Chapter 421: Chu Cheng’s Tough Break

    Chapter 421: Chu Cheng's Tough Break

    All of the remaining competitors were gathered in to a single waiting area. It was much finer than the one from before. Where hard seats were the high prize in the first few rounds, now each of them had a personal sofa to lounge on between fights. A side table was also provided with fruit and drink.

    While contestants were enjoying their upgrade, the field outside was being adjusted for the rounds to come. Now, the field was only separated in to four rings. Eventually it would be the whole field used as a ring, and that's when the fights could get really spectacular. The Terminator and The Infernal Vanguard were rumored to be personally narrating the fights and offering their input.

    "So who's ass do you think you're kickin' today," Chu Cheng said. He was draped over a nearby sofa.

    Lan Jue looked straight ahead. "You," he answered softly.

    Chu Cheng shook his head in disappointment. "This guy... how could your heart be so full of the lust for revenge, eh?"

    Lan Jue pinned him to the furniture with a frigid glare, but said nothing.

    Chu Cheng chuckled sheepishly. "Alright, alright. So I may have besmirched your name, ok... but you're wearing a mask! No one knows who you are, you haven't lost anything. I handed over that damn fine cognac without a word of complaint, didn't I? Anyway, I can't complain with all these young ladies suddenly so interested in who is Chu Cheng. What do you say, huh? After I get eliminated I find a good girl to love, settle down. But with the adoration of the crowds I don't think it's necessarily fair to deprive them of me. Needs of the many weighed against the desires of the few, right? What do you think?"

    Lan Jue gave him a thumbs up. "You're definitely a rare individual."

    Chu Cheng lifted a brow. "Am I?"

    "Oh yeah," Lan Jue assured. "It's almost impossible to find anyone else with their head any farther up their own ass."

    Chu Cheng huffed indignantly. "Watch your tone. Big brother here will kick the ** out of you if we do get matched up." Chu Cheng was, of course, aware of Lan Jue's drastic reduction in Talent.

    Lan Jue patted his head in irritation. "Alright, hope you mean what you say."

    Chu Cheng broke in to a sudden and easy smile. "Ah screw it, right? We're brothers, not barbarians. I do find myself in a quandary, though. There are a whole lot of people hoping for me to win, but I'm gunna have to go through that tomboy from the Avenue to do it. Ugh, and Constantine. I'm not worried about any of the others - no offense. Oh right, and there are a couple sleeping giants among us from the Conclave. Be careful if you run in to them, they're strong and people don't know it yet." He delivered the last sentence with a serious stare.

    Lan Jue's eyes inadvertently swept the waiting room, searching for these mysterious Adepts. He spotted one, a tall man who looked like a copy of the Terminator. His skin was a rich brown, bald, and with no outside evidence of mechanical assistance. He was surrounded by a distinct aura of danger. From what he could gather watching earlier fights, this one's Discipline was Force. However, his Discipline was so strong that his Talent could affect the atmosphere around them. So far no one had lasted more than three minutes against him. His Force pummeled them long before then.

    Lan Jue was more suspicious of the other one, though, someone who stood in stark contrast to the Hulkish man. She was a woman, in a long white dress with a veil obscuring her features. She was elegant and classically beautiful, all but for her eyes. They were a myriad of colors, which were hard to see with her smaller eyes. When her eyes widened, though, they shone brilliantly with the full spectrum of the rainbow.

    Her earlier fights had been quite strange, and in fact many of her opponents weren't even sure how they lost. It would just... end. Lan Jue had payed very close attention to her in the last few rounds. Her weapon was a long sword which she wielded with an almost ethereal grace. Her victories had all been easily - and mysteriously - won. She was alluring and dangerous like a succubus, and the only way he'd really understand her powers was if he had to fight her. He wasn't in any rush to do so, but the longer her stayed in the running the more likely it became.

    The Avenue still had five competitors in the games, excluding Lan Jue. The Dark Citadel and the Pontiff's Citadel had three each. The North had a slight advantage, with six still in the running. The remaining few were unaffiliated.

    "It's about that time," Lan Jue muttered. He took a glance at his communicator.

    Chu Cheng didn't answer. His eyes were closed as he silently meditated. Many of the other Adepts were likewise quiet as they time neared. Who they would fight wasn't under their control, but a result of fate or luck. Who knew if the next fight would see glory or defeat? They couldn't be sure, even the strongest of them. They could only hope for the best.

    "Elimination, Round Eight. This will be the final elimination round of the tournament. Winners will proceed to Double-Elimination. Pairing will now commence."

