At the Chuyun Platform.
Two days ago, the platform had been crowded with people and there'd been next to no one in the spectator seats. Today was the complete opposite.
The eighteen arenas were still present on the platform. Every seat behind the arenas was occupied. The people in these seats were those who'd been eliminated during the group-stage competition.
Only 180 out of over 1700 people had been able to advance to the preliminaries.
An over 90% elimination rate was definitely high!
Xiao Qixiu was still the one standing in the air above the main arena with his sword behind his back. The chief judge made a downward motion with his hands, and the rowdy crowd immediately became quiet.
He calmly took out a piece of paper from within his robes and slowly recited:
"Congratulations to you 180 brave warriors for being able to emerge victorious during the group-stage competition and enter the preliminaries.
"The preliminaries this year will still be held in these 18 arenas. The champions of the respective groups will be the master of the arena. Lots will be drawn to determine the opponent they'll be paired with."
He took out a blue array token and injected his spiritual source. The array token trembled.
In an instant, a large screen appeared above each of the eighteen arenas. The pairing of the competitors would be done through these screens.
The crowd became rowdy once again. Xiao Qixiu signaled for them to remain quiet. He still had something to say.
"There are only 64 open slots during the preliminaries. Before the slots are filled up, anybody who can achieve three consecutive victories will advance through the preliminaries.
"Everyone will have two chances to challenge the person in the arena. That includes the master of the arena.
"Of course, you can start preparing for next year's competition if you face off against a seeded candidate both times. Alternatively, you can pack up your belongings and leave."
Xiao Qixiu chuckled. He folded the piece of paper and tucked it back into his robes.
"The competition starts now!"
The spectators became excited the moment the announcement was made.
Compared to the enormous amount of pressure they'd felt before, the spectators who had now dropped out of the competition were all incredibly excited. They cheered on the candidate they were rooting for.
"Do your best, First Senior!"
"Senior Chao, you have to eliminate First Senior and take first place this year!"
"Xu Xiaoshou, hang in there!"
"Ahhhh Zhou Zuo, fight for a name for us useless fighters! I love you!"
In the arena, Zhou Zuo was trembling. He could feel his legs shake even though he was just standing there. He'd finally realized that he had gotten through to the preliminaries by doing nothing. It wasn't a great feeling.
He looked around him. Everyone around him had cultivation levels of Level Eight, Level Nine, or even Level Ten. "What right do I, Zhou Zuo, a mere Level Three, have to stand amongst these bosses?" he thought.
"Senior Liu, I'm a little nervous."
He tugged on the corner of Liu Zhen's shirt. "I might be the first person in the Tiansang Spirit Palace to dare to stand here despite my low cultivation level," he said, his teeth chattering as he laughed at himself.
Liu Zhen took a deep breath. "Relax, you may be the first, but you're definitely not the only one."
Zhou Zuo looked up.
Liu Zhen revealed his cultivation level of Level Six and said slowly, "I feel the same."
Xu Xiaoshou was the calmest of the lowest-level cultivators in the competition. After all, he didn't depend on his cultivation level. He could be wilful!
The cheers from the spectator seats were too loud. He covered his ears, unable to stand the insane crowd. "Why are you telling me to hang in there and make a name for us? Are you sure that you're not here to curse me?"
He hastened his pace. Xu Xiaoshou wanted to enter arena number 18 and become the master of that arena as soon as possible. He suddenly glanced at the notification panel after passing through the barrier, which blocked out the cheers of the spectators.
"Got encouraged. Passive Points +43."
"Got encouraged. Passive Points +14."
"Got encouraged. Passive Points +8."
The notifications appeared one after another. Even though he didn't get many Passive Points with each update, the stream of Passive Points was pretty consistent.
Xu Xiaoshou had a wooden sword on his back. He involuntarily stopped in his tracks. He then turned back and waved both his arms.
"Thank you, all of you."
"Thank you for your encouragement."
"I'll definitely try my best and live up to your expectations. Please give me more encouragement and support!"
"I love all of you! Here's a heart!"
Honestly, he was just giving them a few cheers as a symbolic gesture so that the crowd wouldn't turn cold. The crowd suddenly panicked when they received such a sleazy reply.
"There must be something wrong with Xu Xiaoshou!"
"Everyone else has already entered the arena. Why is he still running about outside?"
"Look at his foolish expression. Is he really the master of the arena?"
"I was wondering the same thing. His cultivation level is only Level Six, two levels lower than mine. How could he be the master of the arena?"
Xu Xiaoshou checked his notification panel as he ran around the arena. The crowd was too passionate. His Passive Points immediately skyrocketed when he waved his hands.
"Got mocked. Passive Points +223."
"Got mocked. Passive Points +146."
"Got mocked. Passive Points +343."
