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Jiang Yang Yue’s heart nearly ended up in her throat after that announcement. She had desired to fight Liao An and prove that she wasn’t afraid of her, but there was a difference between desire and reality. Now that she was pitted against her rival, she felt dread. Part of that dread came from the fact that she didn’t truly know how powerful Liao An was. By her previous performance, she only seemed average, but Jiang Yang Yue couldn’t shake the feeling that Liao An was far more powerful than she seemed.

The girl seemed to carry an intensity and knowledge that surpassed her years. For most people, this oddity was ignored. Liao An seemed to give off an aura that caused the people around her to constantly overlook her. Even though she had just as odd of a match as Bao bi had, hers had quickly been ignored, while Bao bi’s previous matches were still at the forefront of attention.

A more obvious oddity came in her extremely high cultivation. She was already in the Mortal Maturation realm, the third realm, at only thirteen. This was a rank found and acknowledged by everyone. Yet, her presence which should have shocked everyone was ignored. Jiang Yang Yue knew that Liao An was a higher rank than her, but the details of her level had seemingly become fuzzy. It was the same for any master who had taken notice of her, and seemingly someone who should have caused as many waves as Dian Ai slipped by without any fanfare.

In reality, had anyone remembered anything specific about Liao An, they would have remembered she was thirteen and didn’t even belong in the first group. The Midnight Queen had Liao An redirected in the first group since her only interest in any of this was Bao bi. She wouldn’t suffer something as boring as a competition unless it served her. That’s one of the reasons she had dumped the responsibility on her disciple. In reality, none of that was truly necessary. If she had wanted, she could have entered the sect directly, altering memories at will to manufacture a past. However, for the sake of Bao bi, whose memory she didn’t want to alter, she entered alongside him.

With a deep breath, Jiang Yang Yue stood up and headed for the platform. Assuredly, if she had remembered Liao An’s true rank and age, she would have realized there was no chance from the beginning.

“G-good luck!” Jiang Bo tried to offer his sister some support, but she shot him a look, causing his words to falter slightly.

He just wanted her to do well. She didn’t need to look so angry and uptight. Bao bi also was watching as she went up. He had other thoughts in his mind. He had already placed Liao An at a position similar to himself. Despite her younger age, he didn’t see her as a child like he saw Jiang Yang Yue. If Yang Yue knew such a thing, she would have assuredly been in tears. Either way, he did still feel some responsibility for the Jiang siblings who had treated him generally friendly, and when a young and impressionable youth was about to go up against someone far more capable, he would worry.

He reached out and touched Liao An’s sleeve as she stood up. She turned back to him with a raised eyebrow, and he pulled back his hand. It was only a short time ago where if he attempted to touch her like that, she would have avoided his touch and shot him a scathing look. Although her personality seemed to improve with time, he still wasn’t sure if that other personality would resurface again at any time.

“Go easy on her. She’s young.” Bao bi stated. “You’re much stronger than her. It’s the responsibility of the strong to guide to weak.”

He would have normally just left it with the first part, but he recalled that the people of this world sometimes had weird thoughts about morality. He decided to add some pseudo-intellectual line to hopefully appease Liao An. She seemed to think about it for a second and nod.

“That’s an interesting dao of yours. I wonder if it will carry through in the end.” She responded.

Bao bi didn’t know if she was going to listen to him, and she also said some strange stuff of her own he only sort or understood. He could only anxiously watch the fight and hope that Jiang Yang Yue wasn’t hurt too badly. He did not doubt Liao An’s victory. She was two years older than Yang Yue, after all, so she had many reasons to be advantaged. Wait, wasn’t thirteen-year-olds supposed to be in the other group? Maybe he had them backward. It didn’t matter.

The two girls stood up on the stage, and when the elder dropped his hand, there was no sudden defeat or brutal attack. This match played out very similarly to some of the earlier matches. Neither girl moved, although it seemed like Liao An was just waiting nonchalantly, while Jiang Ying Yue was desperately looking for a weakness, and unable to see any.

Liao An looked as unassuming as she did in her previous match, yet Ying Yue felt extreme pressure from her. What was her cultivation again? She knew it was higher, but it couldn’t be that much higher than her own, right? She had been there when they called it out, but she had seemingly forgotten. It was frustrating.

She could feel all of the eyes on her and knew the elder was irritated by the dragged-out matches like this one. Thus, she forced herself to attack. Summoning all of her strength, she came at Liao An with the most powerful attack she could. She figured she’d only have a single attack before Liao An turned things around and defeated her. Even though she knew she couldn’t win, she hoped she could at least get Liao An to acknowledge her.

