Chapter 374: Entering the Dueling Arena

Pi Yan had spoken in so uninflected a tone that it was difficult to discern whether he was upset by Pi Batian’s reckless spending. 

“Yes, Father. Last night, I sent my men to tail Li Mo and the mute woman. They reported back that the two of them had entered a pleasure den, so I went along.” Pi Batian then described what had happened that night to Pi Yan, who nodded. That morning, he had found out about the entire fiasco from one of his swordsmen, but Pi Batian’s description was more detailed and precise.

“I don’t know whether I made the right decision,” Pi Batian confessed. “I keep feeling as though I’ve conducted a poor trade.”

“The three women are certainly not worth ten thousand spirit crystals,” Pi Yan commented, “so it’s only natural that you would feel that way. However, our reputation as the overlord of the Mingyuan continent is worth far more.”

Only after obtaining his father’s approval did Pi Batian finally relax. He added, “Not only did it save our reputation, but Li Mo also seems to be thankful to the Pi family for the gesture, and I’m feeling more comfortable that he’ll support us well.”

It was quickly time for the seven cities’ tournament to start. Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo, along with the Pi delegation, arrived at the arena that had been specially constructed for the event. It was grand and imposing, and the stone arch at its entrance was easily fifty or sixty feet tall. At the very top of the arch was the word ‘battle’, carved with a grand flourish. By the time Yun Ruoyan and the others arrived, there was already a long line outside the arch, as though half the crowd in Peak Darkness had gathered at the arena.

There were guards standing in front of the arch, and all those who entered would have to pay a large sum of spirit crystals. Yun Ruoyan conservatively estimated it as no less than three hundred per person.

Yun Ruoyan followed behind Li Mo and the rest of the Pi family as they entered the arena.

“The head of the Pi family, Lord Pi Yan, has arrived!” a loud voice announced as they walked.

After ascending up a dozen flights of stairs, Yun Ruoyan turned around and looked down at the arena. It was sufficient to seat a thousand cultivators, and the center of the arena was a circular stage easily sixty feet wide from end to end. About thirty or forty feet away were row after row of seats for spectators.

“Please follow me, honored guests.” The guide directed them to an isolated set of seats relatively close to the stage. There were seven such sets of seats in all, distributed around the edge of the stage. When Yun Ruoyan, Li Mo, and the others arrived, five of these sets had already been filled. The Pi family was the sixth to arrive; the last set of seats, pitched slightly higher than the rest, was for the family currently in charge of Peak Darkness, the Feng family.

Pi Yan sat down in the middle seat, followed quickly by Pi Batian and Pi Yang on either side of him. Li Mo sat by Pi Yang, and Yun Ruoyan stood behind him. By then, the spectator stands were almost entirely filled, and all sorts of conversation peppered the arena.

“What arrogance! They intend on having all of us wait for them?” Pi Yan glared distastefully at the empty seventh set of seats. 

“Father, there’s no need to be upset. After today, when the jurisdiction of Peak Darkness returns to the Pi family, the Feng family will have nothing to boast about,” Pi Batian replied.

“Hey, you, dark robe,” Pi Yang muttered, angling his body. “You better not die on stage, or I bet Yun Ruoyan will blame me for it!”

Li Mo eyed him coldly.

“The head of the Feng family has arrived!” a voice announced, and the entire crowd’s gaze turned toward the entrance to the arena, where Feng Yanyang was walking in with the Feng family in tow.

The Feng family were all dressed richly in brocade, standing out amidst the more practically dressed swordsmen. Feng Yanyang wore a smile on his face and looked the part of a rich, jolly magnate. Feng Bo and Feng Yicheng walked by his sides.

“There’s no one interesting in the Feng family except perhaps Feng Yicheng,” a youth commented. He was sitting with the Lie family, not too far from Yun Ruoyan’s seat. He was dressed in purple robes, and his face looked somewhat sinister.

“Lie Sen, what do you mean?” Pi Yang turned to the youth, who was apparently the young master of the Lie family.

“Last night, I gambled with that Feng Yicheng all night long. Thanks to him, I walked away with a thousand spirit crystals!” Lie Sen smiled. “Then we had some fun with pretty ladies all night long.”

Pi Yang frowned. “Your sister’s on the verge of death, and you’re still in the mood to enjoy yourself?”

“There’s no hope for my dear, pitiful sister.” Lie Sen sighed, but his tone sounded carefree. “After she was bitten by that monster, she became a monster as well. If not for Father, I would have given her a quick, clean death. Why live in pain, when you know that there’s no hope for you?” 

