Library of Heaven is Path
1981 Liu Yulian
If there was a volcano right there, Bai Feng would have leaped into it without the slightest hesitation.
The Old Master is one of the Three Grand Elders of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion. With his influence, even those of the top echelons would not dare disrespect him. Did he limit your pocket money, or did he starve you of food?
To think that you would resort to gambling...
Not to mention, you even proposed such a thievery-like conditions to the bet...
"She couldn't beat Mo Xiangyun earlier. It hasn't even been two minutes since she left, so I doubt that there will be any difference in the outcome!"
"Despite knowing that it's a certain loss, Bai Ruanqing still made such a bet. She can't possibly have gone mad, can she?"
"Probably not. She might be intentionally trying to humiliate Senior Mo so as to make the latter lose her temper..."
"That could very well be the case. After all, one's mental state is extremely important in a battle. However, there's no way that someone of Senior Mo's caliber could be emotionally affected that easily. Such a bet is completely meaningless!"
The rest of the crowd looked at one another as they tried to figure out Bai Ruanqing's true intention.
Which of the top five core disciples had not struggled through countless battles to reach the top? If they lost their rationality just because of such a provocation, they would have lost long ago. They would not have been able to hold onto their position so securely and become figures highly respected within the sect.
Just as everyone else thought, not only did Mo Xiangyun not lose her temper, she even looked at Bai Ruanqing playfully.
"Very well, the bet sounds wonderful to me. Let's see who will take whose money, shall we?"
"Ah, sure..." Bai Ruanqing's face was so red that she could have died from embarrassment.
While she was violent and reckless at times, her straightforward temperament made it hard for her to do something as embarrassing as this.
This should have been a sacred swordsmanship duel to compete for the top spot, but as soon as Senior Uncle Zhang came... Somehow, something just feels really off right now!
It feels like a cheap underground duel!
It was fortunate that she was fighting in the Ethereal Hall, and her grandfather was unaware of her actions. Otherwise, she would surely be beaten to death!
What was done was done. It was already too late to take back her words, so she could only push on.
"Let's carry on with our duel!" Mo Xiangyun roared as she dashed forward once more.
It was the same move as earlier, and it carried the same tremendous might.
Gritting her teeth tightly, Bai Ruanqing was just about to execute the horizontal slash to deflect the attack, as she had done earlier, when she heard a voice in her head.
"Toss your sword!"
The one speaking was none other than Senior Uncle Zhang!
"This..." Bai Ruanqing's eyebrows shot up in bewilderment.
Mo Xiangyun's sword was rushing over with thunderous roars from the frightening momentum of its movements. It was about to land on her head. If she chose to toss her sword instead of deflecting the attack... should the sword fail to land on target, she would be doomed!
After all, once the sword left her hand, she would be completely defenseless.
"Hurry up!" Senior Uncle Zhang's voice urged her impatiently in the midst of her dilemma.
Recalling the various miracles that the other party had pulled off in the inner disciples' Ethereal Hall, managing to slay even Grandpa Feng in a single blow, Bai Ruanqing gritted her teeth furiously as she tossed out the sword without paying any heed to the swiftly incoming strike.
The sword shot right out of her hand.
It was completely out of Mo Xiangyun's expectations that Bai Ruanqing would not try to protect herself at all. Just as she thought that she would be able to smash Bai Ruanqing into a flattened pancake, a sharp pain suddenly assaulted her head. Before she knew it, a sword had already plunged right into her forehead.
Her sword was just a finger's length away from Bai Ruanqing when her body, together with her sword, suddenly dissipated into light fragments.
She was off by just that little bit!
"What a close shave!" Bai Ruanqing's heart was beating so wildly that she could hardly tell if it was out of fear or exhilaration.
She had thought that she was a goner, but who could have known that her Senior Uncle's calculations would be so spot-on!
It was the same two moves, but she had been unable to win earlier. Under Senior Uncle Zhang's guidance, everything had happened so smoothly that she could hardly believe what had just happened.
Even with the best swordsmanship, if one was unable to grasp the flow of the battle, one would still be unable to seal the battle with it!
