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That examinee suddenly turned around, staring at the clergyman who was in charge of the duelling phase, he pointed towards the four examinees behind him and asked: “Can I choose my opponent from someone amongst them?”
Those four examinees were the last of the first 64 to cross the River Qu, upon hearing that this person wished to challenge them, not only did they not feel any anger, conversely, they revealed signs of joy, expressing their approval.
The Li Palace clergyman answered indifferently: “Do you all think that the Grand Examination is some kind of joke? My explanation was clear; the upper-half 49 examinees can choose anyone from the remaining 49 as their opponent; the winner advances to the next round. Don’t tell me none of you understood what I said?
Silence followed, that examinee remained silent for a long while before suddenly saying: “This isn’t fair!”
He looked at the bottom-half examinees that had managed to achieve victory, angrily and loudly saying: “I scored better than they did in the Martial Trial, crossing the river before them, on what basis should I be required to fight against a stronger opponent? The Grand Examination isn’t some sort of joke, but don’t you think this type of rule is unreasonable?”
The Li Palace clergyman continued to show indifference and replied: “It can only be said that your luck is bad; who told you to place between 60th and 64th in crossing the river?”
Hearing this, the match grounds erupted in an uproar, everyone thought to themselves, was luck something that was within the purview of what the Grand Examination graded for as well? The clergyman’s words were completely unreasonable.
The clergyman knew what these young cultivators were thinking and looked at them with a slightly frosty expression, saying: “What in this world is absolutely fair? On the battlefield, if you are placed in charge of guarding the rear, needing to block the advance of the demon race’s top fighters, would you refuse to carry out your orders because you find it unfair? If you want to survive, then luck is always the most important factor.”
The examinees all remained silent, they still disapproved of this reasoning, but they didn’t know how to refute it.
That examinee couldn’t do anything apart from accepting their bitter reality, something to take a measure of comfort from was that, in comparison to the remaining four, he had a marginally larger selection.
He once again turned around and directed his gaze towards the woodlands, shifting it from one person after the other in Chen Chang Sheng’s group, unable to make a decision.
The area before the tower was silent, with the surrounding air seemingly becoming cold and frosty, tens of examinees waited nervously for his final decision.
Conversely, the ones who should have been most nervous, the group by the woodlands who could only await being chosen, they displayed an extremely calm demeanour.
Unknown why, the Li Palace clergyman didn’t urge him to be quicker, unlike how he had previously done so for the others, this might have been because he and the other examiners were also curious about this examinee’s choice.
Finally, that examinee made his decision, pointing at Xuan Yuan Po, saying: “I choose you.”
The silence was broken and the sound of dialogue rose up; for any other examinee, they would also be troubled with whom to choose as their opponent.
Xuan Yuan Po was startled for a moment before finally coming to his senses, he said to Luo Luo: “Master, I’m leaving.”
Tang Thirty-Six was standing by the side, his brow twitching and said: “’leaving’ doesn’t sound very auspicious, change it.”
Xuan Yuan Po ignored him, he did a formal gesture to Chen Chang Sheng and said: “I’m leaving.”
Technically speaking, he should be calling Chen Chang Sheng his Grand Master; but, even though he currently admired, or maybe even respected him, he still couldn’t bring himself to call out this form of address.
The ignored Tang Thirty-Six didn’t get angry, raising his hand high and patting the yao youth’s broad shoulder, he quietly said: “You remember what was said last night?”
Xuan Yuan Po made a sound of acknowledgement, saying: “Don’t give the opponent any chance to think, use the fastest speed possible to close in on them, then directly strike them down.”
Finishing those words, he suddenly found that Tang Thirty-Six’s expression was a little strange, likewise he found that Luo Luo and Chen Chang Sheng also had a change in their expressions, even Su Mo Yu had his jaw lightly hanging, evincing his surprise.
“What wrong?” he blankly rubbed the back of his head, asking: “Did I get it wrong?”
Tang Thirty-Six sighed as he once again patted him on the shoulder, saying: “You didn’t say it wrong, you were just a little loud.”
It was only then, that Xuan Yuan Po realised the area before the Tower of Purging Dust was quiet as can be; everyone was staring at him with spectacular expressions upon their faces.
His voice was loud and clear, he had answered Tang Thirty-Six very naturally, without thinking to tone down his volume.
