Chapter 389: Tournament Rules

    Chapter 389: Tournament Rules

    Three people, three separate rooms. Of course Lan Jue and Qianlin would meet at night to cultivate their powers, but it would be done secretly to avoid questions and preserve Qianlin's reputation.

    After the ladies left, Chu Cheng remained with Lan Jue in his suite. "So what's the deal - what brings you to Luo this time around? The Avenue sent several representatives, young ninth level Adepts, but what's the North's play here?" Lan Jue asked.

    As a member of the Hades bloodline and under protection of the North, Chu Cheng was naturally a member of the Great Conclave. His all-pervasive disinterest assured, though, that he didn't have any real responsibility in the organization. But with his reputation, and his ninth level seventh rank Discipline, he was still a well respected member.

    Chu Cheng replied. "On the surface, it's all about friendly inter-Adept exchange. Underneath they've got other plans. One of them is of course to see just how powerful our competition is. The sudden rise of two Paragons from the Avenue, and it's unexpected pressure on the two Citadels has made the Conclave nervous. They've changed tack."

    "One of them, you said. What are the others objectives?" He asked.

    Chu Cheng's normally jovial and impudent expression grew serious. "It has to do with those aliens. The North has gathered a fair bit of information about them after several exploratory missions. They even brought back some physical evidence. The science and tech department has been hard at work analyzing the findings. I believe they should share their findings sometime during the tournament. I don't know the specifics, but if the reaction of the North's upper brass is any indication than this is serious. These creatures are a hell of a lot stronger than we thought."

    Lan Jue's face was hard as he peered in to the distance. He knew precisely how strong these things were. Between the Clairvoyant's forecasts and his own experience on Taihua, there were probably few who understood them better than he.

    The universe was vast. There had always been a significant possibility that some strong outside force might be encountered. It was wise for the North to use this opportunity to spread awareness. It was already a danger to the whole of the human species.

    Chu Cheng went on. "All efforts in the hopes that we can survive what's coming. The North already sent three Bastion ships out to the area as a precaution. If those alien planets are found encroaching on the territory, then war is inevitable. The Northern Alliance will be the first to face them."

    Lan Jue nodded. "If they do attack, I'll be right there on the front lines. I plan to join the military. What's your plan?"

    "Military?" Chu Cheng shot his friend a surprised look. "Shoulder to shoulder with the big guy, eh?"

    Again he nodded. "We don't leave a man behind, right?"

    Chu Cheng gave him a thumbs-up. "Word. I guess I'll kick up some trouble myself if it comes to that, and join the army as well. Hopefully hostilities between the East and North will be forgotten by then and we can join forces. After all, we have a common enemy."

    Lan Jue grunted in acknowledgement. "That's the hope. Unfortunately there's a lot of history between the three Alliances. If it isn't taken care of then It'll be a serious handicap. So what else, other than this announcement. How is this tournament going to be run?"

    "Nothing complicated," Chu Cheng assured. "A simply show of strength. There was a period of indecision, but eventually they landed on some rules. Anyone under forty is allowed to participate, and the prizes are well worth the effort. I think at last estimation, there'll be around two thousand Adepts competing - all top grade adepts. The actual match-ups will be decided by drawing lots so luck is also a factor. I think your first round is against a seventh level Adept. You won't have any trouble... that is, unless you pull my name out later. Then you're in for some trouble!"

    Lan Jue patted his head in exasperation. "When pigs fly. Go on."

    "Well, with so many people they had to keep things simple. It starts with elimination rounds until we're down to sixteen competitors. Then, they'll be separated in to four pairs. Once the losers are eliminated, those four will compete. Anyone who gets passed the elimination rounds will get  bonus prize - an a-ranked power gem for getting in the semi-finals. Anyone in the finals will get an s-ranked gem, with an extra s-ranked gem for the grand champion. Runners-up will earn stones whose rarity will be based on their final standing. But they don't accumulate. You only get the highest award you've acquired."

    Lan Jue nodded. "Easy is right, but also the best way to go about it. The whole thing shouldn't take too long to complete. Is it all one-on-one, or is there anything else going on?"

