He had just mocked Zhang Linqing and sworn to defeat Zhang Jiuxiao a moment ago, but everything had gone contrary to his expectations.
Was that man really a member of the side family?
Even the most talented members of the main family were not able to make breakthroughs so frighteningly fast!
"He made two consecutive breakthroughs in a match?" From beneath the stage, Zhang Linqing saw the sight and staggered in shock, nearly fainting in that instant.
He had thought that he had only lost to Zhang Jiuxiao by a hair's breadth, but who would have thought that the other party had much more in him? Before he knew it, the other party was already of the same cultivation realm as him!
To make the breakthrough to Grand Dominion realm, Zhang Linqing had prepared for two whole years and paid a hefty price, but the other party did the same within just a short hour.
Was he still a human?
An uproar broke out amid the crowd below, and even the supervising Elder Fengchen found his throat turning dry.
He had been in the clan for many years, and he had seen plenty of outstanding geniuses. There had also been quite a few who had made breakthroughs in their cultivation during crucial moments in a battle and successfully turned the tables on their opponents, but… to achieve a breakthrough on a whim, and not to mention, in short intervals one after another, this was really the first one that he had seen!
This was not talent anymore but absurdity!
"That dimwit! If he had followed my instructions, he should have already reached the Phantasmal Space realm by now. To still be at Grand Dominion realm pinnacle… just how did I manage to get myself this fool of a disciple?"
In contrast to the shocked crowd, Zhang Xuan was berating Zhang Jiuxiao beneath his breath, angered by his latest disciple's slow progress.
Given the enhancement in Zhang Jiuxiao's bloodline, its partial awakening in the Blood Reservoir, and the impartation of the simplified version of the Heaven's Path Divine Art, he was bound to be able to make consecutive breakthroughs one after another. But an hour had already passed, and he had only raised his cultivation by three stages. This was too freaking slow!
Had he known that the fellow was actually such a dunce, he never would have accepted him as his direct disciple!
This was an embarrassment, a permanent smirch on his clean record!
On the highest platform erected on the sparring grounds, the First Elder was currently stroking his beard calmly while overlooking the duels when an elder suddenly rushed in and whispered something into his ears.
"You said that… an offspring of the side family has managed to advance into the third round?"
"That's right, First Elder!" The elder nodded. "That person is Zhang Jiuxiao. His first opponent was Zhang Linqing, a Grand Dominion realm pinnacle cultivator from the main family. At the start of the match, Zhang Jiuxiao was only at Grand Dominion realm primary stage, but in the course of the battle, he managed to overcome his limits and make a breakthrough, thus defeating the latter in a single move!"
"The fact that he's able to make a breakthrough in the midst of a battle shows that he's a person of incredible mental resilience. There aren't too many members in the Zhang Clan who are able to do that. It seems that even though Zhang Jiuxiao is from the side family, he's a talent that we should keep our eyes on." The First Elder nodded in approval.
It was a consolation to him to see how outstanding the younger generation of the Zhang Clan was.
The elder continued his explanation. "You're right, First Elder. In the second round, Zhang Jiuxiao was faced with Zhang Quanyi, a Half-Phantasmal Space realm cultivator from the main family. He made a breakthrough once more to Grand Dominion realm advanced stage, eventually forcing Zhang Quanyi to execute the Saint high-tier battle technique, Dragon Revolving Art…"
The First Elder nodded again. "The Dragon Revolving Art can be considered one of the stronger Saint high-tier battle techniques. I have seen Zhang Quanyi before; he's a decently talented individual who will become a valuable asset to the Zhang Clan in the future."
A moment later, he glanced at the elder with a look of confusion. "If Zhang Quanyi used the technique while activating his bloodline ability, while its offensive power might be a little lacking, it should have been able to reach a speed far beyond Zhang Jiuxiao's ability to deal with, especially given the significant gap between both of their cultivation. How did Zhang Jiuxiao manage to emerge victorious?"
"This… It's just as you've said, Zhang Jiuxiao was cornered by the technique… so he made another breakthrough and rose to Grand Dominion realm pinnacle," the elder said with a bitter smile.
"He made another breakthrough?" The First Elder was stunned. "You mean to say that Zhang Jiuxiao was at Grand Dominion realm primary stage early in the morning, and he managed to make three consecutive breakthroughs and is currently a Grand Dominion realm pinnacle cultivator right now?"
