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While the other candidates were busy avoiding being eliminated or eliminating others, this fellow actually sat right in front of the stone wall to cultivate. Furthermore, from the looks of it, it seemed like he had already been there for quite a while. Such a bizarre decision left Zhang Xuan slightly bewildered.

Soon, Zhang Xuan came to a realization.

He's a genius from the Qianchong Empire, and he specializes in swordsmanship. I had to capture the Dusk Cloud Sword in order to find out where this is, but there's a good chance that he realized that we are in the Sword Lagoon as soon as he opened his eyes!

As a sword practitioner of the Qianchong Empire, it was likely that Ma Minghai had been there before. Given so, it would not have been too surprising for him to know his way around the area.

Hong long long!

At this moment, boundless Sword Intent and sword qi suddenly converged on Ma Minghai, and in an instant, his aura surged swiftly.


Unable to control it any longer, the Dusk Cloud Sword lowered itself onto the ground, trembling non-stop. It could feel the absolute authority that the wielder of that powerful aura had over it, and it dared not oppose him.

Looking at the sky filled with sword qi, as well as the sword in his hand that was submitting to the young man before him, the elder was overwhelmed with agitation. "That's… Sword Quintessence! It has been a whole seven hundred years! I never thought that I would see such a sight once more!"

"No, it isn't Sword Quintessence," an elder beside him refuted. "Those who have truly achieved the level of Sword Quintessence would be able to induce the Servility of the Myriad Swords, but that young man has only received the deference of the swords. If I'm not mistaken, that should be… Half-Quintessence!"

"Indeed, it's Half-Quintessence! Most cultivators are only aware that swordsmanship can be divided into Sword Intent and Sword Heart, oblivious to the fact that there's Sword Quintessence above them. Upon mastering this realm, as long as the strength of a sword is beneath one, the sword will obey one's commands unconditionally."

"The young man is only able to get the swords to submit to him, but he hasn't reached the level of having them obey his commands unconditionally. Given so, he should only be at Half-Quintessence!"

"Even if it's just Half-Quintessence, isn't that the breakthrough that we have all been working hard for?"


"Seven hundred years ago, when Sword of Faint Whispers, Ji Lingzhen, achieved a breakthrough to this realm, I happened to be around and witnessed the miraculous event with my own eyes. Who could have known that I would have the luck to encounter another Half-Quintessence breakthrough just before my life comes to an end?"

"Ji Lingzhen… If I recall correctly, he has not left the Sword Lagoon ever since he made the breakthrough to Half-Quintessence, right?"

"He has not. He chose to venture deeper into the Sword Lagoon in hopes of obtaining the Old Sword Maestro's heritage. It's just a pity that he hasn't succeeded yet. I wonder if he's still alive after all these years."

Such discussions could be heard amid the crowd.

Half-Quintessence? Hearing the words of the crowd, Zhang Xuan nodded slowly.

With a slight stroke of his hand, the crouching Dusk Cloud Sword suddenly felt the pressure crushing his soul vanish without a trace, and it quickly struggled back into the air. Its slight shivering every now and then seemed to indicate its deep fear and apprehension over what had just happened.

A Sword Quintessence expert wielded a natural dominance over all sword spirits, forcing all sword spirits to bow before them. For Ma Minghai to achieve this level at such a young age, his aptitude for swordsmanship was truly astounding. It was no wonder he had been chosen as a candidate to enter the Sanctum of Sages.

Compared to Ma Minghai, Zhang Jiuxiao was truly lacking.

Hu hu!

After absorbing all of the sword qi into his body, Ma Minghai eyes gradually opened.


His eyes were extremely sharp, and it felt as if one could be sliced in two under his gaze.

Even though his cultivation was still only at Quasi Leaving Aperture realm, yet to undergo the lightning tribulation, his zhenqi felt much more condensed than before. It seemed like even if the lightning tribulation fell upon him at that very moment, he would have been able to slice it in two with a flick of his blade.

Ma Minghai slowly stood up and stretched his stiff muscles with a delighted look on his face. At this moment, he suddenly caught sight of a familiar figure standing not too far away, and his eyes narrowed. "Zhang Xuan?"

A day ago, he had exchanged blows with the other party. He had executed one of his trump cards, Sea of a Thousand Blades, which the other party had simply swallowed in a single mouthful, even returning to him right after. Without a doubt, the other party was the strongest rival he had ever come across.

Back then, he had even resolved himself to use his ultimate technique to defeat the other party, but due to Pavilion Master Yue's intervention, he had been left with no choice but to drop the matter.