Even though he was being mocked, the crowd did give him a bunch of Passive Points. Xu Xiaoshou felt even better now.
"Great. It's great that you're mocking me!" he thought.
"Mock me some more if you can. Let my points rise even higher!"
With just a little effort, his Passive Points once again reached the four digits. He only had to wave his hands. He didn't even have to get beaten up. He felt great!
The judge paced around in arena number 18.
"Why is that person not here yet?"
He remembered how Xu Xiaoshou had tightly squeezed his legs together the last time and wondered, "Does he still have something urgent to tend to this time?" He decided to head out of the arena to have a look.
He had returned home and summed up his experience after the state he'd been in last time. He felt that he'd been too easily angered by Xu Xiaoshou and had lost his calm.
As a judge, that was extremely irrational and inexcusable.
So he'd adjusted his frame of mind and returned to a state of zen by the time he'd come to judge these preliminaries.
However, that was all blown out of the water when he walked out of the arena to have a look at the situation.
What was that lad doing?
The competitors in the rest of the arenas had already started drawing lots, but this lad still hadn't entered the arena to face his competitor yet. He was the master of the arena, yet he was waving and running circles around the Chuyun Platform?
The judge was immensely shocked.
He'd been angered during the competition the last time. However, this time, he felt like his lungs were about to explode, and the competition hadn't even started yet!
"Xu, Xiao, Shou!"
Xu Xiaoshou abruptly turned his head back around. He looked at the furious judge trying his best to usher him over with a friendly expression.
"Hm? The competition's going to start this soon?" Xu Xiaoshou walked over and arrived before the judge. "Aren't the competitors supposed to have half an hour to regulate their breathing?"
"Huh, you sure know the rules quite well!" he thought.
The judge's expression darkened. "You're regulating your breathing?"
"That's right!" Xu Xiaoshou nodded. He said seriously, "I'm jogging around to warm myself up. Only by first moving my body will I have the strength to compete later."
The judge trembled. He let out a deep breath and said, "Come in!"
He didn't want to say a word more to this lad. He turned around and left.
Xu Xiaoshou felt that the judge was acting a little strange. However, all he could do was follow him into the arena. As expected, the notification panel fell silent the moment he entered the arena.
What a waste of so many Passive Points!
Xu Xiaoshou made an observation. Judging from the situation, he had to be close enough to feel the emotions, words, and actions of the other party for him to obtain any Passive Points.
He wouldn't gain anything if he was separated from the other party by a barrier like this, or if the other party was silently criticizing him from far away.
"Got cursed. Passive Points +1."
Xu Xiaoshou was confused.
"Could you be even more obvious? There are only the two of us in here, judge!" Xu Xiaoshou secretly thought to himself, when the screen above the barrier started to change.
His name was on the left side and remained unchanged. The right side of the screen was shimmering. Sometime later, what was happening on the right side of the screen came to a stop.
A beautiful lady acknowledged her name and entered the arena. She had a blue spiritual sword behind her back and a cultivation level of Level Eight. She walked over with a bitter look in her eyes.
She didn't want to fight Xu Xiaoshou. That person mainly focused on physical fighting and was incredibly barbaric. If she could, she wanted to spar with another swordsman.
That way, she'd be able to gain some experience, even if she was defeated!
However, she didn't have a choice this time. All she could do was give a slight bow after she walked into the arena. "Hello, Senior Xu."
She had only been in the spirit palace for two years and was younger than Xu Xiaoshou. She naturally had to call him "Senior."
"Not good, not good!"
Xu Xiaoshou secretly thought that the situation wasn't good when he saw her walk over. Did this girl want to admit defeat?
"Even though you might injure me with the sword behind your back," he thought, "I don't mind battling you as long as I earn some Passive Points.
"But look at your expression. You're Level Eight. Your cultivation level is higher than mine. Can't you be a little more confident?"
Xu Xiaoshou was afraid that the lady would admit defeat the moment the judge announced the start of the battle. He immediately said:
"Giving up and running away before the battle's even started would be a great disrespect to your opponent and a humiliation to Spiritual Cultivators. If you raise your hands to surrender, it'll be a black stain on your life!"
Di Xin'er froze. This thought had crossed her mind.
However, she'd hesitated after thinking about how she only had two chances to fight.
When she heard what Xu Xiaoshou said, she accepted reality and decided to put up a good fight.
"Thank you, Senior Xu. I've learned!"
"Got appreciated. Passive Points +1."
Xu Xiaoshou snickered. His expression showed that he hadn't given up on the girl.
He'd gotten something good before the battle had even started. It was an auspicious sign.
The judge's view of him changed. He didn't expect Xu Xiaoshou, who frustrated him, to be capable of saying such a thing. It didn't fit his character.
He waved his hand. "Battle, start!"