Chapter 478: Before the Championship

    Chapter 478: Before the Championship

    "Why would you forfeit?" The Gourmet's incredulous question was directed at the Pharmacist.

    Her response was tepid. "I have my reasons. I do regret that I was unable to take the championship in the Avenue's name." Her words were apologetic, though her expression bore no such sign.

    The Gourmet's grin was drawn and bitter. "Fine. We wouldn't even be in the quarter finals without you, anyway. We'd have more trouble to consider, certainly. At any rate, the Jewelry Master is one of ours, even if it isn't on his name tag. It is what it is, and I wouldn't speak any more on it. Now, let's just hope our Jewelry Master can emerge victorious tomorrow."

    There was a flash of excited energy in the Pharmacist's eyes. Her voice was resolute. "He'll win. He must."

    The Paragon was a little taken aback by her sudden and intense demeanor. What pride, to state he'd win so categorically. Was her surrender today somehow tied to the Jewelry Master?

    The Pharmacist went on. "That's enough about this. We can talk more about it after we've finished preparations, if we must."

    The Gourmet's face stiffened, and his eyes narrowed. He answered with a curt nod.

    By the afternoon, news outlets had run wild with reports of the finals. The Pharmacist was now the target of widespread ridicule for her decision to concede. Unfortunately for her detractors, the Pharmacist couldn't care less what anyone thought. At around evening, however, the story had grown tired. Now people were starting to talk about the final fight.

    Every fight the White Blademaster and the God of Thunder had participated in were shown one after the other. Reports and analyses flashed across the screens. Meanwhile, social media chatter focused on who the champion would be affiliated with, and what sorts of prizes they'd earn. No less popular were the odds. Zeus' odds were 1:.6, and Jun Yongye's were 1:.8.

    Evidently there were significantly more people, now, who thought Zeus might pull away with the win. After juxtaposing the two competitors, their relative journey to this point was highlighted. Jun Yongye's rise through the rounds was largely unhindered, whereas Lan Jue had to fight tooth and nail nearly every step of the way.

    Ever since winning his Group, analysts have had to completely reword their models for Zeus. Every one of them used pretty much the same phrase as well; wolf in sheep's clothing. His ability to conceal his true strength was staggering.

    The Championship! At last it was time to pick the greatest warrior of humanity's up-and-comers. This was the latest news, the one thing on everyone's mind. At last the day had come, but perhaps ominously, the weather did not hold. In the early hours of the morning clouds gathered over the city of Luo and began to sprinkle it with rain. It made the air chilly. However, the wet blanket of precipitation didn't dampen the city's spirits. It was a rare occurrence here, and made the air thick with humidity.

    However, today's last fight would not follow the structure of earlier rounds. It would not be in the morning, and would instead proceed at night. By early morning, the arena had already been transformed into an awards amphitheater. Winners from previous rounds were invited back to receive their just rewards. Audience members who had won various raffles or prizes were also recognized while the field was available.

    Then, there was the closing ceremony.

    The audience members were allowed into the arena to watch all of this, so ticket-holders had already begun to mill about in the early morning. Those little digital slips were veritable treasures that would grant them access to all of that, and the championship fight besides. They came in droves, lugging bags laden with food and other essentials for a day-long event. It looked more like a concert than an Adept fight.

    Many of the competitors from previous rounds were also in attendance to pick up their winnings. The crowd was most interested, though, in the last two - the focus of many bets. The novel activities and the exciting conclusion on the horizon conspired to make the whole arena feel like a carnival of anticipation.

    The afternoon came quickly. The activities slowed, and eventually stopped as the crowds settled. After all, not even a child could keep up a whole day's worth of high excitement. They would need to conserve their energy if they wanted to be ready for the night.

    That didn't mean the audience was idle, by any measure. They sat in their seats and went over older footage. Of course, those fights with in-depth analysis were also available, for a fee. Platforms for digital payment made consumption - and profits - easier.

    Lan Jue entered the arena, accompanied by tournament attendants. He walked throughout without any fuss to a separate waiting room, where he took his seat. There he would wait for the time to arrive. Jun Yongye wasn't present, and must have had a room all his own. He figured it was a ploy by the organizers to make the process more exciting.

