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826 Overwhelming Power

 It was time for the challenge to commence. The Teacher retreated behind the scenes after announcing the official start of the challenge. The higher-ups wanted there to be more chaos among the lower levels of the hierarchy so that their potential combat power was drawn out. The new people from the Empire would have a chance to showcase their abilities.

According to the rules, any newcomer could stand on the platform and point out which defending champion they wanted to challenge. Of course, those who were weak shouldn't try to challenge anyone. It was a minor thing to be embarrassed, but the key thing was that there was a clear rule in this challenge. Once the challenge started, both parties would have to duel to the death.

Unless one party surrendered and clearly expressed his wish to do so, the opponent could kill him directly without any consequences. If you were too weak, you wouldn't even have a chance to yell surrender. It wasn't easy to become a Holy Disciple, and it would be a shame if you were killed on the day you became a Holy Disciple.

This was to prevent the weak newcomers from wasting everyone's time. Every defending champion could only be challenged three times.

Everyone was looking forward to the start of the first challenge, but no one walked up to the round platform in the middle of the arena just yet.

No one was a fool. Even if you won the challenge, you had to take over the defending champion position and take on challenges from three other people. It wouldn't be a wise choice to go out at this juncture and become the target of the masses at such an early stage.

"Today's focus is still on Solomon, Carolyn, and Hyde. The three of them should put up a few exciting performances."

Those in the spectator stands had done their research. They had some degree of knowledge on this batch of newcomers and the current situation of the Holy City.

"They are the strongest in the newcomer batch. Would anyone dare to challenge them? I thought I heard that the second-class apprentices were the targets?"

"That's a very superficial interpretation. That might have been true when they had just entered the Holy Land. Weren't there rumors that Solomon and Carolyn were a couple then? Look at them now. How long has it been since there were any dating rumors about them? Heheh, both of them will definitely try to sabotage each other, especially since the Federation and the Empire are competing against each other now. There's no way they would let each other stay in their position comfortably in this challenge."

"Why isn't anyone going up to the platform then?"

"If these three people are going to attack, it would be a powerful one, and they wouldn't give their opponent a chance to rest, so timing is important. Haha, if there's going to be a challenge now, it would just be an entertaining round."

"What do you mean by that, Brother?"

The person nodded towards the platform. "See, one is about to happen right now."

"I want to challenge defending champion number seven..." A bald newcomer from the Tyrants who looked bold and unrestrained jumped onto the platform. Although his muscles were a feast for the eyes, a gray shadow appeared on the platform before he could finish his sentence. The gray figure landed an accurate hit on the back of the baldy's head with a seemingly unremarkable flying kick.

Pop!

With a faint sound, a halo of light rippled out, and a strange force was summoned, kicking the sturdily built baldy directly off the stage. After being kicked by that skinny figure, the baldy fainted on the ground instantly and couldn't get up.

Defending champion number seven... Wasn't that Wang Zhong? This was the entertainment round that everyone was looking forward to, but who was this skinny figure who interrupted the challenge?

There was a sudden uproar in the spectator stands. After all, the baldy was from the Tyrants, who were recognized for their physical strength, and he was an official Holy Disciple who passed the rank-advancement competition even if he was an old Holy Apprentice-turned-Disciple. However, it wasn't that he was too weak that he fainted so easily from an attack; it was just that the skinny figure was rather strong.

That gray figure stood up slowly on the platform.

He wasn't very tall, but he carried a gigantic sword on his back that appeared to be bigger than his body. His looks were very average too, and he was someone who you wouldn't take a second glance at in a sea of people.

Under the platform, there was a hint of a smile on Gui Hao's face. He had waited a long time for today, and he didn't want any useless trash to waste his time. Gui Hao knew very well that he had to establish his reputation today if he didn't want his comfortable life to come to an end. He didn't have Carolyn's confidence. His family provided him with the necessary resources, and they wanted to see a favorable outcome.

Richard Han had been in the Federation for a long time. He was able to enter the rank-advancement competition and get promoted to Holy Disciple with the support of the Gui Family. It was time for him to repay his debt. They wanted him to teach Wang Zhong a lesson. Having survived in the lower levels of the Holy Land hierarchy for such a long time, provoking others was a piece of cake for him. He curled his finger in Wang Zhong's direction in a scornful manner.

And... nothing happened. Wang Zhong was staring at him calmly with an innocent face, not reacting to him at all.

