Chapter 113:

Top 10 (4)

Mad God

Ren’s eyes scanned the four who were waiting nervously to see who would go first.

“LeiLei.” She spoke up finally as her husband arrived next to her smilingly.

“We are going to measure the power of the three spells in an easy way!” Leinor said as he walked into the middle of the Arena and his figure quickly became really hazy. The air around him distorted, making it seem like they were watching a mirage in the desert.

“Leinor’s defensive spell has a diameter of 6 meters.” Ren explained. “Everything that reaches inside of it gets absorbed by him. The spell that can make him shrank it down or dispel it, will be titled the most destructive B-Tier spell in the sect.”

Her words immediately fired up their spirits as a title like that would surely make their spells popular between other disciples, earning them a ton of contribution points along the years.

“Uzami, you are first!” She gestured towards the remaining girl, beside Ariana, who quickly stepped out, cupping her hands before the Elders.

She was 26 years old and one of the top prospects to join the Alchemy Department after reaching Harmony Realm. She frequently helped out there and could even make her own, low tier pills by now. She was already taking up the role of a mentor, teaching her fellow disciples on the basics of pill forging. On the other hand, she was also someone with a fiery temper, easy to rile up. It was no wonder she had a lot of troubles with the Disciple Department over squabbles and fights.

“I call it Nova Point.” Uzami explained, tucking her long, light-brown, long hair behind her small ears as her brown eyes focused on Leinor while she pointed out.

On the top of her finger a small, orange flame lit up. It was completely unassuming and could be even missed if it were produced in the heat of a battle.

“Scary,” Isha murmured who was the most sensitive to it. As soon as she spoke up, Uzami’s finger flashed.

It shot out a small, apple-sized ball of flame, burning completely white, flying forward almost at the speed of sound. When it arrived near Leinor, she just closed her index finger, and the small ball, in a second, expanded to the size of an elephant, exploding violently. The outburst of energy shook the ground and burned up the oxygen in the air while spewing angry winds and shockwaves everywhere, assaulting the protective barrier of the arena.

Despite it all, the real strange thing was the calmness on the other side of the explosion. It was like a black hole slurping up a sun, the hazy defensive bubble of Leinor’s just consumed the attack and left behind nothing, returning to calmness.

“If you can, you can shoot again.” Ren chuckled.

“I wish…” Uzami sighed with a smile. “But this is my ultimate spell! I can’t perform it again. I am already half drained of my energy! If I shoot again I’d collapse.” She shrugged, clicking her tongue. Yet it was expected. They were only at the body refinement realm.

“Reach the 8th stage and you can fire it multiple times.” Ren nodded. “If you can shoot it twice, only those who reached Harmony above the 8th stage can stand up to it and survive!”

“I’ll do so, Junior Sect Head!” She cupped her hands with a satisfied smile then bowed towards Leinor too, who was still looking like a mirage behind his defenses.

“I am looking forward to it~ Wyland, come!” Ren turned towards the last man who prompted a giant belly and looked like a gourd with his height around only 160cm.

“O-o-of c-c-c-course!” He wobbled forward, breathing heavily and stuttering, but he couldn’t help it.

He was someone who was born from an affair between a lord of a middle-ranked noble family, situated in the Empire and from a daughter of a common family. After the death of his father, his step-mother took over everything and now there was nobody who would take the side of a bastard son. In his childhood, he was once beaten so hard he couldn’t speak normally anymore. Since then Wyland was stuttering, so hard sometimes, others thought he was mute as he refused to speak instead. The mental and physical torture, day after day made him find solace in eating. As his growth was stunted, his weight problem became even more evident.

He was there when the Sect opened its gates but not because he wanted to join. It was simply a coincidence. He was there to jump into the Shert River and finally let it all end. Only… When he jumped he landed on the suddenly appearing bridge, going through a dreamlike life, coming out the other side as an Outer Disciple, a feat he couldn’t believe.

Since then, he worked so hard, once he was found passed out in the library. He was researching from formations to the differences between humans and demons. After years and years of study, he was promoted into an Inner Disciple. Through the years he even lost a lot of weight but still, he was twice as wide as he was tall.

“I’mm-m-m-mmm…ready!” He stuttered. It was even worse now, because of how nervous he felt.

“Relax. There is no need to hurry.” Ren nodded, looking into his blue eyes.

“It-it-it-its a fo-fo-fo-formation a-a-a-attack…” Wyland stuttered, raising both of his hands and flames spewed out of his palms. It was quickly forming a formation before him which was complex, made from dozens of intertwining runes.