Her attack kept going forward, and she was shocked when her fist slammed into Liao An. She had struck her! She was so excited that she hesitated a second, but then she remembered to do a follow-up attack. Although the second attack was delayed, most mortals wouldn’t have been able to notice, as they were so quick that they would have felt natural to them. The attacks landed nearly simultaneously, and Liao An spit out blood.

“Guh!” Liao An let out a cry as she flew off the platform and landed several meters away.

Her abdomen was severely bruised, and she even had a few broken ribs. To most of those observing, the match seemed predictable. One girl moved quickly and got a hit in. They used all of their strength, and it defeated the other in a single move. Only those like the elder noticed her hesitation and realized that Liao An hadn’t made a single attempt to defend herself. She had taken the entire hit with her body without any attempt to protect or mitigate the damage.

Although that might not seem like much to an outsider, Jiang Ying Yue was still a cultivator. Her attacks were incredible compared to any mortal, so for another young child to be able to take it head-on with no defense, it spoke volumes of their physical ability.

The elder instinctively knew that Liao An had thrown the match, but he had no clue why she would throw it, let alone in such an obvious and self-damaging way. Had he been able to recall that she was a thirteen-year-old at the third realm, he would have probably figured it out though. For two people of such obvious power differences to fight, it was a joke.

There wasn’t a single way Liao An could have even made the fight look believable. Bao bi liked to practice making a believable fight while training, but the gap between him and his opponents was so exaggerated as the gap between Liao an and Jiang Ying Yue. In reality, this was the only way she could have fought in a way that didn’t instantly defeat the other girl.

Deep down, after a few moments of confusion, Jiang Ying Yue started to understand this too. As her brother cheered for her, she felt conflicted. She had defeated Lian An. She had proven that she deserved to be a love rival and had the right to fight for Bao bi. However, the victory felt easy and cheap, and she couldn’t understand why Liao An would have done something like that.

She figured it out a moment later when she looked to wear Liao An was lying. Sitting on their knees right next to her, holding her up gently by the head, was Bao bi. He had a look of fear and worry on his face.

“When I said go easy, I didn’t mean this easy.” Bao bi fretted over her. “I don’t have any potions. I’ll have to chew up some herbs and give them to you by mouth.”

“I-if it has to be done.”

“Oh, I have a potion. It’s not as good as the Xaoi sect, but her injuries look bad.” Another girl spoke up.

“Then, I’ll have to implore you.” Bao bi asked politely, lowering his head.

“S-sure…” She blushed.

“Tsk.” Liao An made an irritated noise in the back of her throat.

“Here, drink this.”

“You must give it to me by mouth.”

“Wh-why?”

“Can’t swallow.”

“I-is that so?”

As Jiang Yang Yue was watching such a strange scene play out, Liao An’s eyes met hers. Liao An suddenly gave a smug grin. Her lips still had blood on them, but the words said from that look were the true fatal blow. Jiang Ying Yue had been obsessing about cultivation. She wanted to prove she was strong enough, and the result was that she had attacked and nearly harmed someone Bao bi deeply cared about.

Liao An might have lost the battle, but when it came to the war, her gains couldn’t be measured. She got Bao bi worrying and fretting over her. He was even cuddling her head. Meanwhile, the victor Jiang Ying Yue was defeated completely. She may have gotten a hit on the other girl, but the mental backlash left Jiang Ying Yue severely wounded.

She had made Liao An her enemy, but who was Liao An anyway? Jiang Ying Yue was far too young and inexperienced. Compared to the seductress extraordinaire Tigra, how could she hope to gain a footing? Had this been Midnight in her body, perhaps things would have turned out differently, but in the ways of love, Jiang Ying Yue felt like she had been blown out of the water.

“Sister, great job!” Jiang Bo tried to clap her back.

“What do you know!” She snapped at him before sitting down and beginning her next meditation.

“Wh-what did I do?” Jiang Bo could only blink as his attempts to cheer on his sister were once again thrown in his face.

He glanced at Bao bi for help, but he was still fighting with Liao An, who had only reluctantly accepted the bottle, as long as he poured her down her throat. Women were truly a difficult group to understand.

The next round continued. Jiang Bo went up and surprisingly got a surrender. This didn’t make him feel better though. The fact that he had drawn first blood and severely injured another weighed heavily on his heart, and this reputation was now making other participants afraid of attacking him. That wasn’t what he wanted at all.

The next round came around, and Qi Xue went up and won that round, feeling much more confident about himself. Dian Ai and Yang Ting had their opponents surrender. That’s when a certain two were called up onto the stage.

“Jiang Bo and Bao bi.” The elder cried out.

Jiang Bo sighed. Given that they were in the same group, it was only a matter of time before the two friends had to fight. Jiang Bo knew he had no chance of defeating Bao bi, but that didn’t mean he was going to just give up. Jiang Ying Yue, who had still been pouting since before finally paid attention once again upon seeing her brother have to battle the boy she liked. It put her in a bit of a hard spot, but if she had to pick which she would root for, it would be Bao bi. If Jiang Bo heard this, he’d assuredly be depressed.

