A small incident like that dissolved to nothing. While they were others who jabbed sarcastically at the Holy Zhi Palace of Barren State not knowing where they stood, neither Xihua Sacred Mountain nor the Holy Zhi Palace actually behaved disrespectfully in that incident. However, the Holy Zhi Palace was probably doomed to give one holy item away, which would have been a windfall for one of the geniuses from Xihua Sacred Mountain.
Sage Wanxiang, Zhuge Qingfeng, and the others from the Holy Zhi Palace looked at Ye Futian and felt rather speechless. However, the incident was nonetheless handled well. If the students of the Barren State were to perform admirably in the event, it would have been earned them respect.
Furthermore, Ye Futian did not directly challenge Xihua Sacred Mountain to a gamble. Yu Sheng might be able to make it to the top ten, with holy items as bets. He instead went to politely claim that if Yu Sheng was unable to make it to the top ten, he was willing to offer a holy item for the highest ranked student of Xihua Sacred Mountain. As such, Xihua Sacred Mountain would have been compelled to do something in return, as they were dealing with the Barren State, which was the weakest in the first place.
Ye Futian even politely declined Xihua Sacred Mountain's generosity of the saints when Saint Xihua made his stance. Ye Futian had been as humble and as polite as he could have possibly been. If Xihua Sacred Mountain ended up actually losing a holy item, no one would have been able to blame Ye Futian for anything.
It was a move well played indeed.
Saint Xihua then turned his eyes to the crowd. The boundless space went gradually quiet in an instant. Everyone was able to feel plain might exuding from Saint Xihua, as if he was able to cover the entire space with one look alone. Even the grandstands behind Ye Futian, where noise was endless, went completely silent.
Everyone turned their eyes in the same direction—the corner where the Eastern State was assigned; where the three saints of Xihua Sacred Mountain was.
The Nine State Forum finally began.
"The Nine State Forum of this year is hosted by Xihua Sacred Mountain. Almost every single sacred ground from all over the nine states has gathered here today. Even the Sky Saint, who does not have a successor, attended this event. As the lord of Xihua Sacred Mountain, I'm truly honored." Saint Xihua continued with a brimming voice, "All nine states hailed from Emperor Xia's Orthodoxy. The Nine State Forum has been held for many years, implementing the will of Emperor Xia. There have been many legendary figures emerge from each generation past, and I believe there will still be countless remarkable people who will emerge this time.
"As the host for this year's event, Xihua Sacred Mountain intends to reward those who perform admirably in the Nine State Forum. While the rewards might be a small gesture, they are a form of encouragement.
Everyone listened to the speech quietly, and what was said was a tradition that had been executed in every Nine State Forum held. Many wondered what Xihua Sacred Mountain had prepared as a reward this time.
Saint Xihua extended his hand, and a dazzling ax appeared. The air around them changed as soon as Saint Xihua took the ax in his hand. Streaks of golden lightning gathered on the battleax, which went on to devour the powers of its surroundings in a frenzy. The air emanating from the weapon seemed intent on cleaving the space before it apart.
"A holy item."
"The Battleaxe of Judgment," The eyes of those who had heard of the holy item were glittering.
"This holy item is something that belonged to the previous Head Saint of Xihua Sacred Mountain. It was passed down through the generations. Now, I present this item as a reward to the champion of the Nine State Forum. The one who ranks number one in the Nine State Forum will take the holy item away," Saint Xihua said. The eyes of many geniuses from all over the nine states glittered. It would have been a very beautiful thing to be able to bag that holy item, as it would become a personal possession of whoever ended up taking it away, not having to present it to the sacred ground they belonged to.
Ye Futian lifted his head and eyed the Battleaxe of Judgment. The Holy Zhi Palace of the Barren State was probably the place with the least amount of holy items out of all sacred grounds, and any item they had with them was to be used for the future Battle of Saints.
Saint Xihua put the Battleaxe of Judgment away and took out a catalog, waving it in the air. Images glittered and flew out of the catalog in dazzling lights, with incredibly terrible air emanating from them.
"This is the Catalogue of Saints." Saint Xihua said, "This item has been passed down through the generations of Xihua Sacred Mountain for many years, and it was a treasured piece for Xihua Sacred Mountain's students for generations, for it was used to develop comprehension of how the saints trained. Experiences and knowledge of the training of many saints from Xihua Sacred Mountain are housed within. This piece will be gifted to the one who ranks second in the Nine State Forum."
The eyes of many top-notch sages present glittered with sharp intent. That treasured piece would have helped them a lot in furthering their training.
Saint Xihua then put the catalog away and took out a decorated box. Shimmering lights danced in the air the very instant it was opened, with a fragrance washing all over the place. It was just a pill, yet greed started to well up inside many of those who witnessed it. It was as if everyone wanted another whiff of the pill's fragrance.
"The Holy Pill, to be gifted to the one who ranks third in Nine State Forum." Saint Xihua closed the box and many looked rather dejected, but then quickly shuddered at the fact that they had been smelling the pill greedily, a testament to how terrifying the Holy Pill was.
Saint Xihua went on to announce the prizes to be given to the ones ranked in the rest of the top ten places. All of the items had one thing or another to do with saints, which meant that they were all holy items. Even though some might not have actually had saint-level powers, they were items used by saints before, or they had deep connections with saints. There were many who lamented their lack of power, which robbed them of their right to even participate in the event itself.
Saint Xihua was not done. He went on to announce, "Other than that, for those who rank in the top ten in the Nine State Forum, should they be willing to become a student of Xihua Sacred Mountain, they will be taught by the three of us. Those who ranked within the top 100 will also be welcomed to study under Xihua Sacred Mountain, with the three of us to provide frequent guidance."