    As the day wore on, the sun faded and night took hold. The arena's floodlights cracked noisily as they lit up. They blazed so bright it looked like daytime in the center of the ring.

    "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the lovely Mo Xiao to the stage!" The announcer's excited voice called out just as the image of Mo Xiao appeared in the air. Suspended by some unseen contraption, she descended from on high like an angel.

    "Spectators, friends, Adepts... good evening to one and all!" The ultimate mistress of ceremonies was clad tonight in a blaze of red fabric. She was a blaze of fire in an otherwise black night sky that descended like a meteor.

    She spread out her arms and curtsied low to the ground, using the Western means of etiquette to give everyone her regards. The crowd screamed back their welcoming cheers.

    She smiled. "I imagine you're all eager to get started? I am, too. This has been a clash we've been waiting for, and at long last the time has come. For more than half a month, we have followed these amazing Talents on their journey to discover who is the strongest. Soon we will have our answer. Remember that this is only the first time these young Adepts have been tested. I'm certain it won't be the last.  We hope that as the youth of this generation and the next look on, they are inspired by the magnificence put on display these past weeks. Let all of this drive you to become the best citizen of humanity that you can be. We as a species need strong and capable leaders, and that is all of you - the future."

    "After the tournament our magnificent, handsome, boundlessly talented Poseidon will be holding a concert. Also, our gracious hosts, the Paragons of the Great Conclave, have some important news that concerns all of us. They would like to request that everyone remain until the end, so that they hear this announcement. Of course, the final winner will also need to receive their grand prize. Our two competitors have both earned an S-ranked power gem, simply for making it to the Championship Battle. The winner will receive a special mystery prize. What that prize is, even I do not know. We'll find out together, when the Great Adept Tournament comes to a close!"

    "Ah, and before I forget, I will be narrating our fight from here. I know I'm rather like the ghost of some unfortunate soul, hanging here in the air, but I'm confident I am at least your favorite specter. Right?!" She looked out over the crowds, beaming. The arena shook with their cries.

    As Mo Xiao fired up the crowds, the guests of honor entered and took their seats. First were the two Conclave Paragons and other Northern political leaders. The Avenue Paragon was followed by his delegation, then the Pontiff and Dark Citadel representatives.

    It was finally time!

    The Terminator bore a smile, and spoke cheerfully with the Gourmet as they entered. Any hint of his earlier displeasure with the situation was gone. His Avenue compatriot was absent the little girl he'd watched over for the last month. Jun'er, instead, was nestled in her mother's arms a row back, with Metatron, Lucifer and Titan.

    Jun'er was pressed against her mother's bosom, looking particularly well-behaved. Her gleamless eyes would wander as she got lost in some internal monologue. She wasn't wearing her helmet yet, instead waiting for the activities to begin. The Pharmacist was wary to put her under any undue strain from wearing it too long.

    "Very well, the end of the Great Adept Tournament will begin in five minutes. Let's introduce the final competitors, warriors fighting for the crown of Champion. Ladies and gentlemen, first - please welcome the White Blademaster, Jun Yongye!"

    Her words were punctuated by a flash, and a cone of golden light beamed into the distance. Its target was a platform slowly making its way through the air. Jun Yongye, his robes flapping in the breeze, was deposited into the ring. He looked like a legendary hero of old, emerging from the wilds.

    He quit the platform and took a few slow steps out onto the battlefield. He stood in the center, beneath humanity's collective gaze.

    "Next, I encourage everyone to welcome our second challenger, the miracle challenger and God of Lightning, Zeus!"

    Another column of light blazed forth, pointing in the direction opposite from where Jun Yongye had emerged. A similar platform silently glided through the air and bore Lan Jue to the ring. Today, he was clad in ornate, golden battle dress. His trademark golden mask was also in place. All of it shone majestically with each errant photon, sending light scattering every which way.

    When the platform settled, he stepped down with a firm and resolute pace. He never made a sound, only approaching like an inevitable tide. He stopped a few meters from where his opponent stood, and nodded.

    "Our potential champions have entered the ring. Ladies and gentlemen, we're ready for the Championship Battle of the Great Adept Tournament! These last moments belong to them - we ask our warriors to give it their best!"
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