“Amazing…” Toobu murmured as it was similar to their spell. Yet much, much more complex. Both him and Ariana immediately realized the immense difficulty of Wyland’s work.

“They are not rhyming…” Ariana added but soon the formation started to rotate in the air and her eyes lit up. “No way! It changes properties as it shapeshifts and then it does rhyme! And the equations are still holding up… He is above us with his proficiency… by a lot!” She blurted out with deep admiration in her voice.

“Clearly! Looking at it I am already lost in it! I could only understand a quarter of it from just looking!” Toobu smacked his lips with a grin.

“Good for you, I am stuck at a quarter of your quarter! At most! Also-” but she couldn’t continue as an awful, nauseating feeling hit her like a hammer, right out of the blue.

“You okay?” Toobu grabbed onto her shoulders as she almost fell backwards, turning deathly pale.

“No… I am not… don’t you feel it?” Ariana groaned.

“Feel what?” Toobu asked worriedly.

“Despair… Feeling lost and helpless… Deep depression and the absence of any light…” Ariana murmured, breathing heavily. She was looking at Wyland who was still occupied with the spell of his but now he was in a trance-like state. “Pain… so much pain, turned to anger… blazing, rampaging, hot anger… no… this is not anger! This is wrath! Pure, destructive wrath…!” She gulped with a parched mouth.

Wyland was just finishing his spell as he pushed his hands forward. A black ball of flame appeared above the arena, materializing from nowhere. Looking at it, everyone got goosebumps and the feeling it gave out was otherworldly. It burned without sound and no light escaped from it. Nobody could feel any heat emanating from it. Or so they thought. In reality, Ren was operating the arena’s defenses at maximum, focusing on the spell, so she could jump in, if anything would go wrong. She was already working on isolating the rest of the disciples from its immense heat. It finally landed on Leinor’s defenses and exploded into a black rain, staining everything. As the scattering flames landed on the ground, they continued to burrow underground leaving behind burning, man sized pits. Clearly, Leinor’s defenses shrank at a visible speed before he finally dispelled it completely and performed an attack of his own. He had to destroy the remaining flames with a golden colored punch of his own. His hand was still covered in a faint, black veil of flames after it, that he could only extinguish slowly, overtime.

“Amazing…” Toobu whispered, with sincerity, echoing a lot of people’s thoughts.

Ariana on the other hand felt horrible, fighting the urge to vomit. She already knew why she was affected like this, hurrying to calm her own nerves.

“Take deep breaths…” Ren’s voice arrived in her ear and when she looked up, Ren was smiling at her. “You are sensitive to others’ feelings. You are right, Wyland’s formation converts his negative emotions and gives them a physical form. The spell of his is called Wrath of the Damned. Reading it is one thing. Seeing it… is another.” She shook her head then turned towards Leinor, continuing the conversation with her husband via voice transmission. “What do you think LeiLei?”

“He needs help.” Answered with a concerned voice. “I’ll take him in too! I don’t want to let him fall. He is still highly unstable.”

“Mm…” Ren nodded before turning towards Wyland who was panting heavily, wiping sweat off his forehead.

“E-e-elder?” He cupped his hands hurriedly.

“Your spell is too strong!” Ren shook her head. “I am disqualifying it.” She smiled and raised her hand before everyone would start to clamor. “It is clearly an A-ranking spell. This competition is for B-ranked ones!” She patted his shoulder with a proud smile.

Hearing her words the first to react was Toobu who laughed out loudly. “Ahaha, nice one! You are something else, kid!” He pointed his thumbs up towards Wyland who was almost in a panic mode because he screwed up.

“Your spell’s framework, if just going by your paper, is already pretty advanced but can be seen as a B-rank technique.” Leinor said, walking up to him. “But performing it and seeing it personally, we are sure by now! It is an A-rank spell.” He said as he patted his hands, shaking off small, black embers. “Also… I want to take you in as my disciple.”

Now no matter how Ren would raise her hands, the watching disciples already was abuzz, guessing if it was going to be another refusal? Or?

“Mm-m-m-me?” Wyland pointed at himself, shocked.

“I don’t see anybody else standing before me, no?” Leinor laughed.

“Y-y-y-yes! T-t-t-thank y-y-y-you!” He answered, bowing as much as he could, starting to sob and cry without reservation.

“Ahaha, relax, relax… even though you are disqualified I think it was worth it~” Ren stepped forward, patting his back. “Let it all out, you will feel better.”

“N-n-no.. I-i-i-i’m g-g-g-good!” He gulped his tears back, forcing himself to stay composed.

“Ahaha, okay, as you wish~” Ren chuckled.

