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356 Striving for the Top

    Planet Khron, Patriot Academy.

    The patriot academy had been founded by the universal government, for the sole purpose of finding talented cultivators which could participate in the contest that was scheduled for seven years in the future, and would see the current two biggest intergalactic forces clash one against the other.

    When the ambassadors of the universal government had been sent through the wormhole in an attempt to make contact and scout the forces of their enemies, the foreign force had agreed on their peaceful terms in exchange for a few conditions.

    Since two powers of similar strength couldn't co-exist so close to each other, they had agreed to meet on a small scale competition which would demonstrate the methods of cultivation which the two countries possessed. These methods were, of course, their way to gain power.

    While these competition sounded like a well-meaning and peaceful attempt, they were far from it. Like two countries that had the full intention of invading each other, they were simply scouting for the potential of their enemy before either changing their minds and backing away, or starting a full on invasion.

    For that reason, for all of the people who had to take part in it, this competition was extremely important.

    According to their agreement, this competition would be split into different sections. These three sections were the Junior, Veteran, and Peak sections, which would respectively see young cultivators underneath the fifty years of age, veteran warriors under fifty thousand years of age, and finally, the strongest cultivators that each faction could employ in the ten years of wait between the creation of this agreement, and the date of the competition, fight against the correspondent warriors of the enemy power.

    The Patriot Academy was nothing but a place where the strongest and most talented junior cultivators were sent to be tested. Each of them was abandoned by one of the factions that belonged to the universal government, and forced to follow the path of high immortality instead of being granted a gift by the leaders of their factions.

    However, while this might have appeared unfair for some of them, the trade off was more than enough for them. After all, they would be able to receive more resources than their factions could ever spare to them, to a point where the opportunity to join the Patriot Academy was envied by their peers, who were too talented to be rejected by their factions, and had been left behind.

    Not all of the students of the Patriot Academy would be able to participate in the competition that would take place six years later, and that had forced its many students into an eternal competition for the first place of the ranking. A better position allowed for more resources, and the attention of more powerful individuals.

    While this development had granted a large number of top talents to the universal government, a major flaw presented itself. All of these talents, when compared to a truly shocking prodigy, would look like a bunch of commoners with no redeeming hope.

    -----

    Ninety-nine of the top hundred students were currently reunited into what appeared to be a hall that had been reserved for the occasion. Most of these cultivators were occupying the tables of the hall, while two of them were standing above a platform that was in the furthest corner from the door.

    The noise of chattering filled the room like a loud buzz that came from each of the large tables, while the two individuals that stood on the wooden platform tried to quieten the rest down with useless calls, or low toned shouts.

    "Calm down, please. We have important business to go through." Said a tall and elegantly dressed young man with blond hair in an attempt to gain the attention of the cultivators present, however, it was clear that most of the ninety-seven cultivators present did not have enough respect for him, and instead of shutting up, kept talking to their companions.

    This reaction did not bother the blond cultivator, but the same could not be said for the woman who was standing next to him. A girl which appeared to be in her early twenties, but that was in fact in her early forties. Her long and wavy red hair fluttered in the air as her breathing became heavier and heavier, and she gradually lost her patience.

    Finally, after two full minutes, she burst out shouting, "SILENCE!" Her tone carried the full extent of her power, and was powerful enough to form cracks on the thick stone walls.

    This shout was enough to form a resemblance of quietness in the hall, even though it was not out of respect, but out of irritation instead.

    One of the cultivators that was sitting at a table to the front, stood up, and said, "Why don't you calm down, and just tell us why you have summoned all of us here?"

    "Can't you already tell? Don't you see anyone missing?" Said another cultivator that, until now, had been observing the situation quietly from a table placed in one of the hall's corners. Nobody was sitting with him at that table, and yet his words were carefully listened to by most of the cultivators, which quickly began to understand the reason of this gathering.

    "Please, sit down. I'll explain in a moment." said the blond cultivator while pointing at the empty chair with his right hand.

    The cultivator who had just spoken, reclutanctly sat back in his chair and folded his arms.

    "Ever since we have arrived here, we have been told the same thing. Patriot Academy is a place for excellence, and only geniuses are allowed in it. That was the premise that we were all given during the opening.." Said the blond cultivator before taking a small pause to observe the looks of agreement in the faces of the other cultivators. Once satisfied, he continued by saying, "However, I haven't felt like a genius yet.."

    These words surprised the group of cultivators, as they were aware that this young looking man was not only part of the top hundred cultivators of the academy, but had also been in the top five for the past two years.

    This sort of reaction was not universally shared, as many of these cultivators immediately understood the meaning behind the words of the blond cultivator.

