The time had come for the final matches.
For the most part, the competitors were all conclave students.
These were people from the four institutes who were favored by the heavens, consummate geniuses who had come across some level of good fortune. Each and every one was famous in some way.
Because there were so few people left in the competition, the matches were subjects of much scrutiny.
As such, Yang Qi’s impressive sword technique stood out, and many people who had never heard of him began to pay more attention.
In the past, he had always managed to avoid attention, but now he was shining like a blazing star.
Many of the upright and honest elders from the Demi-Immortal Institute were nodding in admiration. After all, it was a blessing for a genius to rise up in the institute.
Also seated on the observation deck with the top experts was a middle-aged man clad in a black robe that had four dragon designs embroidered on it, one on the chest, two on the shoulders, and one on the back. He also wore a headdress styled like a dragon. He was surrounded by armored men, and didn’t look like someone from the four institutes or any of the other organizations. Instead, he looked like someone from the imperial court.
“Go look into Yanhaven. What has the Yang Clan been up to recently?”
“Yes, Prince Wei,” one of the armored men replied. After using some unknown means to send and receive a message, he said, “The Yang Clan has established a nation in Yanhaven. However, they continue to offer servitude to the Sage Ancestor Dynasty, and have been officially recognized as a royal dynasty.” 
Another of the armored men leaned over and whispered. “Prince Wei, when you consider the Rich-Lush Continent as a whole, Yanhaven is nothing but a town of country yokels. They’re hardly worth mentioning. But considering they’ve produced a person like Yang Qi, the Sage Ancestor Dynasty has to get involved. Furthermore, he has a grudge with the so-called Crown Prince Society of the Demi-Immortal Institute, which makes it even more worth it to take an interest in him.”
“You're right,” Prince Wei responded quietly. “This Crown Prince has shamelessly taken to calling himself that without any authority. Where does that leave the true crown prince of the Sage Ancestor Dynasty? He obviously has vicious ambitions, and probably wants to unite the entire continent under his control. He's definitely an enemy of our dynasty. If he calls himself Crown Prince now, then soon enough, he’ll be calling himself the Son of Heaven. Notify the Office of Military and Political Affairs, and ask them if we can make some more official appointments in Yanhaven. We need to do something to get Yang Qi on our side, and helping his clan is probably the best place to start.” 
“Yang Qi. Ah, Yang Qi. How far will you get in the competition today? Are you really going to live up to Holy Daughter Manyflowers’ hopes, and reach the top three?” He shook his head. “Somehow, I doubt that.”
After all, as the competition went on, and the fighting was amongst the most powerful Lifeseizers, each and every one of whom was a prodigy of freakish ability.
Prince Wei knew that there were some near-Legendaries who were prodigies in every sense of the word, and that no matter how much he wanted Yang Qi to perform well, he was probably incapable of matching up to them.
There were also holy neophytes on the observation deck, and they were also looking down thoughtfully at Yang Qi. They were powerful experts, and included people like the leader of the Gentlemen’s Society, the Divine Ability Society, the Five Lightnings Society, and others. Although none of them were as mighty as the Crown Prince, they were still extremely powerful, and led societies that vied with the Crown Prince Society.
When Yang Qi returned to his seat, Li He and the others laughed exuberantly. “Awesome, Brother! You slashed Flying War-King Yuan Kun right out of the competition. He’ll definitely think twice about doing anything to us in the future. The people from the Gentlemen’s Society were eyeing us like fierce tigers before, and seemed like they might pounce on us at any moment. But now the tigers have their tails between their legs! Starting today, everybody's going to know that we aren’t the type who can just be pushed around!”
All four of them were pleased as punch that Yang Qi was finally making a big scene.
Before, there had been quite a few societies in the institute who had been hoping to forcibly recruit their group of five.
But now, with Yang Qi having put on such an impressive show of sword technique, it was obvious that anyone who thought they could force him to submit was little more than a fool. He was obviously a Legendary in the making.
In any case, one thing was for sure; Yang Qi was already a very well-known figure, so keeping out of the limelight now would be virtually impossible.
“That’s right,” Yang Qi said coolly. “However, the fighting is only going to get harder. Everyone left is a Nonary Lifeseizer. Prodigies like that aren’t the kind I can beat with a single sword strike.”
“I know, Brother. But I still have faith that you can take first place! You’ll definitely be crowned the champion.”
“If you take first place, the reward will be incredible. I heard it's a top-rate magical treasure.”
“The rewards in the competition are always amazing. From what I’ve heard, the Crown Prince took first place five competitions ago. That was when he won the heaven-shaking, earth-shattering Pearl of the Thousand Illusions World.”
“Pearl of the Thousand Illusions World?” Yang Qi said with a frown. “What type of treasure is that?”
“According to the rumors,” Li He said, “it can create an incredibly realistic illusory region, filled with massive amounts of true energy, an alternate dimension that constantly absorbs vital energy from around it. With that pearl, you can create millions upon millions of clone incarnations. It also serves as a holding device to contain all sorts of material objects.”
