Leveling with the Gods - Chapter 84
After the preliminaries of the tournament ended, a two day break was given for the main stage of the tournament.
During that time, players of the Martial Artists’ Alliance held their own meeting, similar to the ball held by the seniors of the Alliance.
“Did you hear the news?”
“Of course I have. How could you not? It was passed onto every player who made it to the main stage.”
Over a hundred players, the next generation of the Martial Realm, were gathered in a single place, eating food and socializing by a lake. They were all talented people who managed to get past the preliminaries.
“The rules of the main stage suddenly changed. Has that ever happened before?”
A message was sent to players that passed the preliminaries relaying the new rules of the main stage and how the winner would be determined.
“It’s definitely not common, but it was decided by vote among the elders, so I’m sure there’s a good reason.”
“No. I don’t think that’s it,” one of the people in attendance said while shaking his head. “I think this is related to the rumor that the vice-lord of the Heavenly Demonic Cult is participating in the tournament.”
“I also heard about that.”
“Some were saying that the vice-lord of the Cult is Kim YuWon.”
“Is that true?”
“I don’t know, but he is the only one to ever pass the Cult’s test, so it’s possible…”
“But still. Would they have given him a position as high as the vice-lord?”
“It adds up. It can’t be a coincidence that they left Mt. Heaven as soon as they got the first person to ever pass the test.”
“You have a point…”
The people who were thirsting for gossip didn’t pass up on the opportunity to talk about YuWon and the Heavenly Demonic Cult.
“Then will the winner of this tournament end up being a member of the Cult?”
“What a flashy comeback.”
“I bet they were waiting for this.”
“Do you think that’s why they gave him the role of vice-lord…?”
They were players of the Martial Realm, and the Grand Martial Arts Tournament was a major point of pride for these players. But the Heavenly Demonic Cult was the only organization on the 10th Floor who wasn’t a part of the main society of the Martial Realm. There was not a single person there who would have been happy seeing a member of the Cult become the winner of the tournament.
Everyone’s sights shifted to the speaker.
It was Hoon, who was enjoying drinks with his party.
Hoon said while turning his head, “Did the Heavenly Demonic Cult break the rules? Or did they use any underhanded tactics outside the arena?”
There was not a single response, which was a given.
What YuWon, the Vice-Lord of the Demonic Cult, had shown were indomitable skills, not some cowardly tactic.
There was nothing to say in response.
After looking around the crowd, waiting for a response, Hoon clicked his tongue and spoke again, “Unless that is the case, you can’t ostracize someone just for not being a part of the central Martial Realm. That is neither fair nor just.”
“If you don’t like it, then just stay out of it,” said a voice familiar to Hoon.
Hoon turned his head to see another rising star of the Martial Realm like him, a player of the Zhuge* Clan. He was also the one who first brought up the Demonic Cult at the party.
*TL/N: JeGal has been changed to Zhuge to reflect the historical reference.
“Zhuge JinCheon,” Hoon said.
“Didn’t you hear me? If you’re scared, chicken out,” JinCheon said.
With a pretty face and snake-like slender eyes, JinCheon gave off a creepy vibe the longer you looked at him.
Hoon did not avoid eye contact with JinCheon.
They had never been on friendly terms ever since they were kids, but as they grew up, it only became worse, and now the two were nearly enemies.
“What, are you telling me to stay out?”
JinCheon looked around his surroundings rather than giving a verbal answer.
There was already quite a large group of people gathered around JinCheon.
‘So they’ve already colluded,’ Hoon thought to himself.
It seemed that even before this preliminaries afterparty, there had been talks led by JinCheon, and this place was just a place for him to gather more people.
‘His objective is probably Kim YuWon,’ Hoon continued his train of thought.
It was a longstanding, stubborn belief throughout the Martial Realm that there could not be a winner from the Heavenly Demonic Cult in the Grand Martial Arts Tournament.
This belief, of course, wasn’t shared just among the younger generation.
‘The adults changed the rules, and the kids will work together to stop the Vice-Lord of the Demonic Cult. Is that their plan?’ Hoon hypothesized.
And it was likely the center of this scheme was JinCheon.
Hoon couldn’t believe that they would go so far to defeat a single player. And the fact that the rules of the tournament changed meant that more than half of the guild was on the same page.
Regardless of their schemes, Hoon wasn’t really all that concerned. Before the tournament even started, the winner had already been determined.
‘I don’t really need to worry,’ Hoon thought, resuming drinking, not seeing a need to waste his time on them anymore. ‘They’re going to get torn to pieces anyway.’
* * *
The main stage of the tournament got delayed by a day, which naturally caused complaints.
“Why the hell are they running a tournament like this?”
“Do they think that the visitors have nothing better to do?”
“The Martial Realm is so washed up.”
“I’m going home.”
But on the other hand, there were also positive responses.
“I’m okay with this.”
“The Martial Realm seems like they want to change, shaking up the tournament like this.”
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“I think this is going to be fun.”
“A battle royale… That is certainly different.”