Her Senior Uncle Zhang had already taught her a valuable lesson in swordsmanship—even the most ordinary move could be used to achieve victory if it was utilized well.
"Bai Ruanqing won?"
"Are my eyes playing tricks on me? Senior Mo really lost just like that?"
"What sharp grasp of timing that is! If she was off at all, the results would have been vastly different..."
"It's this seemingly infinitesimal difference in timing that is the crux to Bai Ruanqing's victory. When did she become so formidable?"
"Her swordsmanship capitalizes on big movements in order to bring forth superior might. However, this means that her defense is weakest while her offense is the strongest, thus making it the ideal moment to strike. Challenge fourth place... and don't forget to place a bet!" Senior Uncle Zhang's voice echoed in Bai Ruanqing's mind.
"Un!" Bai Ruanqing replied telepathically before turning to a young man amid the crowd, who had been watching the commotion. "Senior Hu, it's your turn!"
The fourth ranked core disciple, Hu Chen!
Hu Chen knew that Bai Ruanqing would challenge the rest of them if she won against Mo Xiangyun, so he had chosen to use his real name.
Hu Chen unhesitatingly walked into the dueling ring.
A challenger had already come knocking on his door. He could not turn down this battle, or else he would risk losing his honor and prestige.
"Just like before, I wish to propose a bet between the two of us with all of the Sword Pavilion Coins we have. Senior Hu, may I know if you are willing to accept this bet?" Bai Ruanqing asked.
It seemed like daylight robbery, and that sort of naughty stuff just needed some getting used to. She was visibly much calmer when she proposed the bet this time around.
"As you wish!" Hu Chen nodded.
"Let's begin then!" Bai Ruanqing said.
The two of them quickly got into position and grabbed a sword each.
Bai Ruanqing was just about to grasp the initiative when her Senior Uncle's voice suddenly echoed in her ears once more. "Retreat seven steps. Toss your sword toward your left!"
"Retreat? Toss my sword to the left?" Bai Ruanqing was confused.
Hu Chen hasn't even moved at all, seemingly trying to prepare a huge move. Is it really fine for me to retreat and toss my sword before even seeing what he's up to?
Isn't it foolish to use my one-time off trump card so recklessly?
Bai Ruanqing could not comprehend what her Senior Uncle was up to at all, but she did not dare disobey his words. She hurriedly retreated seven steps without any hesitation.
The moment that she moved, the silhouette right before her abruptly vanished from sight.
"That's the Steps of the Ghost Sword Saint!" Elder Bai Ye exclaimed with a grim look.
"Steps of the Ghost Sword Saint? Are you talking about the Ghost Swordsmanship created by that remarkable genius eight hundred years ago?" the old man not too far away exclaimed in horror. "That move rattled the entire continent back then! But ever since then, no one has succeeded in cultivating it... Are you saying that Hu Chen has managed to do it?"
"That seems to be the case. Otherwise, it would be impossible for him to move at such speed. Even I am unable to figure out where he has flitted off to and where he's going to appear from!" Elder Bai Ye remarked.
"The crux of the Ghost Swordsmanship lies in its stealth. It's a sword art that's intended for assassination. There are many experts who viewed it with disdain, thinking that it's underhanded, but there's no denying its strength," the old man said deeply. "I think that your granddaughter is going to lose the battle."
"It's beyond Bai Ruanqing's current ability to overcome this..." Elder Bai Ye sighed deeply.
The fact that Bai Ruanqing had chosen to retreat right from the start likely meant that she had seen through Hu Chen's attack... but what was truly fearsome about the Steps of the Ghost Sword Saint was how it was impossible to track at all. It did not seem like there was any plausible way she could win this battle.
After all, by the time she finally caught sight of the opponent to launch her attack, she could already have been killed!
It could be said that this move was enough to make Hu Chen nearly unrivaled among those of the same cultivation realm.
In fact, the main reason the top three were able to defeat him back then was because they were swift enough to make the pre-emptive move and suppress him right from the start.
On the other hand, his granddaughter had only learned two moves so far, a horizontal slash and a sword toss. Neither of them seemed to be of much use in this situation.
Amid the discussions, Bai Ruanqing had finished retreating seven steps, but she was still unable to see Hu Chen. However, she could not care as much at this moment. Gritting her teeth, she decisively tossed her sword to the left without any warning.
