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Translator: Larbre Studio Editor: Larbre Studio
It was the Friday of October 29, 7 PM, at the dining hall of the martial arts association in Jiuqu City.
Round tables were arranged neatly with 6 chairs around each. The flashy red carpet extended all the way from the entrance to the “stage” at the end of the hall, dividing it into two.
Amidst the incessant flashes and camera clicks, Lou Cheng and the other Mighty Ones ambled along the long carpet.
Outside the entrance, excited spectators tried to make their way past the barricading security detail.
Safety was, honestly, not a concern with these many Physical Invulnerability Experts present. No one would be stupid enough to attack this place unless they intended to do it with a missile. However, they had to preserve order so people didn’t sneak inside.
Right as they were out of the media’s focus, Lou Cheng—walking behind Ning Zitong—saw Peng Leyun dressed in all blue.
His outfit was something between a Priest robe and an exercise suit. He was rather relaxed, and his mind seemed to be somewhere else.
“You came early,” said Lou Cheng, greeting him with a smile.
He glanced around but didn’t spot other Shangqing Sect mighty ones around Peng Leyun—including but not limited to the Warrior Sage, Qian Donglou.
Peng Leyun’s eyes gradually turned clear. He flashed a placid smile.
“It’s you that came late.”
“Good evening, Senior Empress Luo,” he then said.
Ning Zitong nodded gently.
“Did the Warrior Sage not feel like leaving home again?” she asked elegantly.
“Martial Uncle Qian’s like that. He doesn’t like socializing,” explained Peng Leyun.
It was widely known that the Warrior Sage was a lazy person despite his outstanding achievements. He wouldn’t stand if sitting was an option, and he wouldn’t sit if he could lie down. He wasn’t at all interested in dinner parties and detested socializing, so he frequently missed these events.
“What about the others?” asked Lou Cheng, curious.
Peng Leyun’s eyes lost focus in remembrance. His friend waited patiently until he showed a helpless smile.
“They aren’t here yet…”
After that, he explained, “Sect Master Martial Uncle hates taking the plane, so he came by high-speed rail. It had been stormy the past few days, and many trains were delayed or canceled. He only managed to set off today, along with Martial Uncle Yunyan and Elder Martial Brother Minghe. I’m the only representative from the Shangqing Sect at the moment…”
Barely stifling his laugh, Lou Cheng cut short their conversation since Ning Zitong and Long Zhen were right beside him. He walked forth to in search of the table with their name stands.
A few steps later, Ning Zitong lowered her voice and smiled.
“Do you know why Yunyan and Minghe have to accompany the Taoist Wuguang?”
Lou Cheng had a guess—could it be he’s an old man version of Ren Li?
“I suppose it’s because they couldn’t let the master of a Sect take the high-speed rails alone?” he suggested hesitantly.
“If that’s the case, he could take the Shangqing Sect staff with him,” scoffed Ning Zitong. “Firstly, Taoist Wuguang is afraid of taking airplanes. He likes to call it a metal coffin. If they ran into any trouble in the air, he would be useless. Secondly, he has a very low profile for a Sect Master. Once, during the annual Shangqing Sect Festival, no one realized he wasn’t there until the end of the event.
“With Yunyan and Minghe accompanying him, the committee will realize there are still contestants who have yet to arrive.”
He’s quite a character, thought Lou Cheng. He peered into the distance, finally spotting the table with his own name stand.
He was about to walk over when he spotted another familiar face. Ren Li, with her dark hair streaming down her shoulders and huge, anime-like likes, was walking beside a woman in a white one-piece.
The woman had no makeup on, and her fringe covered half her brows. Her plain, unworldly beauty made her look like she was in her twenties at a glance. However, her dark and profound eyes bespoke her experience in this world.
Lou Cheng, being a loyal enthusiast of top-tiered professional matches and title battles, immediately recognized her— First Pin Mighty One from the Kongtong School, Ren Li’s master, “Blazing Sword”, Qi Ling.
From her appearance and outfit, it was hard to tell that she was from the same generation as Geezer Shi and Queen of Thought, Fei Dan. Her particulars were not disclosed (under her vehement request), but she was definitely in her fifties.
She had battled in the professional scene for twenty to thirty years, but somehow always missed the chance to receive a title. Other than being the champion of a few intersect competitions, she didn’t have other achievements.
Rumors said that when Empress Luo debuted, she was always compared to her due to their similar beauty and capability. She was nicknamed “Qi Ling Junior”, which led to a feud between them. She remained as Empress Luo’s kryptonite for a long time.
Qi Ling smiled faintly when she discerned Ning Zitong.
“What a nice dress. It’s gaudy and eye-catching,” she said.
“Oh, no. I’m nothing in the face of Senior Qi’s pure and unworldly beauty. You look stunning even in the plainest outfit,” Ning Zitong smiled sweetly. “But I have no choice but to dress a little more formally for the lot drawing, being a Former Master and all.”
She put emphasis on “Former Master”—She had received two titles before, one being “The King” and one being “The Master”, but that was before the golden era of the Dragon King and Warrior Sage.
Qi Ling’s expression stiffened slightly, then she nodded with a graceful smile.
“I shall not keep you any longer.”
With that, she led Ren Li to the side. In that entire process, the latter had remained wordless.
