The sheer enormity of both parties' images caused the spacious arena to feel crowded. Each punch and kick was exchanged with incredible frenzy and intensity. The sounds of bodies colliding resounded like an avalanche.
Rumble. Rumble. The two colossal figures crashed together and drifted apart seemingly on a whim, weaving around the arena like bolts of lightning. Blows were delivered with extreme speed, across distances varyingly vast and minute.
Thud, thud, thud. Guan Yuchan stepped forth like a Buddha warrior attendant. He smashed the giant gada in his hands boldy towards Jiang Chen once more. Each stride seemed to shake the entire arena.
Jiang Chen chuckled. Pressing his fingers into a fist, he jabbed fiercely towards the gada with no hesitation. A painful crunch sent out countless shockwaves. The very air about them rippled with the force of the impact.
Guan Yuchan had never met anyone who could face his weapon with their bare fists before. He frowned in displeasure. His arms felt slightly numb. His opponent was truly formidable, but his battle fever surged at the challenge.
"You're a surprising one, Pill King Zhen. It's refreshing to have a satisfying fight with an opponent such as yourself!" Despite his typical tranquility, Guan Yuchan was slowly becoming increasingly excited. His voice, deep and resonant, sounded through the sphere. Its echoes reverberated in the air surrounding the arena, and all who heard were stirred by the words. The muscles on both of Guan Yuchan's forearms flexed. Like bands of steel, their very form surged with power.
"Ascetic Slaying Demons, so I come!" With a swing of his giant gada, Guan Yuchan sent out a rumbling warrior's image. The image had a certain undeniable dignity to it, pouncing upon Jiang Chen in a frenzy.
Pleased at the force behind the attack, Jiang Chen moved to make hand seals of his own. "Giant lizard's image, break forth!" The image of a colossal reptile barreled forwards from nothingness, madly twisting its body. Trails of scarlet streaked behind it, as fiery as the clouds of a sunset.
Bam! There was another savage crash between Guan Yuchan's warrior image and Jiang Chen's reptilian image. Both scattered into infinite specks of golden light once more, diffusing into the void. Guan Yuchan was forced back a few steps, his eyes glowing with bewildered radiance. He was utterly fixated on Jiang Chen. This opponent had brought him exceptional surprise. It was his first time facing such a terrifying opponent. Guan Yuchan had naturally observed all of Jiang Chen's bouts prior. In the competitions for the New Star Rankings, Jiang Chen's defeat of a brutish man had showcased his superb close-combat abilities. Several of the battles that followed showed that he was a master of the sword as well.
Guan Yuchan couldn't help but admit that Pill King Zhen, in the same sense that he was a well-rounded pill genius, he was also a well-rounded martial genius. Guan Yuchan's image of the Buddha warrior attendant was the most intimidating of his abilities, one of his trump cards. If even that couldn't buy him the slightest of an advantage, then the difference between this Pill King Zhen and himself was undeniable.
Until now, Pill King Zhen had played by his own rhythm. He hadn't shown anything from his own hand yet. Considering the pill king's frightening aptitude in the art of the sword, Guan Yuchan was uncertain that he would've been able to react to a strong assault. Pill King Zhen's sword-strikes were far too mysterious and unpredictable, Battling with images was the method of combat he was most proud of, yet he hadn't been able to take the lead in such a battle, either. His opponent even possessed a true dragon image that he still had yet to reveal. That didn't mean that Guan Yuchan was just going to give up on the spot, though.
Guan Yuchan's eyes were clear with honesty. Looking at Jiang Chen, he opened his mouth, "Pill King Zhen, I cannot win against you with martial abilities alone. But I'm not only representing myself here. I stand on behalf of both Emperor Petalpluck and my own clan. So, I'm going to use a few of the cards and equipment I have up my sleeve. Beware!" Guan Yuchan was a proud man. Despite all evidence pointing to him being no match for Jiang Chen in terms of martial dao, he couldn't give up the fight just yet. The honor and face of various factions hinged on these rankings. He had no say in the decision himself.
Nodding, Jiang Chen replied seriously, "This is a competitive match. It's natural to give it your all."
"Very well!" Guan Yuchan returned the gesture before abruptly opening his arms. A pair of golden cymbals flew out from the folds of his sleeves, growing into two huge golden gates. They soared towards Jiang Chen with the wind, their oppressive force tangible in the air. The atmosphere around the arena became claustrophobic at once. Two powerful currents of air separated inside from out.
Jiang Chen felt a nameless strength tugging at his body. The cymbals grew and grew. Within moments, they were already ten yards tall. The two golden plates came closer and closer to him, their obvious intent to enclose Jiang Chen within. The sight of such a treasure shocked Jiang Chen.
As a battle-hardened veteran, however, he didn't panic despite his surprise. Grabbing and throwing his defensive cauldron, he tossed it over his head to slow the cymbals somewhat.
