246 First Round of Culling
Ming Yue was not close enough to see what this person looked like, only that it was the figure of a young man.
"It's the Grand Elder!" Anqing exclaimed, "The tournament must be starting now!"
"The Grand Elder, you say."
Ming Yue tried to take a better look at him and found him to be quite young. He had short golden hair and freckles on his cheeks. If she didn't know any better, she would've believed that the Grand Elder was another disciple. Considering how she entered Heaven's Gate as a special case, she did not get to meet nor see the Grand Elder. Though there was a strange air around him, it was almost weightless but all-encompassing.
She committed the face to memory and waited for him to speak.
Appearing under the roof of the pavilion, Grand Elder Huang walked out and floated above everyone.
"Welcome to the annual Heavenly Gate Tournament! I am the Grand Elder, Huang Tiankong!"
He introduced himself, speaking normally though his voice projected into everyone's mind.
"Mental Force?" thought Ming Yue, "Perhaps he learned it from Elder Shen."
"As you know, everyone will be rewarded for their efforts. Victory or loss, it does not matter, so long as you do not hold back and perform your best. Whoever comes out on top shall enter the Empyrean Paradise!"
At the sound of those words, the garden began to rumble as the spires surrounding them separated. The garden split apart as the entire Institution lsowly descended into the ground, replaced by an enormous stone coliseum. At the center was a large square arena, big enough to fit all the disciples with plenty of space.
Surrounding the arena were tall walls filled with rows of seats.
The sound of this rumbling and the changing scenery made everyone's heart beat as the atmosphere grew intense. Then the Grand Elder's voice boomed out loud.
"Make your preparations! The first round shall begin in an hour! All of you must be within this arena."
He then disappeared, leaving a crowd of people who immediately went to work, checking their equipment and adjusting their mentalities.
Having done so the night before, Ming Yue sat down and waited quietly. Anqing and Xukun were preoccupied, checking their weapons and what not.
Minutes later, the seats of the coliseum began to fill. Those closest to them were special booths, complete with cushioned chairs and a rooftop, they were like little gazebos and those who occupied them seemed to be extraordinary nobles, royalty, high ranking elders from other sects.
There was a special space reserved for the elders of Heaven's Gate. They were high above everyone else, within a tall tower and watched through projections. As there were almost a hundred of them with many being eccentrics, most took their place elsewhere to watch. Only the Grand Elder and a few others watched within the tower. Two of which were Elder Hua and Elder Xiang whom Xiao Yin and Hei Yue were with.
This was where every disciple looked at as the hour was almost up, waiting for instruction.
As soon as the so-called hour ended, the arena rumbled once more.
What would this first round entail?
Among thousands of disciples, five holes opened up in the arena floor as a single puppet emerged from each one. Faceless and made of some bone-like material, they had six arms, each wielding a different weapon. At the same time, the floor changed shape, becoming a mountanous terrain.
Upon their appearance, those watching from the sidelines began to hoot and shout in excitement.
"So this is the first round! They've brought out the Ivory Asura Puppets, this will be fun to watch."
"How many do you think will fail? A hundred? Two hundred? Half of the group?"
"I hear that among these ordinary disciples there are a few that stand out. Perhaps, we may see someone actually destroy one of these puppets."
"Ivory Asura Puppets?" Ming Yue looked around but found that she was nowhere near them.
However, their presence was undeniable. Each puppet was twice the size of the average man and their weapons were far from humble, adorned with gold and silver. They stood still like statues for seconds before springing into action, swinging down on whoever was closest. Those few seconds that they stood still for allowed the others to make their moves but they did not attack. Instead, they avoided these puppets like their lives depended on it.
In an instant, Anqing and Xukun pulled Ming Yue away and far from the puppets.
"We must keep away from the Ivory Asura Puppets. Combat with them will result in nothing but our loss, those things will chase the closest one and attack", said Xukun.
"Even if they won't kill, if they send you out of the arena, you won't be very worried about losing this tournament."
Just as Anqing spoke, a body flew out. Right before them, they shot out of the arena, tumbling into the ground. Their body was crumpled and weak, covered in dust and many injuries. Then just as quickly as they left the arena, those under Elder Hua's Medicinal Hall came and brought them away.
The trio did not bother looking for where that body had come from and ran far from there.
While many tried their best to avoid these five puppets, there were some that tried to fight back. Perhaps they did not know just how powerful these puppets were or perhaps they were confident.
North of the arena was a single puppet rampaging and attacking wherever it pleased. With its sword, it swatted three disciples like flies. There wasn't even enough time to scream before they flew out of the arena.
Just from this display, everyone stepped away from the puppet except for a group of six, all of them held a shortsword in each hand. Considering their weapons and stances, they all must have learnt the same techniques.
"Flying Fish Formation! Rise of the Flying Carp"
One of them, a young man, yelled out and the six went into formation, resembling that of the Fei Yu Constellation. With their arms crossed and their short swords brandished, they rushed the puppet in unison.
Three waves of attacks came as the puppet did not care to dodge them. Instead, it seemed to welcome the attack, raising its six arms in preparation to strike back.
First only one came, slipping through the puppet's grasp and stabbing into the puppet's right side. Pulling the sword out, the wound suddenly burst open as water flowed from it. Then three followed and surrounded the puppet before sending off a wide beam of blue energy from their short swords. As they collided into the puppet, the three beams converged forming a geyser of water that launched the puppet into the sky. Finally, the third wave, where the remaining two joined the puppet in the air. They brought their swords together and attacked the puppet's body.
Their energy combined into a ethereal flying fish that chased after the puppet and engulfed it. Inside, the wound inflicted by the first member had become aggravated, ripping at the puppet's side. Pummeled by the energy of this flying fish, the six spread out into another formation.
One by one they jumped up and attacked, water seemed to flow from their blades as they struck the puppet at its core.
"Leaping Over the Dragon's Gate!"
They yelled out as this flowing water combined and smashed into the puppet, bringing it down onto the arena floor. As it laid on its back, the puppet's body had been sliced across the stomach and parts seemed to crumble.
As for the six, they panted heavily as beads of sweat fell from their heads. They looked at each other before smiling triumphantly.
"That wasn't so difficult. I wonder why our elder disciples warned us to never clash with this thing. With the Flying Fish Formation, even a Sky Realm cultivator would lose to us."
"There are still four more of these puppets, we need to quickly find a place to recuperate a little bit."
As they turned to move, they felt vibrations from the floor as the puppet began to float.