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400 A Spectral Face!

    Leonardo was completely dumbfounded, his eyes wide open. The open door seemed to be mocking his confidence and so-called knowledge.

    "How can this happen...?"

    Leonardo felt what just happened now was too ridiculous. He has been trying to open the door for over an hour but...

    Leonardo was trying to come to terms with reality when other contestants broke out into discussions.

    "Just a few touches were enough to open the door?"

    "Then why was Leonardo wasting time?"

    "I don't understand that either."

    "Maybe he was trying to show-off his mechanical arm."

    When Leonardo heard the chatter, the fat on his body shook.

    What show-off?!

    I was earnestly trying to open the door!

    And few touches enough to open the door?!

    Like hell! Didn't you guys tried various means without any success?!

    So stop blaming me!

    Leonardo cursed them for their ignorance. He was in the middle of venting his frustration when others began stepping forward.

    Leonardo's heart ached as he saw female contestants walking ahead. Many of them were admiring him till a few minutes ago, but now, they pretended if he didn't exist.

    Damn! How can they avoid me so openly for one failure?!

    I have the fifth-highest number of beads!

    Leonardo muttered while raising his other hand to show the beads on his hand.

    So far, Alistair was first followed by other geniuses.

    That might be but Leonardo knew his own performance was extraordinary. Most contestants didn't even have five beads but he had over fifty! It was even greater than that punk from slums who lost almost half beads in the second trial!

    Sadly, no one considered him worthy of praise. People only venerate the first!

    Except for his followers, no one paid him any attention.

    "That punk! This isn't over!" Leonardo swore to punish the guy responsible for his failure.

    ...

    Zed stepped into what could be called a wasteland. It was similar to the one which everyone has crossed after the first trial.

    "Do we have to cross it like the last time?" Jenina asked as she arrived next to him.

    She was stunned by how easily he opened the door, but she has also gotten a bit used to him doing things that were considered unbelievable.

    "No idea. There was no announcement," Diya replied while checking the wasteland. "And the nature of trials is changing... nothing is even making sense."

    As per the records, there should be an announcement every time. But there was no mention of how to leave the hall and unlock the door. Nor there was any mention of what they have to do.

    "Most likely we have to cross..." Sophia guessed.

    "The question is whether this area is a trial zone," Jenina said with a sigh. "And if not, does the rule of protection exists?"

    After some discussion, just as a precaution, they decided to assume the rule didn't exist just like the first wasteland. They also assumed there would be no rewards.

    Quickly, they dashed forward in one direction. They have crossed half a mile when Zed's expression changed.

    "Retreat!" Zed jumped backward.

    The moment they backed away, the ground in front of them was smashed by a monster made of rock.

    "Obstacles?"

    Jenina was startled. The first wasteland had no danger like this.

    Zed's eyes flickered and he wrapped himself with streams of fire. Flames exploded under his feet and leaped high in the air.

    At the same time, a boulder came crashing down at that spot, sending dust into the air.

    "There are multiple monsters!" Sophia said as her body turned into a series of afterimages as she avoided a frontal assault.

    In total, there were seven monsters.

    Zed was still in mid-air when he saw bullets made of rocks raining down at him. They were shot down by a monster through its palms.

    Zed created a barrier of fire around him as he fell down and the rock bullets closed onto him. As he expected, the bullets weren't stopped by the fire barrier at all.

    That was something obvious as the earth element was normally resistant to fire.

    That might be, but the fire barrier reduced the speed of the bullet. This resulted in some time gap which he used to land on the ground.

    Just as he landed, the monster charged at him with both fists pointed at his vitals. Zed sighed as he saw the monster rapidly closing onto him.

    "If you were a woman or even a human, fighting you would be fun," Zed thought as he retrieved a plasma grenade from his storage ring.

    While it was possible to defeat an earth element opponent, it would make him spend a lot of strength. That was something he wouldn't mind if it resulted into good time.

    But knowing the opponent was a monster programmed to attack humans, there was no fun in it.

    So, he decided to follow the motto of fighting smart.

    The monster didn't flinch or backed away as Zed activated the grenade. All the monster cared was smashing the human into a bloody pulp.

    Airstreams whipped around its fists as they brutally smashed forward. But much to its anger, using flames to increase his agility, Zed leaped backward at the last moment. As he backed away, he tossed the grenade at the monster.

