Mie Chenzi was a veteran of countless battles. In every one of his past conquests, he’d maimed, crushed, and mercilessly tricked his opponents without mercy. There had never been a battle as unpleasant as today’s. He’d been outmaneuvered at every turn, stifled at every move, and to top it off, he couldn’t even begin to think of any solutions to his predicament. He had seen the eight statues before. Their previous owner had been a wandering cultivator known as the Prince of Shangping. But in his memories, the eight statues lacked both the terrifying offensive strength and the astonishing mobility that they currently possessed. The statues now had a new spirit to them along with several degrees of increased intelligence. They had become similar to real cultivators, both in terms of raw power and battlefield awareness.
That wasn’t the most annoying aspect about them, however. The most irritating part was that the statues weren’t of flesh and blood; they were inorganic objects! None of his retaliation had any effect whatsoever. The most a strike that landed did was leave a faint scar. Mie Chenzi’s blade hacked at the statues again and again, but he had no way of totally annihilating them. As essentially puppets of their controller’s will, the statues could not be counted as completely destroyed unless they were shattered. The problem with this proposition was that… puppets were unafraid of taking a beating, but he was.
Yes, he’d instantly increased his body’s defenses several times over, but the torrent of attacks he’d experienced just now had already inflicted a few wounds. Though he would be fine in the immediate future if he allowed the statues to continuously land blows on him, it would surely be a problem if stretched over a longer period of time. Most importantly, the glyph’s defensive boost had a time limit. Once its duration was up, he had no way to protect himself against the frenzied assault from the pack of statues. His fleshly body wouldn’t last long against the inorganic statues once a pitched battle ensued. Mie Chenzi’s heart was aflame with anxiety.
This was a predicament that he’d never encountered before. He still possessed a final trump card, but it was difficult for him to draw it under the present circumstances. More importantly, if he did show it to the audience, his identity would be revealed, and that would bring disaster onto himself and his sect.
In this moment, Mie Chenzi was hopelessly uneasy. The match had three secret observers who were even more restless than him. The three holy kings from the Eternal Celestial Capital—Saint Holy Kings Mu and Ke, and Holy King Bei— were watching from a safe distance. The ‘Mie Chenzi’ in the arena was a top-ranked genius from the Eternal Celestial Capital, one of the sect’s true disciples. Having seen all of Pill King Zhen’s successive victories prior, they’d witnessed the brutal killing of someone who looked suspiciously like a similarly prestigious disciple from the Ninesuns Sky Sect. They’d already had second thoughts about whether they should send their own best genius in the first place.
The Eternal Celestial Capital had sent three geniuses in total. However, the other two were already useless. Even if they were to take the stage, the only thing that fate had in store for them was death. Only Mie Chenzi stood a ghost of a chance. When he’d produced the Souldrain Bell, all three holy kings were absolutely astounded. Truly, the head of the sect’s favor for ‘Mie Chenzi’ knew no bounds.
Strangely, the Bell that they saw as a path to certain victory had little effect on Pill King Zhen. Quite the opposite, the counterblow that Pill King Zhen struck allowed him to gain the upper hand instead. Wave after wave, the pill king’s barrage was inexorable. It seemed that Mie Chenzi was having a fair bit of trouble warding off his attacks. The trio was flabbergasted by this. They’d had their previous suspicions that Pill King Zhen was actually Jiang Chen, but this time they started second-guessing themselves. Jiang Chen was extraordinary, sure, but all news of him indicated that this kind of capability was beyond his abilities.
Is… is this Pill King Zhen really not Jiang Chen? This was the question that each and every holy king had in mind. Given what had happened so far? It was honestly hard to tell. Pill King Zhen’s abilities had surpassed their estimates to the point of absurdity. Could any of their true disciples overcome the man?
Was Jiang Chen a genius that could accomplish such a feat? Ultimately, Regal Pill Palace was only a fourth-rank sect, and Jiang Chen was just a genius from that sect. Being able to rise out of the Myriad Domain and amounting to anything in the Upper Eight Regions were two very different things. Even the most diehard Zhen-Chen theorist, Saint Holy King Mu, became uncertain.
Unfortunately, the current state of affairs was difficult to recover from. The sight of Mie Chenzi in imminent danger on the stage only increased the three holy kings’ anxiety. Among the Eternal Celestial Capital’s best disciples, Mie Chenzi easily made it into the top five and was even a reasonable contender for the top three. Furthermore, he was the grandson of the sect head. The latter heavily favored him.
“Brother Ke, shouldn’t Mie Chenzi have more trump cards up his sleeve? He is the grandson of the sect head, after all. Is continuing to take Jiang Chen’s beating the only thing he can do?”
“I don’t think the sect head would’ve let Mie Chenzi take such a big risk by coming here without the necessary preparation.” Saint Holy King Ke returned a wry smile. “My guess is on him waiting for a window of counterattack.” With things as they were currently, that was the only thing they could hope for.
