It had been three months since the Annual Auction and the Annual Contest for the Academy was beginning. The Annual contest was similar to the tournament style ranking at the beginning of their enrollment and there could only be one winner. The Annual contest had the best rewards out of all the contests every year and all those who were stronger came out during that period of time. Some students who were still taught by teachers were still kept hidden however because of those teachers' pride.
San Guo expected the group of kids that he had personally trained to at least reach the Top 10 because he knew how much they had progressed in the time that he managed to find them. Ye Xiu had made the most progress due to his bloodline. His body became the strongest out of the entire group quickly and continued to grow at an exponential rate that didn't seem to slow down. Due to this, Ye Xiu actually had to spend a lot of his time fighting to get used to his new strength.
The Annual Contest always started with the first years and ending with the fifth years. It was the perfect time for everyone to scout each others' strengths and weaknesses. After the Annual contest, the Top 10 winners of each year would fight with each other to see who would be the strongest in the entire academy. Most of the time it was the fifth year students who won but occasionally a few fourth years won and on even rarer occasions, third years winning against their peers.
It was usually the fifth years who won but San Guo still wanted them to fight against them because he said that it would be good for them to experience fighting against those stronger than them. They should learn when to back off and when to attack against stronger opponents. He wanted them to know that even though they were strong there was always going to be somebody stronger than them. They were reminded of this daily by San Guo when he trained them but he wanted them to know that there are geniuses.
He wanted them to never underestimate somebody, no matter their appearance. San Guo knew there were a few older students who had the appearance of a child but was still able to defeat those who had fully matured. San Guo was also expecting Ye Xiu to at least be able to hold out against the older students using the strength of his body. He had made Ye Xiu become unstoppable by constantly pushing him to his limits.
This meant that even if Ye Xiu looked like he was tired, he would still be able to fight against his opponents with his full strength and effort. He would also be able to think clearly under high-stress situations and when he was tired.
Ye Xiu and Shi Die were cooking up some food for the group before the tournament began. They knew that the mess hall would be full at this time because too many students would be awake earlier to train and to get ready for the tournament.
San Guo promised that there would be good rewards for the four of them if they managed to make it to the Top 10 of their year. He also promised that if any of them are able to defeat a student which is in the 2nd year or higher, then he would give them a reward which would greatly help them in cultivation.
Shang Yang and Xiao Tu were duking it out on San Guo's private training grounds to get their blood pumping before the tournament. They had improved greatly when it came to skill and strength. Shang Yang was much more graceful in her movements and had started to learn a movement technique that would help confuse her opponents. She learnt the movement technique for the sole purpose of integrating it into her fighting style so that her opponents would have a smaller chance of winning against her.
Xiao Tu definitely had a hard time against Shang Yang but was able to prevent himself from losing due to his long reach with the weapon. His defensive style kept her at bay and was going to tire her out. They stopped when Ye Xiu called them over so that they could eat their food and rest a bit before the tournament started.
Shi Die went over the strengths and weaknesses of the high-ranked freshmen. They had observed multiple ranked matches to see what their opponents were able to do and came up with appropriate plans against them. The time for the tournament came quickly and they ran over to the Arena grounds where they could see that it was nearly packed full by students. It was surprising, to say the least for Ye Xiu to see so many students when he usually only saw half the number of people daily at the mess hall.
They went to the seats which the Arena grounds offered and sat down to wait for the tournament to start. They saw no point in wasting energy or making their muscles sore by standing around. They watched as people flooded the grounds before a voice sounded out throughout the grounds.
"Are you all ready for the Annual Contest? This year our prizes for the top contestants will be even better compared to last year! I hope you'll try your best so that you will be able to get the rewards. Also, we'll be scouting for potential candidates to participate in an upcoming competition in a few years time. If you manage to impress any of the staff, you might be able to get private training from them."
"We'll be starting off with the freshmen fights and it'll go pretty quickly! We have several groups and those who win the most fights in those groups will advance to the Top 16. The groups have been decided and we will call out the students for each fight so you don't have to worry about forgetting. If however, you don't arrive at a match by five minutes, you'll be disqualified and that'll count as a loss for you and a win for the opponent."
