Chapter 20: The Challenge
Translator: Novel Saga Editor: Maggie
The practitioners from all the four clubs were thrilled to hear this. They stood around the ring as they waited for the signal.
Li Cang Hai and the other instructors approached the ring. Two strangers were among them, one of whom wielded a sword and armour, and carried a faint smile on his face. The other was an attractive woman who must have been in her thirties. Despite her beauty, she carried a cold aura around her. Both of them had been invited by the four clubs to judge the matches. The man was the field officer of the Feng City military, while the woman was a Hou Tian Warrior as well as the leader of a powerful underground party.
A moment later, Leng Feng Chan was standing in the ring, announcing the rules of the competition.
"The rules are the same as last time. The winning club will be announced after three rounds. In each round, a club will have one of its candidates issue a challenge to another club. The challenged club must then provide a candidate to take up the challenge. Candidates who have lost previously will not be allowed to proceed to the next round, while the winners will be able to participate in the next round. After three rounds, whichever club has the most candidates remaining will win the competition."
Leng Feng Chan jumped down from the ring as soon as he had finished explaining the rules. The military officer walked up to the ring in an unhurried manner. He greeted the crowd with clasped fists, and stood there without saying anything.
Li Yun Feng's mouth twitched a little when he heard the rules.
"Brother Li, do you have an opinion on the rules?" Shi Mu asked out of curiosity when he observed Li's reaction.
"Brother Shi, this is the first time you are taking part in the competition. So it's natural for you to be unaware of the problem. This three round framework of the competition benefits the club which has the most powerful candidates. Last time, Wang Tian Hao took up the challenge on behalf of the Jin Gang club. He ended up winning all the three rounds by himself because none of the other candidates could resist his attack," Li Yun Feng said with a forced smile.
"I was wondering why the rules seemed so simple. Thank you for explaining this to me," Shi Mu smiled knowingly at Li Yun Feng after a moment's thought, as he began to understand the true meaning behind the rules.
Someone jumped into the ring just then, and began announcing his challenge in a loud voice, "I am Wu Ming from Tian Lu club. I'd like to see the techniques of the senior brothers from Liu Feng club."
"Yun Feng, you go and accept his challenge. It shouldn't be a problem for you since you beat this fellow last year as well," the large red-faced young man ordered without turning his head.
"Instructor Li, don't worry. I will beat this guy," Li Yun Feng answered his instructor as he stopped his conversation with Shi Mu. He stood up straight in a stance which exuded self-confidence, and suddenly put his hands behind his waist. When he took them out again, they were clad in blue gloves. They made a crisp tingling sound like a little bell on being shaken even slightly; bronze pieces, the size of a thumb were placed on the surface of the gloves.
Li Yun Feng let out a fierce roar as he jumped into the ring. He drew two gleaming daggers and rushed straight at his opponent. The two met in the middle of the ring.
Li Yun Feng's movements resembled that of a snake's, and he attacked his opponent with his fists from different angles. The young man named Wu Ming was using his two delicate looking daggers to continuously jab at his opponent, making it hard for Li Yun Feng to reach him. From time to time their fists scraped against each other, producing sparks. The first round definitely turned out to be a good one.
"No! Wu Ming's Air-Piercing Dagger has been polished to a great extent. I'm afraid Yun Feng may be at a disadvantage," the red-faced man predicted after watching them for a while. His expression seemed to change slightly.
"That's true. Wu Ming's technique was only at the initial stage last year. It is hard to comprehend how he has reached such a high level in a single year. Besides, Yun Feng's Python-Bones Fist is still short of perfection. It will be really hard to say if he can win this," Li Cang Hai said, remarking on the uncertainty of Yun Feng's victory.
As if to verify the remark, a sudden low shout came from the ring and the two figures in the ring suddenly separated. Wu Ming stumbled backward, with his hand pressed hard against his chest and his face dreadfully pale.
On the opposite side, two glaring daggers were pierced halfway into Li Yun Feng's shoulders. It was obvious that he was unable to fight anymore.
"Winner of the first round is Tian Lu club!" the military officer stepped forward to announce the result from the ring.
Li Yun Feng left the ring reluctantly, after throwing a fierce look at Wu Ming.
The red-faced man approached Li Yun Feng and began examining the daggers that were sticking out of his shoulders. He then grasped them and quickly yanked them out in an instant. Two sprays of blood spurted out into the air and went up as high as a foot, before the bleeding stopped abruptly.
"Apply some medicine on the wounds and bind them up as soon as possible. You'll be alright in a few days," the red-faced man said with a sombre face.
Li Yun Feng was in great pain, and could only nod his thanks as he continued to sweat profusely.
By then, the ring had been occupied by a spear wielding young man of the Jin Gang club, asking to challenge the Tian Lu club. The latter offered a candidate from its fold. The two men then fought with knives in their hands, and the sounds of the metal clashing could be heard all over the competition hall.
After fighting for a while, the challenger from the Jin Gang club lost his weapon. His opponent threw his knife and sent it flying, and the challenger had no option but to admit his defeat and retire. The two successive victories boosted the Tian Lu club's morale, and even Leng Feng Chan seemed radiant and content as he stroked his moustache.
A lot of small talk began to take place beneath the ring after the two fights.
"What more can be said? I've heard that there is a guy here with the Body of 'Solid Earth'. Can you stop hiding and come out to face me?"
