Chapter 44 - I would like to try

Zhou Yun’s father had an ashen expression. An Elder of the sect had just been scared off by a sword slave and his demonic beast. What could be more humiliating?

The crowd was hysterical. To make matters worse, the horse seemed to be laughing at him. Blinded by rage, Zhou Yun’s father placed Zhou Yun down before he went up on the stage once more.

“Ridiculous!”  A roar exploded from the higher platform at this moment. It was Sect Master Bai Tianming.

Rustle!

His words were as the judgement of heavens at this moment as his massive aura enveloped the entirety of the stage. The crowd went silent and even the complexion of Zhou Yun’s father had changed.

Bai Tianming’s cold voice bellowed, “Elder Zhou, you dare violate the rules that have governed this sect for centuries? Are you tired of living?”

As he spoke, a chilling bloodlust drilled to the very core of every Elder, inner disciple, and outer disciple present.

“Get down!”

With cowardly yelp, Zhou Yun’s father grabbed his son’s limp body and scurried away.

When Elder Zhou was gone, the rage on Bai Tianming’s face faded and he turned to Lin Yun, “To think, you were a sword slave only a few months ago. You’ve done well.”

He turned to the crowd before continuing, “I hope everyone has been watching closely. You could all stand to learn a thing or two from Lin Yun. If everyone were as driven, I wouldn’t have to fret over the future of our beloved Azure Sky Sect anymore!”

 “Thank you, Sect Master! You give me more praise than I deserve,” Lin Yun said cupped his hands together.

“And do not worry about what just happened. The rules determine what is right or wrong in a competition, and you were well within them. If anyone gives you trouble, they will face my wrath! Now go, find a seat. We have a tournament to continue!” said Bai Tianming jovially. His words were reassuring. Lin Yun would not have to fear retaliation from the Zhou family with the Sect Master watching over him.

The crowd’s excitement remained elevated long after the battle concluded, with conversations mostly centered around Lin Yun’s sudden reversal. The mood was a mix of awe and confusion. Those further back had not been able to make out Reflective Shadow clearly and were confused as to how Zhou Yun became so injured so quickly.

Listening to the surrounding discussion, Zhang Han, a senior among the outer disciples, sighed, “You guys can stop speculating. We just witnessed the ultimate move only available to those with greater mastery of the Flowing Wind Sword — Reflective Shadow!”

“That’s impossible! Even Zhou Yun had only just reached greater mastery in his Thunderous Serpent Sword!”

“Yeah… Zhang Han, are you sure about that? It’s tough enough getting a standard sword technique to greater mastery, but the Flowing Wind Sword? Don’t you think you’re giving him too much credit?”

In response, Zhang Han gave a polit smile and waved his hand dismissively, choosing to let it go. Regardless of what his peers said, he knew what he saw, and he was feeling too melancholic to get to argue over something so pointless. It was clear, now, that Lin Yun had forfeited their match because he didn’t want to reveal his trump card before the elimination round.

“I’m an idiot…” Zhang Han laughed quietly to himself, his face burning as he remembered how arrogant he had been.


The tournament continued once the stage was clear. Lin Yun rode Lil’ Red to the quietest corner he could find while still keeping the stage in sight. He shifted so that he sat cross-legged on the horses back and began to reflect on his battle. Prior to the fight, Lin Yun had suspected that he was close to making a breakthrough, but now he could feel it. Zhou Yun was easily the toughest opponent he had ever faced, and something about their battle had nudged him in the right direction. Now it was simply a matter of zeroing in on whatever that was.

As time ticked, the first round of the elimination had finally come to an end. With only forty contestants remaining, the competition was about to become even more intense.

“The sixth match of the second round, Zhang Han VS Lin Yun!” announced the judge in a booming voice.

The blood drained from Zhang Hans face when he heard the announcement. His nightmare had come true. He had just watched the man he openly insulted during the first stage of cut Zhou Yun, someone Zhang Han had never been able to defeat, to ribbons and now he had to fight him.

Zhang Han grit his teeth and walked on stage. He had to at least give it a shot. His cultivation was a whole stage above Lin Yun’s, so there was a chance he still could pull this one out.

“Lin Yun, please report to the stage!” the judge called out when he saw that Lin Yun still wasn’t here.

“Coming!” came a robust voice from behind the crowd.

The crowd turned to see Lin Yun was still sitting cross-legged on top of his horse. Despite answering the call for his match, he had not moved or opened his eyes. Suddenly, the air around him began to quiver.

Boom!

Lin Yun’s eyes shot open and with them came an explosion of aura. But something was odd, his aura felt drastically different than it had during his match with Zhou Yun. He had made a breakthrough!