    Forty-eight enormous portraits appeared in the sky. With so few now, details were far more readily discerned. The audience no longer needed to read help menus to see more. After a moment they began to flit back and forth across the cloudless blue sky, arranging themselves just as they'd done seven times before. Every eye in the waiting room was open now, glued to the results. Who would be their challenger? Where they going to be able to make it to the next one? A lot of that rested on those pictures overhead.

    Those like Constantine were anxious, too, because there did exist a chance that he'd have to face the Pharmacist. Before, with so many fighters, the chances were small. Now, however, there existed the very real possibility that he'd have a stroke of bad luck. Out of all the people staring up in that room, only the Pharmacist seemed completely at ease. She held no stock in victory or defeat here, cared not for prizes or reputation. Her single hope was that she wouldn't have to face off against Lan Jue.

    Gradually the pictures stopped moving. Chu Cheng's face immediately darkened in despair.

    It was important to note that no more resurrection votes would be held.

    Lan Jue looked up, and his lips revealed a small smile.

    Both he and Chu Cheng would be facing off against female fighters. Lan Jue smirked at the image of his opponent; Sariel.

    Sariel was sixth degree, but to Lan Jue it was a fine result. She wasn't going to embarrass him with how strong she was, and she wasn't an Avenue representative. This wasn't a dream pick, but it wasn't a nightmare either.

    Chu Cheng, on the other hand, had been forsaken by luck. He had been paired with the one person he had hoped he could avoid, the strongest competitor in the tournament, and the one heavily favored to win; the Pharmacist!

    Like hot oil and water - that was going to be fun to watch.

    Lan Jue looked at Chu Cheng, almost with pity. His friend's face was frozen in shock at first, but eventually hardened in to a cold scowl. Proudly, he said "Ninth level ninth rank, so what? Two ranks, that's all - not insurmountable. I mean you took out the Angel of War, right? Similar situation."

    Lan Jue's response was calm and measured. "First allow me to express my congratulations. You deserve to get kicked out of the tournament by a woman who totally emasculates you. Next, it's important to clarify that I beat Michael as a mecha pilot, not an Adept. Michael is far more deadly with his own hands than behind metal ones. The only reason I came out of that alive was because I chose the means of battle. And last, if you're expecting the Pharmacist to be as strong as Michael you're in for some serious disappointment. She's much... much worse."

    Chu Cheng swallowed hard. "Really?"

    Lan Jue burst in to laughter, rich and loud. His face was covered, but Lan Jue didn't need to see it to know he was gloating.

    "Shit, what kind of brother are you?"

    He shrugged. "That's what brothers do, right? Talk **, poke fun."

    Chu Cheng, clearly anxious, pressed him. "Come on, tell me about her Discipline. What are her strengths? You've gotta help me find some angle -"

    "Nope!" Lan Jue said, even before Chu Cheng could finish.

    "Why?!" Chu Cheng whined. "What, who's side are you on anyway?"

    Lan Jue shrugged. "Hers. She's the mother of my child."

    "Holy ** on a lightning rod!" Chu Cheng's eyes almost rolled out of his head. "Y-yo-you..."

    Lan Jue smirked. "Go on - you two are first up. Don't make a fool of yourself."

    Chu Cheng shot Lan Jue a look full of anguish and said, "You really aren't going to root for me? Not even well-wishes?"

    Lan Jue was silent for a moment, but that loathsome smirk spread wide on his face again. "Of the four of us, only my brother is strong enough to compete with her. He would have to fight harder than he ever has to come out on top. Her talent and training is comparable to ours, and she's been at the peak of ninth level for longer. Her emotional baggage has kept her from immersing herself in the world of protogenia, but that's her final hurdle. So tell me... do you think you have a chance?"

    Chu Cheng felt the cold tightness of impending doom in his chest. He knew Lan Jue, and knew that he wouldn't say something like that lightly. If that was how he really felt, than there wasn't anything he could do about it. This was as far as luck would bring him.

    "Let's do this!" Chu Cheng shot to his feet without any further hesitation. He took off to the ring with long, eager strides. He knew what was coming, but losing wasn't the end of the world. He had to show the world that he wasn't a coward.

    Lan Jue watched his friend go with his determined stride, and silently praised his strength of will. Even knowing he was outmatched, Chu Cheng didn't let that shake his confidence. This guy wandered round with a flippant look on his face but really, it was clear at least to Lan Jue that Chu Cheng's determination was legendary.
Previous Index Next