Four more figure stepped into the arena.
Zax got to be the seventh.
The five exchanged looks, calling the Archbishop and challenging the other participants at the same time will be awkward.
Three more fellows followed Zax and surprisingly the sum of all late participants reached a round number.
“If all the laties presented themselves…” A woman voice resounded from the Grand Abode.
A figure clad in a golden robe and with a head covering that revealed only the features of her stern, black face flew from the Grand Abode and halted midair above the arena.
The third level Martial Mortal nun gazes at the late arrivals as everyone, including the crowd, fell quiet.
“Good”, so no other person, human or beast, entered the arena, the stern nun nodded in partial satisfaction. “No more interruptions, then. I won’t bother with too many words. The ten of you, to participate in tomorrow’s finals, have two choices. First, receive a casual strike for me composed from roughly one percent of my power. If you won’t die, you may participate in the finals. Second, fight a group battle. Now choose”.
“I pick the second option”.
“A group battle”.
“Me, too, a group battle”.
“Senior nun, please be gentle on me”.
All ten made their choice. Eight, Zax among them, selected a group battle. Two dared to face the stern nun.
“Two actually dared to accept a strike from a Martial Mortal? Aren’t they all Core Masters?”
“They are, and she is a golden robed nun, that is a third level Martial Mortal in the church”.
“Mom, mom, mom, the lady nun… is she really the legendary Martial Mortal?”
“Sshh, child! Don’t speak nonsense… even mother not verse with what beyond the Core Master cultivators”.
‘An attack containing one percent of a third level Martial Mortal…’ Zax mused, glancing at the two who made that choice.
One was the armored woman, Els Joli Nembus Clad. She was a human but actually originated from a beast clan. Another was an actual beast in humanoid form, a reptilian named Sioul. His appearance was similar to Raroen and Rarahel in their humanoid forms, only his scales had an earthly luster, were a size larger and those shielding the vitals looked like tiny mounds.
‘It should be enough to flatten a Peak Core Master. These two are in the Beginner and Intermediate phases of the third Core Master’s level’. Zax noted without an ounce of belittling. Who knew what abilities they concealed?
“Brave choice”. A trace of appreciation was visible for an instant in the stern nun’s eyes. “The rest of you eight, stand back”. She ordered and they complied, stepping out of the arena. Fixating her line of sight on Els and Sioul, a breath of windy attribute exhaled from her mouth. “You can receive it together”. She permitted and the two did not hesitate to accept. “My name is Sister Mafita. Remember, should you survive, you have The Almighty to thank!”
Els drew a great sword from her spatial ring, from the tip of its long and wide blade to the other end of the hilt it was consecrated by bizarre formations, which gave the impression of a vicious paw. She squinted in deep concentration as a white, poised aura manifested around her body.
Sioul transformed to his animalistic form. His body rested on all four, and grew to the size of a twelve stories building, a forty one meters colossal, while his tail on its own was sixty meters long with eight meters tall six razor sharp spikes rising out of it. Luckily the arena was four hundred and fifty meters in both width and length; otherwise it could not contain the beast.
“A Chaoyue Armed Land Dragon? Where did you come from?” Sister Mafita inquired.
“Fieldland Island”. Sioul’s draconic voice rumbled. His aura did not extend like far from his immense body, but its brown hue was apparent and made the earthly hue of his scales more vibrant.
Fieldland Island was a small patch of land near the center of the Eastern Continent, were the European Continent used to be.
“Mm… you might have a chance. As for you, young lady, show me what your sword is capable of”. Sister Mafita raised her arm with an open palm as green aura surrounded it. Two streaks of emerald light shot, aimed at the two on the arena.
Els swung with her great sword. The formation engraved on the blade shone in a white, practically blinding, light. Mustering all of her strength, the edge of her blade collided with the emerald streak coming at her.
Sioul whipped with his tail. His swift movement issued gales of wind that without the protective formation of the arena would have sent flying the nearest spectators.
Els’s great sword cut three millimeters into the emerald streak before it overpowered her. Seeing her blade being forced back, threatening to cut its master, she sent it to her spatial ring and slapped her armor, which instantly shone with the same formations, only now they appeared more like the back of a paw.
The beam hit the armor and sent her spiraling in the air until finally she slammed against the invisible formation encompassing the arena.
Sioul’s fate was slightly better. His tail managed to divert the emerald streak’s trajectory, but at the price of losing four of its spikes and receiving a big hole near its tip. Despite not losing his position, his complexion was as light as Els’s. He was incapable of performing quick movement and so unleashed all of his mist energy in countering the emerald streak. Now he was more drained than he ever had been in his life.
Sister Mafita smiled. “You survived. Thank The Almighty and get down from the arena. Tomorrow are the finals, you better recover as best as you can”. She averted her less content gaze to the other eight. “Enter the arena”.
“Sister Mafita”, one of the eight, a short middle aged, bearded man with scars over his bald head called. His clothes were plain as Zax’s, but to his fingers he kept four spatial rings, which indicated that he is not as poor, or rather far from being.
“What?” She harshly asked.
“Excuse me, Sister Mafita, but just now you said that those who pick the second option will have to bear one percent of your strength”.
Upon hearing him the expression on Sister Mafita’s face turned sour. “So?”
‘Fool’. Zax thought and got as farther away from the bearded middle aged man as he could. The other six followed suit.
“Sister Mafita, your attack just now… it looked as if you divided it to half percent against for each of them. Isn’t this a bit unfair? If you said half percent from the beginning-”
“You dare say that you can assess my strength?” Sister Mafita snapped. “Can determine what percentage of my strength in any given strike?” She glared. Although there was not killing intent emanating from her, she still gave off a dangerous feeling to the seven who watched from the side and the middle aged man.