Richard Han's arm was dangling in mid-air and looked rather awkward, causing everyone to laugh out loud. Richard Han's expression turned cold. Although three years of being a Holy Apprentice wasn't considered that long, it had cooled down his fiery temper. He had heard people calling him names like 'idiot' and 'moron' way too many times. When the Gui Family extended help to him, he had to grab the chance. Anyone who was a hindrance to him had to die!

Ripples of Soul Power could be seen emanating from him. It was as if waves of invisible air currents were circulating around him, and sounds of wind scraping against the ground could be heard.

"Wang Zhong!" he hollered. "Come down! I'm challenging you!"

"Oh, you're challenging me." Wang Zhong stood up as if this was a sudden realization to him. "Well, I was wondering why you were hovering around there... You should have said that earlier."

There was a hint of a smile on Wang Zhong's face. Although he wanted to maintain a low profile, his opponent clearly wasn't giving him the chance to do so. Oh well, he might as well teach these people a lesson before they bothered him in the future.

Richard Han had a bone-chilling expression on his face as he pulled out his gigantic sword slowly. A powerful Soul Power aura radiated from his body as the wind pressure from before disappeared instantly, becoming instead spiraling runes that floated around his body.

"A dazzling runic Dharma Idol?" Marie Ji's eyes lit up. "That's pretty rare."

"That's the only interesting thing about it. Dharma Idols with an amplification function are useful tools in group combat support, but its power is limited when used alone." Beside her, Lan Daier didn't seem to be impressed.

"So supportive of your little employee, huh?" Marie Ji laughed.

"He's been my employee for a few months. I guess he can be considered as an old employee."

"So that's your Lao Gong[1]?" Marie Ji tried not to laugh.

"Lao... Ah... What are you talking about, you sly girl!" Lan Daier shot Marie Ji a glare, yet there was a hint of a smile on her face.

"One, two, three, four... Sixteen dazzling runes, this Richard Han guy's Dharma Idol is not bad." Some people at the spectator stands were able to take a closer look. Although dazzling runic Dharma Idols were rare, it wasn't considered a high-tier Dharma Idol in the Holy City. Nonetheless, this sort of Dharma Idol could provide auxiliary support, which was very useful when fighting in groups.

"His Dharma Idol seemed to be a wind spirit previously. Dharma Idols are fixed once they are formed. For an old Holy Apprentice-turned-Disciple to be able to evolve his Dharma Idol, he must be really lucky!"

Incessant chattering could be heard coming from the spectator stands. On the platform, Richard Han was ready to attack. Though his dazzling runic Dharma Idol wasn't suitable for one-on-one battles, it was fine since his opponent today didn't seem to be powerful. Although it was true that he used to be an old Holy Apprentice struggling to survive in the Holy City, he was at the Peak Heroic Soul Stage now. With his dazzling runic Dharma Idol, even his basic attacks had a shocking speed and strength now.

Currently, Richard Han had 16 dazzling runes revolving around him slowly, seemingly forming a runic array. It was as if those 16 dazzling runes were a wind spirit circling around him, guarding and blessing him. His body was as light as a feather, yet his gaze and sword were as sharp as a wind blade, chilling to the bone.

"A dazzling runic Dharma Idol which can form a runic array!"

"This is rather interesting. Old Holy Apprentices-turned-Disciples are quite tough in battle. This Wang Zhong dude was only promoted because of his talent in alchemy. He's doomed this time."

"Has Richard Han joined an exploration team yet?"

If those guys were just amazed when they first saw the dazzling runic Dharma Idol, they were a little envious now, especially the people who were in exploration teams. This sort of warrior with an auxiliary ability was definitely a priority in every exploration team, let alone this dazzling Dharma Idol that could form a runic array.

There was finally a smile on Richard Han's face. With the wind, he could hear the murmuring around him clearly. He had been ignored for too long, and he needed this superior feeling to find his old self again.

Opposite him, Wang Zhong seemed to have been scared silly, staying at the same spot. Hehe, that's right. Wang Zhong wasn't the main focus at all. This was just a stage for his Dharma Idol's performance. He craved recognition and for others to acknowledge his presence, he...

"I see that you're ready." Suddenly, a cheery voice rang opposite him. "Then it's my turn."

What?

Richard Han was stunned for a moment. Wang Zhong was still standing there and didn't seem like he was going to move at all.

Was this a joke?

However, in the next second, a cluster of flames came to life in front of him.

The two of them were originally separated by a distance of more than ten meters, but this surge of fire element came suddenly and swiftly, taking shape in front of him in an instant. It was as if a person materialized in front of him. But before Wang Zhong's Dharma Idol could materialize fully, a flaming palm had already extended, heading swiftly for Richard's neck.

