After finding out a little more about the matches, Shi Mu parted with Huo Mao, making his way to the rings. After seeing Shi Mu off, Huo Mao turned and left, letting out a soft sigh.
As time went on, the fighting on the ten rings grew increasingly fierce. Though the new disciples were all given a year free of challenge, many still chose to try their skills in these matches. After all, newborn calves have no fear of tigers. They had all, more or less, made some progress, and the curiosity to know how others had been doing was burning in their chests.
Shi Mu was cool-headed, as usual, so he did not make a challenge rashly, but just wandered about the rings and observed a lot of fights. Except for the few disciples that had come with him, Shi Mu knew practically nothing about the three to four hundred other newcomers.
On the fifth ring, there was a bulky young man fighting with a young man with green hair, both were at the primary stage of the Houtian level, and both were using swords. The sword art of the bulky young man was simple but quite fierce, and the Qi, in his sword his movements, stirred up piercing winds, spreading a coldness that even chilled people dozens of meters away.
However, the young man with green hair seemed to be unaffected, his body moving like a willow leaf, floating in the air, dodging each attack with clean and nimble movements. When he did strike, he struck in a strange way that seemed overly straightforward - simply stabbing directly at his opponent - but at a speed beyond dodging, each attack leaving a black trace of shadows in the air, aiming at stabbing home. The bulky youth was barely able to hold against these blindingly fast strikes. Moreover, as the stalemate continued, the green-haired youth still retained his easy manner, thrusting his sword in a way one would dance gracefully, but his bulky opponent had begun to gasp for breath, his sword heavy as a lump of iron in his hand. The green-haired youth noticed this and, after pushing aside his opponent’s sword, his eyes glared with excitement. All of a sudden his body shot into the sky, then swooped down on his prey with his long, sharp sword, swinging straight at the bulky man’s head. The sword caught sunlight as it moved and made the bulky guy squint his eyes.
As the sword approached, a faint golden light appeared around the sword’s edge, and it exploded into a dozen of golden sword shadows with a thunderous noise. No matter how quick the bulky youth reacted, he could only swing his sword in vain, as a huge invisible force lifted him off the ground, like a giant picking up a tiny stone. Before he realized it, he had already been thrown out of the ring. The next second, his back hit the ground with a thud.
The bulky youth struggled several times but still failed to stand on his feet, blood gushing out of his wounds. Who knows how many times he got stabbed? Although his wounds were not life-threatening, his condition would render him bedridden for at least a month.
Several servant disciples soon scuttled toward the burly youth, who was groaning and rolling over on the ground, in extreme pain, and carried him away for treatment. At the same time, the junior judge on the ring announced the green-haired youth as the winner with an expressionless face.
The crowd, around the ring, burst into an uproar. Soon discussions about the green-haired youth’s sword art echoed all over the place. Shi Mu stood among the excited audience, mute and unmoved, concentrating on the green-haired youth, who was now stepping triumphantly down the ring. He stood there for a while, thinking, then turned and looked at the next ring.
On the seventh ring, a young man and a young girl were fighting, bare-handed.
The young man seemed to have acquired some mysterious art, which shielded both of his hands with a layer of white light. Looking from afar, the youth’s hands seemed to be made from jade. He clasped them into fists and attempting to pummel the girl.
The girl, on the other hand, was not dressed in the sect’s uniform but was in a tight-fitting suit that allowed her full mobility. Under her opponent’s torrent of fists, she seemed small and fragile, but, on the contrary, the art she was performing - The Fist of the Heavenly Eagle - was well-known for its fierceness. At the moment, she bent her fingers, shaping them like an Eagle reaching out for its prey, taking the youth’s fists head-on. The collision of their attacks reverberated through the plaza. The fight grew more and more intense every second.
After some time, the two seemed to have reached a stalemate, both staggering backward, exhausted. They took a quick rest as they both prepared for their last attack. A murderous look flashed across the youth’s eyes as he stomped hard on the floor, his upper body stiff. Then he shot from the floor, like a bullet, with his two “jade hands” clasped together, moving toward the girl’s chest. His fists shone brightly, and a great pressure made the youth’s sleeves burst, revealing his swelling muscles. The attack stirred up a cold wind, as it moved, which chilled the girl’s cheeks. She squinted and let out a shout. Suddenly, a faint red light began to emerge between her nails, her fingers red and sharp as thorns.
The girl moved her hands, ready to meet the attack. An air-piercing noise sounded out as her hands met his, like two dragons rushing out of their lair, aiming to kill.
This time, the two figures crashed together, and then were thrown back by the clash.
The youth staggered, unable to steadying himself for a moment, his face ghastly pale. Five holes appeared, out of nowhere, on each of his shoulders, blood gushing out from them. His arms drooped, apparently devoid of any strength. On the other hand, the girl also looked somewhat pale, but her body was intact, her chest heaving for breaths.
Everyone now knew who had won.
The corner of Shi Mu’s eye twitched. He could not help but look more closely at the girl, imagining how he would deal with her attacks if they ever met in the ring. [A]
On the first ring, two figures were involved in a serious fight. One of them held a long sword in his hand while the other fought with their bare hands. Both moved with incredible speed, assisted by real Qi, the air swirling around them seemed to be full of energy, ready to explode any minute.
The audience all held their breaths and watched with utmost concentration. Every now and then, some clicked their tongues in admiration. Shi Mu stood amid the awe-struck audience for some time before he left, shaking his head disapprovingly. Their match was a show, not a fight. They just aim to show off, and the lightning speed of their moves are absolutely unreasonable. What’s the use of quick moves but low efficiency and accuracy? He thought to himself. Well, maybe they’ll have a result after using up their strength. Shi Mu prayed.
After having watched several matches, Shi Mu had gained a general impression of the newcomer’s average strength. Besides, by overhearing the audience’s discussions, he remembered quite a few names worthy of his attention. As for his acquaintances, Stone Bai, Xiao Ming, and Blue Phoenix, they had successfully stood out amongst all, winning successively. Especially for Stone Bai, who Shi Mu had just watched. He crushed his opponent mere seconds after his fight began, which proved his significant progress after joining the Holy Spirit Association.
Shi Mu took a deep breath and headed towards the next ring, where a match had just ended and a junior disciple was arranging the next challenge. Shi Mu quickened his steps.
The black monument, set up on the square, was not just a piece of dead stone. As matches went on, the ranks of newcomers fluctuated all the time, and it was clearly shown on the monument, as names and numbers flickered all the time - a pretty mysterious sight.
The matches had lasted for half a day, during which time many strong disciples had outshone others. Stone Bai, OuYang Ming, Blue Phoenix...Such names had climbed to the top.
Beside the monument, some elder disciples of the Black Demon Sect gathered in a heated conversation. They were all old disciples of the primary level. Although today was not for them to compete, many still came to watch the matches. After all, tomorrow they would be challenged by the newcomers.
“Of all these newcomers, I discovered some really promising guys. That guy named Stone Bai, he’s really good. I just watched some of his matches. He practiced the All-yang Art, a fire type art. Judging from his performance, he has progressed quite far.” A black-robed youth pointed out, with a sullen voice.
[A] - SURE. That’s exactly what I would do when taking a closer look at a girl in a skintight suit…