"One life left, damn it."
Ming Yue's body reappeared as she fell to her knees, panting hard and gasping for air. Her hands curled into fists as irritation welled up within her.
Just like that her second life was used up.
After dying to Yin Zhu, she looked for a place to lay low and watch the situation. Hours passed and more people were sent out of the arena, eliminated for a number of reasons. In fact, quite a few of them were eliminated. Many of the Inheritors started hunting others, getting rid of the weak. They were responsible for most of the eliminations, often joining the largest battles and sweeping everyone away. But the mountain was empty, no one dared to climb it again.
This was when the intensity of the stage peaked as various battles unfolded.
But she was safe, occasionally moving from one place to another. From time to time, she would spot others, finding them in battle, hiding, or running away.
Ming Yue was lucky enough to avoid too much confrontation, having fought three more times and surviving them all. However, that luck did not last long for she found herself in the center of a battle with three other groups. But they were not the reason she had died again.
"To think the Grand Elder would appear..."
Indeed, this fight was quite big and it brought a lot of attention. But of all the people that could have come, the Grand Elder himself joined the fray.
"Hmm, quite a big haul we have here I wonder how many of you can escape."
All he did was release the full extent of his power, the pressure itself beared down on everyone in that battle and in the entire arena. No one was able to move, some like Ming Yue could only stand up while others were down on the ground.
After that, he walked around and tapped everyone on the shoulder. A few lost their second life but for many, that was their last chance at a higher ranking. They could only chalk it up to their ability and luck that they were able to come this far. Even if they were unable to obtain the grand prize, being in the final stage had brought them plenty of rewards.
But those that remained still had hope, though it was slowy fading.
"Should I risk it?"
Ming Yue was on her last life and a position in the top ten was still far away from happening. There were at least a hundred more disciples left and the pressure was beginning to mount up. Now was not the time to move carefully but to take risks. Her goal was not to be in the top hundred but the top ten, perhaps even first place.
She looked around, trying to gauge her position.
"I'm quite far from the mountain but it shouldn't take me too long."
She made way for the mountain, planning to climb the peak. Two of her lives were lost fighting it out in the forest. On her third life, she would aim for the mountain peak, which has been empty for much of this stage. By the time she reached the base of the mountain, the numbers had dwindled even further.
At this point, Ming Yue was the only normal disciple left. Those that still remained were the strong, the best of the Elite Disciples and the Inheritors. By now, there were a few groups left and the battles that once covered this place had all but ceased. With so little people in such a vast place, the chance of encountering one another was low. Actively searching for others was somewhat of a waste and the risk was not worth it.
There was a delicate balance where none of them dared to make a move but all of them waited on each other. If it was like this, there was only one thing they could do.
"There's no point in waiting any longer. I need to reach the mountain quickly."
Like Ming Yue, they all had a similar idea. Now that it had come to this, they would meet at the mountain, all aiming for that top spot.
Light flashed through the forest as a figure traveled towards the mountain. This was of course, Zha Tian Yun, using his utmost speed to reach it. As the strongest Inheritor, he was heavily favored in winning this tornament.
He won the year before through a combination of skill, luck, and strength. He was just another Inheritor, cultivating for the purpose of greater strength but he found himself in a bottleneck. Spending a day in the Empyrean Paradise was all he needed to breakthrough to the sixth stage of the Earth Realm. It propelled him to greater heights and gave him the reputation as the strongest Inheritor.
With another day in the Empyrean Paradise, he could reach the final stage of the Earth Realm, the Boundary Stage.
"Once more and I could become the youngest cultivator to reach the Sky Realm", he thought to himself.
He would be the youngest by a large margin, several years at least. But more than that, he wanted to enter the Empyrean Paradise again. The rich energy within that place was enough for him to obsess over it. Of all those that entered the Empyrean Paradise, he was the only one to aim for a second time.
"I need it, I want all of it..."
Just the remembering spurned him on as he sped through the forest, not caring to hide his attempt. As he reached the base, a battle was about to begin at any moment as the remaining cultivators found themselves at odds against each other. Zha Tian Yun's body of light reverted as he arrived and looked around.
Most if not all of those that first fought him on the mountain were here, watching each other closely with their weapons drawn.
"Hmph, strongest culivator my ass, more like the slowest", Tang Zhan spoke out, resting one of her lances on her shoulder.
She looked at him with defiant eyes, prepared to attack as was everyone else.
Zha Tian Yun's face was dark as he looked at them all.
"To think you are all still here. If you plan on stopping me, then you best hope that that you still have more than one life. I will return to the Empyrean Paradise."
He whipped his black sword out, which began to shine to turn pure white.
"Zha Tian Yun, don't think we're here just to stop you. You might have the title of the strongest but that does no mean we aren't strong ourselves."
Wenqin Yan stepped forward with his short spear ready, his light silver armor was weathered with dirt and scratches.
"Hmph, Wenqin Yan, we still have a battle to finish. I'm done warming up. None of you better interfere."
Yan Xian looked at him from the side, his fists were curled and he was ready to throw down. His eyes then moved down everyone else, eventually lingering on Tang Zhan and Yu Hua.
"Fuck your duel!" Tang Zhan glared at him.
As for Yu Hua, she glanced at them before looking away. Her cleaver of a sword seemed to glow with energy. Small bits of stone and dirt trembled under her as she prepared to fight. Considering that they knew each of other, none of them bothered to restrain their auras, fully letting it loose. At this point, none of them cared whether or not the Grand Elder came.
But he didn't come, he noticed them gathering long ago, deciding to step back and watch this unfold. He looked down at the little jade screen in his hands, reading the numbers.
"Oh, how interesting, 32 Inheritors, 9 Elites, and a single ordinary disciple. I wonder what will happen."
There was a small silence now as they all watched each other. Too focused, they did not notice Ming Yue's presence, watching them nearby.
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