The main stage of the tournament had been changed to a battle royale. It was a format where, rather than people fighting one on one, all the players would get in the arena all at once and fight simultaneously.
The preliminaries were set up so ten players would fight at once, but ten wasn’t that big of a number considering the size of the arena. In fact, their fights were underwhelming compared to how large the area really was.
So the main stage of the tournament went from a traditional 1V1 format to a battle royale where a large number of players would fight at once.
On the morning of the match, Hargaan had barged into YuWon’s lodgings unannounced.
YuWon was shocked to find Hargaan laying on the floor, snacking on some beef jerky.
“Why are you here? What about your teammates?” YuWon asked.
“They went out to have fun. Trying local cuisine. Seeing the sights. They decided to go nuts since today’s the last day.”
“Are they not competing in the main stage?”
“Yeah. They all decided to pass. They said there’s no way they’re going to win. It’s pretty wise of them.”
Unlike most people, Hargaan’s teammates knew about YuWon, and they had been closely watching Hargaan grow, so it wasn’t a shock that they decided to give up now.
On top of that, they didn’t need to seek sponsorships since they were already a part of Olympus as Hargaan’s teammates.
“It’s almost time.” Hargaan got up after having checked the time on his player kit. “Let’s go already.”
He looked excited.
‘I guess it’s about time for a rematch,’ YuWon thought while looking over at him as they left for the stadium.
Despite not having seen most of the preliminaries, YuWon didn’t rate the skills of the other players that high.
There were some names of people he knew because they would become Rankers in the future, but most of them were only so-so. The only really notable name among them was NamGung Hoon.
As for Hargaan, he was strong enough to be considered the true cream of the crop among them.
Hargaan was silent the entire trip to the stadium, which was off considering his normally talkative personality.
However, YuWon didn’t think Hargaan’s behavior was strange. He knew that Hargaan was slowly preparing himself.
“There sure are a lot of people here,” Hargaan remarked after seeing the massive crowd at the stadium.
Not only were all the seats full, they even set up massive video screens outside, so people who weren’t able to make it inside the stadium could still spectate.
“Don’t be surprised by just this. On top of these screens, the main stage will also be broadcasted by the player station,” Hoon said while approaching YuWon and Hargaan.
Seeing YuWon for the first time in months, Hoon walked up for a handshake, “It’s been a while. You remember me, right?”
“You have a face that’s hard to forget,” YuWon responded.
Hargaan was shocked to see Hoon and YuWon greeting each other.
“Wait, you know this guy?” Hargaan asked YuWon.
Hoon of the NamGung Clan was pretty famous among the players. That fame was bolstered by the fact that the Grand Martial Arts Tournament was hosted by the Martial Artists’ Alliance, which was led by the head of the NamGung Clan.
YuWon nodded in response, “We took a test together.”
“We were enemies though.”
Hargaan remarked with fascination after hearing Hoon’s explanation, “I’m surprised you’re alive.”
To some, being told that they should have died from meeting someone as enemies might have been insulting, but Hoon took no offense.
Hargaan was right. Had YuWon fought him seriously, he would not be present today.
“Name’s Hargaan. I’m sure you’ve heard of me, but I’m the great successor of Olympus.”
“I’ve heard quite a few people claim to be the successor,” Hoon retorted.
Hargaan’s boasting was popped like a balloon, but instead of taking offense, Hargaan burst out into laughter. “My family is a bit of shitshow.” Hargaan was only half-joking.
Hoon knew he shouldn’t laugh, but he couldn’t contain it all.
This friendly banter didn’t last long.
“—Attention all main stage participants. Please enter the arena now.”
The announcement that could be heard even outside the stadium made Hoon’s expression freeze.
“It’s nice seeing you again, but it seems like we won’t have long to talk,” Hoon told Yuwon.
“Is there something you need to tell me?”
“I’m not all that worried, but I thought you should still know.”
“Be careful just in case.”
With his cryptic warning, Hoon turned around and went inside the stadium.
“Huh? What’s he talking about?” Hargaan asked YuWon, brimming with curiosity.
But YuWon was also just as lost, though he decided not to dwell too much on it. He figured he would find out soon enough in the arena.
“Let’s go in,” Yuwon said while marching ahead.
The two headed inside the stadium and saw the massive stage filled with countless participants.
‘There sure are a lot,’ YuWon thought.
There had to be at least a few thousand people. The arena that looked bare when only ten people were standing on it now looked cramped.
Everyone in the arena was a skilled player that had made it through the preliminaries where only one in ten people made it out. With over a thousand of such players, it was truly a sight to behold.
YuWon noticed some discrepancies, but it was nothing major as it was just the ‘gazes’ of people.
“Be careful just in case.”
YuWon had a hunch of what Hoon’s concern was.
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‘So that’s what it is,’ YuWon thought.
He smirked a bit.
If it weren’t for Hoon’s warning and the sudden change in the rules, YuWon would have just brushed the gazes off. But once he focused in on the gazes, it was easy to notice the fighting spirit in their eyes.
A little over 100 players of the Martial Realm, or more specifically, players of the Martial Guild were showing hostility towards YuWon.