“The second duel shall… begin!”
The elder of the Heaven and Earth Arena stepped back towards the end of the arena designated as his post for observing the course of the duel between the two participants.
However, neither Tang Shiqi nor Fang Man adopted combative stances, their auras placid as though engaging in an afternoon tea session.
“What are they doing?”
Suddenly, Tang Shiqi took a step forward towards the center of the stadium, turning around a full circle to face the members of the spectators.
The youth clenched his fingers into a fist before his chest, murmuring a few words below his breath before raising his gaze towards the farthest seated people.
“Today, I, Tang Shiqi, have a message to address to a single person,” Tang Shiqi declared in an even voice devoid of any breaks or signs of nervousness.
The little raven jerked its head to the side, an uneasy premonition arising within its heart.
“I do not know whether that person is there, but I wish to say this regardless. Today, through this match, I shall display that I am not the person you speak of! I am not like the unworthy that you have mentioned, and I shall step over my obstacles to soar into the high heavens!”
That speech, surely it wasn’t directed towards…
The little raven glanced at An Fei, its heart unknowingly laden with a sentimental and jealous expression.
However, to its delight and horror, the young girl seemed equally as confused as the other participants her head tilted to its right with her countenance displaying a pure shade of befuddlement.
Heavens, that lass completely forgot about that incident!?
As the little raven sighed itself to misery at the young girl’s reliable ability to forget seemingly inconsequential details and events, An Fei was truly completely clueless regarding the intention behind the words spoken by Tang Shiqi.
She even had the interesting idea that the youth was attempting to profess his love to another maiden of the Bone Spirit Town that had pitied him after his fiancé ditched him for wealth and prestige.
…after all, the young girl didn’t deign to pay much attention to Tang Shiqi attempting to plead for a single drop of fox blood, leading to the lack of a distinct memory…
But that was a story for another time.
“Young Master Tang, have you finished your speech?”
Fang Man brushed the sleeves of his uniform, his handsome and heavenly countenance dripping with a tinge of sarcasm as he glanced towards the impassioned youth.
Tang Shiqi turned to face the youth from the Tang Clan, his suppressed rage finally bursting through the cracked seams.
“Fang Man, don’t you dare look down onto others!”
The Third Young Master of Tang roared as he dashed forward, the fingers of his right hand curling as though gripping an imaginary tool.
Behind his back, an ephemeral and faint sigil manifested to glare at the world, a slight aura of imperial dignity and domineering might surging throughout the stadium.
“Heavens… what’s that!?”
“An eye – no, are those numbers?”
The spectators gushed with surprise, their expressions reflecting their inability to comprehend the scene.
Even the elder besides the young girl was unable to keep his jaw from striking the floor in his amazement, nearly collapsing into his chair from the shock.
“Physical manifestation of aura… a physical manifestation of aura…” he wheezed, his bony fingers clamped tight onto the handle of the wooden cane.
The sigil was akin to that of a sundial without its central ridge.
Spanning along its circumference were a series of smaller rings that isolated groups of inscriptions of phoenixes, dragons, and lotus petals.
The top of the sundial sported a massive character that symbolized the number ‘one’, the symbol remaining constant amidst the watery backdrop of the sigil.
The spectators constantly made remarks regarding the mystery of the number at the top of the sundial, and whether its unforeseen properties could defeat Fang Man.
An Fei, on the other hand, saw a total of nine characters spanning the first nine numbers; eight were faint and slightly obscured, with only the first revealing a dazzling glow as though it reflected the sun’s brilliance.
All of the sudden, the young girl noticed that the small fox was wriggling inside the leather bag in a fit of agitation.
“Xiao Bai, what’s wrong?” the young girl crooned, her index finger tickling the small fox’s underbelly in an attempt to calm it down.
As An Fei busied herself with coaxing the small fox to relax and free itself from its unusual seizure, the youth from the Fang Clan on the stage of sand sneered at Tang Shiqi, his voice laced with derision as the latter sped towards his chest.
