Chapter 416: Brother Cheng! Brother Cheng!

    Chapter 416: Brother Cheng! Brother Cheng!

    "It's coming up on the witching hour ladies and gentlemen!"

    At some point three young women in leather miniskirts had come on stage. As the dance music resumed they swayed with the hypnotizing rhythm.

    Qianlin gave Lan Jue a curious and uncertain look. "The witching hour?"

    Lan Jue chortled and shot a glance Chu Cheng's way. "It's about time to call it I think. It's late and we have fights tomorrow."

    "I heard that! We three respectable gentlemen would never be involved in something so base as the witching hour." It was a fine phrase, but from Chu Cheng's mouth is took on a very different flavor.

    Lina looked from one to the other in curiosity. "What's so special about midnight here?"

    Chu Cheng almost tripped over his own tongue to answer. "Nothing! Nothing. We should go." He grabbed at Lina's hand to pull her toward the exit.

    A flash of light caught their attention and pulled the girls' eyes to the stage. There they saw the three women had removed their outer garments and were clad solely in leather bikinis. They swung their dresses over their heads to the excited cheers of the spectators below.

    Lina - a veteran of establishments like these - suddenly understood the premise behind 'the witching hour.' Her eyes popped out of her head. "Strippers? What sort of place is this?"

    "I-it's art!" Chu Cheng fumblingly explained.

    "Ladies and gentlemen!" The DJ's dramatic voice boomed through the club. "Lemme know! Who do you think our lovely ladies should enlist to help them... hold their clothes hm?"

    "Brother Cheng! Brother Cheng! Brother Cheng!"

    The thundering dance music was changing now to slinkier tunes, things more suitable to the idea of the witching hour. Chu Cheng's face froze.

    The look in Lina's eyes was one of piercing ridicule. "I guess so! Such lovely bedroom art." She punctuated the sentence by turning and stomping off.

    "Lina!" Chu Cheng ran after her. "That was before. Look, let me explain."

    Hua Li and Lan Jue exchanged a knowing look. The famed entertainer sighed. "How many times have we watched drama like this? It's the same every time. I guess you can't teach a dog not to eat **. 1 The boy's gotta learn to change his nature!"

    Lan Jue just shrugged. "It's a difficult life he lives. Who knows if this relationship of theirs will last the week. But this time he's pretty passionate. This is a vampire princess here - not your run of the mill girl. That's a whole new level of challenge and excitement that money can't buy. I hope A-Cheng realizes how special the opportunity is, though."

    Hua Li chuckled. "Shit who cares. The longer he remains occupied with her, clear or not, the less time he's spending as a scourge to the young flowers of our species."

    "Ugh, men!" Qianlin looked at Lan Jue, appalled.

    "Time to go!" Lan Jue's tone was brisk and energetic.

    Chu Cheng had chased Lina out of the club in time to see her stop a taxi. He couldn't let her go - victory was so close!

    He rushed toward the car and jumped in right beside her.

    "What are you doing?! Go have fun with your dancing girls!" She spat.

    He chuckle apologetically. "Please, those girls have nothing on you! I said that was all in the past, right? You're the girl in my heart now, there isn't any room for anyone else."

    "Screw off! This bull** won't work on me." She viciously slapped away the arm he'd tried to snake around her waist.

    His sheepish expression grew bleaker still. "It was your idea to come out and have a good time, but you're still unhappy. I didn't even want to come back to this place!"

    His words eased some of the tension in her face. After all he was right, wasn't he? It had been her idea and her choice of location.

    The taxi driver chose this moment to cut in. "Brother Cheng? Which hotel am I bringing you to tonight? Got your hands on a spicy one tonight!"

    Chu Cheng's face scrunched tight like he'd been punched in the gut. Lina stared at him with wide, hard eyes. A loud smack rang through the interior of the cab and Lina left with Chu Cheng rubbing his face. He cast a hateful glare toward the driver.

    "D-did I say too much," the dimwitted man asked.

    The corners of Chu Cheng's mouth twitched. "Do you think you could possible just live life as a mute? This is karma or something - some sort of dark retribution. Just take me home." It was time to retreat and like his wounds - pursuing her any further would only make things worse. In his experience he knew any chance of a happy night of cuddling was practically zero. This was the danger of a life lived in dark alleys and smoky clubs. Sometimes you run in to vengeful ghosts, and your night turns out just like this.

    Thank goodness for small victories, though. No news of their altercation would get out since no one had been there to see it. He maintained his image as the great knight, and the masked man was the villain.

    So it was that when Chu Cheng showed his face the crowds cheered and hailed. For Lan Jue, though, he received nothing but boos.

    The two young men stood side by side. Chu Cheng was loving the attention, so saw no need to hide himself away in the Adept resting areas.

