Chapter 437: The Quarter-Finals Begin

    Chapter 437: The Quarter-Finals Begin

    Her figure was hidden beneath an aquamarine dress, and her hair was tied in to a high bun atop her head. She was so captivating some men forgot to breathe, and she sat in the front where everyone could see right beside the Terminator. She looked frail beside the towering convert.

    Mo Xiao was respectful and demure, seated quietly with her hands folded in her lap. She watched the crowds with a small, humble smile on her lips. The Terminator exuded a stately calm. The din of celebration didn't seem to affect him, as though he hardly noticed it at all. Those who peered his direction would quickly flinch and avert their gaze. A pressure fierce enough to flatten you was felt whenever someone stared too long. It wasn't by design, but rather a result of the Terminator's staggering power. His effect on reality was uncomfortable for most.

    The Gourmet sat with the Pharmacist, holding Jun'er in his arms. The little one called to her enormous friend happily when she saw him. The Terminator reacted with a pleasant smile.

    "Ah, Jun'er," he said. "Do you think your mother and father are going to do well today?"

    Jun'er's response was without hesitation. "Of course! Mommy and daddy are going to do great. Daddy's going to win the whole contest!"

    The Terminator gave her a surprised and amused expression. "Because they're your mommy and daddy, right?"

    "Nuh-uh," Jun'er said firmly. "Daddy will win the tournament."

    The Terminator fought to keep his expression placid, but sometimes the absence of something was more telling. Mo Xiao, who had been watching the screen before her, interrupted.

    "Your Majesty, we're streaming live to more people than even the God-Team Battles."

    "Mh." The Terminator nodded thoughtfully. "You've done a fine job."

    "You're too kind," Mo Xiao hurriedly replied. "I'm very much looking forward to today's contests. These are the best of the next generation. Do you have your hopefuls for the semi-finals?"

    It was a clever ploy. He was unlikely to commit to his choice for champion, but the top four were a possibility. Just that instant the cameras went live, and the feed connected to hundreds of millions of viewers. All eyes were pointed at them.

    The Terminator gave her a coy smile. "Oh, I don't know. Tournaments like these are full of surprises. It's in the nature of Adepts to keep their best tricks close to the vest. When you're competing at these levels, it's not just strength that determines the victory. A winner must have strength of will, resolve, the ability to exploit opportunities... these are what make a champion. But more important than all of those is actual battle experience. An Adept's true mettle is proven on the field, when the full breadth of their training comes to bear. All the things we know on paper don't mean anything, that's why I'll be looking for details, secrets and strategies."

    Mo Xiao nodded her head. "Well said," she replied. "I suppose we'll just have to see what the future holds in store." She didn't wish to push the Paragon further. They would learn more of his thoughts when he chose to share them.

    The lights over the arena dimmed, giving the illusion that dusk had fallen.

    A single beam of light shot down from on high, painting the center of the arena in silver light.

    "Quarter-finalists, please enter the field."

    The audience felt their pulse pounding, their hearts racing. Cries of anticipation rippled among them as they waited.

    Sixteen figured walked in to the light, separated in to groups of four.

    Titan led them across the grounds, basking in the cheers from his countrymen. Lan Jue walked with him and the two others that made up their group. From what he'd heard, the Accountant's analyses had been spot-on, as always. Even the organizers weren't giving him much of a shot. He had time to think about it while tournaments droids arranged them on the field.

    Going forward, the field would no longer be shared among contestants. Each fight had full use of the battleground. They would also be the sole focus of the crowd. They stood now in the center of the field, beneath their excited gaze, each one different but important. Somewhere among those sixteen young Adepts, there was at least one future Paragon. Literally anything could happen.

    "Ladies and gentlemen, join me in welcoming our mighty contestants back to the field. Fighters, I speak for all of us here and watching at home when I express my gratitude for your magnificent exhibitions these last few days." Mo Xiao's sweet, ringing voice called from the stands.

    The applause shook the entire stadium. Cheers erupted from all sides, and some viewers clapped with tears in their eyes for one simple fact; at last there would be live commentary! They wouldn't have to rely on day-after replays.

    Mo Xiao made a great show of respect in turning to the Terminator. "Your Majesty, is there anything you'd like to say to our brave contestants before they begin?"

