51 The Tournament Begins

    As the first noises of the morning penetrated through the various windows within the city, the many cultivators woke up with a collective thought in their minds.. The day which opened the tournament had arrived.

    For the following hours, once by one, a massive number of cultivators flooded the streets.

    Since the very moment they found themselves in the open, their eyes moved towards the depths of the island, and stayed gued there.

    Daniel was the first amongst his group to wake up, and when he left the hotel, the streets were already too crowded to casually walk through.

    It was five in the morning, and according to the informations they had gathered from the natives of the island, eight o'clock was the time when the island's formation would activate, signaling the start the tournament.

    Around the city many martial cultivators checked their equipment, while just as many spiritual cultivators focused on trying to put themselves into the right state of mind.

    One by one, Daniel's group members left the hotel and joined him in the street.

    "So many people.." Said Ligart to his teammates.

    Heimart looked at the full group, and after catching their attention with a loud and sharp whistle, he said "Remember the task at hand. Find the castle, avoid confrontation and most importantly, do not die."

    The group quickly split into the originally decided teams, and after wishing good luck to each other, they separated and went on their way.

    Daniel's team was composed by himself, a martial cultivator of the fourth rank named Imblen, and a spiritual cultivator at the peak of the third rank, called Roley.

    Both of them came from a mercenary group within the same kingdom of origin, and the two knew each other very well. They had also assisted to Daniel's heroics during the pirate attack, so they didn't doubt his strength one bit.

    The island had been split into three parts between the team. North, south-west and south-east. Daniel's assigned section, was the south-western part of the island.

    There was a simple reason for that. The south-western part of the island was the furthermost from the point they were right now, and it had been assigned to their team because of Daniel's flight abilities, which made him he fastest amongst the group.

    Within the last few days, Daniel had practiced with 'Aerial Walk', and had become perfectly capable of carrying one or two more people with him.

    At first, he had thought about throwing his teammates into his greenhouse ring, but he discarded the idea, as he didn't know what the effects of showing such an item would be.

    Unfortunately, Daniel wasn't able to focus on keeping balance for three people at the same time, so he had to carry Imblen and Roley like two sacks of potatoes, holding them by their waists

    After summoning a powerful stream of wind, Daniel and the two flew toward their assigned section of the island.

    In two hours, the three had reached the south-western side of the island.. Side where the number of cultivators in wait, wasn't lower by any means.

    During the next couple of hours, Daniel and the rest looked at the people who rushed out of the depths of the island. Some were walking casually, while others had relieved expression.

    The observing cultivators knew that there would still be some people within the island, and seeing them leave now, reminded them of the starting signs of the tournament.

    At 8 in the morning, the crowd was so silent, that a fly could be heard flying had there been one.

    Suddenly, a transparent red column appeared in the middle of the island.

    This column rose higher and higher, until it reached far past the cloud's height. It then stopped growing in height, and started to grow in width.

    At the same time the column expanded, a light blue mist could be seen lingering within it.

    It expanded at the same speed the column did, completely filling it up. It almost looked like a trapped power was forcibly pushing against its cage from the inside, but instead of breaking out, it simply forced the cage to expand.

    The column borders approached the edges of the island more and more, as the cultivator started to worry that some of them might not be far enough, and unfortunately, they were right.

    When the red column approached the shore, everyone beyond the line of the sand, was forcibly pushed back, with no exception.

    Daniel and the others had heard about this column. It was the Ki that the Dark Warrior had left within the formation. While instead, the light blue colored mist, was the spiritual sense that the Clear Mage had used to identify the participant's ages.

    Once the column reached the sand, it suddenly stopped and started to slowly dissipate. Half a minute later, only the mist remained.

    Within the crowd which surrounded Daniel's team, a group of men clearly older than twenty-five, tried to push their way through the pale blue mist. But the moment the mist touched them, a streak of red ki appeared out of nowhere, and crashed against their chest, pushing them back on the shore.

    Everything they had heard so far, had been the truth.

    The two months long tournament, had officially started.

    Like a warring legion after hearing the blow of a horn, the tens of thousands of cultivators charged into the island, and rapidly went on their way to start to look for the castle.

    Right now, Daniel could better observe how many groups had been formed, and the biggest in size numbered in the hundreds.

    These parties either rushed out in a single group, or using the same strategy Heimart's group used, split and went to check different sections of the island. Some of these groups even started a few skirmishes right after entering the mist.

    Daniel's intention was to fly in order to gain a certain advantage against others, and then proceed on foot.

    Another information they had obtained, was that the castle had been said to have appeared not only on ground, mountains and even floating above lakes.. But also floating in the air, and burrowed underground.

    Of course, if the castle had been in the sky, every participant would be easily able to spot it. Therefore there was a common misconception that, during the years when the castle had appeared in the sky, the participants had been exceptionally lucky.

    But many seemed to forget, that flight wasn't a common practice. Even amongst the people of this edition of the tournament, Daniel had seen only a few hundred people roaming the skies, and they were all solitary cultivators.

