
Shao Yuan’s fight with Wu You attracted a lot of attention, even more so than Xiahou Zong’s match. The Xiahou genius was going to win no matter who his opponent was, while Shao Yuan’s fight would test his true abilities. Everyone wanted to see for themselves how good Xiahou Zong’s challenger was.
Venerated Elder Xiahou Zhen scoffed to his peers. “It’s undeniable that the Eternal Sacred Land has put in a lot of effort in scouting geniuses. Given eight to ten years, Shao Yuan may grow into someone who can pose some threat to Xiahou Zong. But right now? In his dreams!”
Xiahou Ying huffed. “His confidence is completely unfounded. And here I thought there was a thing or two to him. He’s nothing in front of big brother.”
“Right, he’s far from good enough to go against Xiahou Zong,” Xiahou Zhen responded, bemused. “However, I hear that he was only a great emperor when he joined House Yan. It’s surprising that he’s made such significant progress in only two years.”
“So what? He’s going to lose to big brother anyways. All of his potential combined won’t save him unless he doesn’t get into a fight with my brother.”
Xiahou Zhen smiled coolly without a word.
The emperor of the Eternal Divine Nation and his expert bodyguards watched Shao Yuan’s match with rapt attention.
“Haha, there seems to be a shortage of geniuses in the sacred land these years. Wu You ranks second or third among the Five Great Gentlemen, doesn’t he? He’s quick. I’ll give him that. But a thousand years ago, someone like him could only be considered a second-tier genius.”
“Your Majesty has keen eyes,” a man dressed like a supervisor of palace affairs agreed. “If even Wu You is considered one of the Five Great Gentlemen, that signifies a lack of talent in the sacred land. They don’t have enough new blood.”
“That’s right. They clearly suffer from a lack of new blood. Shao Yuan, however, has risen rapidly to fame,” the emperor mused.
“True. Shao Yuan is the sacred land’s biggest surprise in recent years. However, he’s too young and brash. If he’d given himself a few more years, he might’ve been able to threaten Xiahou Zong. It’s a shame that the young man forgot himself after meager achievement and put himself out in the open. Xiahou Zong won’t allow him to live now.”
The emperor smiled slightly. “Perhaps the sacred land was too eager to raise a genius who could challenge Xiahou Zong and ended up exposing him too soon to the public’s eye.”
“Your Majesty is indeed insightful.”
Jiang Chen fought with ease, ignoring the inquisitive looks cast his way from the audience. For him, the battle couldn’t be less challenging.
Meanwhile, Wu You was in a completely different state. It might seem like the fight wasn’t taxing, but only he knew how difficult it was to persevere. He was giving this fight his all, calling upon his full potential. It felt that he’d be able to win if he tapped into a little more of his strength, but every time he did so, it still wasn’t enough.
The feeling motivated him again and again, but in the end, it also doused his battle intent. It was like hitting a ball of wool. The lack of impact was driving him crazy.
Finally, he realized that his opponent was going easy on him, waiting for him to notice and surrender. There were many openings that Shao Yuan could’ve taken, but hadn’t.
There’s no way Shao Yuan lacks that little bit of power to defeat me.
Wu You attacked with maximum speed and full force several times, but Shao Yuan always matched him and remained unbeatable.
The fruitless fight broke Wu You’s will. After about half an hour, exhaustion caught up to him. Shao Yuan, on the other hand, was far from depleting his stamina.
I think… he’s trying to save me face.
Wu You had his pride. If he insisted on fighting under these circumstances, it’d be looking at a gift-horse in the mouth. He halted his movements and sighed with cupped hands.
“Daoist Shao Yuan, I admit defeat. I can’t win this fight. It’s better that I yield now.”
Most of the audience members had gotten the impression that the two of them were at equal level. In fact, Wu You seemed to have the upper hand. Why had he forfeited?
The top geniuses were observant enough to see what had been going on, while those at a lower level were still befuddled. Some even questioned if Wu You had purposefully thrown the fight. Perhaps It was the sacred land’s attempt at glorifying Shao Yuan!
Jiang Chen cupped his hands in return and responded calmly, “Daoist Wu You has remarkable speed. I greatly admire you for that.”
His was kindly disposed towards Wu You. The latter had admitted defeat of his own accord and knew when to back down. Jiang Chen wasn’t going to make things embarrassing for his peer.
Wu You laughed heartily. “I lost. I won’t hold a grudge against you, Shao Yuan. I only hope that you can continue winning on behalf of the sacred land and defeat everyone else for me.”
“I’ll do my best,” Jiang Chen promised seriously.
“Good lad. I have high hopes for you.” Wu You guffawed as he dashingly jumped off the stage and rejoined the sacred land. He didn’t find it humiliating to admit defeat, given the circumstances.
Though Jiang Chen had entered the next stage, he wasn’t much congratulated when he left the stage. On the contrary, many whispered behind his back, considering Wu You’s submission part of the sacred land’s strategy to make Shao Yuan look good. They didn’t think of his victory as a real win.
Yan Qingsang had won his match much faster than Jiang Chen had and walked forward to greet his brother.
“Brother Yan, you look in good spirits.” Jiang Chen chuckled. “You won the second round with ease, haven’t you?”
“Your fight seemed intense, but you haven’t gone all out yet.” Yan Qingsang knew Jiang Chen’s true strength quite well. He knew his friend had been holding back in this fight.
The second round fulfilled the organizer’s goal. Half of the eight competitors from the sacred land were eliminated, including Gan Ning, who had faced Xiahou Zong.
Jiang Chen looked around and noticed Gan Ning about to be carried away on a stretcher.
Xiahou Zong had made quick work of him and showed no mercy, his moves brutal to the point of wanting to destroy Gan Ning. Gan Ning wasn’t completely crippled, but it had been a close thing.
Seeing his pale face and sickly form, all the young geniuses felt a pang of sympathy. They were normally rivals that didn’t respect each other, but when they represented the sacred land, they were a united front.
Fury raged in their hearts when they saw what Xiahou Zong had done to Gan Ning. An indescribable fear descended at the same time. Xiahou Zong clearly wanted to destroy all of them.
Jiang Chen pushed past the crowd and went up to Gan Ning, who twisted his lips without a word.
Jiang Chen felt guilty for the other’s plight. He was very likely part of the reason why Xiahou Zong had inflicted such serious harm to Gan Ning. The latter had just been unfortunately caught in the crossfire.
“Brother Gan Ning...” Jiang Chen called out.
Gan Ning shook his head softly. “You don’t need to pity me.”
Jiang Chen fell silent. He did pity Gan Ning, but that wasn’t something he should voice at the moment.
“What a cretin that Xiahou Zong is! He showed no mercy. It’s obvious he wanted to destroy Gan Ning!” one of the geniuses from the sacred land exclaimed. “This is supposed to be a friendly duel, but Xiahou Zong treats it like a fight to the death. He… he’s absolutely crossed a line!”
Jiang Chen quietly took out a pill. “This is a healing pill, Brother Gan Ning. Take it if you trust me. It’ll help with your recovery.”
Gan Ning shook his head in agony. “It’s no use. He’s destroyed me. I’m crippled. I might as well give up on treating my injury. What awaits me is nothing but torture.”
Jiang Chen checked his pulse for a moment and whispered, “If you trust me, Gan Ning, take the pill. I promise that you will recover. I can restore you to your full health.”
A hopeful glint split through the lifeless glaze in Gan Ning’s eyes. “Really?”