Suddenly, a shadow flashed before Duan Qian Li’s body. It turned out that the grey-robed old man had appeared in front of him in order to defend him.
"The outcome of the battle has already been decided. So, there’s no need to hit him again," the grey-robed old man looked towards Shi Mu and spoke.
Shi Mu smiled. He then shook the chains in his arm, and the meteoric hammer came revolving and flying backwards. He caught it, and held it in his hand.
The outer corners of the grey-robed old man’s eyes twitched as he looked at the meteoric hammer in Shi Mu’s hand. He then squatted down. After that, he took out a green magic charm, and pasted it on Duan Qian Li’s chest.
A beam of green light came out of it, and covered the wound on Duan Qian Li’s chest. The painful look on Duan Qian Li’s face slowly vanished. He then lay his head on one side, and lost consciousness.
The grey-robed old man waved his hand, and a white light went flying to enter into the stone pillars near the ring.
The white boundary around the ring flashed and disappeared.
"The winner is Shi Mu," the grey-robed old man announced.
Everyone near the ring was silent. They were dumbstruck. But, they issued a sky-shaking scream as they heard the announcement.
Mo Ning’s complexion became ugly; he felt a little embarrassed.
He had predicted a moment ago that Duan Qian Li would win the match. So, the outcome had been very unexpected for him. He didn’t think that Shi Mu would defeat this man in one move. It was a slap on his face.
Bai Shui Xiu shot a glance at Mo Ning. She had a look of mockery in her eyes.
Qian Xiong wrinkled his brows. He looked towards the meteoric hammer in Shi Mu’s hand. But, he didn’t have a scornful look in his eyes.
A few janitor disciples came, and lifted Duan Qian Li who was seriously hurt and unconscious. He had defeated a powerful opponent with his astonishing strength a day ago. Then, he had stood proudly in the ring to enjoy the glory of attention of the huge crowd. He had been high-spirited. But, he hadn’t thought that he would’ve to leave the ring in a similar manner on the next day itself.
Everyone looked towards unconscious Duan Qian Li with pity. But then, they moved their gazes towards Shi Mu.
The Head of Black Demon Sect and elders – sitting on the high platform near the ring – also revealed surprise on their faces.
A strange splendor flickered in Jin Xiao Chai’s eyes as she looked towards Shi Mu. It couldn’t be determined what she was thinking.
"Silence! The ranking of the second-grade disciples is done. Now, the top ten disciples of the second-grade will come over… and challenge the top ten disciples of the first-grade for the competition," the grey-robed old man stood in the middle of the ring and said.
Everyone became silent as soon as they heard this.
Then, they focused their attention on him. The remaining top nine disciples among the second-grade disciples also came out from the crowd.
Shi Mu went down the ring, and stood on the left side of those nine people.
"Brother Shi, congratulations on winning the first rank."
"Brother Shi is really tremendous."
Those nine people expressed goodwill towards Shi Mu either by nodding towards him or by showing expression of fondness on their faces.
Shi Mu showed no arrogance. He also nodded towards the nine people, but didn’t say anything.
After that, he looked respectfully towards the top ten core disciples of the first-grade who stood nearby.
He swept his gaze back-and-forth towards those ten people. Finally, his vision fell on Mo Ning’s body.
Mo Ning immediately sensed Shi Mu’s line of sight. So, he also turned to look at him.
The atmosphere fluctuated violently as their eyes met. Mo Ning felt as if his eyes were slightly pricked, and his heart felt a jolt. The outer corner of his eyes slightly trembled.
Shi Mu remained motionless. Then, a curve appeared on the corners of his mouth.
Mo Ning’s heart blazed with fury. An ice-cold look flashed through his eyes as he narrowed them.
"According to the rules, every second-grade disciple has only one chance to challenge a first-grade disciple. Every fight would be an event of life and death. If a person falls on the ground… and can’t fight anymore or opens his mouth to admit his or her defeat… then the opponent can’t kill him or her," the grey-robed old man said with a dull expression.
"Yes…" Shi Mu and the first-grade disciples said in agreement.
