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Although Zhang, Cai Cao and a handful of contestants were lucky enough to exit the Gate of Chains when it’s magic was interrupted and did not really have to overcome the trail, those who were not so lucky spent hours in the maze and much longer in the gate.
As the second stage of the tournament drew on for hours and hours, many of the spectators and contestants that managed to make it out of the Gate of Chains headed to their lodgings to rest. For the contestants who were thrown from one challenge to the next, rest and a good night’s sleep was what they needed the most so after watching the crystal screen for about an hour, Zhang and Cai Cao decided to head back to their room.
Upon walking through the halls of the Red Cloud Sect and finding their way back to the courtyard they were assigned to, then entering and locking their room, the duo emptied the two sacks they were carrying and released Little Red and Little Blue from their home away from home.
Once they were released from the stuffy sacks, the two pups sped around the small room and only stopped after completing a dozen laps.
“Here boy.” Zhang said as he waved his hand and made a large juicy looking piece of demonic beast meat appear on the ground.
“You got your hands on an interspatial ring?” Cai Cao asked.
“I got you one too.” Zhang replied with a smile as he tossed Cai Cao a silver colored ring covered with inscriptions and weird looking runes.
“No need, I managed to acquire one myself.” Cai Cao replied with a grin as he lifted his hand and showed Zhang the ring in his hand.
“I didn’t even notice that there.” Zhang said as he recalled that when they were rigging the jade box with lightning talismans, Cai Cao had pulled out all of the talismans from his robes.
“No need to think too much about it.” Cai Cao laughed as he sat on top of his bed and watched the two pups devour the piece of meat given to them. In a matter of minutes, the large piece of meat was reduced to scraps and bits while the pups could be seen with plump looking bellies.
“Man I’m tired…” Zhang said as he hopped on his bed without changing and pulled the sheets over his head.
After spending an entire month in the forest of beasts, filled with dangers, want he wanted the most was a few good nights of sleep. Throughout his stay in the forest, Zhang only managed a few hours of sleep at best because of the constant fear of being attacked and because he had to spend the night in the same tent as Wenji and his heart was kept constantly racing.
So with worried bodies and tired minds, both Cai Cao and Zhang fell into a deep slumber joining the two pups who had quickly fallen asleep after enjoying their hearty meal.
While our duo and the pups were in the land of dreams, the Red Cloud Sect’s coliseum was filled with clamor as they watched an epic battle occur on the crystal screen floating in the center of the arena. On the crystal screen, Xue Shi could be seen engaging in combat with a blood-red lion who was releasing a terrifying amount of blood lust.
As the battle between man and beast drew on, the crowd was thrown into a frenzy as Xue Shi skillfully used his spear to keep the lion at bay while display his overbearing martial prowess by skewing the lion a dozen times over.
“To think that the Blood Lion sect which has such a terrible reputation could produce such a genius.” A few of the spectators said to one another. Even some of the people from the nine great influences were impressed by Xue Shi’s display and thought about offering him a chance to join their forces.
There were, of course, a few other shining stars still within the Gate of Chains who were also displaying their skills to the everyone in the audience as the second stage of the tournament drew on into the night.
By the time the sun rose the night morning, Sect Master Hong Chi called for the end of the second stage of the tournament and assembled all of the contestants who had passed onto the third stage in the colosseum. For those who did not pass the second stage, they were giving a small complimentary gift of a few essence enhancement pills and made to watch in the stands with the rest of the spectators.
“Congratulations on making it to the fifth and final stage of the tournament!” Sect Master Hong Chi said in a loud voice that allowed for everyone within the colosseum to hear him.
“For the final stage of the tournament, we will have a show of skills between the contestants. But a simple one on one match is boring so I’ve decided that the two hundred and fifty-six contestants who have passed onto the third stage will be split into teams of four. These sixty-four teams will fight each other until only two teams are left and at the end there will be an eight-person free for all.”
“Contestants are free to pick their own teams, so pick wisely because like in one’s path to ascending the heavens, one’s choices will determine the things that are to come. Once your teams have been created please step into one of these circles labeled with a number.” Sect Master Hong Chi added as pointed toward circles drawn into the colosseum floor, numbered one through sixty-four
Of course, since they could pick their own teams, Zhang and Cai Cao would stick together, so all they needed to do was find two more people to join them and their team would be complete. However, this was easier said than done because for the most part, people tended to make teams with those within their sect and due to some odd circumstances no one in the Misty Mountain Sect, besides our lucky duo, had made it to the third stage of the tournament.
Luckily they were not the only odd ones out because there was another sect who did not have enough members to form a team.
“Let’s ask him.” Zhang suggested as he pointed to Xue Shi, who was the only member of the Blood Lion Sect to advance into the third stage. Since most if not all of the Blood Lion Sect members were caught in the huge explosion caused by Zhang’s jade box.
“You think he’ll be okay with it? We did injure a whole bunch of people from his sect.” Cai Cao said, reminding Zhang of what they did.
“If no other team's approach him then he has to join us.” Zhang replied with a smile.
Although Xue Shi was praised as a genius, others were rather afraid of him due to the fact that he was a part of the Blood Lion Sect who was famous for being rascals and mischiefs. So in the end no one dared to approach Xue Shi despite having witnessed his battle potential.
“Brother Xue Shi, would you like to join our team?” Zhang asked in a polite manner. With a nod, Xue Shi was thus incorporated into the two-man team without much difficulty.
“Now to find one last person to join us.” Zhang mumbled as his gaze shifted through the crowd of contestants.
