The anger hadn’t been because of Jiang Chen’s challenge in particular. The Ranking of Young Lords had clear-cut rules. As the 20th ranked, Jiang Chen could only issue a challenge to someone three ranks above him at most. Yang Sheng was at the tail end of that gap, so challenging him made complete sense. Yang Sheng’s fury was rooted somewhere else. Pill King Zhen had only come to the Capital less than two years ago. How could he be allowed to steal so much thunder? What did he do to deserve so much adoration? The news of Emperor Peafowl’s plans to make him the next young lord was just icing on the cake. Bestowing the title of young lord wasn’t a big deal in and of itself. Any true disciple studying under Emperor Peafowl was automatically eligible.
However, as one of the four most intimate disciples of His Majesty, Yang Sheng had pride and ambition. Ever since young lord Fan’s death, only three out of the four disciples remained, with little difference in ability between them. Given the circumstances, he saw an opportunity for advancement. Thus, he viewed Veluriyam Capital’s future leadership as his own domain, as a possible future he could carve out for himself. Pill King Zhen’s sudden appearance and widespread acceptance by the city greatly threatened that prospect.
His hostility in light of that was quite natural. It was a primal instinct to protect one’s own territory. He wasn’t at all satisfied. He didn’t want Jiang Chen to be listed as one of Sacred Peafowl Mountain’s young lords, period. The trending gossip didn’t only state that Pill King Zhen would be made young lord, but also that he would be young lord Fan’s replacement. This only served to make his enmity explode.
Yang Sheng was an ambitious man. If Pill King Zhen was indeed young lord Fan’s replacement, then the chance at future leadership of Sacred Peafowl Mountain would be lost to him once more. The young lord Fan of yesteryear was undeniably number one compared to his peers. There was no question about who would inherit the faction. They had envied the young lord too back then. The disciples had enough self-awareness about the significant distance between Peafowl’s then-foremost disciple and themselves. But young lord Fan had not collected the popularity and position due to him overnight. That was why they had kept their eventual resentment bottled up.
Pill King Zhen, on the other hand, had made a name for himself by blazing a meteoric trail. He’d become Veluriyam Capital’s most-beloved star in a matter of moments. Yang Sheng was not the most tolerant of individuals. He was very upset, in fact. The arena was the final catalyst for his emotions to erupt. His thin eyebrows upturned, Yang Sheng looked his competitor up and down with undisguised contempt. His gaze was both critical and provocative.
“I’m impressed that you’re able to stand here, Pill King Zhen.” However, he kept his tone impassive. The pill king was an associate of the Mountain, after all. Regardless of how jealous he was in private, he could not imitate Zhuang Jie’s lack of decorum.
Despite its concealment in Yang Sheng’s voice, the hidden hostility from Jiang Chen’s opponent was still easily detectable. The expression in the other man’s eyes gave it up right away. Jiang Chen spared no polities aside from a cupped-fist salute.
“I await your tutelage in the fight,” he replied with a faint smile. If his opponent had been anyone else, perhaps he would have bit back with a snappy retort. However, Yang Sheng was one of Emperor Peafowl’s true disciples. Though there was no need to accord respect to the student in this case, the teacher still deserved full dignity. It was better to give Yang Sheng the cold shoulder. The best kind of retaliation lay in an onstage victory.
Yang Sheng was a little startled at Jiang Chen’s unresponsiveness. An aggravated opponent was easier to deal with, but there was a factor of intimidation as well. His position as one of the true disciples under Emperor Peafowl was the perfect club. He wanted to scare his opponent into performing more poorly than usual. But the pill king hadn’t fallen for it at all. Yang Sheng had been outright ignored. He smirked. “You’ll have something to look forward to, alright.”
With a shake of his arm, he produced a black-and-white whip in his hand. “You know, Pill King Zhen, the news is everywhere these days. People are saying that you’re a genius among geniuses, a master of both pill and martial dao. Let’s test that rumor out and see how true it really is!”
The twirling whip induced cracks in the fabric of its surrounding space. Countless specks of dust came out of the broken space, kicking up a storm of reduced visibility. In the next moment, the monochrome whip moved into action. The air crackled vibrantly, as if heralding an oncoming storm. Numerous bolts of silver lightning appeared in the skies over the arena, snaking through the air with a dangerous vehemence.
“Monochrome Lightning Seal!” Yang Sheng’s hand drew a circle in the air. At the gesture, countless airborne energies collected themselves into two poles: positive and negative, forceful and docile. The two extremes formed an encircling approach.
Jiang Chen had met a strong opponent called Guan Yuchan during the Genius Ranking battles. That fellow favored a pair of golden cymbals. The percussive instruments, acting as positive and negative poles, had been able to create a strong suctioning force between them. This Yin Yang Whip seemed to have the same sort of ability, though the actual technique was probably more complicated and difficult to deal with. After all, the whip’s power purely came from Yang Sheng’s personal skill. It was different from the cymbals, which had been intrinsically strong.
