Chapter 457: Failure is the Mother of Success

    Chapter 457: Failure is the Mother of Success

    The second group also had two competitors with a pair of wins under their belts; the Pharmacist and Jiang Yuan. They would also determine who would proceed to the finals after tomorrow.

    Other than Lan Jue's shocking defeat of the Wolf King, things stayed quiet and straightforward for the other fights.

    Of course, gamblers who'd placed their hard-earned cash on Qi Mu were less than pleased. All of it, down the drain. There was nothing in the universe less reliable than gambling.

    The audience had had their appetite wet by the first two fights. Now it was time for the next two, the main course.

    Group Three. The mysterious powerhouses would return to the ring. The Driver would be facing Yan Ningya, while Cao Shuiqin would square off against Jun Yongye.

    The Epochrion's disciple was determined not to lose a second time. However, the Driver had shown some considerable power. His case may not have been as hopeless as it seemed. He walked over to Lan Jue.

    "No encouragement for me?"

    Lan Jue smiled. "You seem like you're doing fine! Just don't lose too terribly."

    "Shit!" The Driver flipped him the finger, then stomped toward the ring.

    Yan Ningya was without her veil today. Her status had been revealed yesterday so there was no further need for it. The Driver looked as his often did, with well-kept short hair and a cunning glint in his eye. He looked ready to go.

    Yan Ningya nodded at him. He inclined is head in response.

    In terms of physical appearance, Yan Ningya was more attractive Cao Shuiqin. Though, for some unexplicable reason the Driver did not appear the least bit interested. On the contrary, he had eyes only for Cao Shuiqin, otherwise he wouldn't be watching her like he was.

    "Three, two, one. Begin!"

    There was a flash of silver right away. The Driver would not hesitate like he had for Shuiqin. With the speed of lightning he raced right for her. However, as he drew in for the strike, he could feel himself become sluggish. All around were ripples of prismatic color emanating from Yan Ningya. The Driver's explosive charge was turn to a crawl.

    The time Adept lazily stepped to the side, and suddenly time sped up to breakneck speed. The Driver sped past his target and struck the ground with a jarring blast.

    The Driver had put his whole strength behind the strike, and silver lightning crackled violently all around where he'd stopped. It enveloped him as well, acting as a shield against Yan Ningya's own counter attack.

    It looked as though the Driver anticipated that his attacks wouldn't be precise, so he spread his power to cover a larger area. All of this while keeping his defenses primed.

    The shimmering light surrounding her bloomed outward like a starburst, enveloping her in a magnificent kaleidoscope of color. She floated away from her foe as delicate as a fairy. Her sword swung this way and that as she did so. "In the North there lives a wondrous beauty, peerless and independent. One laugh and cities fall! Another laugh razes countries. In her steps comes disaster, but her beauty cannot be denied."

    She sung the lines must faster this time, and with each wave of her sword the light that composed it blazed brighter. The host of colors in her eyes sparkled enigmatically.

    By her second stanza, the Driver could feel something wasn't right. The waves of power that swept from her sword weren't directed at him, but instead focused on herself. He couldn't stop her if he wanted to, though, since her time dilation powers negated the speed of his lightning. He also needed a moment to recover from his first blitz.

    He spun around and launched himself at Yan Ningya once again. Silver arcs of lightning spat out all around him in another electric explosion. By now Ningya was finishing her final stanza.

    A beam of white light cut right through the electricity. The piercing force washed over Driver.

    A red aura sprang into being around the Driver, appearing without warning. His meaty hand was extended forward, flagrantly keeping the light several feet away.

    "Leniency!" the Gourmet's voice called.

    Yan Ningya dropped her sword and turned her eyes to the VIP platform where the Paragons sat. She gave them a little bow, then left the ring. She only stopped when she reached the waiting area, while passing the White Blademaster.

    "Thank you for your instruction," she said. He answered her with a smile.

    The Driver was glum. His bet with the Accountant hung over his head, and it looked like he would owe the mousy man a bottle of fine whisky. The bet was that he wouldn't be the worst in his group, but two fights in he was zero for two. His next opponent? Jun Yongye.

