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"If I am not mistaken, the both of them are combat masters, right?"
Exhaling deeply, the tension left Zhang Xuan's body, and the exhaustion accumulated over that whole period finally set in.
Even though he seemed to have won the battle against Lu Cheng easily, he'd had to concentrate deeply as he couldn't afford to make the slightest error. Thus, even though the battle had only lasted for a few minutes, it had sapped Zhang Xuan's energy dry.
Dong Xin nodded in agreement. "To possess such fighting prowess at such a young age, and considering the different master teacher robes that they have, they should indeed be combat masters."
She had read a fair number of books, and she knew how fearsome combat masters were. She hadn't really thought much into it before, but with Zhang Xuan raising the topic, it suddenly dawned on her.
Those two might just really be combat masters!
Otherwise, given that most master teachers cultivated a variety of supporting occupations, rarely would they compete with one another directly in a physical duel.
"Combat masters?" The others also glanced at one another before nodding in agreement.
Indeed. Only the legendary combat masters, who boasted the greatest fighting prowess among the master teachers, could wield such strength!
That would explain why a fellow Chrysalis realm cultivator could subdue the four of them so easily.
"Wait… If Zhang shi can defeat a combat master that easily, doesn't that mean that he is qualified to become a combat master as well?" Hu Yaoyao exclaimed in astonishment.
"Easily?" Zhang Xuan shook his head with a bitter smile. "He went easy on me, or else it is questionable whether I would have been able to defeat him or not!"
It might seem as if he had won with ease in the eyes of others, but he knew that wasn't the case!
"Went easy on you?" The others were perplexed.
You used a blade of foxtail grass while the other party used a Spirit pinnacle weapon. On top of that, the other party was unable to even land a single blow on you, so how could he have possibly gone easy on you?
Zhang Xuan shook his head. "If I had wielded a Spirit pinnacle weapon just like him, it is hard to tell which of us would have emerged triumphant. That Lu Cheng is a proud person. He didn't want to take advantage of the disparity in our weapons, so he curbed his own swordsmanship. On top of that, I intentionally sliced the tree trunk in two before the battle to create a vivid impression of the prowess of the weapon in his mind… Those were what caused him to retreat continuously. Otherwise, it would have been difficult for me to win against him!"
It might have seemed like an ordinary fight, but before the duel began, the other party had already fallen for Zhang Xuan's mind games.
It was at this instant that realization struck them.
The foxtail grass was an unimpressive weapon, but in a single move, Zhang Xuan had sliced the tree trunk in two, instilling fear into the minds of those who had seen the sight.
Lu Cheng was probably the same as well, which led to his subconscious unwillingness to face the foxtail grass head-on. As a result, he had found himself unable to take back the initiative and turn the tides of the battle, thus eventually resulting in his loss.
"Forget it, it's already over. Here are the Scarlet Firefly Fruits. Condition yourselves well before consuming them. Try to achieve a breakthrough before we return to the academy!" Zhang Xuan flicked his wrist and passed the fruits over.
"Zhang shi… really managed to obtain the fruits?"
"How could they be in your hands?"
None of them could believe it.
They had been watching the cavern intently the whole time, and they had only seen Lu Cheng and Wu Xu entering it… But if Zhang Xuan had never entered the cavern, how could the Scarlet Firefly Fruits be in his hands?
"I found another entrance behind the valley and sneaked in from there," Zhang Xuan replied casually.
Naturally, he couldn't talk about his means as a soul oracle. In any case, the items were already in his hands, so the others probably wouldn't be bothered to check on his story either.
Nevertheless, the others were still impressed.
To stumble upon another entrance, it had indeed been the correct decision to invite him over!
"Here is some Earth Vein Spirit Essence, I will give a gourd to each of you. After recuperating, try your best to make a breakthrough to Half-Saint!" Flicking his wrist, Zhang Xuan took out four gourds of Earth Vein Spirit Essence and passed them over.
