Ultimately, Jiang Chen considered an attack at this level to be slightly lacking. The strike had sufficient theory and intent behind it, but it also displayed insufficient maturity and discipline on the part of the swordsman. After all, his enemy was only a sky sage realm cultivator, in the seventh level sage realm to be precise. From this imperfection, Jiang Chen could perceive that his opponent was indeed a genius in the art of the sword, but had rather common prospects in other areas. The potency of the sword intent failed to hide the weakness in his level of cultivation.
Jiang Chen being in the seventh level sage realm was comparable to someone who was in the half-step emperor realm, and he was able to hold his own against such people in battle. Yie Tianzuo’s seventh level sage realm, on the other hand, was unabashedly ordinary. With the assistance of his sword intent, he could perhaps defeat eighth or ninth level opponents. But when faced with a half-step emperor realm opponent, he would be at a disadvantage.
Surrounded by frenzied sword intent, Jiang Chen produced a large cauldron. It was the one he’d obtained from Lu Shinan, superb in its defensiveness. With great force, all of the attacks were sucked directly in.
In the next moment, Jiang Chen’s finger tapped the blade of Ye Tianzuo’s sword. It hummed with sorrow, and the sword intent upon it faded away once more. Ye Tianzuo’s eyes shone with surprise. Pill King Zhen’s mercy was evident. In fact, the pill king had pretty much only played along with him until now. There had been only an admiration of his sword techniques without an actual follow-up counterattack. Given Pill King Zhen’s powerful offense, it was unlikely that Ye Tianzuo would even be able to bring a fraction of his sword techniques to bear when put on the defense. The swordsman hesitated a little. He had never hesitated on matters relating to sword dao, but the present situation gave him sufficient reason for pause. At this point, carrying on his attack would be akin to not knowing chalk from cheese.
Jiang Chen smiled serenely. “Daoist Ye, feel free to continue. Your sword intent is remarkable, masterful even. I would like to see as much as you can show.”
Ye Tianzuo blinked before flashing a wry grin. “Pill King Zhen, my sword intent seems to have no effect on you at all. It seems that my cultivation is still insufficient. I am a long, long way from being a real genius.”
Jiang Chen shook his head. “Not at all,” he answered seriously. “It may look easy for me, but it truly wasn’t when I faced the first two waves of your sword intent. What I showed and what I felt were very different.”
“Truly?” Ye Tianzuo was very pleased.
Jiang Chen didn’t want to crush a sword dao genius like him. “Exactly so. I think the intent in your next two techniques will be even more powerful.”
Ye Tianzuo was greatly cheered up. “I’m not so sure that the next two techniques will be more powerful, but they will definitely carry different intents. If that’s what you think, Pill King Zhen, then I will give this showing my all. No matter if I win or lose, it’s a big help for me to trade blows with a top-rank genius such as yourself.”
He gathered up sword intent once more as he spoke. In the next instant, the atmosphere around the arena changed once more. The killing intent was real and tangible this time.
“Autumnal Slaying Sword!”
When the garden blooms, I am not there; when I come, all flowers perish.
Autumn was the season of cessation. When time rolled from summer into fall, both leaf and petal alike met their endings. A chilly season gave character to a chilling sword intent. At the urging of the swordsman, another aura descended upon the surroundings. Every flower was wilting, every leaf shedding and falling, every life descending into eternal slumber…
Life was being cut out of each and every living thing. The Autumnal Slaying Sword would kill all. If the two previous sword intents had their own twists on the act of causing death (one had carried a softness, and the other a fierceness), then this sword-strike embodied only one essence instead.
Slaughter, as simple and brutal as death itself. Every streak of sword energy, every little detail and movement served to accomplish the conveyance of that concept. The sheer intensity of the killing intent caused palpitations in Jiang Chen’s heart. He had seen many sword techniques before, including those which had names that included ‘killing’, ‘slaying’, or ‘slaughtering’. But they had been far too complicated, contrived, and luxurious. They overly pursued beauty and elegance.
Ye Tianzuo’s sword technique was none of these things. It had only one thing it sought—for it be simple enough for one to forget that this was a technique at all. A sword technique like this was truly terrifying. A killing sword that had no bells or whistles attached, no devotion to useless things in its aura. A true killing sword technique needed only one word: kill!
From the destruction of the flesh and heart to the total annihilation of body and soul, along with one’s opponent’s martial will—all of these things were utterly destroyed. Ye Tianzuo had represented the embodiment of a killing strike’s essence. Even Jiang Chen didn’t dare take the attack too lightly. He pushed his golden body to its limits. Hands outstretched, he deployed a powerful magnetic force field over the entire arena, pushing out every other influence with it.
Clang, clang, clang… The incessant crashes were discordant to the ear. Everyone present felt discomfort upon hearing the noise. Under the disarrayed force field, Ye Tianzuo’s sword intent missed entirely, scattering everywhere like a headless fly.
“A powerful technique!” Jiang Chen praised. In order to evade the attack, he had been forced to exert his magnetic aura to alter the arena’s force field outright. Essentially, it was a sign that even he hadn’t been able to find an appropriate solution in that split second.
