Murong Qiu clearly hadn’t expected to encounter Jiang Chen in such a situation. With so many candidates available, it was surely misfortune that drew them together upon the same stage once more. Jiang Chen was none too pleased either, but there was evidently deeper hatred emanating from Murong Qiu. Murong Qiu had eyed Jiang Chen with hostility the moment he got on the stage. His gaze was filled with a murderous intent.
“Oh, who’s this? Young lord Murong, hmm?” Jiang Chen said mockingly. “You didn’t get cleared out alongside the rebellious Majestic Clan, eh? What a surprise, considering how inseparable you people were.”
Murong Qiu’s anger boiled over. “Don’t get so full of yourself, Zhen!” he retorted coolly. “You’re proficient with pills, I’ll give you that. But the world of martial dao is ultimately reserved for martial geniuses only. It’s definitely not your lucky day today! You’re in my hands now, and I’ll make sure you get your reckoning!”
He made no show of hiding the malice in his tone. He hated Jiang Chen’s guts. Now, on this stage, he finally had the chance to take his nemesis’ life, fair and square. Taking out Pill King Zhen would be a great achievement to present to Emperor Shura.
Jiang Chen couldn’t help but laugh at Murong Qiu’s unfounded confidence. “Martial genius? Are you possibly talking about… yourself?”
A few more careful looks at the youth revealed that Murong Qiu’s cultivation had gained a rank. Compared to his previous seventh rank sage realm standing, he was a rank higher now. But in the Genius Rankings competition, was a cultivation level like that much of an advantage at all?
A sneer played at the corner of Murong Qiu’s mouth. Jiang Chen found the expression to be a little queer. With a series of crushing victories over his prior opponents, he’d shown at least a teaser of his strength, if not the full extent of it. So he couldn’t figure out where Murong Qiu’s confidence stemmed from. What was there to back up his smirk? His eighth level sage realm cultivation? The abnormality of the entire situation sounded an alarm in his mind.
As the scion of a great clan, it’s quite possible for Murong Qiu to be the heir to a special heritage. Moreover, I am one of the biggest threats to Emperor Shura right now, so Murong Qiu might have received a treasure from him as well. Jiang Chen had no fear of a mere eighth level sage realm cultivator. He was much more wary of any hidden methods or tricks that his opponent had up his sleeve.
Still, given what kind of character Murong Qiu was, Jiang Chen wasn’t particularly concerned about things after all. No matter how powerful a treasure was, it would be wasted. The young man before him was a buffoon. It would hardly achieve a fraction of its potential. Mulling these thoughts over in his head, he now had the inklings of a plan in his heart. No matter what kind of trump card Murong Qiu possessed, Jiang Chen was going to strike first. There was no reason to give his enemy an opportunity to use a possible trump card at all. “I remember telling you this already when we were outside, Murong Qiu, but whatever happened on that day wasn’t the end of it at all.”
Murong Qiu cackled. “Just what I wanted to say.”
Jiang Chen nodded slowly. His formation disk suddenly sprang into action, eight statues materializing from the void to encircle his opponent. He had no plans of holding anything back against Murong Qiu. The power the eight statues carried shut down all of the other force fields within the arena.
Murong Qiu’s face colored even as Jiang Chen leapt into the arena. His Featherflight Mirror swept upon his enemy. Murong Qiu’s entire body locked up, and his evasive maneuver was forcefully slowed by half a beat.
Jiang Chen took this gap in time to land a solid stomp onto Murong Qiu’s chest. The abruptness of all of these developments caused an uproar in the audience.
A flurry of kicks landed upon Murong Qiu’s body, as if Jiang Chen were kicking a sandbag. The continuous storm of thuds prompted no response from their target. Murong Qiu was punted off the stage like a dead dog, landing at its foot in a crumpled heap.
What was formerly Murong Clan’s young master was now white in the face, his frame splayed. There was no breath going into his nostrils.
The entire crowd was stuck in a state of open-mouthed shock.
Is he dead, just like that? Yes, Jiang Chen had decisively cut down Xiao Paohui earlier, but that opponent, though formidable, had also been relatively unknown. As such, what little surprise there was hadn’t devolved into full-on hysteria.
But Murong Qiu was different. He was a recognized aristocratic dandy of Veluriyam Capital! The Murong Clan wasn’t as top-tier of a faction as something like the Coiling Dragon Clan, but it still possessed quite the breadth of connections within the city. Pill King Zhen had murdered its young master in only a few blows in public. How great must the grudge be between the two of them?
Everyone from the Murong Clan who was present watched these series of events pan out, eyes wide, not entirely able to accept the reality before them.
“Qiu’er!” The Murong clan lord’s voice was hoarse. The clan’s experts swarmed out at the call to examine Murong Qiu’s vitals. The young lord was entirely disfigured and inanimate at this point. No matter what they did, there was no response.
