The sparring sessions changed after the year Ye Futian first appeared. There were no longer cases of seniors bullying juniors in the sessions, and outright fights were replaced with verifications. If one proved to be of a higher plane, verifications were done to check one's comprehension in one's training, just like how Ye Futian battled Lian Yuqing using only skills on the guqin.
Due to having mighty ones from Zhisheng Cliffs in Yu State visiting, the sparring sessions would perhaps turn somewhat more aggressive, as the students gave it their all to show the best of what they were. At the very least, they deemed it unacceptable to have the Holy Zhi Palace lose face in the presence of people from the sacred ground of Yu State.
Liu Chan, Kong Yao, and the rest watched in silence. Qin Zhong was doing the same. His expression was as still as the surface of a lake on a fine day. There was nothing to be read.
The Holy Zhi Palace was the sacred ground imparting the lineage of saints in the Barren State. The sparring sessions served as a showcase of the highest standards the youth of Barren State had to offer. It was no surprise that there were no saints to be found in the Barren State. What they were able to see so far said that the younger generation of Barren State proved less than desirable with their prowess. They also knew that there were similiar sparring sessions among the younger generation students in Zhisheng Cliffs. But when the sessions of both sides were compared, the students of the Holy Zhi Palace indeed proved inferior.
"Qin Zhong, you are the Son of Zhisheng Cliffs. What do you think about the younger generation of students of the Holy Zhi Palace?" Liu Chan asked. He had no intentions of bragging and was simply curious. He simply wanted to know how much of a difference there was between them and Zhisheng Cliffs. Knowing such differences would serve well as motivation going forward. Sitting in a well, looking at the sky would easily breed arrogance. He hoped that the students of the Holy Zhi Palace got to know there was a wider world out there. As such, he did not mind Qin Zhong's presence in the sessions at all.
"Would you mind if I spoke my mind truthfully?" Qin Zhong asked Liu Chan.
"Not at all," Liu Chan answered.
"From what I've seen so far, I have yet to find someone exceptional among them." Qin Zhong then continued, "Of course, the best might have been saved for last." Qin Zhong did not bother lowering his voice as he said so, as his words were meant for all the students attending the sparring sessions. Many found his words to be hard on the ears. The sessions had been going on for some time and many mighty ones on Law Rank demonstrated their abilities, yet Qin Zhong claimed that he had yet found someone exceptional in their midst.
Just how arrogant do you need to be to say something so blatantly insolent, paying no heed to the Holy Zhi Palace?
"If it is indeed as you said, do you mind if I ask what you mean by 'exceptional'?" a student of the Holy Zhi Palace asked in an irritated tone.
Qin Zhong turned his eyes at the student who spoke and smiled. "It is something rather impossible to be described with words alone."
"In that case, since it is the day of the sparring sessions, how about you come out and show us yourself what you mean by 'exceptional'," someone looked at Qin Zhong and said.
Qin Zhong looked at the one who spoke and scanned the students below. He had originally intended only to see the extent of talent among the younger generation of students in the Holy Zhi Palace, with no intention of doing anything himself. He was even more reluctant to do so after seeing the extent of their capabilities. However, he understood that his words were not something that the students of the Holy Zhi Palace would take easily, and they would doubt him.
As such, Qin Zhong smiled and said, "I'm now at the pinnacle of the Noble Plane and if I were to be brash, I would say that no one in the Noble Plane in Zhisheng Cliffs would be able to fight me at equal footing. As such, I see that I would be doing you all a disservice if I were to simply go into the sessions. If there is anything you would like to verify, please have the best among you do so with me."
The students of the Holy Zhi Palace thought that if he dared say something like that, it was apparent that he was some very renowned figure in Zhisheng Cliffs, the sacred ground of Yu State. While they were rather irked by his comments, they knew well that he was indeed very powerful.
Many cast their gaze at Ximen Hanjiang. With Ye Futian and Yu Sheng expelled from the Holy Zhi Palace, Ximen Hanjiang was the champion of Law Rank once again. As he stood at the top of the ranking, there was no doubt that he was the most powerful among the students in terms of actual prowess, and he might have proved to be a match for the number one noble from Zhisheng Cliffs.
