Chapter 348: Re-Ranking Preliminary Round
As the sun rose in the morning, the tournament started in a silent manner . Most members of the Shadow Army remained at their posts as they had to be on the lookout for goblins . Only squad leaders and jobless members were asked to join the opening ceremony, listening to the rules .
As a result, when Sila arrived at the arena, he found that his 99th squad was the only squad that had all members present .
The opening ceremony was roughly held since it was an unofficial event . The NPC host of the event asked all squad leaders to come up to a stage, where it proceeded to hand each of them an empty pouch .
Sila didn’t recognize anyone, mainly because everyone was fully dressed and wore masks . Some people might be able to tell their friends apart by their outfits, but not him . There were almost two hundred people present and some were good at power concealment, so it was a difficult feat to find anyone specific .
A female NPC appeared on the stage with a microphone in her hand . Sila remembered her . She was the same host who managed the couples event in the Town of Beginnings .
“Greetings, everyone . It seems all squad leaders have arrived . In order to not waste any time, please allow me to begin the Shadow Army’s Re-Ranking Tournament right away!” Her voice resonated throughout the Colosseum with no spectators, and of those present only those who would be participating were listening with interest .
“We were asked to come up with a tournament that is fair to every squad regardless of the number of members, so we have prepared three rounds of tournament; one for testing your members, one for testing teamwork, and the last for testing leaders . Nevertheless, since there are ninety-nine teams participating in the tournament, we decided that a preliminary round is necessary to trim the number of participating teams . ”
There was a bit of commotion, but nothing too loud . This made Sila realize that every person in this place was a capable squad leader with a calm and collected mind .
“It is just a preliminary round, but there will be special points awarded to the squads that deliver good results . ”
She opened both of her palms . On her right was a tiny glass marble while a one-eyed bat appeared on her left . It was a small monster with one eye and a big mouth .
“The preliminary round will last ten minutes . There are a hundred marbles like this one, each within a bat like this . Your mission is to seize marbles from these bats . Each marble has a number engraved on it, ranging from zero to ninety-nine . Please take a look . Observe closely, and you will spot the number . ”
She waved her hand once, and a marble appeared on each squad leader’s palm . Sila looked at it and found that the number ‘99’ was indeed engraved inside of the marble in his hand .
The NPC further demonstrated by extending the marble, prompting the bat to swallow it .
“These numeric marbles will be converted to points after the three rounds have ended . Squad leaders are responsible for holding onto them . You are free to trade them among yourselves or keep them in order to exchange them for special rewards that will help you in each round . Think of them as a type of currency in this tournament . ”
Many squad leaders pondered over what she said . Since these marbles could be exchanged, that meant the tournament didn’t simply test their fighting strength but also their decision-making and negotiation skills .
“There are two phases in the preliminary round: the first nine minutes and the last minute . ” She clapped twice and summoned another bat with puffy cheeks .
“Let me tell you beforehand that these monsters are not really One-Eyed Bats but specially-made monsters . They are a bit unique, meaning they are immortal against all attacks unless your squad number is the same as the number on the marble in its mouth . Allow me to demonstrate . ”
She summoned a dagger in her hand and stabbed the bat, yet not even a scratch appeared . The stab only pushed it away . When she stabbed another bat, however, it immediately died and dropped a marble .
“On the contrary, if your number matches the one in its mouth, it will be especially vulnerable against your attack . Even if you don’t use energy reinforcement, you can still kill it in one hit . ”
She stopped briefly to make sure that everyone was following her explanation . In the first nine minutes, no one could kill the bats unless it was the one with their number on it .
“The last minute is when all this changes . The bats will no longer be immortal, though every of them will have their health points fixed at 500,000 instead . ”
She removed the remaining bat and showed everyone two of the pouches she had handed to squad leaders previously . One of them was thin, indicating that it was empty, while the other was stuffed .
“These pouches are for keeping marbles . When there are marbles inside, no matter how many, they will look the same . They also can’t be inspected . You won’t be able to know the amount of marbles that someone else has collected . All you will be able to determine is whether they have marbles or not . You can only store the marbles in the pouch, not your system window . The marbles can’t be stolen as long as they are in the pouch . ”
This revelation took a load off some of the players’ minds as they were wary of skills relating to stealing .
“To pass the preliminary round, you simply have to possess at least one marble at the end of the round . Having more of them is better though, since they will give you bonus points in future rounds . ”
One marble for each squad . It sounded easy . However, everyone naturally wanted their squads to have many marbles . This preliminary round could easily eliminate more than half of the total participants .
