Having been the foremost genius for a long time in this nation, Xiahou Zong’s pride and confidence was at an indescribable peak. But, the general public had to admit that he had a good reason for his stance.
The ant and tree analogy, well…
Before now, no one had thought much of Jiang Chen – the sacred land’s first prime included. The only exception was Jiang Chen himself.
“A great tree can be felled by only an axe, Xiahou Zong. Perhaps you’re a great tree among the geniuses of this nation, but I will be the edge that cuts you down! Your absurd ego and vanity must be destroyed. Only then can the rest of the geniuses enjoy a clear sky, free from your cloying canopy.”
As he concluded, Jiang Chen shot a potent ray out of his Evil Golden Eye. The radiant strike burst forth thickly with commanding sharpness. He had chosen to use his eye arts from the outset.
“I hear that you use an ocular skill as well. The ‘Scorching Sun Eye’, was it? Shall we have a little contest of the eyes, then?”
Jiang Chen’s impassive voice was scattered all about Xiahou Zong with no sense of directionality. The fabric of the world shook as he projected his speech in a manner no less impressive than Xiahou Zong’s.
This strange sight astounded the crowd once more. The most they had hoped out of Jiang Chen was to be able to fend off several of Xiahou Zong’s assaults. Even the most imaginative hadn’t expected Shao Yuan to match his opponent in terms of presence.
The momentum, poise, and accompanying tone of ease showed very well that the fight wasn’t necessarily going to be a one-sided slaughter. Shao Yuan had been grossly underestimated!
How many years had it been since there was a youth capable of remotely holding his own against Xiahou Zong? In fact, who had ever witnessed anyone brave enough to challenge Xiahou Zong before?
Today, that record had been broken.
This young man before them had not only confronted Xiahou Zong head on, but hadn’t lost even in the pre-battle details. Even the pressure-based tactics the latter was most adept at didn’t bring about an advantage. Xiahou Zong hadn’t managed to gain an upper hand at all in the beginning.
Xiahou Zong was surprised himself. He had said so much to work up a momentum of his own. His consciousness and aura had begun to expand quite a while ago.
But to his chagrin, his enemy was both resourceful and daring enough to match his pace. Moreover, Shao Yuan was aggressive indeed – he seemed to want to fight toe-to-toe.
Arts of the eye?
Xiahou Zong snickered. “Kid,” he snorted, “it’s rare for me to see another cultivator who can deploy any eye art. You’re far too inferior to duel me, though!”
His consciousness flared up with scorching heat, burning like the midday sun. Solar energy gathered in his eyes, blinding like two miniature orbs of the noblest fire.
Terrifyingly fiery beams blasted forth from his eyes like gouts of potent flame.
“An inconsequential trick.” Sneering in turn, Jiang Chen parried with two impossibly sharp rays that cut into the scorching ones from his opponent.
Two equally domineering ocular skills collided in midair, much like two mortal enemies at berserk odds with each other. Each pair worked hard to cut through or melt the other. For a time, there was a terrifying standstill.
In that same instant, both cultivators moved to launch additional missiles in unspoken consensus. Deadly light sprayed indiscriminately into the air. There was an impromptu battle with the arts of the eye occurring in the airspace above the arena.
A single scratch would be enough to reduce a man to dust and ashes, and the ring was filled with the fatal attacks.
Barely anywhere safe was left to stand. Every inch of room was hellishly dangerous. However, the dueling opponents seemed to have come to an agreement about the mode of their contest. They both pushed their ocular skills to their utmost lethality.
Up until now, Jiang Chen had never met his match in ocular skills before. The two young man were at an unprecedented standoff.
Those watching below from the sacred land grew more hopeful. Yan Qingsang especially clenched his fists even more tightly, his eyes becoming ever more intense.
“I knew he could do it,” his lips trembled.
“What’re you muttering about, Brother Qingsang?” Wu You asked curiously.
“Ah, nothing much,” the young man waved a hand. “I didn’t say anything.”
Wu You smiled, then looked around. “Oh, yes, did your cousin Yan Qinghuang not come to the tournament?”