After which, the other party had challenged Pavilion Master Yue with his puppets. While the other party did manage to achieve victory in the end, it was only through the vast number of puppets he had in his possession. That did not represent the other party's true strength.

If he were to pair his Quasi Leaving Aperture realm cultivation together with his newfound strength as a Half-Quintessence expert, putting aside defeating Zhang Xuan, even killing him should not pose much of a problem at all!

Thus, a sharp glint flashed through Ma Minghai's eyes as he stepped forward. "You have really come at an untimely moment. You just had to appear here right after I achieved my breakthrough. It seems like even the heavens are asking me to eliminate you…"


With a swift maneuver, he stepped up to Zhang Xuan and said, "Zhang shi, we meet again."

"Yeah, we meet again," Zhang Xuan replied casually.

"While I am in awe of your strength, it's a pity that we are in a selection match at the moment. The slots to the Sanctum of Sages are on the line, so… will you take out the jade token yourself, or do you need me to make a move?"

Gazing at Zhang Xuan coldly, Ma Minghai spoke in a domineering voice that allowed for no opposition. "Take it out yourself, and you can at least spare yourself some pain. Otherwise… even if I'm not allowed to kill you, I have plenty of ways to temporarily incapacitate. And if you get killed by saint beasts while you are immobilized, I'm afraid that you will only have your own bad luck to blame then!"

"Are you threatening me?" Zhang Xuan looked at Ma Minghai with narrowed eyes.

"Threat? This isn't a threat. I'm just stating a fact. It's just the natural order of the world. The weak have to bow to the strong!" Ma Minghai sneered coldly.

Staring at Ma Minghai intently, Zhang Xuan asked, "Do you mean to say that the strong can do as they please?"

"Indeed, the strong can do as they please!" Ma Minghai replied with a smirk.

He had felt deeply humiliated by the crushing defeat he had suffered against Zhang Xuan. It would have been one thing if it had been a close match with one another, but the vast disparity in strength between them was truly completely unacceptable to him. This had left frustration and anger boiling within him.

Furthermore, shortly after that, the young man dared insult Pavilion Master Yue. As a member of the Qianchong Empire Master Teacher Pavilion, he could not swallow seeing an outsider treating their pavilion head with such disrespect.

It was not easy for him to turn the tables around, so naturally, he wanted to make use of this chance to get even with the other party for those two matters!

"Very well then." Seeing how confident Ma Minghai was, Zhang Xuan shook his head and sighed. "Since you have already said so much… pardon me then!"

After saying those words, Zhang Xuan channeled his zhenqi into his palm and thrust it toward Ma Minghai.

Seeing how the young man had chosen to struggle against him instead of surrendering, Ma Minghai scoffed in disdain. "Do you think that you stand a chance against me in your current state?"

With a flick of his finger, he sent a surge of sword qi toward Zhang Xuan.

His comprehension of swordsmanship had already reached Half-Quintessence. Even without just using a sword, he could easily defeat an opponent of the same power level as him with the sword qi in his body.

Let alone a mere Primordial Spirit realm intermediate stage cultivator…


At this moment, Ma Minghai suddenly noticed something.

When he fought with the other party the previous day, the other party had still been at Primordial Spirit realm intermediate stage. However, at this moment, why did it seem like his cultivation had risen to… Primordial Spirit realm pinnacle?

Did he advance two cultivation stages in a single day?

It makes no difference whether he's at intermediate stage or pinnacle. Against the current me, the only fate that lies in wait for him is death!

Ma Minghai shrugged the matter off casually as he watched the burst of sword qi he had shot previously dashing toward Zhang Xuan.

While Ma Minghai was still confident that his sword qi would be able to tear through the other party's palm strike with ease, the two finally collided with one another. However, contrary to his expectations, his sword qi actually dissipated instantaneously, as if a blob of tofu crashing into a wall of steel.

Caught off guard by the abrupt turn of events, Ma Minghai narrowed his eyes in shock.

As someone whose mastery of swordsmanship was at Half-Quintessence, he knew full well how much strength was packed into that burst of sword qi. Even the companion he had been very close with, 'Brother Sun', would not dare clash directly with it. Yet, the young man before him had been able to easily dissipate his sword qi with just a simple palm strike. Just how could this be?

But this was not the end of Ma Minghai's bewilderment yet. The remaining might of the palm strike continued charging forth toward him with astounding momentum, appearing before him in the blink of an eye.


An overwhelming pressure assaulted Ma Minghai, causing his face to pale. He immediately tried to put up his defense to defend against the palm strike, to no avail. He crashed heavily into a massive boulder, and a stifled feeling in his chest made him cough out a mouthful of blood.

"How could this be? How can you be so powerful?" Ma Minghai widened his eyes in disbelief.

