Chapter 444: Summoning the Malefic Wyrm

    Chapter 444: Summoning the Malefic Wyrm

    The intense heat caused the air beneath the force field to shimmer. Even the people in the audience could see the alloy floor begin to soften. The alloy it was constructed from had been made to resist blasts from top-ranked adepts. For those attacks that softened it, it had been imbued with metals for self-repair. The damage to the floor alone, then, was a clear indication of Qian Bian's strength.

    The torrent of destructive yellow energy continued for another five seconds before gradually dispersing.

    The artillery gun that had delivered the payload shook, and reverted back to the human shape of Qian Bian. However, the victorious look in his face fled when he peered toward where the beam had fallen. There he discovered a doll, about the size of a man's palm, suspended in air.

    The little black plaything exploded with an audible crack before a caustic mist seeped from it. The fumes fused to form Jiang Yuan.

    "Beguiling puppet!" The Terminator turned his head to look back at Lucifer, seated behind. "Very impressive! For the necromancer bloodline to employ this, they've come a long way."

    Lucifer's remained impassive to the praise, but offered a polite smile. "Thank you, Your Majesty."

    Qian Bian, of course, was more surprised than anyone. When he saw the shot land, he'd thought for sure the fight was over. He even thought, he confessed, that the Terminator might even have had to intervene.

    As one of his strongest moves, Qian Bian was very aware of how powerful the Mass Energy Discharge attack was. Even a peak ranked Adept couldn't match it for pure destructive power. It had also been extreme draining, but he hadn't expected Jiang Yuan to walk away from it unscathed thanks to some trick.

    Jiang Yuan ominously brandished his scepter, and the metal floor split as four skeletal hands groped for Qian Bian from below. They were followed quickly by a string of the necromancer's curses.

    The beguiling puppet that had surprised the Paragon was a very useful skill to possess. For someone of Jiang Yuan's ability, it was tantamount to gaining a second life. On top of that, he could keep casting his spells through the doll so there would be no interruptions.

    Qian Bian reacted to the clawing hands, shifting his arms once more in to cannons that blasted the skeletal appendages to bits. He knew he was on the ropes. He'd pulled out his biggest guns from the start to take Jiang Yuan by surprise. The plan was to give him no chance to react and fight back. He was dismayed to find the dark mage's powers were stranger than he'd thought.

    But he would not roll over so easily, and would resist until he hit the floor. His reconstructed body shivered and launched in to the air where it converted in to fighter jet. His streamlined frame was dazzling, reflecting light off of his smooth metallic surface.

    As if in response to the change, a guttural howl swept through the arena.

    Those terrible curses that looked as though they had been headed for Qian Bian, fell to the ground some distance away. The white alloy had only just healed from the former blast when the necromancer's dark powers began to change it. The whole surface went smooth, and the purplish-black eminence of his power painted the floor with a mirror sheen. A brilliant purple outline of a hexagram emerged from the black.

    The image rotated, and then the whole floor flashed purple. The center gradually darkened again to an intractable onyx. It looked like the entrance to some horrible abyss.

    That was where the cry had come from.

    Jiang Yuan's villainous face was split in a self-satisfied smirk. Looking up toward the soaring warplane that was Qian Bian, the necromancer extended a single gnarled finger.

    Qian Bian didn't know what was coming, but he knew he might not survive it. All or nothing, that was his only choice. The fighter jet swung around and pointed its nose cone right for Jiang Yuan. The guided missiles bristling from beneath its wings roared to life and launched. It didn't matter what the mage had done - blowing him up would solve the problem.

    As the missile's orange flames set the ring in stark light, an enormous white object lifted from the abyss below.

    Out on the platform, the Terminator shot to his feet much to the shock of those around him. In a blink he was gone.

    Whatever it was filled the entire field, and Qian Bian's attacks were inexplicably swallowed up. He could feel the hunger in it, like it wanted to devour him as well. But then a large silhouette cut off his vision, revealing the Terminator right in front of him. The Paragon gripped him with a meaty hand and then, before he even knew it, Qian Bian was standing outside of the ring.