Next, Jiang Chen called upon his golden cicada bloodline. The flash of a golden cicada's image transformed into a copy Jiang Chen. He had used the Cicada's Disappearance ability in order to instantly shift himself a vast distance away. Not a moment too late. The cymbals expanded once again, swallowing the obstructing cauldron whole. They were clearly a special instrument. The closer they were, the stronger their suction was. The cauldron resisted for only a brief moment before its defense failed entirely.
Clanggg! The two cymbals closed together with a vicious clang. The discordant noise brought despair to listeners' hearts. Guan Yuchan raised his eyebrows at the sight, cheered by the turn of events.
"Pill King Zhen, I admit that you're very skilled in martial dao. However, you cannot defeat my Yin Yang Cymbals." Guan Yuchan sighed with soft confidence. He had every faith in his treasure. Like a dual-poled magnet, their strength lied at close proximity. In this respect, the pair of instruments was quite a fearsome treasure.
However, no treasure was infallible. Though the Cymbals were quite potent, there was a way to counteract their influence. Just as similar poles repel one another,opposite poles in turn attract. The Cymbals had a positive and negative pole. If one could apply the same principle to them, then it was definitely possible to render the Cymbals useless. Therefore, there was a risk to using these instruments, even if it was negligible. Thankfully, it was improbable to have both a positively and negatively-charged treasure both ready to counter the Cymbals. Guan Yuchan was reasonably sure about this fact. Truthfully, he was almost ready to announce his triumph as the victor.
Suddenly, utter silence befell the entire arena. There was strangeness afoot. This sudden stillness was baffling to Guan Yuchan. His earlobes twitched. In the next moment, he came to an electrifying stop. The disbelief was transparent on his face, and his cheeks contorted. He rapidly tried to turn around, only to be faced with a half-smiling Jiang Chen standing right behind him.
"You…" Guan Yuchan was stunned.
Jiang Chen smiled serenely. "The Yin Yang Cymbals are strong, but I'm a bit faster than they are, aren't I?" Yes, Jiang Chen had witnessed the Cymbals' power first-hand. However, his escape from their pull with Cicada's Disappearance had gone entirely unnoticed. This difference between the two combatants would be fatal in any other setting.
Jiang Chen had just thrown away the opportunity to kill Guan Yuchan with ease. In a fight between experts, anyone that could make their way to their opponent's back undetected had more than ten ways of putting down such an unwary rival. In his battle with Xiao Paohui a short while ago, Jiang Chen had used his Disappearance to great effect, evading a critical attack from the former. The spontaneity of the Disappearance was what allowed Jiang Chen to reach Xiao Paohui's back unnoticed and deal a death-blow.
The Thundercloud Cicadas had no combat ability. The biggest advantage their heritage conferred was a mastery of escape, using the Cicada's Disappearance and Cicada's Wing. Of course, their immunity to lightning and poison were very helpful as well, both of which were rare traits in the heavenly planes.
Guan Yuchan's expression instantly fell.
"Have I… lost?" At last, all his unspoken words transformed into a deep sigh.
Yes, he had lost. Even as he asked the question, Guan Yuchan tasted bitterness in his mouth. He had every expectation to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat upon deploying the Yin Yang Cymbals. However, he had been too naïve. Pill King Zhen was evidently a great deal stronger than he. How could he not have seen a trace of his opponent's escape otherwise? His failure in perception proved only one thing—his opponent's level of martial dao far surpassed that of his own.
In that moment, Guan Yuchan lost all interest in fighting further.
"Pill King Zhen, congratulations. Having defeated me, you are absolutely qualified to challenge geniuses at the caliber of the great emperors' heirs. Your complete victory here cannot be disputed." Guan Yuchan wasn't a clingy good-for-nothing. He knew that he'd been shown mercy. Otherwise, even ten lives wouldn't have been enough to save him just now.
This battle was the second time Jiang Chen used his Cicada's Disappearance, Xiao Paohui's fight having been the first. Alas, there's nothing for it. The ability was just too useful and deceptive. It was difficult to pick up on or think about. Thus, it was amazing at overtaking an opponent with the element of surprise. Unfortunately, an oft-used method meant that it would be more easily understood by others. Unless it possessed overwhelmingly crushing power, the likelihood of using it as a key to victory decreased exponentially with frequent usage. The first battle's conclusion heralded Jiang Chen's victory over Guan Yuchan. Despite his defeat, the latter acted with incredible grace. Guan Yuchan's loss didn't result in a soul-crushing mentality. "Pill King Zhen," he even had the presence of mind to give some friendly advice, "You won against me because my strength is not yet perfected. If you want to compete in the Ranking of Young Lords, you'll need to hone your own strength even further."
There was a short break before the subsequent drawings were made for the second battle's assignments. This time, Jiang Chen's opponent was the brightest genius of the Amethyst Fire Clan, Gongsun Yan.