He felt that the main reason he had lost to Zhang Xuan earlier was because he had to suppress his cultivation. Now that his cultivation was not suppressed, and he had even comprehended Half-Quintessence, it would really be an eye-opener if he was defeated!

"It must be a coincidence—it must be! There's no way you can possibly be that powerful! There's just no way…"

Rising to his feet, Ma Minghai drew out a half moon in front of his chest before shooting it forth.

"Sword qi in the area, heed my command!"

Upon his shouting, the sword qi drifting aimlessly in the region swiftly converged together to form a massive sword of roughly ten meters long in front of Ma Minghai's chest.

Having comprehended Half-Quintessence, even if he was unable to earn the absolute obedience of swords, it was still well within his means to control sword qi in the air.

The Sword Lagoon was filled with sword practitioners, resulting in a massive congregation of sword qi in the area. In other words, the area was almost like a haven for those who had comprehended Half-Quintessence!

In his current state, Ma Minghai would be able to slay even True Leaving Aperture realm cultivators easily!

"This is the strength of those who have comprehended swordsmanship to Half-Quintessence?"

"How fearsome…"

"To be able to control sword qi, he's practically invincible in the Sword Lagoon!"

"Indeed. That fellow facing him is doomed."

The crowd in the area analyzed the situation grimly.

As sword practitioners themselves, they understood how fearsome a cultivator who had comprehended Half-Quintessence was. Wielding the strength to manipulate and release a barrage of sword qi at will, they were unmatched in their power class.

The young man facing Ma Minghai was only a Primordial Spirit realm pinnacle, so how could he possibly withstand Ma Minghai's strength?


Before everyone's apprehensive gaze, the massive sword forged solely out of sword qi began flying toward Zhang Xuan with incredible momentum.

Its was even faster than the speed of sound, and it appeared right before Zhang Xuan in just the blink of an eye.

If that technique landed, no matter how sturdy a body one had, one would instantly be sliced in two and die on the spot.

"The attack you have launched through gathering the surrounding sword qi is indeed formidable, but it's a pity that the sword qi is not yours!"

In the face of that devastating attack, there was not the slightest hint of anxiety or fear to be seen on Zhang Xuan's face. On the contrary, disappointment was written all over his face instead.

Shaking his head, Zhang Xuan casually tapped his finger forward, and a powerful ray of light burst right through the sword, dissipating it instantaneously.

"Go," Zhang Xuan muttered as he flicked his finger lightly.


Ma Minghai flew back once more. His back crashed heavily into the stone wall, creating a massive depression in it.

To make matters worse, when he tried to struggle out of the stone wall, for some reason, he found that his body simply would not budge, and this left him deeply terrified.

"Y-you…" With a ghastly pale face, Ma Minghai stared at the young man before him with horrified eyes.

He had thought that as long as he fought with his full strength, he would be able to subdue the young man easily. But it turned out that he had been too naive. Even with his heightened strength, that monster of a young man was actually able to subdue him with just a single finger!

Even when he had borrowed the strength from the massive congregation of sword qi in the surroundings, he had found that he was still completely helpless before that young man.

With a look of utter disbelief, he watched as the young man gracefully walked up to him with a frighteningly radiant smile on his face.

"While I am in awe of your strength, it's a pity that we are in a selection match at the moment. The slots to the Sanctum of Sages are on the line, so… will you take out the jade token yourself, or do you need me to make a move?"

Hearing those words, Ma Minghai's face immediately turned red.

Those were the very words that he had told the young man earlier, and the latter was returning all of them to him!

"You want to take my jade token? Unless you plan on killing me, dream on!" Ma Minghai spat with gritted teeth.

The destruction of his jade token would mean that he lost the slot to enter the Sanctum of Sages. This was his greatest opportunity to rise to the top of the Master Teacher Continent, and he could not let all of the hard work he had put into it go to waste!

"Kill you? There's no need to go through that much trouble." Gazing down on Ma Minghai, Zhang Xuan chuckled softly as he snapped his finger.


It was as if a massive mountain had suddenly fallen upon Ma Minghai, crushing him deeper and deeper into the stone wall. This immense pressure seemed to squeeze whatever oxygen he had out of his lungs, threatening to choke him to death.

"Wait… a moment…" The fear in Ma Minghai's eyes intensified. He anxiously spoke up to plead for mercy, but he found that even spitting out a word was a great strain on him in his current state.

"My apologies, I don't have a habit of giving my opponents the chance to counterattack," Zhang Xuan replied with a bright smile. "Besides, there is one thing that you spoke of that I can deeply relate to…

"The strong can indeed do as they please!"

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