“He was cultivating?! This must be a joke. It’s the middle of the tournament! Who does that?!”

“He must have felt it in his bones. After such a fierce battle, bones reveal all.”

“I don’t know if he’s brave or stupid! If he had failed, he’d be too injured to compete. They would have made him forfeit!”

Lin Yun was living his life on the edge, and the crowds adrenaline was pumping vicariously.

Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!

Lin Yun made his way on stage using the Wild Goose Art, finding it much easier now that he was in the seventh stage of the Martial Path

Zhang Han greeted Lin Yun with an embarrassed smile, “Do you ever take a break? Ever, I don’t know, take some time to relax or have some fun?”

Lin Yun’s forfeit had led Zhang Han to believe that Lin Yun was weak. That presumption was shattered when he watched Lin Yun’s fight against Zhou Yun. Even so, Zhang Han thought he might have a chance thanks to his higher level of cultivation. That was, until Lin Yun closed that gap between matches. In just a matter of hours, any hope Zhang Han had of winning had been obliterated!

“Sorry. I thought of something during my last fight and thought, ‘What the hell,’” Lin Yun smiled.

“You really are something else,” Zhang Han chuckled. He flourished his sleeves dramatically as he turned to the judge and announced, “I surrender!”

“Lin Yun wins this round,” the judge announced to a flabbergasted crowd.

Lin Yun’s eyes lingered on Zhang Han as he left the stage. He was disappointed they wouldn’t get a chance to fight, but he was also surprised to see a humbler side to Zhang Han. Lin Yun would just have to wait for the third round to test out his new strength.

Lin Yun had not made it far before he heard the crowd erupt. Looking back to see what the commotion was about, he saw Hu Zifeng making his way on stage.

Hu Zifeng!

This man was a legend among the outer disciples. He sat on an unshakeable throne as the strongest outer disciple in the Azure Sky Sect. His cultivation was in the eighth stage of the Martial Path and there were few within even the inner disciples who could defeat him in solo combat.

“S-senior Brother Hu, I w-won’t give up so easily!” Hu Zifeng’s opponent spoke nervously.

“That’s nice,” Hu Zifeng said plainly as he through a lazy punch.

Boom!

His opponent went flying offstage. Hu Zifeng hadn’t even moved his feet!

“What power!” Lin Yun gasped. Was this the power of a martial practitioner in the eighth stage of the Martial Path?

“Hu Zifeng! Hu Zifeng!” the crowd cheered.


By the time the rays of the setting sun shone down on the Tournament Stage, the elimination round had finally come to an end. To no one’s surprise, Lin Yun defeated his third opponent and made it into the top 10. With that, he had done what most had thought impossible: he had climbed all the way from sword slave to inner disciple.

As their achievements were announced, the ten victors were permitted to stand on the same platform as the inner disciples and Elders for the first time in their lives.

“Congratulations, all of you! You’ve all grown into excellent disciples. There is a reward waiting in the Administration Hall for each of you to celebrate your achievement. But first, you all have a chance to challenge an inner disciple!” Bai Tianming announced with a smile.

It was well known that inner disciples were deeply competitive, and for good reason. Each inner disciple was given a rank that determined how many resources they would be given each month. If one wanted to increase their rank, they needed to defeat the inner disciple who held the rank they were looking to achieve. If the challenger won, the two would swap ranks. Bai Tianming was offering the new additions an opportunity to climb the ranks only minutes after allowing them in!

However, the ten remained calm. Many of the inner disciples had formed factions, and challenging one meant risking the ire of the rest. Most inner disciples chose to take a challenge to mean the challenger looked down on them. If the challenger won, there would be no problem; but if they lost, they risked being the target of revenge.

After the Sect Master had finished his announcement, Hu Zifeng raised his head to look at an inner disciple, “As untalented as I am, I would like Senior Brother Feng to enlighten me.”

Senior Brother Feng let out an exacerbated sigh, “You know I have nothing to enlighten you with. I lost to you last month. I admit my defeat.”

Admitting defeat…

While it was surprising to hear an inner disciple admit defeat, his challenger was Hu Zifeng. It was hard to blame Senior Brother Feng in such a situation.

“Who else would like to give it a try? Is Hu Zifeng the only one brave enough?” Bai Tianming taunted playfully.

Most of the new inner disciples stayed quiet while some lowered their heads. It might be normal for Hu Zifeng to challenge an inner disciple right off the bat, but he was in the eighth stage of the Martial Path already and had been challenging inner disciples for months now. It would have bene more surprising if he hadn’t!

Just as everyone got ready to move on, a voice came from the end of the line, “As untalented as I am, I would like to give it a try!”

Lin Yun step forward with his hand raised, his eyes gleaming with determination.

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