These four gourds were significantly smaller than the one given to Wu Xu earlier, but it was still worth quite a sum, considering that it was filled with Earth Vein Spirit Essence. At the very least, it was definitely worth more than the Origin Heavy Water that they had bought earlier.
"Thank you, Zhang shi!"
After seeing Zhang Xuan sell a gourd earlier, they knew that the gourd they had just received was at least worth fifty high-tier spirit stones. To give it to them just like that…
How could they ever return the favor?
With reddened eyes, they mustered their determination, knowing that they had to successfully make a breakthrough so as to not let down Zhang Xuan's expectations.
With the Byzantium Helios Beast and Golden Origin Cauldron guarding them by the side, they need not worry about anyone disturbing them here. Thus, sitting cross-legged on the ground, they began to cultivate.
Six hours later, once they had managed to reach their peak condition, they devoured a Scarlet Firefly Fruit each.
As expected of the divine medicine that could raise the chances of a breakthrough to Half-Saint, as soon they consumed it, they immediately felt their psyche growing stronger. Hu Yaoyao, under Zhang Xuan's tutelage, was the first one to achieve a breakthrough.
The second person to succeed was Dong Xin.
After the events at the Elder Hall, her mind had grown much more resilient than before. This state of mind would help her achieve greater heights in her cultivation in the future.
Following her was Xue Zhenyang. After listening to Wang Ying and the others' teachings on the basics of cultivation, he had managed to reinforce his cultivation further. Even though he was the third one to achieve a breakthrough, his cultivation was considerably more stable than the other two.
However, the last one, Long Cangyue, wasn't as lucky.
After failing four times consecutively, he felt a sense of fatigue creeping up on him. Knowing that it was impossible for him to succeed that day, he could only sigh in disappointment and stop there.
Initially, there hadn't been much of a difference between the four of them. However, three of them had succeeded in achieving a breakthrough, and he was the only one to have failed. It wasn't too difficult to imagine his current emotions.
The three of them are Zhang shi's apprentice, grandstudent, and great grandstudent, so they have received his guidance. On the other hand, due to my overthinking of matters and my pride, I ended up being the furthest away from him… Long Cangyue shook his head bitterly.
In one way or another, the other three were related to Zhang shi, so they had received his guidance. But he, due to his excessive worries, had chosen to stay out of Zhang shi's way, and the outcome was him eventually lagging behind the others…
If he had known this was the case, regardless of whether he would have become Zhang shi's great great grandstudent or anything else, he would have tried to strike up a connection with the latter somehow.
Seeing through Long Cangyue's thoughts, Zhang Xuan offered a word of advice. "What you are lacking is not strength but confidence! Due to your indecisive character, you are unable to rid yourself of your hesitation and charge forward, which has led to your inability to build up sufficient momentum to achieve a breakthrough to Half-Saint."
If one were to ask whether he had played a part in the successful breakthrough of the other three, the answer would be yes.
The points that he listed in his guidance were often direct and spot-on. If one were to cultivate as he had advised, it would indeed be much easier to achieve a breakthrough.
However, making a breakthrough to Half-Saint wasn't just a problem of strength. One's mind also played a huge part as well.
Hu Yaoyao had a willful and decisive personality, allowing her to make prompt decisions and commit to them. Dong Xin's mind had been tempered to be more resilient after the setback she had suffered back in the Elder Hall. Xue Zhenyang had a straightforward personality, which allowed him to charge forward without any hesitation.
On the other hand, Long Cangyue was an indecisive worrywart, which made it difficult for him to put his mind entirely into something. It was such a personality that made it difficult for him to succeed.
Upon hearing Zhang Xuan's words, Long Cangyue suddenly felt enlightened.
"Zhang shi's teaching is right!"
Gathering his remaining strength, he sat down and began cultivating, embracing the determination to lose his life if he were to fail.
Hong long long!
He drove his zhenqi and rammed it furiously into his spiritual sea.
A long moment later, he finally felt the invisible ceiling that had been limiting him loosening before abruptly falling apart.
