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394 Second Trial!

    Inside the enormous hall, Zed ignored the abusive remarks of fellow contestants. Internally, he couldn't but marvel at their good luck. Had he been Kiba, they would have learned what it means to face insults that could make blood boil in anger.

    As he thought of this, he eyed the abusive contestants with a peaceful smile.

    "Maybe some of them have beautiful girlfriends, or at least gorgeous sisters and mothers," Zed mused with a pondering expression. "If things move as per my plan... then many mothers and sisters would be shedding tears at loss of their precious children.

    "Those mourning ladies would be in need of shoulders to cry! How troublesome... Who would be there to offer them a shoulder and tissue? Who would help them feel warm when fangs of loneliness target them?"

    Zed sported a very happy smile.

    He gazed at the contestants as if they were not insulting, but rather offering him a valuable opportunity. Sure, it was a heavy burden to carry, and it would make his alter ego sweat a lot, but he couldn't back away.

    Now, he finally understood the meaning of famous quote: With great power comes great responsibility.

    When the contestants cursing him saw his smile, they were incensed. Here they were busy insulting him, and yet, he was smiling!

    Angered, they began adding more provoking and abusive remarks. They wanted to make him lose his cool but his smile didn't disappear!

    Sophia sat beside him, her eyes narrowed. She was having a hard time controlling herself and not give in to their provocation.

    Just as she was on brink of lashing out, the announcement for the next trial came.

    {{In the next round, you have to tread the second trial zone to pass. The rewards would be based on the collection of Life Source Shards.}}

    Along with the announcement, images of Life Source Shard and the rules of the trial were embedded in everyone's mind. Hardly anyone was surprised to learn that the rule of protection still existed.

    Whoosh~!

    Following this, hundreds of portals appeared throughout the hall.

    The top geniuses and Chosen locked their eyes on the portals with firm determination. Alistar was the first to leap into a portal followed by Leonardo Benjamin, Solomon Fuentes, and others.

    The young assassin from Mystic Dark Hands - Kieron - swept a glance at Zed. Looking at his indifferent and calm expression, Kieron muttered, "This round, I will definitely surpass you!"

    He rushed into a portal...

    "We should also go!" Sophia rose to her feet and said.

    Jenina, Divya, and others nodded. They stepped into the portals made of white light and disappeared.

    Like a gentleman, Zed followed the concept of ladies first. He walked behind Sophia into one of the portals, and felt himself falling through a space tunnel made of twisted stripes of color.

    When he regained his sense of direction, he was standing on a ground covered with frost. The moment he appeared in the new land, he was forced to shut his eyes as strong light beams flashed in front of him.

    A few moments later, he opened his eyes and looked in front. He realized the light beams were not really light beam, but rather a reflection of light on the objects in front of him.

    As far as his eyes could see, the new land was filled with these objects reflecting glittering lights.

    Crystals.

    There were plateaus of crystals upon which spikes made of crystals protruded out. On the ground, crystals similar to icicles raised out.

    The crystals were of myriad colors, even colors that Zed has never seen on Earth. It was like the light here was made of a different spectrum.

    "A world of crystal!" Sophia's voice appeared from behind him.

    Zed nodded without saying anything.

    "Aren't these Profound Energy Crystals?!"

    A shocked gasp came from some fifty meters away.

    Zed and Sophia turned around to notice a group of five standing some six hundred meters away from a cluster of spherical crystals emitting a vibrant yellow glow.

    "It is really Profound Energy Crystals!" Sophia blurted out in surprise as she gazed at the glittering and translucent crystals.

    Alongside her, Jenina and other females were similarly stuck in shock.

    Profound Energy Crystals were a form of mineral deposit storing natural mutation energy. This energy was special and something rarely available as it was made of Divine Particles - the particles responsible for the mutation on Earth!

    For centuries, scientists around the globe wanted to find items containing Divine Particles to uncover secrets to strong powers and immortality. So it could be imagined the allure these particles had for the mutants and research community.

    Naturally, the presence of a single Profound Energy Crystal could result in a riot. Even the World Government would not let an opportunity go if they learn about these crystals.

    In the present era where everyone lusted after power and long life, Profound Energy Crystals were a source of hope!

    Sophia was from an aristocrat family and she knew their worth. She was more than sure that if the top organizations on Earth noticed so many crystals, a war of epic proportions would break out.

    Almost on reflex, everyone in the area charged towards the cluster of crystals. There were around thirty people in this area, and every one of them wanted to own these crystals.

    They were priceless - perhaps even more valuable than the treasures one could get in the treasure vault!

    Even Sophia couldn't help herself as she rushed forward to grab a few crystals. As a noble descendant, she felt an obligation to bring these crystals to her family and help in the development of the family's power. After all, the family has invested in her growth and gave her a life envied by masses; naturally, she has a strong devotion towards her family.

    Jenina, Divya, Rita, and a dozen more people in the area have also jumped in action. Everyone's eyes sparkled with the reflection of Profound Energy Crystals and their desire to retrieve them turned stronger.

    Their speed was such that they left behind afterimages.

    Sophia has crossed a distance of two hundred meters in just two seconds when she felt blistering heat. Surprised, she lifted her head and saw an arc of flame shooting some distance in front of her, making a border.

    "Zed!"

    Sophia gritted her teeth and jumped backward.

    At the same time, Jenina and others too leaped backward as columns of spiraling flames shot in front of them. The spiraling flames and arc of flame faded into thin air, almost as if they were all show with no power.

    "What is the meaning of this?"

    Jenina didn't notice what happened to his 'attacks'. All she could feel was a state of shock at his action.

    She looked in the distance and noticed how other contestants were closing into Profound Energy Crystals.

