All the other battles ended after two hours. It was finally time for the penultimate round! Because Jiang Chen and young master Liuxiang's battle had been too destructive earlier on, the organizers had prepared a sturdier arena for this last round. This arena was usually brought out for emperor realm cultivators, yet here it was, making an appearance ahead of time.
This particular arena was twice the size of the others, and its various defensive restrictions very solid and airtight. Jiang Chen glimpsed various runes and glyphs carved onto the four pillars, further reinforcing this arena. On one side of the arena stood Jiang Chen, victor of a successive string of countless battles. He had grown entirely accustomed to the tempo and atmosphere of the Martial Pagoda battles by now. His emotions were completely at ease. No matter who his opponent was or where they came from, his tranquil mind had only one thought in it, Knock them off the arena! If his opponent really had come just for him, he wouldn't mind killing his opponent in the arena again as soon as he detected a hint of that kind of hostility.
Mie Chenzi was, in the likeness of his name, landing silently on the other side of the stage like a speck of dust. [1. Chen also means dust.] The final tussle over the top spot in the Genius Rankings would be decided right here, right now. Amazingly, neither of them was a great clan disciple from Veluriyam Capital. None of the highly favored candidates had made it to the finals at all. Instead, one of the candidates was Pill King Zhen, famed for his knowledge of pill dao, while the other was a wandering cultivator that no one had heard of before.
Mie Chenzi was of average height and had nondescript features. No matter what angle one considered him from, one would think that he was just an ordinary person in the vast world. There was no obvious edge to him, no dashing air, no hint of arrogance. He really was, as his name suggested, a speck of inconsequential dust in the ground. Yet it was this kind of person who had achieved eight consecutive victories to finally stand on the stage for this last match.
For some reason, Jiang Chen wasn't particularly surprised as he looked at the opponent in front of him. He'd had a hunch the first time he noticed this person that he would be a tough rival. Indeed.
"Pill King Zhen, I've waited for this battle for a long time. I just hadn't thought that it'd come at the end of all the ranking battles and that it would be the decider of who is the champion," Mie Chenzi spoke in an unhurried voice, giving one the feeling of extreme steadiness. It was obvious that there were no ripples of emotion in his heart now. He was wholly focused on the battle to come.
Jiang Chen arched his eyebrow slightly and scanned Mie Chenzi with the God's Eye. "Whether you're anticipating it or have other plans, you have no chance of winning this battle," he spoke with an unprecedented assurance.
His opponent laughed without a flicker of change in his expression. "You've got that much confidence, hmm? I only know that there is always someone better in martial dao. You've had a consecutive string of victories only because you've yet to run into a truly strong opponent. I will end your legend with this battle!"
"Perhaps my string of victories will end, but you won't be the one to end it!" Jiang Chen laughed heartily.
"How arrogant!" Mie Chenzi roared with laughter as well. "I admit that you have the capital to be so full of yourself. But this is all just a joke to me."
This nondescript Mie Chenzi had actually been greatly gathering his aura as he spoke. Bizarrely, the light of someone superior blossomed on his ordinary face, instantly propelling him to a height where he could vie with Jiang Chen. The two geniuses had already exchanged many rounds of blows as they spoke.
Clang! Mie Chenzi's arm suddenly shook slightly as a keen ray of light broke through the void, like a flash of lightning streaking across the horizon. A blade appeared in his hand, one brimming with killing intent! Mie Chenzi's bearing changed drastically when the blade appeared. What had once seemed like an ordinary cultivator was now akin to an ancient deity struggling to break free of its shackles, awakening in the mortal world. Similarly the blade in his hand embodied the likeness of an ancient beast, suppressed for millennia and full of an uncontrollable savagery, as if it wanted to swallow the very world.
Jiang Chen had fully deployed his God's Eye and Psychic's Head. All of his senses had entered a very delicate state of perception that allowed him to clearly evaluate his opponent's every move.
Mie Chenzi only needed to move his arm slightly to have that fierce blade churn up a sharp light. A bolt of lightning appeared out of nowhere, suddenly materializing and striking towards Jiang Chen. The air shuddered wherever the blade's edge passed, disturbing the very order of the laws of space. Jiang Chen's eyes moved rapidly as he lightly swept his arms with the Featherflight Mirror in his sleeve.
Pfft pfft pfft pfft! When the light hit the blade's edge, the previously impervious edge seem to crash head on into a wondrous power. A grating sound rang out as the cutting light broke up and dissipated into motes of light. Mie Chenzi had deployed this stroke in an exceedingly subtle fashion, and its greatest strength was in that the light would hide in the void after it was deployed, making people unable to even track where the attack was coming from.
But with Jiang Chen's Psychic's Head bolstering his senses to be many times stronger than that of the average cultivator, he could accurately grasp the path of the blade's light. Although it truly was very fast, on par with a shooting star's speed, slowing down swift attacks was the Mirror's specialty. It could take on all comers unless the opponent's speed was faster than Jiang Chen's reaction speed.
Sadly for Mie Chenzi, although his attack was very discreet, it wasn't faster than his opponent's reaction time. The light from the slash broke up, scattering all over the arena. Impacts onto the four pillars in the corners also sounded. Marks from stray sword aura were left on them, causing the audience to suck in breaths of surprise. This arena was much more durable than the one prior. Its restrictions were several times stronger as well. However, Mie Chenzi's sword aura had still been strong enough to leave marks on the infrastructure. Though the marks weren't very deep, it was still shocking nonetheless. It would seem that even the remnants of this wandering cultivator's strike was stronger than many's geniuses' full strikes! After all, full hits from many of those participating in the Genius Rankings may not even leave such a deep mark on the pillars.
