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While Cai Cao was lost in thought due to the appearance of the Cai Clan’s airship, the rest of Misty Mountain Sect’s chosen all focused their eyes on a massive city that sprawled over dozens of mountain ranges.
Every single building within this massive city had crimson roof tiles, helping to attribute to its name of Crimson Sky City.
Compared to the small city that was built around the Mist Mountain Sect’s Outer Sect Gathering Hall, Crimson Sky City is roughly a thousand times larger. The two cities could not even be compared to each other in terms of size and magnificence.
Zhang and many of the Misty Mountain Sect’s chosen felt like country bumpkins who were going to the big city for the first time as they gazed in awe at Crimson Sky City.
“That over there is the Crimson Sky Sect.” One of the elders escorting the chosen said as he pointed to the center of the city.
In the middle of the city was a huge fortress with dozens of towers that pierce into the skies. Besides the towers another noticeable thing about the fortress were the hundreds of black flags with red clouds swaying in the wind. The fortress was so massive that it took up roughly a fourth of Crimson Sky City’s confines.
“Everyone go ready your things we’ll be landing shortly.” Elder Jong said as he joined the chosen in the airship’s upper deck.
Before flying into the airspace above the Crimson Sky Sect’s fortress, Elder Jong waved his hand and a red colored scroll with golden letters appeared in his grasp. Opening the scroll, a brilliant red light shot forth toward one of the dozens of towers that rose into the skies, as the red beam of light struck the tower it began to turn into cinders and disperse into the air. Once the scroll had completely disintegrated a projection of a set of golden gates appeared in the sky.
The two gates slowly opened up allowing the Misty Mountain Sect’s airship to pass.
“Careful not to move out of the air between the gates or else we will ram into the Crimson Sky Sect’s barrier. The lot of you keep your hands and feet within the airship, anyone below the core realm will be instantly disintegrated upon touching the barrier.” Elder Jong said to the helmsman who was steering the airship and the disciples on the upper deck.
Although it was practically invisible there was a massive barrier that encircled the Crimson Sky Sect’s fortress. So unless someone entered through one of the gates below or was given permission to enter the Crimson Sky Sect’s airspace their airship and anyone on the ship under the core realm would be instantly burned to ashes.
Upon entering through the golden gates in the sky and fly to a landing zone where dozens of airships were parked, the Misty Mountain Sect’s airship landed and the chosen began to disembark.
“Welcome fellow cultivators.” A young man wearing white robes with a red colored cloud emblem on his chest said as he greeted Zhang and the other chosen.
“I’ve been assigned by the elders to guide you all to where you’ll be lodging until the end of the tournament.” The young man said with a smile as he gestured for everyone to follow him.
“You lot stay on your best behavior and do not disgrace our sect, I’ll join you all shortly.” Elder Jong said from the upper deck of the airship.
“Brother Cai let’s go or else we’ll be left behind.” Zhang said as he tapped Cai Cao’s shoulder.
“Ri-right…” Cai Cao said as he shifted his gaze away from the Cai Clan’s airship that was currently landing not too far from where they were.
After Zhang and Cai Cao caught up to the rest of the group a sharp gaze was focused on them. On the upper decks of the Cai Clan’s airship was a middle aged man with streaks of grey in his long flowing black hair. After looking at Cai Cao for a bit the man shook his head and shifted his gaze elsewhere.
While they were being led through the Crimson Sky Sect, Zhang’s eyes wandered about in awe. Compared to the outer ring of Misty Mountain Sect which was secluded in the mountains and shrouded by mist year round which prevented most of it disciples from gaining a complete sense of unity, the Crimson Sky Sect was extravagant and close knit.
Wherever they went Zhang could see dozens if not hundreds of the Crimson Sky Sect’s disciples walking together in groups. While individual growth was encouraged in the Misty Mountain Sect, in the Crimson Sky sect disciples were encouraged to work together.
“This here is the north wing lecture hall, there are a total of four lecture halls within our sect that can house a total of one hundred thousand people at a time. The topics that are taught range from cultivation techniques, pill concocting, demonic demon taming and a large variety of other things. If any of you wish to sit in on one of the four lectures that are held daily, then please inform one of your elders so they can request permission.” The young man guiding Zhang’s group said.