    "Do you want to compete with us?! Are you afraid of competing with honest means!?" Diya shouted at him in anger and once again charged forward.

    Zed didn't reply and instead raised a hand.

    A fireball swept out and Divya was forced to stop as it passed in front of her.

    "You!!" Divya cursed him.

    Meanwhile, the other contestants have already reached before the crystals. As soon as one of the contestants touched the crystals, their surfaces distorted with yellow ripples.

    Then, rays of cold light sprang out from the crystals. The faces of the contestants fell and they felt a life and death crisis like never before. Instinctively, they shot backward to retreat but it was too late as by now, the rays of light pierced through them.

    For a moment, they were dumbstruck as nothing happened but then they let out miserable screams. Their bodies shriveled and withered as the rays of cold light sucked away their life force and vitality.

    "This...!"

    Sophia looked at the scene with eyes wide open. Her heart sank as she noticed how a few of the contestants had protective charms similars to hers but in front of the cold light, they didn't even activate.

    The result of this development was in front of her. With a thud sound, the contestants collapsed on the ground, turning into dry corpses while the rays of light retraced back into the crystals.

    The yellow glow emitting out of the crystals turned a bit stronger, as if the power inside them has increased.

    "What happened?"

    Normally, Sophia was bossy and fearless, but now her cute was filled with traces of fear. It was her first time witnessing people dying in a manner like this.

    Jenina, Rita, and Divya sucked in a breath of cold air. Their forehead dripped with sweat and they started shaking as they realized how narrowly they avoided horrifying death.

    Sophia turned towards Zed and thought of how he 'attacked' to stop them.

    It was only him who didn't rush to grab Profound Energy Crystals. Knowing what has just happened, there was no doubt why he didn't.

    "Thanks and sorry," Sophia lowered her head.

    She couldn't believe how her mind was so clouded with greed that she even turned angry at him.

    "Don't be hard on yourself," Zed said, his voice polite. "Allure of Divine Particles is not something that any human being can resist."

    The mutation responsible for supernatural abilities was due to Divine Particles present in the genetic material. This genetic mutation lusted after every similar source of power. It was this lust that showed up as a desire to have Divine Particles at all costs.

    Of course, human psychology would give reasons and twists to justify this strong desire like in Sophia's case where she felt it is an obligation for family. Maybe she really wanted the crystals for her family, but this desire was born out of her innate mutation.

    "Yet you were able to resist its allure unlike us," Sophia replied with a wry smile.

    She recalled her mother's words on how only a man of honest nature could resist strongest temptation. It was proof of character. Looking at Zed's conduct, she once again praised her all-knowing mother.

    "I'm sorry for my conduct," Divya apologized.

    She chided herself for behaving badly with someone like Zed who has been the kindest and sincere human she has ever known.

    "I'm sorry as well," Jenina and Rita also apologized with a bitter expression before thanking him.

    "Please be at ease and you don't have to thank me," Zed responded with a warm smile. "I only did what any person would have done in my shoes."

    Sophia and others stared at him. He hasn't taken the least bit of offense, and instead of basking in their gratitude, he resisted it by acting he hasn't done anything special.

    "What an exemplary human being!"

    Once again, Sophia couldn't help but think of that shameless scoundrel and compare him with Zed.

    ✡✡✡

    A few minutes later.

    Sophia observed Profound Energy Crystals for a few moments before saying, "There was no mention of their strange nature..."

    She has read a few books on mutation and various precious items. The nature of these crystals to absorb life-force and vitality was never stated.

    "Maybe the family didn't even know..."

    Sophia wondered aloud.

    She then further thought that perhaps a few esteemed elders knew but they might not have mentioned due to the rarity of these crystals. She has only read about these crystals in passing; knowing full well they were something she could never find, much less get.

    As she thought of everything so far, she brought her eyes to Zed. From the start, he showed no interest in those crystals and only focused on stopping her and others.

    "He must have known everything about those crystals but how..."

    She wondered in her heart.

    "These crystals are not really mineral deposit of Divine Particles, well, at least not in ways you believe, " Zed said as he felt visions filled with curiosity on him.

    "What do you mean?" Sophia asked.

    "Nature has ways of balancing things," Zed explained with a sigh. "Humans and even many lifeforms from Celestial Elysian Plane derived their strength from Divine Particles... this reduced the quantity  of Divine Particles in free form. So as a balancing act to conserve these particles, nature intervened in the form of those crystals."

    "You mean by absorbing Divine Particles fused with lifeforms?!" Sophia felt a chill pass through her spine.

    She glanced at the crystals and the strong glow emitting from them. She made a mental calculation and based on this, she felt at least ten thousands of lifeforms have been killed for the crystals to grow to their present form.

    Given the negligible traces of Divine Particles in humans' genetic matter, she reasoned most lifeforms killed must be alien creatures.

    "Nature is cruel," Sophia bitterly noted.

    "Cruel but fair and without any bias," Zed corrected her in his thoughts.

    "Is there any way to get those crystals?" Jenina asked after some time.

    The most precious treasure was in front of her, lying in open, and yet, she didn't dare take them. There could be nothing more tragic than this.

    "Of course, there are ways to get them," Zed replied in a matter of obvious tone. "Nature is balanced after all."

    Jenina's face brightened with happiness. The others were same and they excitedly looked at him with glittering eyes; waiting for him to share the ways.

    "But none of those methods can be employed by us," Zed completed his statement. "If those crystals were something we could get, then would they be really rare?"

    "......"

    Jenina felt he was trolling them by adding crucial information after a long pause. But since she knew his character, she felt that possibility was nonexistent...
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