Chapter 434: The Accountant’s Analysis

    Chapter 434: The Accountant's Analysis

    The Driver's countenance changed after hearing the Accountant's explanation. His self-confidence, however, did not recover.

    Lan Jue was also surprised, but for a different reason. The Northern Paragon came from Skyfire Avenue? The Clockmaker?

    Now that he thought about it, there was always a shop on the Avenue that never opened its doors. It didn't seem to have a proprietor. It was just a bit down the Avenue from the Gothic Winery, and he could remember seeing clocks in the dark windows. He asked the Wine Master about it once, but the Paragon only shook his head, and said nothing.

    It would make sense that the empty shop belonged to this absent Clockmaker. The same person who became one of the leading figures in the North. At her current rank, she would have been the second most powerful Paragon in the Avenue at the time! Imagine how strong they would be today if the Epochrion had stayed.

    The Driver looked unsure after his opponent's history. He looked towards Lan Jue. "Do you have time tomorrow?"

    Lan Jue nodded.

    Neither explained further.

    Lately Lan Jue had spent his time training with Qianlin, so he hadn't had the opportunity to discuss the ying-yang aspects of their Disciplines. His reduction in power meant that the benefit to the Driver would be small, but it appeared his friend could no longer wait.

    The Gourmet turned his attention to the Accountant. "What about the other two? What's their story?"

    The Accountant nodded. "The other two are Cao Shuiqin and Jun Yongye. Where Yan Ningye's power is on the surface, these two are insidious. When I said wolves in sheep's clothing, I was talking about these two."

    "First I'll discuss Cao Shuiqin, an unaffiliated Eastern Adept. She comes from a mysterious family I've only been able to learn a little about. They're apparently based on our mother planet, Earth. They call her 'Heartstrings,' because that's how she plays people. Ninth level sixth rank, specializes in sound. She's cultivated her abilities to the point where she can command aspects of spirit and physics in offense. None of her former opponents have lasted long enough to let her finish her song. Her energy stores look smaller, but make no mistake that she's very dangerous. Your strategy should be to blitz, Driver. If you can overwhelm her with your Thunderbolt Discipline's speed and explosiveness, then you can beat her. If you let her play her song, then you're chances are slim to none."

    The Driver didn't contest the Accountant's dire tone this time. He silently nodded his head, and pondered the limited data they had on this Cao Shuiqin.

    But the Accountant wasn't finished, and his face grew darker still. "She is strong, but her powers are erratic. At least we know more or less what she's capable of. That other one though, Jun Yongye, is an enigma. His Discipline is strange. It manifests somehow with a wooden sword, very simple and nothing special. However, none of his opponents seem to make it past a few minutes. I asked around and none of them even seemed to know why they lost. It's likely that his swordsmanship has its basis in ancient martial technique. Evidence puts his Discipline at ninth level seventh rank, more or less. I suspect that he's already managed to completely fuse his martial technique with his Discipline. I suppose we'll know how strong he is if you face him in the bring. His nickname is a clue, though; Blademaster - White Blademaster, on account of the white coat he prefers."

    Now that everyone had a clearer idea of the foes they faced, there wasn't a smile in the room. They'd come to the North with the expectation of making a big impression, but that didn't seem practical anymore with this new knowledge and the groups they'd been placed in. They stood on footing much weaker than they'd anticipated.

    The Accountant didn't skimp on the last group either, going in to great detail concerning the information he'd been able to uncover. By comparison, they were weaker than the others and didn't stand out. It was the others he advised caution for.

    Once the information had been delivered, the Avenue delegation sunk in to a contemplative silence. It was late at night, and Jun'er had long since fallen asleep. The Pharmacist took her to the bedroom within, while the Gourmet dismissed everyone but the three participating in the tournament.

    The Gourmet looked toward the Accountant. "Is there any chance you'll find out more tomorrow?"

