Zha Tian Yun looked at the Grand Elder, listening to his words. Why was it that he could not enter a second time. The Grand Elder looked at him and sighed.
"After you left, I had been watching you especially when you showed interest in entering again. Normally, those who have entered would resolve themselves and accept that they should only enter once."
The Inheritor was confused.
"Is that wrong?" he asked.
"Ha, think of the way you've been acting. You have always been a level-headed person but have you not shown any restraint? You might not have said it but it is clear that you did not want to enter the Empyrean Paradise to breakthrough but because you had become addicted to the energy within it. You reason with yourself that it is for the sake of cultivation but you only want the sensation."
The Grand Elder began to walk around the peak, looking at the damage done to the mountain. On his face was a blank look with wandering eyes, he surveyed this sea of a forest. Within his words was a touch of disappointment but a overarching tone of caution for Zha Tian Yun.
"The energy within it is miraculous, it will improve anyone's cultivation with ease. It does not matter what Dao you cultivate, what techniques you use, the Empyrean Paradise is a place for all cultivators. But such a thing does not come without side effects. While it aids your cultivation, it will target your mind, greed and obsession will begin to fester as that energy could give birth to a heart demon."
He looked at him.
"Perhaps you are one the strongest of this generation but even the strongest can fall to their own imperfections. The Empyrean Paradise is a place to cultivate but it can also reveal those imperfections. Just one visit and you've decided to rely on it, as the so called "strongest" you should have more confidence in yourself."
Zha Tian Yun was quiet, his sword was sheathed but his hands seemed ot tremble slightly. His fingers curled and curled as the Grand Elder spoke these words. He took in a deep breath and bowed.
Those two words were plain and simple but carried a number of emotions: anger, disappointment, enlightenment, regret.
In his mind, he realized that he had been blinded, blinded by greed and most importantly by fear. At the position of the top disciple, he had a reputation and a level of skill to uphold. Perhaps it was the pressure he felt that he no longer had confidence in his own skill. He was afraid of failing his breakthrough, depending on the Empyrean Paradise to do it for him.
The Grand Elder could see that Zha Tian Yun had begun to realize the path he was going in. Whether or not, he could stop himself from deviating was another matter.
"Good, I have a mission for you and the other Inheritors when this is over. I will have the elders call for you. Perhaps some time out in the world will do you some good."
After speaking, the last two people in this arena turned ot light, whisked away from this stage. Thus the tournament was called to an end. From the outside, no one knew what had happened but shouted and hooted as the arena changed back to its original state.
The six hundred participants that were part of this final stage were now waiting on the arena.
"Whoo! What an end! This tournament was one of the best ones I've seen. To think the Grand Elder would participate so much."
"There were so many good battles I couldn't just look at one of them!"
"I can't beleive that young girl managed to reach the peak! That was so risky for her to rush up the mountain. She was getting chased by all of those Inheritors!"
"And, who would've thought that she had the strength left to take the flag?! That final burst of power was incredible!"
All of the citizens of Heaven's gate were deeply entertained and Ming Yue's performance left an impression on them. However, the many disciples that watched and betted on the results could not have expected this.
Zha Tian Yun, the strongest of the inheritors with the highest odds, did not take the top spot. That was hundreds of thousands of contribution points lost. But for those who saw Ming Yue betting on herself, those who bet on her, they made back several times over what they had bet. A few cursed their luck for not betting more on her name. Alas, the tournament ended and the Grand Elder reappeared, standing at the center of the arena.
He spoke gently, projecting his voice for all to hear.
"Congratulations to all of you! To those standing in front of me and to those who had been eliminated, your performance has been more than stellar. To the final six hundred, all of you have performed better than I had expected with these changes. Now it is time for you all to recieve your rewards."
One by one he called out their names to give them their rewards. They walked up handing him their badge to which he added the inscriptions to them. From there, they would go to the Contribution Hall to claim.
Ming Yue stood by waiting and watching. She could feel a number of gazes from those around her and those at the stands. Many of them were piercing, trying to see what they could gather from her, trying to find what sort of secrets she might have.
It was uncomfortable but she beared with it.
Nearly six hundred names were called out, from last place and arriving at first place where her name was called.
"Ming Yue! The winner of this tournament! Please come up."
The Grand Elder called out her name and she answered, walking forward with her badge in hand.
"Please, stand by me. I will be taking you to the Empyrean Paradise after this."
He quietly spoke, beckoning her to his side. She stepped next to him, standing at the same height as he.
"I hope that this has been a helpful experience for all of you. Next year, I hope to see you perform better."
Along with Ming Yue, the Grand Elder disappeared, marking the end of the Heavenly Gate Tournament. Many left the stadium, thinking of the events that had transpired over the past few days. But of those that left the stadium, a select few went another route, entering the Institution. These individuals had a meeting with the Grand Elder, a matter or two to discuss.
But first, there was the Empyrean Paradise to tend to.
With the Grand Elder, Ming Yue found herself in another part of the Institution, deep within the depths. An empty hall except for a grand door, that which was carved with stone. The size of it as massive, comparable to a giant, and as detailed as a painting.
The scene carved upon it was almost lifelike. It was a star chart, filled with over a thousand stars that which formed numerous different patterns.*
"How strange..." she thought.
There was a sort of mysteriousness to it, something she could not quite put her finger on.
The Grand Elder walked forward, stepping in front of these massive stone doors. His placed his hands on them and pushed. In that moment, all of his energy was released blasting through this empty hall.
Slowly, the doors opened, a slow grinding sound echoed as the Grand Elder pushed even harder. A crack of light opened and what came was a gentle breeze that coaxed Ming Yue. The energy of within it was difficult for her to describe.
It was...free, untouched, clean. Absorbing it and refining it took barely any effort from her, it was as if she breathed in air. However, this energy was incredible, already it had pushed her cultivation further.
The Grand Elder opened the gates wide enough for her to slip in.
"Enter, after a single day this mark here will send you out."
He pointed at her hand which now had a small "Huang" symbol.
"Thank you, Grand Elder..." she bowed her head and stepped into the Empyrean Paradise.
A single day was all she had and she must make the most of it.
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