    His companion shook his head. "Nope. But I did hear some talk about an all-in mecha melee between the three Alliances. It's supposed to happen when DreamNet's completed its upgrades. The idea is to inspire more young people to work hard and join up. Pilots are going to see combat so this is likely to help prepare everyone for what's to come."

    "Good plan," Lan Jue commented. "That was also the idea behind our competition with the Star Alliance. Has the North instituted a draft?"

    "Not just yet. There's still some time before the threat reaches us. They won't just show up on our doorstep," Chu Cheng said.

    Lan Jue grunted. "I'll get in touch with A-Li. Should we get together tonight?"

    This caused Chu Cheng's eyes to light up. "Call those two ladies! Right, I forgot to ask - where'd Su Xiao Su come from? How the hell did you get so lucky, anyway. You're always running in to these gorgeous female powerhouses. If five is finally enough for you introduce the next one to me. I'm marrying age now, according to the family, so they've got me set up on all these blind dates 1. Since our powers are genetic, the family makes to make sure I start on the next generation. Of course, now that I'm supposed to be getting married I'm not supposed to be meeting just any lady. Xiaosu is definitely not a bad fit. Introduce me, I'm serious!"

    The look on his face confirmed his words.

    But Lan Jue had long since grown immune from his friend's false assurances. "Cut the **. If you want something, take care of it yourself. But don't say I didn't warn you - if you do shack up with Xiaosu, you're in for a world of trouble. You're already locking horns with the Prince of Darkness, and if you make things worse than even the Conclave might not be able to shield you."

    Chu Cheng looked stunned. "What do you mean? Does she have some sort of connection to the Pontiff's Citadel?"

    "Have you heard of the Moonfiend Empress?" He asked.

    He nodded. "I've heard of her. The pirate lord out there in the Shattered Starfields, right? Don't tell me Su Xiaosu is the Moonfiend Empress! The hell are you doing with a pirate lord at your heels?"

    Lan Jue laughed. "Pirate? If only it were that easy. She has another name: the Morningstar."

    Chu Cheng's mouth fell open.

    "You... you sure love to stir ** up! You've been back for what feels like a few days and already half the West wants to murder you. I'm starting to see a pattern - screw it, you can keep her. I suddenly feel a great deal of pity for you. They may look like beautiful women, but they're all time bombs!"

    He wasn't wrong. These five women had more caustic baggage than a nuclear waste disposal truck. Every one of them  was trouble waiting to happen.

    Back when they were all hiding away in the Avenue, lost in their life of decadence, then there weren't any problems. No one would come to the Avenue to cause trouble, even if they'd had known they were there.

    But once Lan Jue started coming out, his identity was becoming more widely known as was his location. Plenty of people already knew where he laid his head. All of his old rivals and new enemies would never be far behind.

    Chu Cheng's face changed again as he remembered something important. "A-Jue. Are you going to participate under your real name or your title?"

    "Zeus," he replied. "If I hide my face behind a mask, at least it'll afford me some level of mystery."

    "You aren't going to participate with the Avenue team?"

    Lan Jue nodded. "I won't be competing on their behalf. The Conclave has given me a good enough excuse as a competitor. Hopefully it'll protect me from getting assassinated."

    Lan Jue said it like a joke, but it was only half in jest. As the once-Mercenary King he'd made quite a number of enemies. It was just as true for the Conclave as anywhere else. After all, he'd taken both Lin Guoguo and Ke'er from their clutches.

    Chu Cheng's face darkened. "That's nothing to joke about, bro. You better remember that your name is damn near the top of the conclave's blacklist."

    This earned a shrug. "What can I do about it? I know what I'm doing - and I'm going in as Zeus."

    1. This is still a common practice, even in big cities in China. It often falls on the parents (read as: they take it upon themselves) to find 'appropriate' mates for their children. For men, this means finding a beautiful and obedient woman who will make a good mother. For girls, they want a man who is a) tall b) rich c) well-connected and d) respectful to family. This needs to be achieved by twenty five. Anyone - especially women - over 28 is considered spoiled goods.
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