“Haeun, that was quite the match right?” A Dalgeom Sect male disciple tapped the mesmerised girl on the shoulder.
After witnessing the frantic exchange between Sierra Glynrel and Meijing Bingying, the whole crowd went silent for a bit. In the beginning, the Flower of the North seemed to have the undisputable advantage, with her array of martial arts from the Emei Church and her expertise over the Iordral Lotus. However, in just a blink of an eye, the Pearl in the East reversed that situation by creating her own domain, stunning everyone who was spectating. Finally, when the final whistle was blown, Sierra was about to land the killing blow and was abruptly stopped by her very own master.
The first fight between the Luminaries had ended in a dramatic fashion, just what the crowd had hoped for. Through that one exchange, many talented cultivators from the younger generation had become inspired as they finally have a role model to work towards. And Lee Haeun from the Dalgeom Sect was no exception.
“Haeun! Wait, what are you doing?!” Ignoring the pestering bee that had been babysitting her for the past few hours, Haeun leapt into the arena, slipping past all of the security guards that had their minds momentarily taken out from their souls since witnessing that epic match. Before they could react, Haeun had long made her way into the ring where Meijing Bingying was still busy catching her breath.
“Senior! Please, listen to my one request!”
Haeun didn’t care about the uproar that was in the background, nor did she hear the exasperated voice of her faction’s leader, Yeunghi. Haeun’s eyes were firmly affixed on the gorgeous sky-blue haired woman.
Normally soft-spoken, Haeun wasn’t familiar with the appropriate tone to use in a public setting. Almost biting her tongue, the young girl composed herself through light repeated taps on her chest. At this moment, Haeun had one objective, and if she screwed it over, she would regret it for the rest of her life.
“Please, senior! Please, spar with me for one round!”
Haeun could feel it. She was on the precipice of a breakthrough. Stagnant at Rank 29 for the past few months now, the young swordmaiden had been desperately searching for a clue. A hint of how she could escape the rut that she was in. As a potential legacy inheritor of the Ice Fairy Sword Dance faction, Haeun couldn’t be continuously stuck in the same place. She couldn’t let down the hopes of her seniors and of her faction’s current legacy holder, Yeunghi.
“Your match… Your swordplay… Made me inspired! If I can spar with you for just one round, I’m sure that I’ll break through Rank 29 and reach even greater heights! Please! Let me spar with you!”
Almost at the point of falling to her knees, Haeun bowed her head, hoping that Bingying would grant that one request of hers.
‘What the hell is this lass talking about?’ Looking at the curly-layered haired girl, Bingying raised her left eyebrow while turning back to her camp to seek for answers. She had never seen Haeun in her life and yet, she was asking for a sparring session? Hoping that one of her friends would have the answer, Bingying caught eyes with a particular trickster, who had a sinister smile plastered all over his face.
“Ladies and gentlemen! Now that we have seen the two great beauties from the Kori Federation and our Lantis Republic fight, don’t you think that it’s time for the Southern beauty from the Himmel Empire to make her debut?”
Further playing into his role as a circus host, Jingyu Taiyi jumped into the arena and addressed the entire crowd, whispering the sweet nothings that they all hoped to hear. Kanari visibly jolted as her name was mentioned without warning and a sense of dread engulfed her entire being.
“Alas, isn’t it tragic? The Witch in the South isn’t old enough, nor is she at a sufficient cultivation level to challenge my Junior Sister. However, this lass here… She’s at Rank 29 while the Witch in the South is at Rank 27! Aren’t they perfectly aligned to spar with each other?”
“Yeah! That makes sense!”
“If Kanari Saniela can’t fight with other Luminaries, why can’t she fight someone of an equivalent cultivation level?”
Blinded by their desire to see Kanari compete, the audience quickly agreed to Jingyu Taiyi’s wild claim, disregarding how unnatural the match would seem. The VIPs were no exception. While taken aback at the sudden suggestion, after a moment of consideration, many started to open up to that idea.
‘If Kanari shows her strength, at least we can show that the Himmel Empire has up and coming talents that haven’t matured yet.’ Prince Koshaku pondered to himself.
Kanari’s young age and insufficient cultivation level had been a thorn in the Imperial’s side since first coming to the Summit. Why did the Himmel Empire have to turn the other cheek when being berated by others? Why did the Crimson Ghost decline Lorian Yang’s challenge? Wasn’t it precisely because of how lacking their talent pool was?
“Gonggong… What do you think?”
“Your Highness, I think that it’s an excellent idea!” The Imperial Eunuch pinched his nose to freshen up and replied with a beaming smile. “Kanari would be able to showcase her talent, and no one else would dare to undermine our country’s talent. Honestly, that Jingyu Taiyi is a godsend.”
“Mnnnmmm… I agree.” Field Marshal Ridan Bitterdawn didn’t have any objections. If anything, he wanted Kanari to take the stage and beat the crap out of her opponent.
“I see… Go and tell Kanari our decision.” Prince Koshaku laid down a succinct order to his minister.
Gonggong added on with an ominous warning. “The Duchess wouldn’t be that thrilled that we used Kanari though.”
“We’ll deal with it when it happens.” The Imperial Prince turned his gaze towards Zhangyu Yaoguai, who had a similarly flared expression. Evidently, Jingyu Taiyi’s suggestion wasn’t part of the original plan. “Right now, we have to reclaim the high ground from the Lantis Republic and that’s the only way that we can proceed.”