Seeing the eyes of everyone present on him, he stepped forward and said to Qin Zhong from afar, "Ximen Hanjiang, student of the Holy Zhi Palace. Would you mind having a go?"
"Be my guest." Qin Zhong nodded calmly and gestured respectably. Ximen Hanjiang then leaped onto the stage in the middle. Qin Zhong did the same, and both of them met in the air. While they were still quite a distance from one another, their auras were already unleashed.
Everyone stared at the two in the air. Ximen Hanjiang still felt insulted from getting beaten by Ye Futian who was two planes lower than he was. With that visitor from Zhisheng Cliffs present, he wanted to prove what he was capable of.
Coldness shrouded the air and frost covered the platform. Ice and frost were seen in the air as if the air itself was being frozen over completely. Everything in that space seemed to have ground to a halt. At the very next moment, a sword was unsheathed. It was a cold sword which came swiftly at Qin Zhong at blinding speeds.
Qin Zhong watched everything unfold in silence. His body was partially covered in ice. He remained unfazed even when the sword came for him. He did not even move an inch when the sword was about to reach his throat.
Qin Zhong pointed with his finger and his movements were too quick for the eye to follow. His hands simply went knocking about in the air and a crisp sound was heard at the very next moment. Ximen Hanjiang's sword veered off-course and even his body was thrown off.
Ximen Hanjiang's sword was so fast that it was able to return and hit from the flanks. At that very moment, Qin Zhong still proved to be the faster one as he moved forward, leaving mirages behind. His finger landed right on Ximen Hanjiang's shoulder. Ximen Hanjiang's hand let go reflexively. The sword dropped and his body was thrown off as well. The sword that he dropped dissolved into Spiritual Qi and disappeared. Ximen Hanjiang was left standing there. His arm shaking slightly and his face pale.
"He lost?" Many who witnessed the scene found it unbelievable.
Qin Zhong was, after all, the number one noble from Zhisheng Cliffs. While the students did consider the possibility of Ximen Hanjiang losing and felt alright even if he were to lose, they still found the way he lost the fight to be rather unacceptable. Ximen Hanjiang, the champion of the Law Rank, was not even given the chance to bring his full power to bear. His opponent simply hit him with his fingers and he dropped his sword as a result. It was an insult like none other.
Many looked at Ximen Hanjiang standing in the cold air. Is that really the genius of the Holy Zhi Palace and the champion of the Law Rank? It was an irony like none other. It was as if everything that had just happened was nothing but a joke.
Ximen Hanjiang considered the possibility of losing, but he never expected to lose in such a humiliating way. He lost without knowing why he lost. His opponent did not even bother fighting him.
Is there even a more humiliating loss than this? Liu Chan felt himself trembling inside as he watched the events unfold. So that was how powerful the son of the Yu State's sacred ground was? The difference between Ximen Hanjiang and Qin Zhong was so great that Ximen Hanjiang was utterly helpless.
Liu Chan's level was such that he understood that Qin Zhong was already halfway into the Sage Plane. It was entirely within reason that Ximen Hanjiang lost. When Hua Fan was in the period just before he broke into the Sage Plane, he might have had the ability to fight Qin Zhong. At the very least, the loss would have been a less humiliating one. Regardless, the fight allowed the students of the Holy Zhi Palace to understand there was more to the outside world that met the eye, and they would have understood the Holy Zhi Palace's pressure for it.
"If you are indeed the number one noble in the Holy Zhi Palace, I must say that I'm rather disappointed regarding the sacred ground of Barren State," Qin Zhong said softly. Ximen Hanjiang went completely pale altogether. Many looked at Ximen Hanjiang in sympathy. That champion of the Law Rank was indeed going through hell at the moment. There was never a champion in Law Rank who was so humiliated like Ximen Hanjiang.
However, Qin Zhong's tone was one that said that he did not seem to have any intention of humiliating Ximen Hanjiang. It was more like that he never considered his opponent in the first place. In Qin Zhong's eyes, the Holy Zhi Palace was simply not worthy of his attention, which was why he was able to be so calm in the face of all that had happened. But then again, it was such an attitude that made the students of the Holy Zhi Palace feel even more ashamed of themselves. Ximen Hanjiang's loss was their loss as well, as he was, after all, the champion of the Law Rank.
