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Chapter 449: Constantine’s Path

    Chapter 449: Constantine's Path

    "Just a suggestion," Lan Jue said with a smirk.

    So it was for group three. Cao Shuiqin and Jun Yongye had achieved victory. There wasn't a great deal of surprise but for the dark horse,Jun Yongye. His almost assured entrance in the final four was a surprising result.

    Mo Xiao's final words for the group were brief. This was somewhat understandable, since even she wasn't fully aware of everything that was happening. At this level, the difference between victory and defeat rested on a razor's edge. For instance, she wasn't even sure how it was the Driver was defeated. The Terminator didn't explain either. What happened was a secret between the Driver and Cao Shuiqin.

    It had come to the final group of the day, and the last of the opening rounds for the quarter-finals. Group four; Constantine, Blackmoon, Ying Suifeng, and Xuanyuan Shishi 1. Of them, Constantine was heavily favored to advance. Like the Pharmacist, he had smashed through his previous foes as though they were made of paper.

    Back in the Avenue during the Citadel's visit, he had shown real strength. He had ultimately lost to the Pauper, though the beggar was half a step away from Paragon at the time. Constantine was a peak-level Adept who, with the Spear of Fate in his hands, was undisputedly a force to be reckoned with.

    The big question was the Easterner in the group, Xuanyuan Shishi. This was the one the Accountant couldn't find much information for. He was a young man with short dark hair and a lively sense about him. He was twenty six, maybe twenty seven, and a notable Talent already. His earlier fights had been fast and mysterious. Mist was his Discipline, and when that cloud enveloped his foes they would lose without anyone seeing how.

    Lan Jue was helplessly distraught to learn of Xuanyuan Shishi's luck, which seemed almost supernatural. He'd been paired with weaker opponents in every fight leading up to now. His trek to the quarter-finals had been a breeze.

    Blackmoon - the Northern delegate - was also a notable member of the group. His Discipline was called the Wicked Eye, and involved thought control. He bore a high-caliber energy rifle, and once he got the lock the target had nowhere to hide. He was celebrated as a master sniper with attack force almost equal to a Paragon.

    But like anything with such awesome power, there were restrictions. He could only fire once in ten seconds. If it weren't for that handicap, then the other Adepts would probably refuse to fight him. For him, like any sniper, the trick lay in not getting pinned by the full force of his strength.

    The fight arrangements were complete; Constantine verses Blackmoon. Xuanyuan Shishi against Ying Suifeng.

    The first fight would be an interesting test of Blackmoon's attacks. Were they mighty enough to overcome Constantine? That was the key - if he could land even one shot, he could win.

    Constantine took to the ring with a majestic gait. He glittered beneath the arena lights, clad in white priest garb inlaid with gold.

    Blackmoon was a different sort of animal. He was thin as a rail, with vulture-like eyes. His hair was tied back with a black bandanna, the same color as his combat fatigues. It was night-camouflage, designed to keep him hidden in the dark.

    The two men looked at each other from across the ring. Neither said a word.

    Blackmoon grunted, and slapped his hands against his chest. The inky color around him was cast forth, then coalesced in his hands in to his trademark sniper rifle. The thing was so enormous it made him look almost comically small.

    "Three, two, one, begin!"

    "BANG!"

    The very instant the voice stopped, Blackmoon's rifle had fired its first round. Everyone paying attention was stunned. The rules demanded that he didn't carry a loaded rifle on to the field. How did he fire so fast?

    Constantine's eyes went wide, and he lunged out of the way.

    "Poof!" The bullet seemed set to hit Constantine, quicker than his dodge. But just as the bullet of energy was about to land it fractured and spread out, forming a net of energy that enveloped the High Inquisitor.

    Blackmoon had never used anything but mass-energy rounds against his previous opponents. This was completely outside of what they knew about him.

    Enhanced Snare Rounds! These things were used against mechas.

    The convert's right eye flashed and turned red. The rifle in his hand hummed, and streamers of crimson energy began to gather in it. The strength of Blackmoon's shots were only in part due to hardware. The Wicked Eye was a force to be reckoned with all its own. The two together were earthshaking.