“It's most important ability is how it connects with other alternate dimensions,” Liang Dong said. “Lifeseizers can only absorb vital energy from the Rich-Lush Continent, but Legendaries are different. They can travel through the various space-time manifestations of the universe to acquire higher levels of power, energies that far surpass the spirit energy of heaven and earth. With the Pearl of the Thousand Illusions World, you can absorb the energies from alternate dimensions and use them to strengthen your body. It’s almost like having a Legendary at your side to help you with your breathing exercises, and assisting you to absorb huge amounts of vital energy. It leads to cultivation speeds thousands or tens of thousands of times faster than most other top experts. That pearl is one of the reasons why the Crown Prince advanced so quickly in his cultivation, and became one of the top experts in the continent.”
‘I couldn’t tell that Yun Hailan was talking to me via incarnation last time we met,’ Yang Qi thought. ‘Don’t tell me that she has that Pearl of the Thousand Illusions World? How did she end up with a treasure like that? Has the Crown Prince gone mad? Has he fallen for her just like I did back in the day?’
There were no answers to such questions.
It didn’t seem to make sense that Yun Hailan would be able to get her claws into the Crown Prince. But based on all the evidence, it seemed like that she did indeed possess the Pearl of the Thousand Illusions World.
Which led to the question of what exactly the Crown Prince was up to.
It almost seemed like the two of them were married, and that he was holding nothing back in his efforts to aid her. From what Yang Qi could tell, the Crown Prince Society as a whole was unhappy with the arrangement, but the Crown Prince was suppressing any such discontent.
Yang Qi had never seen a treasure which could absorb power from alternate dimensions, but he did know that energies existed that far surpassed the spirit energy of heaven and earth. For example, there was Nine-Yang Immortal Energy.
The tiny bit of that energy that he had acquired from the Minorcosm World had been enough to push him into rapid advancement, similar to life force springwater.
Even as he contemplated the matter, the sound of bells once again reached his ears.
Another round of fighting was about to begin.
Yang Qi leaped up into the arena, the subject of countless gazes. As of now, the number of competitors in the Central Battle Arena had been reduced significantly.
Furthermore, the prizes that were up for grabs were significantly greater than before.
Yang Qi didn’t even know how many merit points he had won so far. All he knew was that in barely a day, he had earned more than was normally possible in hundreds of years.
The first battle had been worth one thousand merit points, the second, two thousand. The third was four thousand and the fourth was eight thousand…. It went on like that, and in the end, Yang Qi really couldn’t calculate what he had won.
Standing in front of him was a young woman.
Her expression was cold, and she carried no weapons in her hands. She didn't radiate shocking energy but instead, just stood there calmly.
However, he sensed that there was something inside of her that could connect with the power of the heavens, something that could enrage the heavenly deities and destroy all creation.
She was a Nonary Lifeseizer, and from the clothing she wore, she was obviously from the Sea God Institute. They rippled like the waves of the sea, and even seemed to emanate the sound of the tide battering the seashore.
“Ao Yiyue.” She said only her name. 
“Yang Qi.” He knew that this expert from the Sea God Institute was not someone he could take lightly. She was far more powerful than Patriarch Frost-Drake, and surely had powerful magical treasures of unbelievable quality.
“You’re new, aren’t you?” she said. “Fighting to this point is no small feat.”
Yang Qi laughed. “I plan to keep fighting even longer. Do you have any advice about that, Elder Sister Yiyue?”
She shook her head. “Sorry. Your progress stops here.”
“You sure about that?” With the wave of his palm, he summoned sword energy that took the shape of a fire and ice taiji symbol.
Ao Yiyue didn’t even seem to react. It was almost as if she didn’t have any true energy at all, and was a common person who didn’t cultivate energy arts.
“No offense!” Yang Qi said, sending his sword energy down into Ao Yiyue. Nothing blocked the sword energy at all, and surprisingly, Ao Yiyue was cleaved in half!
However, it was instantly obvious that the two halves weren’t real. They were merely projections which twisted and distorted, then faded away into nothing.
This time, Yang Qi most definitely did not defeat his opponent with a single sword strike.
Before he could even finish delivering the blow, Ao Yiyue appeared behind him, a slight smile on her face. “It's over, Junior Brother. You’re not quite up to snuff.”
The entire field of battle began to tremble as powerful vibrations rolled out. It was as if they were suddenly fighting in the middle of the ocean, as flows of energy wrapped around Yang Qi, making it impossible for him to move.
Then, an enormous hand appeared above him, which reached down to grab him.
1. A few points bear mentioning here. The title Prince Wei holds is something I mentioned quite a few chapters ago. It specifically indicates that he was appointed to his position, and although he would probably be a distant relative of the emperor, would not be a direct descendant. Furthermore, the outfit he is wearing is the exact outfit that princes of that rank would wear in the Qing Dynasty. Here’s a picture of what the robe would look like flat, and being worn.
2. ‘Son of Heaven’ is a long-standing traditional title for the emperor of China. The term ‘crown prince’ is very closely related as you can see: crown prince 太子, son of heaven 天子. The translation of ‘son of heaven’ is relatively direct. For crown prince, it’s a bit more complicated, and there are literally entire articles talking about the etymology in Chinese. I guess if you wanted to make it as simple as possible, the 太子 would be the “ultimate son” or the highest-ranking son/prince in the dynasty, and thus, the heir to the throne.