A few days ago, Yun Ruoyan had heard from Guan Ruliu that Lie Yun had been bitten by Zong Yang, so she was also likely infected by the shade’s corpse poison. In general, those afflicted with the poison would die after a few hours, but she had managed to hold out for an entire two months! Yun Ruoyan couldn’t help but be surprised.

What she didn’t know was that, in order to protect Lie Yun’s life, the Lie family had given her every spiritual treasure that seemed as though it could be effective against poison. The head of the Lie family, Lie Fenglan, had even expended much of his own cultivation to prolong his daughter’s life, so much so that he had had to miss this year’s tournament.

“The matches you’ve been waiting for will soon begin! Will the representatives of the seven families now step forward?” an announcer began, and the hubbub of the crowd instantly died down.

“I bet that the Pi family will win this year’s fight. I saw the Pi representative defeat the other six families’ slaves by himself at a Pi banquet!” someone whispered from behind Yun Ruoyan.

Quite a few gambling dens had set up bets for this year’s tournament. There were almost a thousand cultivators in the stands, and almost all of them had placed some kind of bet or another.

“He might have beaten the seven families’ slaves, but this is an arena for their swordsmen! Who among the representatives isn’t a peak fighter?” another man replied. “I bet the Feng family will win. You all know how shrewd the head of the Feng family is!”

“Oh?” the original speaker retorted. “You’re in for a surprise, then! Last night, I saw that white-robed Feng representative enjoying himself in a pleasure den all night long. His body’s likely drained dry—I’d be shocked if he had the stamina to fight!”

His words caused a smattering of laughter from all around him.

“Why are the two of you so confident that it’ll be either the Pi or Feng families?” a third cultivator added. “The swordsmen from the other five families are also rather impressive this year, so what if one of them wins instead?”

“Representatives of the seven families, please step up on stage.” A black-robed, middle-aged man had gotten onto the stage. His announcement was made with a spiritually infused voice, one that easily cut over the conversations of a thousand men.

Yun Ruoyan couldn’t identify how advanced his cultivation was, but it was surely at least at the level of a first-rank sword saint. She overheard the final snatches of conversation between Pi Yan and Li Mo, detailing how the competition would proceed.

First, the one-on-one battles for the tournament were chosen at “random”: Li Mo would face the Wu family, who would face the Zheng family, who would face the Hua family, who would face the Chen family, who would face the Lie family, and who would face the Feng family. Finally, the Feng family would face Li Mo.

Although Pi Yan claimed that the battles were chosen at random, the fact that he was able to provide Li Mo with the matchups beforehand made it clear that something was amiss. Apparently, the Pi and Feng families had joined hands to “randomly” choose a tournament schedule that would be beneficial to both families.

Then, Pi Yan described Li Mo’s opponents to him in broad strokes, before Li Mo stood up and headed to the stage. As he stood up, so did an alluring woman from the Lie delegation. Yun Ruoyan saw her throw Li Mo a coquettish glance before she headed on stage.

Only when that woman had left did Li Mo finally walk forward.

“Li Mo,” Pi Yang suddenly called out. “That woman from the Lie family, Lie Qiao’er, is particularly adept at charms and illusion. Be careful.”

Li Mo stepped forward, making no indication that he had heard Pi Yang’s warning.

Pi Yang clicked his tongue and turned toward Yun Ruoyan. “Mute woman, tell me, how can the woman I’m interested in be interested in someone like him?”

“Ahem.” Yun Ruoyan was very tempted to give Pi Yang a supercilious look. “Second Young Master, it’s almost time for the first match to begin. Shall we focus on the stage?”

Feng Yicheng strode on stage, wearing robes of pure white. His handsome appearance and sunny disposition caught the eye of Lie Qiao’er, who gave him a coquettish glance as well.

Actually, she had glanced in like manner to the six other representatives as they walked on stage. Except for Li Mo, who had ignored her advances, the other swordsmen all seemed to respond favorably, particularly Feng Yicheng. His face was beaming as he glanced at Lie Qiao’er, playing perfectly the role of a rich young master addled by beauty.

Pi Yang scoffed.

“Brother Pi, what would you know about love and romance? I asked Qiao’er to accompany Young Master Feng last night, but he insisted on waiting till after the match, worried that neither of them would be able to lay hands on the other during the tournament otherwise. Doesn’t that speak volumes about his character?”

Pi Yang scoffed again. He was about to respond when Pi Batian interrupted, “Pi Yang, focus on the fight. Ignore useless people.”

Lie Sen was known for being an arrogant young master, useless at cultivation but especially adept at spending his family’s money. Pi Batian grossly detested the mediocrity that he represented, and usually forbade Pi Yang from interacting much with Lie Sen.  

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