Yan Qingsang shook his head. “She didn’t want to put too much pressure on Brother Shao Yuan.”
Wu You sighed softly, then glanced at the first prime. “First Prime, do you think Brother Shao Yuan has a shot at winning?” he asked in a low voice.
The first prime was still recovering from the throes of amazement. She had never thought Shao Yuan would really rise to meet the challenge. The two youths were just as evenly matched as they had been earlier. She couldn’t predict where the fight would go from now on, but this was a good start.
“Shao Yuan’s ocular skill is rather astonishing. I think his is actually more piercing than Xiahou Zong’s, objectively speaking,” Ziju Min remarked in commentary.
“Indeed, Shao Yuan’s technique is superior,” the first prime nodded. “Xiahou Zong’s art is fueled more by his own cultivation. He seems considerably stronger than before his closed door cultivation.”
Ziju Min drew a sharp breath. “Did you notice that it’s the same way with Shao Yuan?”
“It looks like their cultivation levels aren’t far apart. What’s with Shao Yuan? Does he have some secret art to temporarily increase his cultivation?” The first prime found the short-term change frankly impossible. After all, everyone knew that Shao Yuan hadn’t broken through to empyrean realm yet when he joined the sacred land.
It had been less than two years since his ascension. There was no way he could’ve broken through multiple times in a single year to reach mid empyrean realm, was there?
That completely defied common sense.
However, the ease with which Shao Yuan was fighting implied that he was probably mid empyrean.
The first prime was utterly confused. The fact that the two young cultivators were still trading ocular blows meant that it was difficult to judge their cultivation levels, which further compounded the problem.
It made sense for Xiahou Zong to have reached mid empyrean realm. He had the talent and the resources to do so. Though Shao Yuan did have the talent, he lacked the reasonable timeframe required to advance so quickly in so short a period of time.
“Come here, Qingsang.” The first prime glanced at the named youth.
Yan Qingsang complied with the command. “What are your orders, First Prime?”
“You’re close to Shao Yuan. Has he said anything to you recently?”
“Sure. He’s said a lot to me about this tournament.”
“Anything about Xiahou Zong?” The first prime furrowed her brow.
“Yes, I believe so. I don’t think he was particular anxious about this fight – in fact, he seemed quite matter-of-fact about it. I sometimes had the impression that he really was capable of taking down Xiahou Zong.” Yan Qingsang was totally truthful.
“Did he really say that?”
“Yes indeed. He treated Xiahou Zong with an inherent cool disdain, rather than the fear and wariness common to others in our generation,” Yan Qingsang vowed.
The first prime was comforted a great deal upon hearing this.
“Good, good, good! A true genius, hmm? I finally believe it myself. Shao Yuan is destined to be an even brighter star than Xiahou Zong. That’s why he doesn’t care about him, I suppose.”
“Ah, that’s right! He also said that Xiahou Zong was just a minor obstacle, someone he could easily kick aside,” recalled Yan Qingsang.
A wide smile crept across the first prime’s face. “Alright, then. Let’s pay attention to the fight. Shao Yuan might not be able to win today, but he definitely won’t lose badly.”
She had the reassurance she wanted.
As long as Shao Yuan could remain graceful in defeat, that was a win. After all, how long had Shao Yuan come to the sacred land for?
It was very encouraging for a genius who had barely been in the sacred land for two years to nearly tie with Xiahou Zong. With some time and growth, Shao Yuan would have another opportunity to challenge Xiahou Zong in the international tournament of geniuses.
The contest of ocular skill wasn’t over yet. Energy and light ricocheted everywhere.
It seems that Xiahou Zong is adept with the eye arts as well. Unless I can crush him utterly through cultivation alone, I will have a hard time winning with my Evil Golden Eye.
Jiang Chen hadn’t expected to win with just this alone, anyways.
The two young men came to an unspoken consensus once more, taking several steps back in near-unison to draw back their ocular skills.
Resentment burned in Xiahou Zong’s heart, but his head became ever calmer. His opponent was much more difficult and fearsome than he had anticipated. How many years had it been since he had used the fullness of his strength in a match?
No opponent had been strong enough to allow him to do so here in Eternal Divine Nation before!