Chapter 36 Sword In My Hand

The Rank 3 Gu Master referee sent the two Rank 2 Gu Masters standing opposite each other a hard glare, before raising his arm above his head. Despite this only being a match between two Rank 2 Gu Masters, he could feel the waves of dark red primeval essence and scarlet red primeval essence churn from within them.

He knew that Tai Yin was the daughter of Elder Tai, a rather lascivious and easy going Elder, and that in terms of martial arts, she was equal to, or exceeding those of a similar age to herself. Her grasp of the Sword Path was quite impressive as well, but nothing particularly monstrous or incomprehensible.

On the other hand, Xuanyuan, no family name, was the personal disciple of Elder Luo, the Elder in charge of Earth Soul Hall. He was a kind, yet strict Elder who took the safety and wellbeing of mortals and disciples of the Earth Soul Sect seriously. Elder Luo was a Rank 5 Space Path Gu Master, while Xuanyuan was a Rank 2 Shadow Path Gu Master.

He had seen Xuanyuan act in his first bout, and knew for sure that even he might not have reacted quick enough to save Yu Xiaolong. He almost didn't notice the shadows beneath him warp and form a network of near-invisible strings, and could count on his hand the number of Gu Masters he knew who walked the Shadow Path.

Gong Shu cursed his luck reading his own Gu to act if the event arose. Letting out one last breath, he swung his hand down, indicating the start of the bout.


Xuanyuan gazed at his opponent, still glaring at him hatefully for his earlier comment. Xuanyuan was an adult in the body of a teen, his pride flexible and personality blasé to most remarks or methods of slander. 

Tai Yin, was a beautiful young woman with an exceptional background and sufficient strength to match that of disciples several years older than her. Even if she knew pain, even if she knew hardship, Xuanyuan doubted that she had ever been called "weak" before.

She was smart and knew what type of person her father was. He loved beautiful young women after all. She didn't want to be compared to those women her father kept at his side, to end up like that herself one day. She knew that in other continents, like the Northern Plains, women were commodities in society.

Her greatest source of pride, was her own strength.

Damaging her pride, by calling her "weak", was a great way to test the waters.

Tai Yin gritted her teeth before waving her arm and summoning a Gu. In an instant, a long, five-foot length, three finger wide longsword appeared in her hands. Each side was sharp, and the tip even more so. The light from the sun above them shone on the blade causing Xuanyuan to frown for a moment.

Tai Yin let out a small breath, thin breaths of qi leaving her lips and gathering around her sword. The floating wisps of sword qi swirled around the blade like butterflies around a flower, and the young girl stepped forward, slowly closing the distance between herself and Xuanyuan.

Xuanyuan didn't say anything, only waving his hand slightly and producing a dense shadow blade. The palm sized blade of shadow cut through the air at a speed exceeding his earlier movement, appearing in front of Tai Yin in a flash.

The girl's eyes seemed to flicker for a moment before she sliced through the air in front of her, cutting straight through the dense shadow blade. The projectile, like flickering shadows, faded within mere moments of been struck down.

'Rank 2 Longsword Gu and Rank 2 Sword Breath Gu... Isn't this a little bit too much? She already has two Rank 2 Gu, and it's completely possible that she might have-'.

Xuanyuan's train of thought was cut off right there, as he felt a gust of wind brush right past his body. Through his Nine Eyes Shadow Gu he could see Tai Yin's figure standing behind him, arm raised, poised to strike.

Shadows As Thought Gu produced dozens of Shadow Thoughts in that moment, causing Xuanyuan to activate Silhouette Strings Gu, Shadow Stinger Gu and Shadow Qi Gu. The shape of his shadow flickered, as dozens upon dozens of tiny shadow strings appeared all around Xuanyuan. 

The otherworldly demon took a step back flexing his five meter long scorpion stinger shooting out towards Tai Yin. The girl in question narrowing her eyes, flicking between Xuanyuan's enormous scorpion tail and the dense network of strings placed around him. Pausing her advance, Tai Yin flicked her free hand sending several sword shadows towards Xuanyuan.

More wisps of Shadow Thoughts rose up from the depths of Xuanyuan's shadow, immediately informing him to avoid the oncoming projectiles. Sidestepping left and right, Tai Yin's eyes widened as she saw the refined movement techniques that Xuanyuan was using.