By the side, the Byzantium Helios Beast and the Golden Origin Cauldron gasped in awe. "Incredible!"
Their master might be young, but he had a deep insight into cultivation and the human psyche. His analyses were often spot-on, directed at the very root of a problem.
More importantly… he never discriminated in his guidance. Be it to an ally or a rival, he would offer them his pointers unreservedly. Such magnanimity was rare even among master teachers.
Having reached Half-Saint, Long Cangyue shed the haughty attitude he once had and bowed deeply to Zhang Xuan, thanking him earnestly from the bottom of his heart.
"Thank you, Zhang shi!"
"Alright, let's return!"
Having achieved their goal here, there was no longer any need to remain there. Thus, he stepped onto the back of the Byzantium Helios Beast to return to Hongyuan City.
Shortly after Lu Cheng and Wu Xu left the valley, they suddenly halted.
"Brother Lu, why didn't you use your full strength against Zhang shi earlier?"
Wu Xu had been overwhelmed by the outcome of the battle earlier, but after giving the matter some thought on the way, he couldn't help but feel that something was amiss.
He knew very well how powerful Brother Lu was, and there were many powerful moves that he hadn't executed in the duel before he fell in defeat… It was clear that the latter had gone easy on Zhang shi earlier!
"I didn't use my full strength?" Lu Cheng shook his head, and the next moment, his body abruptly faltered weakly, and he spurted a mouthful of blood.
Not expecting Brother Lu's injuries to be so severe, Wu Xu hurriedly helped him to a nearby boulder to rest before feeding him another pill. Seeing the other party's complexion alleviate, he heaved a sigh of relief before asking, "Brother Lu, this…"
After recovering slightly from his injuries, Brother Lu shook his head and said, "There were indeed many powerful moves that I didn't execute in the duel, but it isn't that I was unwilling to use them—I couldn't use them at all!"
"You couldn't use them?"
"Un. Even though it might seem as if he was underestimating me by wielding a blade of foxtail grass against me, in truth, every single move he made was aimed perfectly at my opening, leaving me incapable of driving my zhenqi properly to execute my most powerful moves at all!" Brother Lu said with a bitter smile.
The duel might have already ended, but just at the thought of how he had been cornered by the other party's astounding eye of discernment, he couldn't help but shudder.
He had tried multiple times to execute his strongest sword art, but he had been stopped by the other party's foxtail grass before he could even gather the momentum for it.
It was just like how a river impeded every now and then couldn't possibly build up the momentum to form a devastating flood.
"You were unable to drive your zhenqi properly?" Wu Xu was taken aback.
"That's right. What's fearsome about Zhang shi isn't just his overwhelming strength that allowed him to challenge even those stronger than him but his terrifyingly discerning eyes. It was as if he had studied every single one of my moves in advance, seeing through their flaws and intercepting them the moment I executed them… In truth, from the very first move, I already knew that I had lost. The remaining hundred moves could only be considered the other party's attempt to spare my dignity!" Brother Lu shook his head.
"How can that be?" Wu Xu could hardly believe what he was hearing.
He knew how powerful his companion was. To lose in a single strike, that was impossible! Furthermore, he had been watching the battle all along, and he didn't notice any hint of Zhang shi going easy on Brother Lu at all.
"You don't believe me? Alright, I will tell you the truth then. In truth, the injury from the Byzantium Helios Beast and the cauldron was more severe than I thought. Even though I had two hours to recuperate, I wasn't able to fully recover from my injuries… You should be well aware of this, too!" Brother Lu explained.
"Un." Wu Xu nodded.
He had been beside Brother Lu while he was recuperating, so he had a clear view of the extent of the latter's injuries.
"Thus, I made use of a secret art to suppress my injuries temporarily for the duel. Coming from the same lineage, you should be well aware of what the secret art is," Brother Lu said.
"Are you referring to the Hu Po Recuperation Art left behind by Elder Hu Po?" Wu Xu asked.
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