Everyone had, of course, understood that many of those who participated in the event came from sacred grounds of other states, which meant that they would not have wanted to study under Xihua Sacred Mountain. Those words were probably meant for some of the geniuses from Eastern State who came to participate in the Nine State Forum. After all, participants from the Eastern State were still the most numerous, and there would have been some exceptionally powerful ones among them.
"Without further ado, we will hand the stage to the young geniuses from all of the nine states." Saint Xihua smiled and looked at the people from other states. "The rules of the Nine State Forum remain as they have always been, with one to come out from each of the nine states in each round. This goes on until there are but a hundred left on the forum stage. How about that?"
The ones from other sacred grounds of the nine states nodded. That was how things had gone on in all of the past Nine State Forums. One from each of the nine states were to come forward, which, in principle, made the battle of each round fought between nine people. In actual fact, however, with the Barren State absent, every battle had been one fought between eight participants.
The battles this time would be restored to ones fought between nine participants. However, as there were only over 30 participants from the Barren State, it was feared that Barren State would not last for long before running out of participants. Everyone would be disqualified early. Even getting into the top 100 would have been incredibly difficult for the Barren State, let alone getting a place in the top ten. Due to being the smallest, they would have encountered geniuses from all over the nine states. They would have the opportunities to fight people from all sacred grounds.
Saint Xihua nodded. "Well then. The rules of the event are the same as every past Nine State Forum. Every battle will have one participant from each of the nine states, with the final victor remaining while the other eight are disqualified. The rounds will continue, and every single participant will be required to fight. As the sacred ground of the Barren State was in the opinion that they deserved to be respected as well, we will make no exceptions for them even though they have the smallest number of participants. Every participant shall be treated fairly, with the last one remaining in every round or becoming one of the top ten."
"Indeed." Ye Futian nodded and went to look at Yu Sheng and the others below.
The pressure was indeed huge.
The Eastern State had the most participants, and many were only required to fight one battle. Such was the home advantage of the hosting state. The Barren State, on the other hand, all were required to fight round after round before making it to the top 100. However, there was little to lament over. The qualification rounds of the Nine State Forum had always been executed fairly. It was the Barren State's fault for fielding so few participants in the first place.
The people of all nine states agreed to the rule in silence.
"Let the rounds begin," Saint Xihua said plainly. Several elders walked onto the forum stage to the edges right afterward, saying, "The Nine State Forum does not allow for participants to fight using external implements. Those who violate the rule will be severely punished. The battle stops when one party loses fighting capacity or yields. If both sides choose to fight to the death, the consequences will be borne by the participants, and the nine states shall not pursue such matters further.
"Furthermore, as this year's Nine State Forum is held in the Eastern State, the hosting state shall be given priority in selecting their combatants. The selection shall be executed in the following order: The Eastern State, Summer State, Qi State, Cloud State, War State, Feng State, Ocean State, Yu State and finally, the Barren State." The elder continued, "The rounds shall begin."
The eyes of many were on the forum stage at that very moment.
The Nine State Forum had officially begun.
The air in the vast space seemed to have changed. The nonchalant, relaxed feeling was no longer around. The air had gone thick with solemnity instead. With geniuses from all nine states gathered, many wondered which state would have had the most number of participants making it to the top 100. And then, there were speculations about who would be able to make it to the top ten.
And finally, who would reign supreme in all of the nine states?
Many were excited at the event.
The forum stage was basked in mild sunlight as a breeze blew by. A figure was seen walking out from the side of the Eastern State. That figure was one from Xihua Sacred Mountain. As the host of the event and the very first battle to be fought in Eastern State, the one who emerged first had to be one from the Xihua Sacred Mountain.
"That's Xu Shi." Many from the grandstands gasped in surprise.
Xu Shi, from the Xihua Sacred Mountain of Eastern State, was to fight the battle.
Xu Shi's powers ranked at the forefront when compared with those from Xihua Sacred Mountain participating in the forum. As such, he was made to fight the first battle, and it was apparent that Xihua Sacred Mountain was hoping to take the very first round.
Summer State was next.
"One from the Xia clan." A youth was seen walking onto the stage, making many who were watching shudder. It seemed that the Summer State had the same idea.
Mighty ones from Qi State, Cloud State, Battle State emerged and walked to the middle of the forum stage. Every single participant who emerged made the hearts of spectators shudder somewhat.
The one who walked out from Qi State hailed from the Qi clan. The history of the Qi clan was similar to that of the Great Zhou Sacred Dynasty of the Eastern State. Qi State had been ruled by the Qi clan before, and Qi state was once known as the Qi Kingdom and had established the Jixia Holy Palace, recruiting capable people from all over the world.
Currently, the Jixia Holy Palace was at a level of power, comparable to that of the Qi clan, and both were sacred grounds for training in Qi State. Regardless, the Qi clan had incredible depth.
Each of the participants of the eight states who walked out was exceptional. It seemed that the upcoming battle would be incredibly intense. A battle that was fought between titans.
Such was the stage of the Nine State Forum, and many already felt their blood boiling in anticipation.
"Who will be the first one in the Barren State to fight?" The eyes of many turned in the direction of the Barren State, who was the last to select their participants. A figure was seen walking out of the handful.
It was someone already very familiar, for it was none other than that stout youth who went questioning Xihua Sacred Mountain alone.
Many looked amused at the moment, as they would be able to see how powerful he actually was in the very first battle. That person might actually be disqualified in the very first battle for having to fight such an incredible group. As such, there was probably nothing left for the Barren State in that round.
Yu Sheng, the first from Barren State, to join the fight!
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