The crowd went completely quiet. Not a single person in the area was able to utter a single word in this instant.

"Is that really your granddaughter? Are you sure she isn't someone else in disguise?" the old man turned to Elder Bai Ye and asked.

He knew about Bai Ruanqing's condition very well. Even if she had managed to learn two extremely powerful sword arts from somewhere else, there was no way she could have been so powerful as to perform an OHKO[l] on Liu Yulian …

Wouldn't this mean that Bai Ruanqing already possessed fighting prowess that rivaled the top three of the core disciples?

To rise from the seventeenth place into the top three in less than half an hour... That was enough for her name to go down in the history of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion!

"I-I think so..." Elder Bai Ye was also a little overwhelmed by the current situation.

He had guessed that his granddaughter had received I Am Low Profile's direct impartation... but it was hard to believe that just those two moves were actually enough for her to get into the top three!

After Liu Yulian was defeated, the second place disciple voluntarily walked up to the dueling ring.

His strength was pretty much equal to Liu Yulian, so under Zhang Xuan's guidance, he also ended up getting one- shotted by a sword toss.

The top ranker of the core disciples is a person named He Jingxuan. He's the grandson of First Elder He Tian!"

"It seems like we're going to witness an exciting wrestle over the first place of the core disciples!"

"Even if Bai Ruanqing is rise to the top spot of the core disciples in the Ethereal Hall, she still isn't necessarily the strongest of the core disciples. After all, the cultivation of all of the fighters is suppressed to Lesser Pseudo Immortal in here. I heard that He Jingxuan has already reached Heavenly True Immortal, and he's only a step away from becoming a High Immortal!"

You are being too short-sighted over there. I heard that Bai Ruanqing has also reached True Immortal realm as well.

As long as she's able to surpass He Jingxuan in the field of swordsmanship, given Elder Bai Ye's identity, he should be able to acquire the cultivation resources for her to swiftly reach Heavenly True Immortal within a short period of time too..."

"It's indeed easier to advance one's cultivation than to refine one's swordsmanship to greater heights...'

...

Watching as the representative of the highest fighting prowess of the core disciples walked onto the stage, the crowd couldn't help but chatter excitedly amongst themselves.

If even He Jingxuan were to be defeated, it would be no exaggeration to say that Bai Ruanqing had triumphed over to the entire Core Disciple Sector.

"I'll make the same bet with you," He Jingxuan said calmly, unaffected by the many victims before him.

"Thank you for your understanding, Senior He!" Bai Ruanqing nodded. "Let's begin then!"


"Un!"

Taking a deep breath, He Jingxuan took the first step forward.

His movements were not fast, and his swordsmanship didn't look fanciful at all. The impression he gave out was reminiscent of a sealed Black Tortoise. No matter how one tried to strike him, it felt like there was nothing that could pierce through his defense barrier.

"It's the Spirit Tortoise Swordsmanship!"

Someone swiftly recognized the move.

"The Spirit Tortoise Swordsmanship is centered around defense. It seems like Senior He is also fearful of the enemy's flying sword..."

"Well, it can't be helped. It has never missed so far. As soon as it's thrown, it would strike a head. Who wouldn't be wary against a technique like that?"

"That's true... In any case, I would probably be doomed if I had to face it..."

There were fervent discussions amongst the crowd.

Even though the Spirit Tortoise Swordsmanship was centered around defense, there was no one who would think that He Jingxuan was weak. Instead, they felt that it was a good idea that he chose to use this move.

Those who allowed their pride to get in the way of their decisions in a duel were subpar fighters. In the end, it was the ones who won in the end that would retain their dignity.

Seeing how the other party's swordsmanship was reminiscent of a tortoiseshell, leaving her no way to attack, Bai Ruanqing panicked.

How could she overcome a defense like this? If she couldn't overcome He Jingxuan's defense, how would she be able to achieve victory?

While Bai Ruanqing was still looking at the situation before her worriedly, her Senior Uncle's voice sounded in her ear, "Have you ever killed a tortoise before?"

"Killed a tortoise..." Bai Ruanqing repeated those words slowly beneath her breath.

She had never killed a tortoise before, but she had heard about it before.

"You need to lure it with food. Attract it so that it would reveal itself. Create the opportune moment to slay it with a fast blade!" Zhang Xuan's voice continued.

"Such is the current situation too. If your opponent wishes to defeat you, he would have to eventually make a move. So, what you have to do is to use yourself as a bait to lure the other party in. His offense would be the best moment for you to strike... I have already shown you a way, and whether you are able to achieve victory or not, that would be up to you."