Richard Han's reaction wasn't slow. Since he belonged to the lower levels of the Holy Land hierarchy, he was very experienced in battles. He didn't appear to be flustered by this sudden attack but just leaned back slightly, away from the attack range of that flaming palm. After that, he swung his sword, creating a powerful air vortex resembling that of a tornado. The power of that tornado created a gigantic pit in the hard ground instantly. That flaming Dharma Idol appeared to be unable to resist that force at all. Like a phantom, it dissipated immediately into countless fire sparks, scattered around in mid-air.

"How weak!"

"That scared me for a moment. What the hell was that?" The spectator stands erupted into laughter.

Using your Dharma Idol was a huge energy consumption and burden for anyone in the Heroic Soul Stage. Normally, people used it as a trump card or together with their Soul Domination technique. There weren't many people who used their Dharma Idols at the beginning of a battle. Furthermore, it was such a useless attack. It was no wonder that there were rumors of Wang Zhong being useless trash.

Richard Han appeared to be a little annoyed. He was just shocked by the sudden appearance of Wang Zhong's Dharma Idol. Wang Zhong was able to project his Dharma Idol to such a far location instantly... However, those who had brains knew that this sort of phantom Dharma Idol couldn't execute any powerful attack. What was he scared of? Richard Han was very embarrassed by his momentary slip-up.

"Dumb..."

Richard Han flew into a rage as he felt humiliated. Before he could even say 'shit', Salamander materialized in mid-air again. As Wang Zhong's power increased, his control of spiritual entities grew stronger too. Sensing Wang Zhong's fighting intent, Salamander started attacking the next second.

Bang Bang Bang Bang Bang Bang!

Numerous fiery blades carrying a tyrannical power landed on Richard Han, attacking him furiously. There was no technique to this attack, it was just dominating over the other party with pure power. The place that Richard Han was standing at was fully enveloped by the attack instantly, as hundreds of flaming Soul Power attacks at Peak Heroic Soul Stage power landed on him continuously, without giving him a chance to rest.

The whole process only lasted a dozen seconds. After the flames disappeared, Richard Han laid on the ground motionless like a dead dog. He was burnt to a crisp and on the verge of dying.

Everyone stopped mocking Wang Zhong at once. What kind of Dharma Idol was this? What kind of power was this?

How was this a Dharma Idol? It was an enhanced version of a flaming Heroic Soul soldier!

Salamander floated in mid-air calmly. Evidently, his attacks just now didn't deplete much of his power. As the summoner, Wang Zhong could support his attacks by channeling his Soul Power continuously. The Soul Sea capacity of those ignorant people definitely couldn't compare to that of Wang Zhong.

This time, Wang Zhong didn't tease his opponent and just watched on quietly. He was enjoying this moment of peace, which he preferred, as compared to noise.

At this moment, even a pig knew that Wang Zhong's Dharma Idol was not to be underestimated. It was considered a strange Dharma Idol which could be used for an extended period in battle and appeared to be immortal. This was every Heroic Soul soldier's dream. You would be invincible as long as you had enough Soul Power to sustain your Dharma Idol.

"Hoho, our vice-captain is the best!" A few excited voices could be heard from the spectator stands.

"Continue! Do it again!"

"Haha, my debt can be cleared soon!"

The huge spectator stands were silent now, and those few voices seemed to be rather ear-piercing. Obviously, it was the members of the Wanderlust Team, but most people didn't have the time to focus on that now.

The mist gradually dissipated, and Richard Han, who was half-dead, laid motionless on the ground. Everyone barely managed to catch another glimpse of Wang Zhong's flaming Dharma Idol before it disappeared without a trace.

There was an odd atmosphere in the arena now as everyone didn't seem to want to accept reality. Many started whispering among themselves. Carolyn's almond-shaped eyes sparkled. This was interesting. This sort of Dharma Idol, this sort of power, there was only one possibility. How did he do it?

Gui Hao had a dark expression on his face, not expecting Richard Han to fail. However, it was good that Richard Han played his part. Gui Hao had predicted Wang Zhong to have a few tricks up his sleeve. He didn't expect him to have such an odd Dharma Idol, but those attacks just now were probably the maximum power of Wang Zhong's Dharma Idol. Now, it was time for him to end this farce. He would kill Wang Zhong and conclude his past. After this, the world would see a new Gui Hao!

"Wang Zhong, let's put an end to this."