    ROAR

    The monster roared and smacked the grenade. Just as its fist smashed into the grenade, it imploded into waves of plasma.

    A terrifying explosion swept out, instantly obliterating the monster.

    Some two hundred meters away, Sophia and others were astonished as the shockwaves of the explosion swept towards them. Their expressions turned serious and they fleed with all their strength.

    Alas, the monsters weren't as smart or quick and few shockwaves crashed into them, wrapping them into rays of plasma.

    At the same time, new beads appeared on Zed's wrist. He didn't show any reaction by the addition of twenty-one beads.

    "Each monster is worth three beads?!" Jenina was amazed by the outcome.

    He gained so many beads without actually doing anything!

    "Every time it is the same! He earns beads with the least efforts!"Diya remarked with a bitter smile.

    "Yeah! Lowly mortals like us do all the hard work and yet we hardly gain a few reward beads!" Rita echoed to the sentiment.

    "The designer of this wasteland would definitely be angry!" Sophia said with a smile.

    "..."

    Zed didn't react to their words.

    "I guess we know it is a trial zone for sure!" Jenina concluded with a heavy expression. "Or at least, similar to a trial zone given the rewards!"

    "Yes! We can earn beads as long as we defeat those monsters!"

    "Let's find them more!"

    Sophia and other women decided to hunt down monsters. Zed, on the other hand, followed them with no actual interest.

    Throughout the wasteland, other contestants similarly began targetting the rock monsters. Everyone was hungry for the rewards they carried.

    No one cared if it a trial zone or not! After all, why should it matter if they are getting beads!?

    ...

    Six hours later.

    Zed and others finally arrived at the end of the wasteland. Sophia's wrist has an additional sixty beads while the other girls had around twenty to twenty-five.

    "Thanks, Zed!" Jenina said. If not for his help, other than Sophia, none of them would have gained this many beads.

    Except for the twenty-one beads he gained, he hasn't earned anything. But that was his own choice as he has no interest in them.

    "You are welcome," Zed replied before bringing his eyes on the rift ahead.

    Based on the experience in the first wasteland, he knew he has to jump into it to transfer into the next area.

    Without saying anything else, he leaped into it with his eyes closed. The only reason he could jump without any thoughts was due to his premonition ability. He knew there was no danger.

    ...

    When he opened his eyes, he found himself to be teleported to the insides of an enormous palace. It was almost as wide as a small town with royal grandeur.

    Alongside him, there were the remaining contestants who survived and passed. There were only fifty or so youths alive!

    The passage of the wasteland seemed easier for Zed due to the preparations done by Claudia, but for others, it wasn't that easy. Not everyone could afford priceless explosives like him.

    As the last of the contestants arrived in the palace, the silence was broken with quick discussions. People began showing off the reward beads they gained.

    "Stop boasting!" A youth with the ability of physical transformation said to his friend. "And if you want to, how about comparing with Alistair?"

    The palace instantly turned silent with all eyes moving on Alistair. He was standing without any expression, not saying a single word.

    "Over two hundred beads!"

    The mutants were alarmed and their throats turned dry in envy. They knew as a Chosen, he would perform well, but this was just too shocking.

    The youths who knew about Alistair could only smile ruefully at the difference in performance.

    "No wonder he has explored Primordial Enchantress Realm! His experience of that meteorite is proving useful here!"

    As people turned green with envy, Alistair suddenly turned his head towards the end of the palace. The other youths did the same as they felt intense space fluctuations.

    Under their shocked eyes, space ripped apart as if it was sliced from the other end. When people saw this, they felt a chill down their spines.

    Ripping space was something that not even a Beta-rank mutant could do on Earth. And in a meteorite like this, even an Alpha-rank mutant would be hard-pressed to create spatial fluctuations much less rip space apart.

    Now, space was torn in front of everyone's eye. Blinding rays of light swept through the rift as it turned as wide as a giant portal.

    As the talented geniuses regained their vision back, they gulped down a mouthful of saliva and looked ahead.

    The end of the palace has turned into a spatial portal. Inside the portal, there was an endless plane filled with what appeared to be dots of light.

    No one could be sure if they were dots of light or not due to the distance. The only thing they were sure was those dots of light were floating, emitting a serene glow.

    From a distance, the plane seemed to be filled with a sea of myriad colors.

    "What's going on?"