    Through various kilometers of forest, valleys and prairies, Daniel flew as fast as his wind currents could take him, and his teammates. Only after reaching the feet of a mountain, he finally stopped.

    The first thing Daniel wanted to do since entering the island, was to reach the center of his assigned section, and find a secluded place to use as a base. He had stopped at the feet of this mountain because he had noticed a natural cave, whose entrance was covered on all sides.

    Therefore, the entrance of this cave was observable only by flying cultivators.

    He would then search the surrounding area thoroughly, explore the lakes, fly

    above the cloud's level, and try to sense underground.


    10:32 in the morning.

    Daniel and the rest of his team, had just finished organizing a small camp right at the entrance of the cave.

    The tournament had started by only two hours, and Daniel was about to go make his first scouting attempt, when suddenly, before he could even open his mouth to speak, his head rapidly turned north-east.

    In that direction, he felt the trace of ki he had left in one of the two ki flags, was being slowly erased.

    The direction, was the middle of the northern section of the island. Area which had been given to Heimart's team to scout.

    Daniel rapidly turned towards his teammates and said "I've got the signal from up north.. It's almost in the middle of their section.."

    "Already?!" Asked Imblen with shock in her voice.

    Finding the castle right away, wasn't impossible. In fact, many times the castle had been said to be found within the first few hours of the tournament, as it could appear literally anywhere within the island.. Even thirty meters from the shore.

    Daniel knew that Heimart's team was composed by three martial cultivators. Amongst which him and the petite girl, and finally, a spiritual cultivator whose main abilities were summoning and the earth and water elements.. Furthermore, he knew for certain that there were no mountains in the northern section of the island. Therefore, if the castle had been found, it could only have been on the ground level, or underground.

    After rapidly putting their items back in their backpacks, Daniel grabbed his two teammates by their waists, and rose up in the air.

    Heimart's team was at about two hundred kilometers from where they were, and at Daniel's maximum flight speed, it would them about an hour to to arrive.


    Northern section of the island. 10:04.

    Two hours had passed since the beginning of the tournament, and Heimart's team had made their way towards the middle of their assigned section.

    Unable to fly, they had been forced to run all the way here, just like most other groups did.

    At the moment, they were making their way through a large patch of grass, and In the distance, they could see many other groups of cultivators running in the same direction they were going to.

    Ten minutes later, one by one, the groups were stopped by the appearance of a large lake. The sun was high up in the sky, and directly in the direction they were running to, making its light shine above the surface of the dirty water, and reflected against the cultivator's faces.

    After more than two hours of running, or like in case of Heimart's team spiritual cultivator 'riding a summoned beast', the various groups decided to stop one after the other.

    Some could be seen setting up camp around the lake, while other ran around its shore, and proceeded past it.

    This lake, happened to be right in the middle of the northern section of the island, so Heimart's group decided to set camp here. The positive side of this place, was that it was wide open, and the presence of other groups would discourage malicious participants from sneak attacking during the night.

    Heimart was currently looking around, and just as he was about to open his mouth and give the first assignments to the team members, he heard a loud scream coming from the shore of the lake, no further than two hundred meters away from him.

    Everyone in the surrounding had heard that scream, and turned to look in the direction it had come from.

    What met their eyes, was the body of a man which was halfway immersed into the lake's water. The only visible part was his chest, arms and head, which rested motionless above the shore.

    Heimart and a few interested people approached the lying person, and when they noticed the complete absence of blood, their worries slightly eased.

    One of these people recognized the man's clothes, as he was wearing traditional clothes of his own kingdom. He approached the lying person, and while calling out his name, he put a hand on his shoulder and patted on it lightly.

    Seeing no response, he clutched his fingers around the man's clothes, and turned his body around, so that it would face up.

    The face of everyone present at the scene stiffened, as what they saw shocked them deeply.

    The man's skin was as pale as a pearl, as if completely devoid of blood, but the real shocking detail, was that every small bit of the man's tissue which had been immersed in the water, had disappeared. Only his skeleton and clothes remained.

    "What the hell happened to him?.." Said one of the cultivators that had witnessed the scene.

    Another cultivator, unable to look away from the gory scene, responded "Could the water be corrosive?"

    Hearing the words of the second cultivator, the deceased's acquaintance pulled the body out of the water, and looked at the parts which had just been immersed the moment he had turned the body around.

    "The clothes haven't corroded.." He said, then lifted up the tissue of his pants, and continued "Nothing.. It's not the water"

    Various hypothesis come to people's minds, including the possibility of a carnivorous species which inhabited the water.

    While they were lost in thought, a thick cloud passed in front of the sun, overshadowing its light. It was at that moment, that another voice came from not far in the distance.

    A young woman was standing near the shore, and pointing at the lake, which now didn't have a blinding light reflected on its surface, and said "What is that?"

    Everybody turned to look at the direction the woman was pointing at, and what they saw, made them forget about the body completely.

    Heimart, without a second thought, put his hands in his pocket, and started to erase the ki within the flags.. The reason was simple.. Completely submerged by the lake's water.. He was currently looking at the clear outline of a castle.
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