With nearly all the remaining disciples being 4th grade talents at the Viscera strengthening stage, the difference of techniques would now be the most important factor. That being said, someone in the early days of Viscera training would still get recked by his future self that nearly completed the 2nd strengthening stage, so they could still be differences at the same cultivation level. But because the disciples all started to cultivate at the same time not long ago, the gap was not that significant.
In total, 45 disciples had a grade 4 talent. When you factor in the two grade 5, there should only be 2 remaining places for others with lower aptitudes in the top 49.
But they were 7 this year. 5 disciples with lesser talent and still at the stage of flesh training managed to win against 4th grade talents and made their way inside the top 50. Those 7 already had a basic level of mastery of the magic art they chose. They were the underdogs that most of the remaining disciples rooted for.
There was a true dark horse too. In fact, one disciple only had a grade 2 talent! He was Yu Tao, originally ranked 612 and a spear user. In fact, he even hadn't used his magical art yet.
His fighting style was simple, clinical and terribly efficient. He always challenged the highest-ranking disciple that he could challenge. After a match was finished, Yu Tao didn't celebrate and would immediately jump off stage, not sparing another glance at the disciple he defeated, like everything was just natural.
Even now, Yu Tao acted like he didn't pay much attention to the disciples in front of him. He was currently ranked 25th at the end of the line of 4th bracket disciples.
Han Lingyun wanted to puke. 'Shit, this one already acts like the typical main character. I really hope that he doesn't challenge me though, I really don't want to deal with that guy. If he continues his pattern of challenging the highest ranked disciple he is allowed to, I should be safe though.'
"Rank 46th who do you challenge?"
A girl with grade 3 aptitude responded. "I challenge ranked 16."
Shen Lin, next to Han Lingyun at rank 15 laughed uproariously and patted him on the back. "HAHAHA brother Lingyun, that's the issue when you look too weak!"
Han Lingyun grimaced. His opponent was a sword user with a powerful magic art that made her resonate with her sword and gain explosive speed and strength for one attack.
Han Lingyun decided to go for the largest weapon he could find. He wanted to make those disciples think twice before challenging him again.
This choice seemed ridiculous for the 47th ranked disciple. He was going to be slower with such a weapon and she could cut through it with her magical art.
She raced toward Han Lingyun. Her reflexes suddenly kicked in and she raised her sword. Boom. She was launched away as Han Lingyun had thrown his giant great sword with all the strength his Viscera cultivation could muster.
The disciple regained her bearings but was completely disoriented. Thankfully she was still on the stage as her last moment reaction managed to deflect the sword somewhat. She didn't know where her sword had flown away though. Before she could think any further, a hand grabbed her neck.
Some disciples cheered at the surprising combat.
"Rank 16th disciple Han Lingyun wins."
Han Lingyun took back his place next to Shen Lin with a smile.
Shen Lin shook his head. "That was some true bullying, brother Lingyun. Come on look at the poor girl crying, don't you pity her a bit?"
Han Lingyun wasn't moved. "I'm doing her a favor by fighting the way I would face an enemy. Plus, I won't be taking any unnecessary risks by fighting a prolonged battle with someone who has better sword techniques than me. I have greater strength with one stage advantage, why not use it?"
Shen Lin smiled. "Hehe, that's all you."
The duels continued. It became Shen Lin's turn to be challenged by a disciple with 4th grade talent. Shen Lin took a very aggressive approach by letting himself be wounded to launch a dragon fist. The sheer power was about to rock his opponent when the elder ended the confrontation. Shen Lin's bleeding left hand was briefly healed by the elder.
Han Lingyun was challenged once again. This time by the one ranked 28, a 4th grade talent named Duan Guangli.
Han Lingyun had already exchanged pointers with Duan Guangli on several occasions at the training grounds. Duan Guangli was somewhat in a similar case to Han Lingyun, in that he had not practiced the use of a weapon before coming to the sect, and used the sword for now for the lack of a weapon that really resonated with him.
This time, Han Lingyun picked a classic sword against this familiar opponent.
The plan was simple, overwhelm him with slightly better technique and a little application of the blackbird art.
These last weeks, Han Lingyun had made great strides with the blackbird art. After training his visualization with the exercises and instructions given to him by elder Wen, practicing the blackbird art became way easier.
Han Lingyun planned to reveal an adequate proficiency for now and possibly surprise a stronger opponent later.
The two faced off. It was a lot different to fight someone that knew most of your usual tricks!
They rushed towards each other and exchanged a sword strike. Duan Guangli channeled his defensive art to gain in stability, footing and balance. The fight seemed quite even at first. However, Han Lingyun suddenly accelerated his movement and circled his opponent. Duan Guangli's defense was crumbling. Sensing that things were going south, he tried to exchange injuries with Han Lingyun and hoped his stronger skin and footing would grant him the victory.
