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Han Lingyun woke up as usual. But on this early morning, instead of doing his traditional intense physical session, he simply took a quick jog and meditated a bit to calm his nerves. He wasn't cultivating though.

At 8, all the 1st years headed to the training grounds which hosted 10 large combat rings. A large sign laid out the rewards.

 

Rewards:

-9th bracket. Rank 600-800: 10 Ps +1 qi crystals.

-8th bracket. Rank 400-599: 25 Ps +5 qi crystals.

-7th bracket. Rank 200-399: 50 Ps +10 qi crystals.

-6th bracket. Rank 100-199: 100 Ps +10 qi crystals + 1 blood pill.

-5th bracket. Rank 50-99: 150 Ps +10 qi crystals + 1 blood pill.

-4th bracket. Rank 25-49: 200 Ps +10 qi crystals + 1 blood pill.

-3rd bracket. Rank 12-24: 250 Ps +10 qi crystals + 1 blood pill.

-2nd bracket. Rank 5-11: 300 Ps +10 qi crystals + 1 blood pill.

-1st bracket: Rank 1-4.

Rank 3-4: 350 Ps +10 qi crystals + 1 blood pill.

Rank 2: 400 Ps +10 qi crystals + 1 blood pill.

Rank 1: 500 Ps +10 qi crystals + 1 blood pill + 1 special medal for the month.

 

Han Lingyun and the other disciples raised their heads as they tried to figure out what rank they could reasonably obtain. The main reward was still the sect points, the qi crystals and blood pill were issued to encourage the 1st years to use these more.

 

Captain Lacroix hovered next to the sign and looked down on the disciples.

"1st years these are the rules of the competition.

Starting from the bottom of the rankings, a disciple can issue a duel to someone above his rank.

If the challenger wins, his rank becomes the rank of the challenged one, which moves back by one rank, same for the disciples with ranks between the two. A loser loses his privilege to issue a challenge. If the challenger loses, the ranks remain the same.

To give an example, let's say Rank 303 challenges rank 301 and wins. Rank 303 becomes rank 301, rank 301 loses 1 rank to become rank 302 and rank 302 becomes rank 303. If the new disciple has yet to lose one match, it's his turn to issue a challenge. If the new rank 303 has already lost once, we move on to rank 302, who has already lost once, so we move on to rank 301 who has the right to issue a new challenge.

Keep in mind, losing in the case of the challenger is equivalent to going down in rankings, because those who won behind him will have pushed his rank down.

Also, you can only issue a challenge to disciples in the same bracket as you with higher ranks, or in the bracket immediately above. So, the rank 303 disciple can only challenge disciples from ranks 101-302.

However, if you have followed, you would have notice that because we move up the ranks from worst to best, a winning disciple will have the opportunity to issue another challenge when we reach his new rank. In theory the last ranked disciple can become the new rank 1 in a single competition.

Additional rules. One disciple can be challenged a maximum of 3 times by disciples of the same bracket. One disciple cannot be challenged if he fought during the previous duel. The only exceptions are for the 1st bracket or in the special case where a challenger is left without any choice but to challenge a disciple who has already been challenged 3 times.

The duels will be held on one of the stages. A duel ends if one steps out of the stage, if one abandons, or if the elder watching stops the duel. Don't be afraid of harming your opponent. The elder watching over each stage will be able to interrupt any movement right before a grave injury happens.

Finally, treasure weapons are forbidden. You have access to the basic weapons. Self-harming pills that briefly boost your performances are forbidden as well.

Now let's begin. I'll ask the disciples of bracket 8 and 9 to step up and arrange yourselves in two lines facing each other. Arrange yourselves by your ranks.

Perfect. Now to go faster, we will be doing 10 matches simultaneously at the lower brackets. So, for those at the lower end of the rankings if you want to stay in the competition after your duel, you must challenge someone 10 ranks above you at least.

Rank 800 who do you challenge?"

 

The last ranked disciple was a short guy. His name was Chang Sile and he had a grade 2 talent. Far from feeling ashamed of his rank, he felt very lucky to be admitted to the sect with such a small margin. Disciples with Grade 3 talent had yet to breakthrough to 2nd stage of body strengthening. He was quite agile and somewhat proficient in the dagger. Now was his chance to rise up the ranks! If he managed to gain more resources, he might be able to snowball and have a faster cultivation speed than grade 3 disciples. And he had the great advantage to choose in first.

Chang Sile had already started looking for disciples in the 400s range that were injured or that looked to have missed out on sleep lately.

