There were bound to be countless battles happening during the ranking test, but the importance of the battle deciding the position of prime disciple outweighed all the rest combined! Everyone had thought that the battle between Li Shufan and Lin Xiaoxiao was already the highlight of the day. But the appearance of Li Tianming had just cast doubt on that result, considering that the black horse had just defeated Chen Yao in a one-sided beatdown.
Li Tianming, compared to Li Shufan, was more qualified to challenge the first place of the Flameyellow Leaderboard.
Lin Xiaoxiao defeating Li Shufan was within most people’s expectations, so the only question that remained was how far Li Tianming could go. That joker from three years ago, just what could he achieve today?
No one was going to question his age since the ranking test would not take that into consideration, and in terms of talent, the two were worlds apart. But even if Li Tianming was five years older, for a boy from a faraway city to be able to even challenge the Lightning Manor's twin beastmaster was nothing short of a miracle in itself!
Lin Xiaoxiao had been paying attention to the other battle, and witnessed how easily Li Tianming defeated Chen Yao. She was clear that the only roadblock left was Li Tianming. As for those outside of the top five on the leaderboard, they probably couldn’t even overcome Chen Yao, let alone stand a chance against her.
She desired to be the prime disciple as much as Li Tianming did, if not more.
“Four years ago, elder brother became the prime disciple and brought glory to the Lightning Manor. Father has high expectations of me, and I must not disappoint him or the manor!” Lin Xiaoxiao was already staring at Li Tianming, urging for a battle.
The stadium was rather quiet, as the five hall overseers had stopped all other battles already. The ranking test was coming to an end, where the leaderboard more or less reflected the strength of each individual disciple.
As Chen Yao, Li Shufan, and their family members exited the arena, Wei Zikun announced to the crowd, “I believe everyone here understands the importance of the battle for the prime disciple. Now that Li Shufan and Chen Yao have been defeated, and those from fifth place onward do not have the strength to fight for the position of prime disciple, we can safely conclude that the quadrennial mystery shall be solved with one last battle.”
The hall overseers and the chief mentor had a great say over the ranking test, and their judgements of disciples were mostly accurate and unquestioned too. Li Tianming clearly had the capability to try for first place, and they would arrange a battle for him to do so. Not to mention that Li Tianming belonged to the Hall of Phoenix, and the overseer of the Hall of Phoenix, Wei Zikun, was the one in charge on the ranking test today.
“Overseer Wei, I think the moment we have all been waiting for has arrived. Please arrange a battle between those two youngsters,” From within the biggest room, the Vermilion Bird Royal Clan’s King Xuan declared.
“Yes, King Xuan.” Wei Zikun smiled, and then announced, “The five hall overseers have come to a united decision that the position of the prime disciple this year shall be decided between Lin Xiaoxiao from Hall of Manibeasts, and Li Tianming from Hall of Phoenix. The victor shall be directly admitted to Heaven's Sanctum!”
He added, “As for the fifth place and below, based on your performances and our judgement, we have decided that none of you are qualified to challenge these two.”
According to the rules, anyone from the top ten were given the chance to issue a challenge, but the final decision still remained in the overseers’ hands. And in today’s case, they have decided that any battle other than the one between Lin Xiaoxiao and Li Tianming was pointless.
“I already vented out my anger on Chen Yao, but that’s not what I’m here for today. Mother’s condition is deteriorating, and I must enter Heaven's Sanctum. I have to defeat Lin Xiaoxiao!” Li Tianming was clear that he could not back off from this battle, and he must defeat Lin Xiaoxiao, no matter the cost.
He had never included Lin Xiaoxiao into his hatred of Lin Xiaoting and Mu Qingqing. In fact, in terms of animosity, he probably disliked Chen Yao way more. Nonetheless the battle with Lin Xiaoxiao just meant much, much more to him. Therefore, Li Tianming would put in his best, no matter who he was facing, to be the prime disciple!
Only when his name stood at the top of the Flameyellow Leaderboard, could he proudly tell Ignispolis that he, Li Tianming, was back! And only then, would mother tell him about the secrets between her and the sanctum. He knew that her time was running out, especially since that assassination.
