The arena had been packed full since early morning, and not just with the nations’ delegations but with each sect’s team as well.
Even with his soul heavily wounded, the pale Han Yunfeng still dragged his weary body over to watch.
Today was the day the entire western lands were being shuffled. A mere lower-three sect had been making its way before the superior-three sects and challenging these powerhouses that had remained untouched for thousands of years.
Everyone was waiting for this moment to see if these kings’ crowns would be sitting on their heads much longer.
The judge once again made his appearance in the ring. He bowed before the exalted and looked at the crowd with pink cheeks. It looked like he was excited about today, just like anyone else.
“The five sects’ teams, enter!”
Ultimate Clarity Sect, Hellion Flame, and Universal Righteous Sect took the lead in appearing at the same time. Sword God Sect and Demon Scheming Sect’s team leaders followed them, walking casually.
The instant Zhuo Fan appeared, the crowd went wild. It was common knowledge by now that the only reason the tiny lower-three sect could reach up to this point was because of this disciple paving its way.
Of course, everyone would pay attention to this outstanding leader. They were all eager to see what kind of miracle he would create next.
Only Universal Righteous Sect looked at Zhuo Fan as a plague on these lands, filled with hatred and not little fear.
The judge roamed his cold eyes over everyone. And while it was quite obvious, he had to stick to the program. “Sword God Sect disciples, do you wish to challenge the superior-three sects?”
“Of course!” Wen Tao shouted, filled with vigor.
The judge nodded.
[Such valor! They clearly have damaged souls yet still come to fight. They’re true Sword God Sect disciples!]
The judge turned to Zhuo Fan to shout, “Demon Scheming Sect disciples, do you challenge the superior-three sects?”
The judge’s voice echoed in the ears of every person here. All eyes were now on Zhuo Fan, eager for his response.
Zhuo Fan muttered something, then eyed Ye Lin before he shouted, “That’s a matter of course because I am the strongest one here!”
A clamor erupted.
Zhuo Fan’s promise was more than just confidence. Everyone shook at his words.
[We know you’re really tough, but you still have a way to go to become the strongest!]
[Don’t forget there’s still western lands’ best talent, Wu Qingqiu. Even if we dismiss him, there’s still the up-and-coming Ye Lin!]
While the two had yet to truly fight, from what they had shown so far, everyone believed Ye Lin was no less than Zhuo Fan.
[Why would you even dare to make such a bold statement?]
Exalted Double Dragons shared a look, puzzled as well. Everyone knew Zhuo Fan was very calm and not a braggart, unaware of where he stood.
Ye Lin’s next words made everyone understand what was going on.
“Zhuo Fan, I am the strongest disciple in western lands. You’re just the runner-up, and my senior brother is third.” Ye Lin spoke with power and confidence.
The crowd grew even more excited now. Seeing the two staring daggers at each other, they were taken by an odd feeling.
It was as if they were two tigers fighting over a single mountain.
[These two’s fight has got to be awesome!]
Wu Qingqiu shook his head, “Junior brother, don’t drag me into your fight. Besides, I’ve been the best talent in western lands before you, so how could you just put me in 3rd place? You shouldn’t have said it even if it’s true?”
“Wu Qingqiu, is your junior brother a secret senior brother for two decades? Ha-ha-ha…” Yan Mo felt like teasing him. Then he felt sad.
It used to be only Wu Qingqiu, who was his opponent, his target. By defeating him, he’d be the best in western lands. But as fate had it, there were two freaks around as well, throwing Wu Qingqiu behind in the 3rd spot. What would that make of him?
It was like his aim all along was to get further and further away from him.
Yan Mo sighed, feeling just as depressed as Wu Qingqiu.
Only Zhao Dezhu’s eyelid twitched, filled with burning hatred as the two’s faced off.
The superior-three sects’ challenge stage was conducted in order.