“I had no intention to insult-”
“Fine”, Sister Mafita did not let him to finish. “If you want, I’ll give you a chance to change your choice to the first one, and I’ll even use half percent of my strength like you want”. She pointed him with her index finger; green spark hovered in front of it.
“Half percent…” The middle aged man repeated as his eyes examined the tiny spark. Somehow he got the feeling that it would be in his best interest to refuse even if she offered a tenth of one percent. “I’d like to stick to the second option”.
Sister Mafita lowered her finger, the green spark vanished. “Begin the fight. Last one to survive gets a place in the preliminaries’ finals. Also, great Archbishop Silternjan would prefer if you avoid delivering killing blows, but if severing life is already integral part of your fighting techniques, you will not be criticized”.
The first melee was too short with no one expecting much of it due to the differences in cultivation. The group battle, however…
The crowd flocked to the seats like an ever growing tide. Soon thirty thousand of the nearly one hundred thousand seats were occupied by those who showed up a day early.
The eight late contenders picked their spots on the arena. The middle aged man who tried to argue with Sister Mafita looked at some of the face mocking him with scorn. He was and Advanced third level Core Master, naturally he will not risk it against someone of Sister Mafita’s caliber, but toward those of the same realm… he will kill all those who oppose him!
While outside the arena was a hubbub of heavy breathing, whispers and cheering, inside there was not the most minute of sounds.
Three beasts, two in animalistic form, one humanoid. They were Zhihui Two Headed Sparrow with seventeen meters pink wingspan, Shenghuo Unicorn Taurus third the size of Sioul with thick crimson hide and Zhihui Angler Fish, tall as an average human but terrifying like an incarnated nightmare.
Five humans, three men, two women. Zax, Denver, the middle aged Funwa.
Of the women, one, Namia, was young, not far for being called a “teenager”. She had an almost orange skin, blue eyes and light brown hair. The other woman, Orlin, had a similar size structure. Due to cultivation or perhaps it was her actual age, she looked even younger than Namia. Her pink skin tender like a newborn’s, her long blond hair bright as the sun and her big blue eyes mystical like the very depths of the sea.
‘Seven…’ Zax gouged them. ‘I’m supposed to emulate assassination’s technique, which means being deceived with precise strikes to the vitals’. He deliberated in order to decide whether to kill his rivals or not. ‘I’ll kill only those who point their killing intent at me’. He compromised on eye for an eye. Although good assassins should hone their skill to the level of nothing but execution when they strike, the novice Zax insisted on thinking otherwise. ‘Assassins sometimes need to catch their victim alive, right?’ It was a fairly founded observation, referenced from a movie he saw as a child…
The tension was approaching its climax.
A transient stalemate….
‘Oh? The big bull wish the impale me?’ The first opponent was already out for his life. Zax’s legs moved in a strange rhythm.
The foot technique he learned from Linor was not the most advanced in her arsenal, but was excellent nonetheless. On the same realm, when levels were not far apart and others do not have prior experience dealing with such obscuring moves it would be impossible to follow them, and currently in the arena Zax posed as a bodily cultivator, supposedly in the second level of the second realm.
In a few strides he suddenly showed up on the opposite side of the arena, between him and the Unicorn Taurus were four contenders obstructing the way.
The fair Orlin’s heart missed a beat. The eight formation poles encircling her detected Zax in their range, and that she was in his, too.
Alarmed, she utilized all of her fiery mist energy to her formation poles, but before they were able to generate a charge, she felt a sharp pain at her nape and lost consciousness.
The eight formation poles fell knocking on the arena’s floor.
‘That’s one’. Zax grabbed Orlin’s arm and tossed her out. An opening in the protective formation allowed her to exit the arena. ‘Next’. His eyes locked on the slick humanoid Angler Fish who was in the midst of confrontation with Denver’s pickaxe.
“You!” Both Denver and the humanoid Angler Fish were shook by Zax abruptly showing up between them.
“Me”. Zax grinned. The two were third level Core Masters, in fact, every contender but him was a third level Core Master and none were bodily cultivators. They were all doom to fall in his hand, some with a bit more effort than the others. “Die!” Sensing his killing intent, Zax’s poked a hole in Denver’s throat, vanished, reappeared behind the Angler Fish and knocked his head, sparing him.
His action were not missed by the four still fighting, and as they realize he defeated three in just couple of second since they all moved, their hearts turned cold and their faces ugly.
“Kill him first!” The Unicorn Taurus bellowed.
“He is too dangerous, kill him!” Namia assented.
The pink Two Headed Sparrow and Funwa also acknowledged that although Zax’s strength was not exceptional, his speed and technique were fierce.
They swooped on him four versus one.
Outside the arena everyone in the crowd jumped from their seats in loud, excited voices. The arena had a temporal formation which enabled them to better perceive what is going on inside, though they mostly saw colorful flashes. If it was a group battle of third realm experts, then there was no formation in all of Ercas Mir that could have help them see a thing.
“An assassin? No. He is too goodhearted”. Up in the air, too high for the fighting to reach, Sister Mafita evaluated.
“Careful!” Funwa shouted.
Zax agilely evaded the concentrated assault, arriving to Namia’s side.
“How could his movement be so-” Namia’s voice quieted. She could not speak with a hole in her throat.
“Damn!” The Unicorn Taurus roared, rose on his back hooves, intending to stomp.
Zax jumped, in a flash reaching below the Unicorn Taurus’s neck and with a claw like hand ripped it with so much force his small arm nearly tore the huge head off the rest of the body.
Blood spilled like rain, but not a drop landed on Zax. “Do you, two, also want to kill me?” He asked Funwa and the pink Two Headed Sparrow.
The two froze in their places on the ground and in the air, swallowing the saliva in their perfectly intact necks, their heads initiating a minute tilt.