"I wish the best of luck to all those that fight. The first fights will be announced in five minutes."
Several fights had passed for Ye Xiu and the others and they had won the majority of their matches. Shang Yang and Xiao Tu lost a single match to the same person because they were in the same group. The person they lost to was apparently of a higher stage of cultivation and had impressive techniques that were able to counter Shang Yang and Xiao Tu easily.
They were currently recounting their experiences with the guy they had fought and eventually gave up because they only saw him use two techniques. One of the techniques was the technique that defeated the both of them and the other was an unknown technique that allowed the person to move quickly yet silently. They were sneak attacked when they least expected it and lost the fight. They were unable to get to the Top 16 and they were depressed because of it.
Ye Xiu was consoling his two friends of their losses. "You don't have to worry about your loss. As long as you learn from your mistake, you'll be fine. This was just a normal match in the academy, not a life-threatening one. You'll live to survive another day. You also more chances to compete in the next few years. I know San Guo expected all of us to at least get into the top 10 but I think he won't mind as long as he knows our actual strength. The most he'll do is make all of us train harder."
Xiao Tu sighed. "I guess you're right Ye Xiu. Just be careful if you do meet that guy. I pointed him out to you earlier so you should be able to remember his face. As long as you move fast enough he shouldn't be able to kill you. Out of the four of us, you and Shi Die have the best chance against that guy."
Shi Die nodded. "Thanks for telling us about him. My group was pretty easy besides a single person that caused problems with his bow and arrow. Luckily, the reflex training that we did allowed me to catch or dodge most of his arrows. I would've lost from fatigue if I wasn't able to do that."
Ye Xiu looked at the Arenas. "I can't say much about the other fourteen opponents because I wasn't watching the matches when I was resting. I was busy breaking down the different styles of fighting that I fought against and how I would be able to improve in the future fights. I should pay more attention because the Top 16 are probably the better fighters in our entire year. I've seen many of the students in the top 16 going back to a teacher to talk so they definitely are receiving advice after each fight."
Shi Die stopped the brooding that was happening in the group. "How about we have a break now. We won't be fighting anytime soon and the two of you won't even be fighting anymore so we can eat to get our energy back. Ye Xiu and I made some sandwiches. I've made a few Qi infused foods this morning so I hope you enjoy and gain all your energy back."
Ye Xiu took the first bite of the sandwiches that they made together and definitely noticed that the taste was a lot better than what he usually made. He looked at Shi Die who scratched his head. "I learnt how to increase the taste of the foods from Jin Yuan, I'm not actually that skilled when it comes to taste because I think Ye Xiu does a better job when it comes to the raw taste of the food without Qi infusion."
Ye Xiu shook his head, "You just need more practice and experience, the flavours just go together in my head like how it does for Alchemy. It just makes everything tastes better so I can always teach you the different recipes I do so that you can make them taste just as good."
"Do you mind taking some time off training or during our rest times so that we can have these cooking sessions together? It might help me a lot if you're there to help me."
Ye Xiu was surprised by Shi Die's request. "Sure, I mean I guess... Yeah, why not. I shouldn't be training all the time. I can also improve my cooking skills at the same time by trying new recipes that I haven't had the time to test out yet. If you can teach me some tricks of your spirit cooking, I'll continue to help you with your Qi control during those sessions as well."
Shi Die nodded his head happily when Xiao Tu popped his head in between the two. "If you are having these cooking sessions, I want to be the taste tester. All that wondrous food can go into my stomach." Xiao Tu's eyes were sparkling at the thought of the food that they were going to make in the future.
Shi Die just laughed. "Sure, you can have all the food you want." He looked at Shang Yang, "Do you want to be a taste tester as well? You don't have to worry about gaining weight since we train every day."
Shang Yang bit her lip. "Fine, I'll taste the food as well. I was worried about my weight until you reminded me that we all train for long periods of time anyway.
After one hour of rest, the break was ended and the matches for the Top 16 were about to begin in the next few minutes. Ye Xiu and Shi Die headed down from the stands to go to the arenas.