There was no need for referees or judges for the matches on the platform. If someone’s life were ever in danger, anyone from the dozens of Spirit Emperors in the crowd would jump in, and for who adjudicates the match… Was there any soul better than the six Spirit Saints seated at the precipice of the arena?
“Saint Geom, that youngster of yours is looking bright!” Saint Thor beamed as he congratulated the Kori Federation’s Spirit Saint. “A Spirit Adept like him shouldn’t be able to execute such expertise! He might even be strong enough to challenge a Rank 50 Spirit Lord!”
The speed that Lorian Yang had shown wasn’t normal. While the Yang Sun’s innate abilities could significantly enhance its owner’s physical strength and agility, there were some limitations. Yet, when Lorian ended the match with one punch, the man seemed to be unaffected by whatever chains that bound his cultivation realm.
“I can’t take the credit for his growth.” The Dalgeom Sect figurehead smiled bitterly. “The Nine Suns Clan has invested heavily into Lorian. Fortunately, the boy didn’t disappoint.”
“Hehe, don’t you think I don’t know how the Dalgeom Sect has been helping them from the shadows.” The bearded ruffian carelessly spoke of top secret information as if it were a matter of fact. “A Master Sect helping another Master Sect stay in power. How incredibly noble.”
“If it’s beneficial for both of us, I don’t see why not. Also, I’d thought you had abandoned all notions of dealing with mortal affairs.”
“I did! Just repeating what a little birdie has told me.”
“…” Saint Geom sighed a turned his head away, hinting that it was the end of this conversation. They were Spirit Saints, and their hands had long been removed from mortal affairs. Many called that restriction a gift, but in truth, it was a curse laid down upon the mighty from the masses.
A Spirit Saint could move the oceans and break down the earth to its primordial state. Their power over space made them capable of restraining all who were beneath their level, making them the absolute monarchs of the world. In the ancient war that nearly wiped out all of humanity, the Spirit Saints were the prime reason why the population dropped to almost ten percent of what it used to be. No one could run or hide from the wrath of the Spirit Saints. Annihilating cities just for the fun of it, Spirit Saints were no worse than a horde of Spirit Beasts. Taking whatever they wanted while never suffering the consequences of their actions.
In the modern day, no Spirit Saint was allowed to meddle with mortal affairs for precisely this reason. Nonetheless, that law wasn’t really sufficient to stop the godly beings from exerting their dominance over the world. Longyu Tian’s adamant move to take Shin back to the Lantis Republic was one such example.
“Speaking of which, do you know the reason why the Saint of Time is willing to break that unspoken rule for the sake of one child?” Saint Thor changed the subject while lowering his volume. Longyu Tian and Saint Firebird were just a few seats away, and he didn’t want others telling him off about gossiping.
“My guess is as good as yours.” Saint Geom shook his head.
“What a shame! It’s too bad that the boy isn’t participating in the matches. Perhaps we would get an inkling as to why if he did.”
“It is a shame…” The elderly swordsman stroked his beard and turned his gaze to an obscured part of the audience stands. The ends of his lips slowly crept upwards to his ears as he thought of something playful. “Really… A shame.”
Lorian Yang felt vindicated. At the grandest stage of the world, the young man had shown his absolute dominance. It was as if all the long years of training, all the trials and tribulations that he had brave through, had boiled down to this moment. The world’s most elite had gathered, and his story would be told for decades to come. The first man to win an exhibition match in the Summit. What a glorious ring to his name! But that wasn’t enough. To be the best, he had to beat the best.
“I thank Abraham Banks for his challenge!” Lorian bowed to the crowd and most importantly, to the man being carried out on a stretcher. He had proven himself by beating a Rank 35 Spirit Adept in less than five seconds, and now, it was time to kick it up a notch. “For my challenge, I call upon the Crimson Ghost from the Himmel Empire!”
“Going straight for the head… Just as one would expect from him.” Jimga laughed from his seat.
“The Nine Suns Clan heir is quite ambitious.” Yeunghi, who was seated next to her Senior Brother, giggled as well.
