Once the massive gate rose up from the colosseum floor, the remaining contestants all stormed in at top speed. However, the disciples of the Blood Lion Sect had arrived at the gate first and blocked the entrance while allowing their leader to charge in first.
“Man am I tired, I think we’ll rest here for a few hours before going in and whoever dares to go in before me will have their legs snapped.” One of the Blood Sect disciples said with a yawn as he and his comrades stood in a line blocking the entrance into the maze.
Upon landing on the ground after receiving his prize, Zhang grouped up with Cai Cao and headed to where the gate was.
“Loan me that jade box you got earlier.” Cai Cao said with a devious grin.
Moments later while a few people decided to try to force their way through the line of Blood Lion Sect disciples while others resigned to their fate and sat down to wait.
“My friend here is feeling a bit generous and has decided to share his prize from the first stage of the tournament.” Cai Cao said in a loud voice that carried itself across the stadium.
Instantly all eyes were focused on Zhang and Cai Cao.
“Whoever manages to get it will get to keep it.” Cai Cao as he tossed Zhang’s jade box into the air.
“Teleportation jade!” Someone roared as they leaped into the air to try to catch the jade box.
“Oh no, you don't!” A disciple of the Blood Lion Sect bellowed.
Soon enough a massive brawl broke out as everyone attempted to claim Zhang’s jade box as their own.
Of course, while everyone was preoccupied, Zhang and Cai Cao snuck into the gate and entered the maze underneath the colosseum. However, they were not the only ones who used the chaos to sneak into the maze, roughly three to four hundred contestants charged into the gate after Zhang and Cai Cao while the rest remained to try and snatch the jade box.
The brawl had gone out of proportion as some of the participants drew their weapons while others began to use spells.
It was only after about half an hour I did the fighting cease when one of the disciples of the Blood Lion Sect managed to grab hold of the jade box.
“Who the fuck bit my ankle!” The young man roared as he looked down to see someone grabbing hold of one of his legs.
With creases eyebrows, he sent the perpetrator flying and lifted up the jade box triumphantly.
Before anyone else could move in and try to snatch the box away hundreds of other Blood Lion Sect members gathered around to create a human shield.
“Hahaha if I give this to the boss then I'm same sure he will be happy. “The young man in red robes said with a laugh as he proceeded to open the box so he could show off the Teleportation Jade to everyone else.
But of course Cai Cao was not a fool and when considering the one of the mottos of Zhang’s clan being a copper coin found is a copper coin more than you had before, it was obvious that the Teleportation Jade was by in the boss.
“You think they found out yet?” Zhang asked Cai Cao with a laugh as they sped through a long corridor.
Before Cai Cao could even reply a massive boom echoed through the corridor, causing the two to break out into laughter.
When the disciple of the Blood Lion sect opened the jade box he found that although the box was not empty, it was filled with lightning talismans.
The instant the lid of the box was lifted; dozens of lightning talismans were triggered. A blinding light and a massive explosion soon followed and engulfed a small part of the colosseum.
Everyone in the stands were speechless as they saw hundreds of contestants laying on the ground injured, most of which were the disciples of the Blood Lion Sect who were covered in wounds.
A few of the sect masters were filled with rage as they saw their disciples injured. It was one thing to die in battle against demonic beasts but it was another thing to be booby-trapped.
But regardless of their feelings, no one dared to act rashly because this was the Red Cloud Sect and the nine great influences were present.
“Very cunning those two.” Hong Chi said with a laugh.
Underground, Zhang and Cai Cao found themselves in front of three massive gates made of white marble that led into different directions.
In the center of the room was a large marble column with dozens of words etched into it:
“A man must know which path to choose for this path shall lead him to the end, but for which end he does not know because there is only one path he can go. For if he strays from where he must go then only defeat awaits.”
After a quick pause to read the riddle, both Zhang and Cai Cao nodded and sped into the gate on their right. They did not need to discuss their choice because of the possibility of others hearing their discussion and heading in the same direction.
Although the riddle was not very perplexed, of course, there were some people who wouldn't be able to figure it out. Then there were people who did not even bother to read the stone column and charged into one of the gates without thought.
