When Lin Yun left on his journey, he doubted that he would run into anyone from the sect while he was away. After all, the chances of encountering someone from the Azure Sky Sect dwindled the farther he travelled and it had taken him three days on horseback to get to the Hundred Flower Field. The odds of him encountering the young sect master so far into the mountains were absurd. What reason did he have to be out here in the first place?
The previous Lin Yun had interacted with Bai Yufan a handful of times during his tenure as a sword slave, but there was a good chance Bai Yufan would not remember him. He was the young sect master of the Azure Sky Sect, after all, and, before Su Ziyao’s arrival, was the strongest disciple in the sect. Even now, he was still a member of the Aquasky Nation’s four great elites.
It was rumored that the only reason Su Ziyao wasn’t a member of the great elites herself was because she was too powerful. As for how reliable the rumor was, Lin Yun had no idea. It sounded ridiculous to him.
Lin Yun’s interest was piqued. He’d never witnessed a fight of this caliber before, these two were about his age. There was a good chance he could learn a thing or two by attending. Besides, money was no longer an issue and he had plenty of time to complete his final mission. He could spare a few hours to watch a fight.
“Well, I guess I’ll go see just how powerful these four great elites are.”
The flow of the people led him to the eastern side of the city. The area was spacious, seemingly designed for events and pop-up markets. The wide streets had plenty of space for stalls and merchant rugs on either side and converged into a massive plaza. A huge crowd was gathered around a large stage that sat in the plaza’s center.
There was only one man on the stage at the moment. Dressed in the robes of the Azure Sky Sect, Bai Yufan stood above the crowd. His elegant demeanor paired well with his naturally graceful movements, giving him an aura of dignity fitting for a young sect master.
Lin Yun recognized him immediately. It appeared Bai Yufan had been waiting for a long time as both him and the crowd were restless. Just as the first handful of people started making their way for the exit, a loud noise came from inside a pavilion at the far end of a western road. In a bout of commotion, a blur of a man launched from the pavilion window.
He traveled the entire length of the quarter-mile long street in a single shot before taking three delicate steps mid-air to slow his descent and carry him gently onto the stage.
“Liu Yunfei is here!”
“What a brilliant movement technique! He kicked off the air three times! How on earth did he do that?”
“It must be the Cloud Mist Art of the Violet Ember Sect. Bai Yufan doesn’t stand a chance this time! Liu Yunfei is even more powerful than before!”
“You’re late,” Bai Yufan greeted, clearly annoyed.
“Time is relative. If it makes you feel any better, I’ll be ending this fight quickly,” Liu Yunfei smiled.
Lin Yun was shocked that someone who seemed so refined would be so disrespectful to a sect master.
With a solemn expression, Bai Yufan snorted, “You seem to have forgotten the immensity of Heaven and Earth.”
As the words left his mouth, he unleashed his aura completely.
Eighth stage of the Martial Path!
This was the first time Lin Yun had seen someone this far on the Martial Path release their aura. It was simply incredible. The difference between him and the sect master seemed almost insurmountable.
The playfulness in Liu Yunfei’s voice faded as he replied, “It looks like you’ve made some improvements over the past year.”
Liu Yunfei unleashed his aura as well to the elation of the crowd. A battle of titans was about to begin. The noise in the plaza was deafening.
However, the two of them did not clash immediately, both taking time to build their strength. They stood a hundred meters apart but their eyes were sharp. This distance was nothing to practitioners of their caliber. Even at this distance, one wrong move would lose them the fight.
The tension was palpable. Most in the crowd were holding their breath and none dared blink. After all, a fight between the two experts at the eighth stage wasn’t something that you could see every day. They didn’t want to miss a second!
Lin Yun frowned. Something was off. The two might seem evenly matched, but Liu Yunfei’s aura was incredibly calm.
In a burst of wind and splinters, Bai Yufan charged Liu Yunfei. As he closed the gap, he drew his elbows back so his palms sat even with his chest and faced his opponent. The motion was incredibly smooth, as if he’d done it thousands of times.
Mountain Splitting Palm!
It was one of the Azure Sky Sect’s advanced martial techniques! Similar to the Mountain Splitting Blade Lin Yun had sold a few minutes earlier, one could cleave a mountain in two if they achieved a high enough level of mastery.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
The stage cracked beneath his feet as he stormed Liu Yunfei. It seemed he was trying to end the fight in the first move. All of the strength he had built up at the start of the fight had been put into this attack. When he closed in, he threw out both palms. They flew like arrows loosed from a high pound bow, generating two blasts so strong the entire stage shook.
Liu Yunfei faced it without dodging and simply flicked a finger at Bai Yufan.
Bai Yufan went careening backwards, soaring several meters into the air as he flew offstage!
It had only been visible for a fraction of a second, but Lin Yun had been watching each move closely. When Liu Yunfei had executed his move, his entire finger had turned green.