“You there! Join us.” Xue Shi said as he pointed the tip of his spear towards a shirtless man with bulging muscles.
“Bro-brother Xue Shi, I think we should try finding people without teams already or else what will we do if they through the match when we run into their friends?” Cai Cao said, trying to convince Xue Shi not to force anyone to join the team.
“Very well… I’ll leave the recruiting to you two.” Xue Shi replied with a nod.
“No need to bother, since there are exactly enough people to form sixty-four teams there someone who will have to join our group.” Zhang said with a laugh as he proceeded to sit on the ground cross-legged and bagel to mediate. Moments later Xue Shi arrived beside him and also proceeded to sit cross-legged and meditate.
With a sigh, Cai Cao also sat down beside Zhang and also began to meditate.
Once they began to meditate it only took roughly twenty minutes before sixty-three teams were formed leaving a single circle empty circle labeled with the number sixty-four.
In this circle was a single young man who sat cross-legged with his eyes closed. Like Zhang’s group, this young man did not bother looking for a team be chase he figured in the end a team would be formed for him anyway.
“Since there are only four people left, you four will make up the last group.” Sect Master Hong Chi said from his balcony as he gazed down at Zhang, Cai Cao, Xue Shi and the last contestant without a team.
“The name’s Yu Hong.” The last member of Zhang’s team said as he reached his hand out to shake hands with everyone once they were all in the circle for the sixty-fourth team.
Shortly after Zhang’s team finished introducing themselves to each other the circles that every team was standing on began to emit a bright blinding light and in a flash all of the contestants disappeared without a trace.
“If everyone would please focus their attention upward.” Sect Master Hong Chi said with a smile as he pointed up into the sky.
As everyone’s gaze was focused upward, thirty-two levitating platforms could be seen moving through the clouds.
“The last stage of the tournament will now begin! Anyone who is knocked off of the platform and touch the ground will be considered disqualified from the tournament.” Sect Master Hong Chi said as he signaled the beginning of a last leg of the tournament.
A mere few moments after the tournament began and while everyone looking upward, a tiny speck could be seen falling from the skies. With enough time, this speck would, of course, turn out to be a person who was knocked off one of the levitating platforms and came crashing down into the ground.
As cultivators, a fall from such heights would not kill the contestants but of course, they would be left would dozens of broken bones and heavy injuries that would require many days or weeks to recover from.
Up in the skies, Zhang’s team was locked in combat with another team comprised of two young men and two young women. The two women both wielded whips while the two men both used swords and shields.
“I’ll leave it to you guys.” Yu Hong said as he sat down on the ground and began to meditate while Xue Shi charged forward with his spear in hand.
Like the wind, Xue Shi crossed the platform in a matter of seconds and with a single sweep of his spear he sent one of the men holding a shield and sword playing off the platform and onto another platform not too far away where he collided with another contestant causing both of them to fall toward the ground below.
Upon witnessing Xue Shi’s fearsome might close up, the remaining members of the opposing team began to tremble as they tightened the weapons in their hands and moved back to create space between themselves and this fearsome foe.
While all attention was focused on Xue Shi, a dozen needles shot out from Cai Cao sleeves.
For the most part, these needles did nothing because they were met with a series of lashes that destroyed their momentum and caused them to scatter across l the platform.
However, these needles were only meant to serve as distractions so Cai Cao himself could close the distance between himself and the enemy. Once Cai Cao arrived near one of the women who wielded whips, a thin and flexible blade gleamed through the air.
As Cai Cao’s belt sword sliced upward it was met with little resistance as one of the opponent’s whips were cut into two. In a flash Cai Cao followed up by unleashing a series of kicks that launched his opponent off the platform and into the sky.
“Team twenty-three and team thirty-five have been eliminated, teams ten and forty-seven will now face off against each other.” Sect Master Hong Chi’s voice rang into everyone’s ears as two platforms began to move toward each other.
Although it seemed like they were going to collide with each other, the platforms slowed and ended up fusing together to create a bigger platform.
“That shouldn’t be where your attention is!” Xue Shi roared as he closed in on the last two members of the other team and knocked them both off the platform while their attention was focused on the fusing platforms.
“Team thirteen and team twenty-one has been eliminated, teams sixty-four and eighteen will now face each other.”
Before long the platform Zhang’s team was on combined with another platform and new opponents were met.
Unlike their matchup where Zhang’s team took the initiative to attack, this time, their opponents were the first to act. A young woman armed with a bow and quiver released four arrows toward Zhang and his teammates the moment the who platforms combined.
As if they had a mind of their own, the four arrows changed trajectory and homed in on Zhang’s team as they tried to evade as best as they could.
Since there was no way to dodge the arrow trailing him, Zhang withdrew his sword and in a spinning motion and a downward slash he was able to split the arrow into two.
But before he could do anything else Zhang found himself forced to block a barrage of attacks from a young man who had managed to close in on him when he was preoccupied with the arrow.
While Zhang sliced the arrow into two, Cai Cao sped around the platform at amazing speeds and engaged a bald youth wielding two maces in combat despite being trailed by the arrow.
Once the bald youth charged at Cai Cao he found himself being used as a stepping stone as Cai Cao performed two front flips, one onto the youth’s head and the other off the youth’s head.
The moment Cai Cao landed behind the bald youth, an arrow followed behind him and pierced into the bald youth’s shoulder causing his temper to flare and his veins to bulge as he realized he was used as a human shield to block his own teammate’s attack.