‘Urghhh, why the hell do I have to be implicated?!’ After the Imperial Edict came knocking on her door, Kanari knew that her fate was sealed. She only wished to enjoy the numerous matches between the Luminaries of the world. Kanari didn’t want to be dragged into the centre of a match that had no connection to her.
Unfortunately for Kanari, she was the only one that shared that sentiment. Almost the entire crowd was cheering for the famed Witch in the South, for this was her first public appearance. They had heard numerous stories of how she down Spirit Core cultivators when she was just a child and how she dominated her cohort by advancing to Rank 27 at the tender age of sixteen. However, seeing was believing after all.
Stepping onto the ring, Kanari dropped her shoulders as she watched Haeun unsheathe a white, frosty sword from her scabbard.
“Sorry. I never thought that I had to fight you.” Lee Haeun issued a heartfelt apology. She had only wanted to advance in her skills, not to entangle someone else in her mess. “They say that if I beat you, I’ll get to train with the Pearl in the East.”
Kanari didn’t know what to say. Should she chastise the young girl for chasing to improve herself? No, if Kanari were in her shoes, she would have probably done the same thing. Just not in such an open manner.
“Whatever… Let’s just get this over with.”
The Summit was a place for exhibition matches after all. Since the world wanted to see her skills, Kanari would display it all at full mast.
Instantly merging with the Kumiho, nine fluffy tails grew out from the bottom of Kanari’s waist as two erect ears crept up the crown of her head. Raising her two arms out wide, the fox girl created three pale blue flames that rotated themselves around her petite body. At the same time, a dense spiritual pressure was released from the depths of her soul.
“There it is! The Triple Elemental Spirit, Kumiho!”
“We finally get to see it in person!”
“My god… She’s so beautiful… A celestial! Is she a celestial?!”
“Pull yourself together!!! We have to document this for our citizens back home to read!!!”
The crowd got into an immediate uproar after witnessing the nine tails of Kanari. The Kumiho was a unique entity, even in the upper echelons of the cultivation world. While there had been multiple dual-elemental Spirits roaming about in this bizarre world, nothing could even come close to the Kumiho’s triple threat of Fire, Air and Mind.
“…” The crowd may have been impressed, but Haeun wasn’t really into the hype. For her, it was much more useful to challenge Meijing Bingying and her Spectral Reaver sword then to share an exchange with possibly the most talented cultivator of her entire generation. Nonetheless, it was a match that she couldn’t bear to lose.
“Apologies… I have to get this over and done with…” Closing her eyes, Haeun allowed luminous spectres of light to congregate before her face forming a small little humanoid creature. The creature had a pair of adorable pixie wings that sprinkled a speck of chilling dust with every flutter. Ignoring the stares that it got, the immature fairy fell into Haeun’s white sword with a plop, bringing a particular type of life and vigour into the inanimate sword.
‘Merging her Spirit with her Spirit Armament… This is going to be annoying.’ Kanari readied her combat stance as the three pale blue flames intensified with each passing second.
“Lee Haeun. Rank 29. Spirit, the Nykur Fairy. Please advise me.”
“Kanari Saniela… Rank 27. Spirit, the Kumiho. Please advise me.”
“Shin… Kanari is taking the stage!” Shizen excitedly tapped on the shoulders of his partner.
“I know, I have eyes.” The black-haired youth replied with a mouthful of salt.
The situation has evolved in a manner that could only be described as unpredictable. Everyone had anticipated that the fights would continue to escalate slowly with the thirty-three Luminaries taking the stage at the final moment. When that happens, the Summit will come to a close, and everyone would leave the Land of Dreams satisfied with their gains.
Yet, the last two fights had defied convention and threw the expectations of the audience into a chaotic whirlwind. Firstly, the two beauties of the Kori Federation and the Lantis Republic encountered each other at least twenty matches too early, resulting in the Flower of the North nearly killing off the Pearl in the East.
Following that match, Lee Haeun from the Dalgeom Sect rushed onto the stage and demanded a spar with Meijing Bingying, and was only given the right to do so if she beat the Witch in the South in open combat.
While the matches were unexpected, no one could argue that it wasn’t welcomed. Judging from the reactions of the audience, having Kanari and Haeun compete would trump anything that the Luminaries could provide.
It was as if all the standard rules had been thrown out of the window, and it was now a free for all where anything could happen.
At that moment, Shin could feel a burning gaze that permeated through his veins and targeted his very soul. Tracing the unpleasant feeling, the boy met eyes with a brown-skinned young man, who was seated firmly in the Kori Federation’s camp.
‘Lukman from the Tuareg Sect…’ Shin recognised the infamous face.
Qilong Hu from the Lantis Republic. The Crimson Ghost from the Himmel Empire. And finally, Lukman from the Kori Federation. These were the three Luminaries that led the charge for each of their nations. They were all at Rank 43 and were all considered to be the cream of the crop. There was no question that the main event of the exhibition matches would somehow include the three of them.
And yet, one of the protagonists of the show was glaring straight at Shin’s direction.
‘Does he recognise me?’ Shin did his best to keep a stoic expression. He was still in disguise and was hidden from the public eye. If he played dumb, then perhaps Lukman would look away.
Fortunately, the menace from the Tuareg Sect gave a sly laugh, before returning his gaze to the match that was about to happen. Now that crisis was averted, Shin could finally breathe easy as he took out a handkerchief to wipe the sweat off his forehead.
‘Tskkk, I hope that I won’t get implicated somehow…’