The competitions this time around were of the round robin format. Each section's ten geniuses were guaranteed to fight each other once, meaning each man had nine opponents. The organizers intentionally set it up in such a manner. Intense battle tested substance, ability, and improvisation. Unless a particular side exhibited an overwhelming advantage, continuous melee was a breeding ground for spontaneity. No matter how deep one's reserves of strength were, extended combat would eventually exhaust one's stamina. This kind of exhaustion was fair to everyone.
As the foremost genius of the Amethyst Fire Clan under Emperor Void, Gongsun Yan had the same bloodline and heritage as the other geniuses of his clan: the Amethyst Fire Bloodline. It was named as such because their innate constitutions were attuned to purple fire from birth. Gongsun Yan distinguished himself from his peers because his bloodline was a cut above the rest. The purple fire he carried within was equivalent to an innate fire constitution of medium order.
Mu Gaoqi had an innate wood constitution of high order, a bloodline that drew even Jiang Chen's respect. This was especially true since Mu Gaoqi's elemental alignment was wood, a true rarity. Fire and water constitutions were much more common. Nevertheless, Gongsun Yan's constitution was still very rare. Many people had fire or water constitutions, but far fewer of them were innate. Those that did for the most part had constitutions of a low order, barely enough to be counted as innate. Above medium order was high order, of course, and perfected above that; but ninety-nine percent of constitutions were low order only. A medium order constitution had the probability of one in a hundred thousand, if one were to speak optimistically.
As for high order? It would be lucky to find one in even a hundred million people. And on Jiang Chen's part, the only person with an innate wood constitution that he had seen was Mu Gaoqi throughout all these years. This made his high order even more remarkable. Because Gongsun Yan had a natural born constitution, he possessed many fortuitous advantages. However, it was hard to exploit any of them against Jiang Chen.
If it wasn't for the fact that Jiang Chen couldn't publicly use his Bewitching Lotus, taking down Gongsun Yan would have been a piece of cake. Even so, Jiang Chen successfully defeated this opponent after a fierce battle. He was matched with Vast Sun Clan's Shen Hao in the third round. This opponent was viewed as the weakest amongst the top ten. Shen Hao wasn't much perturbed by it, though. He sparred against Jiang Chen with a learning attitude, not at all saddened by his loss. After three consecutive victories, Jiang Chen was greeted with his fourth opponent.
Young master Liuxiang from the Coiling Dragon Clan. Though Ji San had never mentioned Liuxiang's hostility towards him, Jiang Chen could nevertheless still detect a trace of antagonism. Jiang Chen knew the hearts of men well. The young master likely had a distaste of him because his appearance propelled Ji San into the stratosphere in front of the clan lord. Ji San had become the number one heir to the clan because of this. This was clearly detrimental to Liuxiang, who was forced to maintain an elegant and gracious façade despite his extreme antipathy for the pill king. Jiang Chen knew it was only pretense, but he found no value in dispensing with the charade.
"Pill King Zhen, you've hidden your abilities from us until now! Your martial talent is quite stunning. I'm pleased to have the opportunity to experience it personally, but please, do go easy on me," young master Liuxiang smiled faintly.
Jiang Chen nodded, "I've always heard that you are one of the best geniuses of this fine city, young master Liuxiang. Today is the perfect opportunity for a friendly fight."
Neither spared niceties for the other.
"Please, go ahead."
Once the courtesies were over with, however, neither party held back either. Liuxiang's cultivation level could definitely put him within the top three amongst the scions of the great clans. It was quite possible that he was worthy of first place. But the question had always been, who was stronger, Liuxiang or Ji San? That had always been inconclusive.
Still, Jiang Chen felt that aside from the mysterious large brute that he had faced during the New Star Rankings, this young master was definitely one of the most difficult opponents he'd come across. Liuxiang was at the half-step emperor realm, an impressive feat of cultivation. Moreover, he was cautious on both offense and defense. It was difficult for Jiang Chen to quickly defeat such an opponent.
Since he knew Liuxiang's style of combat, Jiang Chen had no plans to rush into things. Instead, he matched Liuxiang in a series of unhurried, probing attacks. As a scion of the Coiling Dragon Clan, Liuxiang was sure to have a slew of aces up his sleeve—things like the Imperial Advent Defense Talisman, for example. Thus, Jiang Chen had no plans to use his strongest attacks straight off the bat.
If his opponent used a Talisman, none of his attacks would be of any use, aside from the restriction left in the palace abode. There was no conceivable way that he could actually use that. Doing so would give away his identity and bring unnecessary trouble. As Jiang Chen guessed, Liuxiang waited only a few moments before activating an Imperial Advent Defense Talisman. For the next two hours, his defense would be comparable to an emperor realm level's. Though that didn't mean it was necessarily the same as an emperor realm cultivator's personal defense, the sheer rank of the shield meant that it was difficult for Jiang Chen to break through it.