Despite the sudden reversal, Bai Yufan remained calm. He twisted his body mid-flight and coiled his legs. As his feet came in contact with a second story wall of a nearby building, he spread out his arms and formed his hands into talons before unleashing the stored tension in his legs. He launched off the wall with such force that shingles came loose and fell to the street below. His eyes locked onto Liu Yunfei’s throat as he ripped through the air.
The Eagle Palm Art!
Lin Yun could not believe what he was seeing. Bai Yufan had not simply recovered from a terrible situation, he turned it in his favor! His awareness of the battlefield was unprecedented. Most practitioners forgot the world offstage existed as soon as the fight started.
To top it all off, the fight was only a few seconds in and he had already shown mastery in two different martial techniques. His mastery of the Eagle Palm Art made Zhou Ping’s version look like satire. This man truly deserved his place as the young Sect Master of the Azure Sky Sect.
Bai Yufan struck Liu Yunfei hard with both palms before kicking off his chest to create space. This time, Bai Yufan had successfully taken the initiative. When he landed, he stretched out his arms and readied his talons for another attack.
Liu Yunfei managed to stabilize himself after taking a few steps back.
Lin Yun had never been more inspired to train in his entire life. In his current state, he wouldn’t last ten moves against either of them. In just a blink of an eye, the two of them had clashed nearly ten times.
Bai Yufan’s had an advantage, but only slightly. As had just been shown, practitioners of their caliber could turn even the most dire situations in their favor. The fight was still too close to call.
Suddenly, Liu Yunfei began to flicker in and out of existence. Afterimages spread out on either side of him in layers, each one a perfect copy of his casual stance and wry smile. When the furthest afterimages were a half meter away, they snapped back to their origin and Liu Yunfei vanished.
He reappeared almost instantly behind Bai Yufan, stabbing his finger into the young sect master’s back. Bai Yufan barely had enough time to tense his muscles before he went skipping across the stage.
Wisps of green aura emanated from Liu Yunfei’s body as he pounced at Bai Yufan. His palm glowed jade green as he caught up to the young sect master mid-tumble.
Bai Yufan cursed. He mustered as much strength as he could and faced the palm head-on. Liu Yunfei drove his palm into Bai Yufan’s chest, stopping him dead in his tracks.
The force of the blow bounced the young sect master off the floor like a ball. Blood sprayed from his mouth and he clutched his chest as he desperately gasped for air. Bai Yufan writhed as he tried and failed to stand. His internal organs had been injured, and he was powerless to continue fighting. It was a devastating reversal.
“Your… Your Violet Cloud Art reached the fifth stage?!” asked Bai Yufan, his voice thin.
The Violet Cloud Art was the Violet Ember Sect’s best cultivation manual. Each stage was represented by a change in colors. Upon reaching the highest, the sixth stage, the practitioner’s internal energy would turn violet. Green signified that Liu Yunfei had reached the fifth stage.
“Defeated in ten moves. Like I said, you’re not my rival. In this year’s four sects competition, there’s only one person I consider my equal,” Liu Yunfei smiled, ignoring Bai Yufan’s question. He didn’t spare Bai Yufan a second glance and left.
Bai Yufan’s face twisted. His heart writhed from the humiliation. Liu Yunfei had spat on his honor and there was nothing he could do about it.
“The outcome of this battle is simply unbelievable.”
“Yeah, ending the fight in just ten moves. I thought it would take hundreds.”
“Liu Yunfei has improved so much over the past year. Who knew his Violet Cloud Art would be in the fifth stage...”
“It looks like it's up to Su Ziyao to beat him.”
“Hahaha, Were we watching the same fight? She doesn’t stand a chance.”
“I don’t know… I heard Su Ziyao has also beaten Bai Yufan.”
“Bai Yufan’s strong, sure, but look at him! He got destroyed!”
Surrounded by hearsay and speculation, Lin Yun remained silent. As the saying went: ”The insider knows the ropes, while the outsider just comes along for the ride.” Thanks to his keen eyesight, Lin Yun had been able to see the truth hidden within the battle.
Liu Yunfei’s reversal was a prime example. He had won by attacking Bai Yufan from behind, but it had only landed because his movement technique had caught the young sect master by surprise.
The truth was that Bai Yufan had been expecting an attack from behind from the start of the battle. His entire strategy had been based around maintaining distance, only dashing in for a few quick strikes before backing off again. He had done this successfully three times before he was caught off guard.
A technique that could teleport you behind your opponent with little to no warning was absurdly powerful. The afterimages had only been visible for a fraction of a second. There was no way Bai Yufan could know what was happening without having seen it before.
To a layman, a game of chess between grandmasters is no different than a game between amateurs. Both groups move pieces around the board until someone loses or they draw. They have no way to contextualize what they are seeing, and so both sets of players appear to be equally skilled. It isn’t until the amateurs face the grandmasters that the layman can see the difference.
To Lin Yun, the crowd was no different than the layman. They could not begin to appreciate the complexity of what they had just witnessed.