As expected, two days flew by and Kifo still remained in deep sleep. His breakthrough was probably going to take another week or two just because of the re-forging his body was undergoing. By the time he woke up, the ranking tournament would have already concluded.
‘Where there’s fortune to be found, misfortune lies right around the corner.’ Thought Zilan.
“I don’t see the point of watching the preliminaries.” Yawned Fujo. He had stayed up late the previous night entertaining some guests and just when he had finally fallen into a comfortable, deep sleep, in came Zilan to pull him out of it.
“There’s a point to everything I do.” Smiled Zilan.
“Oh! Care to enlighten me?” Fujo’s tired eyes snapping open.
“You really want to know?”
“I really want to know.” Nodded Fujo.
“The truth is, I just really want to watch the preliminaries.”
His previously curious eyes dimmed. He wanted to rebuke Zilan but he lacked the energy to do so.
“Why did you drag me along with you then?” He whispered under his breath. The image of his soft bed springing into his mind. Never had it appeared more beautiful than now. It was to the point that if given the choice between a transcendent beauty and his bed right now, he would still choose the beauty however, the bed would make him hesitate.
“If I didn’t drag you along then who would I use as a shield when those Beasts move against me?” chuckled Zilan.
He was in a good mood today mostly because of the unexpected developments that appeared on Kifo. As a brother and a friend, he was naturally happy for him but what made Zilan this happy was the simple fact that, Kifo’s increase in strength also meant an overall increase in strength for him and his people. The stronger he got, the more smoothly Zilan’s plans could progress in the future.
Jokes aside, there indeed existed a reason as to why Zilan wished to watch the preliminaries.
Currently he was ranked first among rookies however, such an achievement although deserved, did not mean much here since the testing greatly favoured Alchemists. What did this mean then?
Due to the nature of the entrance tests, at least fifteen spots in the top twenty were occupied by Alchemists. Was this because the Fire Guardians lacked the ability to be ranked higher? Of course not, this just went to show how biased the Associations testing was towards Alchemists. This was to be expected though, after all the name of the organisation was Alchemy Association.
Therefore, these preliminaries that were exclusive to Fire Guardians, would without a doubt feature strong contenders for the number one spot amongst rookie Fire Guardians. Zilan wouldn’t even be surprised if there were Beasts whose cultivation exceeded his own. Of course, their cultivation may be higher but with the multitude of trump cards he possessed, the gap could definitely be shortened. One mustn’t forget that Zilan’s Blood force was greater in quality compared to even Beast force therefore, even with a slightly higher cultivation, as long as they weren’t in the soul-compression stage, he could handle pretty much anyone without relying on his Dragon body or his spirit tools. That being said, it wouldn’t be an easy fight.
‘Invincible under the soul-compression stage? Not long ago, these words could only be said in my dreams.’ Thought Zilan to himself.
The ranking tournament would be held within a gigantic arena in the Central area of the Association. This way both Alchemists and Fire Guardians could watch the competition.
“How big is the arena?” asked Zilan.
“You’ll see it for yourself soon, but according to Uncle it covers at least a million square feet of total space.” Replied Fujo lazily. Either he completely disregarded the competition, confident in his abilities or he was just too tired to care. It was probably the latter but with Fujo, who knows.
The duo made their way towards the location, on their way they gradually ran into a large mob of people heading to the same place. Some of them viewed Zilan with hostile eyes however, taking note of Fujo’s presence, they did not make a move.
Coming over a small hill, a huge coliseum could now be seen. The walls surprisingly were made of a rarely seen brown metal, going around the entire space and standing at a staggering height of, 150 feet. Even from afar, one could hear the deafening sounds of shouts and indistinct murmuring from a crowd that easily numbered in the tens of thousands.
“It hasn’t started yet, right?” questioned Zilan.
“Of course not. It’s still very early!” He emphasised the ‘early’, while staring at Zilan in frustration.
“Okay, okay, how long are you going to act like this?”
“Until I’m back in my bed.”
Zilan, “That’s going to be a while then.”
Fujo rolled his eyes before answering the question,
“What you’re hearing are the festivities that come along with such events.”
“Gambling mainly. Don’t worry, you’ll see soon enough.”
Just as Fujo had said, as soon as they arrived at the location, some members of the Association handed them jade slips that were programmed with all the data on the preliminary participants as well as functions that allowed viewers to place bets. There was even a timer counting down the amount of time left before the bets were finalised.
Further inside, there were a multitude of stalls selling various items, with the most eye catchingly luxurious and packed ones, being those managed by the Association and the top camps. These stalls and shops manned by the big shots of the Association, all offered a primary service of lending money so that members could place bets. Of course, when paying back the amount, there was a percentage of interest that needed to be given. If one failed to pay it back, then, their fate would definitely not be anything to be envious about.
Zilan could even see a shop bearing the symbol of the Purple Heart Two Flames camp.
‘What a great money making scheme.’ He sighed in admiration.
Looking over, Fujo couldn’t be more disinterested.
“Let’s go find our seats.” He said.
Since the two were participants in the rookie tournament, ranking in the top twenty, their seats were as expected, not bad, being seated five rows behind the front.
“Who will be sitting over there?” pointed Zilan.
Looking towards the front row, Fujo shrugged, “Inferno rank and above.”
The Inferno rank for Fire Guardians symbolised being in the lower level Soul-compression stage (level 100 – 1000). Surpassing the Inferno rank meant being in the mid-level Soul-compression stage (level 1000 – 10,000) and so on. Above the soul compression stage, strength was no longer measured in levels. In fact, even within the Soul-compression stage, ones level of power was measured in phases and not specific levels as the gap in strength within phases was not that large. For example, for someone in the lower level Soul compression stage, from level 100-500 they’d be considered to be in the Early phase of the stage, 500-700 were considered to be in the Intermediate phase and 700-1000 was the Late phase. This same principle applied for Mid-level and High-level Soul-compression stage practitioners.
If two low level Soul-compression stage martial artists fought, both being in the early phase of the stage, regardless of the gap between their levels, say one is 200 and the other 400, the fight wouldn’t be a one-sided thrashing. However if an Intermediate phase fought and early phase, it would be total destruction.
The seats up front that surrounded the giant black metallic stage below were reserved for these figures. They were comprised of either the heads of Camps or scouts for the top Camps. Being only the preliminaries though, the most prominent figures in attendance would probably be Inferno ranked Fire Guardians. Only when the tournament reached its final stages would figures such as Elders show up.
Finding his seat and settling down, Zilan began going through the information within the jade slip while Fujo immediately dozed off in his chair.
‘So the first round of the preliminaries is a battle royal type of competition. Three different groups comprising of two hundred combatants each will face off until only fifty remain. By the end of the first round, a total of one hundred and fifty people will move on to the second round.’
Looking up, Zilan saw four humungous screens of light broadcasting the current state of the bets, the participants and their respective groupings, the current rankings on the Rookie Rank stone and a zoomed in look at the stage.
Casually browsing through the names of the participants, Zilan didn’t know who to focus on so he just went by their current rank and who the majority of spectators were betting on.
Suddenly, a name he recognised appeared on the screen and it was placed under the first group of two hundred.
“Hey, Fujo, wake up. That cousin of yours, Nyoka, she’ll be going up soon.”
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