Soon after entering the gate and moving through a white marble corridor, much to Zhang’s disdain, our duo found themselves at a crossroads without any stone column or hint to follow.
“Should we just go right again?” Zhang said as he scratched his head.
“I guess so.” Cai Cao said as both he and Zhang began to move once more.
Not long after Zhang and Cai Cao, a group of contestants arrived at the very same fork in the road where some decided to go left while some decided to go right. Some of these people continued to move forward while others were teleported to the stone column and had to retrace their steps back to the fork in the road. There were also others who were slightly unlucky and found themselves attacked by various traps built into the maze.
There were even a few people who were much unluckier and ran into a few of the demonic beasts that were captured and released in the maze also.
“I hate white marble hallways…” Zhang murmured as he and Cai Cao made their way through the maze unhindered.
“You think we taking the right path?” He asked Cai Cao since there was really no indication of whether they were going the right way or not.
“Don’t know, guess we have to leave things to luck I guess.” Cai Cao laughed as he pointed up ahead where the path splits into eight paths.
Atop seven of these paths were signs that listed the seven things that led a person off the path of righteousness, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride, while the last sign was blank.
“Your choices have taken you thus far but the path of a cultivator is filled with temptation, pick a path that you believe is your greatest flaw. If you believe you are pure of heart with a mind still as water then pick the last path, the path of virtuous.” A voice rang out into Zhang and Cai Cao’s minds.
“I guess this is where we split up.” Zhang laughed as he looked at Cai Cao before walking toward the path with the sign with the word greed on it.
“It’s pretty obvious it’s this path… Sort of runs in the family I guess.” Zhang thought with a laugh.
As Zhang headed for the path labeled by the sign greed, Cai Cao began to ponder which path to take and after a long time decided to pick the path labeled with envy.
Zhang was greatly influenced by how he was brought up in his clan while Cai Cao was greatly influenced by his thirst for freedom. He envied others because he lacked what they all had.
Upon walking into their separate paths, Zhang and Cai Cao found themselves in plain looking white marble corridors with beautifully decorated gates at the end. They both arrived in front of their gates and with a gentle push opened them, however, what happened next was rather unexpected.
Neither Zhang nor Cai Cao found themselves thrust into some sort of trial or danger however they found themselves in a different situation.
“You're here.” Zhang said as he looked at Cai Cao with a startled expression.
“And you’re here.” Cai Cao said with a smile.
“Only those who are willing to accept and acknowledge their faults and embrace them can truly walk the path of a cultivator, for there is no one without desire and no one who does not have a hint of selfishness in their being.” A voice rang out into Zhang and Cai Cao’s minds.
“So I guess as long as you don’t pick the eighth path then you can move forward.” Zhang said with a laugh.
“As long as one is willing to admit one’s faults, one can move on.” Cai Cao said with a grin.
True to their thoughts, a few contestants who arrived shortly after our duo had chosen the nameless path for the virtuous and were sent all the way back to the beginning of the maze.
Zhang and Cai Cao were making it through the maze at a quick pace however they were still not in first place despite not encountering any traps or setbacks. The disciple of the Blood Lion Sect who had charged in first had been able to force his way through the maze with sheer power, all traps, and beasts that appeared in front of him were cut down without distinction.
Lucky for our duo they did not need to obtain first, all they needed to do was make it to the finish line among the top three hundred contestants.
“Sect Master Hong Chi, isn’t this maze of yours a tad too easy? There are traps and demonic beasts but they aren’t at a level where even a fragment realm cultivator may find it easy to get through them.” A middle-aged man said to the master of the Red Cloud Sect as they watched a massive screen located in the center of the colosseum. The screen had appeared shortly after all of the contestants who weren’t heavily injured by the blast from Zhang’s jade box entered the maze and had been showing scenes of what was happening down below.
“Sect Master Yu Yang, this first part of the maze is only a warm up and a trial of luck and character, the last leg will prove to be highly perilous and I’m not sure if we'll even have three hundred contestants who are able to make it to the end.” Sect Master Hong Chi laughed.