Yes, Senior Uncle Zhang!" Bai Ruanqing nodded gratefully.

She knew that this was a test that her Senior Uncle had set for her.

He had already told her the way to fight the battle. If she was still unable to win the fight, even if she were to obtain the highly contested number one spot, she would still lose it soon enough.

As long as she could win this battle, regardless of whether it's her swordsmanship or her state of mind, they would elevate to new heights. She would become an existence whom none could rival amongst the core disciples!

This was similar to how Ximen Chuixue's swordsmanship, despite its formidable prowess, could not be considered to be number one. However, after he killed Ye Gucheng, his state of mind changed. As time passed, he eventually became the sword god of his generation, rising to become an unsurpassed existence in the world![2]

Such was the situation before Bai Ruanqing too.

She had won battle after battle under her Senior Uncle's guidance, but this only built up a mindset of dependency within her. If this went on, it would form a notion in her mind that she was incapable of winning a battle with her own capabilities. So, she urgently needed a personal victory so that she could affirm herself, as well as her swordsmanship.

Sou!

Knowing that her Senior Uncle was doing all of this with her welfare in mind, Bai Ruanqing unhesitatingly bolted toward He Jingxuan.

This... Is she intending to use her body to lure He Jingxuan out?" Elder Bai Ye narrowed his eyes.

It went without saying that he, as one of the Three Grand Elders, would be able to see through the flaws of He Jingxuan's swordsmanship too... It was just that he didn't think that her granddaughter could make such a decisive move.

One had to know that charging over like that was no different from presenting oneself to the opponent. The slightest carelessness could easily end in one's death!

"I thought that the reason why your granddaughter was able to win battle after battle is due to the bizarre swordsmanship she has learned from somehow. Even if she were to get into the top three, she wouldn't be able to secure her position for long. She doesn't have the stable foundations of the other core disciples, and the others would swiftly overtake her once they uncovered the flaws in her swordsmanship... But it seems like my judgement is wrong!" the old man beside Elder Bai Ye said with a bitter smile.

Challenging from the sixteenth rank all the way up to the second rank, the only moves that Bai Ruanqing had used were either the horizontal slash or the sword toss... There were no skillful maneuvers involved at all. She was relying completely on the prowess of her swordsmanship to push forward.

Even if she were to take the first place, would anyone recognize her?

Would she even be able to recognize herself?

But in this instant, Bai Ruanqing had seen through the opening in the other party's swordsmanship and chose to charge right in to bait He Jingxuan out despite the threat of death. Just on that itself, it could be seen that her comprehension of the Way of the Sword had reached an even higher level. She wasn't just relying solely on the sheer strength of her sword art.

Huhuhu!

While the two of them were chatting with one another, the situation on the dueling ring was changing. He Jingxuan could discern Bai Ruanqing's intents, so he refrained from taking the offense. Instead, what he did was to slowly back away.

He wouldn't reveal any opening that would allow Bai Ruanqing to breach his defense. Until he was absolutely guaranteed of victory, he wouldn’t make a move.

Such a countermeasure is not too bad either... Zhang Xuan nodded.

It seemed like He Jingxuan's instincts were quite sharp too. It was no wonder why he could become the number one amongst the core disciples. His state of mind was indeed not too bad.

The current him was reminiscent of a patient hunter, lying in wait in the grasses for the ideal opportunity to slay his opponent!

Any other opponent would have leaped at the opportunity to claim the tides of the battle and pressure Bai Ruanqing on. However, that would have given Bai Ruanqing the opening she desperately needed in order to launch a decisive attack too.

On the other hand, if he were to drag the battle out, Bai Ruanqing would have no choice but to bide her time as well. Right now, what they were competing on was their patience.

Both sides traded a few blows, but they were all shallow attacks that left no opening for the other to exploit. Seeing how He Jingxuan refused to make the first move, Bai Ruanqing began to get anxious.

She had never been a patient person, and all of this waiting and shallow clashes were really grating on her nerves.

Right now!

He Jingxuan keenly perceived that Bai Ruanqing was getting more and more impatient by the moment, and her movements fully reflected her mood as well. He knew that the opportunity to strike had finally surfaced itself.

Amidst the bizarre calmness of the battle, he abruptly dashed forth to strike down Bai Ruanqing.

It was as if a predator pouncing on a prey. The calmness before was nothing more than a facade to make the other party put down her guard. As soon as the true hunt began, his speed surged to the extent where one could hardly perceive his movements anymore.

