“I guess that’s the last we’ll be seeing them!” The Academy representative said while he nodded.
“The rest who’ve stayed, good job!
“When one walks the path of martial arts, apart from potential and skill, one requires a strong, unwavering heart. Only through fearless risks, shall one receive bountiful rewards.
“To be honest, even if this Land of Despair is extremely dangerous, the Academy and the Dynasty would send out our best of the best to protect you. If you ever need it, just call and we will help. However, this will also mean you will be disqualified!” he stated.
Once he finished his sentence, those that forfeited earlier quickly changed their tunes. The look of regret on their faces were evident. Had they known they were protected, they would not have forfeited so willingly. The Inter-city Tournament was only held every fifteen years, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for every fighter, much less the chance to be enrolled into the Boundless Academy. Their regret was immeasurable.
“We will be providing everyone with a scoreboard to track your score in this Tournament. If your performance becomes satisfactory, we will choose you to enroll into the Academy. Take note however, we will not choose many, but if you were to excel and make it out on top, you would immediately become an Academy initiate!” he continued.
This statement rustled the fire in the fighters, each of them wide-eyed and hopeful. To be an Academy initiate would be an extremely powerful leap in their career. ‘Academy initiate!’ Zephyr thought, his heart raced as his fists clenched. He knew he could not pass up on this. “Although the prize is high, we mustn't forget to not die,” Yang said coldly. Although his expression remained indifferent, there was a hint of hope in his voice now.
Zephyr studied Yang’s prowess. He estimated him to be a Strength of level nine, but his true power was definitely more than he showed. Yang was also extremely calm, this was evident from his unwavering heart. Zephyr knew Yang would be an adversary sooner or later.
‘Only the one who reels in first place gets to be an initiate… there’s at least ten thousand participants here, it’ll be a difficult task!
‘If I only relied on my Strength of level eight, no doubt that I’d quickly be disqualified, but with my Might and my sword, that may not be!’ Zephyr thought calmly.
“Your scoreboards will help record your progress. As for how to increase your score, well, that depends on how many beasts you can kill!
“Of course, if you can find some of the hidden treasures, that would no doubt help you a lot.
“However, there is another path…” the man stated, before letting out a slight chuckle. “If you are able to steal another fighter’s scoreboard, in any way, shape, or form, whatever points they have will be yours!”
“What? Doesn’t that mean we’ll be at each other’s necks?”
“The Land of Despair’s already so dangerous, and now we have to worry about backstabbers? What the f*ck?”
“This is just a ploy to kill us!”
The fighters erupted in loud protest.
“Hmph, do you think that anyone can just enter the Boundless Academy so easily? One of the Five Greats? To be a strong, legendary fighter, one would have to carve their way through blood and bone!” the man retorted fiercely, sending everyone into a shiver. Zephyr himself was not on board with the idea, and he clenched his fists hard. “Carve our way through blood and bone?” Yang said with a small but cold smile, he looked devilishly with his change in demeanor.
Soon, every fighter received their scoreboard. It was encrusted with jade, and shimmered in the light. On the board itself, were markings that could be revealed through one’s summoning of their true energy; revealing their scores. Everyone began with a zero. Apart from the scoreboard, everyone was given a small stone the size of a thumb. On it were intricate rune carvings.
“Everyone’s score will depend on how powerful the beast they killed will be. If anyone tries to cheat, please quell your thoughts, because that would be impossible!” the Academy representative said. “That small stone would be your life line by the way! If you’re ever in danger, just crush it, and someone will come rescue you! However, you will be disqualified for this, and your points will henceforth stop there!”
Zephyr kept his scoreboard and runestone safely. They then made their way to the entrance to the Land of Despair. The entrance to the Land was wide, being about 30 or so feet tall, forming a semicircle. A low, mustard fog hovered a few feet above the ground, coming from within. There were strange sounds as well, this signalled the fighters that there was something terrible within. By just standing at the doorway, it made the fighters feel like they were being watched by some terrifying great beast.
“Hmph, you’re the b*stard Zephyr Khan, aren’t you?” an annoying voice came from behind. Zephyr turned to meet his verbal assailant, and he saw two men come forth. Their strides were full of pride, with wind that pushed out with each step. These were no ordinary folk.