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Mo Ning felt traumatized ever since he had seen that the black blade wasn’t too far away from his body. His back was drenched in cold sweat as a result.

His arm would’ve been destroyed if the grey-robed old man hadn’t interrupted Shi Mu in order to defend him.

However, the fact was that Shi Mu wouldn’t have hit his shoulder with the edge of his blade if he had genuinely intended to kill him.

Mo Ning looked towards Shi Mu with resentment. He then struggled to get-up. After that, he put his watery-blue colored sword back into its sheath. He jumped down from the ring, and started to walk towards a distant place.

Shi Mu tied his meteoric hammer to his waist, and picked-up the black blade from the ground. He then nodded towards the grey-robed old man, and walked down the ring. He casually walked over beneath the black stone-tablet, and stood at Mo Ning’s place. He then sat down cross-legged, and closed his eyes in order to take rest.

Qian Xiong, Bai Shui Xiu and the others turned their heads, and looked towards Shi Mu. Each one of them bore different expressions on their faces.

"The competition continues. Is there anyone else who wants to challenge any first-grade disciple?" the grey-robed old man asked in a clear voice.

The remaining top second-grade disciples looked at each other.

Shi Mu had defeated Mo Ning in one fell swoop. It had made them feel extremely confident. So, two people came out, and raised challenges against the first-grade disciples.

The challenged first-grade disciples put away their aloof and disdained expressions since they had learned a lot from Shi Mu’s case. Their complexions became extremely dignified.

The two second-grade disciples ended-up getting seriously defeated. Both of them lost their consciousness. Then, they were carried down the ring. One of them had challenged the third-ranked disciple who was a spirit-grade magician – Bai Shui Xiu. Almost all the bones of that second-grade disciple had broken down under the attack of Bai Shui Xiu’s powerful methods. It had become certain that his cultivation would suffer a devastating decline even if his injuries were healed.

Therefore, the confidence of the other second-grade disciples was crushed in a flash. After that, nobody dared to raise a challenge against any first-grade disciple.

The grey-robed old man declared the results of the competition.

Then, mutual challenge took place among the first-grade disciples in order to determine their ranking. This round hadn’t made any big difference in the rankings of the first-grade disciples before this year; even though there had been occasional fights.

The first-grade disciples had had a mutual understanding between them until the competition of the previous year. They had never thought of challenging each other and suffer irreconcilable outcomes that could affect their subsequent practice just for the sake of a little difference in their ranks.

After all, the first-grade disciples had the best possible resources of the Sect at their disposal. Their only target was to reach the the Xian Tian realm or to become a star-ranked warlock, and rise to the higher levels in the Sect.

However, Shi Mu had become a first-grade disciple now. Moreover, the reward for the first-ranked disciple of the Sect was rumored to be extremely precious. So, it was certain to cause some difference in the final ranking of the competition.

Everyone near the ring became excited, and started to whisper among themselves. They looked under the black stone-tablet. Most of them were looking towards Shi Mu.

The strength that Shi Mu had displayed in the competition had been extremely valiant and overbearing – against the expectations of all the people. The rest of the first-grade disciples seemed to be absent-minded. They had two or three matches among themselves. But, they made no further challenges.

Shi Mu was resting with closed eyes. He didn’t look towards anyone; it seemed as if he had forgotten about the competition.

The competition finally came to an end after half-an-hour.

Shi Mu and the other top-ten disciples stood inside the ring. They were facing the numerous disciples outside the ring.

The Head of the Black Demon Sect was also standing inside the ring. He was looking at the top ten first-grade disciples. There was a smiling expression on his face. He turned around to face the audience outside the ring and announced, "This round of the competition has ended. These ten people standing in front of you are the top ten first-grade disciples. They’ll enjoy the best resources of the Sect for their practice in the coming year. I also wish that everyone present here make efforts, concentrate on the training of the Sect, and practice hard… so that you would also get a chance to stand here someday."

The Sect Head’s words were very powerful. They inspired the spirit of the disciples, and made them heat-up with passion.

It was evening time now. The afterglow of the setting sun was falling on the bodies of the top ten first-grade disciples. It seemed as if a layer of golden cloth had covered their bodies. It made their figures look taller and more dignified.

Several thousand people were looking at the ten people standing inside the ring. Their eyes were filled with envy; so much so that many of them had clenched their fists tightly.

The Head of the Black Demon Sect swept his vision towards the crowd. He exposed a satisfied expression on his face. The power of an example is sometimes more inspiring than a thousand words.

The Head of the Black Demon Sect waved his hand towards the crowd, and withdrew his vision.

Then, a few black-robed disciples came with trays in their hands. There were pieces of red cloth in the trays. They climbed-up inside the ring.

Everyone’s spirit rose as they saw this.

According to the usual practice, the top-ten disciples in the competition would be given generous rewards. Some information had already been leaked out this time since this competition was quite unusual. It was a known fact that the first-ranked disciple would be given a precious reward. Everyone had already been looking forward to this since a long time.

Shi Mu also exposed a curious look on his face. This was reason why there was so much publicity about this event. That secret treasure was part of the buzz about this competition.

The Head of the Black Demon Sect arrived in front of Shi Mu, and made a gesture with his hand. Then, one of the black-robed disciples came over with his tray.

The Head of the Black Demon Sect lifted the red cloth from the tray. A white ring was exposed under the cloth.

Shi Mu’s eyes shone. He then took a short breath.

The white ring seemed to be an ordinary ring made-up of white jade. Its shape was simple, and it was unadorned. It seemed to be quite ordinary. Not many people could find it extraordinary at the first glance. But, there was a layer of sparkling and translucent white light circulating on its surface.

