After a half-month interlude, the ranking battles for the Ranking of Young Lords recommenced. This final set of ranking battles didn’t have any complicated rules. The thirty-six cultivators currently on the Ranking of Young Lords each had three opportunities to challenge someone else. The battles began from the 36th ranked contestant. The 36th ranked cultivator could challenge someone at most three ranks ahead of him, so he could only target geniuses from ranks 35 to 33 in his first match.
If he won the first bout, he would earn the right to challenge someone up to six ranks ahead. Similarly, if he succeeded in the second bout, he could then proceed to challenge twelve ranks above him. On the other hand, if he lost in the first match, his remaining opportunities would be taken away, and he would be forced to stay in the Ranking’s last place. No matter how much the rankings ahead of him changed, he would have no part in them. Moreover, the cultivators who were ranked ahead of the challengers could only be challenged once per day. If a challenge was successful, then the challenger and the challenged would have their rankings swapped. Someone who lost a challenge would be permanently placed in the challenger’s spot, and there would be no further change to his ranking.
Being defeated by a challenger was the automatic mark of a loser. According to the regulations of the Ranking, after a loss, their right to issue challenges would be taken away. Take Gu Zhenshan and Zhuang Jie as an example, both of whom had been defeated by Ji San and Jiang Chen, respectively. The result of their losses had been even more severe. They’d been outright eliminated from the Ranking of Young Lords. Thus, a defending cultivator who couldn’t protect his ranking had no choice but to settle at the bottom.
Since the initial ranking incorporated many considerations from the seven emperors, its accuracy was generally quite reliable. One or two places’ difference was of course a surprise, but an error of three or six ranks’ difference was unlikely. If someone higher lost to someone lower with a three or even six-rank difference, then he could blame nothing aside from his own inadequacy.
The seven battles from ranks 36 to 30 carried few surprises. Though each initial challenge spanned only three ranks, there were no instances of success. Following these initial battles, the 29th ranked genius challenged the 26th. After a grueling battle, this challenge became the first instance of a successful challenge. His opponent was unceremoniously shifted back to the 29th place and was given no opportunity to contest the result while the now 26th ranked genius had the privilege of continuing his challenge. The second time, he could challenge across six ranks. The other contestants’ thoughts became more lively as a result.
Clearly, the guy had quite a few choices ahead of him. If he wanted to challenge someone five ranks up, there was young master Ji San. Six ranks? Pill King Zhen. Compared to challenging other geniuses, Ji San and Pill King Zhen were two dark horses who’d come from the Genius Rankings. Due to this fact, there was a greater chance of defeating them. Though they’d exhibited great strength in their qualifying matches, the common opinion was that they still lacked in both fundamentals and fame.
On paper, a fight against them could work out. If the now 26th ranked contestant could challenge either of them and win, it’d be a great coup for him. The result would be a climb that started from 29th place and ended at 21st, or even 20th. It was a shockingly large gap to bridge. For the Ranking of Young Lords, even the space of one or two ranks was exceedingly difficult to surmount for prospective challengers looking to move upwards.
“Should I challenge young master Ji San or Pill King Zhen?” The genius was named Fang Yuan, hailing from Emperor Void’s faction. He had a difficult choice ahead of him. He probably had a higher chance of winning against young master Ji San, but if he picked Pill King Zhen and was successful in his challenge, it would result in a larger outcry. His final ranking would be a bit higher as well. After some consideration, Fang Yuan finally decided to make full use of his opportunity. He would challenge Pill King Zhen! It was the highest number of ranks he could jump, as someone ranked 26th. Pill King Zhen was ranked 20th.
Jiang Chen was unsurprised at the challenge. Chances like these were hard to come by, and it was logical that his opponent would want to maximize such an opportunity to its fullest extent. He wasn’t afraid of battles. His victory over Zhuang Jie had shown him the approximate depth of the heirs to the emperors’ ability. The formerly 20th ranked Zhuang Jie was at the half-step emperor realm. There was a sliver of difference between him and a true emperor realm cultivator. Likewise, Fang Yuan was at the same level, at the half-step emperor realm.
Though Fang Yuan and Zhuang Jie were nominally on the same level, there was a marked disparity between the two. It was impossible for Fang Yuan to surpass Zhuang Jie in terms of strength. Jiang Chen had been able to defeat someone like Zhuang Jie while he was still at the seventh level sage realm. Now that he’d broken through to the eighth level sage realm, he wasn’t optimistic about his new opponent’s chances. But, it was a convenient excuse for him to test just how much he’d improved. In his personal opinion, he’d reaped great rewards from breaking through to the eighth rank sage realm. The extent of his rewards’ benefits, however, was yet to be determined. He’d have to verify his growth through actual combat.
Fang Yuan’s preferred weapon was a black spear for missile attacks. He pointed its head at Jiang Chen from afar. The pressure the spear exerted melded into his own aura.
