Watching a tournament was quite different for William when he had no personal involvement, nor did he know anyone in the tournament. Technically, he did know a few of them as acquaintances or just by sight or name, but none of them well enough to really be invested in whether they won or lost. Still, it was his purpose in coming to Qinshan to watch for people using demonic cultivation methods, and William didn’t have to care about who won or lost a particular match for it to still be interesting.
As expected, swords and spears were the most common weapons used. Weapons that were sharp had a big advantage in the main purpose of weapons, killing. Not that blunt weapons weren’t able to kill people, but the situations in which they were better were smaller. Blunt weapons, specifically hammers of various types, were better against armored opponents, but the style in Liaoyang was much lighter on armor. Even the knights in Ostana didn’t wear their armor all the time, at least not most of them. Normal knights from Earth certainly didn’t, and couldn’t, but with the higher levels a body could achieve in this world it was feasible if not always preferred to wear armor everywhere.
William had seen that the demons wore armor, as everyone in war would if they could get it. That didn’t mean that swords and spears would be useless against them, if wielded properly, but not quite as effective. Of course, when greater than normal human strength was involved, as well as ki, things became more complicated. A sword enhanced with ki or with great enough strength behind it could still cut through normal plate armor… but of course heavier plate could be made to counter that. William shook his head to clear it. Every weapon had its place… at least, the more common ones. There were a number of weapons that were mostly for show and not for function, and no matter how skillfully they were wielded the user would have been better of training with something practical.
As the tournament went on, William saw quite a variety of techniques, and even different weapons. Some people even avoided using weapons entirely. This gave them a bit less reach, but with ki to defend their bodies wasn’t entirely insane. William saw a number of techniques, ranging from well executed strikes with weapons to breaths of flame and lightning bolts, though the lightning bolts were quite short in range. Ki techniques usually only produced things like flame and electricity, with their properties but less… real. Even with so many different techniques, though William likely couldn’t reproduce them all he understood their functions. There were quick attacks, designed to strike before an enemy could prepare their defenses. These ranged from attacks with hidden weapons to berserk charges. Strong attacks were designed to deal damage even if they struck defenses, and usually involved gathering a greater amount of ki. A breath of fire looked impractical at first, because it covered an area much larger than the opponent. However the area also made it harder to dodge and possibly useful against multiple enemies. Depending on the type of defenses the opponent trained in, it might also not be blocked by ki, or the defender might consume more energy in the process. There were even feints of various kinds. Sometimes, attacks were made to look more powerful than they were, attempting to cause the opponent to overreact. Sometimes even gathering a large amount of ki looked like an attack but was actually used for defense, and maybe for a quick counter.
Though William saw many good techniques, that didn’t mean everyone in the tournament was good. During the early rounds most of those who were sub-par were eliminated, except the lucky. Although major breakthroughs generally determined the level of power someone had, it wasn’t always possible to bring all of that power to bear against a more skilled opponent. It wasn’t strange for someone to defeat or be defeated by someone an entire level above or below themselves. At two major breakthroughs of difference, the stronger could usually devote half of their energy to defense and half to offense and still overpower their opponent, which meant that there were rarely upsets in such a match. Still, there were a few cases where the expectations were overturned.
A man in his late thirties was against a young woman, though William supposed she was probably still older than himself. The man had passed the fourth major breakthrough of his cultivation technique, and the woman only the second. Neither of their powers felt much different from what one would expect. They exchanged a few testing blows, with neither taking any damage. Then the woman stabbed forward, and the man took it for a feint. He didn’t gather his ki to defend against the relatively straightforward trajectory of the attack, but instead tried to move in for an attack of his own. Because he was incorrect about how strong the attack was, his defensive ki was penetrated and he ended up with a bloody wound in his side, after which he surrendered. Perhaps he could have still won, but there was no need to risk making his wound worse, and with an injury it would have been much harder for him to win even if he correctly read subsequent moves.
Another match, with two men both about forty. One of them had passed the fourth level, and the other was merely at the second, a clear sign of lack of talent. However, even though he wasn’t particularly talented at cultivation, he was still quite good at combat. The man at the lower level actually managed to gain control of the flow of the fight, parrying his opponent’s attacks with minimal effort on his part. Since his opponent had more power, he could use ki to make it harder to change the trajectory of his attacks, but the weaker man also had good footwork. He performed all of the moves he could to throw his opponent off balance, sometimes literally with a leg sweep. When his opponent focused ki to his legs to prevent that, he would attack the upper body. If it weren’t for the sweat dripping down his forehead when his opponent was finally on the ground with a blade to his neck, he might have made it look easy. Unfortunately, he was exhausted and was defeated in the next round by an opponent who was only at the third level but still relatively fresh.
William watched the whole tournament with interest. However, he failed to achieve anything related to his actual purpose in coming to Qinshan. He felt no fluctuations of demonic ki. That could have been a good sign, but William knew that those who practiced demonic methods could have just avoided the tournaments or chosen to restrain their powers to whatever they could achieve with their human based cultivation method.