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What did Zhe Xiu really want? That was a question that Chen Chang Sheng really wanted to answer. Looking back, he was certain that when they entered the Education Palace, Zhe Xiu turned and took a single glance at Luo Luo. Because of that glance, he had thought that this wolf tribe youth was exceptionally dangerous. Thus, who could have guessed that Tang Thirty-Six would take a single roasted chicken, and somehow bribe him into helping Orthodox Academy?
This seemed utterly absurd, but it really happened.
Luo Luo was also looking at Zhe Xiu with a somewhat complex expression.
For most of the younger cultivators, the Grand Examination was the most important event in their life. However, for certain people, the exams were just an opportunity to exchange for something else that they really wanted. Putting it in other words, the seemingly sacred Grand Examinations was, in reality, just something akin to a giant auction.
Tian Hai Sheng Xue withdrawing from the tournament, and Zhe Xiu agreeing to Orthodox Academy’s deal, was all because of this reason. So what about Chen Chang Sheng? Luo Luo knew that he wasn’t interested in fame – so why was he so adamant about taking first place in the examinations? She had asked him about this in the past, as did Tang Thirty-Six, but Chen Chang Sheng had never given an answer to this question.
The second tournament had few surprises. Tang Thirty-Six easily defeated his opponent, and Xuan Yuan Po’s luck was rather good – he didn’t fight any of the stronger cultivators on the Proclamation of the Azure Clouds, and thus also easily won his match. Adding their results on the academic and martial phases, it’s uncertain if Xuan Yuan Po can make it to the Three Grades, but for Tang Thirty-Six, it should not be a problem.
The matches between the final eight was determined by drawing lots, as usual. However, because there were so few competitors remaining, the lots were divided into two blocks, and the results determined all of a competitor’s fights for the remainder of the exam.
The results of the drawing was that Luo Luo was matched against the young scholar from Scholartree Manor, Zhong Hui. Chen Chang Sheng’s opponent was Zhuang Huan Yu. Guo Han Shi’s opponent was the young woman from the Holy Maiden Sect, and Zhe Xiu’s was to fight against the student from Star Seizer Academy. The four matches had two fights between allies – Li Shan Sword Sect and Holy Maiden Peak were of the same school, and Zhe Xiu used Star Seizer Academy’s name to attend the competition.
This did not match Tang Thirty-Six’s plan.
In his view, the best result for the first half would be for Zhe Xiu to be matched against Guo Han Shi, and for Luo Luo to fight against Zhuang Huan Yu. The best result for the second half would be Zhong Hui versus that student from Star Seizer Academy, and for Chen Chang Sheng to be matched against that woman from the Holy Maiden Sect. That way, even if Guo Han Shi defeated Zhe Xiu, he would have to fight against Luo Luo – after two difficult matches, even someone like Guo Han Shi would be exhausted. On the other hand, Chen Chang Sheng’s defenses were great. In a competition, he would likely defeat the woman from the Holy Maiden Sect, so if he could follow this by defeating Zhong Hui, he might actually have a chance to win first place.
But now, Guo Han Shi only needed to defeat Zhe Xiu to enter the final match, as the woman from the Holy Maiden sect was obviously no match for him. Of course, this kind of draw had its own benefits – Chen Chang Sheng would only need to defeat Zhuang Huan Yu to enter the final competition. After all, Luo Luo should easily be able to defeat Zhong Hui, and in her next match against Chen Chang Sheng, she would likely just forfeit.
The first match in the bracket was Chen Chang Sheng against Zhuang Huan Yu.
During the exams, Zhuang Huan Yu was, like Tian Hai Sheng Xue, a bit silent and subdued. The only difference was that Tian Hai Sheng Xue’s expression was because he was preparing himself to forfeit the competition. Zhuang Huan Yu’s gloom was because he wanted to go further in the world, but the opponents in his prior competition were too weak for him to show how much he had improved.
Zhuang Huan Yu was one of the celebrated geniuses among the youths of his generation. Placing eleventh on the Proclamation of the Azure Clouds, he was the highest ranking student amongst all of the Ivy League students of his generation. He was the pride of Heavenly Academy – aside from the top three, the highest ranks of the Proclamation of Azure Clouds had little difference in their ability, so he was easily the strongest opponent that Chen Chang Sheng had faced during the Grand Exams.
The Tower of Purging Dust was silent.
Zhuang Huan Yu looks at Chen Chang Sheng emotionlessly and said, “Your luck today was quite good.”
From the first round of the competition until now, Chen Chang Sheng’s strongest opponents were Huo Guang and that young man from Shuang City, who was ranked around 20 on the proclamation. Both seemed quite powerful, but there were many really stronger opponents in the examinations. He did not have to fight against anyone from Li Mountain, and didn’t meet anyone like Zhe Xiu. Statistically speaking, his luck was definitely rather good.
“Your luck was also quite good,” Chen Chang Sheng looked at him and responded.
This was also true. From the beginning of the dueling phase, Zhuang Huan Yu didn’t meet anyone that remotely matched his level. In terms of just luck, no one – Chen Chang Sheng included – could compare with him. This was already something beyond just luck; it was apparent that someone from within the Orthodoxy had somehow rigged the drawings in his favor.
Heavenly Academy was the most prestigious academy under the Orthodoxy. Regardless of Principal Mao Qiu Yu’s or Vice Principal Zhuang’s actual wishes, the Orthodoxy must have at least one exceptional student that can represent them in the exams. Especially now that Orthodox Academy was showing the faint signs of revival, the Orthodoxy naturally would not permit Heavenly Academy’s prestige to be completely taken away.
