Even now, many had yet to recover from their shock. What had just transpired was rather difficult to accept. How could Xiahou Zong - god incarnate, genius extraordinaire - die just like that?
It had all happened too quickly.
If they hadn’t witnessed his gory death themselves, they wouldn’t have believed it had actually happened. As it was, they still questioned if they were hallucinating.
Who had thought the arrogant top genius would die in the fight?
He was the best of the best in the nation, always miles ahead of his peers. How could he be killed so easily?
They disbelieved what their eyes told them, but everything about his death was undeniable.
Only when Jiang Chen walked offstage with killing intent still lingering did everyone actually believe that yes, Xiahou Zong was dead!
All of the participants fixed their gazes on Jiang Chen, their eyes brimming with fearful respect. The unbeatable genius had fallen. In his place was an even more legendary figure - Shao Yuan!
Willing or not, every genius in attendance was overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness and inferiority.
Geniuses who’d pledged loyalty to Xiahou Zong and been determined to go after Jiang Chen still had racing hearts. What a relief that they hadn’t encountered the young man in the competition!
Shen Fan, Xiahou Zong… all household names paled in comparison to Shao Yuan.
“Damn straight, Shao Yuan!” exclaimed Yan Qingsang in uncontainable ecstasy, which prompted the other geniuses from the sacred land to follow suit.
“Yeah, Shao Yuan!”
“Shao Yuan, the number one genius!”
At first, only those from the sacred land were cheering for Jiang Chen. Then similar cries erupted from factions dependent on the sacred land.
Rowdy cheers reverberated among the clouds, followed by thunderous applause. The thrilling fight had won over many of the audience members. Even those who had been indifferent or even hostile to Jiang Chen before didn’t shy away from showing their appreciation.
The young genius deserved to be applauded for eliminating Xiahou Zong in a head-on fight, and the ovation was no doubt the worst humiliation to House Xiahou.
Duke Xiaoyao seemed to have spontaneously aged by several decades, his face as pale as a sheet. Venerated Elder Xiahou Zhen muttered a constant barrage of curses with quivering lips.
Xiahou Ying wept and shrieked for her brother’s death.
The emperor mused pensively with a grave expression. The imperial family had essentially declared the sacred land their enemy with the competition. They’d planned to gravely undermine the sacred land’s dignity.
However, unexpected happenings lurked around every corner.
Their careful planning had turned out to be all for naught. They’d failed to eliminate all geniuses from the sacred land before the fourth round. Shao Yuan had secured improbable wins again and again.
He’d completely defied everyone’s expectations, staging a powerful comeback against the imperial family in response to their unfair treatment.
Xiahou Zong was supposed to be the ultimate opponent no one could surpass, and yet this milestone lay crumbled in the dust. Many people’s perception of the world order had been reconstructed as a result.
There were three more rounds of matches, but if even Xiahou Zong couldn’t defeat Shao Yuan, who could?
Jiang Chen had effectively secured the position of champion. No matter what the imperial family did, they wouldn’t be able to stop him from coming out on top. They had no choice but to admit their failure in toppling the sacred land.
Jiang Chen received a hero’s welcome when he returned to his faction.
His fight with Xiahou Zong had lasted the longest among all fights in the fourth round, and it was the most thrilling in the history of the competition. He would be remembered for generations to come.
The geniuses from the sacred land revelled in his victory. They’d been weighed down by loss and frustration for long enough. Only a selected few like Sui Chen were displeased. Everyone else was genuinely happy for Jiang Chen and offered their congratulations.
Most of them recognized that the victory wasn’t only about the personal conflict between Shao Yuan and Xiahou Zong; it had a broader impact on the sacred land’s status and in turn, all of their future prospects.
If everyone from the sacred land had been eliminated in the competition, their authority would be greatly diminished. Once they lost their absolute reign over the nation and their unchallenged authority, their geniuses would lose their worth. They would be deprived of their pride and superiority.