"Well, the challenge begins now," the grey-robed old man nodded, and announced in a clear voice.
The common disciples near the ring started to discuss among themselves. Their faces exposed colors of excitement. They started to guess about the person who would be the first one to raise a challenge.
Most of the high ranks of the disciples of the first-grade remained the same in the annual competition every year. In fact, no one even raised a challenge at times. It seemed to be a good idea because there was no one among the second-grade disciples who could win a challenge against the first-grade disciples.
The success rate of such a challenge wasn’t high. But, these fights were extremely wonderful. It was a treat for the eyes of the people watching.
After all, they all were Hou Tian Warriors. So, the competition was extremely beneficial for the practice of these Hou Tian disciples.
A youth with a slender body and messy hair came out from among the top ten disciples of the second-grade. He was holding a dark-red pike in his hand. The pike had charm characters inscribed on its surface. It didn’t seem to be a low-level magic tool.
"I’m Mei Hu… and I want to challenge Brother Qiao… Qiao Zhio of ninth rank," the messy-haired youth said.
Shi Mu noticed that the messy-haired youth was on fifth rank among the second-grade disciples. His aura was steady, but it didn’t seem to be far away from the consummate-level of the Hou Tian realm. His eyes were dark-red in color. They seemed like that because of some kind of blood vessels in his body.
He had challenged Qiao Zhi. He was a short, but strong man. His arms were quite long. They were hanging on his sides, and were almost touching his knees. His palms were also unusual; they looked like palm-leaf fans. It was because of the practice of some kind of boxing technique.
Shi Mu turned his eyes towards Qiao Zhi’s body, and his face exposed a smiling expression. He rested his eyes on him.
Qiao Zhi’s figure flashed and jumped into the ring – like a yellow shadow – as soon as he heard that someone had challenged him. He then turned around, and looked towards the messy-haired youth. He exposed an evil grin on the corner of his mouth.
The complexion of the messy-haired youth sank as he looked at the quick moves of Qiao Zhi.
He had challenged Qiao Zhi because of his small stature. He had thought that he would win the fight quickly. But now, it seemed that he had made a mistake.
However, he couldn’t go back on his challenge. So, he clenched his teeth, and jumped over into the ring.
"The fight begins!" the grey-robed old man shouted. He then turned on the restriction-boundary around the ring.
The messy-haired youth stomped his foot on the ground in the ring, and his body was shot out – like an arrow from a bowstring. He then moved the dark-red pike in his hand several times.
A cold light flashed, and the charm characters on the pike shone. The pike-head immediately got transformed into several dark-red pike-shadows. The shadows directly went towards Qiao Zhi.
Qiao Zhi exposed a sneer on his face. He then shouted, and a burst of chaotic sounds was heard from his body. Then, his body became at least one foot taller. His arms also showed a change, and a blue-veined pattern appeared on them. His palms had also bulged-up to double their original size.
Then, black gloves appeared on his hands out of thin air. They were faintly emitting metallic rays.
Qiao Zhi bombarded his fist with a ‘hu’ sound. A great fist-wind rose-up, and waves of air were issued in the entire ring.
Loud metal clanging sounds were heard as the dark-red spike-shadows scattered. The messy-haired youth retreated a few steps. His complexion looked flushed.
Qiao Zhi was becoming more and more dominant; he wasn’t sparing his opponent. His body transformed into yellow shadows, and went swooping down.
He bombarded his hands with a ‘huhu’ sound at the same time. Two valiant and extremely powerful waves wildly rushed forth.
The messy-haired youth’s complexion changed. He gripped the pike in both his hands, and the dark-red pike got transformed into two short spears.
Then, the two spears turned into two red dragons with a loud sound; they started to dance wildly in the surroundings.
‘Bang! Bang!’ Two loud sounds echoed.
Qiao Zhi made some more moves. The messy-haired youth’s body was sent out flying. The red dragons got defeated in a flash. Then, the two short spears also shook, and went out flying.
