Razil swayed in his seat, his head was so light that it could carry the rest of his body and fly circles in the hall. His face brimmed with giddiness.
The armrest of Don’s seat was crushed to smithereens in her grip.
‘Calm down!’ Superintendent Ten’s voice reverberated in her head. ‘Nothing can be done to change it!’
‘Ten!’ One word of endless pleading echoed in Don’s sea of consciousness, the farthest she could shout without uttering sound to the outside world, so distressed and livid she left out the honorific title.
‘There are things you don’t know, Don, things I haven’t fully explained to you! I’m ordering you, stay seated!’
With that, superintendent Ten forced silence to revisit Don’s mind.
But even if Don herself did not say a word, the crowd of spectators, backers and participants who lost in the previous rounds, were too flabbergasted to be able to stay quiet.
A chatter of subtle voices, trying to understand the meaning of Talhera’s announcement, spread like a wildfire in the west side of the hall and anyone who said a word done so while being inconspicuous. No one after all wanted to be the person to directly undermine the elders and Supreme Rulers.
“Zechariah Takeda, Zax Zel and Linor… of the ten participants remaining, they are the three randomly chosen for the three way battle?”
“What the hell… This selection, in comparison to the previous three way battle, is too messed up”.
“This decision… It cannot be coincidental. Zax won the first three way battle. Can any of the seniors present here today, recall a past competition having the same participant fighting in both the first and second three way battles?”
“Forget about a participant fighting in two three way battle, never in the history of the Martial competition was its structure altered after the first round has begun”.
“I still cannot digest it… And I’m sure none of the friends here is blind, either. Zechariah Takeda, Zax Zel and Linor, together with the Molten Core’s representative, Neyrar, are the top contenders most likely to succeed the top three places. Pitting three of the four against each other… regardless of who will win, the end result of the competition would be unpredictable”.
“Indeed. No one other than these three can threaten Neyrar and after their fight, whoever will win should be so weakened, it is doubtful he or she will manage to contend for the second place”.
The crowd was one mind, but no matter what was said they were all ignored by the fourteen elders, as well as the three Supreme Rulers.
While everyone composed themselves and with effort tried to understand the will of the elders and Supreme Rulers, only few people, those that either came as supporters or sat close to the three pivotal participants, noticed the mutual stiffness of Zechariah, Zax and Linor.
Zax sat in his seat, unresponsive to Anet’s and Susuya’s mixed words of protests and encouragement. In his mind flashed a sequence of thoughts not that much different than the thoughts in Zechariah’s and Linor’s minds.
They were not dense, nor obtuse.
‘Something wrong with the competition, this three way battle cannot be randomly picked. Moreover they did not even give a reason for advancing it’.
‘Old timers, are you taking this junior for a docile child?’
The lack of explanation awakened a reciprocal sense of rebelliousness within the three.
‘This coldness!’ Zax eyes wanted to shift left and up, to the elder, so called best bodily cultivator in Kingdom Earth, Neyrar’s Mor and the man who throughout the competition treated him eerily with his gaze.
The chilly hostility embedded Elijah’s Soul Sense. It swept Zax for a single instant, as if curious about his reaction to the three way battle announcement, but not wanting to overexpose his interest.
Zax did not dwell on Elijah’s probe. The next thought to manifest in his mind ran shivers down his back.
‘My opponents this time… are these two…’
He spectated Zechariah’s and Linor’s fights. He observed all the battle in the competition till now with keen curiosity for the different fighting styles and Martial techniques rather than with the intent to learn the methods of his potential opponents.
Scenes of Zechariah’s and Linor’s fights played in his head. The more Zax watched, the deeper he recalled them, the more his stiff hands clenched tighter and tighter to the form of two bulging fists.
‘Zechariah and Linor, they won’t permit me to hold back, won’t they?’ Slowly Zax released the pressure from his hands and loosened his whole body on the seat. The next moment feelings of exultation, anxiety, eagerness, impatience and lust for battle washed over him.
Finally, the participants he awaited to meet, those with the strength to challenge and if not careful beat him, were right in front of him.
Zax got up from his seat and stood like an unshakeable pillar. Zechariah and Linor got up virtually at the same time as Zax, as if to prove how much their minds were in sync with each other.
The sounds of chattering subsided to a hush. The crowd stared at the three with bated breaths. Everyone had something to say about the alteration and selection of the three way battle, but the response of only three people was the one that mattered.
Each of the three took a step forward, and a second step and a third step and so on… closing the distance to the fighting stage.
Talhera called their names, but had not yet declared the beginning of the fight. Nevertheless, even if she wanted to her voice did not come out.
As the three approached the fighting stage in moderate steps, they each emanated a piercing atmosphere that covered the hall like a rain of scalding needles.
Nearly all of the spectators, backers and participants shuddered in their seats. Their blood boiled in their veins, making them feel both pain and thrill.
Zechariah and Linor made a swift move with their hands and blue pebbles, Blue Stones, appeared in their palms.
The Blue Stones transformed to two blue towers, fifty five centimeters tall and two meters and ten centimeters tall.
Linor extract two maces with blunt but heavy blades.
Zechariah took out a long scythe with curved World Gathering Bone for a blade.
The two towers shrunk back into two Blue Stones, but no one noticed. Everyone fully concentrated on the two’s weapons that were revealed for the first time in the competition and gulped.
The air in the hall became more intense by several fold.
