A new day and a new sun emerged, reflecting on the morning dew of that fresh hour.
One month had passed since the 1st ranking competition so today was the day of the 2nd ranking competition. Captain Lacroix faced the disciples once again.
"The same rules and payoffs will apply to this new ranking competition. I will, however add something. Those that manage to advance by two brackets or more will automatically receive an additional 50 Ps."
Some disciples that had a poor showing due to the circumstances last time round were already rejoicing and a wave of whispers swept the mass of disciples.
"However, don't get any ideas. This bonus won't be there next month so don't try any dumb strategies like losing now to jump ranks next time.
In addition, all those that drop one bracket will be accompanying me in two weeks for a trip outside the sect as punishment. The others will also have the opportunity to come if they volunteer, perhaps some enjoy hardships I don't know."
Now enough chit chat, let's start!
As the last ranked disciples began their duels, Han Lingyun took the time to examine the other strong contenders. Be it his two good friends, the big 3 (Wei Muchen, Wang Yimo and Yu Tao), the 6 sword maidens and more, all had clearly worked hard during the past month. One looked a bit grim though: Liao Shao the former 3rd ranked disciple, previously grilled by Yu Tao's lightning and now behind the other 4th grade talents in cultivation. Even with his troubles from last month he held the 6th rank and his place was eyed by many.
A lot of 3rd grade talents also fancied their chances to get their revenge against the 4th grade talents. Now they were all at the viscera training stage! Most of the 3rd grade talents had broken through in the last two weeks while no disciple had reached the 3rd stage yet. Now, the 2nd grade talents were the ones with the greatest cultivation disadvantage, still stuck at flesh strengthening.
Yu Tao was the only exception. Somehow, even with his rank 2 talent, he had reached the Viscera training stage as well. His gaze briefly focused on Wei Muchen before he closed his eyes and took an indifferent pause.
Every time Han Lingyun saw Yu Tao, he had the urge to puke. Even Wei Muchen didn't garner such a reaction from him.
In truth, Han Lingyun didn't care much about this month's competition. At worse, due to the rules of the competition, he would end up at the 11th rank (the last place of the 2nd bracket).
This was the advantage of this system. You could only go down one bracket per month. He didn't have much hope of keeping his 4th place rank either, with an eager Li An breathing down his neck. Han Lingyun knew very well that his blackbird art wasn't meant for these duels on open stages and he decided that those duels were not worth him showcasing his full fighting power anyway.
The duels had started with renewed enthusiasm from the participants. Some even began acting desperate at the prospect of being at the bottom. There was an intense competition at every rank. Still, the 3rd grade talents that were low in rankings managed to climb up quite substantially, overtaking their 2nd grade talents adversaries. Even at those low levels, cultivation still played a decisive role.
Chang Sile, the disciple that had been originally last and who had obtained rank 417 last month was defeated twice and pushed back to the 637th rank, after many of those 3rd grade talents overtook him.
He was gnashing his teeth in anger and frustration. Why was his hard work met with this? Why couldn't his talent be at the 3rd grade? He would have crushed them if he was at 2nd stage of body strengthening, he was sure of it.
Going up the ranks felt nice, but being demoted felt many times worse! He would do anything to not lose out, he wasn't resigned to become a nobody yet.
The reshuffling of the ranks was quite intense in the lower brackets, especially when luck played an important part in the duel's result.
However, the lower the rankings got, the less movement there was in the rankings. This came as a big disappointment for the 3rd grade talents that challenged the 4th grade disciples.
They might be at the same cultivation level but the cultivation's gap was still widening. When most 3rd grade talent only just entered the 2nd stage last week, the 4th grades had a month to make progress and they were doing it at a faster speed too.
With their superior stamina and endurance, the 4th grade talents often chose to wear their challengers down and win easily. Others directly used the greater strength they had accumulated.
Still, more 3rd grade talents managed to defy the odds and advance in the ranks than last month.
However, only one 4th grade talent managed to fall below the 5th bracket and had a rank above 100, due to an injury. All the others 4th grade talents where still in the top 100, with the majority in the top 50.
Shen Lin, who started to incorporate shields in his practice sessions, had his revenge against his god friend Yang Haoyu. However, he was clearly outmatched when he challenged Qin Mei of the sword maidens to try and upgrade by one bracket. In fact, his final rank had remained the same at rank 20 as another disciple had overtaken him. Yang Haoyu was now behind him in 21st.
