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390 You Call Them Precautions!?

    A few hours later, the trial finally ended. A little over two hundred passed from the original thousand contestants, and out of which only thirty or so were rewarded with beads.  The failed contestants were teleported out of the trial zone.

    The passed contestants had no doubt Zed was the allover winner of this trial. While none of them liked the result, they could do nothing in the trial area, as attacking or killing another contestant would result in punishment. No one wanted to be the guinea pig and test what type of punishment such an offense would bring.

    As people waited for the next trial to start, Zed retrieved an orange capsule from his storage ring.

    Sophia looked on as he stuffed the capsule in his mouth, and she was surprised by the total lack of medicinal aroma or energy fluctuations. She has genetic pills and has seen various types of medicines in her family-owned lab, but nothing like it.

    The capsule appeared to be listless, almost as if it had no use. But she knew there was no way it could be true. After all, she has seen Zed performing an advanced operation to save Verna.

    So how was it possible for someone like him to consume useless capsule?

    In the meantime, as the capsule passed through his neck, it broke into miniature pellets. The pellets were gel-like, emitting no energy fluctuation.

    Through his bloodstream, the pellets shattered into gelly particles and struck in various corners of his body. As the gell particles bonded with his body, the life vitality inside him began falling. The loss of vitality was not noticeable but in just an instant, he has almost lost a year of his life.

    "Side effects can show up any time," Zed sighed as he thought of the function of the capsules he and Claudia made.

    He wasn't worried about the loss of vitality or the side effects as long as the capsule can serve its purpose at the right time.

    Sophia stared at him and felt nothing different from him. She secretly wondered just what use the capsule served.

    In the meantime, a loud rumbling sound ringed throughout the hall, attracting the attention of everyone.

    The ceiling turned transparent before disappearing, exposing the bright sky.

    "What's going on?" People began wondering aloud.

    The sky was the same as the one Zed and others saw at the entrance of central zone - made of light dots.

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    As the ceiling disappeared, the walls of the hall began retracing into the ground. The floor and the seating slabs too vanished.

    The contestants found themselves in the middle of nowhere. As far as their eyes could see, it was a wasteland - filled with enormous boulders, cliffs, and scarce vegetation.

    {{The first trial is over. Cross this land to participate in the next trial.}}

    An announcement appeared in everyone's mind.

    Along with the announcement, information on the route to the trial area appeared along with the restriction on use of aircraft.

    Shockingly, contestants can travel in any direction, and ultimately they would arrive in the trial area. It was like all paths lead to same destination!

    "First trial? But then what about those bridges?" A contestant was startled as he thought about the robotic beasts and birds they faced.

    "That was not a trial! It makes sense if you think about it! No rewards were announced though the first person to cross every bridge did receive a bead."

    "Wait! This land is just a path...just like those bridges to a trial area. Would we have to pass through more paths after passing a trial?"

    "Seems so."

    Many people became dejected.

    Crossing path would have no rewards except for the first person, and in this area, it seems there wouldn't even be any reward as there were countless routes.

    It was a thankless task of crossing hundreds of kilometers. All they could gain from this was burning some calories.

    While people didn't like it, they couldn't complain or refuse. After all, it was they who wanted access to the treasure vault. This was not some competition from Earth which they could threaten to boycott and the sponsors would have no choice but to heed to their request.

    "Restriction on aircraft?" Zed didn't like this restriction as he has an alien-tech hovercraft.

    "We should leave!" Sophia said while pointing to a route chosen by no one.

    Given the vastness of this plane, there were hundreds of routes one could use. So there was no need to pick a route used by others.

    "Sure," Zed replied.

    "Could we also travel with you?" Jenina's voice came from behind.

    She was standing alongside Divya and Rita.

    "Obviously!" Sophia turned towards them and nodded. "When I said we, I meant all of us!"

    Jenina and others smiled in relief. They weren't sure if Zed and Sophia would appreciate them joining them despite the friendship between them.

    Zed, Sophia, and the other three began rushing through their selected path. Their speed was fast as they disappeared into a distance.

    Twenty minutes later.

    After Zed and others have just passed through two enormous boulders occupying hundreds of meters, Zed stopped and signaled others to do the same.