Thus, he had informed everyone present of the tactic Orthodox Academy had prepared for him in advance, including his opponent.
Was this battle tactic still going to be effective?
Chen Chang Sheng shook his head and placed two crystals into Xuan Yuan Po’s pocket, he also passed a water pouch to Yuan Po’s mouth and had him drink some.
Tang Thirty-Six moved to Xuan Yuan Po’s side and said something to him quietly.
The Li Palace clergyman looked at the Orthodox Academy group, wanting to laugh yet holding back, saying: “Be a little quicker.”
After being urged to hurry, Xuan Yuan Po felt a little nervous, almost choking on the water; Chen Chang Sheng quickly smacked his back; Tang Thirty-Six hastened his words, reminding him to pay attention to battle events; the match grounds became a little chaotic, seeing this scene, Su Mo Yu couldn’t control himself, he shook his head and said: “There was such a long period of time previously and yet all of you just spent it frivolously, isn’t it rather late to be rushing now?”
“You don’t understand, if we told him too early, we would have to worry about him forgetting. Not to mention, we didn’t know who his opponent would be, how could we teach him anything?” replied Tang Thirty-Six, without even turning his head around.
Luo Luo walked up to Xuan Yuan Po and said: “Since you’re going to win anyway, what is there to be nervous about?”
Xuan Yuan Po stammered a little, replying: “It… it… can’t be… helped.”
Chen Chang Sheng stared into his eyes and said: “Just remember Tang Thirty-Six’s words, you will win for certain.”
Xuan Yuan Po vigorously nodded his head.
Tang Thirty finally finished his last minute battle advice; he pumped a fist onto Xuan Yuan Po’s chest and said: “Have a good opening match.”
Xuan Yuan Po stood upon a ground covered with sand, he lifted his head to look at the black eaves that created a circle and the blue sky above that had been segmented out by this circle; he was suddenly reminded of the dish back at the Hundred Herb Garden.
A single creak could be heard from behind him and the doors to the Tower of Purging Dust once again closed shut.
He came to his senses, finding that his mind had just wandered, this didn’t cause him to fluster, but instead, he found that he could clearly remember what Tang Thirty-Six had told him over these past few nights; he thought to himself, this should count as to not being nervous?
He looked opposite, gestured his hands and did a formal greeting to his opponent.
At this moment, on the floor of the tower, stood only he and his opponent, no examiners were present and neither could any sounds from outside the tower be heard; it seems there was some sort of silencing array in action.
An emotionless voice came drifting in from above.
“If you are ready, then you can start.”
Xuan Yuan Po peered at the upper floor but didn’t see anyone, nor did he see any sort of window, he couldn’t help being curious about the location of the examiners, he suddenly remembered what Chen Chang Sheng had told him and rushed to ask: “What if… what if someone was to be beaten to death?”
The Tower of Purging Dust was blanketed in silence; the unseen examiner was quiet for a long time.
His opponent had an unsightly expression upon their face.
The examiner’s voice once again resounded: “It won’t be possible to beat someone to death.”
Xuan Yuan Po gave an exclamation of understanding before looking at his opponent, asking: “Are you ready?”
His opponent was from Huang Shan Valley (Yellow Mountain).
Huang Shan Valley was from the South.
Not all disciples from the Southern sects could participate in the Grand Examination, just as how the Capital would hold a foundation trial for the Grand Examination, the South would also have a similar pre-examination.
Passing the foundation trial was proof of this examinee’s ability, not to mention his time for passing the Martial Trial was shorter than most of the other examinees, attesting to the fact that his divine sense and True Essence capacity is better than most.
Previously, when he was picking his opponent, the examinee from Huang Shan Valley displayed a lot of difficulty in his decision, this was because Orthodox Academy’s fame was far too great, it didn’t represent a lack of confidence; not to mention, his final choice of Xuan Yuan Po meant that he had some confidence in being able to win against Xuan Yuan Po, or more specifically, a battle plan.
From the moment he entered the Tower of Purging Dust, Xuan Yuan Po had looked to the sky vacantly, then asked that question, the examinee from Huang Shan Valley didn’t know that he was naturally simple and honest and instead thought that he was purposefully trying to degrade him.
The examinee was already in a bad mood and right now, he was furious, wanting nothing more than to immediately cut down this infuriating person.
“I’ve heard that you’re already crippled, so are you prepared to lose?”
