From the force of impact, Hamer’s defensive armor of mist energy crumbled and cracking sounds echoed. The east wall of the hall, on the other hand, was unblemished.
A thin, glowing green layer of a mantle has been raised between Hamer and the wall to protect it, but the instant the force of the impact dissipated, the mantle vanished into air, while Hamer fell unconscious to the floor.
To say that Hamer was “unlucky” is a statement that its true essence could only be understood by, maybe, one percent of the spectators. A handful of people were capable of spotting the green mantle, since the one who bothered to make sure the hall remains intact was none other than Supreme Ruler Ariel Dauch. And this is related to Hamer unluckiness because if it was not for Supreme Ruler Ariel’s mantle, than the east wall would have absorbed the force of the impact instead of Hamer.
“Yet another quick and decisive battle…”
“That Zax Zel, where the hell Eden Formation found him? Has he not reached yet his limits? This is practically fighting and prowess on the same level as the most publicly acclaimed participants!”
The spectators who were familiar with Hamer and assumed that Zax met the rival that will eliminate him from the competition were aghast.
Two men from the medical team rushed to Hamer with a stretcher as Zax walked back to his seat.
“Hahaha, your display of ruthlessness was astounding!” Fi Han greeted Zax with a laugh.
“Ruthlessness?” Zax raised an eyebrow, but before he waited for a response he thought about it really fast and gathered that for those who never extended a step out of their Martial school, his actions might have seemed wild.
“Yes, this Hamer nearly crippled his previous opponents. Most of the blood on the stages he fought on belongs to his opponents. Now he got what he deserved, hahaha!” As the leader of the Disciplinary Class, Fi Han treated the severity of Hamer injuries as a justice for the two opponents who fought him before Zax.
“I concur”. Arms crossed, Jalal nodded in agreement.
“Enough, you two. Everyone is paying unnecessary attention to us. It is good that Zax won with no effort, but this fight determined his place among the top ten and it is best not to antagonize the participants and backers too much who failed at this round and the earlier ones”. Don said in a judicious consideration.
The Martial competition is a significant event that only occurs once every fifty years. Some of the families, schools and other groups with the right to participate in it invest tremendously in their representative, if not to attain a place in the top three, then, at least, to reach the top ten.
Although everything was managed by the Strong Arm League, no one could tell for certainty if some groups have prepared in advance, or not, measures to secretly sabotage the well being of others’ representatives.
One must not forget that behind some of the powers here stand members of the fourteen elders and even the Supreme Rulers!
Razil was biting his tongue in frustration. For Hamer to lose was beyond his expectations. His loss signified more than just the continuing existence of the menacing Zax, but that Zax is far stronger than he anticipated.
‘Senior Neyrar! Senior Neyrar! Senior Neyrar! Senior Neyrar!’ At this point he chanted as if praying for gods and devils alike, whoever can save him.
If Neyrar will fight Zax and lose, then he would have to suffer great physical pain from Zax or turn tail and shamefully run to seek aid from the school principle.
Both scenarios were unbearable for Razil to imagine, and the latter did not assure him that Zax, the madman exterminator of a great family – a story he started to take seriously more and more – will not still come after him. Thus, entrusting Neyrar his fate this time around has become the last remaining sensible lifeline.
Of course, Razil was not the sole member of the Molten Core’s group currently fuming because of Zax.
Except from Neyrar, the other female representative, who passed the third round before Zax’s battle with Hamer, and the school principle, everyone else in the Molten Core’s group were angrily glaring at Zax. Still, none dared to say a word. Hamer who is actually stronger than even the school principle and vice school principle, boasted that he will beat Zax and yet lost miserably.
If weaklings like them, who mostly were able to attend the Martial competition due to their school’s permission more than their high class status, will offend someone unbridled as Zax, than any reprisal that will follow will a be bane they would not be able to escape.
“Everyone, it is my pleasure to announce that the top ten stalwart participants of the Martial competition have earned their places and right for the communal prize!” Talhera spread her arms in the air, gesturing at the crowd and lingering whenever she passed one of the top ten participants. Her voice resounded with jubilation. “With this, the first half of the Martial competition has been concluded and we arrived to the quarter finals. Please, as the pairing of the fourth round participants take please, indulge yourselves in a hour long break. When the time will arrive, I will notify everyone to return back to your seats”. Talhera smiled and her voice rolled in a pleasant tune.