“If two people with great luck meet, then in my opinion, they should no longer be able to rely on luck,” Zhuang Huan Yu looked at him and said.
If one can no longer rely on luck, then naturally, he can only rely on true strength.
At this time, the Li Palace clergyman officiating the match asked, “ready?”
Zhuang Huan Yu nodded his head.
Chen Chang Sheng, however, shook his head, and did something that no one else could expect.
He walked under the eaves of the tower, unstrapped and removed his shoes, and placed them at the bottom of the stone steps. The shoes were arranged very neatly, as if he was a guest at someone else’s mansion.
Chen Chang Sheng walked back into the arena with his feet bare, the soles of his feet carrying a trace of yellow sand.
He raised his right hand, and grabbed the hilt of the short-sword strapped to his waist.
With this movement, the Tower of Purging Dust became quiet. The important people on the second floor did not speak, though their gazes became brighter and their spirits became more dignified.
Even when he won against young man from Shuang City from the previous match, Chen Chang Sheng did not draw his sword. He primarily used the strange and unpredictable movements of the Discerning Steps, and ultimately relied on his speed and strength. From what they can see, however, he was already preparing to draw his sword during this match. It seems that, facing someone as strong as Zhuang Huan Yu, he could no longer afford to conceal any of his abilities.
Still, no one believed that he could actually defeat Zhuang Huan Yu. Even though he displayed unimaginable strength and speed in his prior battles, as well as the mysterious Discerning Steps, but he has only successfully cultivated for a short time. His True Essence reserves should be much lower than a truly strong cultivator, so it was impossible to see how he could win.
The most fundamental reason was that Zhuang Huan Yu was truly very powerful.
“Are those wearing shoes supposed to be afraid of those who are barefoot?” Zhuang Huan Yu stared at Chen Chang Sheng’s sand-stained feet, and continued after a brief pause. “Perhaps you did not know, but when I was still living in the rural areas a long time ago, I also had very few opportunities to wear shoes, let alone new ones.”
Chen Chang Sheng was silent, although he understood what Zhuang Huan Yu had meant.
Zhuang Huan Yu was the son of the vice principal of Heavenly Academy, but had to take care of his sick mother out in the countryside. As such, he endured for many years before finally obtaining success after much difficulty and becoming the pride of Heavenly Academy.
Even now, he was wearing a pair of simple cloth shoes.
Still, Chen Chang Sheng did not entirely understand why Zhuang Huan Yu looked at him with such cold eyes, full of hidden hostility. He could not remember when he had offended this person.
Zhuang Huan Yu was the future that was nurtured by Heavenly Academy. For him to oppose Orthodox Academy was a logical response. As for his old grudge against Tang Thirty-Six, it’s likely similar to that of Guan Fei Bai: a grudge that a person who had lived a life of poverty would hold against a wealthy scion who never had to worry about life. Still, why would this person hate Chen Chang Sheng specifically?
“Shall we begin?” he asked.
His words are very customary, as if he’s standing in the classrooms of Heavenly Academy, and asking whether classes can start in front of his fellow students.
Chen Chang Sheng’s response was also very ordinary. He simply nodded his head.
Zhuang Huan Yu raised his scabbard, wielding it with his left hand while his right hand gripped the hilt of his sword. He silently looked at his opponent and spoke one word. “Please.”
Chen Chang Sheng gripped his short-sword with his right hand. His left hand extended before him, and he answered, “Please.”
Thus, the match began in such an ordinary fashion, though even from the start, it was anything but an ordinary match.
With a single ring of the bell, Zhuang Huan Yu drew his sword and swung it seemingly freely.
Though it seems like a casual swing, in reality, this technique was extremely focused. The blade sliced apart the air, leaving only a line that was as straight as a pen, flawlessly parallel to the ground.
Not all techniques can create a line this straight.
Zhuang Huan Yu’s sword, cut in a straight line.
About thirty metres away from him, an arc appeared.
It was a semicircular arc of brilliant light.
The light arc did not appear in the air, nor did it appear on the sand-laden floor. Instead, it appeared directly within Chen Chang Sheng’s eyes.
Chen Chang Sheng’s eyes are very bright, and his pupils are very dark. They weren’t dark like the deep colors of the night, but a somehow purer sort of darkness.
A sudden arc of light appearing within these dark pupils were very easy to see.
This was because the line from Zhuang Huan Yu’s sword broke through the air and, in a flash, closed the distance, appearing before Chen Chang Sheng’s body.
The light from this technique was less than three feet (a metre) from his eyes.
The sword light arrived too quickly, though there was a bit of delay on the two ends. The straight line created by the sword thus became an arc when it finally arrived before Chen Chang Sheng.
This arc of light was flawless; as it was extremely sturdy, it was difficult for Chen Chang Sheng to simply break. In addition, no matter how he decides to parry the arc of light, the remaining parts of the arc would rapidly converge and become a complete circle, trapping his body within.
This match, with its very ordinary beginning, was extraordinary even during the start.
Zhuang Huan Yu’s first technique was Heavenly Academy’s strongest sword technique, the Sword of Hithering Light.
Countless inaudible praise emerged from the second floor of the tower.
It seemed like a very simple attack, but it was apparent that Zhuang Huan Zu’s cultivation was not so simple.
Even considering all of the techniques used in the entire examinations, this attack could rank in the top three.
How would Chen Chang Sheng counter this technique?