But no matter how much issue some may have for this, nothing would change. They had to accept it and go through with it. Now that they were half-way through, there was no backing out and the pressure on them to succeed only grew.
Thus the third day began as single combat was underway.
At each of the arenas, there was a figure flying above them. A judge of sorts, dressed in black robes, overseeing their respective places. One by one they spoke, announcing the two fighters for their arena.
In minutes, some had already concluded and the next participants flew up.
Those who lost could only hold their head up high and leave quietly. For some, this was the furthest they had ever made and for others, they could only blame their luck for losing this early. Those who won felt a bit of relief, though it was short-lived as they still had one other battle to partake in. The first victory meant nothing if they lost in the second round. For them, the pressure only increased even further.
"Ming Yue and Qing Zhao, come up!"
After several hundred battles, Ming Yue was called up. Her opponent, Qing Zhao, was another young woman with a similar build, slim and short. Unlike Ming Yue, she wore light yellow robes and her hair was tied into two buns. She had a very lively expression comprised of a smile and cheerful eyes.
Her weapon was that of Butterfly Swords*, a pair of sharp blades the length of her forearms and a width of seven inches. The blade was slightly curved and featured a wave like pattern on the edges. It was simple but a beautiful pair of weapons.
Both had a similar cultivation, being at the Perception Stage but there was something about Qing Zhao. Akin to a mysterious air but Ming Yue knew that there was more to her. Unfortunately, she did not know much about Qing Zhao other than what she saw. After all, it was nigh impossible to know who she would fight. Thus, she did not even know whether Qing Zhao was an ordinary disciple or an Inheritor.
The pair bowed and took their stance.
Qing Zhao spun her butterfly swords and pointed them at Ming Yue, one sword before the other. MIng Yue unsheathed Driftng Sky, placing the scabbard in her spatial ring.
The judge looked at the two before speaking.
"A mark will have appeared on your bodies. Should either of you forfeit or experience a fatal strike, you will have lost."
He descended down to the arena and stood between them.
As soon as he backed off, the pair moved. Ming Yue started with Phantasmal Wind, disappearing and leaving a ghostly figure in her steps. Emerging behind Qing Zhao, she attacked, aiming for her neck but Qing Zhao was swift. She spun back, crossing her Butterfly Swords together and stopping the blade from touching her neck.Then Qing Zhao retaliated, stabbing forward with her right sword only for Ming Yue to block it with her sword guard.
Ming Yue half-expected Phantasmal Wind to fail. Now that she was in the later stages of the
They began to exchange moves through nothing but their weapons. Neither took a step back, circling each other as their blades danced in the air. With each second they tested each other, both of them tried to feel each others limits.
The blades grew faster and faster, nearly becoming blurs before Ming Yue retreated first.
To her dismay, she could not keep up with Qing Zhao's two swords. They were swift but more importantly, they way she moved them was uncanny. It was different to Ming Yue's swordplay which capitalized on irregular movements, chaotic attacks which seemingly had no rhythm. She could change her attacks seamlessly, from a thrust to a slash, a chop to a smash. Her attacks couls be compared to a wild tempest.
However, Qing Zhao was like a gentle river. There was a flow to her attacks as her blades danced. It was opposite to Ming Yue as she had a rhythm and Ming Yue found herself caught in it.
As soon as Ming Yue dealt with one attack, another was already underway. Qing Zhao's blades would find their way past her guard. Even if Ming Yue stopped her swords in their tracks, they would slide past Drifting Sky. It was like a dance: a graceful and fluid flow of attacks.
What Ming Yue couldn't keep up with was not the speed but that Qing Zhao's attacks was like water. No matter what she did, she could not interrupt Qing Zhao's flow. However, she was not going to be discouraged by this.
If Ming Yue wanted to break her rhythm, she needed something big. With a thought, a simple wind lance formed abover her shoulders.
Qing Zhao looked at her before resuming her stance.
"I guess we're done playing", she said.
Her butterfly swords began to shimmer under the sunlight, it was as if a thin layer of mist covered it. Ming Yue off-hand had transformed as wind gathered, becoming the Zephyr Claws.
They moved almost simultaneously, one left a fading image in their wake while the other simply vanished into mist. At the core of the arena, their blades met with the sharp ring of metal hitting each other. This time Qing Zhao blocked Ming Yue's sword with only one of her blades while the other slipped through, aimed for her neck.
However, Ming Yue was prepared for it. With the Zephyr Claws, she grabbed the blade as it came inches to the side of her neck. With the claws grinding into it, she gripped tightly, not allowing Qing Zhao to pull it back.
Then the wind lance came, bursting through the air as it descended onto Qing Zhao.
"Serpent of the Mist!"
Qing Zhao surrounded her body in mist, slipping away and avoidng the wind lance.
"World of the Spring Mist"
Suddenly, the mist began to thicken and expand, surrounding the arena and making it difficult for one to see in or out. Surrounded, Ming Yue saw nothing but the hazy white of this mist. It seemed to dampen her senses but she was alert. She formed another wind lance and prepared to disperse the mist.
Then, a chill ran down her neck and she immediately pulled her head back. A single sword flew past, missing her by a few centimeters. Then it disappeared into the fog, she attacked only to catch air. The mist was so thick that she could not even see the hand that held it. The wind lance tht she tried to form was gone.
"This isn't good", she thought.
Any attempt she made to disperse the fog would be interrupted by an attack from Qing Zhao. If she divided even a fraction of her concentration, she might fall victim to the fog. She needed that fog gone or she was nothing but a sitting duck. What was worse was that she could not even sense Qing Zhao's presence which had been masked by the fog.
As she found herself in this predicament, Elder Xiang and Elder Hua were watching from the tower. With the fog in their way, they could not see what was happening inside.
The Grand Elder seemed to notice their attention towards Ming Yue's fight.
"She's the girl you brought back right, Elder Hua?" he asked.
"Yes, Grand Elder."
The Medicinal Elder looked at him and nodded, giving him a curt reply.
The Grand Elder watched MIng Yue's arena, his eyes seemed to glimmer with a golden light before returning to their normal luster.
"Not a bad, not bad at all. I can see why you wanted her to join the Institution. Though, her opponent is a bit troublesome, Qing Zhao, an Inheritor of the Assassin Hall."
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