Chapter 83 - An Aborted Challenge
The girl in the pink skirt was more of a dancer than a warrior. She moved about the ring like a dancer on a stage. She jumped and slid in a graceful manner, the way a swallow would flit across a spring lake, leaving a trace of pink afterimages in the air. Thus, Blue Phoenix's quick moves, which she herself had always been proud of, were outshone in every sense.
At the very moment when everyone felt that Blue Phoenix was to lose, the crisp clatters of her bells reverberated through the plaza. Subsequently, the girl in pink skirt suddenly slowed her pace, her countenance changed. Shi Mu and Stone Bai exchanged a knowing look: Blue Phoenix had resorted to her Bloodline power again.
However, the pink skirted girl soon recovered from this brief shock. She snorted and flicked one hand, then a blood red paper charm emerged, from nowhere, in her hand. A gentle wave of the charm enveloped the girl's body in a glowing layer of red before her figure diminished into a blur, and finally into a streak of pink light, that whizzed past Blue Phoenix. The next moment, the audience found Blue Phoenix unconscious on the ground.
This result made Shi Mu realize the strength gap between a new disciple and an old one, even though they were all of the primary level. Also, he was now fully made aware of the Black Demon Sect's general power, and the calculation of all the seven big sects' power was clearer. He shook his head his eyes filled with a dull look.
The present juncture also enlightened the new disciples that this second day's competition was a mere pretext, that actually their sect's true purpose of holding the games was to take the edge off the newborn calves' spirits, showing them the huge gap between them and the real tigers. The sect encourages competition based on actual strength rather than mere bravado. Despite their poor rank, these old disciples' strength still far exceeded the newcomers'. Shi Mu knew clearly that even with his nigh consummate Thirteen Series of Gale Force Blade Art and his brute force, he still only had a slim chance of winning. With such sobering thoughts in his mind, Shi Mu decided to wait and see.
As he mused about the possibilities of winning, three new disciples launched their challenges, one after another. Though the results were almost the same, one of the challengers came near to a draw with the elder disciple he fought. This turn of event rekindled the severely discouraged new disciples' hope, to the extent that more came to the ring for a try. At the competition's peak, four challenges were going on simultaneously on the plaza.
At this time, Xiao Ming was no longer able to resist his eagerness to exhibit his magical talent. After throwing Shi Mu and Stone Bai a quick meaningful glance, he strode, impatiently to the nearest empty ring. When approaching it, he scuttled a few steps, stood on his toes and then dashed skyward before he dropped on the ring at last. He seemed well prepared when he named the old disciple whom he wanted to challenge, the 1300th ranked primary disciple. Immediately a plump fellow answered, and moved slowly to the ring.
Seeing this Shi Mu's eyes slightly widened. He turned his head and asked Stone Bai, "Brother Bai, is brother Xiao a registered Adept of our sect?"
"That's correct. He took the test at the Hall of Magic, and was found to have a high aptitude for Fire-Sensing." Stone Bai answered without thinking.
Shi Mu nodded as he had already expected this answer.
Xiao Ming's opponent seemed not a nimble walker at all due to his weight. Plus, Xiao Ming practiced an art that utilized the flexibility of one's body and demanded soft body shape, so it would not be completely impossible for him to defeat this fat guy. Xiao Ming himself had long come out with a tactic since Bright Jin had leaked the information to him before the matches.
After making sure each other's name and rank, the two began their fighting. Xiao Ming stared unblinkingly at the fat youth's every move while muttering incantations to activate his magic. The surging waves of his spirit power began to work up inside his body, and soon a hot air billow spread out in front of him.
"An Adept!" Someone shouted under the ring, and the crowd was stirred by this news. The fat youth also paused for a short moment, an exasperated look in his eyes. Soon as if having made a new decision, he stomped with full strength, making the floor of the ring even tremble slightly. The great force made him bounce up in the air, swooping down on Xiao Ming, like a shooting star, his fists thrust forward, like two boulders rolling down a huge mountain, stirring two blasts of wind that even blew dust around Xiao Ming. Xiao Ming lost his poise before such a vehement attack, somewhat forgetting how to even use his Mysterious Steps.
A discovery the next second shocked him even more: he found the small sum of real Qi, he had accumulated by taking great pains, was diminishing under the threat of the fat youth's fists, and the steps he had practiced a hundred times were now full of flaws. The urgent situation pressed him to resort to his trump card. Gritting his teeth, he pointed his right index finger forward, shooting a fire ball the size of a human head flying toward the fat youth at a speed one-third faster than Shi Mu had last seen. At this moment, the fat man was still up in the air, and seeing that there was no way he could dodge the fire ball, he decided to crush it with his fists, which then fell down like thick raindrops onto the ball of blaze.
The ball exploded in mid-air, with fire shooting to all directions. The powerful air billow pushed the fat youth backward for some distance, but he soon leaped up again, dashing toward Xiao Ming with a twisted face. The two were quite near at the moment, so Xiao Ming had to stop his incantations and fully concentrate on his steps. This time, his Mysterious Steps worked, and he floated backward like a fallen leaf, dodging successfully the fat youth's blow. But his opponent would not let him go, hunting him all over the ring. Xiao Ming had no choice but resign himself to his doomed defeat, knowing that he would never win the fat man head-on, and he could find no more chances of performing his magic. After playing the hunter-and-prey game for half an hour, he finally fell over the ring and admitted defeat.
Seeing this Shi Mu let out a soft sigh and left the ring without any regret.
Several days later.
As Shi Mu was practicing the Art of the Heavenly Elephant in his room, someone knocked on the door. After some time, a strange young man's voice came from the other side, "Could I ask if senior Shi Mu is in? This humble servant has come to deliver his award."
The words made Shi Mu's eyes light up with excitement. He answered and opened the door, seeing a servant disciple in black uniform waiting at his door respectfully, with a parcel in his hand.
"I am Shi Mu." Shi Mu said, with an expressionless face.
The servant disciple had done his job making sure this was indeed Shi Mu's residence, so he passed the parcel to him and left without a word, after making a deep bow.
She Mu returned to his room in haste and opened the parcel to check the contents, which delighted him greatly: two white bottles and five million silver notes. He opened the lids, with trembling hands, and was overjoyed to find two Blood-Strengthening Pills in the bottles. What excited him more was the five million silver, more than sufficient to buy enough pills for the next stage's training.
The thought made him unable to wait any longer. After storing the pills in a safe place, he immediately set out for the shops and did not return until having satisfied himself with buying a lot of pills. For the next month, he could happily stay closed in his room to practice his arts.