Book 12: The Strength of the Preparatory Team
Chapter 104.1: Reaching the Semifinals
"What did I do wrong? Everything I did was for our team to win. With my abilities, I was clearly more suitable to fight against the opposing team than Dai Yueheng. And we won in the end, didn't we? Easily at that." Ma Xiaotao spat out unceremoniously.
"Easily?" Wang Yan smirked, "Sure, we won that very easily. But, let me ask you this, don't you think you revealed your abilities too early? Are our future opponents stronger or weaker than the Dou Ling team? Just who do you think our strongest opponent is?"
Wang Yan suddenly raised his voice and slammed the table in front of him as he stood up, pointing outside. "Our strongest opponent is the Sun Moon Imperial Soul Engineering Academy! Whenever we're out there competing, they watch and take note of all the abilities that our team displays, of all the team members that enter the arena, and of all the soul skills that we use. They scrutinize everything we do and memorize every little detail. But just what did you go and decide do? You just magnanimously revealed all your powers to the opponent's team! Are you worried that your opponents won't take note of how strong you are?"
"Don't bother even denying it. That's the truth. You, Dai Yueheng, and Ling Luochen, the three of you are our team's only powerhouses. And since you, Ma Xiaotao, didn't participate in the last tournament, our opponents are least familiar with you. Can't you imagine what would have happened if you had just hidden your full capability until the end of the competition? It would have been a nice big surprise, a surprise that would have led us to becoming the final champions! Yet, what did you do? You couldn't wait to reveal your strongest abilities, almost as if you were scared to not let your opponents know about them! Ma Xiaotao, don't forget that our regular team isn't complete anymore, and that our opponents are stronger than ever before. Given our current lineup, what makes you so certain that we will win this tournament?"
Ma Xiaotao was rendered speechless as Wang Yan reprimanded her, and she was unable to rebut him. She had always been, by nature, a very headstrong individual, and ever since she was young, no one had ever scolded her like Wang Yan was doing. As such, her face turned bright red.
Wang Yan continued harshly, "Take today's competition, for example. If not for the fact that Sanshi's Mysterious Underworld Displacement had a unique effect, would we have been able to break through our opponent's defenses? Even if we could, just how long do you think it would have taken? Despite knowing who we were, the opponent still chose to use that battle formation. Has it ever occurred to you why they did so? The only explanation is that they were confident that they could defeat us with their formation! I am completely certain that the mystery metal that they were assembling was a type of offensive soul tool, and that neither you nor Dai Yueheng would have been able to receive it. You think that's impossible, don't you? You guys are Soul Emperors; strong Soul Emperors with ten-thousand-year soul rings. Well then, were you able to predict what happened when you met the Envoy of the Death God? Never underestimate your opponent. You're proud of your abilities- that's definitely not a bad thing, but this pride needs to be built on top of a foundation of assured victory. Furthermore, you're not fighting alone. You are a team leader, a team leader representing Shrek Academy."
"Look at these kids, what did they do? When they faced Justsky Academy in battle, they each paid a huge price, all for Shrek's glory. Of the seven of them, five were knocked unconscious. Xiao Xiao sustained major injuries, and hasn't even fully recovered yet. But why did they have to face such a situation in the first place? Because of the carelessness of regular members like you, during your surveillance mission. For Shrek, they gave their all. If, in the end, Shrek Academy loses this competition because your carelessness, how will you ever face them? Sure, in terms of ability, the three of you are certainly stronger than the seven of them. Yet, in my opinion, at least up till now, their contributions to this competition far surpases yours."
Having said so much in one go, Wang Yan was tired and slumped down on his seat, his face still red with agitation.
Ma Xiaotao had wanted to interrupt in the middle, but as Wang Yan showed no signs of stopping, she became lost for words. Only now did she manage to slightly defeatedly murmur, "But your tactics might not necessarily be right, either."
Wang Yan raised his head and glared at her, saying "My tactics are wrong? Are your tactics right then? Do you know how the changes on your part affected the entire team? At least using my strategy, you all would have went into battle as a whole. But your change of strategy caused the team to become separated like loose sand. If not for Yuhao's Spiritual Detection Sharing that connected everyone, do you think we could have won so easily today?"
"I know you look down on me because my abilities are inferior to yours and Dai Yueheng's. That's fine, I don't need your approval. But there's one thing I need you to remember, and that's the fact that I am the teacher in charge of Shrek Academy's team in this year's competition. If you can't handle the responsibilities of a team leader, then don't enter the arena in the next competition. I'll assume full responsibility."
Wang Yan usually gave the impression of being a genial and quiet person, and had never had let out such an outburst before. He also always spoke with reason. Thus, even though Ma Xiaotao was an inner courtyard disciple, she couldn't help but feel flustered. If Wang Yan really chose to bar her from entering the arena, it would become a lifelong disgrace for her.