    "Does anyone of you have levitation ability, or any ability related to the earth element?" Zed asked while taking out a black bag from his storage ring.

    "I can control soil mass...but why?" Divya replied in confusion.

    "Help me dig holes," Zed quickly pointed to three different sites next to the giant boulders. "We don't have much time so be fast."

    He mentioned the dimensions of the holes he needed and then started opening the bag.

    Divya was bewildered by his words but she did as he asked. The soil particles parted on her command, and in just a blink of an eye, three small holes were dug.

    "Sophia, please plant these on the top of both boulders," Zed gave her two small spherical crystalline cans. "But make sure your speed is so fast that you don't even leave an afterimage...and when you place them down, press on their top surface."

    Sophia didn't ask any questions and gave him a nod. Currents of energy erupted under her feet and she vanished under powerful speed fluctuations.

    At the same time, he took out three thick tile-like crystalline sheets. He gave two to Jenina and Rita, and by now, they knew what they have to do even without him telling.

    He stuffed the tile-like crystalline sheet in one of the holes and the other two women did the same. The moment they did, Divya waved a hand, and the soil particles moved over the holes, making the holes completely disappear.

    "What are we doing?" Jenina asked as each one of them completed their task and gathered around him.

    "Taking precautions," Zed answered while telling them to rush forward to another boulder some four hundred meters ahead.

    Sophia's eyebrows knotted as she thought of something. But she knew now was not the time for discussion.

    They dashed ahead and hid behind the boulder.

    Five minutes later.

    Just as Jenina and others were growing frustrated and annoyed, they heard the sound of quick steps. Surprised, they looked out from the corners of the boulder.

    Between the two enormous boulders ahead, a group of around twenty contestants was charging straight. Almost all of them had a smirk on their faces as they rushed through the two boulders.

    One of them has a digital tablet in his hand upon which energy patterns were displayed. With a fierce look in his eyes, he said, "We are going in the right direction! Given the disturbance in the energy particles and the record we have of their body smell, there is no doubt they have passed through here!"

    "Great!" A youngster with knives in his hand laughed. "We have given them enough time... now the time has come for us to catch them!"

    "That man named Zed has over a hundred beads! Each of us would get at least five beads!" A mutant youngster in the form of a mammoth said.

    This youth didn't perform well in the trial, and as such, he didn't gain a single bead.

    "We are going to make it big!" Another youth remarked happily.

    After knowing this land was not a trial area, they were sure the rules of protection didn't apply here. There was no punishment nor the beads could be used here for their miscellaneous purposes. This was a perfect opportunity to grab the beads!

    They had a theory according to which areas free from 'rules of protection' were intentionally created by the designer of the trial. Most likely, it was an opportunity for those who lacked merits to catch up at the cost of so-called earlier winners.

    As they thought of this, they couldn't help but feel the trial designer was vicious.

    The earlier round of showcasing who won how many beads and then appearing on this free area... there was no way the top contestants can ever be at peace despite making it big!

    "This place is perfect! I earlier thought traveling through this land was just a waste of time!"

    "Same here! The land is a gold mine for all of us!"

    "I can't wait to get my hands on those beads!"

    As for Zed, well, they had decided to be 'lenient'. They wouldn't kill him but only cripple him by severing his limbs.

    "Hehe, we are really going to be kind to that insect from slum! He wouldn't have to face the difficulties of other trials!" A youngster whose body was made of liquid wax said.

    "Indeed! He only fared better in first trial because insects have instincts of clinging to life! That trial misunderstood it as a sign of strong Will!"

    Each of them was a genius in their respective families and organizations. While they weren't from top organizations or aristocrat families, their backgrounds weren't something that could be undermined.

    For years, their parents and elders have given charity to insects from countless slums throughout the world. Now, an insect from those dirty places was trying to compete with them?!

    What a joke! He didn't know his true place!

    "What would we do with those girls?" A mutant with a rod in his hand asked.

    "You need to ask?" Another mutant beside him said with a smirk.

    He wasn't worried about Sophia and other girls' strength given the size of their group. They might not be as talented as her, but they were genius and powerful in their own right! There was no way a team of five could compete with the strength of over twenty geniuses!