The Huang Shan Valley disciple looked at Xuan Yuan Po and sneered.
Saying those words, he didn’t take the opportunity to strike first.
This was because everyone had heard this hulking yao youth say in a thunderous voice that he needed to attack first; needed to close in on his opponent.
He didn’t know whether if Xuan Yuan Po had intentionally done this to mislead him, or if he had really planned upon carrying out that strategy, but out of careful consideration, he had to consider a retreating defence; extending the distance between them, then relying upon astounding sword arts to brawl with this yao youth.
The Huang Shan Valley disciple retreated without hesitation, clearing a distance of about 17 metres in a single skip.
At the same time, his sword left its scabbard, drawing out an arc of wind that wrapped around in front of him, creating a quick defence.
Seeing this, Xuan Yuan Po was surprised, thinking: Tang Thirty-Six could predict everything?
Previously, while outside, Tang Thirty-Six had said to him that once the battle started, his opponent would retreat, that they would definitely defend, therefore, he didn’t have think of anything, all he had to do was advance, even if he had to burn out all his True Essence, he would still have to advance, no matter how his opponent’s sword was manoeuvred or how their True Essence was to flow, no matter how impregnable, he just had to advance!
Xuan Yuan Po did exactly this.
When he had asked his opponent if they were ready and his opponent started retreating, he himself had immediately started advancing.
While he was feeling slightly startled with how Tang Thirty-Six had managed to predict everything and was starting to feel some admiration for that fellow, he had already advanced over 30 metres.
Tang Thirty-Six was too accurate in his prediction, his words were close to being a law: retreating, is never faster than advancing.
No one could have thought that someone as burly as Xuan Yuan Po could be so fast.
This was because no one knew that Xuan Yuan Po had often traversed steep and onerous mountain crags and cliffs from a young age, hunting red minks that were as fast as lightning.
A retreating defence? A brawl? With Tang Thirty-Six’s advice, Xuan Yuan Po’s opponent wouldn’t have that type of opportunity.
When the Huang Shan Valley disciple retreated 17 odd metres, he had already advanced more than 30; he arrived before the opposing examinee.
He could clearly see, that the opponent’s face was pale, he could even see his own inverted image upon his opponent’s retina.
That disciple from Huang Shan Valley gave out a shrill cry, his blade rose like the wind, slashing towards Xuan Yuan Po, its edge carrying an elegant glow.
Xuan Yuan Po remembered Tang Thirty-Six’s words: don’t think about anything else, only think about advancing.
He enkindled all the True Essence he could muster and continued advancing.
His opponent’s sword created a screen before themselves.
He paid it no heed and continued advancing.
His fist advanced even faster than his body.
A ringing sound reverberated.
The thrust of his fist carried with it the gleam of Star Brilliance, tearing through the sword gales and flickering upon the opponent’s face.
The opponent’s eyes reflected innumerable amounts of Star Brilliance, alongside immeasurable amounts of shock and disbelief.
Wasn’t Xuan Yuan Po a new student of Star Seizer Academy? Hadn’t he only joined Orthodox Academy a short time ago? Wasn’t he last upon the proclamation? Wasn’t his right arm crippled?
How could he release such a punch? That kind of Star Brilliance, wasn’t it a phenomenon only those in the upper stage of the Meditation Realm could display?
The opponent couldn’t continue with his line of thought.
That’s because Xuan Yuan Po’s fist had directly blown away his opponent’s sword and landed on their body.
That disciple from Huang Shan Valley crashed into the wall of the tower heavily, flying like a boulder across tens of metres.
A gale tore through; dust abounded.
The disciple from Huang Shan Valley seemed to have been wedged into the wall, his clothing in tatters and his body covered in blood.
Xuan Yuan Po stilled his steps, looking at his fist, his expression a little dazed, thinking to himself: “why didn’t he block?”
The Tower of Purging Dust was filled with the sound of running feet.
Over ten examiners rushed to the grounds and hurriedly started to treat the disciple of Huang Shan Valley.
One of the examiners rushed before Xuan Yuan Po, pointing at him, wanting to say something, but didn’t know what to say.
Xuan Yuan Po recognised the voice as to being the examiner who had previously answered him, he looked at his opponent who was currently undergoing emergency treatment and felt distressed, mumbling: “I didn’t do anything wrong? You said that no one can be beaten to death, if… if anything was to happen to him, it won’t have anything to do with me.”