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Everyone was transfixed by the fight. Even the densest mind could tell things weren’t going as expected.

The battle wasn’t at all a one-sided slaughter. Xiahou Zong hadn’t gain the upper hand a single time since the match had started. The top genius was in unprecedented trouble. How were things unfolding like this?

Even Xiahou Zong’s most devoted supporters began to waver. These observations were a stark contrast from their expectations. Given the circumstances, what were the odds that Xiahou Zong would be able to defeat Shao Yuan?

They weren’t as powerful as Xiahou Zong, but their eyes were keen enough to tell that Xiahou Zong had given up on his usual tactics and opted for techniques he’d never showed in public before. The summons was a most powerful move that had clearly taken a toll on him.

When they’d first felt the formidable presence of the four demon gods, they’d thought that Shao Yuan would be torn to pieces, but he’d riposted with four puppets of his own. Although the puppets didn’t seem as mighty as the demons, they were clearly more agile.

More surprisingly, as soon as Shao Yuan had brought out a labyrinthine diagram, it completely devoured all of the natural elements that Xiahou Zong’s demon gods had created. The void over the stage folded and distorted severely. Space itself was twisted and divided into countless smaller subspaces, creating a complicated sub-dimensional combination. It was disorienting to even look at it.

What was going on?

Experts focused on the techniques at play, while amateurs cared only about the spectacle. Figureheads from all of the various major factions were captivated.

The first prime’s eyes lit up with gleeful delight. She could hardly believe what she was seeing. Shao Yuan was full of incredible surprises!

“Xiahou Zong has called upon his past memories to communicate with evil gods and form these projections. They are merely strands of consciousness—mighty, but not invincible. On the other hand, what looks like battle puppets under Shao Yuan’s control are more than simple summons. Puppets like those can be as powerful as beings of flesh and bones once given their own consciousness.”

The first prime spoke from a position of knowledge. Although the sacred land had been in decline these years, its foundations were still solid. Her experience was naturally a cut above the rest.

Yan Qingsang shook his fist in the air and could barely stop himself from roaring at the top of his lungs, “Great fucking job, brother! Fuck yeah! Destroy Xiahou Zong and my cousin is yours!”

His eyes were bloodshot. He was more thrilled than being in a fight himself.

Wu You looked at the stage, shocked surprise in his eyes, and sighed. “It only makes sense that I lost to Shao Yuan. We all underestimated him.”

“Shao Yuan, Shao Yuan...” The geniuses from the sacred land uttered his name with mixed feelings.

Sui Chen’s expression was the darkest. As the top of the Five Great Gentlemen, he'd yielded to Xiahou Zong before the fight even started. Not only had Shao Yuan not done so, but he’d managed to go neck and neck with Xiahou Zong. He even seemed to be gaining the upper hand.

He couldn’t be more embarrassed.

“First Prime, what are the odds of Brother Shao Yuan winning?” Wu You couldn’t help but ask.

Even Elder Ziju Min turned to the first prime with a hopeful expression. He wasn’t any less excited than Yan Qingsang. He was the one who’d brought Shao Yuan into the sacred land’s fold. If Shao Yuan could achieve the miraculous feat of defeating Xiahou Zong, much of the credit would go to the elder, as he’d insisted on taking in Shao Yuan despite everyone’s disapproval.

The first prime responded in a low voice, “The four demon gods can’t be underestimated. If Shao Yuan’s puppets can go toe-to-toe with them, Xiahou Zong is bound to lose. If they can’t, there’s no telling who will win in the end.”

The first prime’s estimation was credible. She had a feeling that Shao Yuan’s odds of winning exceeded seventy percent, but was erring on the side of conservatism.

Xiahou Zong hadn’t run out of options, but he was starting to cut things close.

Shao Yuan, on the other hand, was a bottomless pit that no one could plumb the depths of. Geniuses like him were the most formidable. It was impossible to tell how many tricks he still had up his sleeve.