With the top ten participants selected, the backers behind them stopped secluding their representatives from the other noteworthy groups, who lost their chances in the competition and now could only fawn and attempt to form ties with them.
Unlike the break between the first and second rounds, after venting a little bit against Hamer, Zax had an easygoing temperament and agreed to meet the men and women that were introduced through Don and who wanted to congratulate and get to know him.
“Little brother Zax, you are still young and have to concentrate on school and cultivation. My Anandores family will be honored if after graduation you will join us. Of course, any position that you desire may be available for you and there won’t be any restrictions”.
“Brother Zax, your technique was exquisite to behold! The Hall Of Mist Users will bestow upon you the status of an Elder if you ever chose to honor us with your presence. Hahaha, it would be nothing time consuming on your part, and the status is just for helping our attendants at the Great Tabernacle to recognize and accommodate your needs accordingly”.
“Young master Zax…”
At this phase of the competition, people were coming with all kind of grandiose invitations and gifts of titles and positions.
Some people were of status that prolonged their greetings and conversations; others were also of the high echelon of Kingdom Earth, but still, not exactly on the same level and spent only a few words before cupping their hands and leaving.
“Junior Don”, a man voice parted the crowd in front of the Eden Formation’s group.
The lone man was tall with a shaved head and light skin. The air he exuded was soothing at one time, raging the next. The perceptive people who saw him were able to tell that his fluctuating disposition for others depended on where they stood in his vicinity.
“Senior Raul”, Don smiled back at the man. The moment she turned and greeted him with high reverence, the surrounding people scattered, knowing that they will not have the chance to exchange pleasantries with Zax.
The change in Don’s tone of voice was noticeable. Zax glanced away from the departing middle age woman that talked with him and recognized the man with the shaved head, Raul, who was taller than him.
The man was the leader of the group that has been situated on the other line of arranged seats.
“Good seed you managed to find, junior Don”. Raul nodded. His voice like his Advanced phase third level Core Master aura was loud and far from subtle.
“Senior Raul, your Takeda family’s Zechariah also seems to me like one of the exceptional participants”. The “Zechariah” Don mentioned was a participant in his late thirties who dominated each of his three opponents in no more than two moves.
Of the three junior participants that lady Takeda said to have matching abilities compared to Zax, Zechariah was one of them, and not because he was her great grandson.
“Zax, here, meet a senior of yours and mine from our Eden Formation”. Don made the introduction, surprising not just Zax, but even vice principle Mizuri and the rest.
A senior of the current school principle of their El-Eden’s number one Martial school?
To answer the astonishing looks of their company, Don said. “Everyone, come. Greet alongside Zax, senior Raul. He is of the first generation of our school and studied under Ten Ram and Supreme Ruler Ariel for many years before any of us were born”.
The explanation has only deepened the bewilderment of the group.
“Junior Zax greets senior Raul!”
“Junior Mizuri greets senior Raul!”
Zax and vice principle Mizuri were the first and only ones who steadily offered their salutation. After them, the rest staggered forward and cupped their hands in succession.
“Senior Raul, you were taught by my grandfather and El-Eden’s ruler, yet lead the group from Shitou?” Susuya could not resist and asked, despite the question being a little rude.
“You are Ten Mor’s granddaughter? Right, you fought my Evan well”. Raul’s initial response was laidback. Evidentially, he did not mind answering and casually continued while halting Don with his hand from scolding Susuya. “I moved to Shitou following my wife. Later, the Takeda family invited me to join it. Ten Mor and Supreme Ruler Ariel did not oppose the invitation, so I joined and now here, conducting this minor occasion as the head of our Takeda family’s group”.
“Senior Raul, reminiscing personal history with juniors is not appropriate”. Regardless of his easygoing temperament with the younger generation, Don was the type of person who carried the seniors towering above her with veneration. In her mind there had to be a measurement of distance for the young to fully grasp the enormity of the old in order to comprehend their inheritance.
“More importantly, senior Raul, how come you came meeting us alone?”
Raul had a group to supervise and abandoning them at this specific time before the quarter finals of the competition may be unwise.
The stress free expression on Raul’s face curved down to a grim. “Junior Don, contrary to your assumptions, I’m not here to check out the lad you managed to find for the school. My intentions are to talk to you alone, for that I don’t need the rest of my group. They can be fine on their own for a little while”.
“Is something…” Don held her tongue from completing the sentence. “Vice principle Mizuri, take care of things for me”. She said with creased brows.
