The elder didn’t just pitch Bao bi against Yang Ying, but he made sure to point out that this was a rematch as well. This led to a great deal of whispering. Most of the spectators were watching other matches, but among the other competitors, this fight also drew a lot of interest. In the first battle, it was assumed that Yang Ying would have defeated Bao bi. Bao bi had only won during that fight by a complete freak accident. Yang Ying had been overzealous and Bao bi had gotten out of his way. That was the original belief, but things had changed since then.
After seeing Bao bi put up a decent fight against Jiang Bo, there was less confident that it was a complete accident. Given Yang Ying’s level and ability, it was still likely that he would have won had he not made a mistake, but they couldn’t deny that some of it had to do with Bao bi’s ability. Even at that point, the vast majority did not doubt that Yang Ying would win. Whether it was his high cultivation, ruthlessness, or skill, he had shown himself to be at a higher level than anyone except Dian Ai.
Yang Ying would assuredly be more careful in this fight, but he also had something to prove after his embarrassing defeat earlier. That would make this fight particularly interesting to watch. It would be interesting for the spectators, but particularly dangerous for Bao bi. This was the kind of fight that would lead to someone getting injured, especially if the elder failed to stop it in time.
Jiang Bo and Jiang Ying Yue both watched Bao bi approach the state with tight lips. They understood exactly how deadly this fight would be, but they weren’t confident Bao bi did. He acted as casual as always. They had given him quick warnings, but he had merely smiled at them and gave a wave, which only worried them further.
Although Bao bi seemed calm, in the back of his mind, Bao bi was in deep contemplation. He didn’t wish this boy any harm, but he had shown him mercy in the previous fight, even helping him prevent a backlash. That same boy had then turned around and ruthlessly injured another. It wasn’t like with Jiang Bo, who had been forced to go all out. This boy had deliberately chosen to cripple another young boy. In Bao bi’s mind, that made this guy a bully, and although he didn’t like to use his experience and strength to fight children, he felt a bully needed to learn a lesson. Bao bi went up on stage debating how he was going to deliver such a lesson, but he wasn’t the only one with plans.
“Check your pocket.”
Yang Ying let out a little noise, but he quickly controlled his features. A voice had suddenly spoken in his ear, catching him off guard. To a trained cultivator, the use of sound transmissions was common and those in question would be smart enough not to react, but Yang Ying was still a child after all. The one who had sent the message was the elder, who felt a fair amount of irritation over the child’s slight. Thankfully, he wasn’t so foolish to glance the elder’s way. If he was sending a sound transmission, it was because it was something he didn’t want anyone else to hear.
Thankfully, no one noticed Yang Ying’s slip, and the elder sent another transmission. “Remember, you must cripple this Bao bi. There is a vial in your pocket. It will increase your power temporarily. Should you feel like you are unable to complete the task, drink it and you will temporarily have the power of a peak 2nd realm cultivator.
Yang Ying couldn’t help the flash of excitement in his eyes. He had heard of such strength gaining potions before. For the Xaoi sect to offer him such an item to ensure his victory, wasn’t this a full endorsement? As long as Yang Ying defeated Bao bi in this battle… no, completely crippled him, then he would have a bright future in the Xaoi sect. He was one of those who had been unimpressed by Bao bi’s fight with Jiang Bo. Jiang Bo wasn’t as strong as he was anyway, and he did not doubt that he would tear his opponent apart. Bao bi had just got lucky.
The vial gave him even more confidence. Of course, he didn’t need it. He’d be able to defeat Bao bi without any assistance, or so he thought. That meant that he could use the potion for a different reason, a more difficult fight that he had been dreading before that point. That would be the fight against Dian Ai! She was the only one who had given him any worry among this 1st group. She was already in the second realm, while he was still in the 1st… sitting right at a ½ step into the second. While that didn’t seem like much on the surface, that was an unstoppable barrier. He had no chance against her, and his fight would be just as embarrassing as Jiang Bo’s had been.
This wasn’t what Yang Ying would have wanted. He wanted to impress her with his ability and skill. His original plan had been to dominate all of his opponents throughout these matches, and then when it came to her, give a reason to step aside, something to do with her being a flower he wouldn’t dare risk trampling. Girls liked those kinds of flowery words. Suffice it to say a 12-year-old, even in this world, couldn’t be considered a skilled ladies’ man.
His plan changed now that he had this vial. After defeating Bao bi, he would go on to defeat Dian Ai. With a gain of an entire realm, she would be his plaything. He’d be the top among the first years, shocking all of those elders who made exceptions for Dian Ai, but not for someone like him. Of course, the fact that an elder had given him this power in the first place was lost on the eccentric imagination of a twelve-year-old boy. Instead, he saw a future where he was a top disciple, and Dian Ai would chase after him, eventually becoming his woman, boosting his cultivation even higher.
What he didn’t see what the vicious look on the elder’s face that was quickly hidden. There were potions and profound medicines that could safely enhance a person’s abilities for a time. Most of them had some kind of backlash, as there was nothing that could be gained for free, but they were mostly mild. These potions were extremely rare, difficult to make, and above all else, expensive. How could an elder who had to spend his days watching children fight be at a level where he could afford such powerful medicine?
