Chapter 78 - Competitions Begin!
"Brother Jin, why are you suddenly interested in Shi Mu? Sure, he's a hard worker, but I don't think he is good enough to attract your attention?" Hearing Bright Jin's comment, Huo Mao gave him a confused smile.
"Then you are wrong. That guy seemed to be a mere nobody, but I've heard that he secretly took the talent test in the Hall of Magic a month ago, and you know what? Turns out that he's a registered Adept now! And one with a lot of potential!" Bright Jin's eyes shone with shrewdness.
"An Adept?!" It was the last thing Huo Mao would ever have pictured Shi Mu to be.
"Not many people know this yet, and other groups are still uninformed. We, of the Holy Spirit Association, are aiming to get him." Bright Jin said, in a hushed voice, full of authority.
Huo Mao hurriedly gave Bright Jin a conspiratorial smile.
"One good thing is that all of Shi Mu's acquaintances are somewhat connected with us. Anyway, I'm tasking you with becoming friends with him, making sure other groups won't get him even if we can't. " Bright Jin changed to a more commanding tone after some thought.
"I'll see to it, senior Jin." Hao Mao answered seriously, nodding his head.
Bright Jin was quite satisfied with this response. After a few other words, he hastily left.
Bright Jin's withdrawal was of great relief to Huo Mao, who sighed wearily as he gazed at the receding figure. Just then, Shi Mu also emerged from the valley, carrying a steel blade in a casual manner. Huo Mao hurriedly gave him a welcoming smile, striding in Shi Mu's direction to meet him.
A short while later, the two of them came to the valley between the eleventh and twelfth mountains. A huge circular plaza peered through lines of flourishing trees. They approached the plaza and saw ten rings were scattered around.
At this time, approximately one thousand disciples in black had swarmed into the plaza, their shouts of excitement surging and undulating like waves.
With his supernatural eyesight, Shi Mu caught sight of disciples competing on all the ten rings before he had even stepped into the plaza. On each ring there was a disciple in black standing at the side, the word "Junior" was embroidered on one of his sleeves. Those junior disciples were, apparently, the judges of the matches.
Wild shouts, from the crowd, echoed through the plaza, filling the air with a fervent atmosphere. This contagious enthusiasm affected Shi Mu too, an eagerness to take part starting welling up in his heart.
"The matches are held every season, especially for our primary disciples, those of higher ranks will not participate. The matches are held chiefly to rank the primary disciples, giving us a chance know our peer's strength. It is a warm-up before the annual competition." Huo Mao said as he pointed in a direction.
Following the direction Huo Mao gestured in, Shi Mu saw a huge black stone monument standing on the other side of the square,its height nearly one hundred meters and its surface was dotted thickly with small silver characters. Focusing his spirit power on his eyes, Shi Mu was able to see clearly, despite hundreds of meters' distance, that the silver characters were all disciples' names. His interest was instantly aroused: it was the first time he had seen the rank of primary disciples since he had entered the sect several months ago. The names were flickering with silver light and the first was "Duan Qianli" - Duan the Thousand Miles, followed by many more, whose numbers were below him.
"Brother Shi, can you read the names, on the monument, from here?" Seeing that Shi Mu was reading the stone monument, Huo Mao asked with surprise.
"I have had better eyesight than ordinary people since childhood, so, if I try hard, I can see the names on the monument with some difficulty, but I'd rather we move nearer to it." Shi Mu smiled as if apologizing while explaining to him.
As they were chatting, they had already walked to the middle of the square. With Huo Mao leading the way, they nudged their way through the crowd to a place near the stone monument. There were a few hundred people clustered around the monument, among them were many new disciples, who had come together with Shi Mu.
Shi Mu raised his eyebrows alertly as he saw Blue Phoenix, circled by a dozen disciples and was wearing a more confident look than ever. Probably she had progressed a lot in the Blood Dragon Group. Blue Phoenix had already been very famous among new disciples, standing in the crowd like a gorgeous female star. Disciples cast her meaningful glances now and then, some also whispering to each other about some titbit of hers, sharing furtive giggles. Shi Mu only took a quick look at her, then returned his eyes to the rank on the stone monument.
"Brother Huo, who is this Thousand Mile Duan that is ranked first on the monument?" Shi Mu narrowed his eyes as he looked at the stone monument and asked.
"Brother Duan? He is quite mysterious and seldom shows himself in public, so I have only seen him a few times. I heard that he had reached the middle stage of Houtian level, and it is said that he is also an Adept Scholar of Wind." Huo Mao searched his memory and replied after a moment.
"Practicing Martial arts and magic together!" Shi Mu was quite excited that his own situation was quite similar to that of the No.1 among the primary disciples. It seemed that if the art of warriors and adepts were matched properly, one's strength could be amplified several times.
"Our sect will arrange a master of Xian Tian and several disciples of junior rank to judge every match, but the master is not here right now." Huo Mao glanced at the high platform near the stone monument, finding a purple chair empty by now.
"Brother Huo, I am still a freshman in our sect and not familiar with the rules of the matches, could you please help me?" Shi Mu thought and asked.
"Hehe, no problem. You know there are many primary disciples in our sect, but the old ones, who entered before you guys, have known each other well during the past year, so they won't challenge each other without very strong confidence, so the rank may change little. And the rules are quite simple. The first day is for new disciples, i.e. your peers, to compete, and the second day is for new disciples to challenge the elder ones, and the third day is for elder disciples themselves to challenge each other. Remember, in the matches there is no limit of arts and weapons you use, but the bottom line is not to kill your opponent. All in all, the strongest one will win!" Huo Mao explained to Shi Mu about the rules of the match.
"I see!" Shi Mu nodded his head.
"It's nothing, don't be so thankful brother Shi. Well, as far as I know, our sect has enrolled four groups of disciples, including your peers, which amounts to approximately four hundred, so you have lots of opponents to fight today!" Huo Mao waved off Shi Mu's thanks and went on to say as he had recalled something.
Shi Mu looked at the root of the stone monument. Several hundred names were in red, separated from the silver names above. His name was just among the last one hundred, which seemed to be made up of new disciples, like himself.
"Brother Shi, though in the matches of the second day, whoever defeat elder disciples can upgrade as well as gain a handsome award, I suggest you not try to challenge the elder ones. After all, you new disciples have barely any chance of winning against them. I have heard that Brother Shi is very strong, but you must be very cautious in fighting. If you want to gain some advantages from the matches, just fight for a good rank amongst your own peers. Our sect will reward the top 10 new disciples." Huo Mao offered his earnest advice to Shi Mu.
"Thanks for brother Huo's advice!" Shi Mu nodded with clasped hands as he pondered over Huo Mao's words.
"Haha, not at all. This is just my humble experience." Huo Mao replied with a delighted laugh.