Chapter 43: Paragon!
Xu Yangyi’s and Chu Zhaonan’s gazes collided together in midair like the screech of gold and iron. At the same time, the same intent could be seen within both of their eyes. An appreciation for the other’s talent.
Xu Yangyi’s lips moved, and Chu Zhaonan believed himself not to have seen it clearly, yet he discovered that he now saw it clearer than anyone else. Without a doubt, he had seen the words his counterpart had said.
“Fuck!” Chu Zhaonan laughed heartily and swiftly raised his hands up. At this instant, sound became void. All that remained were the two figures on the arena stage, two silhouettes dripping with blood. A silent yet seemingly sonorous fluctuation stirred the emotions of every cultivator who had just entered the path of cultivation, and even their seniors.
Swish! In the next second, two qi blades arrived in front of Chu Zhaonan. The last shred of spiritual force within his body drifting away, Xu Yangyi exerted all of his power to slash down without the slightest hesitation! At the same time, two black muzzle holes were already leveled before him.
“Beneath the still moon, jade glimmers with a flash of gold.” 
Boom! Boom! Two cannon-fire-like blazes suddenly erupted between the duo! It appeared as if a small bomb detonated on stage, and a crimson shockwave, visible to the naked eye, violently exploded!
Smoke and dust filled the sky and rubble flew into the air. No one could clearly see what was going on inside. Firecloud didn’t use his spiritual sense to survey and neither did Shadowslay.
This battle could be said to be a bitter one. The loser wouldn’t be disgraced in this duel, and the blood-covered winner would have seized the top ranking. For his spiritual sense to enter the battlefield would be a blasphemy to the dignity of cultivators. It was tantamount to provocation. They didn’t want to provoke these two youths with boundless prospects.
“In several decades… I will be waiting for them in Foundation Establishment.” Firecloud said heavily.
“Indeed.” Shadowslay said complicatedly and his gaze flickered.
“Who’s going to take the paragonship?!”
“Have both of them used all their power already?”
The champions had nearly rushed into the qi walls to see the result, but they weren’t able to enter. These were qi walls that not even Great Circle Foundation Establishment cultivators could enter, crafted by the hands of a Core Formation master. Even if they were hurried, they could only wait in vain.
At the center of the qi walls, spirit waves roiled and sand covered the sky. It was at this time… an earth-shaking hum was heard with a rumble.
Huuuuuuum… Everyone’s gaze was immediately drawn in amidst the wait.
“My… god…” An initial-stage Qi Condensation woman covered her mouth, looking at the forty-plus steles erected around the stadium like she had seen a ghost.
“It’s not…” A mortal from a cultivation clan raised his head incredulously, his Adam’s apple bobbing in fright. He simply dared not believe his eyes.
An old woman stood up in shock, the veins of her hand propped on her walking stick were completely revealed. Her lips trembled as she looked at everything in front of her.
A youth seemed to be a puppet on strings, wordlessly rising. He firmly pursed his lips, uttering not a single word.
Smoke and dust, all that could be seen again was smoke and dust. Before the first cloud even dissipated, a second took its place.
Only this time… it wasn’t the smoke and dust of stone, but rather that of qi! A heavy downpour of qi! An ocean of qi! At this moment, the remaining forty-plus steles unexpectedly all shattered! In this year’s Nantong Province grand paragonship competition, all the stone steles of paragons years past had completely crumbled into pieces!
There were no tremors or rocking. Not even the breaking of crawling cracks. In five seconds, merely five seconds, forty heavy sounds collectively rang out! All of the steles transformed into motes of qi!
At this moment, there were great changes beneath the four simple characters of Unrivaled Beneath the Heavens. The ocean of qi motes revolved and faded away. As if it was a dream or illusion, it was reflected in everyone’s incredulous expressions, appearing like an immortal realm in the human world.
No one spoke, there wasn’t a single person that said a thing. Their gazes had come together on the final stone stele! A nameless stele! The only stone stele that hadn’t shattered into pieces! After the nation’s founding, he was China’s number one cultivation talent!