The vial he had given Yang Ying was far cheaper, and the backlash was far more vicious. It was at the level where one would call it a suicide option. It would boost him an entire realm, but after a mere five minutes, the backlash would hit. It would likely cripple him if not destroy his cultivation completely. This was his backup plan from the beginning. The vial had been purchased off the street, and it theoretically could have been something Yang Ying was able to acquire on his own with luck.
The elder understood that the best part of a pawn was their dispensability, and if Yang Ying survived, he’d only be a loose thread that could cause additional issues. All the elder had to do was make sure Yang Ying’s wounds worsened and he died after the fight. They would find the vial and assume that Yang Ying took it of his own volition. Bao bi ended up crippled, Yang Ying took the vial of his own volition and would take all the blame, and the elder would be free to soak up the benefits of such a plan.
The best part was that he had timed things perfectly. None of the spectators were giving the youngest group any attention, as a major defining battle in the first group had begun. A more interesting battle, a battle between two of the top contestants, was in progress, and that was where all the eyes were. It was louder, more colorful, and more deadly. It was the perfect time to allow this little accident to occur. Two dead contestants, but it was only because one of the contestants chose to cheat. How could an elder be blamed when these riffraff snuck dangerous medicines into the competition to give themselves an edge.
Despite all of the elder’s care, there was one eye that noticed the exchange. She had noticed the moment he slipped the vial into the pocket of the young boy and already determined the contents as well. A small flicker of her lips was the only sign Liao An gave. There were many different ways Tigra could have resolved the situation. She could have secretly stolen the vial back from the boy, or event caused him to expose it before the match.
In Liao An’s body, Midnight had already unofficially taken Bao bi as a disciple. Strangely, that made Bao bi and Tigra siblings. How could she be happy seeing her little brother getting bullied, especially by a man who pretended to be an authority figure in the sect? Yes, those were the feelings she had for Bao bi. Of course, she enjoyed teasing that little girl, and she was naturally a flirtatious woman. As for her plans to sleep with Bao bi, it was about using this woman’s primordial Yin to help his cultivation. There was nothing more than that., and even those plans were now abandoned. At least, that’s what she told herself as she waited and contemplated the last few years before Midnight returned.
In the end, whatever her motivations, they didn’t bring her to action. Bao bi wouldn’t grow properly if he didn’t face his challenges. Besides, the current Bao bi was far stronger than most of these young disciples. He would have been better off in the 2nd group, if not the 1st. This disciple, after being boosted by that medicine, would be right around the level Bao bi could fight. If he ever did come to real danger though, she would intervene with all of her power. At least that had nothing to do with any feelings she might have for him. She knew that if Bao bi died under her watch, certain death was her fate. Midnight would not forgive such an egregious mistake.
The two boys had made it onto the stage, and the other contestants were watching with interest. In most of the previous fights, they would have had their eyes closed in meditation, trying to regain their strength before their next bout. However, the only two who kept their eyes closed and didn’t watch were Liao An and Dian Ai. Everyone else was watching with eagerness.
Yang Ying had been waiting for those words since his embarrassing defeat. However, he didn’t immediately leap at Bao bi, and Bao bi didn’t immediately lunge at him.
“You should have surrendered when you had the chance.” Yang Ying declared. “You should realize your place.”
Bao Bi’s eyes narrowed. “And you should realize that there is a difference between life and death, and a competition. You had no right to excessively injure that boy earlier.”
Most of those watching was a bit surprised by Bao bi’s words. Yang Ying had injured another boy. It had been the most destructive battle other than Jiang Bo’s fight where he took a boy’s arm. However, it had been an afterthought to most of them. They didn’t even remember who the boy was, and he didn’t seem remarkable in any way. He had also never seemed to talk to that boy. They didn’t understand why Bao bi would be upset on a stranger’s behalf.
Yang Ying grinned, seemingly amused by Bao bi’s words. “Power is all that matters. If you have the power to set me straight, you’re welcome to try.”
This was a difference between how the cultivators thought and how Bao bi thought. Power was the only thing that mattered to them, and Bao bi believed in some principles. He felt that Yang Ying had crossed the line, especially after he had already shown mercy once. Bao bi had picked up at least that much in his ten years on this world. He nodded his head and then moved.
His body didn’t seem to blur like Dian Ai. Rather, his movements seemed kind of sluggish. Yang Ying could only snort as he delivered a powerful attack, but he missed. He had sworn Bao bi was there and this attack would have caused him severe damage, yet his body managed to seamlessly dodge it. Before he could dwell on the miss, he felt an extreme danger and jumped back. Bao bi threw a punch that had nearly struck him. It had been an unremarkable strike, but it still left his heart beating quickly.
Several more exchanges occurred, and Yang Ying didn’t seem to be able to land a single strike on Bao bi. More than that, it almost seemed like Bao bi was pressuring him. He had narrowly avoided several strikes and was sweating profusely. This made little sense to everyone watching. When Yang Ying attacked, his body would often blur. His attacks were as impressive as they were brutal.