    "Does that count as losing terribly?" The Driver griped as he walked back to Lan Jue's side.

    Zeus met him with a smile. "No. She was using all of her power, too, you just didn't know what you were going up against. Her time abilities shut our speed advantage down, which is why it was a short fight. But losing fast doesn't mean you got trounced."

    Lan Jue's drinking buddy laughed. "Well now I feel much better," he quipped sarcastically. This earned an admonishing look from his friend.

    "Failure is the mother of success!"

    "At least get me out of the Accountant's bet," he whined.

    Lan Jue shrugged. "I think he told me that if he won, he'd give the bottle to the Keeper. I guess it's up to you."

    The Driver left quietly. Sad though he was, this didn't stop his eyes from following Cao Shuiqin up to the ring.

    Jun Yongye was clad as he ever was in the white coat, spotlessly clean. There was a comforting consistency; this was how we was, and how he would always be.

    They faced each other from across the field, until eventually the blademaster called out to her. "I'm eager for a song!"

    She looked back at him. "Very well," she replied with a nod.

    The countdown had no meaning. Before the eyes of the crowd Jun Yongye folded his knees beneath him and sat. He shut his eyes, and listened.

    Cao Shuiqin followed, sitting prettily on the floor with the guqin across her knees. Her delicate fingers lay upon the strings. The tones they produced were low and ethereal, lingering in the air. From the stands they looked like two people whiling the day away.

    The first sign that all was not as it seemed, was when the air between them began to contort.

    This continued for ten minutes, until Cao Shuiqin calmly placed her fingers upon the strings and made them still. She looked up, her expression detached. "I've lost."

    Her music hadn't only failed to hook the blademaster. It didn't seem to have affected him on any level. It was like serenading a blade - your notes just rang off the surface.

    When Jun Yongye opened his eyes, he sighed with regret. "Your heart isn't in it!" He rose on to his feet and left the ring without saying anything further.

    He was two wins up. No one else in the third group could stand up to him. Even if he were - by some miracle - to lose in his next fight against the Driver, he still had more points. The first one to qualify for the finals was not Constantine, not the Pharmacist, nor Titan or Yan Ningya... but the simple swordsman, Jong Yongye!

    Cao Shuiqin sat in silence for a little while, thinking over her opponent's parting words. She eventually gathered up her instrument and left the ring, hiding her reddening face. He was right - her heart wasn't in it. She had meant it when she told the Driver that his loss wasn't a whole loss. They affected her as well, and took time to dissipate.

    Three fights in, things were looking clearer than ever. The next fight certainly did not fit that category, but it was the most anticipated match-up of the day. Even the Terminator had said he was looking forward to it.

    High Inquisitor of the Pontiff's Citadel, Constantine; versus Xuanyuanshishi and the Ten-thousand Blades.

    Constantine rose to his feet. A holy light blazed in his eyes, so bright it was like he couldn't contain it. The audience could feel the waves of confidence coming from him. It wasn't a surprise, after all he was one of the most promising young Adepts in the Citadel, and a contender for the spot of Pontiff someday. He would not accept defeat.

    He'd witnessed Xuayuna Shishi's strength yesterday, but the display had only served to stoke his lust for battle. He longed to test himself against such doughty opponents. The harder he was pushed, the further he walked on his Path. Lan Qing, Lan Jue, Chu Cheng... like him they had also come to grasp the protogenic world early. But the Path the High Inquisitor walked was much more difficult than theirs.

    To be so strong and so young, he'd had to employ a great deal of fantascia genetica. It fully stimulated his Talent, made him one of the best, but there were dangers to rewriting one's DNA. The final steps to Paragon were much more difficult for anyone who took short cuts. This was why the Angel of War, Michael - once lauded as the right hand of the Pontiff and set to succeed him - was ultimately stuck at the peak of ninth level.

    If Constantine didn't discover his Path before the age of fifty, he would end up like the Angel of War.

    The Pontiff was an old man. No one knew how long a Paragon lived, but he had already clearly expressed his wishes. When a worthy disciple broke through to Paragon, he would pass the mantle on to them. Metatron's chances were quickly dwindling, while Constantine was at the height of his potency. At this point there wasn't even any competition between them.
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