Chapter 454 - Into the Arena
Tang Wulin strode forward with his head held high, his comrades trailing him. They walked with their backs straight and chests puffed out. They weren't just here to complete their exam. They also had to win glory for Shrek Academy!
Only upon entering the arena did Tang Wulin understand its size. Not even Shrek Academy could boast an arena as large as this. Modeled after coliseums of old, where champions fought soul beasts to the death for others' entertainment, the arena spanned long and wide. The spectators' stands could easily accommodate 150,000 people. To Tang Wulin's knowledge, this might even be the largest stadium on the entire continent. It stood in the heart of the Imperial Sun Moon Academy, surrounded by numerous skyscrapers.
The stands were nearly full. It was clear that not all of the spectators were students, as an academy rarely had a student population over ten thousand. Tang Wulin couldn't fathom where they had all come from.
The moment his team had entered the stadium, the roaring excitement stilled. Over a hundred thousand gazes converged on them at once.
Even as strong-willed as they were, they couldn't help but falter under the weight of so many hostile stares. Xu Xiaoyan and Xu Lizhi suffered the worst out of them all, their faces paling before the audience.
All of Tang Wulin's team were affected by the concentrated hostility..
Tang Wulin sucked in a deep breath. It looks like this is going to be harder than I thought.
He stepped forward and summoned his golden soul ring. It glowed most resplendently, calling forth his blood essence to surge within him. He straightened his back and stood taller than before, an aura of blood essence flaring around him, spreading to envelop his comrades.
They felt the pressure on their minds easing as it did. The world around them seemed to grow smaller, and themselves bigger. Supported by Tang Wulin's aura, they were able to stand tall and confident once more.
On the platform, an elderly man knitted his brow. "A golden soul ring?"
"I've never seen one before. Is that a million-year soul ring? Impossible!" a middle-aged man exclaimed at the elder man's side. "Not even the Spirit Pagoda has a million-year soul beast! Million-year soul rings have only appeared twice in all of history!"
"But both those two times were at Shrek Academy. We have to keep an eye on him," the elder said.
Before the regal might of the golden soul ring, the spectators' gazes no longer seemed so stifling. But such a reprieve didn't last. Soon after, the stands were filled with crude swearing, all directed toward Tang Wulin's team.
Head held high, Tang Wulin ignored the jeers and continued his march toward the center of the arena. Six people waited in that space. They wore the white uniforms of the Imperial Sun Moon Academy, faces betraying a youth that rivaled Tang Wulin's own.
Apart from those six, a man in his forties hovered on the side of the stage, his feet quite far from the ground. He was equipped with battle armor, and from the beauty of it, Tang Wulin estimated it to be of the three-word sort. Is he the referee? Or did they deliberately bring him here to intimidate us?
Entering such a grand stage for a match would frighten most people. But not Tang Wulin. He embraced the challenge and would rise up to overcome it. This was so ingrained into his nature that his friends had fallen into the habit of calling him a spring. The harder he was pressed, the greater the force he would bounce back.
A confident smile on his lips, he approached his opponents to greet them. Both teams were lined up side-by-side to face each other. Unlike the Imperial Sun Moon Academy's team, however, Tang Wulin's team did not wear their academy's uniform. Instead, they were dressed in common, green sportswear. It was the best they could do, seeing that their uniforms had been confiscated upon the exam's start.
"I will now announce the rules of the match," the referee said.
"What?" Tang Wulin placed a hand to his ear.
"I said, I will now announce the rules of the match!" the referee said, raising his voice.
"What did you say? I couldn't hear you! It's too noisy in here," Tang Wulin said, blinking his large, doe-like eyes.
The man's expression clouded over. "Are you here to battle or not?"
"Sorry! I didn't catch that! Can you repeat that again? There ares too many flies buzzing around in here, so I couldn't hear you. Could you use some bug spray to make these flies quiet down first?" Tang Wulin's voice rang loud and clear in the stadium. He had poured soul power into his voice to make sure it did, but the broadcast equipment would have picked it up anyway.
"Raise the barrier," the referee ordered, his face sour.
A transparent white film burst from the ground, curving toward the top of the arena to form a dome. The barrier was soundproof, cutting them off from the jeers of the crowd. Silence returned to the arena.
"Can you hear me now?" the referee asked, an edge to his voice.
Tang Wulin nodded, then reached for his ears and removed a pair of ear plugs. He flashed a smile. "It's finally quiet again."
The rest of his comrades followed suit, removing their ear plugs in one fluid motion.
The referee felt his cheek twitch. If there weren't so many witnesses present, he would have beat them to death right there.
It wasn't only those present in the arena who were watching. The match was being broadcasted to every television station on the continent! Everyone was watching.
The Imperial Sun Moon Academy had arranged all of this to intimidate the Shrek Academy team. Even if they were strong, they were still young children. It was extremely unlikely they would possess the maturity to be unaffected by these scare tactics. If it meant that their chance at victory would increase even by the slightest hint, then all of the resources the Imperial Sun Moon Academy had poured into this endeavour would be worth it.
However, they had never expected to encounter someone as audacious as Tang Wulin. His simple action of taking out ear plugs had shocked everyone present. By the time the spectators had broken out of their surprise and began hurling curses with renewed vigor, the barrier was erected, soundproof and all. Those watching on their televisions didn't have much of an opinion on the posturing, except for those affiliated with Shrek Academy, who were grinning and leaning forward in their seats.
Shrek has raised a real clown this time. The referee sent a heated look at Tang Wulin. "I will now announce the rules."
"Okay. Go ahead," Tang Wulin said with an earnest shine to his eyes.
"The main purpose of this match is to learn from one another, but in order for both sides to unleash their full strength, I will only intervene in three situations: when someone is at risk of receiving a fatal attack, becoming handicapped, or dying. The condition of victory is wiping out the opposing team. Understood?"
"So what you're saying is, apart from killing each other, anything goes?" Tang Wulin asked.
The members of the Imperial Sun Moon Academy team glared daggers at him, but not a word left their lips.
"You could take it like that," the referee said, contempt flashing in his eyes.