    What he couldn't see before he saw clearly now. The thing that Jiang Yuan had summoned was an enormous skull, as large as the arena itself. He could not name the beast, but the bones looked reptilian. It lashed and flailed like a demon, with a cold putrid fire where its eyes had been.

    The monstrous creature lived somewhere in that blackness, and at Jiang Yuan's call had come to devour the convert. It had spread wide its maw and leapt to bite. If the Terminator had been even a fraction of a second later, he'd have been gulped in to the black abyss. He didn't even want to think what that would entail.

    "Thank you... thank you, Your Majesty, for saving my life!" Qian Bian could feel the cold icy grip of death on his spine. He had been inches from obliteration!

    The Terminator did not reply. His hard eyes were fixed on the necromancer. "You dare to call the malefic wyrm, Yaduobaha. The gall!"

    Jiang Yuan had not finished his curses. With a pale face, he concentrated all his focus on the skull of the legendary monster. The beast turned toward the necromancer, spreading wide its jaws anew. The fire in its eyes flared as the beast appeared to find a new target.

    Jiang Yuan jerked. His mouth flew open, and a forceful burst of blood was vomited forth. Shaking hands groped at the pendant against his chest; a skull that looked exactly like the monster's own.

    Spatters of the blood from his mouth splashed against the charm. A red light wormed itself from the bone, eventually turning purple as well. A pair of black flames sparked in its eyes, identical to the larger one.

    Yaduobaha, as though sensing something, stopped suddenly and shook its massive head. It dissolved in to a beam of light that raced for the pendant Jiang Yuan bore. When it reached him, the necromancer was enveloped in incandescent light. The portal below him retracted and eventually vanished, cutting them off from the terrible behemoth that lurked just beyond.

    Amazement flickered in the Terminator's gaze. He shook his head and said, "He calls and seals the malefic wyrm! Courageous, and stupid. For the Dark Citadel to command someone like this, it's clear they are a force that will endure."

    The Paragon released Qian Bian like one would a mutt, thrusting him away before returning to his seat upon the viewing platform in a flash.

    From the competitor's resting area, Lan Jue had seen the entire thing. From what he could pick out, the necromancer needed time for the full might of his power to be realized.

    "Why do I get the feeling this was all to put on a show for you," Lan Jue said dryly to the Pharmacist.

    She shook her head. "From the start I wasn't sure what he was up to. At his level of power, he had a great many options for dealing with Qian Bian but he decided to take the lengthiest road. This isn't the first time, either. If you watched his use of the beguiling puppet from earlier, it had been to extend the time he had to complete the incantation. It must be a terrible, powerful curse from the ancient West - some sort of summoning rite that was clearly very difficult to achieve. He was prepared, and still managed under pressure. Likely with some power still to spare. I think you're right... the purpose was to show me what was in store. Yaduobaha, the Malefic Wyrm? Self-aggrandizing nonsense. An earthworm by any other name..."

    Lan Jue had a great deal of admiration for the woman. He looked at her scornful expression and knew she was a match for anything thrown at her.

    It took three or four minutes for Jiang Yuan to completely seal the beast. Only once the last vestiges of that bone-white light were gone did he return to normal. Normal, though, was subjective. Now his skin had an unnaturally violet tint, and his eyes burned with an enigmatic brightness. But where his eyes looked fierce and young, his body looked as though it had aged several years. New wrinkled plagued the corners of his eyes. Summoning that creature had cost him.

    This was the end of the second group. The winners were the Pharmacist, and Jiang Yuan.

    Each fight had been more spectacular than the last, from the Pharmacist's lightning-fast victory to Jiang Yuan's display of stupendous power. They were still processing what they'd watched, but they knew that the qualification process meant there could be only one. It was something they were looking forward to.

    Lan Jue's attention was very closely fixed to the ring now, more so than ever. The next group - group three - was the one the Accountant said would be the meanest;

    Yan Ningya, the Driver, Cao Shuiqin, and Jun Yongye.
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