    The Keeper's apprentice shook his head. "Doubtful. I spent all day today trying every trick I know. I've poked around in more than a few places I shouldn't have, so cyber security is probably ready for me. It'll be better for everyone to just rest an relax, I think. At any rate I'm confident the Pharmacist will make it to the semi-finals, with a shot at champion. Things are much more difficult for The Jewelry Master and the Driver. And Jewelry Master... now that it's just us here, I have to ask. Did you Discipline get weaker? By a lot, if I'm not mistaken."

    Lan Jue's brows rose. "Why do you ask?"

    The Accountant gave a dismissive sniff. "How else would I determine your odds so low unless I suspected you were weaker? All truth is in the data; I analyzed all of your fights and none of your abilities revealed a strength above third rank. There was one exception, when you hid your actions from the crowd. What happened only you and Sariel will know. Other than that aberrant variable, all evidence indicates an Adept who is ninth level third rank - so what happened? Internal injuries? If it is you should consider forfeiting, Titan is a dangerous adversary."

    Lan Jue secretly admired the mousy man. He wasn't the most reliable team member, but no one could read a situation better than he could.

    He awarded the Accountant with a slight nod. "You're right. Because of unforeseen circumstances, my Discipline was reduced to ninth level second rank. The fact I'm in the quarter finals is a miracle, as far as I'm concerned. I'm going to give my all in the next fights no matter what, that's the only way to get back in touch with my Discipline. You don't need to say anything else about it, I've got things under control."

    The Driver looked at him with a flabbergasted expression. "Your discipline dropped that much! What could have caused that? The only thing I can think of is Kundalini syndrome, that sometimes happened to the ancient martial fighters. You..."

    Lan Jue chuckled and shook his head. "It's not Kundalini Syndrome. Call it a coincidence... or I guess more accurately a cultivation method. It's not as bad as it might seem."

    "Alright," the Driver replied. "But these next fights..."

    A smile spread across the Jewelry Master's face. "A loss isn't always entirely a loss. I have my methods, you all can relax. Even if I run in to Titan I'll put on a good show. You'll all see who walks away."

    "Judging by that reaction you definitely have something hidden up your sleeve," the Accountant accused.

    The Pharmacist's firm but tepid voice interrupted. "Don't forget your wager with my daughter."

    The Accountant's face twitched. "Wait a minute, you were serious? Jun'er's just a child, she doesn't even comprehend rule of law."

    The Pharmacist's eyes never wavered from him. "I'll remember everything that just happened. If you dare break your agreement with my baby girl, you'll wish you'd never have met me. Even the Keeper wouldn't be able to save you."

    His face went a ghostly pale. "Y-you... Why does it feel like I've stumbled in to a trap?!"

    "You made a promise, what's this trap nonsense," the Driver said in irritation. "The bet was your idea anyway. If there was any trap you built it then fell in to it yourself. Now we were all witnesses, so you better pay out if you lose. Enough - is there anything you've been holding out on saying?"

    The Accountant looked at Lan Jue, huffed, then spoke. "Even if I did why should I tell him. Anyway who knows what will happen. I don't have enough data to determine who will move on to the semi-finals with any reliable accuracy."

    "We should bet as well," the Driver said. "I think Lan Jue will reach the semis."

    "We should bet on the Pharmacist," the Accountant parried. Carefully of being fooled again, he wanted to be cautious.

    "Enough of this pointless talk," the Gourmet interjected. "Do you have anything else that'll help?

    With a crooked smile the Accountant shrugged. "I've told you everything I know. The only thing I can add is to take care of yourselves. This is especially true for the Jewelry Master. Ji Mu and Titan hit like ballistic missiles. If the judges don't see something in time, it could be a danger to your life. As for you, Driver, do the best you can. With luck and care you have a chance."

    There was a flash in the Driver's eyes. "Good! Then I bet you I won't come in dead last! Whadda ya think?"

    "A bottle of whisky," he countered.


    Lan Jue sighed inwardly. The Driver was certainly a personality, but it looked like he bit off more than he could chew with that bet. Even Lan Jue's own faith was shaken.
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