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Chapter 398: The Cloaked Lady

    Chapter 398: The Cloaked Lady

    In contrast to himself, the Pharmacist had excellent fortune. She was to compete with the first batch, just as she had yesterday. She was the only Avenue representative in her group.

    However, there was another familiar face among the crowd. Sariel, Angel of the Moon. Lan Jue had paid close attention to the Citadel presence, and noted the lack of a certain Cherubim. It was no surprise, of course - the suffering Uriel had received in the Holy City was not easily cast off. Raphael was similarly absent.

    Aside from Metatron, there were three other representatives of the Pontiff's Citadel in attendance. They were Sariel, High Inquisitor Constantine, and another in priestly cassock.

    Lan Jue was surprised at Sariel's presence in the waiting room. Archangels could not be judged by appearance, and that went double for age. He didn't think she was so young, but her presence here meant she must fit the criteria.

    As for their mortal enemies the Dark Citadel, there didn't seem to be any luminaries aside from Lucifer. However, Satan's men didn't have a uniform like their glittery counterparts so picking them out of a crowd was difficult. That didn't mean they were any less of a threat, though.

    None of these familiar faces were preparing to go out on the field with the Pharmacist. But there was one he knew very well - unfortunately. Chu Cheng.

    Today Hades was dressed in a traditional black tunic suit. It was a rare style these days, but fitting for him. It made him look tall and thin. The fiery blaze of red hair only added to his heroic persona.

    With hands stuffed in his trouser pockets, Chu Cheng stood in the waiting area looking out toward the arenas. He paused for a moment, then like he hadn't a care in the world, began walking. Lan Jue didn't know if his pause had been for prudence or dramatic effect. His friend lazily chewed a toothpick while he half-heartedly moved toward the field.

    Lan Jue had to admit that his friend exuded a certain dark charm. His dramatic appearance and laissez-faire attitude  was like something out of a novel. He also wasn't without his own crowd of admirers. He was definitely a notable figure in the North, at his ninth level seventh rank standing.

    He made a move to exit out onto the field, when suddenly a pair of robots barred his path. A metallic hand stretched out, wreathed with electric bolts of lightning and plucked the toothpick from his mouth.

    "Contestants are not permitted to bring any weapon on to the tournament grounds," it's metallic voice croaked. Chu Cheng's prurient grin fled at the interruption.

    Hades' eyes went wide, and his face twitched. What a mistake!

    A smattering of laughter echoed from the bleachers.

    The audience had monitors which they could set to any portion of the arena that they wished. As there was some interest around Chu Cheng, it would stand to reason that thjere's be more than a few eyes on him. And now he looked like a complete idiot to all of them. The look on his face alone was tragically comical.

    Lan Jue had also just turned his attention toward his friend. When the scene unfolded, he couldn't help but wince and fight back a cackle. I don't know him! He promised himself. I don't know him!

    Chu Cheng rigidly huffed passed the robots and found his arena. His opponent was already waiting, and immediately struck him as unique. They were hidden beneath a cloak, so thick and wide so as to even hide their gender.

    "Well you've got some ** luck, I'll tell you," Chu Cheng muttered as he approached.

    His challenger said nothing.

    "You know why?" His voice nearly cracked in rage. "Because I'm in a crap mood. That f-rhgmmn... that robot!" The last sentiment was delivered with a murderous glare toward the nearby metallic servants.

    "Moron," was finally the response.

    Chu Cheng was struck dumb. Not because... well, not just because of the curse, but because of the pitch it was delivered in.

    Crisp, melodious, smoky. Underneath that cloak was a gorgeous woman. Chu Cheng knew this from long years of extensive experience.

    "You're a girl?" Despite the disparaging words his eyes showed excitement. He almost buzzed now, eager for action.

    "Three, two, one. Begin!"

    The call and buzzer started the second batch's time in the spotlight.

    The cloaked lady didn't wait for Chu Cheng to finish gushing. Her first action was to leap up, piercing the clear blue sky like a hawk. When she reached the apex of the protective dome covering their arena, her trajectory began to drop. With a flourish, her cloak splayed open like a pair of great wings. A blackness crept out that plunged their section of the field in to darkness.

    Darkness Element... Chu Cheng's brain rapidly worked around the new information.

    On the battle field, Hades was an entirely different man. His sharp eyes followed her inky shadow as it slithered through the darkness. His right hand lashed out and a raging column of fire spat from his fingertips. It split the darkness three meters from the woman's nose, directly in her path of descend. If she didn't manage to get out of the way, she'd be fried black.