Suddenly, a gray figure flashed past. Gui Hao shot off like an arrow towards Wang Zhong, appearing in front of him instantly. Wang Zhong merely glanced at Gui Hao with the corners of his mouth curled upwards into a smile. Just like what Gui Hao said, it was time to put an end to this. This dude had been following him around like a ghost in the past and even until now. This was a rare chance. He couldn't let the Gui Family get their way again. Retreating and defending blindly would only make the enemy more unscrupulous. He would initiate the attack this time and make them direct their hate at him, so that Ma Dong would be less stressed out on Earth.

Gui Hao thought similarly too. He would pick himself up from where he fell. As long as Wang Zhong was alive, Gui Hao would be the loser, so Wang Zhong had to die!

As Gui Hao's thoughts were changing rapidly, he glared at Wang Zhong maliciously. His whole body exuded excitement and a violent killing intent that couldn't be suppressed.

Bang!

It was as if something exploded, as a powerful air current swept past the whole arena, causing the sand and stones around them to be crushed and blown away.

Soul Power! A seemingly endless amount of Soul Power was coming from Gui Hao. The clouds in the sky suddenly formed an air vortex under the influence of his Soul Power. Dark clouds gathered as the sky became significantly darker at once. It was as if all the power from the heavens and earth was converging towards him!

This... This was an abnormal phenomenon that only happened when a Heavenly Soul expert summoned the power of the heavens and earth? How could a person at the Heroic Soul Stage cause this to happen? This... wasn't for real right?

Cries of astonishment rang out across the arena, not only from the visual effects caused by the abnormal phenomenon but also from the violent Soul Power current that Gui Hao exuded. It was so strong that even the spectators could feel the pressure.

"He can summon the power of the heavens and earth?" A little spark of interest flashed in Enoch's small eyes as he stared at Gui Hao enthusiastically.

"That's an exaggeration." Beside him, Solomon grinned. "The upper limit of one's Soul Power has always been around ten thousand Grassos. It is the same case for people at the Heroic Soul Stage and for most humans, in fact. Occasionally, there are a few special cases where one's upper limit is particularly high, but that's just for show. In reality, there isn't such a big difference in combat power."

Firmament Soul Sea!

It was a powerful talent that was exceedingly rare. It could be used in both the Casted Soul and Heroic Soul stages as it concerned the essence of the Soul Sea. It was an innate talent. With the abnormal phenomenon in the sky, Gui Hao's Soul Power was increasing at an exponential rate too.

9,000, 10,000, 11,000, 12,000!

In the middle of the platform, Gui Hao stood proudly with his arms spread out, as if he was welcoming his immense power. Without using any techniques, his Soul Power had reached 12,000 Grassos. He sacrificed 20 years of his life for this and basically cut off any possibility of him breaking through to the Heavenly Soul Stage. Nonetheless, this didn't matter. As long as he had power now, who cared about the future!

An intense Soul Power pressure condensed at the center of the platform, causing wind to blow in all directions and Wang Zhong's sleeves to flutter about.

The audience was getting excited. Although they had heard about them, they didn't expect such a Heroic Soul soldier to exist. Possessing 12,000 Grassos of Soul Power opened many possibilities for Gui Hao as he could use more powerful techniques. This batch of newcomers had many hidden experts. At this stage, the difference in Grassos was enough for Gui Hao to dominate over his opponents.

"F*ck! Are the newcomers nowadays all so impressive?" Even the members of the Wanderlust Team couldn't keep their cool now. It was one thing to be confident in Wang Zhong, but Gui Hao's Soul Power, which was radiating everywhere, made everyone feel like they were facing the ultimate enemy in a secret realm. It was hard not to be flabbergasted by this sight.

"I've been in the Holy City for three years..." Asher was a little dejected. He was still at the Middle Phase Heroic Soul Stage, stuck at a bottleneck and unable to cross into the Peak Heroic Soul Stage. However, this newcomer managed to reach the Peak Heroic Soul Stage in half a year. Indeed, comparison was the thief of joy.

"You guys are really calm!" Sharmie opened her eyes wide. "Don't you guys think that Gui Hao totally dominated over Wang Zhong in terms of aura? You guys aren't worried for him?"

"Why would I worry?" Small Eyes said merrily, smacking Sharmie's perky butt. "Our vice-captain isn't a normal person..."

"Senior-Senior Sister!" Mario's eyes were wide open. "Can you stop teasing my Sharmie?!"

[1] In Mandarin, this form of address is homophonic with the words 'old employee' and 'husband'