“You must win, Brother Shao Yuan.” Wu You sighed faintly. “You’re our last hope. You must show the entire nation that the sacred land hasn’t fallen. No one can challenge our authority! We will always be the Eternal Sacred Land!”

Wu You was a devoted disciple. He’d been disappointed when he lost to Shao Yuan, but for the sake of his faction, he hoped Shao Yuan would succeed and salvage the sacred land’s reputation.

If Shao Yuan defeated Xiahou Zong, he’d essentially have claimed the top spot. There were still three more rounds after that, but who would dare go against a genius who had triumphed over Xiahou Zong?

Jiang Chen’s victory would be burned into everyone’s memory and make him all the more formidable. No one would be able to reverse the impression.

Xiahou Zong had already instilled a gut instinct of fear in everyone. No one was going to provoke a man who was even more powerful and menacing.

Duke Xiaoyao and Xiahou Zhen exchanged a look. Things were getting out of control.

How had the fight arrived this point? Where had Shao Yuan even pop out from? Had this been the sacred land’s plan all along? Was Shao Yuan a pawn the sacred land had planted to defeat Xiahou Zong in this moment?

“Shao Yuan is able to counter every of Xiahou Zong’s attacks,” Xiahou Zhen whispered. “It’s like he’s a weapon specifically designed to eliminate Xiahou Zong.”

Duke Xiaoyao frowned, noncommittal to the elder’s speculation.

Unease grew in his heart. He had a bad feeling about the fight. How long had Xiahou Zong maintained his dominance over the youths in the nation? Why was there suddenly be a kid who could render the great Xiahou genius helpless?

Xiahou Ying’s brows knit together in agitation as she cursed under her breath, “Where did this bastard come from? You have to do better and defeat him, brother. Doom him to eternity in hell!”

Despite her frustration, she could tell her brother was in unprecedented trouble. Her brother had always been better than any of his peers. There was nothing he couldn’t do. What was going on today?

“Patriarch, if Xiahou Zong loses, our plans… will be greatly impacted,” transmitted Xiahou Zhen.

The Xiaohou patriarch narrowed his ferocious eyes. “Let’s wait and see. Xiahou Zong was a god and has yet to encounter any setbacks since his reincarnation. He has to find a solution himself this time. If he can overcome this crisis, it will result in a great leap in his martial dao and he will become truly unstoppable. Shao Yuan is his first real trial in this path.”

He was calmer than Xiahou Zhen. From his perspective, smooth travels on the path of martial dao meant that an actual challenge was a change for great ascension. This fight might was away some of Xiahou Zong's youthful impatience and help him learn the virtue of patience.

A mature and dependable Xiahou Zong would be the heir the house needed. Only then would he be able to lead the family into a more glorious future.

Xiahou Zhen sighed, concerns lingering in his heart.

“Don’t be too worried, Elder Zhen. As a god incarnate, it’s possible Xiahou Zong might breakthrough during the battle. Fights at this level are exactly what he needs. He hasn’t recovered all of his memories. The fight might prompt him into further awakening.”

Cultivators often encountered bottlenecks. There were many ways to break through them, and the most optimal was through fighting, the more intense the better. Battles that pushed cultivators to the brink of death were the most effective. The experience would drive them beyond their limits and allow them to tap further into their potential.

So far, Xiahou Zong had only accessed a small part of his strength. He still had a long ways to go before reaching his full potential. If he awakened completely, reaching the divine realm would be a simple matter of quickly retreading the path he’d been through once before.

Shao Yuan was unusually talented and had disguised his true strength, but he would be nothing against a fully awakened Xiahou Zong.

That was why Duke Xiaoyao could maintain his composure despite his nervousness. He was hopeful that Xiahou Zong would be able to recover his memories and make a breakthrough in the fight.

The possibility that Xiahou Zong would still lose even with his advantages had likely never occurred to him.

Jiang Chen was the son of a celestial emperor in his past life. Despite his inability to cultivate, he’d spent millions of years on studying martial dao theories and pill dao. The depth of his understanding far exceeded that of any regular gods. He could rival even his father in knowledge.

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