"This… is it the storage ring… " A Xian Tian elder looked at the white ring. His face exposed an emotional expression. He then mumbled.

It seemed that the other elders didn’t know about the reward. They seemed to be shocked to see it. A lot of people exposed envious colors on their faces.

The storage ring was made-up of a special material; its refining was extremely difficult. Therefore, it was an extremely rare object. In fact, it was extremely hard for a Xian Tian warrior to obtain one. But, the elders of the Black Demon Sect had this storage ring. However, the number of such rings held by a single person never exceeded the number of one’s fingers.

Many people outside the ring had guessed the type of the ring. A few others didn’t identify it at first. Then, they went into an uproar as they heard the discussions of the other people.

"This ring is known as the ‘Vast Earth Ring’. The Great Elders of the Sect have refined this storage magic tool with their own hands. You must put this thing to good use." The Head of the Black Demon Sect handed over the ring to Shi Mu. He then said with a serious expression on his face.

It seemed to be intentional. The voice of the Head of the Black Demon Sect wasn’t too loud. But, he had infused his real Qi into his voice. So, it dispersed clearly and widely into the plaza. It left the crowd outside the ring – including the elders sitting on the viewing platform – with dry mouths and tongues.

"Yes…" Shi Mu replied and received it with both hands. He then put it in the middle finger of his right hand. Its size was perfect for his finger.

His heart moved. His real Qi got poured into the ring. But, the Vast Earth Ring didn’t show any reaction.

"This storage ring is different from other magic tools. You would need your blood to use it." Only Shi Mu could hear the voice of the Head since he had spoken this sentence in a low voice.

Shi Mu was startled. He then made a cut on his finger. After that, he smudged the ring with a drop of his blood. The blood got permeated, and went into the ring.

Shi Mu raised his brows. The ring absorbed the essence of his blood. He immediately felt a kind of connection with it; as if it was a part of his body.

His spirit power immediately reacted. Then, a cubic space appeared in the ring. It wasn’t too large, but was as big as an ordinary room.

Shi Mu felt exulted. But then, his complexion changed since the space inside the ring already contained something inside it.

It was a small heap of black flame tokens. He swept his spirit power, and found that there were a hundred of such tokens inside this space.

"These one-hundred black flame tokens are also a reward for the number one disciple in this competition." The Head of the Black Demon Sect knew about the tokens. So, he explained with a smile on his face.

"Many thanks to the Sect Head," Shi Mu said thankfully.

The Head of the Black Demon Sect waved his hand, and proceeded to give rewards to the other disciples.

All the rewards – the spirit stones, rare pills and black flame tokens – were extremely precious. Everyone in the audience felt envious as they looked at these rewards. Moreover, they regretted that they weren’t standing there in the ring.

The Head of the Black Demon Sect spoke a few sentences after the distribution of rewards among the disciples. Then, he got down from the ring.

The other elders also left one-by-one. Jin Xiao Chai looked deeply towards Shi Mu. She then turned around, and went away.

*** ***

Shi Mu slowly walked down the ring. Several disciples outside the ring had an envious and a reverent expression on their faces at the same time. They stepped aside, and made passage for him.

Shi Mu walked towards the shadows of four disciples among the crowd. The person in the front was Bai Shi; Xiao Ming, Lan Feng and Huo Mao were behind him.

"Brother Shi Mu, congratulations on being promoted to a senior disciple in the Black Demon Sect." Bai Shi stepped forward and cupped his hands in greeting. He then said with a smile.

"Congratulations, Senior Brother." Xiao Ming and others also stepped forward and cupped their hands in greeting. They then said in a respectful tone.

"No need to be so polite. We know each other from before. So, just call me Shi Mu like you used to," Shi Mu waved his hand, and replied with a smile.

After that, the five of them started to walk away.

Bai Shi and the others let Shi Mu precede, and followed after him. Most of the disciples in the plaza were looking at them. Their eyes were filled with curiosity, jealousy, envy and reverence…

Shi Mu calmly walked through the stream of people. He soon moved away from the area. Suddenly, he spotted a familiar figure in the crowd with his extraordinary vision.

He stopped walking. He then turned his head to look at the person.

Bai Shi and the other people behind him also stopped as they saw this. They then followed his gaze.

The man Shi Mu was looking at was a tall and thin youth. He was wearing the clothes of the second-grade disciples. His cultivation had reached the Hou Tian advanced-stage. He had lowered his head, and had mingled with the crowd. He saw that Shi Mu was looking at him. But, he kept on standing straight. Then, he calmly looked towards Shi Mu.

He was the second-grade disciple who had tried to snatch away Shi Mu’s black blade back in those days – his name was Zuo Yan.

Shi Mu’s heart moved. He took a big step towards Zuo Yan, and stopped ten steps away from him.

Several disciples around Zuo Yan felt that there was something wrong. They immediately dispersed in confusion. But, they didn’t walk too far away; they stopped nearby.

Many of them had been bullied by Zuo Yan, and many of them had heard about his bad reputation. People around him whispered into each other’s ears while taking joy in his misfortune.

Zuo Yan stood alone on the spot. He sensed the formidable aura around Shi Mu, and closed his eyes. Traces of panic and uncertainty flashed through his eyes.

"Don’t you like this blade? Catch it; it’s yours," Shi Mu said and threw his black blade along with its sheath towards Zuo Yan.

Zuo Yan stared at him blankly. He stretched out his hands subconsciously, and caught the black blade.

A power far beyond his imagination passed through the blade, and smothered his chest. His Qi and blood started to churn-up in his body. His hands were knocked back at the same time.

‘Deng! Deng! Deng!’

Zuo Yan retreated five or six steps backwards. Then, he fell on the ground on his back.

All the disciples around him burst out into laughter. Some people even shouted out loudly.

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