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Han Lingyun and Liao Zhenzhen made their way to the stage, under the wild excitement of the crowd. Han Lingyun had never fought against Liao Zhenzhen and had only seen her swordplay from far away. She could contort her body and perform strange movements that most sword masters couldn't perform. This tricky sword style was somewhat countering Lingyun's blackbird art. He reckoned that this time he should be on the defensive and at a crucial time slide an attack past her defense by funneling his martial art to the maximum. In fact, he realized that he had greater odds of winning against the 3rd rank Guo Shao but Han Lingyun wanted in priority to fight against a different style.

This time Han Lingyun also picked a sword and a dagger. This combination seemed to function well against the sword maidens which use a similar swordplay.

The elder, as stoic as ever announced "Begin."

Liao Zhenzhen rushed towards Han Lingyun while keeping her vigilance. She couldn't afford to lose her 1st match! Her speed was impressive, her steps were measured and discreet. Han Lingyun began to fight back while retreating. At the same time, he entered the right mood again. Night. Black. Assassin. Silent. Volatile. Deadly. Blackbird.

To every observer, it looked as though Han Lingyun was at a severe disadvantage as Liao Zhenzhen found tricky angles forcing him on the defensive and making awkward movements.

In fact, Han Lingyun was calculating everything. His mind was racing but he was calm, like an assassin waiting for the right opportunity to take down one more target.

Indeed, with all her efforts, Liao Zhenzhen was depleting her stamina at a rapid pace while Han Lingyun's unexpectedly always found a way to block or parry her attacks. Liao Zhenzhen felt more and more unsettled. She felt like she was achieving nothing. Not to mention the fact that Han Lingyun appeared somewhat blurred in her vision making it extremely hard to predict his movement through the twitching of his muscles and other little indicators like she had been trained to do. This was the effect of Han Lingyun's initial mastery of the black bird art. It enabled him to use the qi present in his flesh to a small extent. He couldn't control it though. Liao Zhenzhen twisted her body and continued her barrage of attacks as she searched for another option or opening.

"STOP. Han Lingyun wins."

Liao Zhenzhen hadn't reacted in time when Han Lingyun's dodge somehow turned into an attack to the neck.

She bowed to Han Lingyun. "It's my defeat."

Han Lingyun bowed back to show his respect. Now he had to recuperate as quickly as possible before his next fight. He hoped that they would take a long time because he did expend a significant portion of his stamina to defend against Liao Zhenzhen.

Liao Qiaolian, a sword maiden and Liao Zhenzhen's cousin then challenged Li An, who managed to disarm her after a couple of exchanges. He rapidly concluded the fight after that.

It was Yu Tao's turn to issue a challenge. The flamboyant spear user chose 3rd rank Guo Shao. It seemed that Yu Tao also wanted a guaranteed place in the top 4 before taking on the first 2.

Guo Shao had an ugly expression. He didn't know how to defend against Yu Tao's lightning attack. He could only pray that he could still fight after receiving it.

Guo Shao didn't know that his metal affinity would only worsen the situation.

A short exchange ensued before Yu Tao thrusted his spear in his now famous attack. The elder let out a sigh and stopped the lightning before it hit Guo Shao.

"NO, please Elder, I haven't abandoned yet!" Guo Shao cried.

The elder looked at him with a tinge of ridicule. "If you want to taste it, I won't heal you after."

Guo Shao hated the look in the elder's eye. He wanted to prove him wrong! "I WON'T BOW DOWN TO THIS!"

"Good, here you go!" The bolt maintained his course and sizzled through his body… leaving a twitching black body on the ground and the smelt of burned meat.

"Aaaahh did he die?" some disciples cried out in horror.

"Don't worry everyone, he is still alive. His little stunt might cause him to sleep for one or two weeks at the infirmary though." The elder reassured.

 

No one pitied Guo Shao. He inflicted this on himself. Some even found the whole scene hilarious and couldn't help but let out some chuckles as Guo Shao was brought away.

 

The duels continued and the now 7th ranked Huang Xiuying, the last sword maiden that had yet to lose, challenged Li An.

Han Lingyun kept a close eye on the fight. This one didn't last 10 seconds. It was all it took for Li An to disarm his opponent with his rod and smash it into her head. Well, that would have been the result if the elder hadn't frozen the rod in place with his qi.

Han Lingyun eyes widened. Indeed, he didn't know if he had what it took to win against Li An.

 

Liao Zhenzhen had already lost once so it was Han Lingyun's time to issue a challenge again.

He smiled "I challenge Guo Shao."

He walked to the stage.

Many disciples laughed.

The elder tried to remain serious but had an even better idea. "Bring back Guo Shao." That was the punishment for thinking to know better than an elder.

The darkened body was brought back to the stage on his stretcher.