In the arena proper, Jiang Chen looked leisurely and relaxed. In actuality, he was constantly observing his surroundings. He was waiting for a chance to land the killing blow. He no longer had any doubts that his opponent was an envoy from an enemy sect.
The Ninesuns Sky Sect, Eternal Celestial Capital, or Pillfire City... it had to be one of these. The Great Scarlet Mid Region was hostile to him as well, but he was confident that no genius from it could possibly reach the level Mie Chenzi was at, hence his hypothesis about the other’s origin. As for exactly which one, Jiang Chen had no interest in finding out. He had only one thought in mind: to kill his opponent before he could leave the stage. The target of this murderous intent sensed Jiang Chen’s motives, his disposition turning serious. For a time, his movements became more guarded, and he was almost able to maintain defensive equilibrium.
Jiang Chen started brainstorming how to break the stalemate when he saw this. He had many other methods, of course—formations, his Bewitching Lotus, his magnetic golden mountain... But he wasn’t planning to use any of them for the time being. Flourishing his sleeves, he shot out an invisible ray from his Featherflight Mirror.
Mie Chenzi was already busy enough handling the eight statues. How would he be prepared for the Mirror’s unforeseen intervention? His back swayed, and his step slowed a beat. This momentary delay caused two statues to collide into both his left and right shoulders. Bam bam! Though he had a strong defensive ward over his entire body, the attacks were fierce enough to cause him bone-splitting pain. His breath became ragged, his vitals disturbed by the impact. They weren’t exactly lethal, but the attacks definitely did a number on him. Twenty or thirty of those swings would be enough to cause heavy trauma.
Jiang Chen repeated his previous gesture. Constant rays from the Featherflight Mirror beamed towards Mie Chenzi’s body, perpetually opportunistic in their timing. Being constantly slowed by the mirror impeded him enough to be hit seven or eight more times in succession. None of them caused any critical bruises, but the nonstop bashes only worsened his condition. The talisman’s warding ability was formidable, but it couldn’t stand up to an unbroken stream of blows.
Scrambling in panic, Mie Chenzi shouted at the top of his lungs, “Pill King Zhen, your methods are too strong. I admit defeat!”
He… admits defeat?
Jiang Chen hadn’t at all imagined the possibility of Mie Chenzi’s forfeiture at this crucial juncture. Had he just been shamed into submission by a volley of attacks? The very purpose of shaming him was in order to provoke him! Preferably so that in the heat of the moment, he’d blurt out something like, “I’ll never surrender!” Alas, Jiang Chen had underestimated the thickness of this Mie Chenzi’s hide. Surrendering! What a turn of events… at such a key time, too.
When all was said and done, this was only a competitive match. There was no justification for cutting down one’s opponent after a public surrender. It was in the rules as well—upon a forfeit, the winning side could not pursue the losing side any further. Jiang Chen wanted more than anything to kill his opponent right then and there, but reason told him that victory was already decided.
Holding back his Mirror, Jiang Chen sneered. “Mie Chenzi, you talked so much smack about ending my winning streak. Shame that it’s all bluster and no bite, huh?”
This was an attempt to aggravate Mie Chenzi anew. Mie Chenzi had a dark expression on his face. “The match is over. What’s the point of saying anything more? Winners are always right, losers are always wrong. You’re the former, so whatever you say is fine.”
He was rather decisive about it all. Those were the words of a man with nothing left to lose. They were difficult to sink one’s teeth into. Jiang Chen could only maintain his sneer, his God’s Eye looking profoundly into the other man’s soul. Mie Chenzi became impassive again. With an utterly undecipherable look, he appeared perfectly ordinary once more.
“Pill King Zhen, nine wins in a row! First place in the ranking battles, top of the Genius Rankings!” The match concluded, the judge stood forward to loudly announce the result. The other groups’ ranking battles were over now as well. The chance to challenge others came next. According to the regulations stated previously, the fourth to sixth groups had the right to challenge the top thirty geniuses within the first to third groups.
Very few of them actually exercised the option, however. They’d been witnesses to the differences in strength firsthand. Clearly, everyone had a certain fear that issuing a challenge was equivalent to an open insult. As such, it could be the spark to further aggression in the arena. If by chance a higher-ranked person was challenged and took it as an affront, the lower-ranked person’s life would be in danger when he faced the full brunt of the higher-ranked person’s might.
Given this consideration, there were only six instances of such challenges. All of them ended in failure without exception. The last four areas had a similar opportunity open to them in order to enter the top 164 spots. The stakes were slightly different—they opened up the door to competing in the Ranking of Young Lords. It was an opportunity that almost none of the particularly low-ranked cultivators wanted to give up. Thus, the battles that occurred afterwards between the lower ranks were far fiercer.