Flamy swallowed a huge, fat fish from its bucket in one gulp and frowned at Goldie. For some reason, the duck seemed awfully weary.
Goldie plopped down on the ground and stared lifelessly at the food in front of it.
I'm such a dunderhead.
Goldie could feel tears welling up in its eyes. However, it knew that it had to stay strong. Big ducks don't cry, it reminded itself.
Gao Peng decided not to pay Goldie any mind for now. He had already let the duck keep the winnings for his bet on Zhang Yi. Instead of doing the sensible thing, like saving the money for a rainy day, it had gone behind his back and blown all of its money on a losing bet.
"Serves you right!" muttered Gao Peng.
Goldie tearfully looked at Gao Peng, as if it was expecting a word of consolation from him. When it heard what he said, it nearly burst into tears.
"Let me ask you something—how did you get the shop owner to let you place your bet? He shouldn't have been able to understand you," asked Gao Peng curiously.
Not too far away, Stripey shuddered when he heard Gao Peng interrogating the duck.
I knew it, the duck's going to rat me out.
Stripey squirmed uncomfortably as it observed Gao Peng's face, trying to figure out if he had found out about its involvement.
Then it scuttled out of the house before anyone noticed its absence.
"Stripey is smart. Its writing was so beautiful," Goldie stammered.
Outside the house, Stripey nearly fainted when it heard the duck say its name. It quickly dug a hole in the backyard and buried itself inside.
This has nothing to do with me. I'm innocent, thought the spider. Gao Peng would definitely come after it as soon as he was done grilling the duck for information.
"I see, so Stripey helped you," said Gao Peng, nodding. He went into the backyard and stomped on a freshly disturbed patch of dirt a couple of times. He said to it, "Cut the act, Stripey. I know you helped Goldie write the message. Instead of poking your nose in other people's business, why don't you focus more on your studies?"
The next day, Goldie was reading a magazine titled "Finance and Wall Street." It had been reading the magazine for three whole hours. Finally, it stood up and threw the magazine into the trash can.
"Screw this!" grumbled Goldie. It looked down at its puffed-up chest and paused there for a moment, as if it had come to an epiphany. It was me. I was the one who messed up.
The tournament's third round commenced that day. Unlike the first two rounds, all contestants would be matched against each other, regardless of region of origin, in the third round.
Sixteen contestants now remained in the tournament.
Those who managed to make it this far were considered to be the cream of the crop.
On average, every region had three to four finalists advancing to the third round. However, some of the teams had been completely wiped out.
The Huaxia region had four contestants remaining in the tournament: Zhang Yi, Jun Moyi, Gao Leshi, and Long Binyu.
Each finalist had their own ace familiar.
Zhang Yi's strongest familiar was the Fire-type Skyfire Hound, who had been nicknamed "Hellhound Emperor" by fans. However, according to rumors, Zhang Yi didn't like the name.
Jun Moyi's main familiar was the Black Anaconda, while Gao Leshi's was a Perfect-grade Commander-tier Bloodhorn Armor Wolf.
Long Binyu's was a Perfect-grade Polar Scarab.
Only Zhang Yi's Skyfire Hound was an Epic-grade monster. The rest were only Perfect-grade. Even in such a large-scale event, an Epic-grade monster was extremely rare among the contestants.
Apparently luck was on Huaxia region's team, as none of its members were matched against each other.
When their matches were announced, all four of them let out a collective sigh of relief. None of them had Gao Peng as their referee.
Among all eight participants from the Huaxia region who had been disqualified, six of them had matches that had been refereed by Gao Peng.
Of course, all of them had been eliminated from the tournament due to a lack of skill. However, the fact that all the matches that Gao Peng had refereed had ended in Huaxia's defeat was way too unlikely to be a coincidence.
Even the less superstitious ones in the stands had begun whispering about it.
Gao Peng didn't know whether to laugh or cry. This had nothing to do with him. He was also a citizen of the Huaxia region. He had no reason to undermine his own region.
In the name of unbiased refereeing, he simply couldn't take matters into his own hands every time a Huaxia contestant lost his or her match.
Gao Peng didn't know what to do about this. In truth, his job as a referee wasn't as exciting as he had been led to believe.
Zhang Yi's opponent was Brandy from the Yinglie region. Brandy was the one who had defeated Huaxia's Yu Ge in the first round, so a lot of people in the stands were eager to watch this match.
The match between an Epic Fire-type familiar and an Epic Wood-type familiar had gone just as everyone had expected. Zhang Yi's Skyfire Hound had the upper hand from the start. Waves of fire billowed from it, roasting the Wailing Serpent Snake alive.
The Wailing Serpent Snake let out a terrible shriek from the hole in its trunk. In the end, Brandy conceded, and his familiar was carted off of the field to have its injuries treated.
Every match ended surprisingly quickly in the third round as the spectators cheered uproariously for their teams from the stands.
Commander-tier familiars were all capable of Elemental Discharge. Despite not being as powerful as Lord-tier familiars, most of their abilities were flashy enough to put on a good show for the audience.
All this reminded Gao Peng of the underground monster fighting rings back home, which weren't too different from this.
One was simply held under an official flag, while the other was illegal.