Chapter 32: The Sparring Arena

The Beautician gathered two badges from the staff, handing them to the others. “Let’s go on in. I can’t wait.”

Peering at Lan Jue, the Barber pressed the badge in his hand. Instantly a silvery light enveloped his body, and he stepped through a barrier of light with the number 23 above it.

Lan Jue, in turn, bowed towards the Beautician. After giving his regards he employed the badge and entered the arena.

With a flash of light, the scenery changed before his very eyes.

The arena was circular, with a diameter exceeding three hundred meters. The Barber had already made his way to the far ends of the arena. He stood with his hands clasped behind his back, smiling.

As it was Lan Jue’s first visit to the Reaper’s Arena, he took it all in earnestly.

The circular arena’s floor was fabricated with a special material. It was surrounded by walls that rose a hundred meters in to the air. It was like the entire arena was covered in a some sort of case.

A robotic voice filled the air.

“Welcome to the S-Rank Sparring Arena. There are no rules: surrendering, or activating your Arena Badge will terminate the match. Whoever terminates the match is declared the loser. The results will be entered in to record.”

“Participants are; the Jewel Master; the Barber. This match will not exceed sixty minutes.”

“Match, begin!”

The series of announcements repeated, going over the rules.

“From the look of you, it really is the first time you’ve been here Jewel Master,” the Barber said, in no hurry to attack.

Lan Jue nodded in affirmation. “That’s right, first time.”

The Barber smiled. “I’ll make sure to leave you with a good impression. No crying, though!”

Lan Jue returned the smile. “We are nobles; fair, modest, astute, intelligent. We certainly aren’t puerile.”

He stood about a hundred and fifty meters from Lan Jue. The smile fled from his face. “Are you calling me childish?”

“Heh.”

The Barber glared at him, and lifting his right hand palm upward. Without any clear motion, the Barber caused the entire arena to warp , and a strange buzz issued forth.

Boom! A violent blast was heard. All that could be seen was an orb of crackling blue light that surrounded Lan Jue. The barrier undulated like it had been struck by some great force.

It flickered, undulating like choppy seas, and shimmered from the pressure.

“Quite the display, not bad at all,” Lan Jue praised, honesty in his voice.

And it was. The attack had come from the Barber slapping his hand, the impact causing an explosion. A blast of a hundred and fifty meters, produced only by a palm – it must have been nearly the speed of sound.

“Not bad yourself, though it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a blue turtle shell,” the Barber taunted. In the next instant, he’d disappeared.

Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom… ! A succession of thunderous blasts erupted, and the lightshield surrounding Lan Jue shuddered like it had been fed through a wood chipper. Countless bursts of light appeared where the invisible attacks landed. The terrifying attacks left deep ravines in the arena floor.

Lan Jue’s brows had drawn together, and he stood quietly never moving from his spot. It was like he didn’t react at all, or he had no way to react. He only suffered the mad blows of the Barber, who’d disappeared in to thin air.

Whoosh! The Barber appeared anew, this time fifty meters in front of Lan Jue.

“Are you planning to sit there and defend until I run out of power? We’ll see just how strong your defense really is.” The Barber glared at Lan Jue.

Bzzt bzzt bzzt! A deep hum wormed from around the Barber’s body. The power coursing through him covered him in a dim cyan light.

Looking on, Lan Jue’s face took on a strange expression.

Cyan represented wind-element Disciplines. The Barber’s power was derived from wind.

The Barber’s body shimmered and flashed, suddenly dropping down from the skies. As he began to descend a dull blast filled the air.

He broke the sound barrier! Sound!

In the space of an instant the Barber’s fist appeared before Lan Jue’s face. His luminous shell began to cave, crack, then shatter with a loud crash in to countless motes of light.

But it was the Barber’s scowling face that froze in shock. A large, powerful hand was gripping his fist.

“How could you be this fast?” The Barber looked at Lan Jue, stupefied.

Lan Jue looked at him, shaking his head apologetically. “Your genetic Talent just barely reaches the Ninth level. Your ability has only reached sound. I’m guessing the best you can achieve is four times the speed of sound. Once you’ve reached the ninth rank, your strength doubles with each subsequent degree. You’re just a first degree Ninth-Rank Talent, and though your control is excellent it isn’t enough. I once knew a ninth degree Ninth-Rank Talent, also a wind-element Adept. Not only could move at the speed of sound. He could move at the speed of light. Your Talent is quite good, but you’ve used too many drugs, and they’ve limited your potential. Continue to work on your foundation, keep striving. After all, you’re still young.”

Though he certainly appeared younger than the Barber, in the midst of his lecture he looked for all the world like a professor.

“Ninth degree Ninth-Rank? It’s impossible for the Wind Discipline to grow that high!” The cyan light surrounding the Barber bloomed suddenly, employing all his power to wrench his fist free from Lan Jue’s grasp.

“It brings you no shame to be uninformed, but I didn’t want to say anything. You’ve lost, and I appreciate your gift of the Harlequin Silver.” Lan Jue offered a small smile, and the power surrounding the Barber became a deep blue. In the next instant, his entire body sparked as bolts of lightning spat out from him.

Clap, clap, clap. The sound of applause prefaced the Beautician’s arrival, though no one knew how long she’d been in the arena. “Splendid, Little Brother! I hadn’t expected you’d be so strong! You certainly opened your Big Sister’s eyes. It’s just, you only said his own power wasn’t sufficient. How is it as a Lightning Disciple you are so fast?”

Lan Jue spotted the Barber struggling to catch his breath, freeing himself from the incapacitating lightning. He looked up at the grinning face of the Beautician. “Both of you now.”

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