Just then a figure leaped up from the crowd, with his spear pointing behind him. He stood steadily in the ring, looking in the direction of the Fei Hong club.
This arrogant young man was Wang Tian Hao.
"This stupid boy! I've told him a thousand times to never blindly charge into a battle, but here he goes! He is challenging the Fei Hong guys in his first round!" A sandy-haired old man said. He was bemoaning the fact that he had been unable to stop his nephew, and seemed close to throwing a fit.
Meanwhile, the sudden challenge created a disturbance among the Fei Hong boys. Tie Dong, the thin dark boy was stirring, and his eyes were ablaze with violence. He was about to walk up to the ring when he was stopped by a long-bearded man, who grasped his shoulders and shook his head.
"Dong Er, there is no need for you to go at such an early time. It will be a waste of your energy, which might make it hard for you to last till the final round. Gu Zhong, you go and test if Wang Tian Hao's Blazing Spear techniques have improved much," the bearded man said.
Gu Zhong's spirits dropped as he heard this, but he braced himself for the upcoming fight by drawing his sword and jumping into the ring.
"I'm asking for that bastard, not you," Wang Tian Hao protested impatiently as he realised who was jumping into the ring.
"Please consider everything else after you have fought me, honourable young master," Gu Zhong said. Though he had always been afraid of Wang Tian Hao, he was quite angered by his words. After emitting a low shout, he made his sword shake in his hand, causing a strong wind to swirl around it. This was the 'Air-Piercing Sword' he had been practising for years.
"Humph, you're asking for trouble," Wang Tian Hao said. His face grew sullen and he stuck his spear out bluntly. The tip of the spear began to vibrate rapidly, making it blur and then vanish entirely for an instant.
A loud noise was heard as a ball of fire as big as a bowl appeared at the tip of Wang Tian Hao's spear. It then transformed into a red light and rushed forward at an unstoppable speed.
Boom! A deafening sound was heard as Gu Zhong was pushed down from the ring. He let out a shrill cry as his whole body was scorched from the force.
The fire ball continued to swirl for a while before dimming down. It turned out to be the tip of the spear, glaring with cold light. It was just surrounded by a ball of blazing fire which made it look rather mysterious.
"The Flame of the Blazing Spear!" the long-bearded man cried out, terrified at the sight. His feet moved involuntarily, and his figure immediately turned into a grey shadow. He then floated up into the air and caught the falling Gu Zhong in his arms.
While the long-bearded man steadied himself on his feet, it became clear that the burnt body in his arms belonged to Gu Zhong, whose shirt had been burnt down to ashes. His bare skin was visible, covered entirely with white blisters. It was a gruesome scene.
"Brother Xu, no one could have imagined that your nephew would have polished his Blazing Spear technique to such an extent! You've really caught us off guard, maybe you should consider warning us beforehand the next time?" the long-bearded man turned around to question Uncle Xu, confronting the older man in a stern voice, with Gu Zhong in his arms.
"You can't blame me this time, because I had no idea that he had reached such a level. To me this seems absolutely impossible. Only Hou Tian Warriors can use that powerful technique," Uncle Xu of the Jin Gang club answered without thinking, looking amazed.
"I will not forget this," the long-bearded man said as he stomped away in anger. However, the only thing he could do was send Gu Zhong to a quiet medical room for treatment.
Meanwhile, instructors of all the other clubs were casting terrified glances at Wang Tian Hao, as if they were looking at a monster with sharp fangs. Their eyes seemed to say, "This is absolutely impossible."
"That's impossible! How can someone accomplish the Flame of the Blazing Spear at the Martial Disciple level? Now we have no option left but defeat. No one at the Martial Disciple level can take that attack," Li Cang Hai murmured to himself with a sullen face, obviously at his wits' end.
"Haha, now that Wang Tian Hao has accomplished the flame of the Blazing Spear, it'll be easy for him to get enrolled into the Kai Yuan Martial Arts School. As far as I can tell, we will certainly win the championship. There is no need to fight anymore. Of course, anyone who is unconvinced can come up to challenge us. If Tian Hao loses any challenge, we, the Jin Gang club, will back down from this year's competition and gladly come in last," Uncle Xu declared with utmost confidence after he jumped directly into the ring. He nodded at the officer, who was completely dumbstruck by this proclamation.
Leng Feng Chan and the other instructors of the three clubs stood gaping at each other in astonishment as they heard this.
Then, Tie Dong's voice was heard.
"Humph! Winning without first fighting me? That's wishful thinking!" he said as he stood up, ready to rush inside the ring. His words were dripping with confidence and anger, and managed to conceal his shock at Wang Tian Hao's Blazing Spear.
"Stop it, Dong Er! I know your Body of 'Solid Earth' is excellent, but it will not be able to withstand even a single strike of the Blazing Spear," the long-bearded man held up a hand to stop him.
His words made an immediate impact on Tie Dong's confidence. Though the young man had been wild and intractable, the long bearded man held a lot of authority in his eyes. After all, he had been the one to bring Tie Dong to Feng City from his remote island.
Meanwhile, a pale faced Feng Jun clenched his fists tightly as he continued to stand on the other side of the ring. His nails were digging deep into his palms, but he didn't dare speak a word.
"It's your turn, Shi Mu. Come! I have observed all of them and only you have the strength to fight me," Wang Tian Hao said as his eyes found Shi Mu in the crowd, his indifference giving way to a mystifying smile.