Aside from the 56-strong people, 12 other people were going to get a free pass to the next round. After all, the Blackhawk Academy had 12 people missing.

The various academies whispered to themselves about how the Blackhawk Academy was going to lose, or how unfortunate of timing it was. Some even talked about who could have possibly done this, with a few coming closer to the answer than they could imagine.

To the members of the Blackhawk Academy, none of this truly mattered. They were all simply focused on the competition at hand.

Once the names of the seeded members were revealed on the light board, everyone looked at it to judge who became the lucky one.

12 people immediately cheered as they didn't have to fight anyone the first time around. However, when they looked at the 2nd round, they frowned.

As if on purpose, those who could skip the first round, were pitted against one of the 56 seeded fighters. There was no way in hell these people were possibly winning against these people.

Cries of complaints rang out soon enough, but the staff didn't seem to care.

Ning looked at the board and saw his name come up within the first 10 battles. 'Issin, huh? From the Dream Dust Academy. I wonder how strong he is,' Ning thought.

"That's quite the fair matchups," the teacher said. "No two students of the same academy will have to fight their own people until the 3rd round. They really did a good job with the brackets."

"My fight is the last," Kaleb complained a bit. "Do you think I'll be fighting tomorrow instead of today?"

"No, I'm sure the first round of battle will end today. Even at worst, it will take 10 hours at most for the entirety of the fights, so it's easily doable today. In fact, they might even make the fights last 5 minutes each, with a group of judges to decide who won if neither is defeated," the teacher said.

"Then I guess I'm fighting today," Kaleb said.

"You can watch the fight from here, I'm sure. Those whose fight is early, start preparing for it. Those who are fighting late, you can rest for the time being, but do strategize."

Once enough of the audience had arrived, the combat competitions finally began.

The first pair of fighters were sent onto the arena, where a barrier sprung up to cage them and their attacks in.

Just as the teacher had mentioned, they only had 5 minutes to fight, with the judges deciding the victor in the case where no one won.

Ning watched the fight take place, but to his surprise, there wasn't much to see at all. Since most of the stronger fighters were already seeded for the next round, the ones fighting today were barely any stronger than the ones that fought in the newcomer's combat competition.

Even the crowd seemed to know this as there was really not much excitement in the air at all.

8 fights went by in a flash, of which 6 were decided by victory and 2 were decided by the judges.

"You only entered the Essence Manifestation realm a month ago and you already have to fight in such a major battle. I'm sorry to have to do this," the teacher spoke to Ning as he was getting ready to leave.

"It's alright. It's not your fault or anything," Ning said. "Besides, getting to take part in such a competition as a first year is not something that happens regularly, is it?"

His was the 10th fight and the 9th was happening right now.

"Are you not nervous?" the teacher asked.

"No," Ning said, looking at the battle that was slowly coming to an end.

"Are you excited?" the teacher asked.

Ning thought for a bit. "Not really," he said.

The teacher was a little surprised. "You're not excited or nervous?" he asked. "Can I ask why?"

Ning looked at the match that came to an end and smiled a little. "Looking at the matches that have taken place until now, there's nothing there for me to be nervous or excited about."

He stood up from where he sat, ready to leave.

"I'm going to win either way after all."

He walked away, leaving the teacher stunned for a moment. A few 'good luck' were spoken toward him, which he acknowledged before leaving for the arena.

He arrived on top of the stone arena, standing quite a distance away from his first opponent, a late teenage student from the Dream Dust Academy.

Ning looked at the axe in his hand that was made up of Fire Essence. He could sense Water Essence, but he couldn't see it at all.

'He must be wearing the armor on the inside,' Ning thought.

He pulled out his sword, with its sheath still attached, and got ready for the battle to begin.

The young man started with a fireball that flew straight toward Ning. A gust of air sent it off course, needing Ning to do nothing more.

Another ball of fire appeared in the air, a rather massive one. However, this time, it didn't shoot away like the first time. Instead, a ball of water fell on it, immediately exploding into steam that filled the area for a bit.

Ning frowned the moment he sensed another type of Essence appearing all of a sudden.

Rays of light hit him from multiple sides from within the steam. It seemed that the man actually had a Light Essence Core.

Ning didn't use his essence again. Instead, he simply dashed forward, going through the steam to arrive in front of the young man.

The young man hadn't expected a head-on fight at all, and with Ning's speed, he couldn't depend on either.

A single kick from Ning sent the young man flying so far that the referee had to protect him. Since the referee was involved, the young man naturally lost. And with that, Ning's first match was over.