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Chapter 400: The Nine Taiyin Flares

    Chapter 400: The Nine Taiyin Flares

    The Driver and Lan Jue were cut from the same cloth; both Lightning-based, both dual-Disciplined. He was even stronger than Lan Jue in terms of cultivation, so he didn't fear a little competition. Even still, the little man from the North gave him quite a shock at the battle's onset.

    Not a moment after the buzzer, he was soaring two meters in the air. That didn't mean anything, it was what happened next that gave the Driver pause.

    He began to spin horizontally like a drill, furiously boring toward the Avenue representative. The Driver's mastery of lightning made him fast, but even so the little man's piercing  charge was on him in a flash.

    His black metallic arms were outstretched, and each one was adorned with five nasty-looking spikes. They were black as pitch, which made them very hard to see. He was still some distance away when his cutting aura began to hammer at the Driver's defenses. The subconscious shields protecting him shuttered and fell away under the invisible assault.

    However, the Driver was one of the preeminent younger generation of the Avenue. This was not his first proverbial rodeo. He planted his feet, and an aura of crackling electricity sprang up around him. At the last minute he lunged to the side, narrowly avoiding his opponent's charge.

    Speed was evidently part of this little man's repertoire, as he turned and bounded back the moment he hit the floor. In the blink of an eye he was tearing back the other way toward the Driver's back with the same tactic. In the same second, the Driver reacted. He stepped just out of the way, and in the space he vacated there hovered a condensed orb of electric energy. The challenger was going too fast - he couldn't stop himself from ramming head-long into it.

    What followed was unexpected. Instead of an explosion, the crowds watched in shock as the smaller man drilled a hole clean through the orb. He pierced through it leaving behind a clear cavity, but too fast for the energy to ignite. He landed nearby, unscathed.

    The Driver juked to the side again, and an explosion of crackling light erupted from him in all directions with a rolling roar. The smaller man, seeing his attacks fail, whipped around to face his enemy. His metallic hands shot upward, and the motion birthed a swirling purple tornado between them. It was a well-chosen tactic against the explosive power of lightning.

    It just went to show that you couldn't judge a book by its cover. The man looked like a scrub, but he was a terror on the battlefield.

    Thunderstorm and hurricane collided. A roaring blast punctuated their meeting that caused the shields to crackle in protest.

    Chu Dong had appeared by the arena at some point. His job was to watch these sorts of encounters for fairness and safety. Most were settled electronically, but clashes at this level needed a peak Adept to make sure it didn't get out of hand.

    The two two clashed and destroyed one another. The splintering bolts of lightning dispersed through the shields, and the tornado spun itself in to oblivion. The resulting tidal wave of energy that was released swept through most of the tournament grounds.

    The smaller men leaped backward, summoning another hurricane around himself. The sharp aura around him was almost visible. This earned a dismissive grunt from the Driver denizen before he vanished. When he reappeared half a moment later, he was suspended in air behind his opponent.

    Another sweeping blast of power raced across the field, but this time it was only the little man who found his power destroyed. Nine successive blasts followed directly on top of where he hovered. The concussive force eventually knocked him out cold.

    Nine orbs of compressed electric energy detonated one after the other. The last one erupted in the shape of a curious symbol, which hung burned in the sky for a moment before disappearing.

    This battle was over.

    From their even start to the little man's crushing defeat, perhaps only a minute had passed. This was how the Driver won things, and most in the crowed hadn't even seen how he'd done it.

    ζ

    Chu Dong, who'd watched from the sidelines, looked as surprised as he did interested. This fight had been even more impressive than his son's.

    He knew that man - a ninth level first rank Adept. Despite his relatively lower rank, he was still a person of interest in the North. He had an intimate and masterful knowledge of wind, it's destructive properties. He was a congenital Talent, as well. However, he decided to become a Bionic in the pursuit of greater power. Those arms of his were constructed of precious metals that resonated with his wind Discipline. It allowed him to resonate at high frequencies, and gave his strikes an incredible boost in power. He could reputedly a punch a hole through a battleship's hull. He had come from an assassin organization, one of the best of their ranks. A defeat like this was unexpected, to say the least.

    He hadn't caught a break. The speed he was famous for couldn't catch lightning. His powerful attacks were useless if he couldn't hit his target. Worse, however, was the fact that thunder always followed lightning. Two Disciplines were tough to overcome.