Out of the Four Seasons Swords, this Autumnal Slaying Sword was the most powerful. Alas, even it had failed to penetrate the opponent’s defenses. Ye Tianzuo sheathed his sword, coming to a still before saluting Jiang Chen respectfully, “Pill King Zhen, you’re truly extraordinary. You have my utmost respect. I do not yet fully understand the profound truth in my last strike. For me to use it would be fooling around in front of a true expert. I concede the fight.”
Jiang Chen was startled. “Do I not have the fortune of experiencing your final technique?”
“I do not have the courage to show it without first perfecting it.” Ye Tianzuo sighed. “If one day I manage to accomplish that feat, and complete all four techniques, I hope to challenge you at that time once more.”
Jiang Chen nodded, a little despondent. “You are sure to become a master one day with your talent. How come you’re still a wandering cultivator?”
Ye Tianzuo smiled placidly. “There’ve been a number of sects willing to take me, but I am a man chasing after my own freedom. How can I wield an unfettered blade if I myself am fettered by a sect’s regulations? I know that they’d be able to give me many resources as well as serve as a powerful backer, but I don’t want either of those things. My sword dao must stem from a pure and sincere heart if I am to reach its pinnacle.”
The words conjured up a strong feeling of admiration in Jiang Chen. “You’re a true swordsman in every sense of the word.” He nodded. “I hope that in thirty or fifty years, your name will spread across this entire continent.”
“You can count on it.” Ye Tianzuo’s laughter rang out with sovereign leisure. “Then, until we meet again.”
“You’re going just like this? Are you giving up on the opportunity to get back into the competition later?” Jiang Chen smiled. “If I make it into the top thirty, you’ll have another chance.” One of the rules had the clause was that anyone defeated by a genius in the top thirty could enter the competition for another round. Given Jiang Chen’s ability, getting into the top thirty wasn’t much of a problem.
Ye Tianzuo laughed again. “I came here only to prove my sword, not for a place in the rankings. I’ve received all I’d hoped for and more from you already. The Genius Rankings? That doesn’t mean anything to me. There’s no point competing further.”
A real swordsman was independent and unrestrained, either by fame or anything else. Jiang Chen remained silent after that, only nodding thoughtfully in acknowledgement. To say anything further would be an insult. He understood both what the other man sought and his mindset. This Ye Tianzuo was undoubtedly a genius, one that was certainly much more powerful than Feng Pao. The latter was obsessed with the sword, but didn’t possess a great deal of individuality. He had easily accepted Jiang Chen’s teachings back then.
But Jiang Chen surmised that even if he were to teach Ye Tianzuo, the latter would likely be unreceptive of his guidance. This man was only loyal to his own understanding of sword dao. More importantly, he didn’t know what he could teach the other, even after some consideration. Ye Tianzuo’s sword had its own dao already. Any advice from him would be equivalent to holding a candle to the sun. Aside from some pointless mucking about, it would accomplish little.
Jiang Chen had to admit, though, that he was a particularly interesting opponent. If he had reached Cao Jin’s level of cultivation and was a first-rank sect’s important disciple, then Jiang Chen would have had much more difficulty defeating him. Unquestionably, the fight would have been harder than Xiao Paohui’s.
Ye Tianzuo’s departure prompted a following of countless figures. Clearly, they were various adherents of the seven emperors who wanted to recruit him. Jiang Chen didn’t put much stock in the likeliness of their success though. Ye Tianzuo had no intention of relying on any faction. He pursued only his own dao. Even the seven great emperors had no way of influencing a sword dao genius like Ye Tianzuo. He would be one of the primary choices for prospective true disciple candidates for any faction otherwise, worthy of being counted amongst the top-ranked geniuses. Now that Jiang Chen thought about it, even Cao Jin was likely inferior to Ye Tianzuo. Although he’d only won the first round, his opponent had given Jiang Chen far more enjoyment than winning ten rounds in a row would.
Unlike Jiang Chen’s battle, the first rounds of the Genius Rankings taking place elsewhere were unexciting. No strange outcomes or dark horses had arisen. For the most part, the stronger contestants rose through the ranks, while the wandering cultivators were eliminated. The wandering cultivators had weaknesses in both tutelage and equipment. A competition like this brought both flaws into prominence.
After the first round’s trial by fire, few wandering cultivators remained. However, the wandering cultivator geniuses that had obtained highly ranked spots in the New Star Rankings were largely still in the competition. The entire first round took three days to fully come to a close.
The single elimination procedure meant that only 6,400 were left, exactly fifty percent of the 12,800 initial contestants. There was no pause in the proceedings. The conclusion of the first round heralded the beginning of the second round.
This time, Jiang Chen’s opponent was a noble scion, one that he knew quite well, in fact. It was Murong Qiu. Jiang Chen was amused by this turn of events. Enemies, like lovers, were destined to meet. Jiang Chen had first encountered the young nobleman when he was assisting Long Xiaoxuan in his breakthrough. Entranced with Huang’er at the time, Murong Qiu had received a harsh lesson from Jiang Chen. Neither party had pursued the matter to an extreme at the time. However, this reunion on the sands was a fresh opportunity to settle an old score!