[You’ve yet to pass Universal Righteous Sect, yet you only care about that punk from Ultimate Clarity Sect? Are you taking us for chopped liver?]
[You’re too damn insufferable!]
[Just you wait, Zhuo Fan…]
Zhao Dezhu glared with hatred as he huffed, his eyes taking a colder glimmer.
“Rivals must fight to establish a winner!”
Exalted Hei Ran looked at Exalted Bai Mei and chuckled, “Ha-ha-ha, Zhuo Fan does know what’s going on. He’s not at all careless before he faces his real opponent!”
“Before one wins or not, all must hold confidence in their hearts. Or the battle would be lost before it started. Zhuo Fan’s declaration of the strongest has just cut off all retreat. Soon, they will both show all they are made of. This will be a battle worth seeing!”
Exalted Bai Mei looked gleeful, even more eager than the crowd below.
The judge stood between Zhuo Fan and Ye Lin, cutting the sparks between them.
Glaring at Zhuo Fan and then at Ye Lin, the judge huffed, “What are you two staring at? It’s far too soon for you to fight. You’ll get your turn soon enough. Why the rush?”
Zhao Dezhu rolled his eyes, choking on his anger.
[Hey, judge, you’re supposed to be impartial. Couldn’t you be the littlest bit fair? What were you trying to say? Why have you left us out?]
[By them getting their turn, does that mean the Universal Righteous Sect is bound to lose?]
[If even you think we’re losers, what’s the point of fighting then?]
Universal Righteous Sect disciples’ faces fell one after the other, silent and sullen. The same thing was happening at Hellion Flame’s side.
Universal Righteous Sect was not the only one before the top. There was also Hellion Flame. They weren’t that hateful since their leader, Yan Mo, was no saint, and neither was he stubborn. He truly admired Zhuo’s power, so he was just a little bit sad, that was all.
Thanks to the judge’s intervention, the two returned to their positions. Next up was the fight between Universal Righteous Sect and Sword God Sect.
As expected, Sword God Sect’s team had wounded souls, and against Universal Righteous Sect’s shameless act of saving their strength had routed them, cutting their challenge short.
Now was Demon Scheming Sect’s turn to fight Universal Righteous Sect in a team battle.
Everyone was on the edge of their seats, watching the last challenger begin his fight.
The two gatekeepers made their signs and opened the door to the fighting grounds. Zhuo Fan touched the Thunder Ring as he took his team inside. Universal Righteous Sect was not one to tarry either.
The two teams were back in that secluded valley. Zhuo Fan waved, letting the rest of his team stand back a bit while he went ahead alone. He then showed an evil smirk, “You guys stay out of this. I want to use these guys as dummies for my move.”
“Zhuo Fan, your arrogance knows no bounds. You dare take all ten of us alone?” Zhao Dezhu squinted and roared.
Zhuo Fan mocked, “In every battle, you never once went all out. I alone am more than enough. In fact, you should be freakin’ honored scheming cowards like you even get me.”
Zhao Dezhu’s mouth twitched as he glared at Zhuo Fan. His aura shook, but it soon regained calm as he sported an odd smile, “Humph, Universal Righteous Sect has always fought for righteous justice. Even if everyone misunderstands our honorable pursuit, it matters not. As long as we can stop you demons from getting in the superior-three sects, we will stop the demonic path from growing. We will not blink in the face of death. We will not falter!
“You said we didn’t fight all out in our battles. Fine, now we will use everything to deal with you, demon. It doesn’t matter if the others join. We don’t care about some nobody demons. We only want to deal with the main evil!”
Zhao Dezhu made a sign and charged. “Ten-man seal, Soul Chain Array!”
The other nine disciples also moved, landing in a circle around Zhuo Fan as they made their signs.
At that moment, the wind changed, blowing hard as the sounds of rattling chains echoed about.
Vague chains shot out from every disciple, connecting them and forming a tight circle. An invisible barrier formed and trapped Zhuo Fan and the ten people from the rest of the world…