Chapter 135: Zhou Long
Gazing at the rising sun, Hui Yue could not help but think of the woman who was most likely playing around with five small children, living today like every other day she had lived for the past millennia.
It was early morning and usually the entire city was still sleeping, but nothing was as usual. The streets which were normally filled with bakers and message boys was now bustling with citizens and mercenaries alike, walking wherever they wished and purchasing sweet treats or savory buns. A few were purchasing medicine and medicinal plants to assist them in the finals while others were spending their prize money on armour or weapons.
Moving from the courtyard, Hui Yue was once more wearing his black cloak. This time it was not so much for the sake of being hidden as it was protection because it was capable of absorbing all attacks coming his way due to the nullifying inscriptions engraved on it.
Although the streets were bustling with people these people all made space for Hui Yue and his entourage, all of them aware of who they were. Finalists of the seeded tournament! If anyone within this town deserved respect, then it was those who had managed to become finalists of the seeded tournament.
Moving around, Hui Yue came across a stall where they sold weapons, something he had previously decided to buy for his friends. He paused slightly as he noticed that the weapons seemed to have been created with extraordinary materials.
Seeing Hui Yue stop there, the others followed suit and they all looked at the various weapons which were on display.
The majority of the weapons were made from black iron, much like Black Blood, and all of them had inscriptions to increase their durability and sharpness. There were swords and daggers, staves and halberds on display. The most beautiful ones were on display while the less shining weapons were gathered in a pile with the cheaper items.
Looking at the stall with so many weapons, Hui Yue decided that it was about time for them to each find a weapon which could assist them during their travels.
“Each of you pick a weapon from here. The Guild Master was right to say that we don’t know when death will catch up to us, so get a weapon to prepare for the battle today.”
Hearing Hui Yue say that, joyful expressions were visible on their faces as they started to look through the various weapons on display.
It did not take Deng Wu long to pick up a sword made from black iron. Its size was that of an average sword, yet its sharpness was far above what he expected from a good sword one would find in the world above.
Sha Yun picked the largest halberd she could find. It was two meters tall with an edge of half a meter by itself. The sheer size made it clear it was not to be messed with, and in the hands of Sha Yun, the snake-woman, the weapon could truly display all its might.
The halberd was made from black iron, much like Hui Yue’s dagger and Deng Wu’s sword. It had been fortified with inscriptions and two small magical gemstones which were located at the place where the blade was embedded within the handle.
The one who took the longest to decide was Wang Ju Long. She had looked at all the weapons which were on display, but none of them were to her liking. Eventually she decided to have a look at the ones which were at the cheaper part of the stall, and here her eyes were drawn towards a long staff, a bit smaller than herself.
Unlike the others, this was a glossy red staff made from unknown material with black iron tips at both sides. It had no inscriptions and the red body of the staff was looking fairly weather-beaten, as though it had been through many wars and had seen better days.
Looking at it, something within Wang Ju Long decided to pick that staff. Ensuring that it was the weapon she truly wanted, Hui Yue nodded and went to the merchant. He paid for the many weapons with the beast cores they had gathered during their time in the tunnels.
A deep sigh escaped Hui Yue as he saw how few beast cores were left, but it was as he expected. Using beast cores or demon coins would quickly deplete their wealth. Still, looking at the weapons, Hui Yue felt as though it was worth every core he paid.
Deng Wu, Sha Yun, and Wang Ju Long were not the only ones who were thrilled, the man who was selling items had never sold such a large order before, and he was greatly appreciative of his sudden newfound wealth. As to why they had bought the red staff, he had no idea.
As soon as they bought their new weapons, Hui Yue could not help but smile as he felt that death was even further away than it had been before, yet Xu Piao’s words etched themselves into Hui Yue’s mind. He was perfectly aware that every day could be the last for both him and his friends.
However, with great risks comes great opportunities, and living a safe life would never allow for Hui Yue and his friends to continue their journey through the Dungeons of the Divine.
With his mind set on winning the tournament and afterwards participating in killing the Dwelling Demon Beast, Hui Yue lifted his head high and led his small group of five towards the arena.
Although it was still early and the finals were not until the sun reached the apex of the sky, Hui Yue still wished to enter the arena to allow for his friends to practice with the new weapons they had purchased.
Walking past the arena, Hui Yue could already smell the blood in the air as the semifinalists were battling for a spot in the lower ranked final which would commence as soon as the semifinals ended.