    "I should choke the life out of you," Lan Jue muttered with a tired anger.

    The originator of his misery chuckled. "Take it easy man. It is what it is, right now it's best to just go with the flow. We're in the same boat anyway, you know Lina ran off somewhere and probably isn't coming back."

    "Oh please. Get the hell away from me, you stink like hormones. Don't put me anywhere near your boat. I'm not even in your ocean. For you this whole thing is warranted. I'm just suffering for your sins." Lan Jue whined.

    "Fine, alright - it's my fault. If we happen to run in to each other on the field I'll let you win, alright? How about that - we're even." Chu Cheng hastily buried the issue.

    As if on cue, the sorting process began. The sound like flicking playing cards filled the air as pictures soared overhead.

    After three rounds the challenger pool had been whittled down to over four hundred. Elimination rounds were to proceed that would reduce this number by half again. But whether or not they moved on now, everyone present was a winner in regards to the richness of the rewards they'd earned.

    The pictures in the sky above swiftly organized themselves in to pairs precisely as had been done the three days prior. At this point Lan Jue had stopped holding up hope for some luck, especially considering his match history so far. That was why when he saw his opponent he was pleasantly surprised - at least it wasn't a friend of his.

    More than those of his Avenue or acquaintances, there were also the true powerhouse enemies like Constantine that he was really afraid of running in to. In a case like that he'd be forced to pull out all his tricks, and even then the chances of victory would be slim.

    The Pharmacist was also in that category, and running in to her would be an even more bitter tragedy. Even for Skyfire Avenue standards she was stunningly strong. Also, how could he possible fight her when Jun'er was watching in the audience? At that point he'd have no other option other than to forfeit.

    He thanked his lucky stars that wasn't this time. His opponent was number 122. If he were bold enough to ask for better luck than it was possible this unknown opponent could be one of the few remaining eighth ranks.

    The Tournament was moving along well. Five rounds would see it complete and they were three in. The enormous press of Adepts had dwindled to a select few, but that didn't diminish the energy. With every new day the fights became more splendid.

    To highlight and capitalize on this e very fight was extended from thirty minutes to sixty. Contestants were given a full hour, to give everything in them for victory.

    Lan Jue was with the second batch today. Chu Cheng was with the first, and he drew the short straw today. His adversary was Sariel, Archangel of the Moon!

    "Dayumn look at this hotty." Chu Cheng, clearly, wasn't aware of his bad luck.

    "This is one of the few good ones. Don't hurt her." Lan Jue implored.

    "Don't tell me there's something between you two?" Chu Cheng couldn't keep the curiosity from his face.

    He answered with a shake of his head. "Not in the least. She helped me once, and of all that mess in the Pontiff's Citadel she's one of the few that leaves me with a good impression."

    "Fine, fine, whatever. Look the vampire princes didn't work out so how about an angel as my next one eh, whadda ya say? Ngh, and what if those two ever met. Ooh baby that's a fun image. Darkness on the left and purity on the right, different temperaments, different styles... the thought makes my mouth water."

    Chu Cheng was getting carried away, but the look he saw in his friends eye caught the words in his throat. It was pity! How could he not be praising him for his vivid imagination!

    **ACK! Something hit Chu Cheng so hard he went reeling.

    He spun around with a curse on his lips that died the instant he saw who his him. Those angry eyes were cast down meekly.

    "Dad, you're a judge! You can't go around slapping people." He cowered obsequiously before the ice-cold glare of Chu Dong.

    Chu Cheng's father said nothing. He only slowly lifted his finger and pointed it directly at his face. There were no words but the look he gave his son promised there would be literal hell to pay. A man like this kept his promises.

    Chu Cheng looked like a terrified child. "What did I even do to deserve this? That really hurt dad, ow! Help me see if there's a bump."

    "Karma's a bitch." Lan Jue gloated. "You're a skirt chasing bum. Consider this a reckoning. If I were your dad I'd beat the ** outta you so you don't bring disgrace to the family."

    "I'm not your friend anymore!" Chu Cheng shrilly exclaimed.

    Lan Jue's spine straightened in righteous indignation. "Excellent, get right on that! I won't bother with you or your baggage any more. And let me tell you something else! You better pray she beats you senseless because if I meet you in the next round - uncle.. uncle hey! Where are you running so fast!"

    A few seconds later Chu Cheng was rudely deposited on his side of the assigned arena. His impassive opponent, Sariel, stared at him from the other end. She displayed no mirth at his misfortune not offered disparaging words. She was all silent determination.

    "Three. Two. One. Begin!" The sharp buzzer sounded, and the fourth round of the Great Adept Tournament began.

    1. This is the literal translation. I've never read anything more poetic.
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