    It was a fact few knew. Most of those who did were dead. One hundred shots, one hundred hits - nothing could stop him. That was the power of Blackmoon.

    The net had been a bid to give him a shot, literally and figuratively. What no one knew was that the ten second constraint wasn't a rule; if he poured more energy in to the rifle he could charge it faster.

    Constantine was caught beneath the net, but he didn't look worried. The snare, which was supposed to force him to his knees, didn't seem to bother Constantine much at all.

    "Retribution!" He calmly cried. A beam of white light appeared overhead and shone down upon him.

    The snare wasn't just a lash to keep him down, that would be too simple. It was also infused with deadly high-voltage electricity designed to wreak havoc on mechas, to say nothing of what it might do to a human. An ordinary man would almost immediately be singed to ash, but Constantine was not ordinary. The holy light protected him and with a burst of anointed energy that pulsed from him, but the net remained

    Constantine narrowed his eyes.

    Three seconds.

    The ghost of a smile turned Blackmoon's lips. He was a cold-hearted, professional sniper. Getting him to show any reaction at all was a feat. He knew that the full effect of the enhanced snare round was more than his enemy thought.

    A second light appeared from nothing, joining the other. Their fused strength proved too much for the net and finally destroyed it.

    Five seconds had passed.

    Blackmoon's smile fled. He looked at his foe, who simply stood there. Constantine didn't attack, instead calling out to him with an almost bored inflection.

    "Hurry."

    There was about no greater insult to a sniper than to let them take their shot.

    Blackmoon's red eye flared, and the light gathering in his rifle thickened.

    Seven seconds.

    BANG-!

    A screaming, blood-red round fired from the barrel of the gun. Its kickback was so strong it knocked Blackmoon back three meters. When it hit Constantine it sent him flying across the ring.

    The audience watched, gasping in sheer disbelief. The Inquisitor was poised to win the tournament! Could this have really knocked him out of the running? It looked like the loss might have even cost him his life! They just watched him take a shot that would eradicate a gunship.

    Bang! Constantine was brutally smashed against the force field, with enough force to send him sailing back forward. He landed with a crash, covered in crackling remnants of red light.

    A wicked, self-satisfied smirk split the sniper's face. Pompous ass. Screw off.

    Then his red eye went wide.

    "Not... not bad. It's true what they say... you almost hit like a Paragon. Pretty close, anyway." Constantly coughed, pushing himself from the ground with one hand while the other tenderly rubbed his chest. The rippling waves of light around him stabilized.

    Holy **, he took it straight on!

    Blackmoon simply couldn't believe what he was looking at. He had never once encountered anyone who wasn't a Paragon that could survive a shot from his gun. That shot was the crux of his strategy!

    It was completely inconceivable, and yet the proof was standing right in front of him. No matter how much Blackmoon didn't want to believe it, Constantine had faced down his best and was still standing.

    That wasn't to say he was unscathed. Constantine was bleeding profusely, from the mouth, nose and ears. It looked like he had taken some damage from the blow. His eyes, though, ere sharp as ever. He almost looked excited, and still didn't make to attack Blackmoon.

    The convert hefted his rifle and began charging again. It was impossible - he couldn't accept anyone short of a Paragon could escape his gun!

    "I get the idea." Constantine waved his hand dismissively. The entire ring was suddenly lost in a sea of holy light

    "Winner; Constantine!"

    The Inquisitor walked away from the ring holding his chest. He bared his teeth in pain, making him look like a wounded animal.

    Lan Jue watched him closely, his eyes narrowed. Constantine's choice to face the bullet was deliberate. He was seeking the thrill, the fear of danger to push him to his potential. It was also reckless, for the point of impact must have been very near his Core. A little stronger and he would have been in far more dire straits.

    The dangers were balanced by understanding, though. At the very least his own potential would rise to try and meet the demand. He wasn't here for titles or riches. He was here for the same reason as most of the others.

    VIP Platform.

    "Your Majesty, was Constantine's choice to take the bullet in order to deepened his understanding?"

    1. It's important to note that the first part of his name 'Xuanyuan' is another name for the Yellow Emperor, Huang Di, the first emperor of China. I'm sure that will come in to play later.
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