'He's been a Gu Master for a year now?! And yet his footwork is almost as good as mine is! Tch, so this is what father meant by a genius!'.

Tai Yin knew that Xuanyuan exceeded herself when it came to innate Gu Master talent, but had yet to comprehend the difference between comprehension and understanding. She knew that Gu refinement and nurturing was difficult, but that could be said for all Gu Masters. 

She had bene trained from a young age in martial arts, and in her knowledge about Gu, as well as different beasts and mutated beasts. What she didn't understand was how knowledge, experience, theorizing and subsequently proving those theories led to an increase in attainment.

Tai Yin dodged another dense shadow blade, watching as Xuanyuan anticipated her movements, forcing her to use her Rank 2 Vanishing Wind Gu once more. The Gu practically guaranteed her evasion, but at a high primeval essence cost.

'This turtle shell idiot! I can't get close to him!'.

Not to mention, that Xuanyuan himself neglected to refine any method of proper hand-to-hand combat. As a Gu Immortal, or even a Rank 5 Gu Master, Xuanyuan didn't plan on following such a thing, especially when he knew that other Gu Masters could be much better than him. While others could waste their time on refining their martial arts, Xuanyuan would better spend his time refining Gu.

Xuanyuan narrowed his eyes for a moment, before dismissing his Silhouette Strings Gu. His shadow flickered before being absorbed back into itself, returning back to the darker colour it was previously. 

His large scorpion stinger was raised above his head, poised and ready to strike at Tai Yin. He wouldn't get anywhere just trading blows from afar with her. While his primeval essence sea was larger than her own, with just quality alone, Tai Yin exceeded himself by two small realms.

She would win a war of attrition.

Seeing his Silhouette Strings vanish Tai Yin narrowed her eyes, not responding as she sent two more sword shadows towards Xuanyuan. Enhanced by Sword Breath Gu, the flickering sword shadows didn't even make so much as a sound as they sliced through the air, brushing just by Xuanyuan.

The otherworldly demon just smiled, shaking his head at his opponent.

"Rank 1 Sword Shadow Gu... Rank 2 Longsword Gu... Rank 2 Sword Breath Gu... even Rank 2 Vanishing Wind Gu. I know that the Sword Path possesses extraordinary offensive capabilities, but just those sword shadows were enough to kill a man. Got any other tricks up your sleeve... Little Yin?".

Tai Yin clenched her teeth at Xuanyuan, sending another barrage of sword shadows at him. Despite being a Rank 1 Gu, using the Rank 1 Gu so many times in such a quick succession eventually drained the girl of more than half of her primeval essence.

She just watched as Xuanyuan shook his head, smiling at her.

"You can't even touch my shadow Little Yin. How can you expect to cut me with such... a weak sword?".

In the audience, Tai Yang furrowed his brows and clenched his fist. He knew that his sister knew it was just a provocation. It was just a ploy to get her angry. But still... he knew his sister's pride better than anyone else in the arena.

'Don't fall for it Yin. Don't. You know better', he thought.

Elder Tai raised an eyebrow in the Elders Box, sending a shrug towards the other Elders.

"The girl wants to be strong. If she cannot resist the temptation, then she is as Xuanyuan's says. I have high hopes for her and Yang, and even if they cannot compare to Elder Luo's little monster, she will become an excellent sword for the Sect".

Xuanyuan gazed at Tai Yin, walking towards her slowly. If he wanted to win, he had to do it instantly. There was no messing around testing the depth of the other person. He would win this in a single strike.

If her sword became clouded by anger, by rage or by hate, then Xuanyuan might have a single moment to react. 

"The Sword is unyielding".

"The Sword is decisive".

"The Sword pierces and cuts".

"The Sword... is a tool".

Xuanyuan gazed at Tai Yin, her bright blue eyes meeting his dark black ones. His breath was measured, smooth, and calm. He could see the rise and fall of her chest, the small layer of sweat on her brow.

Even if she wasn't exhausted physically, Xuanyuan could see his words piercing through her, directly at her heart.

"The Sword is just a tool. It obeys the swing of its wielder, an extension of their resolve. If there is no sword in your heart Little Yin... how can you expect to protect yourself from being cut?".