Shao Yuan’s victory wasn’t only his, but the sacred land’s and its geniuses’.
The first prime didn’t even attempt to mask her joy. She turned to Ziju Min. “Elder Ziju, who would have thought that Shao Yuan would bring us so many surprises? Not even you foresaw his victory today when you first recruited him, did you?”
Ziju Min smiled wryly. “In the beginning, what this subordinate valued was his pill dao talent. I didn’t expect his martial dao to be even more astounding. Perhaps Xiahou Zong was destined to die today?”
The sacred land jubilated in Xiahou Zong’s death. The man had dueled many of its geniuses since he was young, and the duels were not so much friendly sparrings as one-sided bullying.
Xiahou Zong had dominated all of the other young geniuses and, in doing so, hindered the cultivation of youths in the sacred land. His death lifted a great weight from all of them. Of course they were highly pleased.
“After the fight, Shao Yuan’s name will spread through every part of the Myriad Abyss Island. Top geniuses from the other nations will be forced to take him seriously in the geniuses competition two years later.” The first prime expressed her wholehearted delight.
Jiang Chen joined them, flanked by a large crowd.
The first prime smiled and looked at him with appreciation in her eyes.
“Over the long years of this seat’s life, Shao Yuan, I can count on one hand the number of geniuses I’ve praised in person. I have to acknowledge that you are a one in a hundred thousand years genius. We are fortunate to have you.”
It was a high praise indeed. The first prime rarely complimented anyone, let alone in public.
Of course, she was speaking from the bottom of her heart. She did think it was their luck to have Jiang Chen on their side. Without his astounding performance, all geniuses from the sacred land would’ve been eliminated in the fourth round. Jiang Chen had created a miracle.
The first prime liked miracles. A miraculous victory was more appealing to the public than anything. It was the most efficient way to restore a damaged reputation.
Many had been bad-mouthing the sacred land, claiming they had been in decline. Shao Yuan was the perfect rebuttal. They were finally able to prove themselves after all the oppression they’d suffered! The goddess of fortune had smiled upon them.
If Shao Yuan had fought for House Yan rather than the sacred land, or worse, if he’d been recruited by House Xiahou, what would the competition be like then?
Two monstrous geniuses would be working in tandem to secure wins for House Xiahou. Even if the geniuses from the sacred land were given a chance to fight fairly, they would have no hope of winning the championship.
Xiahou Zong was unstoppable, but Shao Yuan even more so.
It might have seemed that Shao Yuan and Wu You was neck and neck, but now the first prime realized that Shao Yuan had held back on purpose to preserve Wu You’s pride.
If he’d fought as hard as he’d done in his battle with Xiahou Zong, neither Wu You and Shen Fan would last for more than a couple attacks. It wasn’t that his performance was dependent on the strength of his foes. He simply didn’t use his full strength when he faced weaker opponents.
Everyone from the Eternal Sacred Land was still in high spirits even after returning to their temporary residence. It was clear that the victory had lifted morale. The championship was already in Jiang Chen’s grasp at this point.
Meanwhile, the emperor and his confidantes were going over the fight between Shao Yuan and Xiahou Zong again and again. They had been caught completely off guard. For years, Xiahou Zong had been unchallenged and unrivaled. It was an ingrained belief that no youth could ever surpass him.
But someone had today.
“Your Majesty, Xiahou Zong’s incompetence means the failure of our plot against the sacred land. I believe that the first prime has noticed something amiss. She’s simply keeping it to herself for the time being.”
The emperor scoffed. “So what if she has? We were careful when we manipulated the matchmaking. No one will be able to bring any evidence against us. Besides, after Xiahou Zong’s death at the hands of one of their own, the first prime must be rejoicing in her victory.”
“Your Majesty, Xiahou Zong’s death has greatly impacted our overall plan. Will House Xiahou be able to renew their drive?”
The emperor huffed. “House Xiahou’s ambitions have festered for many years. They aren’t going to step away so easily. The plan will be executed as scheduled!”