Many could not help but recall that guy who was expelled from the Holy Zhi Palace a while before. If he had been here, would he have been able to fight Qin Zhong on equal footing?
Ye Futian might still have lost as he was of a lower plane, but at the very least, it would definitely have been one far less humiliating than the one Ximen Hanjiang suffered. Furthermore, if Ye Futian had been at the pinnacle of Noble Plane, there was no certainty that the son would have been able to actually crush him.
Ye Wuchen, Phoenix, Yun Shuisheng, and all the others were there as well. They watched the events unfold without saying anything, casting their eyes at Liu Chan and the great figures of the Holy Zhi Palace instead, wondering if they recalled that there were two genius level figures in the Holy Zhi Palace just several months ago, with one of them being the true champion of the Law Rank.
Qin Zhong walked back outside the stage and came to Liu Chan's side. He then asked, "The students of the Holy Zhi Palace represent the best Barren State has to offer?"
Liu Chan was rendered silent for a while. While he had indeed wished for the students to know how powerful geniuses of the greater world were, he had never anticipated the loss to be so humiliating. Qin Zhong's question sounded especially awkward under such circumstances. If Ye Futian and Yu Sheng were still in the Holy Zhi Palace, he would have said yes to the question without hesitation.
Ye Futian had, after all, crushed Di Gang, the champion of the western region, Ximen Hanjiang, champion of Law Rank, and Huang Jiuge, the number one of the Sovereign family in Zhongzhou City, as just a Grade Three Noble. Such a talent would have definitely been the best Barren State had to offer. Yu Sheng was not far behind either. With both geniuses of such caliber expelled, the Holy Zhi Palace had lost their right to claim such a thing.
The students looked at Liu Chan, who was silent, and they knew that the battle was difficult for him to look at.
"Cultivation has no inherent limits, and I dare not say that the ones studying in the Holy Zhi Palace are definitely the best. The Barren State is a huge place and there are definitely be other top-notch geniuses out there. As such, I dare not say that the Holy Zhi Palace serves as the symbol of the very best. Of course, when you're talking about things as a whole, it is indeed so," Liu Chan replied in a tactful manner.
Qin Zhong nodded without saying much. At that moment, there were others showing up with people of the Holy Zhi Palace leading the way.
"Brother Qin, you're here." It was Zhan Xiao and the others with him. They arrived by air and smiled as soon as they saw Kong Yao beside Qin Zhong. Since Kong Yao is here, all has been settled then. He knew that someone like him would not have been able to have Kong Yao show up. As such, he called for Qin Zhong instead.
"Brother Zhan." Qin Zhong nodded.
"Uncle Kong." Zhan Xiao bowed slightly at Kong Yao. Kong Yao nodded in response.
"My name is Zhan Xiao. It is my pleasure to meet all of you, seniors of the Holy Zhi Palace." Zhan Xiao nodded at Liu Chan and the others. His attitude towards them was noticeably different than what he showed Kong Yao. It was something Liu Chan and the others in the Holy Zhi Palace took note of. That Son of Zhisheng Cliffs was obviously feeling rather superior in the sacred ground of the Barren State. It was probably them who had arrived at the Zhuge family several months ago, intending to take Gu Dongliu away.
"Brother Zhan, the Holy Zhi Palace is the sacred ground of Barren State, a place of similar lineage with Zhisheng Cliffs, I'd say. We all descended from Emperor Xia's Orthodoxy, after all. As this is a matter concerning the Barren State, it would be best to have Palace Lord Liu handle this. That would probably make things easier to handle." Qin Zhong looked at Zhan Xiao and said, "How about you tell Palace Lord Liu what happened?"
"Indeed." Zhan Xiao nodded and asked Liu Chan, "Is it convenient for you here, sir?"
"Walk with me," Liu Chan said. He told the students of the Holy Zhi Palace, "Carry on."
They left soon after.
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