Tai Yin gritted her teeth, almost snarling at Xuanyuan.

"What do you know! You know nothing of my resolve! Nothing of my past! Nothing of what I have fought tooth and nail for in order to obtain! You're a genius! Even more so than anyone in this room! Attainment and comprehension comes to you as surely as the sun is to rise East!".

"And my Sword! My Sword is righteous! My Sword is sharp! My Sword is here in my hand!".

Tai Yin narrowed her eyes at Xuanyuan, raising her sword and pointed it directly at him.

"If I have a Sword in my hand, then it doesn't matter how many times I must strike you Xuanyuan! Once, twice, thrice, even a thousand times if I must! With a Sword in my hand, I will cut a Path of my own to follow!".

In the audience, the Sect Leader, Elder Kong, as well as the three hidden Gu Immortals showed a strange expression, each of them glancing to the other. Elder Kong glanced at the Sect Leader, but the latter showed no change in expression as he watched Tai Yin on the stage.

Immortal Chu let out a sigh, leaning back in his seat.

"Xuanyuan's understanding of the Sword Path exceeds her own. "If there is no sword in your heart... how can you expect to protect yourself from being cut?" Even if he has no attainment in the Sword Path, just understanding that alone would allow Xuanyuan to reach the level of Master right?".

Immortal Di beside him nodded.

"Perhaps. But still, a Sword in ones hand is a better foundation than a Sword in ones heart. If there is no room to grow, then how can they reach the zenith of a Path with such a fundamental flaw in their understanding?".

Immortal Song glanced at the two before returning her gaze back towards the fight. She was interested in Xuanyuan when she heard that he managed to complete two incomplete Shadow Path Gu recipes, even more so when she saw the recipe for his Nine Eyes Shadow Gu.

After realizing the depth and breadth of her knowledge, even she felt envious of a Rank 2 Gu Master.

'If I had half, or even a quarter of his comprehension, it might not have taken me so long to become a Gu Immortal. Additionally, I might have actually refined an Immortal Gu during my Immortal Ascension...'.

Xuanyuan raised an eyebrow before shaking his head.

"Without a Sword in your heart Tai Yin, how can you expect to refine yourself when facing adversity? How can you expect to cut through to the heart of your opponent, if your own heart is beaten and battered under my words? How can you expect to reach the zenith of the Sword, if there is nothing there to dream!".

Xuanyuan's words became more and more heated as he spoke. His normally calm and collected demeanor, shattered as his voice grew louder and louder.

"Your Sword is weak! Your resolve brittle! How can you desire to become stronger, without strength of will, without strength of heart flowing through your veins! I told everyone before didn't I?".

Xuanyuan smacked his chest loudly, so loud he almost didn't notice everything in the arena was silent. Everyone, regardless of whether they were in this batch of disciples, the Rank 3 Gu Master referees, the audience in the stands or the Elders sitting and watching above, watched Xuanyuan roar at Tai Yin.

The girl clenched her fist tightly around the hilt of her blade, and screamed back at Xuanyuan.

"Greater men and women than you have tried reaching Rank 9 Xuanyuan! In three million years, less than a dozen have achieved such a thing! And you think that you have what it takes to become-".

"Yes! Yes I do!", Xuanyuan shouted, interrupting Tai Yin's words.

The emotion in his voice, caused it to crack, making his face seem redder than usual. The expression on his face was raw, eyes wide but brows furrowed.

"I don't care if the odds are against me. I don't care if there are others, more righteous, more demonic, more worthy than I. I don't care if there is someone, whose comprehension and understanding exceeds my own... I want it".

Xuanyuan smiled, his expression honest and forthright. A few girls in the audience blushed, seeing his true smiling expression, but the young man just kept going.

"I want it... more than anything else in the World. I seek knowledge, understanding, truth. With Shadows in one hand, I will obscure the Heavens and the Earth".

Elder Kong unconsciously sat up more straight, and Immortal Chu leaned in a little bit more hearing his words. While not the same, they were... quite similar to something else that they were anticipating.

Xuanyuan stood just a few meters away from Tai Yin, seeing her expression still fierce and unyielding. 

Smiling, he said.

"Even if I have to fight dirty to get there".

And the arena was illuminated in a searing red light.