Chapter 418: A Monarch’s Bane is a Woman

    Chapter 418: A Monarch's Bane is a Woman

    Metatron knew Sariel to be tough. She'd shown it after being selected for genetic experimentation. The harder they pushed her the faster she bounced back. She was fearless, and indomitable. Where others cracked she stood firm, ready to die for what was needed and take the enemy with her.

    But this was a competition, not a fight to the death. He admired her determination - and who could say? Perhaps she'd work a miracle and remove the Hades heir from play.

    The disgrace the Pontiff's Citadel had recently suffered was a fresh wound. Metatron had continued to ruminate over it, eventually coming to the conclusion that these foreign foes must have had help from the inside. Furthermore only someone with significant trust could provide useful information, or even be effective in helping them get in. Sariel was on his list, but his suspicions were eased upon seeing her fervent drive to earn the Citadel honor.

    The Terminator watched carefully from the front row of the platform. His face was a mask of indifference. The sudden divide between he and little Jun'er was plain as day but there was nothing that could be done. The very special child had become invaluable overnight, and he didn't want to do anything that might make his guests wary. He also greatly respected the Gourmet for remaining here in the face of this new information. It showed real character.

    Chu Cheng's eyes narrowed, fixed upon Sariel. The holy light surrounding her grew brighter with each passing moment. He lifted his own hands in response and pressed his palms outward. A pale grey aura appeared around him like a host of spirits, and the sea of flame around his saw all the color bleed away. They flashed and flared in mono-color, and the increased forced Sariel's cocoon of holy light to begin retracting once again.

    This was pure Hades Hellfire. Even an amateur could tell at a glance that Chu Cheng had the advantage in energy manipulation. There was a reason he was considered a natural talent with potential greater even than the Gourmet. Like Lan Jue, he'd already had a wealth of experience commanding the protogenic powers of the Hades Ascension. Because of this he had been blessed with a natural understanding of his powers that went far beyond your average Adept. Sariel was simply outclassed.

    Sariel grunted. The silvery light around her imploded toward the blade in her grip. Streams of silvery energy swarmed together to infuse the  blade with potency. The full moon that hung over head descended and shrank until it took up position behind the Angel of the Moon. She blazed so brightly that she looked like a silver seraph statue that threatened to blind the eyes.

    A strange smirk crossed Chu Cheng's face as the image of a school girl in a tiny skirt tittered "On behalf of the moon, I will right wrongs and triumph over evil, and that means you!" All she had to do was throw that quote out and he'd laugh himself out of the arena.

    Sariel wasn't aware of Chu Cheng's lascivious thoughts. She continued to gather energy until it seemed as though she might burst. And then, without warning, she blasted forward like a silver lance. The burning light pierced right through the gray flames, right for the center of Chu Cheng's chest.

    Ding! Chu Cheng was pushed back a step and the ringing sound resounded across the arena. His right hand had risen just in time to ward off the deadly strike from Sariel.

    Chu Cheng looked down upon her with eyes of smoldering grey. His aura was thick and bleak, like a choking manifestation of death. She could feel something in the aura around him, some terrible and indescribable beast that hungered for her.

    She'd managed to knock him back, but where she should have retreated she discovered nothing but a world of grey. The light around her was gone, and with it her immense speed and strength. She wanted to wave and slice with her blade but it was impossible, a crushing wave of silvery fluid like Mercury crashed around her. It seeped in to her every pore.

    This... was...

    Sariel's pretty eyes were wide in alarm. She tried to react but a boundless expanse of grey stretched out ahead drawing her attention. She could feel something lurking, unseen - a terrible presence. Her right arm had been the one knocked away, and it was over her right elbow she felt that presence descend upon her.

    Ding! The sound of ringing steel was heard again, but this time it was Sariel who was knocked back. She could feel the penetrating energies grow ever stronger, and the light of her holy weapon dimmed considerably in response.

    She had spied Chu Cheng's weapon, briefly. It was a dagger that he held upside down in his right hand. The base of its hilt was home to a strange grey gem. That was what had saved him from her last strike, and what had nearly ended her just now. What she couldn't figure out was how this clearly empowered weapon was not releasing any sort of energy or aura.

    Tendrils of errant grey power congealed to form an enormous blade of air. It pointed directly at the lunar angel's chest. She was frozen in place, unable to move, unable to resist.

    A buzzer rang. This fight was finished.

    The grey light melted away from around Chu Cheng, and fled from his eyes. They sparkled as he gave his opponent a pleasant smile. He even offered a polite bow before leaving the ring.

    Lan Jue's shocked expression was only partially hidden by his mask. He must be really scared of his dad, he thought. He fought like a different man! He was beginning to suspect a doppelganger until Chu Cheng came back and opened his mouth.

