Chapter 51 - Changes in Mentality

Wasn’t Hu Zifeng supposed to be in seclusion?

“Junior Brother Hu! What are you doing here?” Bai Yufan asked as he reflexively stood from his seat.

Hu Zifeng replied calmly as he approached, “Someone challenged me. I can’t have people thinking I’m a coward.”

Hu Zifeng’s arrival confirmed Lin Yun’s suspicion. The Elders had been watching the Main Hall closely and called on Hu Zifeng as soon as things went south.

“Well, you’re just in time,” Bai Yufan said with a smile. He continued, “Allow me to introduce you. Meet Zhang Ye, the Mad Blade Sect’s rising star. He just defeated Junior Brother Feng in only ten moves… with his bare hands.”

Bai Yufan was worried Hu Zifeng was about to go into this fight blind. He could only hope his friend picked up on his warning.

“You think you can challenge our Young Sect Master simply because you beat a lower-ranked inner disciple? When did the Mad Blade Sect get so conceited?” Hu Zifeng laughed.

The members of the Mad Blade Sect shot daggers at him. His insult must have struck a nerve. Suppressed rage could be seen on Zhang Ye’s face as he spoke through gritted teeth, “Is that so? Then tell me, what rank are you?”

“My rank? The only thing you need to know about my rank is that it’s high enough to beat you. The number itself is irrelevant.”

The atmosphere in the Main Hall grew more and more intense as their conversation carried on. While the members of the Azure Sky Sect had faith in Hu Zifeng, his taunting had raised the stakes. On the off chance he lost, the Azure Sky Sect would be completely humiliated. It was hard for them not to feel anxious.

“Junior Brother Hu, Brother Luo and I have agreed to certain terms for this fight. There will be no weapons allowed and the fight is set to ten moves. Once that limit is reached, both parties are to stop immediately,” explained Bai Yufan.

“Ten moves? That’s far too many. If it’s a fight to see who’s stronger, one move is more than enough,” replied Hu Zifeng confidently.

“I like the sound of that!” Zhang Ye said excitedly.

“One move it is, then!” Luo Xing confirmed with sinister smile.

Boom!

Luo Xing’s robes fluttered dramatically as he finished speaking. The explosive force of Zhang Ye releasing his aura had sent a shockwave surging through the Main Hall. The expression on Zhang Ye’s face had changed dramatically. The normally sinister look about him had become terrifying, almost demonic.

Hu Zifeng sneered as he released his aura as well. The temperature in the Main Hall rose drastically as an intense heat radiated from him. His aura appeared as a violent flame rolling off his body, desperately looking for something to consume.

Zhang Ye was the first to act.

“Triple Malefic Shadows!”

As he executed the move, his aura exuded the sickly unease that comes with seeing an unsheathed blade. A gust rose where he stood and, in the blink of an eye, he was gone.

Swish! Swish! Swish!

Almost instantly, Hu Zifeng was assaulted by three copies of Zhang Ye, each one channeling his terrifying blade aura into a different appendage as it attacked. The first swung its arm like a sword aimed at his stomach, the second used its elbow as a razor to slice at his throat, and the third brought its leg down on his shoulder like an executioner’s axe. The attacks came so quickly and with such synchronicity it was impossible to tell which was the real Zhang Ye.

“What power…” muttered someone from the Azure Sky Sect.

Luo Xing wore a devilish smile as he watched the battle unfold. They would regret mocking the Mad Blade Sect. No one could survive Zhang Ye’s Triple Malefic Shadow in unarmed combat. Its strength was dangerously close to that of a Xiantian Art. Hu Zifeng had been courting death by speaking so arrogantly earlier. He should consider himself lucky Zhang Ye didn’t have a weapon.

“Get lost!” Hu Zifeng barked, completely ignoring the afterimages. His aura erupted in a volcanic burst, far exceeding the eighth stage of the Martial Path. The flames coming off his body surged, almost reaching the Great Hall’s ceiling, and the pressure he was exuding rose exponentially. Slowly, the pyre began to concentrate into a lava like substance as it focused into his fist.

“Blazing Sun Palm!”

Using all his strength, Hu Zifeng pushed the raging ball of plasma that formed around his palm into the three afterimages.

FFFRRROOOOOAAAARRRRR!!!!!

On contact, the dwarf star imploded briefly before erupting in a brilliant conflagration. The three afterimages shattered on contact. Zhang Ye was thrown across the Great Hall, spreading the smell of burnt hair as he went.

Surprisingly, he managed to stabilize himself after only ten meters, but by that point the victory had already been called. He gnashed his teeth in disgust as he used some from his lips to put out an ember on his arm.

“Xiantian Art!”

The inner disciples of the Azure Sky Sect could not believe what they had just seen.

“Amazing, Junior Brother Hu! You comprehended a Xiantian Art! Congratulations are in order!” Bai Yufan exclaimed.

Hu Zifeng took a moment to suppress the blood surging within his body before replying, “It’s only a Xiantian Martial Art. If a certain someone can do it, it only makes sense that I can as well!”

The inner disciples swept sheeping glances in Lin Yun’s direction. It was clear Hu Zifeng was declaring that he was the true hope of the Azure Sky Sect.

They were surprised to see Lin Yun was smiling. They thought for sure he would be upset at such a blatant declaration.

In reality, his heart roared at the insult. He took solace in the fact that watching him execute the Rose Sword Art had apparently triggered Hu Zifeng. The others apparently hadn’t noticed, but Hu Zifeng had barely been able to execute the Blazing Sun Palm. He was lucky it hadn’t backfired.