A few steps later, Ren Li asked in a hushed voice:
“Master, who was that?
“Longhu’s Ning Zitong,” replied Qi Ling flatly.
It finally hit Ren Li.
“No wonder I found the person beside her familiar! So it was Lou Cheng!”
She had, as expected, nearly forgotten how Lou Cheng looked like after three months of not seeing him.
At the other table, Lou Cheng finally realized the significance behind Empress Luo and Qi Ling’s exchange.
They were mocking each other for not dressing their age, hinting that the other was a maneater. In the end, Empress Luo landed the fatal blow by flaunting her titles.
Woah, it’s like a monk’s riddles…
Lou Cheng retracted his thoughts and peered around. He saw Mighty Ones that he usually saw on screens. Some have dominated the scene for ten to twenty years, and some were rising stars who made the breakthrough in the past few years. He knew most of their names. Many of their faces were even on the posters in his room.
That was when a man over 1.9 meters walked in from the door. He wore a tight-fitting bleached martial arts suit that was crossed with crimson. It was sewn from a special material. As he walked, it accentuated his manly contours.
His dark hair was combed up, and he wore a hairpin commonly used by martial artists in the old days. He had hard contours. He wasn’t exactly handsome but had a lordly air. It was no other than the ace of Yanzhao League, a fighter of Empress Luo’s generation, the 44-years old Dong Baxian.
Before the era of “The Legendary Twins”, he had received four titles—two being “The King”, one being “The Master”, and one being “Supreme Class”. Many had their hopes on him, and he was crowned as the “King of Warriors”. However, being born in the same era as the Warrior Sage and the Dragon King was his greatest misfortune. In the following years, since the time Lou Cheng was a freshman, he had only received one Master Title.
However, in the two recent years, he seemed to have come out of his slump and returned even stronger than ever. He took two consecutive titles—”Warrior Sage” the year before, and “Kirin” on the previous month. The energy displayed by him seemed to be a protest against the reign of the Dragon King and Warrior Sage. In the era of the Legendary Twins, he became the martial artists in the “others” category who received the most titles.
He conducted himself differently from the Dragon King, who was always dignified and no-nonsense. Dong Baxian always smiled, occasionally engaging joyous conversations with the Physical Invulnerability Mighty Ones around him. They were also from the Yanzhao League. There was the First-Pinned Lin Shuyao who was beautiful and graceful and enjoyed imitating famous poets from the Wei and Jin dynasty. Dong Baxian prophesied that she would receive titles in the future. There was also the Second-Pinned Wang Que, who was only twenty-nine years old, and the Third-Pinned Hu Shubai who had just advanced a year ago and was held in high esteems by Wang Que…
Retracting his gaze, Lou Cheng saw the chairman of Jiuqu martial arts association, Li Hao, taking the stage for a speech.
By then, all the expected Physical Invulnerability Mighty Ones had arrived. The door closed slowly, leaving a few media partners inside.
After a few guests had given their speeches, Li Hao, who was also the head of the committee this round, smiled.
“This year, we have 5 young friends who recently advanced to Physical Invulnerability. The goal of our competition is to cultivate martial arts master, and I would like to begin the lot-drawing starting with one of them…”
In the first half of the year, it was Gou Wen of the Xuanwu School and Meng Liang of Shizhou Island. And during August in the latter half of the year, Lou Cheng of the Ice God Sect, Peng Leyun of the Shangqing Sect, and Ren Li of the Kongtong School made the breakthrough in succession. It had been the year with most martial artists making the great leap in ten years.
The suggestion was affirmed by a round of applause. Li Hao had the hostess bring a large glass bottle with 5 small balls in it. Every ball had cracks, inside which hid paper balls that had their names.
It’s a 20 percent chance instead of 33 percent, thought Lou Cheng. His mouth twitched. His instincts told him that he was going to be the one. He watched as Li Hao took out a ball and extracted the paper ball. He unfurled it.
“Longhu Club, Lou Cheng,” said Li Hao, laughing heartily.
I knew it, thought Lou Cheng, chuckling and shaking his head.
“Please give it up for the former Master, Empress Luo, Ning Zitong! She will now draw the lot that decides Lou Cheng’s opponent,” said Li Hao, gesturing an invitation.
Ning Zitong stood up and sashayed up the stage. She took out a rolled paper ball from the other box.
She unfurled, looked, and curved her lips into a gorgeous, cryptic smile.
That made Lou Cheng nervous. He had a feeling it was a bad lot.
A few seconds later, Ning Zitong announced in a silvery voice,
Shit, how unlucky… Don’t tell me I have to fight my Elder Martial Sister? Or the Clown? Lou Cheng’s heart raced.
In a vague sense, he was a disciple of Wuyue Club too…
The words caused a commotion. All the Physical Invulnerability Experts were intrigued.
Ning Zitong paused for two seconds, then went on.
Whew, thank goodness… Lou Cheng heaved a sigh of relief.
She was a Physical Invulnerability Mighty One from the Hanchi Sect of the Wuyue Club, who only made the great leap at the end of the previous year.
However, she wasn’t someone to be underestimated. In ancient times, there weren’t any martial artists who had been able to make the great leap after the age of thirty. Currently, there were less than five of them who managed that feat, and she was one of them!
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