The opponents were attempting to heap pressure on him, aiming to launch the decisive blow when he finally exposed an opening in his defenses. Such a move might have worked against Zhang Jiuxiao, but against him? A piece of cake!
Putting aside the fact that his Soul Depth had already achieved a level equivalent to 8-star high-tier master teachers, even if it was beneath the other party's, there was no way such simple tricks would work on him.
That single step forward may appear to be nothing much, but to those young men, they felt as if a towering mountain was crushing down on them, placing them in a fluster.
Following which, the pressure that they had exerted on Zhang Xuan was immediately returned to them, causing their minds to spin wildly.
"Terpsichorean art?" Zhao Xingmo's eyebrows shot up.
Even though Zhang Xuan's hands remained firmly behind his back, Zhao Xingmo had sensed a soul offense belonging to that of a terpsichore for a split instant. Not only did it wipe away the pressure from the wills of the two young men cleanly, it even struck terror into their hearts.
To be able to see through the psychological attack and even return the favor in an instant, causing the two listening-in students of the Sanctum of Sages to suffer a setback… that fellow was not bad.
"Begin," Zhao Xingmo declared impassively.
To an outsider, it would not seem as if there was anything peculiar to his voice. However, to the two young men, it sounded just like a bolt of lightning, jolting them awake from their daze.
"Damn it!" Realizing that they had fallen from Zhang Xuan's counterattack, their faces reddened in fury as their eyes narrowed menacingly.
They had come here to teach the young man a lesson, but before they could accomplish anything, they had ended up falling for the young man's counterattack and lost themselves. The intense frustration they felt from this failure left them with a blazing inferno raging inside their bodies.
Driving their zhenqi furiously, they sealed the space around Zhang Xuan. After which, the two of them dashed forward simultaneously, and two palms struck down on Zhang Xuan simultaneously, one from the front and one from the back.
Their assault was perfectly coordinated with one another, such that even if their opponent succeeded in avoiding one of the attacks, they would never be able to avoid the other. Even a Leaving Aperture realm primary stage expert would have found it hard to escape from their collaborative offense.
However, it was a pity that even though Zhang Xuan was no Leaving Aperture realm expert, he wielded fighting prowess comparable to a Leaving Aperture realm advanced stage cultivator, far beyond the likes of them.
A glint flashed across his eyes as he began moving his lips.
"It seems like both of you are attacking the wrong target…"
His words carried a unique melody reminiscent of the whisperings of a lover, causing the faces of the duo to redden upon hearing it.
In an instant, the palms that were heading for Zhang Xuan's body abruptly changed their trajectory to strike the other instead.
Two deep moans sounded, and the two young men were sent flying.
They had intended to assault Zhang Xuan together, but somehow… it turned into a battle between themselves instead!
"Demonic tune?" Zhao Xingmo was startled for a moment before his eyebrows shot up. "Is he trying to warn me?"
Previously, when the two listening-in students had fallen for Zhang Xuan's terpsichorean art, he used his voice to jolt them back from their trance. While he had done it very discreetly, it seemed like the other party had still noticed it, and he was using the same method to turn them against one another.
The provocation behind his intention was clear.
Demonic tunes? I know some, too!
It was a clear warning toward him against interfering with the duel.
"What an interesting fellow!"
This realization did not anger Zhao Xingmo. Instead, it only served to deepen his interest in Zhang Xuan.
Those who were qualified to enroll into the Sanctum of Sages were either the offspring of the Sage Clans or unparalleled geniuses of the Master Teacher Continent. In either case, they were destined to become the leaders of humanity, taking charge of a region to guard mankind from other threats. If they dared not speak up in the face of injustice, it would really be doubtful if they had the necessary qualities to become one of the powerhouses of the Master Teacher Continent.
In a sense, Zhao Xingmo's previous action was an intentional attempt to goad a response from Zhang Xuan. He wanted to see how the young man who had been so highly complimented by Pavilion Master Wu would react.
But who would have thought that the young man would actually return the favor straight to him, not allowing anyone to wrong him at all?