    "Haha! Right!"

    "Those girls also have beads! We are going to be very rich!"

    "Not only rich but also satisfied if you know what I mean!"

    Every single of them extremely happy. They knew they would have to give the most precious items they gained from treasure vault to their respective organizations, but the other treasures were theirs. Then there were the skills and knowledge they could gain if they had beads from upcoming trials. Not to mention, the rewards their respective organizations would give when they learned of their achievements.

    Everything depended on those beads! And in just some time, they wouldn't lack them!

    While being lost in flights of fancy, they had almost crossed the two boulders which were no less than cliffs.

    The mutant transformed as a mammoth passed through the boulders first. Just as he crossed and stepped on the ground, he heard a faint beeping sound from the ground below.

    Even though he was excited, he was also on guards. And as he heard the sound, he lowered his head below.

    At the same time, the others from behind also caught up. Two more beeping sounds emitted from the ground, much to shock of everyone.

    "What was that...."

    They were thinking when dazzling radiance seeped out of the ground. The radiance was blinding to the eyes, and they instinctively covered their eyes while retreating.

    They were having a very bad feeling from the radiance...

    Alas, their speed of retreat wasn't fast enough. They only acted after the radiance sipped out and not just when they heard the beeping sound.

    Even if they had, perhaps it wouldn't have mattered as they soon realized.

    The radiance broke out of the ground like waves and smashed into the retreating figures. The first to face the radiance was the mutant with sharp knives.

    BOOM

    The moment the radiance crashed onto him, he exploded into a dazzling mass of crimson. Blood and flesh flew through the air along with pieces of knives.

    The mutant transformed as mammoth was terrified as he saw the fate of his companion. As the radiance continued to tear through the air and swipe forward, his scalp turned numb from fear.

    "AHHHHHH!"

    The mammoth let out a heart-wrenching scream as the radiance engulfed him.

    Even though his beastly body has tremendous strength and his skin was no less than an extremely durable metal, it proved useless against the violent radiance. The terrifying radiance tear through his insides before exploding him to pieces.

    His final thought was of unwillingness at his untimely demise. All his dreams were brutally ripped apart, and that too not in some trial, but on some random path.

    Behind, the remaining survivors scattered and rapidly fleed through the enormous boulders. By now, they had realized that the earlier beeping sounds were from high-tech explosives similar to land mines.

    And seeing the explosives were ahead, they obviously fleed behind. They began shoving each other to gain momentum and flee. None of them wanted to be the last one and face the dangerous radiance that was sure shot death.

    Sadly, fate wasn't on their side.

    The radiance has crashed on the boulders, and by some unknown reaction which they didn't they see, the boulders exploded into columns of explosive flame.

    Almost half of the group has almost crossed the boulders range, but sadly, they were just two to three steps far away. Today, they learned for death, a single step didn't make the slightest bit of difference!

    "URGHHHH!"

    "NOOO!"

    Whether it was the mutant in the form of liquid wax or the mutant wielding rod, they were devoured by the explosive flames. A few of them tried to create a barrier but there was just no time. Everything has happened so quickly, giving them no time to do anything.

    "No! This is unfair!"

    "This was my time to shine!"

    Their final thoughts were filled with resentment, disbelief, and regret! They never expected what was supposed to be a very easy task of stealing beads would lead to their deaths in such a horrifying manner.

    Half a kilometer further behind, a group of seven was struck on the spot with pale faces.

    Their thoughts were similar to the group just obliterated. But unlike the obliterated group, they wanted to make a profit by relying on the principle of 'mantis stalks the cicada unaware of the oriole behind'.

    Now, after seeing a group of over twenty decimated to atoms, everyone in the group began trembling. Their entire bodies broke out in cold sweat, and they looked at the explosion flames with eyes wide and jaw dropped to the ground.

    Every single one of them wanted to know what the hell just happened.

    How the ** did such an easy task of stealing from a former slum dweller turned into a trip to the underworld?!

    In the meantime, as Sophia, Jenina, Divya, and Rita gazed at the explosion cloud, they were similarly shocked. Almost on a cue, they turned towards Zed and asked, "You call this as taking precautions?"
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