He's coming! Bai Ruanqing gritted her teeth tightly together as she shot out her sword.

It was true that she had been getting more and more frustrated as time ticked by, but she didn't neglect to abide by her Senior Uncle's teaching. All this while, she had been keeping a close lookout for He Jingxuan's move as well.

Puhe!

He Jingxuan's sword stabbed right through Bai Ruanqing's chest, but at the same time, Bai Ruanqing's sword had already been plunged into He Jingxuan's head.

Padah!

He Jingxuan was dead.

But Bai Ruanqing had been defeated too.

The battle had ended in a draw!

She's still too weak... Zhang Xuan shook his head.

He had already pointed a way out for her, so he thought that she would be able to achieve victory... But who could have thought that she would end with a mere draw.

How embarrassing!

It was lucky that she wasn't his student, or else he would have surely given her a good tongue-lashing!

But speaking of which, it sure was a huge pity. She could have taken the money of the top-ranking core disciple as well, but all of that money had slipped past her fingers due to her weakness.

In contrast to Zhang Xuan's frustration, the crowd was utterly silent. Everyone was shocked beyond words.

It was apparent that all of them found it hard to believe that Bai Ruanqing was actually able to equal He Jingxuan in a battle.

Watching as the two figures on the dueling ring dissipated into light fragments, the old man turned to Elder Bai Ye and said, "Congratulations, you really have a good granddaughter!"

"Hahaha, it seems like she has been enlightened recently!" Elder Bai Ye replied cheerfully.

Of course, he was proud that his granddaughter was able to fight on equal grounds with the number one core disciple.

"She's indeed formidable, but it's just not too good that she made a bet against the core disciples to take their Sword Pavilion Coins. It doesn't reflect too well on you either!" the old man said.

It would be fine just to have a normal duel, but to bet money on that as well... That would undermine the spirit of sportsmanship amongst fellow core disciples!

You are already the Third Elder of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion, and yet, your granddaughter is actually so desperate for money that she goes around gambling with others. Those who heard of the matter might even think that you are mistreating your own granddaughter!

"This... I'll make sure to give her an earful later on!" Elder Bai Ye replied.

"Old Master, I'm afraid that it might be too late by then..." Bai Feng said worriedly.

Those words made Elder Bai Ye ponder deeply for a moment.

Indeed. The matter would have spread far and wide by then, and his granddaughter's achievements would be sullied by the news of her gambling.

"You're right. I should deal with it right away." Elder Bai Ye nodded as he took a step forward to address the crowd, "Please listen to me!"

His voice was loud and clear, and it immediately drew everyone's attention to him.

The bet that Ruanqing has made earlier with the rest of you concerning your Sword Pavilion Coins is just a jest. Her motive is to motivate you to give your all to the fight so as to ensure the fairness of the battle. Since it's just a jest, you need not take it too seriously!" Elder Bai Ye said with a chuckle.

"Need not take it too seriously?" As soon as Elder Bai Ye said those words, a displeased voice echoed from the crowd. "What rights do you have to tell them not to take it too seriously? Who do you think you are?"

Elder Bai Ye turned his head over with a frown, only to see a young man walking over.

"Well... I am only an ordinary core disciple. However, I believe that these are the thoughts that Bai Ruanqing had in mind when she proposed the bet to her opponents. May I know who are you?"

Seeing how this young man had confronted him angrily, Elder Bai Ye's first reaction was to reveal his true ide^^ However, after a moment of hesitation, he still decided to conceal his identity and probe on first.

As an elder, it was best for him not to get involved with the matters concerning the disciples, or else it might reflect badly on him.

"I am I Am Very Handsome, and I'm a good friend of Bai Ruanqing's! My words represent her will!" Zhang Xuan replied. "Since it's a bet, what meaning is there if the other party doesn't pay up? This is no longer an issue about the bet but the fundamental trust between humans. If we start undermining the sanctity of promises over here, who would take them seriously in the future? If you don't wish to pay up, sure! Just see if my sword agrees to it or not!"

How could he give up on the money that he had so painstakingly earned just like that?

You must be joking with me!

Whoever asks me to give up on my money, be prepared to have the sh*t beaten out of you!

[1] One-hit Knockout

[2] These two are famous swordsmen from the Lu Xiaofeng series. Ye Gucheng was known to be the Sword Immortal back then, and there was no one who could rival him back in his era, but Ximen Chuixue rose through the ranks. They eventually had a fight with one another, and it ended up with Ximen Chuixue's victory.

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