“If you look over there you’ll see the north wing training grounds where practical technique classes are held. Over there is the great pill hall which only disciples of the Crimson Sky Sect can enter.” The guide said as he led the group on what was basically a tour of the Crimson Sky Sect.
As the tour continued on disciples from the other sects that were attending the tournament occasionally came into view. Some were friendly and waved the Zhang and the other disciples of the Misty Mountain Sect, while others snorted and did not even look in their direction. There were even a few young maidens who shot glances at Cai Cao, which prompted Zhang to tease him.
Despite seeing people from so many other sects, none of them left a very deep impression on Zhang, well not until the group happened upon a group of people bearing black robes with a red colored lion emblem on them.
“Look at what we have here. Aren’t these the country bumpkins from the Shitty Mountain Sect?” A youth laughed mockingly as he spotted Zhang’s group.
“What did you say?” A few hot headed people within Zhang’s group roared.
Although there was a lack of unity and sense of belong in the Misty Mountain Sect amongst the disciples it was still nonetheless their sect and to mock it openly in their presence was basically a slap to the face.
“Don’t mess with them, those guys are from the Blood Lion Sect.” Someone within the group said as he placed his hand on one of the people ready brawl.
“The Blood Lion Sect? Aren’t those the guys that crippled senior brother Li!?” Someone asked.
“Yea I heard Brother Li and a group of inner sect disciples were ambushed by some people from the Blood Lion Sect and had their cultivation crippled and their tendons severed. Brother Li had it especially bad since they also blinded him.” Someone said.
The thought of having their cultivation crippled and their tendons severed caused many people who were going to confront the Blood Lion Sect disciples to sweat and feel shaky.
“So that bastard's name was Li? Serves him right for acting tough and not giving us the table at the diner.” One of the Blood Lion Sect disciples laughed.
“I don’t know what judges and grieves your two sects have with each other, but I would like to remind you all that this is the Crimson Sky Sect and any act of violence here will mean that you’ll be disqualified from the tournament.” The young man who was guiding Zhang’s group said while he looked at the Crimson Sky Sect disciple that was guiding the members of the Blood Lion Sect.
“A pipsqueak like you is going to threaten us?” A Blood Lion Sect member a large build and slanted eyebrows said angrily.
“Brother Han you shouldn’t, we’re in their sect after all.” another Blood Lion sect member said, trying to stop his friend from acting stupid and getting everyone in their group in trouble.
“Hmph, the lot of you watch out. If we meet in the tournament, I’ll make sure to kill all of you. To even bother competing when they have to send someone at the first stage of the fragment realm to represent them, what a shitty sect.” The man with slanted eyebrows said as he shot a glance at Zhang and walked off.
“Ignore him, the dog with the loudest bark is usually the one that doesn’t dare to bite.” Cai Cao said as he patted Zhang’s shoulder.
“Indeed.” Zhang smiled with a nod.
Soon after the confrontation, the members of Zhang’s group were led to a large courtyard with hundreds of rooms inside. A total of five hundred rooms were divided into five floors and built so they ran along the four sides of the courtyard in a square shape, leaving the center of the courtyard open.
“Each room has two beds so you’ll have to share but there will be a few essence supplement pills for you all in your rooms as a gift from our sect.” The group’s guide said before excusing himself.
After Zhang and Cai Cao picked out a room on the second floor to stay in, they bolted the door shut and began refining the essence supplement pills that they were left for them on a table within the bedroom.
A total of twenty essence supplement pills were split between Zhang and Cai Cao, some they stored away with the rest of their essence supplement pills while a few they began to instantly refine. Seeing the overbearing nature of some of the other contestants that they would eventually have to face only served to further encourage our two adventurers to try to grow stronger.
While Zhang and Cai Cao were busy strengthening their cultivation, Little Red and Little Blue were playing with each other. The two pups either played tuggawar with a large fluffy pillow or ran around the room energetically.
Although the airship was spacious the rooms they stayed in were tiny so neither of the pups were given enough space to stay together or play around but now that they were staying in the same place and with enough room available, they were gleefully playing.
Hours passed as Zhang and Cai Cao refined essence supplement pills undisturbed while the pups continued to play with one another without rest. It was not until a knock could be heard on their door did our two adventurers cease refining and our two furry friends stopped playing.