“You will have fifteen minutes to prepare, after which you will present the audience with an exciting battle,” Wei Zikun told Li Tianming and Lin Xiaoxiao.
Fifteen minutes of resting was not that long, and it passed in a flash. Considering the importance of the battle, many of Lightning Manor’s youngsters were surrounding Lin Xiaoxiao, encouraging and cheering for her. As for Li Tianming’s side, he only had Chief Mentor Mu Wan, since it wasn’t convenient for Wei Jing to come down from the audience.
Mu Wan patted his shoulders. “Well, here we are. Just do your best and prove yourself.”
“Don’t worry, chief mentor. I won't lose to that little girl.” Li Tianming smiled.
“Ha, cocky brats like you tend to lose it especially in the important fights. Clearly you don’t have a clue as to how difficult it is to fight a twin beastmaster.” Mu Wan rolled her eyes.
“Are you still my chief mentor? Why are you cheering my opponents on instead of me? I request a change of class, I want to get out of here!” Li Tianming chuckled.
Of course, Li Tianming knew what twin beastmasters were capable of, since Lin Xiaoting himself was one. Back then, the difference between them was so huge that Lin Xiaoting could easily crush him with a single hand without even using his lifebound beast.
“Go ahead, are you going to walk out now?” Mu Wan winked.
“Nah, definitely not.” Li Tianming grinned. After all, Mu Wan was the only one in this stadium supporting him, apart from Wei Jing and Auntie Li!
As the moment drew closer and closer, a tense atmosphere enveloped the entire stadium. Li Tianming closed his eyes, and he could feel the Aeternal Infernal Beast Ki running through his body, as if his body was burning from inside.
At that instance, he could feel someone looking at him unlike anyone else. The look was enough to make his heart shudder, as the last time someone looked at him like that was three years ago.
The moment he opened his eyes, he saw the girl in a white dress standing beside Lin Xiaoxiao. She had long hair reaching her waist, her fair skin shining in the gentle sunlight.
At last, she had finally appeared.
Li Tianming thought of the day they met. It was when the both of them had just gotten the Flameyellow Order, and were on their way to Ignispolis from their respective hometowns.
She was walking in the wilderness when she ran into two lechers who were after her beauty. She fought, one against two, but the situation looked grim for her. Just as she was about to be defeated, and the attackers were about to get what they wanted, Li Tianming appeared out of nowhere.
At that time, he didn’t know how such a beautiful girl could exist. He could feel his heartstrings being pulled.
After a fearless battle, they finally defeated the attackers, but Li Tianming himself was on the brink of death. It was she who carried him to find a doctor in the nearby town. Even as he drifted in and out of coma due to his loss of blood, he could still feel the warmth of her body.
After that, they found out that they both had the Flameyellow Order, and from there headed towards the capital together. Along the way Li Tianming said all kinds of clumsy jokes just to please her, and she laughed along to them.
Perhaps she was grateful towards Li Tianming. Perhaps she was touched by his bravery. Whatever the reason, on the night they passed the admission test and became disciples of the institute, Li Tianming kissed her under the moonlight. It was Li Tianming’s first relationship, and being madly in love, Li Tianming did all that he could for her, even passing her some of the resources he got for cultivation.
He had always thought that he belonged with her, and she with him, that they were bound to spend the rest of their lives together. For a year they were together, and Li Tianming could remember every single day, every single thing that had happened.
Her smiles, her words of encouragement, would still appear in his mind once in a while. He was with her all the while, be it when she was happy or when she was sad. They had even decided how many kids they would like to have in the future.
Back then, diligence was her utmost virtue. She worked way harder than Li Tianming in terms of cultivation, as she had an unfortunate background. While she was the daughter of the governor of Windhaven, she was born from a lowly servant in the manor, who was killed for her transgression not long after her birth. If it wasn’t for her father’s protection and her own talents, she would be dead a long time ago.
But life worked in the most funny and unfortunate ways. He trusted her with everything he had, and thought that he knew her better than anyone else. And when she decided to stab him in the back, who could ever imagine the amount of pain and suffering that he went through?
Li Tianming wondered. If he hadn’t gotten the Saintbeast War-Soul, or had not told her about it, would that have been a better ending for the both of them?