John landed on the middle of the arena where the Yang-Dao Elder and his opponent already stood. The Yang-Dao Elder nodded his head approvingly upon seeing John's presentable appearance, clearly satisfied that he had cleaned himself up this time to match the prestigious image of the tournament itself.

John ignored the Elder, instead looking at his opponent with one eyebrow raised. His opponent, who stood fifty yards away, was a young girl who seemed to be even younger than he was. She appeared to be fifteen or sixteen, although John was sure she was a few years older than that.

She was quite short, her head only coming up to his chest, and looked more like a child than a young woman. She had long brown hair tied into twin ponytails behind her head, and large hazel eyes. Her face, still round with youth, was quite cute in a sisterly sort of way. She wore a beautiful dress of light purple with blue trimmings, with gems embroidered into the sleeves and skirt of the dress.

She held a long staff in her hands, one that almost seemed too big for her to wield. The staff was brown in color, and was clearly made from some sort of profound, high-quality wood. A large purple crystal was embedded on the end of the staff, matching her dress.

She stood there awkwardly, like a child who was lost in a situation well over her head. Her knees trembled slightly, and she had a slightly nervous expression on her face as she watched John arrive, as if she had seen the arrival of a terrifying beast. She even jumped slightly as he landed on the arena, then calmed down a moment later.

John raised an eyebrow, surprised that his opponent was so…skittish. This was a tournament of pinnacle geniuses, most of them battle hardened and formidable. This girl was the complete opposite of that.

Curious, John sent out his divine sense to link with the girl's armband. Information appeared in his mind a moment later.

Name: Rafinia

Sect: Mage Dao Sect

Age: Eighteen

Cultivation: Middle Dao Transformation

Qi Quantity: 90

Qi Quality: 93

Health: 26

Durability: 24

Stamina: 82

Comprehensions: 97

Instincts: 78

Willpower: 82

Soul Talent: 97

Speed/Movement Arts: 86

Battle Arts: 92

Attack Power: 82

Rank: 256

It wasn't surprising to run into a disciple of the Mage Dao Sect. From this point on, most of the remaining cultivators would be from one of the Three Dao Sects, as each had sent about one hundred cultivators to this tournament, and most of them had made it this far with only a few exceptions.

'Eighteen and Middle Dao Transformation?' John instantly noticed. That cultivation speed was prodigious, even amongst the rest of these geniuses. Only peak cultivators like Ji'Han and Jaxus could claim to be on the same level as her, which impressed John greatly.

Even more impressive was her soul talent, which was even higher than John's. While the soul talent metric was a flawed one from John's perspective, he couldn't help but be impressed by her stats.

'If her health and durability wasn't so low, she would have had a much better ranking than this.'

The girl looked at him nervously, then jumped slightly as the Elder asked her if she was ready. She nodded her head hesitantly, then looked back to John. Her staff trembled in her hand as John confirmed he was ready.


The Elder announced to a roaring crowd. John took a step forward, unsure of how he was going to deal with this girl. Her health and durability were so low that he had to be careful not to kill her from a casual attack of his, so he needed to be more careful in this battle.

As the battle began, John felt the energy of his armband restrict his cultivation, lowering it to the Early Dao Transformation Realm. At the same time, he felt the energy wash over his soul, almost as if attacking it. He needed to use a portion of his soul to defend against it, which acted as a way to reduce his soul output in battle as well, restricting its output to the Early Dao Transformation level as well.

"Wait!" Rafinia hastily said, her voice trembling. John stopped and looked at her curiously, wondering what she was going to say.

"I…I know I'm not a match for you," Rafinia said, her voice unsteady. "But I can't surrender without at least attacking once."

"So, you wish for me to withstand one of your attacks, at which point you'll surrender?" John filled in the blanks, to which Rafinia nodded meekly.

He fell silent for a while, studying his skittish opponent. She averted her gaze as the two locked eyes. John's gaze narrowed ever so slightly for an instant before returning to normal, then he scoffed and nodded.

"Alright, one attack," he confirmed.

"T…thank you," Rafinia replied timidly, then pointed her staff towards John. "Please defend yourself."

John laughed lightly at her words of caution, then folded his arms across his chest as he waited for her to attack. The roaring of the crowd seemed to change slightly as John agreed to Rafinia's demands, with more laughter and snickering drifting about.

Rafinia's aura exploded outwards as she prepared to unleash her attack. John studied her aura then nodded approvingly, as it was truly impressive for one her age. It was beyond obvious that Rafinia was a prodigious genius near the level of Ji'Han and Jaxus, with only some flaws in her cultivation holding her back.

Rafinia's aura continued to climb as she channeled her attack.

'A mage, huh?' John raised an eyebrow. Rafinia's attack was clearly a channeled one, one she would not be able to get out in normal battle. Her aura and the profundity of the channeled attack continued to rise in power, quickly reaching a level that impressed John.

The crowd held its breath with anticipation as Rafinia seemed to reach her limit, then…


An explosive attack, deep purple in color blasted out of her staff, piercing towards John. It was like a star had exploded and funneled its attack in one direction, monstrous in its power. John smiled and braced himself, pushing his body limiters to the maximum.

With his cultivation a minor realm lower than Rafinia's, he needed to fortify his body more than his previous battles. However, the attack was not on the level that it needed his Dragon-God Shift to defend against, surprising him slightly. While the channeled attack was powerful, it wasn't as powerful as it should have been.


The attack blasted onto him, drowning him in its power. John disappeared within the torrential beam of purple Qi, which lasted for a short while before vanishing. The fading attack revealed John still standing on his feet where he had originally been, with only minor damage on his face and arms.

That damage quickly healed, showing he had not taken any significant damage from the attack. He stood still, eyes staring forward into the distance.

"Oh no," Naelia said, hands cupped to her mouth.

"What is it?" Zuri asked.

"He's been caught in her soul art. He fell for her trick!"

"Her trick?" Zuri asked curiously.

"Rafinia did the same during the Heaven Tribulation tournament three years ago. She acted all cute and innocent to land an attack like this, and then unleashed that battle art. But that battle art is only a trick. Her true attack, her soul attack, is hidden within the battle art. Her trickery allowed her to get all the way into the top fifty last tournament before her ruse became well known, and no one would fall for it anymore….no one but John, who knows nothing of this tournament."

"Hahahahaha!" maniacal laughter boomed out within the arena as Rafinia pointed at John. Her timid and cute demeanor was no more, and instead a crazy, wide-eyed look appeared on her face as if she was a completely different person. "You men are all the same. You see a cute girl and you lose your minds. What kind of idiot would allow their opponent to land an attack for free!"

She slowly walked up towards John, who didn't react at all as she arrived before him. She looked up at him with a wide smile, then poked him in the head with the base of her staff, to which he didn't react at all.

"Idiot! Now that you've been caught in my soul art, you'll suffer a thousand deaths and a million miseries before your mind breaks. You have already lost, and you don't even know it yet!"