"Not only so… Based on what we've heard, he was only at Leaving Aperture realm pinnacle a few days back," the elder said.
"To be able to rise to Grand Dominion realm pinnacle that swiftly… that's one whole cultivation realm! Where's that lad?" the First Elder asked anxiously.
"He's on Dueling Ring D, in the midst of fighting against Zhang Ningxin!"
"Zhang Ningxin? The talented grandson of Elder Wuxiao? He should have reached Phantasmal Space realm primary stage, right?" the First Elder asked as he turned his gaze over to Dueling Ring D.
"Indeed. The person standing opposite to him is Zhang Jiuxiao," the elder said.
The First Elder took a closer look and saw that the person facing Zhang Ningxin was a young man in his mid-twenties.
The young man's cultivation was only at Grand Dominion realm pinnacle, and it did not seem that he had practiced any particularly profound battle techniques either, causing his fighting prowess to be slightly lacking. However, his combat sense and ability to adapt in battle were formidable. Zhang Ningxin's attacks were sharp and powerful, such that any other Grand Dominion pinnacle cultivator facing him would have succumbed by now, but the young man was always able to dodge at his attacks at the critical moment in inconceivable ways.
After watching for a while, a deep frown appeared on the First Elder's forehead as he asked, "Don't you find it weird? Given how he's able to dodge Zhang Ningxin's attacks with ease, he must have already seen through his attacks. Since that's the case, why doesn't he try to counterattack?"
So far, the two of them had already traded more than a dozen blows, but despite possessing the higher cultivation, Zhang Ningxin did not appear to be in an advantageous position in this duel. It was as if he was being read like a book; the weaker Zhang Jiuxiao would always move according to whatever attack he was planning to make and dodge it in advance. But since Zhang Jiuxiao had the ability to read Zhang Ningxin's moves, why did he not attempt to counterattack?
It would be foolish to take a constant defensive stance in a battle; defense should only be considered a temporary approach in order to find the perfect opportunity to counterattack. No matter how well Zhang Jiuxiao was dodging Zhang Ningxin's attacks, it was only a matter of time before he slipped up.
Noticing the same problem, the elder pondered for a moment before replying, "I think… he probably has no way to counterattack. After all, there's a huge disparity in their strength."
"No way to counterattack…" the First Elder repeated those words before a thought suddenly came to his mind, and he narrowed his eyes in shock. "No, you're wrong. It isn't that he has no way to counterattack but that… that…"
At this point, the First Elder found himself unable to continue speaking anymore, as if he could hardly believe the thought in his mind.
"What?" The elder looked over with a doubtful look.
"The reason he isn't exerting any strength is so as to conserve it to push for a breakthrough to Half-Phantasmal Space realm!" the First Elder exclaimed with tightly-clenched fists.
"He's conserving his strength?" The elder was stunned. "Didn't he just make a breakthrough to Grand Dominion realm pinnacle?"
"It's precisely because he has just made a breakthrough and depleted his energy that he has to save up as much of it as possible in order to build up the momentum required to push for a breakthrough to higher realms," the First Elder said hoarsely. "Look at his left hand. From the very start of the battle, he has not opened his grip even once!"
"You're right!" The elder nodded in realization.
Zhang Jiuxiao had been placed in several seemingly precarious situations under Zhang Ningxin's relentless offense, but even so, he had still kept his left hand firmly by his side, not releasing his grip at all.
He had thought that this was a battle plan that Zhang Jiuxiao was using, so he did not pay much heed to it then.
"What he's holding in his palm is a pinnacle spirit stone," the First Elder said.
The elder was stunned for a moment before quickly activating his Spiritual Perception. Upon clearly seeing what was in Zhang Jiuxiao's hand, he widened his eyes in disbelief and said, "Does this mean to say that while coping against Zhang Ningxin's offense, he's still absorbing energy from the spirit stone and raising his cultivation?"
"Isn't that obvious?" the First Elder said with a quivering voice.
He had seen plenty of formidable geniuses in his time, but he had never seen one who was that confident in himself!
To be cultivating in the midst of a battle against an opponent far stronger than him… Was he not afraid of death, or did he simply have that much confidence in his strength?
"You are courting death! I was still planning on hiding it, but you are forcing my hand!"
While the two old men were still in shock, on the dueling ring, Zhang Ningxin suddenly bellowed furiously, and his aura began surging up.
"Zhang Ningxin is going to make a breakthrough, too?" the elder exclaimed hoarsely.