It didn’t sway, and it didn’t so much as tremble. However… within everyone’s gaze, there was a cracking noise.
A crack! This was the first time a crack had appeared on Sunnihilator’s nameless stele!
Crack crack crack. It wasn’t a minor crack whatsoever. From the bottom of the center, it rushed straight up to the peak! Above the masses of stone steles, the crack seemed as if it wanted to split this nameless stele in half!
“Huff…” Firecloud’s absent-minded voice charged into his own ears. He had discovered that at some unknown point, he had already advanced forward a few paces and both of his hands were supported on the audience stands. A sea of complexities welled up in his heart.
This level of talent… was ranked completely above his own! It left a Foundation Establishment cultivator like him incapable of NOT being envious! Talent wasn’t able to determine future accomplishments, but it could decide one’s starting point!
His gaze swept over the present scene, a domain of tranquil silence… and each person watching the stone stele in shock. Of every major power and great clan, no one spoke, yet merely the burning passion in their eyes had already betrayed them.
They couldn’t wait much longer! As they continued to wait… everyone present was waiting on the true fire to come!
Firecloud’s gaze suddenly flickered, and after passionately looking towards the arena stage, he pursed his lips several times and finally gritted his teeth. With a gentle wave of his hand, a command tablet appeared, and a green light-beam immediately hit the qi walls. Through the gap, humanoid figures slowly emerged. He promptly split the air apart with a palm, and all the smoke and dust instantly vanished as if it had run into a squall.
As the dust settled, two silhouettes were revealed on stage.
Two people sat down on the floor with hardly any form. An outcome just couldn’t be seen. From Chu Zhaonan’s right shoulder to his stomach, there was a wound so terrifying that nearly his internal organs were visible. As for Xu Yangyi, his right pectoral had been mutilated, and he sat down facing the other like a piece of a dead piece of coal.
“Why are you so strong?” After a while, Chu Zhaonan faintly asked.
“It’s nothing.” Xu Yangyi laughed, “Because you’ve already found your enemies. To this day, only I still shoulder the things you’ve already set down.”
Silence. It wasn’t until after a long period of time did Chu Zhaonan say heavily, “Is it because I have no goal…?”
“Maybe?” Xu Yangyi covered his chest and chuckled. “Did you know, everytime I wanted to be lazy, I thought about my parents watching me in heaven…? I didn’t dare to goof off. I remember in my childhood when I was going to school that they took me to a stationery store in a little town and picked out school bags for me one by one…”
None heard what they were saying. This was the very minimum respect that they could offer.
Chu Zhaonan didn’t open his mouth and silently listened.
“Afterwards… they put a ruler in my pencil case and then the sharpened pencils…”
“I didn’t like eating vegetable, but they would always force me to eat them… so, I invested hell of a lot more effort than everyone else. I guarantee that even in comparison to the greatest effort you can imagine, it was still more painstaking.”
“Over the past ten-something years, I haven’t even spent a lot of time on the internet. I don’t have many friends. I don’t even have time to rest…” Xu Yangyi proudly clenched his fist. “But if I am not strong, then who is?”
Not a person opened their mouths. At this moment, atop the crack-covered arena stage and under the four massive characters overhead of Unrivaled Beneath the Heavens, Chu Zhaonan and Xu Yangyi were like Ye Gucheng and Ximen Chuixue at the summit of the Forbidden City after they had discussed the sword, slowly having a heart-to-heart conversation. 
“So that’s how it is…” It was unknown how much time had passed until a wisp of a pained smile revealed itself on Chu Zhaonan’s face. “I accept my defeat wholeheartedly.” Before his voice even fell, Chu Zhaonan’s back suddenly ruptured, and a horrific wound in the shape of a cross extended over his entire back!
Blood spurted out like a fountain! His complexion was deathly white, and the heavens spun and the earth revolved with his head at the center. He had already fallen on top of the arena stage with a boom and immediately blacked out.