    "You are talking about him.." Said the cultivator that had stood up in the beginning, finally aware of what was going on.

    "Ever since we arrived.. The ninety nine of us.. Have never gained a first place in anything." Said the red-headed woman with clear irritation. She then turned to look at the blond man, and added, "Not one individual competition where the first classified did not belong to the same damn person.."

    The amount of resources given to the students of the patriot academy was dependent on their results, which in order to make things fair, had been split into multiple types of competitions. Individual, team, comprehension of essences, ability with the use of weapons, and so on.

    Each type of competition had a ranking that granted a certain amount of points. For example, the fifth classified in the individual competition, would be given ninety-five points that wouold add to the points given in the other categories, and that would ultimately dictate his or her final ranking within the academy.

    Unfortunately for these students, while they had their own talents, they had never been able to gain a full hundred points, and had been forced to look as the first position was claimed by the same name for years, with a final number that was the sum of the top first position in every one of the disciplines.

    The impossibility of even being able to graze the first position in any of the competitions, had left a sour aftertaste in the mouths of these proud cultivators, which felt as if they had been battered by their parents into a sort of resignation which did not match with their proud character.

    "What is the point.." muttered one of the cultivators in the back, before adding, "He is unbeatable one on one.."

    "That's not a matter of one on one.. Any teams he is part of, ends up being carried by him to the top position.. Sucks the fun out of this.." Said another cultivator with a similar disappointed expression.

    "How about you guys? Why haven't you been able to pass him in essence comprehension?" Asked a cultivator in leather armor to one covered in red and purple colored robes.

    "Don't even ask.. That guy is a freak. He has a perfect comprehension of multiple essence, and even if you gang up on him, he uses them well enough to stomp you to the ground."

    "I have heard that he is actually an explorer, and that he was placed here to toy with us.."

    "Quiet, please.. We might have found a method to get rid of him." Said the blond cultivator, successfully attracting the attention of each of the ninety-eight cultivators present. When he was sure that they were all looking at him, he continued by saying, "As you may all be aware of, we of the top five are given the information regarding the new tests in advance.. And the next one, seems to be in our favor."

    These few words were enough to straighten the backs of these cutivators, which finally found something they were truly interested in. After all, knowing what a test was about was solely a privilege for the top five, just like it was dealing with that information.

    This time, the two of them had decided to give up their advantage in the test, and instead share it, so that their plan could proceed.

    "I will reveal the purpose of the next test, but just to be clear, anyone that stays to listen, will have to contribute to the plan. Or else, you will pay dearly." Said the blond cultivator as the polite smile on his face turned into a crude and vicious look.

    Having been separated from the first rank had given the wrong impression to the cultivators of the top hundred positions that all of them were at more or less the same level, so while most of them knew that this threat carried a real danger, they did not pay too much attention to it.

    At the same time, their arrogance had somehow convince them that, if this unbeatable first ranked disappeared, they would have a clear shot at his place, so despite this threat, none of them left, and stayed to listen to what the two had to say.

    "Get to it, will you? We have been here forever." Said the cultivator that was sitting in the corner of the room. He was a member of the top ten, and his interest lay in the couple's plan to get rid of the first classified. After all, he wanted to be first more than anybody else.

    "You have been warned." Said the red-headed woman with a threatening tone.

    After a moment of silence, the blond cultivator looked at the many faces that were pointed at him, and said, "We are all immortal cultivators at the peak of the tenth stage of cultivation. As you all know, the powers granted by the ascension will depend on our abilities, so in order to ease this process, we will all be left into an isolated planet. Our objective will be to ascend.."

    The gifts obtained by the ascension to high immortality depended on the lifestyle of each individual, and that was the reason why the government had decided to hold this tipe of test to help the students in their ascension. Instead of ascending in the peacefulness of their rooms or safety of the academy, they would be left in an empty planet where they could attack each other, and trigger the best possible and most adequate gifts they could obtain.

    Once the test's objective was revealed, it didn't take long for the many cultivators to guess what the rest of the plan was.

    "You want to stop his ascension.." muttered the cultivator that was sitting in the front row, and that had spoken before. He then added, "if we can stop him when he is in the middle of it, his second attempt will take months.. Plenty of time to cultivate past the first phase, and leave him in the dust."

    Similarly, the other cultivators were muttering the same thing. Some with surprise, and some with excitement.

    "That is exactly what we will do.. Are you guys in?" Asked the blond cultivator after nodding in confirmation.

    These nods did not make him wait, and arrived one after the other as if on cue.

    "Very well," Said the blond cultivator while showing a satisfied smile, and before adding, "This is how we are going to do this, so listen carefully.."
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