Meanwhile, Bao bi’s fighting style was somewhat ordinary? His movements were slow and refined. There was nothing showy or impressive. His punches felt like normal punches, and his movements felt controlled but unremarkable. This was exactly the power of this style. It had been constructed for stability and strength. It was laying the groundwork that would build him up long after he left this planet.
Other fighting techniques were stylized and fancy, but they would leave holes that would only amplify the farther along they got in their cultivation. Eventually, those techniques would make it impossible for them to continue to advance. It was one of the main reasons so few had ever managed to evolve padded the mortal cultivation stages and enter the heavenly stage.
Such a technique, while advantageous at a higher cultivation, might have been a weakness in his current cultivation. However, who was Tigra if not the disciple of Midnight. Even though her knowledge of techniques wasn’t as vast as her master, she was still capable of creating techniques many times more profound than anything this world could conceive.
It was exactly this contradiction between the profoundness of his technique and the ability of those to observe it that made this fight so odd. It seemed obvious that Yang Ying should be winning, except that he wasn’t. Even the elder frowned, wondering if Yang Ying was just toying with Bao bi. He was young, after all, and boys like him might toy with someone like they toyed with a cat.
Only Jiang Bo, who had sparred with Bao bi extensively, could truly understand the frustration and confusion Yang Ying felt. Only he understood just how profound and deadly those techniques could be. He didn’t know where Bao bi had learned such skill, but he could recognize it for what it was, and it was why he looked up to Bao bi so much. Other people might see Bao bi as only normal, but Jiang Bo knew firsthand there was something remarkable about him that could only be experienced during sparing.
“Enough of this!” Yang Ying had reached his limit, jumping back and glaring at Bao bi like he hoped his eyes could bore a hole through the other man.
If only it was that easy, he could have destroyed Bao bi a thousand times over. Instead, his fists began to glow, and many of those watching could only gasp. He was channeling spiritual energy! This was a technique that only someone in the 2nd realm should have been able to do. It should have been impossible for a 1st realm to do it, but because he was a half-step, he had a primordial dantian which allowed him to store just enough for a single attack.
This wasn’t the first time he had used his spiritual energy against Bao bi, but the previous time had been carefully hidden. He had placed it in his fists and made it appear like a simple attack. The other spectators had not been able to see him do it. This time, he wasn’t holding back at all, and it was clear that he was using his spiritual energy.
Bao bi had been waiting for this moment. This was why he hadn’t taken care of Yang Ying instantly. He wanted him to pull out his spiritual energy again. That was because he planned to punish the boy. He wasn’t comfortable with physically beating him. Bao bi didn’t believe in hitting children to enforce behavior. However, allowing a child to hurt himself could be a good lesson. Sometimes, you had to let the child touch the flame and get burned.
Bao bi wanted the entire attack focused on him though. He didn’t want anyone else getting hurt by accident. Therefore, he lifted his hand and made a gesture, motioning for Yang Ying to come at him. It was the first time in all of this he had openly taunted the other boy. His previous lack of expression had been irritating but combined with such a taunt, it now appeared like Bao bi was looking down on him from the beginning.
Despite everything, Yang Ying still was just a child, and this was enough for him to lose it. With a roar, he attacked with everything he had. Bao bi could only let out a small sigh as he thought about how predictable children could be. He didn’t like being the disciplinarian here, but this boy needed a lesson.
Bao bi launched himself at Yang Ying, meeting him head-on. The crowds gasped. Yang Ying was using spiritual energy. There was no way Bao bi could survive unless he could also use spiritual energy. He should have been doing his best to block or dodge the attack, not meet it head-on. Yet, the two fists collided.
Bao bi only released a tiny bit of his spiritual energy, hiding it in his fist in the same way Yang Ying had done it in their previous round. His control of spiritual energy was many times more than the other boy, and holding it in every cell of his body gave him a supply of energy that far surpassed him. In short, Yang Ying never had a chance.
Rather than dissipate the damage, he forced Yang Ying back bluntly. Yang Ying flew back, landing on the ground. He started coughing up blood. Bao bi was alarmed at first, but then he remembered that coughing up blood seemed to be somewhat normal during such fights. It seemed like it’d be dangerous to Bao bi. Liao An had told him cultivator bodies were more resilient and could repair such internal damages. Bao bi wondered if cultivator bodies were so resilient, why were they always coughing up blood?
The result of the exchange was over in a moment, and Yang Ying was down on the ground, while Bao bi was the clear victor. It could mean only one thing. Bao bi was that strong! Even Dian Ai had opened an eye, briefly watching the exchange. She had felt both boys exude spiritual energy. She felt strangely happy knowing that Bao bi, who was similarly aged, might be as strong as her. It made the loneliness she felt on the inside diminish slightly. However, this was only a temporary feeling, and she went back to meditating.
While this was happening, Yang Ying had come to a bitter realization. He wouldn’t be able to defeat Bao bi on his own. While crouched on the ground as if he was recovering from pain, he used the opportunity to pull out the vial and down the contents. He would win. There could be no other option.