A sudden sense of discomfort dawned on Don from Raul’s change of mood.
“Leave everything to me”. Vice principle Mizuri was not dense, and neither Zax nor the others. But if Raul refrained from disclosing the issue weighing on him with the whole group, there was nothing they could do about it.
Raul and Don stayed a length of meter or so from the group. It seemed the issue Raul wanted to discuss was more complicated than he let on, even to the point that separating from the group should have been avoided.
No, to maintain privacy, instead of drawing attention by leaving Zax and the rest, Raul unobtrusively erected a sound canceling formation around him and Don.
Feigning nonchalant gestures, facial expressions and even movements of lips, Don and Raul appeared to the people outside the sound canceling formation like two old friends, having small talk to pass the time till the fourth round.
“What is it, Senior Raul?” Don covered her mouth with her fingers. Although it was simple, she was not proficient in the technique to transfer sound to desirable ears like superintendent Ten and lady Takeda, therefore, she had relied on faint gestures to seem refine and natural.
“Junior Don… As of the beginning of the break, the wheels of something insidious started rolling… are you familiar with the rules of the Martial competition’s pairing process?”
“Rules? Normally the majority to all of the participants’ pairing is being done randomly. However, if a participant fought the last cycle of a round and then is chosen for the next round’s first cycle, the minor judges may intervene. That’s something that I learnt from Ten Ram a while ago”.
Raul sighed inwardly, as if struggling to remain calm. “That is mostly it, but not all. There is a special rule implemented to the second round’s three way battle. That is, participant who partook in it will not be selected for the latter three way battle of the fifth round. This rule never was stated officially, per se, but in past competitions the pairing of the fifth round was under surveillance to prevent having a participant encountering two extra opponents”.
Don attentively listened. She was not told about the three way battles’ rule, but it made sense as something that should be enforced. It would be extremely unfair for someone to partake in both three way battles and she could imagine the kind of protests that can arise where the representative of a major force will meet such fate.
“Nevertheless, junior Don, this year it seems that the minor judges are undetermined with regards to the special rule”.
“Undetermined? Senior Raul”, Don’s heart throbbed strongly. “Don’t beat around the bush any further. My Zax had fought and won in the second round’s third way battle…”
“Junior Don, you must first understand that the information I received is from lady Takeda, as among the thirteen elders only she and Ten Mor are looking out for your boy”.
“Ten Ram and lady Takeda, the two are third realm experts. Are you saying that the others are brave enough to undermine them in any matter?!”
“Of course not. However, Elijah has involved the Supreme Rulers and his arguments managed to convince two of them, at least, to support him”.
“Arguments? About what?” Don’s tone became severe. She demanded to know, not caring anymore about whomever that may survey their conversation.
“The reason, junior Don, I’m uncertain what it is. What I know is that for the three way battle of the fifth round, your Zax might have to fight in it. Moreover”, continuing, Raul could not sustain and the expression on his face aggravated. “Your Zax has been assessed on the same level as my Zechariah, Elijah’s Tal, Neyrar, and the independent youngster, Linor. If none of them will meet in the next round, than there is a high probability that your boy will meet two of the three in the fifth round”.
“That is!” Don was stunned beyond words. Losing complete countenance of civil manner, she said indignantly. “This is an inexcusable display of absolute discrimination, senior Raul! I won’t stand for it without a justified reason!” She turned to storm out of the sound canceling formation.
“Wait, junior Don! I told you, lady Takeda and Ten Mor are trying to prevent it from happening. There is a whole round before the three way battle, if you’ll create a scene who knows how worse the situation for your boy will become!”
“Don! Nothing is absolute until the three way battle begins. Wait. Let the elders make up their minds. And if, at the next break, they will keep debating, we will get involved as well”.
The hour long break was over.
After agreeing to follow Raul’s advice, Don led her Eden Formation back to their seats peacefully. As for the look in her face, the group could see a hint of bitterness and possibly panic in her lips and eyes, but did not ask for explanation. They were well aware that if the need will arise, they will all know.
“Thank you for joining me, everyone. The pairing for the fourth round and quarter finals are now ready to be announced. Before we get to them, though, there is a slight change in the structure of the competition the honorable elders, with the consent of the Supreme Rulers, have decided to make. For the first cycle of the fourth round, I would like to summon to the first fighting stage, Zechariah Takeda, Zax Zel and Linor, The second three way battle of the Martial competition is to commence at this very moment!”