The sword shot forth like a shooting star.
Elder Bai Ye was rendered speechless.
He knew that the chances of his granddaughter winning were indeed extremely slim, but to toss her sword before even seeing anyone... even if she was leaving it to fate, this felt a little too ridiculous!
Sighing deeply, he was just about to cover his eyes when the air in the dueling ring suddenly distorted. A silhouette abruptly appeared in the trajectory of the flying sword.
"Die!" Hu Chen bellowed frighteningly as he lunged forth, but before he could even take a single step, a sword had already plunged right into his head.
"Holy sh*t …"
He could barely utter a curse before his body burst into innumerable light fragments.
The surroundings fell completely silent.
It was yet another one-hit K.O.!
This was Hu Chen, the fourth strongest core disciple in the sect! Those who knew of the Steps of the Ghost Sword Saint knew just how frightening the technique was, such that even the top three would have a huge headache trying to deal with it.
Yet, Bai Ruanqing defeated Hu Chen in a single move? That was insane!
"I really won?" Bai Ruanqing also scared herself with this feat.
She had been convinced that she was a dead woman, but somehow, everything had turned out fine just by following her Senior Uncle's words strictly!
It was as if her Senior Uncle was able to peer into the future and predict her opponent's future moves to make preparations in advance.
Having won two battles with ease, Bai Ruanqing was more confident than ever. She turned to a young lady among the crowd and said, "Senior Liu, it's your turn!"
The third strongest core disciple, Liu Yulian!
Liu Yulian was a ravishing lady, carrying the demure charms of a traditional beauty. In terms of appearance, she did not lose out to Bai Ruanqing at all.
However, those who had exchanged blows with her would know better than to judge her swordsmanship by her delicate appearance.
Her defensive swordsmanship was airtight, such that even Hu Chen, when executing his Steps of the Ghost Sword Saint, was unable to breach her defenses at all. Eventually, he had ended up revealing an opening, which she had unhesitatingly exploited to subdue him.
Liu Yulian stepped daintily into the dueling ring.
Bai Ruanqing chuckled softly and said, "I have long heard that your Lotus Swordsmanship is inviolable, Senior Liu. I'm eager to see for myself."
Rising above the water, the proud lotus refused to allow the slightest droplet of water to stain its surface. It was such a conceptualization that gave rise to Liu Yulian's Lotus Swordsmanship.
"You are too courteous. Junior Bai, if you are able to breach my defense, I'll admit my defeat and give all of my Sword Pavilion Coins to you!" Liu Yulian replied with a subtle smile.
Knowing that the other party would want to make a bet, she decided to be the one proposing it instead.
"Thank you, Senior Liu!" Bai Ruanqing nodded.
Ah... Her reputation was probably going to go down to the drain after this.
Her motive had been very innocent at the start. She just wanted to challenge the core disciples and climb to a higher position. But right now, she probably looked no different from a greedy thief who wanted to steal money from everyone else!
It sure was difficult to keep up a good reputation. All it took was a moment for everything to come crashing down. "Let's begin!"
With a flick of her wrist, Liu Yulian flicked her wrist, and innumerable sword afterimages appeared around her as if blooming lotuses rising above the dirt.
Only those who had reached Major Accomplishment in the swordsmanship were able to carve out blooming lotuses around them.
Bai Ruanqing could feel goosebumps rising all over her body as she looked at the swordsmanship display before her. Against this impenetrable defense, she really had no idea where she should start.
The other party's sword qi was stacked upon one another, forming a multi-layered barrier that one could hardly see the end of. If one made a bad move, one could be easily caught within the multi-layered barrier and slowly ground to a pulp.
"Toss your sword!"
Just as Bai Ruanqing was at a complete loss, her Senior Uncle's voice echoed in her head once more.
This time, without any hesitation, she threw out her sword.
The lotuses abruptly dissipated as a sword mystically plunged into Liu Yulian's head. Her eyes were widened into large beads as she stared at Bai Ruanqing in disbelief.
Then, her corpse fell heavily to the ground.
The third strongest core disciple had been defeated!