Chapter 392: Huan Xue and Davis
The whole of Planet Luo was getting more and more boisterous as the Great Adept Tournament approached. The participating Adepts themselves were a small number – including those in the opening and closing ceremonies, the Adepts counted in the tens of thousands. This number was infinitesimal compared to the millions of average humans who lived there.
It’d been so long since the last Adept tournament of this size that no one could even remember when the last one was. Many of them weren’t even open to the public. You could watch these on the net, but the interstellar data delay meant it was often faster just to read news and watch highlights later. Those with means much preferred to come in person and see the action first-hand.
It was important to remember that there were significant differences between an Adept battle and a mecha competition. One of those differences was the arena itself; it needn’t be large, but protection had to be in place for spectators. These competitions would be live field matches held at the North’s largest stadium, the Luo Sports Arena.
The arena was capable of accommodating a hundred thousand spectators, and though the tickets were expensive the event was worth it. A competition like this came about only very rarely – this is what money was for!
Luckily Luo was a grand city, used to having a great deal of people. The surge in tourism was staggering, but the city didn’t seem to have any trouble handling it.
Within the Conclave.
Two people sat across from one another like statues, separated by a table. Although they appeared to have been there for ages, they sat unmoving while manifestations of their aura swirled about. The waves of power exuding from them intermingled and separated over and over again.
They were a man and a woman. The gentleman was lithe, and even seated was strikingly tall. He was over two and a half meters tall 1 with wide shoulders, and a black t-shirt was struggle to contain his barrel chest. Arms like sculpted granite rippled with muscle.
His aura had a distinctive metallic hue that played over dark skin. The power he wielded swirls around like he was the center of the universe, and the sounds of rumbling explosions could faintly be heard
The young lady, on the other hand, was precisely his opposite. She looked young, maybe in her thirties, with delicate and attractive features. Her small size was made even more dramatic when compared to the man. Her dark hair fell unbound down her back.
‘Beauty and the Beast’ was probably the most concise way to describe the scene, though not something they would ever say to their faces. She was anything but a conventional beauty, and the man not your everyday beast.
“You’ve improved, Huan Xue. Not even I can compete with you any more.” His face had a simple and honest smile of encouragement. Whether or not that was truly how he felt, however, only he knew.
The woman known as Huan Xue shook her head. “You’ve been trapped by the second bottleneck for many years, and I just reached this level. There’s no need for empty praise, there’s still quite a difference between us.”
This caused the man to chuckle. He ran a hand through his coarse hair that stood up like a forest of needles. “Your innate abilities restrain mine. If we were to fight to the death, it’d be one hell of a spectacle.”
“You find these sorts of comparisons amusing, Davis?” Huan Xue asked indifferently.
He laughed again. “Fine, we won’t discuss it. The Great Adept Tournament is almost upon us. I hear Skyfire Avenue’s competitors have already arrived. The new Paragon calling himself the Infernal Vanguard has come with them. They call him ‘the Gourmet’ on the Avenue.”
“Hm,” she answered with a nod. “I remember him. When he first got to Skyfire he was a broken man. Star-crossed in love. I would not have expected him to ever break through. Satan finally has someone to turn his paranoia on.”
“Do you think Satan will make a move?” Davis asked.
She shook her head. “He acts like a madman, but he’s actually quite meticulous. I much prefer dealing with him instead of that old fox, the Pontiff. At the least Satan won’t react before thinking. They learned that the hard way when they went to Skyfire for their little exchange. I’ll be interested to see how things turn out this time.”
Davis’ chair creaked as he shifted his weight. “We can go take a look if you like. I know you’re worried about it.”
The woman’s eyes hardened, and the air around her began to warp unsettlingly. Time slowed like wading through molasses, and even a change in facial expression felt like it tok an age.
“Now that I’m done with it, I waste no further thought. When the tournament does begin, make sure you tell all of our people to be appropriate hosts. Leave no lasting damage. Our plans for the Avenue are too far along and too well hidden, so focus on our second objective. We have a foreign invader en route – and the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Davis looked at her in silence for a moment, then nodded his head.