As the two walked up onto the stage, this match started to garner some interest. Other than Dian Ai and Yang Ting, Jiang Bo was the other top performer. He had a vicious battle and had won, and so everyone was looking at him. Meanwhile, Bao bi was still a general mystery. He had fought a very easy battle after Yang Ting made a mistake, and then a very difficult battle that he had barely won. The majority watching had the opposite opinion of Jiang Bo. They thought Bao bi had no chance and we’re honestly wondering why he would risk injury to fight someone better than him.

A few of them had seen how close the pair were and figured that Jiang Bo would go easy on his friend. Although this was a match that decided entry into the sect, friends were still friends, and you wouldn’t go out of your way to disable a friend.

“It’s come to my attention that we haven’t spared since you gave me that medication and a reached the top of the 1st realm.” Jiang Bo declared. “I’d like to show you how I’ve grown.”

Bao bi nodded. “Mm… show me.”

Their words were friendly, but they put creases on a few eyebrows. Jiang Bo sounded almost differential for Bao bi. It sounded almost like a disciple greeting his master. The boys bowed to each other, something that none of the other disciples had been doing up to that point. This caught a lot of the elder’s attention. While boys in the older groups knew that this was the respectful way to start a match, the younger ones didn’t necessarily know it, and as a result, this step had been skipped most of the time. However, they approved of disciples who took the initiative to learn and grow.

When the elder declared the start of the match, Jiang Bo didn’t hesitate to attack Bao bi outright. Most of those watching thought the match would be over immediately, but Bao bi dodge Jiang Bo’s attacks and even encountered a few of his own. The battle was extremely animated, and with Jiang Bo throwing out skills he had been taught in the palace, things that only a prince like him had access to, it caused the fight to become nearly as showy as the battles occurring in the 2nd and 3rd groups.

Since the fight was at this level, it garnered more attention than the previous matches, and a few were at the level where they started to notice some things. At first, they noticed that Jiang Bo had some openings. Among the first group, this wasn’t so uncommon. It also wasn’t uncommon that Bao bi would fail to take advantage of said openings. However, as the two fight, Bao bi would often do something unexpected, exposing Jiang Bo’s opening and making it much easier to see. Then, the next time Jiang Bo fought, the opening, if not gone, would at least be reduced.

“Isn’t this just sparing?”

“It’s sparring.”

The two students weren’t having a brutal battle to the death where the winner moved on and the loser was left behind. They had a training spout in the middle of an important Xaoi competition. In particular, Jiang Bo was learning from Bao bi, improving his style and becoming more accustomed to his forms. He hadn’t been lying when he said that he didn’t have any time to train since he took that pill. He had jumped up to the top tier of the 1st realm, jumping two tiers in the process.

A rapid growth in cultivation wasn’t a bad thing, but it caused a person’s foundation to become weaker. Without time to properly acclimate, holes in their combat style would form as they are unused to fighting and functioning at that level of strength and speed. It was generally thought that higher cultivation would serve someone better in any such tournament compared to being extremely stable, so it wasn’t uncommon for people to spend the few days before a tournament trying to rapidly increase their cultivation rather than stabilize their current cultivation.

It should be added that since Bao bi had remained at the top tier of the 1st realm for so long before moving to the 2nd realm that his cultivation was extremely stable. As for getting used to his new strength and speed, how could Midnight slip on such a thing? She made sure he spared with her and fixed any hole or mistake in his foundation thoroughly before she allowed him to come to this disciple selection. Midnight had extremely exacting standards, after all.

Either way, the two boys had fallen into their typical sparring roles, with Bao bi helping Jiang Bo clean up some of the weaknesses he had in his technique. When the fight lasted for nearly five minutes, the longest of any fight from the 1st group at that point, the elder awkwardly cleared his throat.

“Ah… I’ll be giving my best attack!” Jiang Bo declared.

Having disabled someone prior, when Jiang Bo declared that, many of the participants held their breath. Jiang Bo put his all into an attack, and if someone had been paying attention, it looked very familiar to the attack Jiang Ying Yue had used on Liao An. However, it was cultivated to a much greater level and was given the strength of someone many tiers higher than her. The attack flew at Bao bi, and he met it head-on.

There was a flash of light, and everyone was expecting Bao bi to fly off the platform in the same way Liao An did in that earlier flight. However, as the light cleared and people were able to see again, it was Jiang Bo who had flown back. He wasn’t hurt, even so far as landing on his feet, but he was no longer on the platform. He had lost.

“Is it possible… that Bao bi is somewhat strong?” The girl who had previously offered her potion asked such an unexpected question.

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