In the next second, Xu Yangyi’s entire body seemed to become a sieve, and tiny blood arrows wildly jetted out in a similar fashion. They had become blood humans in less than five seconds, however, Xu Yangyi stood up. Chu Zhaonan was already lying down. A soundless conclusion held the words to explain everything.
Within a scope of a hundred meters on the arena stage, not a single stone in good condition could be seen. These chaotic spider-web cracks were everywhere, along with some black pits that were a few meters deep. Of the exposed flesh of the two people on stage, there was almost no place left unscathed. There were bloodstains all over their bodies, yet their expressions weren’t very caring.
All around, there were originally more than 120 stone steles, but there was only one nameless stele left now. This nameless stele was still extremely striking to the eye, a giant scar cracking it down the middle.
“Chu Zhaonan lost…” The flesh of Shadowslay’s face faintly trembled. “An A4 student who possesses Gun Kata… has actually lost to a student that only knows the Hundred Solutions…”
Chu Tianyi’s face turned paper-white, his finger still pressed on top of his ring. He painfully shut his eyes, trembling fiercely. He finally understood… even if it was him, he still had his naive moments.
This wasn’t his first time witnessing a battle between cultivators. In the past, he had watched them in videos, so he was unable to experience the direct sensation akin to a landslide or tsunami. Thus, he believed that he could use the Immortal Intoxication, which he had brought with him, yet was in fact given a resounding slap to the face.
It couldn’t be used...
Or perhaps it should be said that it couldn’t be used in his hands.
However, there was no way that he could possibly hand the prize over to anyone else! The ring he had touched countless of times and let go of countless of times and the twinkling opportunity had passed away like so. Ultimately, he couldn’t find a chance.
Firecloud sucked in deeply, but just as he was going to speak, a fiery voice echoed from the audience.
“Senior Firecloud, since the outcome has already been decided… wouldn’t it be better to hurry up and release the seal and let those two Fellow Daoists come out first?”
Firecloud’s words choked to death in his throat, and his gaze cut past like a knife.
Who?! Who was this?! He still hadn’t expressed his good will; who was so anxious?! Didn’t they see that Xu Yangyi and Chu Zhaonan were still spitting up blood?! Didn’t they see the chaos of the present scene?! He was still considering how to rope these two in. Who was in such a rush? How would he scare everyone else off?
He glanced at an old man at the Great Circle of Qi Condensation, only a step short of entering Foundation Establishment. The disparity between Qi Condensation and Foundation Establishment was like that of heaven and earth. He wouldn’t put such a cultivation in his eyes, but the flame crest on the other’s chest and the character Li (李) at the center of it made his eyelids jump.
A million cultivators, thirty thousand in Foundation Establishment, and a branch in each province. It wasn’t only the major powers that had Foundation Establishment cultivators.
If he hadn’t remembered incorrectly… although he really did want to, Fengyi’s Li Clan was Nantong Province’s number one cultivation clan. Since they had three Foundation Establishment cultivators under their house, he didn’t wish for some misunderstanding to occur between him and them at all.
Firecloud swept his eyes in passing, taking a look at several thousand pairs of black wolf-like eyes. That was right… The Qualifier had come to an end and the proceeding stage… would perhaps be even crueler than the Qualifier!
He silently tightened his hand at his back, a delicate capsule clenched in his palm. This was the Gold Spirit Pill that he was originally prepared to give to Chu Zhaonan and Xu Yangyi, but now...
“Paragon, Yuyang City’s Xu Yangyi.”
Suppressing the unwillingness in his heart, his gaze swept past the VIP seats. Several shadows had already stood up without the slightest hesitation.
1. 浮光跃金，静影沉璧 - Beneath the still moon, jade glimmers a flash of gold. A difficult aspect of translating is trying to convey poetic phrases used by actual figures from the past. This line originates from a Chinese official/philosopher Fan Zhongyan who used this phrase to describe the beauty of a lake.
2. These characters are from Gu Long’s Lu Xiaofeng series.