“Pill King Zhen, I know how powerful you are as an opponent. Even so, I’ve worked many decades on honing my skill with the spear. All of the glory I’ve accumulated in my life thus far hinges on this battle. I’m willing to burn my lifeforce for the sake of victory. I’m going to go all out today and show off the full extent of what this spear can do!”
Manners maketh the man. Though Fang Yuan probably wasn’t actually stronger than Zhuang Jie, he certainly surpassed the latter in terms of both character and demeanor. Jiang Chen nodded slightly, the look in his eyes heating up as well. “Brother Fang, there is no need to speak of win or lose in the arena. Seek only peace and satisfaction with yourself. Please, go ahead.”
Fang Yuan’s own eyes shifted rapidly. He inclined his head in response. “Then, as a lower rank challenging a higher, I will make the first move!” He was perfectly candid, offering no further pretense or elocution. With a shake of his arm, he stuck out with the yard-long spear. Its projected point surged like a black serpent of lightning, almost extending past the boundaries of space itself. The weapon was in front of Jiang Chen in the next second. Most importantly, the spear’s intent had no flair or flourish to it. The action was simple rather than complex and showy. Each and every detail and movement had been clearly displayed in this lethal spear-strike.
Jiang Chen had given Fang Yuan his full attention from the instant the man jumped on stage. He felt a sense of threat from the spear. It was entirely instinctual, a kind of sixth sense shared between experts. Thus, Jiang Chen reacted instantly to the attack with a flash of his own sword. He deflected it aside in a single smooth motion. Clang! Sparks erupted forth from the point of collision between his Pentecolor Sword and the spear’s head.
The forward thrust of the spear carried terrifying power behind it, but Jiang Chen’s sword swing parried it with surprising facility. Both combatants’ bodies swayed from the impact. Fang Yuan’s heart sank. His attack had merely been an opening strike. Things would have been very different if his opponent had decided to evade or deal with the attack head on. The ensuing flood of pressure from his spear would have swelled like the tide, each blow more powerful than the last. That was the most potent thing about his spear. Each form flowed into the next, their relentless assault pushing ever forward. Additionally, each successive movement was accompanied by a sizable increase in power. In this way, his opponents would be exhausted and dismantled by the endless aggression.
But this time, Jiang Chen hadn’t dodged the attack or tried to take it with his tempered body head on. Instead, he had deflected both the spear and the pressure behind it. It had looked like a simple turn of the blade, and certainly that was what the audience thought. There was no evidence whatsoever of the mastery behind the gesture to the untrained eye. Only true experts with an extremely keen eye could discern the truth. As for the opponent himself, well, Fang Yuan was devastated. Jiang Chen’s casual riposte directly disrupted the momentum of his spear. It unsettled his offensive tempo, cutting a string of future attacks at their knees.
Whenever momentum was disrupted like this, the attacker had to build it up all over again. All of Fang Yuan’s prior posturing and preparation was wasted, meaningless. Though it had looked simple, the deflecting blow actually contained a lot of martial dao wisdom. Was it a coincidence? Or did his opponent see through to the attack’s substance? Fang Yuan was both dismayed and uncertain.
Again! Brandishing his spear, Fang Yuan began to work up a storm once more. In the blink of an eye, he’d thrust his weapon forth eighty-one times. Like a shower of meteors, the eighty-one thrusts transformed into a piercing storm. In the fight prior, Zhuang Jie’s wind constitution had granted him supernatural haste. Thus, it was remarkable that Fang Yuan matched Zhuang Jie bit for bit in terms of speed. Moreover, the haste of his movements were incorporated much better into the impetus behind his spear.
Jiang Chen’s eyes moved. The Divine Pentecolor Swords split from one blade into five, their kaleidoscopic radiance dispersing through the air. “Reverse Heaven and Earth!” he cried. Just like the Torrent of Ten Thousand Swords, this was also part of the Divine Five Thunderclap Sword Technique. Though it wasn’t as flashy as the former, it possessed a subtle power all its own. Five colorful streaks of sword light transformed into a dazzling air current. Distorting the fabric of space itself, it sucked in all eighty-one strokes.
The technique pitted sword against spear, and yet crushed its competition utterly. As its name suggested, ‘Reverse Heaven and Earth’ warped natural order itself. It twisted space in such a way that no technique, whether offensive or defensive, could continue operate any longer wherever it went. This was a technique that could rival an emperor realm cultivator’s domain technique. A half-step emperor realm genius could barely grasp the basics of domain power. Jiang Chen’s sword strike, on the other hand, possessed prototypical characteristics of an emperor realm technique. In terms of how esoteric and arcane the ability was, ordinary emperor realm domains couldn’t hope to match up to it at all.
Most of the time, emperor realm domains required an expert’s own power and the formation of a force field taken from that power. They typically required a certain amount of time for setup. But Jiang Chen had demonstrated an emperor realm domain power with just a mere sword technique! All seven emperors showed expressions of slight astonishment at this sudden turn of events.