The audience was holding their breath out of nervousness and their hearts were in their throats. Many of them still wished that Pill King Zhen would win. Although the pill king wasn't a Veluriyam Capital native, he was still considered as one of them now. Who was Mie Chenzi? No one knew of him. Since he was a complete stranger, no one wanted him to win. They didn't want him to take the championship at all. It wouldn't be a loss of face for just the geniuses if a random stranger were to win that highest honor, but for the entirety of Veluriyam Capital too. Therefore, not only did House Wei, Taiyuan Tower, and Emperor Peafowl's faction wish that Pill King Zhen would win, but many of the other great emperor factions and other Veluriyam Capital cultivators did as well.. In this way, he could at least guard this last bit of face for them.
"Clan Lord, do you have any thoughts about this Mie Chenzi?" Ji San couldn't help but ask in the end.
However, the clan lord also shook his head. "No one's been able to find out where he comes from; his background is hidden deep. However, I speculate that he's from a great sect. It's just that there are too many of such people in the Upper Eight Regions, and the young disciples of the various sects rarely get together. Everything is shrouded in mystery, so it truly is too hard to determine where he's from."
The various Upper Eight Region sects surely raised many geniuses in private, but they rarely showed their faces, even for an occasion like this. The sects wouldn't be willing to expose their trump cards either, so it was very difficult to find out anything about their geniuses without a special investigation. The Coiling Dragon clan lord wasn't able to glean much about Mie Chenzi. But of one thing he was certain, and that was that with this person's degree of strength, he would certainly be a true disciple, even in a first-rate sect. He'd be ranked within the top five or even within the top three.
Young master Ji San and Liuxiang had all crossed paths with this fellow before, so they were naturally aware of how frightening his strength was. Young master Liuxiang had left after his defeat to Jiang Chen, with only Ji Zhongtang staying with the clan lord. His eyes were fixated on the arena as he gave the fight his full attention. He was a martial dao fanatic. Although he'd lost to Jiang Chen, he wasn't in the least bit depressed. Defeat was nothing in his eyes. One moved forward on the path of martial dao only after repeated defeat. What he had to do was to observe his opponents and continuously aim for self-improvement with the hopes that one day, he'd be able to mount a comeback.
Back on the stage, Mie Chenzi didn't feel that he had suffered a setback after his move had been parried. Rather, he struck out repeatedly instead, forming sixty-four slashes, as if he had a dozen arms. They were completed in the blink of an eye, with the afterimages of arms being raised to deliver a sword strike appearing everywhere on the stage. In the next moment, they actually formed an enormous eight trigram formation of sword shadows, sealing off all the space around Jiang Chen for a hundred mile radius.
The sword's light was like a dragon ravaging the void. It's most critical aspect was that each stroke was untraceable and unfathomable. They were akin to a meteor shower, suddenly here and then gone without a trace. These sixty-four strokes were the pinnacle of Mie Chenzi's essence of sword dao. He'd deployed its maximum speed and profound mystery.
Even those with the most confidence in Jiang Chen couldn't help but feel nervous in this moment. The sword light attacking from all fronts covered every angle of approach; there were no gaps whatsoever. When the formation closed in on ten meters away from Jiang Chen, the sword images suddenly all darted out of the void and shot out stunning splendor. The extreme bloodthirsty aura they exuded seem to carry the summons from hell itself. Ghouls and spirits howled, dragons and tigers roared, the very earth and sky itself was collapsing…
In that critical moment, all sixty-four beams of light landed solidly on Jiang Chen. Blood burst out of his body in the next second as his entire body exploded.
"What?!" The audience was stunned by the sight. A deathly silence descended, as no one was able to accept this cruel development. Shen Trifire and the others watching beneath the stage could barely remain on their feet. Ling Hui'er cried out, the two great mounds on her chest heaving as her eyes grew red and tears trickled down her face. Gouyu's strikingly fair face drained of all its color as she grasped Huang'er's arm, her entire body trembling uncontrollably. Huang'er eyes darted around rapidly. A trace of a smile suddenly appeared on her lips as she lightly patted Gouyu's shoulder. "Don't worry, sister Gouyu. Everything's fine."
A smile played about on Mie Chenzi's lips. However, he suddenly wavered as he seemed to detect something. His arm quickly whirled in a backhand slash.
Pfft! This stroke was extremely sudden and it screamed through the air.
Bam! The powerful light hit nothing, however. It just crashed into the pillar.
"Hmm?" The candidate frowned. He'd felt the slightest twinge of danger just now, so why had his stroke landed on empty air? When he turned to view the location of his opponent's destruction again, he found nothing in front of him. The so-called gory scene had just been an illusion.
"Cheap tricks!" He was finally certain that he'd been played. Pill King Zhen had an ability to disappear that he'd already used twice, so Mie Chenzi was surprised but not dumbfounded by this development. "Pill King Zhen, I'll humor you since you're afraid of fighting me face-to-face. I'll have you know that these little parlor tricks are nothing in the end!"
He was fully displaying his domineering bearing at this moment, no longer emanating the demeanor of an ordinary wandering cultivator. It would seem that having his moves miss several times in a row had angered him. He reached out with a grasping motion, coming up with a bell in his hand. It was a sinisterly designed bell, as the handle looked like a sword's handle, whereas the bell itself was designed as a grimacing monster with a pair of wings on its back. The item was accompanied by an eerie aura, instantly dampening the arena's atmosphere.