“Go stand back into the line for now, we still have one more spell to see!” Leinor smiled at him, while Wyland was opening and closing his lips, trying to hold back his cries.

“Y-y-y-yes!” He wiped his eyes, wobbling back to his place, trying to clean his face with his sleeves, while Ariana and Toobu exchanged places with him.

“Elder!” They cupped their hands at the same time, greeting Ren and then bowing towards the rest of the jury before straightening their backs.

“Before we start we need to clarify a question! I am sure it is lingering in the heads of the others so let it get out of the way!” Ren looked at them, letting everyone hear her voice. “Who came up with it?”

“I did.” Toobu answered honestly.

“With all of it?” Ren asked back.

“At first, yes.” He nodded while Ariana felt a bit out of place because of the hundreds of eyes looking at her. They were already guessing, why is she here in the first place then?

“So?” She turned her head towards Ariana with a smile waiting for her response.

“I modified the finished spell.”

“Oh~” Ren chuckled as those who are experienced would know, modifying a finished formation is harder than making it. One wrong change and it can backfire immediately or not work at all. “How many revisions did you have before submitting it?”

“Two.” Both of them answered at the same time.

“Mmm. Then I accept the fact that it is co-created.” Ren nodded and she wanted to turn around before Toobu speaking up once again

“We have a third version by now! We’d like to showcase that!”

“Ohoho?” Ren looked back at them with a grin. “I am looking forward to it! Your spell is interesting in theory, because it could scale to the user’s strength. Used by someone in the 3rd stage is just as possible as me casting it! Its strengths are adjusted by the energy flow going in. The only problem is…”

“That only I can craft a working talisman.” Toobu finished her words quickly.

“Yes.” Ren nodded.

Toobu and Ariana looked at eachother and at the same time, they produced a talisman paper and started to draw up the formation with exceptional speed. The most surprising thing was that it was Ariana who finished first. Ren, with everyone else, watched on curiously and when Toobu also finished, Ren just stepped back, letting them cast it towards her. The first to activate it was Toobu and a giant fireball whizzed forward immediately, burning up the paper itself when appearing. The interesting thing was that along its way it burned brightly yet left behind a frozen trail, before arriving at Ren. She just summoned a lightning spear, with one swing, cutting it half and letting them explode beside her. When she stepped forward Toobu already flashed in his hand five, completed talismans, only waiting for the final line to be activated.

“Ahahaha! Nice!” Ren laughed, stopping immediately. “How much can you produce?”

“If I don’t do anything else, a hundred.” Toobu answered with pride as everyone twitched their mouths… facing a hundred such attacks at once would be suicide, even for a Harmony Realm expert.

“Idiot.” Ariana elbowed him. “You could draw that much up, but activating all of them would kill you!”

“But I COULD do it!” Toobu protested, grumbling to be brought down a peg. By his own partner, nonetheless!

“Okay, okay~” Ren cut in. “What about you?” She turned towards Ariana “You finished first, but you did not activate it.”

“No, but it is different.” She showed her version and for the untrained eye it looked the same. Ren quickly flashed a satisfied smile as Ariana continued. “It is a 99% finished product with the ability to accept the last energy input.” She picked out a small CC fragment and drew the activation line with it. A black and red fireball flashed out, heading towards Ren the next moment.

She met it with her fist, blasting it apart with a hearty laugh, clapping as she walked out of the fire.

“You surprised me! That fragment is filled with his energy, yes?” She walked closer to them, still laughing.

“Yes, Elder! It stores energy from Toobu.” Ariana answered as she cupped her hands.“This fragment can be used this way for 10 times before it needs a refill! His powers with the final revision only needed for the formation’s activation!”

“And yours only were at the 3rd stage.” She patted Ariana’s shoulders, drawing shy redness onto her face. “A higher leveled cultivator wouldn’t be able to use it 10 times, yes?”

“Y-yes.” Ariana answered, looking down, to hide her embarrassment. “Toobu could only use it six times before a refill.”

“Understandable as it would be stronger than yours! Great, you solved my biggest criticism against this spell!” She clapped happily. “I substituted the need for Toobu’s energy with my silly girl’s blood but I would be hesitant to drain that glutton every time I want to use this spell! Now I can drain the source directly!” Ren grinned as she looked at Toobu with, making him shiver while everyone else laughed out loudly, hearing her voice.

“Can I… withdraw?” Toobu scratched his throat, searching for help with his eyes but getting none.

“No, you can’t.” Leinor stepped forward. “And I also have something to say!”

“Please, Elder!” He cupped his hands quickly.