    She stopped in the air like she hadn't been moving at all. Hovering in the blackness, she idly waved her hand. The motion summoned a sharp slash of red light to appear right in front of Chu Cheng.

    He instinctively leapt backward to avoid the strike. He wasn't expecting that! A cold sweat had broken out over his brow.

    Darkness and Interspacial Disciplines! Not to mention this energy intensity!

    She began to descend through the inky blackness, all the while rowing her hand. Each swipe caused scarlet fissures to split reality around Chu Cheng. He dodged, and where he dodged another appeared to cut off retreat.

    Lan Jue watched closely from the waiting area. The Pharmacist's fight had been over about one second after the buzzer rang. Her opponent was an eighth rank, but had received a significant injury from the first round. His unfortunate condition and the Pharmacist's power meant an embarrassingly quick bout.

    Chu Cheng, though? He had some kind of luck.

    Lan Jue's snap judgement was that this woman was a representative of the Dark Citadel. It looked like his fellow Monarch's luck was no better than his own. No wonder they were brothers - misery loves company.

    The unfortunate surprise Chu Cheng suffered made him p[lay passive, but that was not to mean he was in a bad spot. He was Hades, a Divine Monarch and a ninth level, seventh rank Adept!

    The last attack woke him up. His fiery orange flames darkened suddenly, and slowly licked out from his every pore. With him at the center, a raging bloom of fire exploded out in every direction.

    Those crimson flames didn't release any heat, but where they met the dimensional scars the two cancelled each other out. Pockets of nothing remained where the opposing powers clashed.

    Chu Cheng's narrowed eyes blazed. His right hand shot out again, and a meteor shower of crimson orbs blasted out in quick succession. However they didn't seem aimed at his enemy, and instead remained suspended in air.

    The air around each hovering orb swirls and waved, like viewing the world from beneath the ocean. The effect stretched around him as well to create a bubble of undulating air fifty meters in diameter.

    Her descent continued and all the while she called razor-sharp cracked around her enemy. Yet nothing landed. It was difficult to predict his position in that wavy scene, and where the fissures appeared they were quickly snuffed out in plumes of flame.

    The clash had attracted quite a lot of attention, not least from the main viewing platform.

    Jun'er was among there, seated once more upon the Terminator's arm. This time, though, her head ware was different. This one was pink in hue, and fitted the shape of Jun'er's head precisely. It seemed a significant upgrade from the one Lan Jue had purchased. That one was clutched in her arms. Like any child, her attention was not where the adults were focused.

    The Gourmet watched carefully, however, and gently nodded his head at what he saw. His nephew definitely had talent. He knew this power he used to be called the Hellfire Nimbus, which was specifically tailored to deal with Interspatial Disciplines. Adepts who used Interspatial powers required very precise control, and the heat created by the Hellfire Nimbus warped everything. Only two options remained; flee or hope one's Discipline was stronger than the Hellfire Nimbus.

    The woman was surprisingly strong, but Chu Cheng's reaction had been quick and correct. Now they were moving in to another stage of their dance.

    The cloaked woman stopped in the air with a flourish, then joined her hands before her chest. Suddenly the darkness around them congealed until it was thick as paste. It hardened and gathered until it formed in to a rapier, drinking in light from around the woman's grip.

    Her control in air meant she had the power of flight; a sure sign of ninth level. This was confirmed with her ability to aggregate energy - another high-level skill.

    Her attacks never ceased. Now her blade swept through the black, and with each swing beams of darkness came tumbling from the heavens.

    If her Interspatial Discipline wouldn't work, than a stronger thrust right through his defenses would have to do. It would be a valiant clash of direct strength.

    It was a pleasant surprise to have two ninth level Adepts facing off in only the second round. A lot of the audience woke up and fixed their eyes to the scene. The status of these two upped the stakes - a famous Northern playboy and a representative of the Dark Citadel, head to head! Both of them stood on a fine foundation, but it was the whole package that mattered.

    Where the beam of light pierced the Hellfire Nimbus, swirling blooms of fire answered. It slowed visibly, but still encroached and did not look set to waver. It pushed on like it had a mind of its own, and a single-minded desire to cut Chu Cheng in two.

    Chu Cheng bore no smile or mirthful expression now. His was a face of concentration. His right hand made a sweeping motion, and suddenly the fires around him changed. Everything about him, even his aura exuded a sense of impending doom.

    The hellfire Nimbus erupted in to a shower of firey petals, but just as quickly as it flowed outward it turned back in. Implosive force draw the fires around the column of darkness. A firestorm revolved within the confined of their arena's shield, gathering together again in to the shape of a blazing lotus.
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