    That final attack in particular was daunting. That wasn't normal lightning he'd faced, but had been infused with protogenic energy - well hidden beneath the rolling lightning. It had been the most explosive attack he'd seen in the games so far. He was curious what it was named.

    Others knew. Lan Jue smiled behind his mask as he watched.

    The Nine Taiyin Flares

    It was an attack specific to the yin-biased nature of his Discipline. He also knew that what they'd seen was only the tip of the iceberg. Any more and they'd have to cart the little man out in pieces.

    Lan Jue could see from the battle that the Driver had a firmer grasp on the properties of lightning than he did. There was an opposite for the Taiyin Flares, as they was for all opposing forces. For those of a more yang nature, it was called the Nine Taiyang Flares. Lan Jue was cultivated to the point where those secrets should have been revealed to him, but his focus had been on mastering Taiji. The secrets of the attack still eluded him. He'd understood his teacher's thought process though. Once becoming seventh rank, mastering the Taiyang Flares would be easier with a Taiji background.

    A helpless depression fluttered across Lan Jue's heart as he realized he needed to make that loathsome visit. It would be worth it to learn that attack.

    He remembered the stories he'd heard, about how the Nine Strikes of Taiji and the Buddhist Mantras were the most powerful of these lost arts. The ultimate goal, though, was to combine the Taiji Nine Strikes and the Taiyang Flares. The near-mythical ability - called the Hammer of Supreme Yang - was a step on the path to Paragon.

    The Taiyin and Taiyang Flares were exceptionally powerful attacks, and their explosive nature was harmful to the Adepts who used them. Only a Taiji master would be able to modulate the erratic flow of power, and drain the excess before it harmed the user. This was especially true for the yang-portion, and that was why an Adept had to be of only the highest caliber to be able to use it.

    The thought of learning something new, something that strong, was an exciting prospect for Lan Jue. His power level would see a very sharp rise once that skill was learned.

    The Driver probably only recently uncovered the knowledge as well. Both Taiyin and Taiyang Flares depended on protogenic energy. Learning it to perfection was one route to Paragon. The Driver must have chosen this as his Path. For Lan Jue things appeared more complicated, and he wasn't yet sure how to proceed.

    The next batch passed in relative quiet. There weren't any clashes between ninth level adepts in this group. It didn't look good for the sponsors if their strongest fights were all at the beginning, so a lot of it was by design.

    It wasn't until the middle of the day that the final batch - Lan Jue's - was called to compete. Arena 8, against opponent 67.

    When he got there, he faced his opponent with a helpless sigh. He knew Challenger 67 alright. It was the Barber.

    Now Lan Jue was thinking his sour luck was a curse. How was he supposed to defeat someone on his own side? Still so early in the games?

    It was in the rules though; none of the big names from the Avenue or the Citadels were to meet in the first three rounds. Of course Lan Jue wasn't representing the Avenue just this moment. There was always a chance he was going to run in to his own people, and here it was. Now his crappy luck dictated that he would have to take out one of his home's few representatives.

    The Barber recognized his adversary right away, and his face fell. Lan Jue thought he had bad luck, but Barber sure thought it was he that got the short end of the stick. Thankfully he kept his piece, and didn't reveal Lan Jue's identity here on the arena floor.

    "I'm sorry," Lan Jue offered.

    The Barber sniffed. "So sure of victory, are we? Let's just see who comes out on top."

    The Avenue councilman had been working hard to improve himself after the embarrassing loss to Lan Jue all those months ago 1. His effort had earned him a breakthrough, rising him to the second rank at last.

    The Barber's challenge reminded Lan Jue of the situation he found himself in. Yes! He wasn't the seventh ranked powerhouse he used to be. Now he was first rank, and defeating the Barber would not be as easy as it had been the first time.

    Still a grin came to Lan Jue's face, visible beneath the mask hiding the top part of his features. Now was a good opportunity for him to give his contender a little gift.

    "Three, two, one. Begin!"

    The Barber disappeared with the buzzer, appearing again a few meters in the air. His Discipline was also wind, not unlike the Driver's last opponent. His was purer, however, and it was by that power alone that he broke through to ninth level.

    1. Here it is as a refresher.
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