“I want to accept you as my disciple.”

Toobu’s body immediately froze in mid bow, blinking his eyes surprisedly, before starting to nod his head like a chicken.

“Y-y-y-yes!” He stuttered just like Wyland who by now calmed down and even laughed a little, hearing the oh so familiar answer.

“Congrats!” Ariana whispered, happy for him before her shock also arrived, out of the blue as Ren interjected with a smile.

“I like your way of thinking, girl! If you are willing I’ll take you in!”

“Huh?” Ariana pointed at herself, looking around. “Me?”

“Yup! I don’t see anyone behind you, do you?” Ren asked.

“...” she immediately looked back over her shoulders but saw nobody. “There is not…” She murmured before realizing what was happening and immediately bowed. “Thank you, Master!”

“Ahaha, don’t thank me yet! Say that after a year or so~” Ren chuckled, making Ariana’s red face even redder with excitement, especially because it was a huge uproar, that someone from the Outer Disciples’ rank rose directly into that of a Core Disciple.

After their demonstration the finals were over and beside the announcement of the results, the biggest news were Leinor accepting two participants as his first disciples and Ren, accepting the only Outer Disciple who made it into the finals… not to mention the new exciting story of the two who refused such a thing before everyone! It was lighting the whole Sect abuzz for the next weeks to come.

“I just hope nobody calls us biased.” Isha laughed, watching the top 10’s listing, standing beside Ren in the empty Mission Hall that was closed by now.

“I don’t think anyone would think that… and if they do, it just shows how shallow they are.” She shook her head. “Only… they could have come up with a better name! It makes me hungry and not excited when reading it! Maybe I spent too much time with Kyu?” Ren laughed out quietly, watching the list that went:

1st Place: Instant Fire - By Toobu & Ariana
2nd Place: Golden Bell Body - By Sylvett
3rd Place: Blazing Lion - By Zaphil
4th Place: Flame Demon’s Armor - By Jishan
5th Place: Dance of Illusions - By Heldi
6th Place: Nova Point - By Uzami
7th Place: Cloud of Corrosion - By Ostavar
8th Place: Thunder Hammer - By Tuxon
9th Place: Perfect Invisibility - By Kirch
Disqualified: Wrath of the Damned - By Wyland

“I still think some people won’t understand it.” Isha shook her head. “I’ll hold a lesson for the Outer Disciples explaining power is not the only criteria that determines a spell’s rank. Its usefulness to the Sect is just as important. Arming disciples with a handful of talismans of Instant Fire is way more beneficial than learning Kirch’s invisibility spell… that may even take a decade or more to master for some.”

“Good idea! I’ll pass this down in one of my own lessons too for the Inner Disciples. Hehe, watching you step forward… you are really popular amongst them!” Ren elbowed her.

“I like this life…” Isha whispered, watching the bulletin board, before turning around and leaning against the now empty counter. “I never imagined I would live like this! Going from a cheap prostitute to a gang member then to be a respected teacher…” smiled with a nostalgic and soft expression, while Ren sat up on the counter next to her.

“You should accept some direct disciples!”

“No.” She shook her head “I want to continue like this! Teaching everybody fills me completely! I feel like I found myself.”

“I am glad to hear that!” Ren patted her hand “And… What about you and Zern?”

“We talked after the competition.” Isha sighed with a bit of pained look in her eyes. “We agreed that we should break up. It is better to stay friends then let it fester and end up as enemies. It was not an easy choice but I think it will be for the best.”

“I agree.” Ren leaned against her. “Think about only the good years!”

“Mmm. We both are going to get over it, we just need time…”

“Want to have a drink at my place? Leinor is out; he immediately took Toobu and Wyland with himself to test out their full capabilities!”

“Woah, he does not waste time eh? What about your newest toy?” Isha teased, switching back to her usual mood.

“I am more patient!”

“Yeah! Sure!”

“Really! I’ll go fetch her tomorrow~ So? Are you coming or not?”

“Hell yeah! Let’s get drunk! Maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up while you are wearing a slave collar again!”

“If I do, I’ll finally know it was YOUR fault in the first place!” Ren laughed as the two left the empty building.

They were not the only people who emptied a few glasses of wine that night as inside the Inner Disciples’ dorm, a party was ongoing. They were celebrating those who made into the top 50 and the finalists were swarmed by the others like celebrities. Luckily Kirch could turn invisible and escape… while Sylvett enjoyed being in the middle of it all, just like the rest of them. Except Ariana, who was already, after a sip of wine, leaning on a table, piss drunk, murmuring to herself about something, something… best day of her life…