The area between the thumb and the forefinger of his hand was split open. Then, his body got knocked against the boundary of the ring. After that, he flipped over, and fell down on the ground. A mouthful of blood gushed out from his mouth.
"I… I admit defeat."
The messy-haired youth looked towards Qiao Zhi; he seemed to be angry with himself. His face exposed frightening expressions. He then said hastily even before he could get-up.
A black fist stopped half-a-foot away from his head.
Qiao Zhi laughed grimly, and took back his fist.
A thunderous sound of applause was heard.
The boundaries around the ring flashed and disappeared. The messy-haired youth had an ashamed look across his face. He collected his broken spears, and jumped down the ring.
Qiao Zhi also turned over, and jumped down the ring. He then walked over and stood in his original place. He felt that it wasn’t worthy to sweep his vision towards the second-grade disciples.
Qiao Zhi’s victory seemed to be clean and nimble. The difference between the strengths of both the sides could be clearly seen. So, the complexion of the top ten disciples of the second-grade changed. They exchanged glances with each other. Nobody dared to step forward to raise a challenge for a while.
A little time passed. Then, a youth in a white robe with a sword on his back slowly came out.
"I’m Yue Zheng. I want to challenge Sister Xu Ling of tenth rank among the first-grade disciples." The white-robed youth’s eyes flashed. He then said.
Everyone outside of the ring started to discuss in soft voices. This Yue Zheng was on the second position after Shi Mu among the second-grade disciples. But, he was very conservative to challenge the man at tenth rank among the first-grade disciples.
A red-robed girl with ice-cold expressions moved out from the disciples of the first-grade. A long and fiery sword was hung from her waist.
"You want to challenge me. You’re quite courageous," the red-robed woman said in a cold tone as both of them arrived in the ring.
Her body emitted a powerful aura. It was fierce – like intense flames, and was oppressing the aura of the white-robed youth.
The complexion of the white-robed youth changed. He took a deep breath, and his expression became tranquil. He then turned over his hand, and pulled out a white long sword from his back. It was diffusing an ice-cold chillness, and was resisting the fiery aura of the opponent.
The red-robed girl raised her eyebrows, and exposed an astonished look in her eyes.
Both of them shouted loudly at the same time. Then, their figures moved.
Their moves were fast and nimble. Suddenly, several sword-shadows appeared from the white long sword, and went towards the opponent to attack.
‘Bang! Bang! Bang!’
A series of striking sounds were transmitted from the sword with a flickering spark.
Both of them maximized their momentum. The audience could only see series of white shadows and red shadows rolling with a very fast speed. The sword-shadows appeared in the surroundings with cracking sparks from time-to-time. A series of metal clanking sounds could also be heard from time-to-time.
Suddenly, a cold humming sound was transmitted.
Then, the red shadow lights brightened-up – like the regiments of huge and vigorous flames. After that, three thick sword-shadows came out from the flames. They went towards the white shadows to disperse them.
A white silhouette went out flying – like a ball with a blood curdling screech. Then, the white shadow dissipated, and exposed the figure of the white-robed youth.
There was a huge wound on his shoulder; blood was flowing out of his wound. White bones could faintly be seen inside the wound. The sword in his right hand hung softly to his side. His complexion looked ugly.
The red-shadows also dispersed, and exposed the red-robed girl. She had a pale expression on her face.
"If you still want to play… I’m with you," the red-robed girl laughed grimly and said. A red light shone like flames on the red sword in her hand.
"No need. Sister’s strength is formidable. Your Raging Flame Light Diffraction Sword Art is of consummate-level. So, I admit my defeat," the white-robed youth replied.
Two people of the second-grade had got defeated in a row. In fact, one of them ranked second among the second-grade disciples. So, the other second-grade disciples had fell silent.
No one dared to step forward to challenge anyone for a long while.
"According to the rules of the competition, if no one steps forward to challenge anyone… then it means that all the second-grade disciples have given-up. So, let’s move on to the next competition." The audience had become impatient by now. So, the grey-robed old man spoke as he looked towards Shi Mu. In fact, he had rested his glance on Shi Mu.