With such a mentality, if he could set his mind to furthering the prosperity of mankind, he would surely become a valuable asset to the world.
"However, those who are able to become the listening-in students of the Sanctum of Sages don't make easy opponents either. Given that he has already revealed his cards as a terpsichore and demonic tunist, it'll be hard for him to survive the remaining two blows," Zhao Xingmo analyzed with a smile.
Just to become a listening-in student of the Sanctum of Sages, one would still have to clear several rigorous examinations. If Zhang Xuan thought that he would be able to defeat those two young men just by relying on his prowess in demonic tunes and terpsichorean arts, he would really be looking down on his opponents.
As expected, even while they were retreating, they had already shaken themselves out from their trance, and killing intent flickered within their eyes.
They had gone there to invigilate the candidates, not to be toyed around with!
Yet, they had actually been humiliated time and time again by a mere fellow from the remote countryside. This had left them feeling deeply embarrassed.
"Fortify your soul—he specializes in soul attacks!" bellowed the young man on the left.
At the same time, he thrust his palm slightly behind him and successfully halted his retreating figure. Following which, he clenched his fists together, and the space before him froze.
Despite being only at Primordial Spirit realm intermediate stage, he was actually able to execute Spatial Seal, a technique that only Leaving Aperture realm cultivators should have been able to wield!
The young man on the right had also noticed this much by now, and he furiously drove his zhenqi and clenched his fist.
The Spatial Seals cast by the two of them immediately compounded upon one another, causing the entire area to feel like an invisible marshland. Any attempt to move was met with overwhelming resistance, making it an arduous task to even take a single step forward or backward.
"Impressive." Zhang Xuan nodded slightly in approval.
Under normal circumstances, if two cultivators were to attempt to overlap their Spatial Seals, it was likely that their Spatial Seals would conflict with one another and cause destructive interference instead of constructive interference. As a result, the Spatial Seal would be weakened instead of fortified.
It was for this reason that Leaving Aperture realm experts did not fare that well in group fights.
But astoundingly, the two young men were actually able to harmonize their Spatial Seals together with one another perfectly. This was a sight to behold, even for Zhang Xuan.
As expected of students from the Sanctum of Sages, their grasp over their techniques was indeed far superior to ordinary cultivators!
While there was no doubt that the compounded Spatial Seals was powerful, and no ordinary Primordial Spirit realm cultivator would ever be able to escape from it, to Zhang Xuan, breaking out of the compounded Spatial Seals was really a walk in the park. He took two steps forward and tapped on the area in front of him.
As if an invisible balloon had been popped, air currents began leaking out furiously into the surroundings.
The two young men had not thought that Zhang Xuan would be able to overcome their Spatial Seals so easily, and they suffered an energy backlash as a result of it. The both of them simultaneously took two steps back as their faces turned ghastly pale.
"It has been two moves… It should be about time for me to make a move now!" Zhang Xuan said with a smile.
As long as he could withstand three moves from them, it would be considered his victory. He had allowed the two young men to attack him as they pleased for the previous two moves, so the least he could do was return the favor for the last move!
The eyebrows of the duo shot up. They swiftly got into a unique formation, and an indomitable aura began drifting between them. In their current form, even a Leaving Aperture realm intermediate stage expert would have to fall back temporarily against them.
At this point, they had also realized that the young man before them was no ordinary cultivator, and they dared not let their guards down anymore.
Despite facing such an overwhelming aura, Zhang Xuan calmly clasped his fist and said, "Allow me to apologize in advance for any injuries that you might sustain later on."
"You are courting death!"
The two young men nearly exploded on the spot! The other party had not even made his move, but he was already apologizing to them. He was clearly looking down on them!
Why don't you brag after you have achieved victory?
Fueled by their rage, all their strength poured out unreservedly, whipping up deadly air currents that threatened to tear the entire hall down.
A shockwave rippled into the surroundings, leaving a searing sensation on the skin of those standing in the area.
"They are really strong…" Zhang Jiuxiao's face paled.
In this moment, he finally realized why Zhao Xingmo was so confident that they would not be able to withstand three moves from the two young men. Putting everything else aside, just the sheer might of this move would be able to tear apart every single secret art he had learned in the past!