“As I mentioned before, the marbles in this round will give you additional bonuses . Apart from them being a currency, these marbles will be converted into points for scoring that decide the victor . In future rounds, there will be a lot of non-numeric marbles, each giving one point . On the other hand, the numeric ones issued in this preliminary round will give you ten points . Additionally, the one with the same number as your squad will give you fifty points . Lastly, the most special one is this . ”
She showed everyone the marble in her hand . “The number zero marble . It will give you a hundred points . There are a hundred bats in this round . One of them will drop this marble . ”
Isaac raised his hand, asking a question . “When can we attack this bat with the number zero marble?”
The surrounding players began to chuckle, especially when they noticed that the one asking the question belonged to the 99th squad .
The female NPC smiled and replied in a friendly manner . “The bat’s number doesn’t match with any of the squads, so it can only be killed during the last minute, sir . ”
Miki poked Isaac in his head . “Dumbass . Don’t show everyone how stupid you are . You should have known this much without asking . ”
Groaning, Isaac shut his mouth, no longer in the mood to talk .
The NPC continued, “The tournament will last an entire day . The first round will start at midday, the second round at six p . m, and the final round at midnight . The contents of each round will be explained after the previous round has ended . There will be bulletin boards showing the number of non-numeric marbles that each squad has . As for the numeric marbles, the points will be awarded at the end of the tournament . ”
The players realized the board was unreliable . Some squads might be shown at the bottom, but if they have a lot of numeric marbles, they might turn the tables and win . They started to understand the importance of the preliminary round . Acquiring numeric marbles in this round would give them an edge throughout the tournament .
“It’s getting late . Only squad leaders can participate in this round . As for the remaining players, please go and wait in the spectator zone we have prepared . Allow me to recollect the marbles . ”
The marbles in the squad leaders’ hands flew back to her . Alpha, Miki, Isaac, Midnight, and the other non-leader members walked to the aforementioned spectator zone .
The female NPC talked to the squad leaders . “The bats will fly around this arena . If the ten minutes are up and some are still alive, they will simply vanish together with the marbles inside them . We hope you have fun with the tournament, ladies and gentlemen!”
She eventually left the arena, entering the waiting zone along with the non-leaders . Sila had participated in the Colossia City’s tournament once . Looking from the outside, the Colosseum might seem as large as a soccer field . However, the inside was a special dimension, which was larger and wider than it appeared to be . It was natural since it could hold many events at the same time . There had even been an event that grouped players against a massive-sized monster . The arena this time was as wide as five soccer fields . With the ninety-nine squad leaders trying to put some distance between each other, they would look like small dots scattering around the place if viewed from above .
“The round will start right after the gunshot,” The host said from the waiting zone, revealing a handgun in her hand . A hundred bats started to fly around in the sky above the arena . Their speed was exceptionally fast, making the players frown, especially those who had encountered the real One-Eyed Bats before .
The starting signal rang out . Half of the squad leaders unleashed big moves, creating something like fireworks in the sky . A couple of bats died from the blasts and dropped marbles . Many rushed to collect them .
‘I see . They are using AoE attacks because the bats with their numbers will die in one hit,’ Sila mused as he observed others’ actions . He already had his own ideas about what to do, but he wanted to take some time observing others first .
‘This kind of psychic power . . . who is it?’ Sensing a familiar power, Sila turned his head, then found a familiar man . It was Mugen, the 19th squad leader .
Mugen was standing still while most people were on the move, so his presence was quite eye-catching . He tightened the katana on his waist, taking an Iaido stance . Sila could sense subtle psychic power leaking from the man’s eyes and wrist .
The katana was drawn for an instant before returning to its sheath immediately, cutting one of the bats in half . A marble dropped, which Mugen leisurely collected . He then simply waited for the last minute, his stance neat and imposing like an artistic character out of an illustration .
‘These bats are small and agile, yet he could use Psychic Eyes to pinpoint a particular one with his number . He is very skilled . ’
Sila also noticed that Mugen had exerted the right amount of psychic power . The neatly executed Iaido just now told him a lot about Mugun’s swordsmanship and mental fortitude .
One of the bats flew near Sila . He slowly extended his hand, yet he managed to catch it as if it deliberately flew into his palm .
‘Well, regardless of how fast it moves, it’s still nothing compared to the Wind Dragon . ’ Against a fast-moving opponent with no intelligence to rely on, Sila could easily catch it with nothing but Six Moon-Grabbing Claws .
“Kew! Kew!” The tiny bat struggled in his clutch . Sila tried opening its mouth and found nothing .
The female NPC’s sound rang out from the waiting zone . “Mister 99th Squad Leader, although these bats have the marbles inside them, they are dropped items . You can’t find them in their mouths . ”
The surrounding players laughed . It seemed to them that the 99th squad was participating in the tournament as a joke . Even the squad leader was showing idiocy .
Sila didn’t mind his failure . He simply let it go . He merely caught it out of curiosity since it had approached him . He intended to acquire the marbles during the last minute, so he had nothing to do for the first nine minutes .