    The Paragon smiled pleasantly down at the sixteen Adepts on the field below. His deep voice thud in everyone's chest. "I urge each of you to pour everything you have in to these fights. Do not hold back for fear - I will intervene if necessary. Now is not the time to hold back."

    Mo Xiao's eyes lit up at the promise of drama. "Personal protection provided by a Paragon. Who could ask for more! I'm sure we'll have some incredible demonstrations of Talent today."

    The Terminator's assurances were as much for the crowd as they were for the contestants. It meant that they didn't need to worry about losing control and harming their foe. The Terminator would prevent that, thus allowing them to do whatever it took to win.

    Mo Xiao's smiling face swung back to face the camera. "Very well, we won't delay the audience's wishes any longer. In just a moment the Great Adept tournament will continue in to the Quarter-Finals. We will be treated to eight spectacular fights today. Friends, let's see who will be the first to fight for a spot in the semi-finals!"

    Four gicantic images appeared suspended in the air: Titan, Ji Mu the Wolf King, Absolute Zero, and Zeus.

    Mo Xiao went on. "Allow me to introduce the first battle group. The first contestant - Titan. He hails from the Northern Alliance, and commands the Discipline of Force."

    The Audience erupted. Great cries of admirations swept through the audience like a wave. Titan took a step forward and waved to his adoring fans.

    "Titan is the disciple of the Conclave Paragon leader, the Terminator," Mo Xiao revealed. "I'm sure we're all aware of how incredible this young man is. Personally, I hope we get a chance to see him in today's fight."

    "Our second contestant is Qi Mu, a Western Adept known as the Wolf King. His Discipline is metamorphosis."

    Qi Mu took a step forward to stand shoulder to shoulder with Titan. His expression was hard and cold, with a dark light in his eye.

    "Third, allow me to introduce Bing Yu. She is the only female in this battle group. Also from the West, she is a young Adept with mastery over the element of ice. They call her Absolute Zero."

    Bing Yu was small but exceedingly well formed, as revealed by the skin-tight cat suit she wore. She had long locks of ice-blue hair that hung freely at her back. Her eyes were also blue, and sparkled like diamonds in snow against her pale skin. Just looking at her imparted a sense of bone-chilling cold.

    She walked forward to stand beside Ji Mu. She made no motion, and bore no expression.

    "The fourth and final contender goes by the name of Zeus! He is also called the God of Lightning. A very aggressive name that hopefully hints at a very aggressive performance. His powers; Thunderbolt."

    Lan Jue's brows furrowed, hidden beneath the mask. Why does Mo Xiao always have to pick me out, he complained to himself. I didn't do anything to offend her!

    "The contestants for today's first battle will now be chosen."

    The digital portraits began to flicker, then swirl. They danced around each other as though caught in a tide. In contrast to earlier rounds, this process was much faster.

    The pictures now had numbers above each. Titan was one, Ji Mu was two, Bing Yu had three and Lan Jue was four.

    In accordance with the rules, the fights would be one against two, and three against four. Then, round two would be one against three, two against four. The final round would be one and four, then two and three.

    For today that meant the first match would be fought between Titan and Qi Mu. Lan Jue would face off against Bing Yu. It was the Accountant's best hope, and it had come to pass. At last his luck looked as though it was starting to turn.

    "The matches have been chosen. We shall proceed to the first match; Titan, versus Qi Mu the Wolf King! Potential champions, please prepare for battle. We invite the rest of our contestants to wait in the rest area."

    Titan turned to face Qi Mu. The Wolf King looked him right back in the eye.

    In respect to the average human these two men were beasts - especially Titan. He had the same imposing demeanor of his master, the Terminator. As the two stared each other down, the crowd went wild, rattling the beams of the stadium itself. There was a thunderous boom! The match was going to begin!

    Lan Jue followed the other adepts back to the resting area. No one could see his expression beneath the mask, but even so he kept it calm. In truth, it didn't matter who he was paired against. Fighting a powerful foe later would only delay his development.

    He could suddenly feel a child run up his spine, as tough a pair of ice-cold eyes were following him. When he turned his head, he met Bing Yu's chilly gaze.
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