"I challenge disciple ranked 457."

The disciple in question turned red with shame. He had a limp from hurting himself badly two days ago but he wanted to yell that he was not so easy to bully. 'I will crush this midget.'

Professor Lacroix moved on. "Go to the stage at the far left. Rank 799 who do you challenge?"

 

Rank 800 versus rank 457. Many disciples watched the 1st match with interest. As soon as it began Chang Sile dashed toward his opponent who hastily blocked with his sword but was destabilized. Chang Sile didn't miss the opening and thrust his dagger to the opponent unguarded neck. Just as the blade was about to cut flesh the two disciples froze in place.

The elder had intervened to stop the duel. He announced. "Rank 800 disciple Chang Sile wins."

"YES!" Change Sile raised his fists.

A couple of disciples applauded the winner. The 10 stages had yet to be filled up that the match had already ended!

The loser left the stage with his limp and a lowered head. At least he was still ranked 458 but the two short-lived opponents felt a bit awkward as they had to join the line side by side. Those behind glared at the limping disciple. They all lost 1 position because of his incompetence.

Most of the matches ended very quickly as a duel was often decided in an instant. A couple of duels lasted a lot longer as the disciples just circled around each other, seemingly too scared to fight. The elder watching one of these unending matches decided to put a timer in the form of an hourglass, after which the challenger would automatically lose. This sped things up as the challenger was forced to take an initiative at some point.

The duels were advancing rapidly and Han Lingyun was trying to keep an eye on everything. The first few duels were mostly won by the challengers as they focused on the weak looking ones. Then it became harder to predict. There wasn't too much difference in strength between most. Very few disciples used their martial art at this point and those that tried lost more often than not. Those that truly shot up the rankings were the disciples with poor talent but good fighting ability and often a proficiency in a weapon.

The first disciple that gained an excellent grasp of his martial art was ranked 516. He one punched the disciple that challenged him with his tiger paw.

The elders also had questionable interpretation of serious injury. As long as it wasn't life threatening or a limb cut off, they would not stop the match. It was up to the disciples to abandon or try to fight back with everything they had.

The rank of the last challenger continued to increase. After being pushed back to rank 514, Change Sile won another match to reach rank 373. He has already been challenged once in the meantime but still won. He hoped that he didn't need to fight a 4th time to stay in the 7th bracket. He wasn't tired after his 3rd match as those didn't last too long, but everyone ahead were tough opponents.

Change Sile wasn't the only one to win more than one match though. Sadly, for him, he was back to rank 417 by the time it was his turn to challenge again.

The ones in bracket 7 in not the best of shapes had already been challenged 3 times and pulled down the ranks at this point. He realized that his best shot was probably to challenge someone that took an easier pick and that hadn't been challenged 3 times yet.

"I chose rank 346." This was a bit of a gamble. His opponent was on the bulkier side, used an axe and didn't seem to be proficient in a martial art. Change Sile hoped to gain an advantage with his superior speed again.

"Begin." An elder announced.

Change Sile tried to approach his opponent but the wide axe swings kept Sile at a distance. His opponent was also way faster than he looked. He just couldn't find an opening.

His opponent smiled and Chang Sile had a bad feeling. He soon realized why. He was backed in a corner with his opponent in front. He couldn't try to circle around him as an axe swing would be enough to lose. There was only one option left. Going straight for the opponent!

"Rank 346 disciple Sun Junfeng wins." The elder declared.

Chang Sile realized to his horror than an axe was frozen right in front of his face. His opponent had thrown his weapon straight at him!

His final rank was 417.

Chang Sile left the stage looking downcast. 'It's not that bad considering I was last yesterday. Still, it's frustrating to be 17 places from doubling my rewards. 417 is as good as 599.'

 

The duels continued on and more and more disciples lost. As the 6th bracket was reached, only 2 duels were still held at the same time. One disciple had a very bad surprise as he faced a lower ranked grade 4 talent who had already advanced to the Viscera strengthening stage. The difference in speed and strength was hard to overcome.

The challengers of 5th bracket, ranks 50-99, found a wall with the disciples of the 4th bracket. In fact, most had a grade 4 talent and had reached Viscera strengthening stage during the week.

Soon it was time for the 4th bracket (ranked 25th to 49th) to challenge for 3rd bracket (ranked 12th to 24th). It was Han Ling's turn to stand up in a greatly diminished line.

All the disciples paid close attention to the last matches. From now on the duels would be held one at a time.

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