Worried for Zhang Xuan, he quickly turned his gaze over, only to see the latter calmly standing his ground, not bothering to dodge at all. Without using any battle techniques or complicated maneuvers, he simply raised his hand and struck at them as an ordinary human would strike down a fly.
"Let's end this."
As these leisurely-sounded words echoed in the air, the furious outburst of zhenqi around the two young men abruptly vanished, as if it had never appeared before at all. In the next moment, the two men were knocked flying as if ping pong balls.
They were smacked right into the wall, and buckets of blood spewed from their mouths.
Despite gathering all their might together, those two listening-in students of the Sanctum of Sages could not even withstand a single slap from Zhang Xuan!
After knocking the duo flying, Zhang Xuan calmly raised his gaze to look at Zhao Xingmo. The perfect nonchalance on his face made it seem as if he had only done something insignificant, unworthy of mention.
"Does this mean that I have passed?"
Zhao Xingmo was also startled for a moment before nodding slowly. "You have overcome their collaboration with a single strike, and it's clear that you haven't even used your full strength. You have passed!"
At the same time, Zhao Xingmo could not help but feel a little perplexed.
In the first two moves, it was apparent that Zhang Xuan had gone easy on them. Or else, given that the two young men had their guards down, he would have been able to knock them out easily given his proficiency in terpsichorean arts and demonic arts. Since that was the case… why did he suddenly go overboard in the last move?
It might have seemed like a trivial detail, but Zhao Xingmo felt like there might have been more to it.
Could it have been that even Zhang Xuan was pressured before the combined might of the duo, so he did not want to take any risks?
Zhang Xuan turned around and said, "Thank you! Jiuxiao, it's your turn. You should be able to survive three moves from them."
"My turn? Now?" Zhang Jiuxiao was taken aback.
The two young men were currently still pressed into the wall, severely wounded. Surely it would not be good for him to attack them at that moment.
"Un. There are two of them, and there are two of us here. Thus, even though I have just fought with them, surely it will be fair for you to face them right after," Zhang Xuan replied with a smile.
"Ah, I see! Alright!" Hearing those words, Zhang Jiuxiao immediately understood Zhang Xuan intentions.
The latter was trying to help him clear the Selection of Sages! He had intentionally executed a heavy blow for the final move so as to injure them and grant him an advantage in the battle!
This way, he would stand a chance at surviving three moves from them.
It might have been a little despicable, but considering that a slot for the Sanctum of Sages was at stake, he swiftly vanquished all of the hesitation in his mind and stepped forward. Clasping his fist at the duo pressed against the wall, he said, "I'll be in your care."
"You two… Damn it!"
Hearing the conversation between the two and seeing that Zhang Jiuxiao shamelessly stepped forward to challenge them in their injured state, the two young men felt so indignant that they could have exploded on the spot.
How can there be such shameless people in the world?
We are already injured to this state, and even standing up would be difficult for us. How can we possibly fight you like that?
"Zhao shi has said that as long as we can withstand three moves from the two of you, he will consider adding another slot to our Qingyuan Empire. If the two of you think that you aren't up to the fight, I suggest that you surrender," Zhang Xuan said.
"You want us to surrender and let you win so easily? Dream on!"
"Even if we have to put our lives on the line, we will make sure that you don't survive three moves from us!"
Gritting their teeth, the two young men forced themselves out of the wall and began preparing themselves for a second round.
"Enough! Stand down, both of you!" Zhao Xingmo waved his hand.
"But Zhao shi…" The young men panicked.
They knew that they had failed their responsibilities this time around. They were supposed to invigilate all qualified candidates, but they ended up being nearly incapacitated after the first battle. Zhao shi must have been really mad at them at the moment.
"Don't worry, this isn't your fault. This was all part of Zhang shi's plan." Zhao Xingmo waved his hand to allay the worries of the two young men before standing up himself.
"I'll assess Zhang Jiuxiao personally!" 5 Best Chinese Romance Books of 2018 So Far