Interrupting their celebration, a scowling Luo Xing shot from his seat and spoke out, “It looks like, if I want to make Brother Bai move, I will have to do it myself.”

This whole trip was so he could gauge Bai Yufan’s current strength. Two month’s ago, he lost to Liu Yunfei in ten moves. If he hadn’t improved since then, the Azure Sky Sect could only rely on Su Ziyao during the Four Sects Tournament.

An unspoken anxiety swept over the inner disciples. Both Bai Yufan and Luo Xing had been members of the Aquasky Nation’s four great elites for some time, but Bai Yufan just recently lost to one of the other members.

Knowing he couldn’t turn down the challenge of another young sect master without hurting the pride of the Azure Sky Sect, Bai Yufan stood to meet the gaze of his challenger. Fearlessly, he said, “Please show me some guidance!”

Whoosh!

In a burst of speed, Luo Xing teleported inside Bai Yufan’s defenses and sent out both hands in a flurry of blows

Fwish! Fwish! Fwish!Fwish! Fwish!

His speed was beyond comprehension. In the time it took a skilled disciple to throw a single punch, he had thrown out ten.

Of those watching, only Lin Yun could follow his attacks. He refused to blink as he absorbed each minute detail of the assault. The four great elites of the Aquasky Nation were on a completely different level from everyone else. There was a lot for him to learn during this exchange.

Lin Yun caught himself nodding along subconsciously as he processed each move. It was only then he realized just how much progress he had made mentally in the last two months. The last time he watched Bai Yufan fight one of the four great elites, the staggering difference between them had destroyed his confidence. He had only been able to cry out in amazement at the feats they performed. Now, he was clearly watching a fight the other inner disciples couldn’t even keep up with.

He was now able to judge their movements when before he could barely comprehend them. He was actively judging their attacks, deciding for himself if they were making the right decisions, and plan out how he would resolve them himself. Without Lin Yun noticing, the four great elites had been normalized in his eyes. They were strong, sure, but the mysticism behind that strength was gone. In just two months, he had become comparable to the four great elites of the Aquasky Nation.

WHOOSH!

Luo Xing retreated in a torrent of wind, returning to his seat. He smiled as he sat, and looking at Bai Yufan, he said, “It appears rumors cannot be trusted. Brother Bai, not only has your cultivation not declined, but you’ve made some improvements since we last saw each other.”

 His probe had gathered valuable information. In over one hundred moves, Luo Xing had been unable to gain an advantage. The rumors of the Young Sect Master’s decline were unfounded. The inner disciples were able to breathe easy knowing their Young Sect Master was still worthy of their adoration.

“You’re too courteous,” replied Bai Yufan quietly, his expression unchanging.

Luo Xing swept his gaze across the room and replied, “Three years ago, your sect relied on Su Ziyao to win back the Spiritual Mine the Azure Sky Sect had lost century prior. At the same time, you claimed the title as the strongest sect in Aquasky Nation.

“Three years ago, Su Ziyao suppressed me completely using only her sword. I now stand in the middle of the Main Hall, and yet she has not come to pay me a visit. Where is she, Bai Yufan?”

Rustle!

A sudden curiosity swept across the inner disciples; Lin Yun included. The looked between each other as if looking for an answer none of them had.

Bai Yufan’s heart began to pound. This was exactly what he had been trying to avoid. If the others knew that Su Ziyao had already left, it would undoubtably be a great blow to the Azure Sky Sect.

“Ah, yes. Senior Sister Su is out training. From what I understand, she won’t be back anytime soon,” replied Bai Yufan.

“Oh, I see…” Luo Xing said with a wry smile. It was easy to see the confusion and concern building within Bai Yufan’s inner disciples. It was easy to see Bai Yufan was not being entirely honest. Something must have happened to Su Ziyao. This new information more than made up for the disappointment he felt after his prope.

“I will take my leave then. We shall see each other again in half a month’s time. I look forward to our battle at the Four Sects Tournament. Farewell,” Luo decided it would be best to leave while things were still tenuous. He had obtained more than he was hoping for.

As the Mad Blade Sect disciples departed, Zhang Ye shot a glance at Hu Zifeng. Their fight was far from over. He would be ready for Hu Zifeng’s Blazing Sun Palm next time.

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Thyaeria's Thoughts

Seel: As a reader, I thought it was interesting that Luo Xing and Zhang Ye started their fights out in the same way (disappearing in a gust of wind and basically instant transmissioning in front of their opponent). It hints to the fact that they've most likely been training together for some time and have developed similar habits. As an editor, on the other hand, it was pretty frustrating and, admittedly, I had trouble deciding how to handle it. They're supposed to be on two totally different power levels, but performing essentially the same action. If you make them too different, you lose the training partners subtly thing. If you make them too similar, you risk the fights sounding repetitive and uninspired (especially since they're only a few paragraphs apart).  If everyone is "disappearing in a torrent of wind", that description loses its punch. I had a similar struggle in the 20's with both Chen Xiao and Lin Yun "brandishing 53212341443 swords". Or afterimages, oh boy can I talk about after images... they're a literary paradox. They usually represent something happening stupid fast and yet describing them is super tedious. You get maybe one satisfactory afterimage description a chapter, if you're being generous (honestly I think it should be like a 3 or 4 chapter break before you dedicate a bunch of lines to describing afterimages). Honestly, now that I think about it, thats the case with any combat that happens "lightning fast" or "in the blink of an eye". It creates this sort of dissonance that frustrates the hell out of me. Am I alone on this one? Uuuugggghhhh Anyways... If I don't stop now, this "thoughts" will have a higher word count than the chapter. Rant over XD Hope everyone enjoyed the chapter! There's a lot more where this came from!