He calmly observed others amidst waves of laughter coming from other squads, pointing at him who did nothing but helplessly watch other participants .
A man in wuxia clothing soared to the sky and pounced on a bat . Sila noticed that the man was Lone Wolf, who had managed to get his hand on the marble of his number .
‘Hm? How could he find his bat? Unlike psychic power, qi doesn’t help us spot the number, does it?’ Sila didn’t dare to probe Lone Wolf’s action using qi, so he was clueless about the method that the man used to accomplish the feat .
As a matter of fact, Lone Wolf had left a part of his qi on his marble when the host gave the participants the marbles to inspect . Qi types are sensitive to power, especially to their own qi . Thus, Lone Wolf could always sense his qi leaking from the bat holding his marble .
Time passed . Only a few were still trying . Except for some who already got their hands on their marbles, most had given up trying to catch the bats, putting their hopes in getting some marbles during the last minute .
As the last minute approached, people quit trying to catch the bats . Some were chanting, ready to fire AoE skills . They were capable squad leaders, so they were confident in their control that their attacks wouldn’t hurt other people, only the bats in the sky .
Seeing everyone else getting ready, Sila did the same . He hid his palm behind his back . It faintly glowed while showing the symbol of his Lordship . He muttered, “Artifact Manifestation . ”
Last night, Fowl had taught Sila about common sense in the world of magic, which overturned Sila’s understanding of the magic type . He had always thought that magic abilities were difficult to use . However, it turned out that it was actually his fault for not understanding how it functioned .
Manifesting a sword out of psychic power was easy . Just imagine a sword, and he would get one according to the amount of psychic power he spent creating it . However, magic power wasn’t about wild imagination . Imagination alone wouldn’t work .
The key component in weapon creation from magic power wasn’t imagination but knowledge .
During weapon creation, the creator must spend the right amount of magic power and properly define the sword’s characteristics— its size, shape, weight, color, and so on . This is especially true in the case of Artifact Manifestation . Artifacts aren’t something you imagine but an object that actually existed at some point in time . The user of the skill must test manifesting ones again and again to learn the predetermined results .
Fowl had informed Sila of existing high-grade magical arrows she had seen strong monsters use in the Monster Realm .
Since Sila was more focused on training to counter Isabel, he only managed to memorize four kinds of magical arrows . It took time for him to do it by repeatedly casting the spell until he got the realistic feel of each arrow .
“It’s the last minute!” shouted the NPC .
Miki also shouted, “Get some, Leader! Whichever one!”
The squad leaders unleashed their skills . A blinding flash of magic spells covered the sky . Almost all of the remaining bats turned to dust and dropped marbles . The moment that all attention was locked onto the sky was the moment Sila made his move .
‘As expected from leader-level players, a lot of the bats were killed . ’
Sila never intended to attack the bats as he was confident that the attacks from squad leaders were enough to wipe out the bats with poor defense . He only needed to collect the marbles faster than others .
Dark Element Artifact Manifestation — Crouching Demon Arrow .
An arrow flew toward another corner of the arena at shocking speed . Once it reached the corner, it exploded into black smoke, forming into the face of a wicked, evil creature . The arrow was originally made of the Demon Lord’s bones, which were only granted to his trustworthy lackeys . Its attack power was zero, but it had the power to instill fear in surrounding targets . It could subdue an opponent with extreme horror, displaying the might of the Demon Lord who was equal to God .
Exposed to such a level of power, all the players temporarily forgot the tournament and hurriedly put up energy reinforcement . They all stared at the direction of the face of the demon .
Their immediate fear lasted only a moment, probably shorter than a moment of breath . When everyone was focusing on his decoy, Sila summoned several common magic arrows . Using the essence of psychic, he manifested each arrow accurately next to a marble, knocking each of them toward him .
Considering the number of them, Sila naturally made some errors, especially since he wasn’t good at using magic . Still, he didn’t need to strike every marble into a small pocket like billiards . Just putting them into the effective range of King’s Treasury was enough .
Most of the dropped marbles flew into Sila’s poach at the same time that he deactivated the Crouching Demon Arrow . It was then that the participants recalled they were competing in a tournament and realized the former attack was merely distraction .
“Oi! Where are the marbles?!” Only seven bats were left flying in the sky .
Actually, Sila’s actions weren’t so subtle . Rather, he had made a big move, easily noticeable . However, his distraction was simply too good, as if he were a seasoned magician, misdirecting the audience’s attention to his right hand and making them completely overlook what was in his left .
A tremendous source of power suddenly exploded in the middle of the city during wartime . It was a given that all of the alerted players would shift their focus to the source .
Sila hid his pouch . He fired a magic arrow at one of the remaining bats and levitated to collect the dropped marble, pretending that it was the first one he got . His action made the participants realize that the round had yet to end . They hurriedly bombarded their attacks on the remaining six bats .