Jiang Chen dared not underestimate his opponent. This kind of power was troublesome in general. Thankfully, his breakthrough into the eighth level sage realm had increased his martial prowess greatly. In his battle against Fang Yuan, Jiang Chen had been filled with boundless inspiration by the mystery of his Reverse Heaven and Earth technique. After some soul-searching consideration, he realized that the sword-strike had contained energies similar to those of an emperor realm cultivator. Therefore, his solution against a martial method such as the one he was currently facing was also to sunder it with his sword.
His Pentecolor Divine Swords swept through the air, combining blade and finesse into one. The chaos in the air marked the upending of laws governing the surrounding space. The two whip images were fragmented into a thousand pieces.
Yang Sheng harrumphed with evident displeasure. He’d observed his opponent’s prior match with Fang Yuan. The power behind this particular sword technique was known to him. Still, he’d been confident that the forcefield from his Yin Yang Whip wouldn’t lose. The simple motion with which the pill king shattered his offense caused his heart to sink. He began to re-evaluate the power of Jiang Chen’s sword.
Is Pill King Zhen actually one of His Majesty’s hidden pawns? Saved for the sole purpose of shining brightly in the Veluriyam Pagoda gathering? A strange thought couldn’t help but pop into Yang Sheng’s head. There was no other explanation for the absurdity of the situation. In face of the fact that he’d only been here for less than two years, Pill King Zhen’s accomplishments were incredibly absurd. Someone like that couldn’t have stayed so nameless. A wandering cultivator? Completely out of the question.
Yang Sheng was fully roused by now, his ire flaring. His whip twisted and wove at will, the constricting force brought to a crescendo by the movements. On the stage, Jiang Chen looked like a raft weathering an ocean tempest. Each and every wave appeared calamitous to the raft. Afterimages from the Yin Yang Whip filled the air. The weapon carried a might that split space itself, and left gashes of nothingness in its wake.
Jiang Chen had fought many geniuses in the past. But as simple as Yang Sheng’s whip looked, it was the first time that Jiang Chen felt the pangs of a challenge. In terms of both power and expertise, his current opponent surpassed the two he’d just taken down by a fair amount. It was fortunate that he’d broken through to the eighth level sage realm already. Otherwise, he would have needed a lot more effort to take down the youth on the other side of the ring.
Although Yang Sheng’s whip was quite potent, it failed to find any gaps in the defenses woven by Jiang Chen’s Pentecolor Swords. As time went by, more and more people were clued into the reality of the battle. Those who were the keenest already had the following impression: no matter how flowery Yang Sheng’s whip attacks were, they were never going to catch Pill King Zhen in their coils. On the other hand, Pill King Zhen was goofing around a bit. His sole purpose seemed to be dismantling his opponent’s offense, having no intention of apparently mounting any counterattack.
“Tch. This Yang Sheng is really shameless. Pill King Zhen is giving way because of his status as one of Emperor Peafowl’s closest disciples. Why is he taking a mile when he’s only been given an inch? Does he really want to be stomped upon?”
“Don’t say it like that. Yang Sheng is one of Sacred Peafowl Mountain’s four true disciples. His techniques with the Yin Yang Whip are pretty impressive. In the world of martial dao, it’s difficult to judge what technique will come on top. Maybe he has an advantage of some sort?”
“That’s a load of bull. I think Pill King Zhen is going easy on him on purpose. Like you said, Yang Sheng is one of Emperor Peafowl’s best students. If the pill king took him out with just a couple of blows, wouldn’t that be really embarrassing? People have reputations, you know.”
“You’re probably right about that. Pill King Zhen is going to be Sacred Peafowl Mountain’s young lord, right? He probably knows it by now. He and his opponent will both serve the same master soon, and Yang Sheng might even be his lieutenant someday. You have to look out a bit for your second-in-command, no?” A variety of different conversations was buzzing all around the arena. Evidently, Jiang Chen’s superb performances so far had caused the residents of the Capital to begin mythologizing him. He was being eternalized as someone unbeatable. Even though his opponent was one of Sacred Peafowl Mountain’s finest youths, everyone believed in Pill King Zhen’s victory to be a matter of course. The unconditional trust signaled a kind of common sentiment.
The battle neared the one-hour mark. Booing began to be heard all around the stage. Public dissatisfaction at Yang Sheng’s behavior was palpable. The man clearly had no chance! What was he still brawling it out for? Look at how refined Pill King Zhen was being! He’d loyally cooperated with his partner all this time, never retaliating even in a slightly dangerous way. Nobody knew what Jiang Chen was actually thinking. He had taken the defensive for one purpose alone: he wanted to figure a few more things out about martial dao through battle and wanted to confirm some of his theories regarding the sword.