Chapter 429: Ji Mu, the Wolf King

    Chapter 429: Ji Mu, the Wolf King

    Twenty-four enormous portraits were painted in the sky over the arena. The Pharmacist stood beside Lan Jue now, and no longer with the Skyfire delegates. She needn't hide her affiliation with him after yesterday's display. They stood shoulder to shoulder, with their eyes raised.

    Some in the audience had guessed their relationship was close, and this confirmed it. Although, they couldn't know the whole truth of their partnership.

    The Citadels and Conclave could guess that Zeus was part of the Avenue if they didn't already know, though they were at a loss as to why he would try to hide the fact and enter in to the tournament unaffiliated. In fact his whole demeanor was clearly low-key. Each fight he only used enough power to get the job done, appearing to actively hide his tactics from view. The deceit put his opponents on edge. He was also strong by association, because surely the Pharmacist wouldn't be caught out with a weakling. No one was particularly interested in facing off against Zeus in the coming round.

    "Match making has begun!" The Terminator's rumbling voice boomed through the whole arena, without the aid of any amplification equipment. These last days of fighting were when the true strength of the Adept world would be displayed, so he would narrate them personally for the benefit of the audience.

    Silence fell in the wake of his announcement. All eyes were skyward. Twenty four pairs were fixated. As they looked on the portraits arranged themselves in to a circle and began to spin in a clockwise direction. It picked up speed until everything was a blur, and no one would guess which portrait was which.

    The Pharmacist remained as passive as she always had been, as though none of this made any difference to her. Lan Jue was similarly at ease, and the two of them projected a powerful image of self-confidence.

    The pictures stopped. The matches were made!

    The reaction of the crowd spoke volumes as every eye went wide. There were even a few gasps from the audience. It was expected that there would be powerful matchups, but what they saw left them stunned. Twenty-two sets of eyes swung right to Zeus and the Pharmacist.

    She had a strange look on her face. It was hard to tell behind Zeus' mask, but his reaction could be imagined. The two exchanged glances and the Pharmacist answered his concerned look with an enigmatic smile.

    Their pictures were right there in the sky, right next to one another: The Pharmacist vs. Zeus.

    Lan Jue heaved a sigh and a chuckle. "So I guess I'll have to make it up against my next opponent.

    The Pharmacist said nothing, but her mirth was shown in the slight raise to her brow.

    Laughing after getting paired against the Pharmacist? They would think he was crazy, except that everyone had seen how close he and she were yesterday. It was worse than they thought, though. For those two, this was the worst result.

    This was proven when, before they even looked toward the ring, the Pharmacist indicated that she would abstain from the match. In the round robin tournament each fighter had two chances, so it made the most sense for her to forfeit and she knew it. It kept the illusion of Zeus' strength and she didn't need to worry much about winning her next fight, whoever it was.

    Lan Jue made out like a bandit. He avoided a very mean fight, was automatically in the quarter finals and earned an a-ranked power gem for it. Any remaining weaker Adepts in this group like him, though, could no longer hope for luck. Nothing short of total commitment to a fight would win it from here. After all, as this unfortunate event had shown, anyone could be unfortunate enough to run in to the Pharmacist. Their chances at washing out then were astronomical.

    In the end, the match-up was a boon, assuring both of them would advance to the next round.

    The Seamstress' luck had reached its end when she was paired against Constantine. She also forfeit before the match began, allowing Constantine to move on. It was a wise decision, since it would be pointless to waste time and energy on a hopeless fight. Constantine and the Pharmacist were on an entirely different level from the rest of them and they knew it.

    The fields had been rearranged again, this time to create two large rectangles. The twelve fight for today would be separated in to six batches. The first batch concluded in moments without a punch thrown. They went right to the second batch.

    One of the fights was the Bartender, the one he'd first known as Bahamut during the god-ranked battle. He knew his Discipline to be the conflicting elements of ice and fire. The Dark Citadel's lycanthrope would be his challenger. The second fight was between a Convert specializing in close combat and the Necromancer.

    The fighters took up positions, and began when the buzzer sounded.

    The second batch was under way!

    Lan Jue heard the Pharmacist mutter to him from his side. "This will be a hard match for the Bartender."

    "Oh?" Lan Jue answered. "Is the lycanthrope that strong?" He'd focused on his own business in this tournament, since he hadn't come as part of the Avenue. He didn't have all the information needed to make a fair assessment.

    The Pharmacist explained. "Our intelligence tells us he's a powerful acquired Talent named Ji Mu. He took to the fantascia genetica particularly well, well enough for them to call him the Wolf King. He's one of the new generation representing the Dark Citadel. He doesn't have the power or potential of the vampire princess, by comparison, but he is very strong. Seventh level eighth rank, the peak of ninth level when he transforms. His specialty is close-combat, and his technique is said to be flawless. Speed, attack, defense and energy are all far above average."

    Lan Jue's brows furrowed as he looked over toward the Bartender. For the Pharmacist to call praise the man so much, he likely couldn't defeat the Wolf King himself. If he were seventh rank he'd be begging for a round against him, but as he was now it would be a very unfortunate meeting for him.

    The Pharmacist continued. "The Bartender's potential is impressive; A dual-Discipline Adept with a very rare pairing of ice and fire. He's third rank, and strong, but stuck. His two Disciplines put him at around the power level of a fifth rank, but he can't advance until he's got some idea of his Path forward. If he doesn't he'll be stuck forever. At any rate, he's going to have a hard time defeating this Wolf King.

    "The second fight won't have any surprises, I think. The Necromancer's name is Jiang Yuan, a seventh rank who was improved with genetica. He is a master of dark curses and our intelligence says he has some notion of protogenia - meaning he can turn in to a Lich and use Eldritch Hexes. Don't look down on him for being a rank lower than Ji Mu, we haven't seen his full strength yet. We suspect he's the ace in the hole for the Dark Citadel. The Convert isn't bad, but not even as strong as that Chu Cheng. He doesn't stand a chance against the Necromancer. He'll have to hope for more luck next time."

    Lan Jue was happy to have some understanding of these two new faces from the Dark Citadel. Just in time to see what they can do.

    Bartender vs the Wolf King!

    The Bartender was as much aware of his poor standing as the Pharmacist, but he didn't concede. Lan Jue wasn't the only one who hoped to use this tournament as an opportunity to get stronger.

    At his level of third rank his Disciplines of ice and fire had begun to intensify, but were still very difficult to join. They weren't pure elements either, but magical manifestations of them. He could use one to compliment the other, and that was what had got him to this point. However, it looked like that was no longer enough. He needed more power and experience, he needed to get stronger, then he could continue along the path of understanding.

    The Wine Master had told him once that his way forward was to feel the changes in his powers in the midst of combat. The stronger the Adept, the stronger the catalyst needed to break through.

    Ji Mu's cold, hard eyes glared at the Bartender. He kept him fixed with his gaze, until those eyes became a feral golden yellow. His already powerful form swelled further, transforming in the space of a breath in to a giant humanoid wolf.

    His limbs were thick as tree trunks. Snarling lips were the only things not covered by coarse crimson hair, and a palpable aura of blood lust followed him. It was visible in the air, a vibrating mist of red.

    There was a snarl and a flash of red! The Wolf King moved so quickly his afterimage remained. In no time at all he was face to face with the Bartender.
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