    The youths were extremely nervous due to this unknown phenomenon. Many of them jumped up in terror as they heard sound from the portal.

    The sound was like of liquid splashing...almost like waves.

    As people tried to calm themselves and steel their resolve, an enormous spectral figure flew out of the portal.

    The spectral figure was not really a figure but rather only a face.

    A strange, feminine face.

    Half of it was white while the other half black.

    Throughout the face, there were tiny flashes of light, like tiny stars.

    On the forehead, there were three incorporeal horns resembling antennas.

    [[You have done well.]]

    The face said in a language that was understandable to everyone, almost as if it was spoken mentally.

    [[Then again, given your performance in that place, this so-called core region should have been a child's play for you.]]

    The face slowly flew further as it spoke. The lights in the palace dimmed as if its very presence was shaking its foundation.

    As the youths heard her voice, they were dumbstruck.

    Done well?

    Performance in that place?

    As people thought of these words, they brought their eyes on Alistair. It was only him that has been to another meteorite before coming here!

    And given how this spectral face spoke of how he has done well, there was no doubt the face was speaking to him!

    The contestants felt their hearts thumping violently and their faces cramping. Their expressions were complicated, this was especially true for geniuses from influential backgrounds.

    Some of them have read secret records related to the meteorites. After they saw the face and its strange features, they identified it as a venerated figure. It was someone that even councilmen from the World Government would beg to see.

    Now such a grand figure was praising Alistair!

    This was just too shocking!

    Alistair usually didn't care about flattery or praises. It was something that he has rather grown used to due to his status as a Chosen.

    But when he heard the praise from this spectral face, his entire body was filled with ecstatic happiness. The corners of his mouth touched his ears as he excitedly looked at the face.

    "All those hard work has paid off!" Alistair recalled the intense training and close encounters with death.

    His life so far has been torturous and nothing less than a violent fantasy, but now after being acknowledged by this esteemed figure, he knew it was worth it.

    He could imagine how astonished the elders from the aristocratic families would be when they learn this. Not only his own family, but even other families would be ready to give him anything he wanted.

    That's how precious the acknowledgment of this figure was!

    Leonardo, Solomon, Kieron, and the remaining top contestants clenched their fists tightly. They unblinkingly stared at the venerated face while envying Alistair.

    At the same time, the lackeys of Alistair were brimming with happiness. It was like they were basking in glory instead of their idol.

    Many youths - both males and females- instantly decided to establish good relations with Alistair. A few gorgeous women have even decided to use extreme methods to develop goodwill.

    The enormous face continued to fly further. It was just a few meters away from the place where the contestants were standing.

    Alistair felt his heart beating fast. His blood flow sped up in excitement as he waited to see what the face has in mind for him.

    "I should pay my respect!" Alistair cursed himself for forgetting basic courtesy.

    He might have been praised, but this face warranted utmost respect even from the elders of his family.

    Knowing this, he bent his knee and brought a hand on his chest to pay respect.

    "I'm extremely grateful for the praises you showered upon me," Alistair said, his voice extremely polite. "I will do everything that is required of me to become worthy of your..."

    Alistair has a long monologue in mind but those words now died in his throat. The spectral face has just passed right through him!

    Alistair's body froze in horror.

    What's going on?

    Why hasn't that face stopped before me?!

    As he thought of a possible answer, his expression turned extremely unsightly. It looked worse than crying.

    No! That's not possible!

    Alistair quickly broke out of his thoughts and turned around. He saw the enormous face has stopped in front of a handsome youth in the early twenties.

    As the face floated in front of this youth, the faces of everyone else in the palace turned white.  Their eyes popped out and jaws almost dropped onto the ground.

    Surely, there must be a misunderstanding! This couldn't be happening, right?!

    Alistair felt like his heart had been struck with a knife.

    ...

    The feminine face hovered in front of the youth with a barely noticeable smile. The youth's posture was straight; with no traces of either excitement or nervousness.

    [[Zed.]]

    The face called out to the youth standing in front of her with his hands in his pockets.

    "Enchantia," Zed said with a slight nod.

    [[It has been a while.]]

    Enchantia remarked.

    "Indeed, it has been over four years," Zed agreed.

    [[How should I refer you now that you have changed?]] Enchantia asked.

    "....."

    [[Should I still call you Zed or...]]She has been first mentioned in a flashback: Chapter 293.
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