“Young Master Tang, such an impressive display won’t assist you in any fashion, ah!”
Fang Man curled the fingers of his right hand into a tight fist, pronating the wrist counterclockwise for half a rotation before slamming it towards Tang Shiqi’s neck.
The youth of the Fang Clan’s body burst with an invisible pressure, his aura fully expanded to its maximum range.
“Fang Man, as if that would do anything!”
Tang Shiqi roared as he similarly unleashed his aura, causing faint ripples to arise in the atmosphere of the Heaven and Earth Arena.
The youth of the Tang Clan poured strength into the fingers of his right hand, this time curling around a tangible object – one that elicited cries of shock from the spectators and the presiding elder at the same time.
“A weapon!? Conjured from thin air!?”
A pole of brown, metallic material slammed into Fang Man’s extended fist, giving rise to a small shockwave that blew apart a significant portion of the sand below their feet.
“Urgh! You-you conjured a weapon from spiritual essence at the Body Tempering Realm!?”
The youth from the Fang Clan took three steps back from the impact, his impeccable countenance finally distorted with a heavy expression of pain.
Fang Man massaged his injured right hand, glaring at Tang Shiqi with a venomous wrath.
The youth surnamed Tang huffed in response, spinning the metallic pole around his body before stabbing it into the earth with a might strike.
The pole of brown metal stood two meters tall, its presence casting an indomitable shadow to squeeze Fang Man’s heart.
The pole’s appearance was completely plain, perhaps even slightly obscure due to the low quality of the spiritual essence input into the transformation and the hastily rushed procedure.
Hence, close observation realized that only the middle portion of the pole was actually tangible – the majority of the weapon was an illusion conjured by the concept of spiritual essence forming the pole.
To An Fei, such a phenomenon was rewarded by a mere eyebrow raise and a tut of disapproval. The crowd, nonetheless, couldn’t stop gossiping about how Tang Shiqi conjured a weapon from the middle of nowhere.
“Tang Shiqi didn’t bring that weapon in before the fight, right?”
“No way! That pole is much bigger than him – how could the elder not notice?”
“Look! Even the elder from the Heaven and Earth Arena is confused!”
“Do you want to surrender, Fang Man?”
Tang Shiqi spoke with a resolute voice as he leveraged a fierce gaze onto the sore youth from the Fang Clan.
Directing an baleful eye onto the metallic pole that nearly shattered the bones in his right hand, Fang Man sneered to mask his pain.
“That’s an interesting weapon, but can you wield it?” the youth adjusted his body into a light fighting stance, his eyes displaying an uncanny glint.
“Also – don’t be so naïve to think that you can scare me off with a single metal pole, Tang Shiqi!”
Fang Man jeered as his body shot forward towards Tang Shiqi, his palms scavenging ahead to pry the weapon from the former’s grip.
As their auras intermingled and produced the ripple in the atmosphere, An Fei suddenly released a startled cry.
The little raven glanced in concern at the young girl with the shocked expression, its crimson eyes carefully inspecting the cause for An Fei’s scream.
Having come to no conclusions after several minutes of investigation, the little creature sighed before turning around to face the brawl between Tang Shiqi and Fang Man.
Palms collided with metal pole, the shockwaves displacing the sand in their surroundings to reveal a floor of obsidian below their feet.
The sigil behind Tang Shiqi increased in radiance, the first number on the sundial threatening to erupt with a golden brilliance.
In regards to Fang Man, his hands had gradually been coated with a thin filament of indigo light, offering ample protection against the blunt impacts of the pole, whilst increasing the lethality of the blows.
Compared to the initial proceedings of the fight between Meng Peng and Yan Xiao, neither participant had been effectively injured to the extent of coughing up blood.
Tang Shiqi and Fang Man merely pirouetted around the other to attempt to unleash a few additional strikes per exchange, thin beads of sweat dripping from their brow.
And when the palms and metal pole connected for the fifteenth time, An Fei finally obtained a significant clue to her troubles.