The Murong Clan Lord’s face convulsed in fury, his eyes fixated on Jiang Chen with rancorous obsession. “Pill King Zhen, why have you landed a killing blow in a competitive match like this?”
Jiang Chen was stoic. “Bouts in this arena offer no security for the lives of their participants. If anyone is scared, then they shouldn’t participate in the Martial Pagoda battles in the first place.”
The Murong clan lord knew of the grudge between Murong Qiu and Pill King Zhen. He was exasperated to the point of being speechless at the explanation. “Zhen, let’s be open about this. Do you have the guts to say that this wasn’t out of personal spite?” Staring daggers at the pill king, the clan lord looked ravenous enough to swallow him whole.
But Jiang Chen had never been one to fear such meaningless threats. “I only know that no matter who you are, you should be prepared to die in the arena,” he smiled faintly. “If you want someone to blame, clan lord, then blame your son’s lack of skill… and his collection of bad habits to boot. Rather than have a shouting match with me, you should set your house in order. The Murong Clan is a great clan, yes? But its young clan lord is—sorry, was—merely a lascivious lech. Even I’m ashamed for you, honestly.”
He walked offstage as he said this, not sparing the corpse another look. “Honored judge, don’t you agree with my words regarding the sanctity of this space? The arena is a cruel place.” He was now directly in front of the person he was addressing. The judge could only return a wry smile and a nod. Those were the rules.
“Good. So I’m perfectly within my rights to kill my opponent, no matter how harshly I do so?” Jiang Chen slowly went on.
The judge didn’t know how to answer. Everyone knew that the pill king was taking public vengeance for a private slight. He was using the opportunity to kill the heir of the Murong Clan without repercussion! But just as Jiang Chen had said, no rules had been broken. Deaths were common in such a competitive environment, and in fact, the arena was the best place for past animosities to be settled.
Murong Qiu’s death truly did have to be blamed on himself. Given the circumstances just now, if he had taken the upper hand, it was unrealistic to expect mercy in reverse. From the looks of it, the Murong heir had had an ace up his sleeve, but he'd been prevented from using it. It wasn’t something the dead youth would have expected, to be sure. That was a tragedy in and of itself.
In his battles with the others before, Pill King Zhen hadn’t been particularly aggressive. He had fought with poise and style. Therefore, nobody had expected that the pill king would land such a rapidly preemptive strike, delivering such a sudden and ferocious onslaught. Murong Qiu’s lack of readiness had been his downfall.
Seeing everyone from the Murong Clan gazing at him hungrily, the judge’s expression froze. “Murong Clan Lord, please leave the front of the stage immediately. You will be charged with threatening a participant otherwise.”
The Martial Pagoda battles were strictly regulated. For the Murong Clan to make trouble because of a loss would be trampling upon public order. The Murong Clan Lord’s eyes bulged with ire, but his subordinates’ persuasion helped him retain his reason. With a huff, he took Murong Qiu’s corpse away and retreated. His hateful expression just before departure was a clear tip-off, though. Jiang Chen knew that there was likely going to be a desperate struggle in the future between him and the Murong Clan.
Of course, there was no time to consider the ramifications of that right now. Even if Murong Qiu hadn’t tried to molest Huang’er, he had still wanted to kill Jiang Chen. There was no reason for Jiang Chen to let someone who wanted to be at his throat at any given opportunity leave the arena alive.
This dramatic battle allowed Jiang Chen to pass through the second round. It was human nature to bully the good and fear evil. Jiang Chen’s vehement killing of Murong Qiu served as an extremely compelling deterrent to any hidden adversaries. The remaining scions loyal to Emperor Shura were secretly alarmed and wary as well. Given the bad blood between the pill king and their own faction, each man felt a distinct insecurity. The pill king had killed Murong Qiu today. Who was to say that he wouldn’t take a shot at a different target tomorrow?
At Emperor Shura’s side, Moon Monarch was furious. “What a venomous brat! It’s just a bout in an arena. Why such heavy-handedness?”
The emperor didn’t chime in. He frowned instead. “This Pill King Zhen is quite perceptive. We didn’t have many expectations for an insignificant character like Murong Qiu in the first place. However, to notice the hidden threat and attack only as a precaution… his boldness and decisiveness in the heat of battle are tenfold that of Murong Qiu. Murong Qiu was so pleased, too… how droll. I’m sure he certainly didn’t expect to walk into an immediately fatal situation."
Murong Qiu carried little importance in the grand scheme of things. Emperor Shura had given him a small treat out of his desire to test Pill King Zhen’s martial dao. Unfortunately, Murong Qiu had failed even the lowest of his expectations. He had died before having a chance to act, his death brisk and clean. The only qualities that Jiang Chen had displayed were the aforementioned perception and decisiveness, which even Emperor Shura had to respect.
Though some of the noble scions encountered miserable failure during this second round in unexpected ways, for the most part more and more wandering cultivators were eliminated. Those who remained were largely the elite. The following rounds of elimination would be increasingly difficult.