“Oh, may I ask what you have in store for our seedlings?” Sect Master Yu Yang asked with intrigue.
“You’ll see.” Sect Master Hong Chi said with a grin.
As hours passed Zhang and Cai Cao arrived at a large hall where they saw a young man in the standard blood red robes of the Blood Lion sect meditating while sitting cross-legged on the ground.
There was a massive gate made of black colored metal behind him with extremely intricate carvings of skulls and bones on it. The gate itself looked like it would lead to the underworld or some dark forgotten place where monsters lurk.
“Don’t bother trying to open the gate…” The member of the Blood Lion Sect said with a sigh as he pointed to a large crystal column in the right corner of the room.
“Two hundred and ninety-seven…” Zhang read off of the crystal column.
“Have to wait for another two hundred ninety-seven people before you can move on…” The member of the Blood Lion Sect said in an unhappy tone. This was simply because he had made his way through the maze at record speed and was unhindered in his path but upon arriving in front of this gate he could not proceed forward and had to wait for more people to arrive.
“Stupid gate couldn’t even be scratched…” The man mumbled while Zhang noticed dozens of traces of sword cuts on the walls beside the gates.
“Let’s meditate also.” Cai Cao said as he sat down beside the gate.
Joining Cai Cao, Zhang also sat down and began to meditate when he noticed the essence in the surrounding area was slightly thicker and more plentiful than the essence outside.
“Guess I’ll make the best out of this situation.” Zhang thought as he began to rotate his cultivation base and absorb the essence floating in the air around him into his channels.
After Zhang, Cai Cao and the man from the Blood Lion Sect mediated for roughly half an hour a group of ten contestants appeared.
“Xue Shi!” One of the new arrivals roared as they spotted the man from the Blood Lion Sect.
“Xue Shi you bastard we finally caught you alone without all of your guards! Now you’ll pay for what happened to our brothers!” Another one of the new arrivals roared.
“Who are you? Not that it matters to me, if you're looking for a fight I’ll be more than happy to comply” The young man named Xue Shi asked as he opened his eyes.
“We’re from the Silver Wing Sect! My senior brother challenged you to a duel and not only did you beat him, your men broke both of his arms and legs!” One of the new arrivals yelled.
“That fool who bit more than he could chew? I do remember beating him to a bloody pulp but I did not order for his arms and legs to be broken. What my fellow disciples do have nothing to do with me. Those idiots always go overboard regardless of being ordered to or not.” Xue Shi said with a sigh as if such confrontations occur a lot.
“Enough talking, you’ll die here today! Brothers fall into formation!” One of the new arrivals yelled as he withdrew his sword. Soon enough all ten of the new arrivals from the Silver Wing Sect had their swords drawn and surrounded Xue Shi.
“More fools who bit more than they can chew.” Xue Shi said as a blood red spear appeared in his hand.
Xue Shi’s spear pierced through the air as he skillfully engaged in battle with the ten disciples of the Silver Wing Sect. At the battle raged on, the aura of eleven elementary realm cultivators exploded causing Zhang and Cai Cao who did not wish to be implicated in another person’s battle to distance themselves.
Although they were all at the same level of cultivation, it was clear that Xue Shi held the advantage despite being outnumbered. Each and every one of his movements had a purpose and would always result in dealing damage to his opponents.
Before long one by one, the members of the Silver Wing Sect began to fall. With his spear Xue Shi made sure to immobilize his enemies by jabbing at their legs.
Once all ten of his opponents were defeated Xue Shi began to walk back towards the black gate and sit down, however before he could a dagger shot through the air and shot past his head.
“You dare to attack me behind my back after I showed you mercy?” Xue Shi said with fiery eyes as he turned back and gripped his spear.
“I-I’m sorry... Please don’t kill me.” The member of the Silver Wing Sect who tried to attack Xue Shi with the dagger said as he realized his grave mistake.
“Don’t kill him or else the counter may go up again and we’ll have to wait longer…” Cai Cao said with a sigh.
“Hmph…” Xue Shi snorted as he arrived in front of the man who tried to sneak attack him and drove his spear into the man’s leg.