Zax was not proficient in weaponry, only the use of his physique. When he saw the Blue Stones he guessed that his opponents are about to show some sort of weapons, the indication of their resolve to go all out.
Zax wore shoes, but as his right sole stepped on the smooth floor of the hall, a tremor ran past his foot and soared. The muscles through his entire right leg stretched and protruded.
The next step ran another tremor and the muscles in his left leg stretched and protruded also.
Clenching his fist, the muscles in his arms, neck and shoulders bulged and all of his upper body issued cracks.
Filling his lungs with air, Zax’s chest expended. Breathing out, his visible body parts seemed to give a red luster and release barely distinguishable steams plumes.
Zax warmed his body in response and preparation for the fight.
The three halted their steps a meter or so from the fighting stage, their determination and intent almost tangible.
“Participants Zechariah, Zax, Linor-” Talhera opened.
Zechariah’s and Linor’s auras burst in red and black.
Zax’s kinetic energy breached his layers of skin and caused the air in circumference of ninety nine centimeter around him to vibrate.
On the judges’ stage, Talhera felt like she was stuck beside a raging storm.
The tension in the hall reached a bottleneck.
The three dashed explosively.
The scythe’s curved blade glowed in fiery red light.
Kinetic energy converged to Kinetic Force.
Black aura surged from the two maces.
Since they were told to do battle, they will show them a fight!
A turbulent of fierce, rampant energies erupted and an invisible shockwave blasted from the epicenter of the three’s collision.
The shockwave slammed into the fighting stage’s formation and in the span of two breaths fractured and completely destroyed it.
A figure whizzed and Talhera found herself in the hands of her exceptionally handsome Mor, Elijah.
Simultaneously, eleven men and women, all the other honorable elders except from superintendent Ten and Lady Takeda, sprung from their seats with serious expression to encompass the fighting stage. Four of them raised their arms and blocked the shockwave from making it to the spectators, the remaining seven erected a spherical formation around the fighting stage, to absorb and prevent following shockwaves from toppling the hall and the Path Arena above it.
The three attacked with the same level of strength, but the force of impact was not equally divided.
Zax felt his body being pushed back after absorbing thirty percent of the impact.
Zechariah sustained the same amount of force.
Linor, however, suffered the brunt of the collision, forty percent of the impact, and was thrown to the edge of the fighting stage.
Silence. The crowd watching the collision of the three forces sat quietly in their seats like a gathering of ghosts.
“Did you see it?! Did you freaking see it?!” Among the many spectators, the first person who could not hold his breath anymore, stood up, pointed and shouted at the people around him with exhilaration and lingering shock written all over his face.
“So young, so vibrant!” Another woman said.
“Zechariah, Zax and Linor… Three kids made the honorable elder to leave their seats… Everyone, steady yourselves, a tempest is coming!”
Zax tapped his foot on the stage.
Zechariah poured mist energy to his legs and moved them in a bizarre manner that accelerated his speed.
Kinetic Force filling Zax fist, on the verge of exploding.
Zechariah tilted his scythe, drawing a circle and manifesting a dreamy picture of a sunset.
A fist and a sun clashed.
Zax felt a searing pain in his fingers, penetrating his skin and bones and spreading to his arm. Gritting his teeth, Zax adamantly preserved.
Zechariah felt his Setting Sun scythe technique quivering. He persisted and his grip extracted greater strength on the shaft.
The sun split to four parts and Zechariah’s arms were repelled up, still in hold of the scythe.
Zax was no better. His fist was shoved back and his balanced was broken.
The two’s pupils squinted with surprise, anger and delight.
The two exchanged blows in quick succession, tens and hundreds of strikes in mere seconds.
Streaming kinetic energy and converging it.
Mustering fiery red mist energy.
The air around Zax’s fist seemed to howl.
The curved blade of the scythe blazed.
The two threw their unrestrained attacks.
A figure appeared between Zax and Zechariah.
Linor’s thrust her shining black maces, one at Zax’s incoming fist, the other at Zechariah’s descending scythe.
A gentle sound echoed, but the force it generated broke the two attacks.
Zax was astonished. ‘Her control of her body is superb! And her maces… it is as if they are an extension of her arms!’
Linor’s attack was precise, with the smallest amount of effort, to the right spot, in order to cause the greatest amount of damage.
No wonder she is titled as the number one assassin of the Basement Floor!
Linor’s maces did not have the intent of defeating Zax and Zechariah at one stroke. That would have been wishful thinking. No, she only wanted to parry their attacks and remind them that this is a three way battle.
Zax and Zechariah pressed forward and sent their attacks.
Linor, in the middle of the strife, swung her maces to meet them both.
A series of clashes rang.
The fighting stage around the three cracked, its formation crumbled like a piece of tofu under the weight of a boulder.
Dark and fiery beams of mist energy ricocheted with enormous power, capable of splitting, piercing and smashing even Advanced phase first level Core Masters.
Under the protection of the eleven elders, the crowd of spectators watched as three blurs constantly traded blows, totally numb to the fact that the other battles of the fourth round’s first cycle were not instigated and the name of their participants not mentioned.
Fear, excitement, reverence, envy, lust… Whatever feeling you can name, at least one person in the crowd felt it.
And words? Everyone in the crowd understood the consequences. Waste a fraction of concentration on an otiose need such as expressing one’s self, and you will regret it all your life if an undistinguishable instant of the battle will pass unnoticed.