Watching from a distance, the Coiling Dragon clan lord didn't quite know what to say.
"Liuxiang isn't taking the bigger picture into account. He's using a Defense Talisman! That's tearing off the pretense of courtesy a bit, isn't it?" The clan lord was none too pleased with the turn of events. It wasn't that he didn't want the young master to win. With any other opponent, the clan lord would have been fine with him using every method at his disposal. But young master Liuxiang was facing Pill King Zhen! The pill king's value to the clan lord aside, there was a slight difference in raw ability between the young master and him. That much was evident from the battles prior.
"I hope Pill King Zhen won't be offended by this," the clan lord silently sighed. He saw as clearly as anyone that the pill king wouldn't give up the rankings so easily. Even if Ji San was onstage, the pill king would be unlikely to sandbag the match. This was the Veluriyam Pagoda gathering after all, a sacred stage.
Jiang Chen was unsurprised at Liuxiang's activation of the talisman. He found it pointless to attack in light of this, instead fighting very conservatively. A Jiang Chen in full defense was difficult for Liuxiang to do much about. Though his offensive power was decent, there was no hope of it being strong enough to overpower Jiang Chen, much less incapacitate him. Given this, the previously even-handed combat became slightly one-sided.
Young master Liuxiang was in full-out assault, while Pill King Zhen was focused on dragging out the conflict. Strangely, Liuxiang seemed to be at his wits' end. Despite exerting all his strength, Pill King Zhen remained unfazed at the onslaught, easily warding off attack after attack. No matter the method that the young master employed, the pill king on the other side of the ring effortlessly repelled it. Watching the anxiety building on Liuxiang's face, Jiang Chen knew that while he was a genius, his combat strength couldn't even compare to Xiao Paohui's. There was no need for Jiang Chen to resort to any other methods. He'd been able to deflect sixty to seventy percent of the force behind any of the young master's attacks with the Featherflight Mirror alone. The remaining thirty or forty percent was hardly enough to endanger its target.
Two hours passed. The battles in the other arenas were generally concluded, but heated blows were still being traded here. Though young master Liuxiang tried using his various trump cards, it was as if he were punching cotton—completely fruitless. The Imperial Advent Defense Talisman was only effective for two hours. Two hours had since elapsed from its activation, and Liuxiang lost its benefits accordingly.
The corner of Jiang Chen's mouth moved. "Young master Liuxiang," he smiled, "you've been on the offense for so long! You must be tired. Why not try taking one of my attacks instead?"
To Liuxiang's ears, the pill king's joking tone was as harsh as the most mocking taunt. However, Jiang Chen had no desire to tangle further with the young master. He was tired of the youth. Since Liuxiang would always be one of Ji San's opponents, their differences were essentially irreconcilable. Therefore, there was no need to have any second thoughts. Sure, the Coiling Dragon clan lord might express his displeasure later, but this was a competitive fight in a proper arena. He stretched out his arms. At the gesture, the Pentecolor Divine Swords flew out in unison.
"I'm only going to make one attack." Jiang Chen smiled faintly. He made a hand seal, causing the swords to erupt in radiance. They turned into five streaks of light, bursting into the sky. In the next moment, they inflated into five dragon forms, turning the heavens into stormy skies with their presence. Lightning crackled and thunder roared.
In the style of the ancient celestial swordmasters, Jiang Chen sang out, his sleeves fluttering in the wind.
"The first sword, shaking heaven and earth…"
"The second sword, moving existence itself…"
"The third sword, separating yin and yang..."
"The fourth sword, claiming dominion over the world…"
"The fifth sword, gathering the five elements and forming thunder itself. Torrent of Ten Thousand Swords, slewing the heavens themselves!"
Thunder rumbled in the firmament. The five-colored streaks of light gathered into an ocean of swords that culminated in an abrupt explosion. The sky was filled with sword aura. The momentum of myriad blades exerted an immense pressure on everything beneath it.
Another hand seal from Jiang Chen brought everything crashing down. In the next instant, the entire arena was filled with the shapes and shadows of swords. Sword aura snaked through the air, as if moving in harmony with the heavenly thunder. Behind the deafening crashes, there was an infinitely incomprehensible killing intent. An inexorable tide of swords flooded the world.
In that moment, a pervasive sword aura was the only thing that apparently remained. Like a hundred thousand divine soldiers, it enshrouded everything beneath the four corners of the sky. The fireworks display that the sword technique put on was blinding. The entire audience was dazzled by it. A common thought popped into their minds, What attack is this, that it can strike such madness into our hearts?!