Ma Xiaotao lowered her head and no longer spoke. Wang Yan stood up and said "Think carefully about how to be a proper team leader." He then pushed the door open and left.
Outside, Wang Yan let out a long sigh, and shook his head, feeling helpless. In terms of hierarchy, his position in the Academy was lower than that of Ma Xiaotao's. Thus, it had taken a great deal of courage to say what he had just said to her, but Wang Yan had no regrets. He was not afraid of offending anyone to win the ultimate championship and guard this honor for Shrek Academy. Since he couldn't enter the arena to fight for Shrek, Wang Yan was determined to make sure that all off-field problems were solved outside the arena. If Ma Xiaotao refused to realize her mistakes, he would rather have her she stay out of the competition. Even if that meant losing the power of a Soul Emperor, Wang Yan couldn't let her affect the others. A full suppression of battle tactics like today wouldn't happen all the time. The next three rounds would each be more difficult than the last.
Thus far, eight schools have been eliminated out of the initial sixteen, and the Sun Moon Imperial Soul Engineering Academy had successfully defeated all their opponents. In fact, even in the group round, their team leader, the Soul Emperor-level Ma Rulong, had yet to enter the arena. They had won with just six of the regular members and a reserve.
Up till now, three members of the Sun Moon Imperial Soul Engineering Academy team had yet to enter the arena – team leader Ma Rulong, reserve team leader Xiao Hongchen and his younger sister, Meng Hongchen.
Due to the Shrek Academy team's internal problems, the Sun Moon Imperial Soul Engineering Academy had become the crowd's favourite to win the final championship. Now, many were secretly placing bids on who the champion would be. Although Shrek Academy had two great Soul Emperors that had yet to enter the arena, their odds of winning still lagged behind that of the Sun Moon Imperial Soul Engineering Academy by a few points.
After a day of rest, the individual round started as planned on the third day.
Dai Yueheng had caused a perfect amount of damage in the team battle, causing the Dou Ling Imperial Soul Academy team leader, Gu Zhujian, to be unable to enter the arena. Although his broken limbs had been set and healed, he still needed to recuperate for quite a while before he could fight again.
Huo Yuhao and Wang Dong would not take part in the individual rounds, as their martial soul fusion skill were useless if they were alone, and their individual fighting capabilities were still rather weak. Thus, only Dai Yueheng, Ma Xiaotao, Ling Luochen, Bei Bei, Jiang Nannan, Xu Sanshi and He Caitou would be competing in the individual round.
Hence, Huo Yuhao, Wang Dong and Xiao Xiao had become onlookers.
Under Wang Yan's arrangements, Dai Yueheng was the first to enter the arena, while Ma Xiaotao would be the last.
After getting reprimanded by Wang Yan, Ma Xiaotao ultimately gave in and apologised to Wang Yan, admitting her mistakes. She also expressed that she would fully cooperate with Wang Yan and follow his arrangements for the rest of the competition, and would not engage in individualistic behaviour anymore. Wang Yan took what he got and arranged for Ma Xiaotao to be the anchor of the team.
When Dai Yueheng walked up to the competition stage representing Shrek Academy, the Dou Ling team's eyes reddened.
Their team leader's limbs had all been broken, and his strongest skills had not even been displayed. They held their breath, knowing that the chances of them winning today's competition were slim as well, but they couldn't just give up now. They had to fight to the death.
Due to Shrek Academy's victory in the team battle, they just needed to defeat three opponents today to make it to the final eight.
As the losing team in the team-battles, the Dou Ling team needed to defeat the entire Shrek Academy team of seven people with just three members in order to enter the top eight. Faced with two strong assault-type soul emperors on the Shrek Academy team, it was simply unrealistic for the Dou Ling team to win.
Dai Yueheng's first opponent was Dou Ling's assault-type Soul King Qian Yuan.
Previously, Qian Yuan had hardly used his Terrorclaw Bear powers before he was restrained by Ma Xiaotao's Phoenix Skywhistle. Afterwards, the judge had ended the competition, causing him to burn with fury.
Qian Yuan didn't feel that he was inferior to Dai Yueheng, and his team all saw how Shrek Academy's reserve team overcame the odds in the previous rounds of the tournament. Maybe the Dou Ling team, too, would achieve a miraculous victory today. Thus, when Qian Yuan stood on the stage, his entire being was emitting a thirst for battle, and only one thought filled his mind- to seek revenge for Gu Zhuqian.
In comparison to his opponent's aggressive manner, Dai Yueheng seemed much calmer, wearing a peaceful expression as he stood on the competition stage, bowing to the judges before glancing at his opponent.