The battles were bloody and messy, but they had already pulled in a lot of visitors, every one of the outdoor stages was crowded and the people were standing on their toes to get a glimpse of what was happening on stage.
Although Hui Yue could understand the sport in watching experts duel one another, but he had a hard time understanding how blood soaked life or death battles was something which could be seen as a form of entertainment.
During the time of the year where there was not a tournament, different teams would fight one another for bets, but it was never quite as many battles nor as intense as the tournament. Having spoken with Xu Piao about this subject, Hui Yue found out that one of the main reasons for the bloody battles was to help fight overpopulation, and that something similar to this tournament happened yearly in most of the caves.
Although experts were highly sought after, it was experts of a high rank or those with exceptional talents that were in demand. The rest would be great at battling the lower ranked demon beasts, or to die for the sake of entertaining the general public and ensuring that resources weren’t strained.
Thinking about all these complex things, Hui Yue sighed deeply and finally understood why something as precious as beast cores were used as common currency. Although they were useful for some cultivators and experts, what truly mattered when killing a beast was to bring back the flesh and anything edible from the beast itself.
Thinking about this, Hui Yue was glad that Deng Wu did not trade food for information in this new city they had arrived within. Hui Yue was not a cold person who did not want to help others, however if someone appeared with a massive stockpile of food and started trading it for information, it was likely to cause an uproar in the begger areas of town.
Sighing deeply, Hui Yue paid no more attention to the ways of this world, instead, he flashed his golden emblem to the guards at the arena and entered straight into the only place within town where no citizens could be seen.
Hui Yue entered first only to see something which caused him to frown slightly. Hui Yue and his group were not the first to arrive at the arena, even though it was incredibly early in the morning.
At the stage was the masked group of mercenaries together with Zhou Long. The group seemingly conversing with each other in a friendly manner, causing Hui Yue’s hairs to stand on end. Something about Zhou Long was definitely not as it seemed.
Thinking about this, Hui Yue also knew that if Zhou Long wished for Hui Yue to be dead, then the white-haired boy would have been dead already. He was at least a King ranked expert, but Hui Yue had the impression that he was an even higher rank than that. That he was in fact an Emperor ranked expert.
The rank of Zhou Long was not the most important thing to consider, instead it was the familiarity with which the masked group and Zhou Long were talking, something which made Hui Yue feel alert. He once more reconsidered his previous decision about working together with the host of the competition later on when it came to the excursion towards the Dwelling Demon Beast.
Zhou Long had a high cultivation rank and as soon as Hui Yue saw them together, he too felt that they had entered the arena. Even though he was standing with his back turned to Hui Yue he still noticed them instantly, causing him to turn around.
At first surprise was evident on his face, but within less than a second everything was hidden beneath a gentle and welcoming smile.
“Ah to think that you would show up this early! Could it be you wished to practice much like the other participants?” He asked in a friendly voice, making gestures which pointed towards the masked group.
“Oh new weapons!” He continued as though nothing was out of the ordinary. “I take it that you wanted to test them? Please, please do not mind us and go ahead!”
With that Zhou Long vanished through the arena gate while the masked team seated themselves in the first row, all eyes falling on Hui Yue and his friends waiting patiently for his group to start practicing so that they could get a better understanding of Hui Yue and his friends’ performance.
Knowing that they would be giving away too much information if they were to truly practice in front of the other team, Hui Yue sighed deeply and all five sat down on the edge of the stage, facing the masked group.
There they sat for a couple of hours. Masks were faced towards the cloaked figures and the cloaked figures were faced towards the masks. In the end neither side managed to gain further knowledge of the other, and no one would be able to understand what exactly was going on between the two groups, nor the individuals involved.
Seated within the arena, at first it was possible to hear the surrounding cheers as the battles outside the arena were being determined. The cheering in sharp contrast to the quietness which prevailed within the arena until the third party suddenly made their entrance.
Unlike the masked group and the cloaked group, the third group had been living greatly in the spotlight the last two days enjoying all the attention and respect which was given to them for making it to the finals.
“Haha I see we are all here,” One of the last people who entered said. He was a large man, his body taut and muscles bulging under his skin. He was the complete opposite of Hui Yue with his tanned skin and black hair and eyes. But deep within those eyes was a determination to win, a determination very much akin to the one Hui Yue had glistening within his own ice-blue eyes.
“Don’t sell us short just because we aren’t wearing stupid masks or mysterious cloaks,” The man said with a ferocious grin on his lips, his face filled with excitement for the battle to come.