"Stop! Rank 16th disciple Han Lingyun wins."
Han Lingyun sword was centimeters away from Duan Guangli's neck when his own sword was facing empty air. *Gulp*.
Han Lingyun hadn't yet joined Shen Lin he heard another voice laugh. "Hahaha, I challenge rank 15".
Shen Lin's smile froze when he turned his head. It was his other good friend Yang Haoyu challenging him. "This bastard!"
"Haha good luck brother Lin, and you too brother Haoyu." Han Lingyun was glad to see his friends have a true match, but in truth, he didn't give high odds to Shen Lin. His decision to avoid weapons was an important disadvantage for now.
Shen Lin managed to block Haoyu's sword for a moment and started to overwhelm him with strength. In consequence, Haoyu decided to keep his distances and chip at Shen Lin's defenses. Shen Lin was losing more and more stamina as the cuts accumulated on his skin, with both his hands bleeding profusely. He refused to give up though.
Haoyu had all the initiative here. He suddenly jumped forward. Shen Lin's slower movement didn't leave him any time to defend and he lost. They both bowed and came back to their positions. Now Yang Haoyu was sitting at the 15th rank, Shen Lin at 16 and Han Lingyun at 17.
The two friends tried to comfort Shen Lin back.
"You'll get me back next time brother Lin, I'm sure."
Han Lingyun looked back at the fight. "As of now, you lack too much initiative. Even if you don't want any offensive weapons, how about using a shield next time."
Shen Lin lighted up. "You are right, I am being too rigid. Even if I want to fight without any weapons or artifices in the future, I should still be rational about my current situation. Exchanging injuries is only a viable solution for controlled duels anyway. Our fist fights have muddled my thoughts. My enemies won't be fighting fairly anyway."
Han Lingyun smiled. It was good that Shen Lin could analyze his short comings and not stay focused on his defeat.
It was Yu Tao's time to challenge someone again. Han Lingyun, not wanting to be picked out by the wannabe MC, decided it was best to look slightly fearful and not try to act smug in front of that guy.
'You never know if this dude ever thinks someone is looking down on him or could be a nice challenge.'
For Han Lingyun's joy, Yu Tao didn't spare him a glance.
"I challenge rank 12."
Qin Tengfei, the rank 12 disciple, a boy with a fierce gaze that hadn't been challenged yet. Some didn't want to mess with him. Others realized that if they won against Qin Tengfei, they would probably have to later face the weird dark horse that won against a Viscera training stage with basic moves.
The rank 12 disciple didn't flinch. He was one of those that already had extensive training before coming to the sect. He just so happened to wield the spear as well.
The hundreds of disciples were anticipating that confrontation that looked to be the most impressive one yet.
The two boys rushed towards each other. Clang. Both had a considerable strength, excellent techniques and an impressive faster.
Qin Tengfei soon began to dominate every exchange. He took full advantage of his superior strength with his thrusts and jabs that forced Yu Tao on the back foot.
As he was looking to get overwhelmed, Yu Tao's spear suddenly gained a considerable force and pushed Qin Tengfei away. The crowd was loving it. Yu Tao on the other hand had a somber look. By just looking at his face, one would believe that he had just lost, as if not crushing his opponent was already a defeat in itself.
Both were now channeling their martial arts and the exchange took another level of intensity, with the special metals bending and sparks flying.
Suddenly, Yu Tao cried out loud: "DOMINATION SPEAR" and thrusted with greater speed and strength than ever before. At the same time, it appeared as though a lightning bolt escaped from the point of Yu Tao's spear and going straight for his opponent.
Qin Tengfei eyes widened as the bolt of lightning stopped just before reaching him.
The elder didn't immediately announce the results this time. "A special lightning-body! This is great! Ahem. Rank 25, disciple Yu Tao wins."
In the cultivation world. There exist some individuals with affinities so strong that at the body strengthening realm they can wield qi to some extent with the element they have an affinity with. These cultivators are said to possess a special body. Because the cultivator has a certain amount of control of his body. His affinity would be hidden from the sense of other cultivators as long as he doesn't use it actively.
In extremely rare cases, the affinity is not with the 5 elements of metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. In fact, the White Tiger Sect didn't have the tools to detect an affinity outside of the 5 elements. Perhaps only the sect leader or one of the sect protectors would have been able to detect Yu Tao's special consitution beforehand.
The match ended and the disciples cheered louder than ever for that epic fight. Yu Tao stood proudly on the stage, his long hair fluttering with the slight breeze and a gaze fixed at the horizon. He was not satisfied by his new ranking though. At this moment, Yu Tao vowed to himself that he would trample everyone on his path to absolute power.
The discipled previously ranked 24th that just lost one rank had already lost a match so it was now time for the rankings of the 24 best disciples out of the 800. With the top 4 in a further bracket, only 7 places in the next echelon (top 11) were available for the 20 disciples competing.