“Brother Zhou, Brother Cai, Brother Ning has called for a strategy meeting for the first part of the tournament.” Someone said through the paper screen door.
A few moments later the door leading into Zhang and Cai Cao’s room opened and they saw a large crowd of fellow chosen gathered up in the center of the courtyard while countless others could be seen lounging about against the wooden railing in front of their rooms, waiting for the meeting to begin.
“Brothers and sisters as you can see after today that we will be pitted against countless enemies for tournament, although some of them are weak and not worth mentioning, there are some who can defeat all of us without lifting a finger. But thankfully from information I've obtained from past participants the chance of obtaining victory is fairly equal for everyone.” A youth whose name is Ning Hao who many refer to as Brother Ning said with a projected voice.
“Like many claim, information and knowledge is power. From many past participants I've learned that for the first leg of the tournament we will head to one of the Crimson Sky Sect's forbidden areas called The Forest of Beasts. Once inside the forest we are required to slay demonic beasts over the course of a month. The pelt of a beast in the fragment realm is worth one point, the pelt of a beast in the elementary realm is worth four points, while a beast in the core realm is worth ten points. Those who manage to accumulate the most points and present the pelts of the beasts they had slain as proof will be given a special prize but anyone who manages to collect a total of thirty points will be able to move into the second round. All communication from the outside world will be cut and we will only be able to rely on ourselves and those we trust. So for this first event I suggest they we all work together and make sure everyone is able to hunt down fifty demonic beasts.” Ning Hao said in a charisma filled manner.
After a long pause Ning Hao began to list a few strategies that they could employ to capture and kill droning beasts.
“Couldn't we just wait until the month is over and collect what the other sects have managed to gather?” Someone suggested.
“Yea if we can just work together and rob other people then they'll be plenty of demonic beast pelts for all of us.” Someone else said.
“If we do that we will also decrease the number of people from the other sects who enter the second round also.”
“To do that we have to be able to overpower the other party but from what brother Ning just said, there are people who will be participating in this tournament who can take out all of us.” Zhang pointed out.
“Damn he has a point.” Someone else said.
“So since robbing other people is sort of out of the question, we should try to figure out a way to quickly hunt down as many demonic beasts as we can.” Zhang said.
Although he was probably the weakest person present in terms of cultivation, his experience from surviving in the wild and surviving a war made his words have a little more weight to them. Each of the things he pointed out or suggested had a lot of thought behind them.
“If my hunch is right, everyone will focus on hunting down fragment realm beasts because they are the easiest and least dangerous ones to engage in battle. So if we bypass the outer ring of the forest where the weaker beasts generally live and go into the middle or maybe even inner rings we can work together and hunt the stronger beasts that are worth more points. Although the four or five or is can slay a core realm demonic beast, I'm sure a thousand of us can.” A young girl with snow white skin and beautiful blue eyes said.
“Sister Zhen, if we all have to work together then as a group we would need a total of thirty thousand points. Meaning we would have to at least get a thousand points a day, which means we would have to slay at least a hundred core realm beasts a day. I'm telling you guys we have to take from there if we wish for everyone to advance to the next round.” Someone said trying to persuade the crowd.
“If we can’t even come to an agreement on what to do then why bother having this meeting.” Someone said with a hmph as they walked into their room and slammed the door.
Following the first person’s example many other people returned to their rooms while the remaining people splintered into two groups. One group that wanted to work together to hunt demonic beasts while the group wanted to rob other people.
“I guess we should go too.” Cai Cao whispered as he began walking back toward his room.
“Wait! Brother Cai and Brother Zhou.” Ning Hao could be heard saying.
“I know you two go everywhere together and brother Zhou won't join my group unless brother Cai does, so how about both of you stick with us for the first round of the tournament?” Ning Hao asked with a sincere expression.
“Ha you want him? He's barely even at the fragment realm.” One of the people in the group that wanted to rob other contestants of their demonic beast pelts laughed.
“It's our job as disciples of the same sect to help each other. Because he is weak we must help him become strong.” Ning Hao said sincerely.
With a nod from Cai Cao l, Zhang accepted Ning Hao’s invitation and joined his group of fifty people.