The Crimson Ghost was the Himmel Empire’s top Luminary. Serving under Young Drake Duke, Eikyo, the Crimson Ghost had long written himself into the history books by becoming one of the youngest citizens to ever get knighted by the Imperial Emperor. At a tender age of twenty-five, the young man had reached Rank 42, just shy of Qilong Hu and Lukman’s Rank 43. As the most powerful Luminary of the Himmel Empire, it wasn’t strange for his name to be called multiple times by hot-blooded challengers.
“Ah, youth.” Jimga ceased his laughter and composed himself. For a Spirit Adept to challenge a Spirit Spectre in the second match, the Summit exhibition matches were really living up to its name. “I wonder how the Crimson Ghost would respond.”
It didn’t take long for the Dalgeom Sect’s mighty swordsmaster to get his answer. A chiselled, suave warrior got up from his makeshift chair and showed himself to the public. His hair dyed in a bloody hue, the terrifying man shot Lorian a devastating sharp gaze. The Nine Suns Clan heir didn’t bat a single eyelid at the intimidation and continued to wait for his answer patiently.
“I refuse.” A man of few words, the Crimson Ghost succinctly made his point and returned to his seat, much to the surprise of everyone present.
“Did he say… refuse?”
“What the hell? And here I thought that a Luminary would take the stage!”
Numerous reporters grumbled to themselves. They were all here to witness the clash of the Titans, and the Crimson Ghost had denied them of that chance!
“You did well…” Eikyo supported his subordinate amidst the boos from the crowd. “Fighting him will just tire you out. Save your energy for the big fights.”
“I know…” The Crimson Ghost didn’t say anything more.
The Himmel Empire’s situation was quite catastrophic. They had enemies from both sides, and they were severely outnumbered. Compared to the Lantis Republic’s twelve Luminaries and the Kori Federation’s fourteen, the Himmel Empire only had seven members that were above Rank 40. Of course, they had to be smart with who they fought!
“That’s disappointing…” Lorian Yang’s view of the Himmel Empire dropped by dozens of points instantly. He had shown his capabilities of challenging a Spirit Spectre and yet, the Crimson Ghost had just scurried away from the fight. “Since that’s the case, I can’t force you… Next, I challenge the Lantis Republic’s Tempest Hydra, Qilong Hu!!!”
Lorian Yang had the centre stage and could call out whoever he wished. However, the warrior spirit in him would only allow the best of the best to kick him out from the arena. Hearing his name being called, Qilong Hu let out a wry smile. Lorian was really going for the top cultivators from each superpower, without a care about his own inferiority. As foolish as it may sound, Qilong Hu quite admired the bravery that Lorian had shown.
Launching himself straight into the platform, the Rank 43 Spirit Spectre removed his coat, revealing his boulder-like biceps that would make any bodybuilder cry with shame.
“A Luminary is taking the stage?! Not to mention the Tempest Hydra!!!” The audience instantly cheered. Typically, the best matches were saved for last, but the most powerful member from the Lantis Republic had graced the stage in the second match!
“The Tempest Hydra, Qilong Hu…” Shin opened his eyes out wide as he was tempted to find a pair of binoculars to use. His objective for coming to the stadium despite the apparent threat to his life was due to his incessant desire to learn more about the Lantis Republic’s ways. Qilong Hu may not have been from his clan, but he still possessed one of the Eight Scions of Water, the Majesty of the Rivers, the Seven-Headed Hydra. Just observing this one match would bring a tonne of insights to his own cultivation.
“What’s wrong? Wasn’t that the outcome you were hoping for?”
“No, no. Of course, I wanted you to come down. I just didn’t expect that you would agree to fight that easily.” Lorian Yang controlled his shock by pinching his underarm. It wasn’t strange for Luminaries to reject his challenge. They were a realm above Lorian, and there was no actual benefit for stepping in the ring with him. If they won, people would say that it was a matter of fact and they were bullying Lorian. If they lost, people would claim that they weren’t strong enough to take down a Spirit Adept, and they didn’t deserve their title. Hence, when Lorian extended his challenge, he had expected some resistance, not an instant acceptance from Qilong Hu’s part.
“Haha, well you’ve got your wish! I hope you cherish it well.” Qilong Hu’s face turned serious as he said those words. Inch by inch, the body of the tightly knit together man rose to the sky, ignoring the laws of gravity altogether.