    "What do ya think? Sexy stuff, am I right? And I was a perfect gentleman - totally left an impression."

    Lan Jue sighed helplessly. "It would have been if you could shut up about it. What's the point anyway, it's not like Sariel's gunna go tip-toeing to your room because you bowed once. I'd give up your hopes, brother."

    "You understand nothing," Chu Cheng disdainfully instructed. "A bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush. Lina was definitely watching that, and I'm sure that when she was reminded how awesome I am she started to think twice about this whole running away from me thing."

    Lan Jue couldn't stifle his laughter. "Here I thought you'd already climbed that mountain last night."

    His friend looked depressed. "Don't even bring it up. I'll tell you all about it after your fight. It's about time for you to get out there."

    Lan Jue stepped out to the open field, and even before he got to the ring a chorus of boos had begun to follow him. Sometimes, he thought, being a man sucked. If his opponent yesterday hadn't had been a beautiful woman than he wouldn't be suffering today.

    He silently whispered a prayer that he'd be spared a female opponent this time. The picture of 122 used during pairing hid their identity hidden beneath a helmet.

    However, the mystery was revealed when he entered the ring and got a closer look. Indeed, one often came upon the misfortunes they fought to avoid. 122 was a woman.

    Female Adepts were not a rare thing, but the higher echelons were largely male. Even here at a tournament like this, coming across a strong woman was relatively rare.

    This woman was clad in bright yellow leather that shone distractingly in the light. Unlike the profile picture in the sky above she wore no helmet. She was revealed to have short pale-green hair which hung to her shoulders. The combination made her look like a valiant steam-punk heroine. She wasn't a very beautiful girl, but she did have a certain charm. 'Dynamic' was perhaps the word Lan Jue felt best described her.

    She bounced from foot to foot over by her end of the arena. The vivacious young girl hopped in circled to warm up.

    Lan Jue shook his head, and made an internal promise: I will not be called a woman-beater!

    She flashed him a dimpled smile, full of sweetness.

    He nodded back.

    "Three, two, one. Begin!"

    Her pretty smile never left as the buzzer sounded. The girl almost skipped forward, seemingly in to rush to make her way over to him.

    Lan Jue watched her carefully, then raced off obliquely with a start. Not half a moment later the spot he stood upon erupted as a giant spike of stone leaped out. The spike pierced a good three meters in to the air, with a peak sharper enough to impale him if he hadn't moved.

    The sight of it made Lan Jue's face go pale. Even with his body's natural resistance that would have hurt. Now was this an appropriate way for a sweet young girl to act?

    Great cries of regret sounded from the audience. They were upset she hadn't run him through with her opening attack. Lan Jue's face twitched in irritation. She's trying to kill me! Where's your humanity?!

    122 pursed her lips, also looking upset that the attack hadn't landed. She answered by forcing a second massive column of stone to erupt from the earth.

    Lan Jue leaped up in to the air to avoid it. Battling an earth-based Adept on the ground was a bad idea. It was a Discipline one didn't encounter often, and she had pretty masterful control. Although her contestant number was on the higher end for this round, her Discipline was still a very respectable ninth level first rank.

    At this point, Lan Jue didn't even have anything to say about his lack of fortune.

    "Hey!" The girl in yellow jumped up, and came crashing to the ground with both feet. Light as she looked, the whole arena rumbled from the impact. A shuddering booommm filled the air.

    The two spiky columns from before shook then shattered, sending shards of stone thick as a man's arm tearing through the air. They converged upon Lan Jue's location, but this time he didn't dodge. Instead, a shuddering aura of electric energy pulsed out with him at its center like a lightning grenade. Feral arcs of lightning blasted outward to envelope the entire ring.

    Forest of Lightning!

    The jagged stones were turned to dust as they encountered the lightning storm. He was a rank above this girl and possessed two Disciplines, so he had the advantage in terms on energy stores. He abused that advantage by using such a powerful attack so quickly.

    The girl was also lost in the roaring wave of electricity. However, she was save from it beneath a gleaming orb of yellow light. She remained a single calm speck in the chaos of electricity around her. Earth was going to be a problem - it was naturally a counter to Lightning.

    122 pressed her hands together in the shape of a heart. A yellow light was birthed and began to grow stronger between her fingers. The moment she saw an opening in the lightning storm she shoved her hands out with a cry. A beam of yellow light fired off toward the sky.

    Lan Jue didn't press the attack after using the Forest of Lightning. This was such a good opportunity to try his hand against a range of Disciplines, so he was in hurry to finish the fight. The more he pressed himself against powerful foes, the faster he would grow in strength.
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