"Begin. STOP. Ranked 5th, disciple Han Lingyun has won!" He announced without pause.

"Okay feed the poor lad a rejuvenation pill and take him to the infirmary."

 

The elder was using Guo Shao as an example here. It was not in the sect customs to bring back an injured disciple for show.

And just like that, Han Lingyun was sitting in 4th position.

Because Li An was now 5th and in the 2nd bracket. He couldn't challenge Han Lingyun again according to the rules. Being able to challenge someone who just fought was only permitted for matches inside the first bracket. His options were now Yu Tao and the 5th grades.

Li An smiled at Han Lingyun. Making him understand that he saw through his little scheme. Han Lingyun smiled back.

"I won't be issuing a challenge." Li An declared.

The crowd booed at the lack of action.

Han Lingyun was glad to make it in the top 4 but still regretted that Li An didn't challenge one of the two 5th grade talents. He reckoned that Li An had the capabilities to do so.

Han Lingyun did the same. "I won't be issuing a challenge either."

The crowd booed again in disapproval. Where was the recklessness of youth?

Han Lingyun rejoined his 2 friends who patted him on the back.

"Damn brother, your blackbird art was insane! Your fights were sick too! But why didn't you challenge one of the big three?" Shen Lin was curious.

"Hehe in truth, I have no business in being 4th. My true rank shouldn't be higher than 5th, maybe 6th if Guo Shao had other tricks up his sleeve. The two grade 5, considering that not even Li An challenged them are way out of my league." Han Lingyun analyzed.

In fact, Han Lingyun was 99% certain that Wei Muchen and Wang Yimo would crush him. However, he believed that he had a very decent chance at winning against Yu Tao. The latter's main advantage was his lighting attack which looked very taxing for Yu Tao and which could be anticipated. Yu Tao shouldn't be able to fire twice in a row.

Yu Tao's lightning also seemed very similar to normal lightning, except that Yu Tao seems to have the ability to guide it to some extent and avoid the electricity just going straight to the ground for example. His manipulation of lighting still seemed very basic. Han Lingyun was 80% certain that by throwing away his metallic weapons at the right moment, he could avoid suffering from the electric discharge. After that, he was fairly certain to win.

Would it be worth it though? Absolutely not! Why gain the ire and possibly hatred of this entitled brat for a couple more crystals?

 

"O man, Guo Shao will have some catching up to do when he wakes up. He might be losing one bracket per month for the next couple of months!" Yang Haoyu remarked.

"He'll bounce back, don't worry about him. The sect wouldn't have judged him to be the best 4th grade talent in terms of potential based on nothing." Han Lingyun reminded.

 

Back to the ranking competition, only the top 3 where still in the fight. It was Yu Tao's turn to issue a challenge.

He proclaimed. "I challenge Wei Muchen."

The crowd was ecstatic. Who will triumph? Will it be the newcomer and his terrifying attack, or the daunting ranked 1 disciple?

 

Yu Tao didn't wait to use his special attack. BOOM. Dust settled and Wei Muchen was unharmed, looking bored. The attack he just used also managed to condense some qi!

"How is this possible?" the disciples were shocked.

Han Lingyun frowned. He noticed that Wei Muchen's cultivation had slightly regressed. It seems that he sacrificed a portion of the qi that accumulated in his Viscera to create such an effect. Maybe it was only a technique for grade 5 talents. Or perhaps it was just a method that was kept secret. This would make Wei Muchen virtually untouchable in duels at the body strengthening stage!

Of course, that wouldn't remain the case if many disciples ganged up on him, if he relied only on this attack. It was obvious that he couldn't use this sort of attack more than once or twice before his cultivation regresses.

Yu Tao was frustrated and absolutely spent. "I give up." He may be arrogant but he wasn't dumb. He would take the loss for now and overtake that Wei Muchen later on.

Wei Muchen imperiously turned away and took his place of rank 1 back.

 

Next, Wang Yimo quietly announced. "I won't be issuing a challenge."

And so, the first ranking competition ended. The crowd of disciples dispersed, a bit let down not seeing the two 'titans' clash, but still excited about seeing Wei Muchen in action.

 

They would now be exchanging houses based on their new rankings. Shen Lin wouldn't be Han Lingyun's neighbor from now on.

Han Lingyun was mostly satisfied by the competition. It was first and foremost a training experience for him. The crystals, Ps and pills were just a bonus. He made as much money in 4 days anyway.

Han Lingyun glanced at the badge he was distributed when his 4th rank was fixed. He could read his balance of sect points if he placed the badge on his forehead.

An image appeared in his mind with the number 2150.

'Hehehe, 2150 Ps! I see that elder Wen has been enjoying my little problem very much.'

He calmed himself down, placed the 10 crystals in a circle around him, ate his blood pill and began to cultivate again.

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