Chapter 422: Mommy Must Win!

    Chapter 422: Mommy Must Win!

    Talent existed everywhere; as humanity spread so too did their capabilities. However, finding a Talent that was strong, dedicated and gifted was a rare thing. Chu Cheng's Talent was the best in a generation, but he got to where he was today - with hopes that surpassed even the current Hades family Paragon - through quiet, hard work.

    To most he was the Prince of Nightlife - they knew him by that persona. In reality that was just how to let off steam, to keep his sanity in the face of a strict household and high expectations. Really he was in fabulous shape, and still with potential to surpass the Gourmet.

    The Gourmet abandoned the Hades title when he achieved Paragon. It was a misconception that the Gourmet gave up calling himself Hades and all the power that would afford him because of his old grudge. Really it was because he knew what his nephew would one day be capable of. With this in mind he passed up the opportunity so that it would be available for the next generation.

    Right now he was walking toward the ring, where his opponent the Pharmacist would meet him. Under the hopeful stares of the audience each step became more determined than the last. He stood tall and defiant in the face of what was likely certain failure. From their angle in the waiting room Chu Cheng looked tall as a mountain by the time he reached the ring.

    The Pharmacist was much calmer by comparison. In fact there was little difference between her now and when she fought yesterday. She walked up to the ring and entered without any change in expression. It was like all of this was occurring in the back of her mind. She had chosen to appear today in very traditional Chinese garb - a qipao. It was her normal uniform, actually, though the color differed day by day. Today it was silver, like the light of the moon, and embroidered with plum blossoms. They were fine clothes, but were only meant for those women with excellent figures. The form-hugging shape of a qipao was a dangerous choice for women otherwise endowed.

    The Pharmacist had a daughter, but it didn't appear to have affected her shape - in fact she was almost flawless. Her long black hair had been wrapped in to a ball and fixed to the top of her head, adding to the classical undertones of her outfit. Altogether she appeared cool, calm, and collected - the gentle flowing river that had the ability to carve through mountains. Just looking at her lent the viewer a sense of tranquility.

    She stepped in to the arena - no, she floated. Her feet and legs never moved, and instead she was delivered to the arena on a cloud of golden mist. It swirled beneath her feet without any indication of heat or mist to keep her aloft.

    Chu Cheng walked in on the opposite side without any sort of display. His feet carried him to the ring with determined steps. The only indication he was preparing to fight was his invisible but powerful aura.

    The Terminator watched from the VIP platform with a barely discernible smile on his face. He turned ever so slightly to the Gourmet while never letting his eyes stray from the ring. "Finally, a fight with some weight. Tell me Jun'er, who do you think is going to win this one - mommy or the red-haired man?"

    "Mama!" She said without a hint of pause.

    The Terminator grinned and looked her way. "Is that a feeling or just what you hope?"

    The little one shook her head. "I don't need to feel it. The red-haired uncle was really showing his power when he walked in, so he's scared of my mommy. If he's worried before the fight even started than he'll definitely lose to mommy."

    The Terminator looked at her with surprise in his eyes. He shot a wordless glance with the Gourmet, though the look in each Paragon's eyes was enough to share their thoughts. Indeed! This was as plain as day to the experienced fighter. But a six year-old? That was an inhuman level of comprehension for her age. Chu Cheng's reaction clearly showed him to be in the inferior position. It wasn't a display of force that made him do this, but instead fear. He was worried that he wouldn't have the ability to call forth his full power once the fight began. It might be over too quickly. In this way he showed his weakness.

    The Terminator heaved a long sigh. "How wonderful if this little treasure had been born in the North. The Avenue is incredibly lucky!"

    The Gourmet offered a smile. "Thank you, Your Majesty."

    "How long before this one's finished," the Terminator asked.

    The Infernal Vanguard thought for a moment. "Difficult to say," he began. "Chu Cheng is weaker, but he has his heart set on victory. The stress of it may even be sharpening his will and focus. The Pharmacist may have more power cultivated, but that young man's potential is staggering. There's much more to him than meets the eye. How long this fight continues, and the winner, will be determined by how much of that potential is brought out today."

    This caused the Terminator to chuckle. "I suppose this is a complicated fight for you." And of course it was; one competitor was his nephew, a representative of his family. The other was a leader in the Avenue delegation that he lead.