Both of them closed their eyes in unison, and once more the aura of their power spread out to encapsulate them.
Where the Gourmet present he would know immediately that these two were the true power holders of the Conclave. The two most powerful Adepts in the North.
Davis was better known as the fourth most powerful Paragon of them all, and they called him the Terminator. Huan Xue was fifth among their number, and was called the Dimenstress.
Despite being in the early morning, life was already rousing on the surface of Luo. Crowds had already gathered around the sports center, standing in lines for the gates to open. Many other milled about, looking for any opportunity to get tickets of their own.
Luo was a wonderful representation of Northern style. Over a thousand mechas soared overhead, responsible for keeping the skies safe. The ground security and ticket holders were all robots. Even though the sheer number of spectators was staggering, entrance in to the arena was orderly and safe.
The arena itself was a massive, octagonal structure that looked as though it were composed entirely of composite alloy. Whatever it was made of caused the building to glow different colors depending on the angle it was viewed from; red, yellow, blue and green all shifting from one to the other as people walked passed. Once inside, visitors were greeted by several massive columns of light that swept through the interior. Contestants, though, entered another way.
Application to join the tournament had long-since passed. The rules were that contestants had be under forty, and at least sixth rank. The conclave had come to these rules after a long period of discussion.
Originally, fifth level Adepts were considered as well. However, the organizers changed their mind when they found that they would have more competitors than they could accommodate. Even after they settled on sixth level, they still had more than three thousand six hundred people on the roster.
These numbers made the North’s tournament the single largest gathering of Adepts in the history of humanity. A lot of that was a result of th prizes. With every victory, ones rewards improved. It was also an opportunity to improve themselves and show off their abilities – all of which could translate in to benefits.
For most Adepts, combat prowess was an important skill. However, with the prevalence of mechas and their strength in comparison, an Adept had to show off their strength to attract good opportunities. Naturally, the best off were those Adepts who were also accomplished mecha pilots, but if you weren’t than you had to prove you were stronger than them.
The number of Adepts was also in part due to the fact that no entrance fee was required. The combat rules helped, and the badges for victory were attractive flare.
For higher-level Adepts, the badges meant little. For those in the middle of the pack, though, they were practical advantages. Remember that these tournaments were very rarely held at all, and Luo spared no expense.
Lan Jue was there among the crowds. He was clad in a form-fitting flight suit, with his features hidden behind a golden mask. The golden wig and cloak he deemed a bit much, and left them behind.
A small fellow standing in line behind him gave Lan Jue the once-over. He couldn’t suppress a chuckle as he spoke. “Hey brother, you here to participate in the Adept tournament? You know you’re wearing a mecha pilot’s outfit, right? There are no mechas here!”
The comment illicit a round of chuckle from those nearby.
Lan Jue didn’t answer, and the short man felt slightest by the lack of attention. He patted Lan Jue’s shoulder. “Hey guy, I’m talking to you. You deaf?”
At last, the Jewelry Master turned to face his accoster. An icy warning was in his eyes.
“Are you sure you’re talking to me?” He asked in quiet tones.
The other stared right back. “What? I can’t have a conversation? Who the hell are you, you think you’re too important to talk to.” He reached out to poke Lan Jue in the forehead as he spoke.
Before he could, though, his world became a swirling mess of color. Lan Jue stood in the center of it all, with his hand in his grip.
Lan Jue spoke softly. “There’s no point in you joining this competition.” There was a flash of electric blue, and the short man’s entire body went rigid. The swirling coils of power around him erupted, and sent him flying backwards.
The laughter from the crowd stopped abruptly. They were all adepts, and they’d all felt the power he’d used to silence their little friend.
Certainly nothing to laugh at, they reckoned.
The air surged around them as a massive, humanoid-shaped mecha descended from overhead. “What’s going on here,” it’s stern robotic voice queried. “Who’s fighting?”
A small contingent of robotic security drones had gathered as well.
“Check the recordings,” Lan Jue replied dismissively. He stood in line, unmoving.
Two minutes later the gathered security dispersed. Records proved Lan Jue not to be the aggressor, so they had no authority to hold him.
- 8.2 feet ↩