Like a deity exerting his dominance, Qilong Hu released a deadly spiritual pressure that weighed down on the body of Lorian Yang. Recognising his failure, the Nine Suns Clan heir immediately summoned out his three suns to relieve the world-ending weights that could have crushed his bones.
There were no referees which meant that there was no signal to begin the match. The contestants would decide when to make the first move, and when they wanted to end it. Smiling, Qilong Hu opened his arms out wide as his mana peaked to an extreme degree. Behind him, a figure of a seven-headed snake began to form. Each head was coloured uniformly with a silver scaly texture while they connected themselves to a long medusa tail. Floating in the air, the thin argent tail of the Hydra whipped against the concrete floor, instantly shattering a mark that was visible for anyone within a kilometre range.
“As a sign of respect, I shall throw you everything that I have… Let’s hope that you’re strong enough to receive it.” Qilong Hu allowed his body to be covered in serpentine scales as the seven snake heads behind him roared in anticipation.
‘Danger!’ That was all Lorian thought. His heart wanted him to propel onwards, but his instincts pushed himself back. Lorian had to have some distance away before he could challenge the first inevitable blow.
Alas, it was too late.
The eyes of the Hydra’s heads glowed in a shining light as the sky turned heavy.
Pit pit pit
One drop, two drops, three… Weighty raindrops fell from the heavens bringing Lorian’s retreat to an abrupt halt. A chilling wind descended upon Lorian’s location as he felt an updraft that couldn’t be generated by nature. The ring of the arena, which should have been flooded, turned bone dry as the beads of water rose up into the air.
The falling rain collided with the water droplets that were being sent upwards, generating mini-explosions in the air. One would liken the phenomena to being similar to fireworks, you know, without the fire.
‘This is! Domain!’ Lorian cursed. There was only one explanation for such a strange occurrence. Qilong Hu was a domain user and had altered the ring to his advantage.
‘Tskkk, fighting in his domain is basically throwing the match away! There’s only one way to take down this annoying ability.’ Lorian may not have the capabilities to learn a spiritual ability, but he sure as hell knew about them, not to mention the numerous ways to counter those pesky abilities.
‘Take out the domain user before he can use it to its greatest effect!’ Not wasting any more time, Lorian ignored his instincts and spiked his mana output to his four limbs.
Advancing at a speed unnoticeable to the naked eye, Lorian found himself airborne and just five metres away from punching the living daylight out of Qilong Hu’s body. With his superior speed and agility, time seemed to have slowed down for Lorian as he propelled himself further and further into the striking distance of his opponent.
However, just as he raised his fist to knock Qilong Hu out clean, three of the Hydra heads opened their mouths as a small water orb spun rapidly in their throats. All of Lorian’s instincts screamed at him to run, but it was far too late. Three water jets sliced through the air and melted a hole through Lorian as if it were a laser beam passing through butter.
Coughing out a mouthful of blood, Lorian plummeted to the floor like an asteroid, sending shockwaves all around the stadium. From the centre of the sky, Qilong Hu glanced down at his opponent, hoping to see some life out of the tenacious Nine Suns Clan heir.
“Was that all that you had?”
“Urghhh!!! ARRGHHH!!! H-Hell… No…”
Continuously retching out buckets of blood, Lorian brought his palms together and began to meditate. In an official match, Qilong Hu would have taken advantage of this moment of weakness to seal the win. However, there was no meaning in striking a man when he was down during a friendly spar. Furthermore, he wanted to observe the remarkable abilities of the Nine Sun Divine Technique.
“ARGHHHH!!!” Lorian screamed in agony. His entire battle-wear stained with blood and sweat, the warrior focused his three suns on the three entry wounds that the water jets had given him. In just ten seconds, the supposedly life-threatening lacerations had all but closed, leaving behind no hint that the body had been damaged.
Qilong Hu whistled in admiration. That self-regenerative ability of the Nine Suns Clan was a sight to behold, even for someone of his calibre.
Taking a few more seconds to slow his heart rate and regain his composure, Lorian finally opened his eyes once more and stared heavenward at the deity that seemed untouchable at the moment. Just one hit from Qilong Hu was sufficient to send him to a near coma. Prolonging this fight was ill-advisable. Yet, Lorian continued to walk forward.
To become the best, he had to defeat the best.