    The old cook laughed in spite of himself. "No - on the contrary this makes me very happy. An Adept can only improve and learn more about their powers through combat with opponents that challenge them. This fight should be of great benefit to Chu Cheng. The timing is right as well, because the benefits would not be so great if they'd met during the later rounds. He's got one chance, and that is a motivating factor to make him pull out all the stops. From what I can see the Pharmacist will likely win, but Chu Cheng won't be a push-over."

    The Terminator smiled and nodded thoughtfully. "Very well - let's see what happens."

    They weren't the only ones with eyes on that ring. Forty-eight fighters remained with four rings on the field. There would be six batches today, and this was the first. There was no better way to start the day's events than watching two powerful foes compete.

    They were not, however, the only interesting fight. The Beautician was also fighting in the first batch, and against the Dark Mage that had kicked out her compatriot, the Coffee Master. It promised to be an interesting fight; she was a master of illusion and he commanded terrible arcane curses. They held powers in a similar occult base - it would be difficult for either to win the upper hand.

    "Three, two, one. Begin!" Once more the unfeeling, digitized voice called for the fight to commence. The audience reacted with silence as they held their breath, waiting. The statistics were trickling through the news wires as well - ninety-five percent of viewers in the audience had their eyes fixed on Chu Cheng and the Pharmacist. It was unfortunate, many thought, that the fight wasn't going to have any commentary. Because this was still in the elimination portion of the tournament, they would have to wait to watch the recording on demand if they wanted a run-down. No matter what happened in the fight, it was almost a given that it would be one of the highest-viewed fights of the tournament - maybe even first place.

    The Pharmacist watched him with calm eyes. Nothing on her face betrayed trepidation over the coming competition. Chu Cheng, though, bore a hard and resolute expression that was marked different from his earlier fights. Without his characteristic apathetic demeanor he was like someone else entirely. The Prince of Nightlife was gone.

    Lina was present in the audience and watched from one of the forward rows. She wasn't on the VIP platform with the other powerhouses, but she was close - close enough to see the rings well. She muttered, mostly to herself: "If he wins this, I'll give him another chance. He's like a different person."

    She wasn't wrong.

    The second the word 'begin' echoed through the ring, Chu Cheng's eyes drained of color. The pale grey orbs were possessed of a haunting power that spread over him. It wasn't fire, or rage, but an unsettling stillness like death itself that covered him. Where he stepped the earth turned grey and lifeless, a meter in every direction. He left a trail of oblivion with every stride that took him toward the Pharmacist.

    For half a moment that iron calm in the Pharmacist's eyes gave way. Still she did not move from her spot, the same as her other fights.

    Chu Cheng continued his charge unimpeded. He raced ahead straight and deadly as an arrow. The grey power that trailed after him followed in his wake like a creeping cloud of death.

    He approached, closer and closer. The Pharmacist finally reacted with a wave of her hand, which birthed a beam of golden light. The two opposing powers met in the space between them.

    Clang! The staggering clash struck Chu Cheng head on. His forward charge was stopped short like he'd hit a wall while golden light bounced back and swung around for a second strike. Like he'd seen before, this was her golden dagger attack.

    He recovered quickly and started to move again, faster this time. Already it looked as though he were throwing caution to the wind in favor of pure attack force. Astute observers might be able to see the faint grey figure at his back.

    The golden dagger struck again. Bang! The strike was so strong it felt like it was rattling Chu Cheng's bones and he stopped again. It swung around for a third pass.

    Now, surprise was written clear as day on the Pharmacist's face. Her right hand swung up and her fingers waved like shoots of grain in the wind. The dagger reacted by exploding with light, and suddenly ten thousand cutting waves of energy were headed Chu Cheng's way.

    The Hades successor stopped on a dime. His pause was strategic and allowed him to miss the majority of the Pharmacist's powerful attack. It was only for a half second before he was moving again, even faster. The ghostly specter at his back was still there as well, even larger than before he stopped. It completely encompassed Chu Cheng.


    The VIP Platform.

    The Terminator knowingly bobbed his head. "No one knows like family," he said to the Gourmet. "Not bad at all. Chu Cheng has a much deeper comprehension of the Hades bloodline than he did before. He's been given guidance, I assume?"

    The Gourmet nodded, though his eyes never left the ring - fixed firmly on his young nephew. A real fight was the only way to determine just how strong an Adept's Discipline really was, and just how much they understood.
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