Surprisingly, Liao Shao, the disciple that was grilled by Yu Tao last month, won one duel but lost two other challenges against a sword maiden and Qin Tengfei. Liao Shao's stamina was still at a lower level than his peers but it was hard to imagine what he went through during this month to defend his rank so well, and not fall behind by much. After some readjustments in the 2nd bracket, he was still ranked 10th.
The members of the 2nd bracket (ranks 5 to 11) now included Li An, Ma Zhong the giant who remained undefeated this round, Qin Tengfei the spear user, Liao Zhenzhen, Qin Mei and two other sword maidens.
Only Li An, Ma Zhong and Liao Zhenzhen had yet to lose a duel at this point and could challenge the 1st bracket, composed of Wei Muchen, Wang Yimo, Yu Tao and Han Lingyun.
Liao Zhenzhen chose to not issue a challenge rather than fight against Han Lingyun again. He had already showed her the gap between them the previous month.
Ma Zhong didn't challenge anyone either. Han Lingyun wondered if the big guy even understood what was happening around; he really gave the impression of being a bit slow in the head.
Finally, Li An turned towards Han Lingyun and unsurprisingly proclaimed: "I challenge Han Lingyun."
Han Lingyun expected this and clasped his hands. "I give up, this rank is rightfully yours, disciple Li An. Me being here was only a fluke."
They switched places without another word.
Some disciples voiced their disapproval. Give up without a fight? Was he a coward? Of course, none were too vocal, they didn't wish to badmouth one of the strongest disciples and face unsavory repercussions.
Han Lingyun didn't fight because he had nothing to gain. The duels on stage didn't correspond to the real world and his blackbird art would be quite restricted in that environment, especially against an opponent at least as strong as him. Also why reveal too much when the rewards were only a couple more Ps?
He realized that last month, he had probably been caught up in the ranking competition too much for his own good, even though he managed to not fight against anyone in the 1st bracket.
Li An didn't issue another challenge and settled for the 4th rank. Now came the moment everyone was waiting for, the rematch between Wei Muchen and Yu Tao!
Han Lingyun observed with a slight interest. Those two would probably fight like their lives where on the line. They were too immature.
This time, Wei Muchen arbored a strange attire. He was fully dressed in thick fur. Metal spikes dotted his coat, with metal bars linking them and finishing in a metal tail that was in contact with the floor. This peculiar outfit gave him a very menacing look.
The random disciple might believe that this was his new style, but Han Lingyun realized that Wei Muchen was effectively wearing a Faraday cage, isolating himself from any regular electric strike. The elder supervising the match didn't make a remark on Wei Muchen's attire, which was effectively giving his approval. Indeed, this didn't go against the rules as long as one didn't wear defensive treasure. The thick fur and metal bars were arguably not considered to be at that level, and not a weapon either.
'Yu Tao might be in there for a big disappointment today.' Han Lingyun mused.
As soon as the match started, Yu Tao fiercely pierced the air with his spear. Lightning accumulated and bolted towards Wei Muchen who started to run towards his adversary.
The lightning reached Wei Muchen's pikes but didn't even make him flinch. Yu Tao furrowed his brows. Did Wei Muchen managed to use his qi attack at the last moment to reduce consumption or something? It didn't matter, after his harsh training, Yu Tao was now able to use his attack multiple times in succession. He forced out another lightning attack out of his spear, his body starting to ache all over.
Little did Yu Tao know, the electricity just passed through the metal cage to the ground, without coming into direct contact with Wei Muchen. He didn't even have to defend against these unsophisticated attacks. Of course, this strategy wouldn't work at against opponents at a higher cultivation but other tools would be at the disposal of a defender with a similar strength.
Wei Muchen took the second lighting attack head on and didn't slow down his advance. In fact, he threw his sword away and angled his arm. If his sword threatened the life of Yu Tao the elder would stop the fight before any contact, which was not the outcome that Wei Muchen wanted, and so he chose to not use his weapon all together. He didn't want the elder to stop the fight without punching this rat!
Yu Tao panicked as he realized that Wei Muchen was already upon him, but still slashed at the upcoming beast.
*Woosh* In a fluid and instantaneous movement, Wei Muchen adjusted his body to let the spear wheeze past him, cutting some strands of his hair. As Yu Tao was now the victim of his own momentum, Wei Muchen took a firm support and punched Yu Tao in the gut, which propelled the disciple out of the arena, like a discarded potato sack.
"Wei Muchen wins!"
*Cough. * *Cough. * Yu Tao was standing back up with difficulty, trying to catch his breath. He spat on the ground and raised his head to meet the gaze of Wei Muchen, who was sneering at him from above.
Wei Muchen wasn't done with the humiliation, he vowed to traumatize this arrogant disciple to stall his progress.