Book 12: The Strength of the Preparatory Team
Chapter 108.1: The Princess
The Star Luo Emperor smiled faintly and said, "In order to ensure the safety of the semi-finalists and the finalists, I have decided that the Empire's Protector Douluo will be the judges for the subsequent rounds, and be hosts to the contest. Senior Huang Jinxu shall be the host for today's balloting and the first round. His title is the Heavenfiend Lonestar."
The emperor's introduction stirred up a wave of applause from the citizens in the audience. However, the participating teams were all slightly taken aback.
Wang Yan was surprised and remarked, "Huang Jinxu, the Heavenfiend Douluo. I thought he was long dead - who knew that he joined the Star Luo Empire instead."
Ma Xiaotao was already walking up to the stage. Huo Yuhao whispered to Bei Bei beside him, "Senior brother, what's the deal with this Heavenfiend Douluo? Is he very powerful?"
Bei Bei nodded his head without hesitation and said, "Yes, very powerful. The Star Luo Empire is trying to assert their dominance and flaunt their national strength. The Heavenfiend Douluo's martial soul is extremely special - he uses the stars in the skies above as his own martial soul. Legend has it that there was a star that was especially bright on the day he was born. His martial soul was automatically awakened after his birth. On the same night, his mother died from losing too much blood, and his father passed away when he was eight years old. After this, his friends also died one by one. It was later discovered that his martial soul was the Heavenfiend Lonestar that targeted his family and friends. Because of this, he is destined to be alone for the rest of his life."
Huo Yuhao's mouth hung open in shock. "There can be martial souls like this?"
Bei Bei smiled and replied, "Soul masters can have any kind of martial soul; what isn't possible? This elder's Heavenfiend Lonestar martial soul caused him to lose his family, but at the same time, it gave him great power. It's been claimed that he cultivated without a master, and that everything he knows is self-taught. He has continued his journey alone over the years, and eventually attained the title of Heavenfiend. He's around sixty years old this year, and he is around Rank 91 or 92. However, it's been said that star power of the Heavenfiend Lonestar enables him to hold his own against a Rank 95 Transcendent Douluo."
"He has had to rely on himself for everything, since he lost all his family and friends at a very young age. Perhaps this explains why the Heavenfiend Douluo is a very capricious person with a fickle nature, becoming extremely cruel and brutal at times. However, rumor has it that he picked a fight with several powerful sects some time ago, and they chased him down like a dog."
Just as Bei Bei was introducing the Heavenfiend Douluo's background to Huo Yuhao, the respective team leaders of the final four teams arrived on stage.
Ma Xiaotao represented Shrek Academy, while Ma Rulong represented the Sun Moon Imperial Soul Engineering Academy. The team leader of the Imperial Mystical Academy was a youth with broad shoulders and an average build; he had a calm disposition, and looked as firm as a rock. The representative from the Star Luo National Academy was a young girl. A female team leader was a rare sight. Huo Yuhao and the others from Shrek Academy had seen this girl before - she was the chief auctioneer from the Star Luo Auction, Princess Jiu Jiu.
It wasn't just the company from Shrek Academy who were astonished. The participants from the Sun Moon Imperial Soul Engineering Academy were equally surprised as their eyes widened - they had also been there during the top-ranked auction!
The Star Luo National Academy's uniform was a pale-yellow warrior robe. The princess was a lot different compared to her dignified and elegant look during the auction that day. Donning a warrior robe changed her aura, and now she seemed to emanate a rippling heroic spirit. Her flowing blonde hair was tied up in a ponytail, and she wore a faint smile on her pretty face. The yellow warrior robe was tailored to her body, and it brought out the distinct features of her perfect and alluring figure.
Even though Ma Xiaotao's aura wasn't inferior to hers- in fact, Ma Xiaotao's figure was even slightly better- there was a still a feeling that she was outdone by this princess on the whole.
Ma Rulong only glanced at the princess once, and his eyes betrayed a tinge of astonishment before he turned his gaze elsewhere. The team leader from Imperial Mystical Academy stared at Jiu Jiu for a long time before he shifted his eyes away.
Wang Yan furrowed his brows as he watched the princess on stage. She hadn't appeared in the Star Luo National Academy's lineup before today. However, according to what he knew, the Star Luo National Academy's reserve team had a single vacancy.
Whether it was him or the other three academies, nobody knew anything regarding this princess.
Suddenly, Wang Yan's eyes flickered as a trace of bewilderment flowed out from within. "I remember now. Yueheng, the Star Luo royal family's martial souls should be…"
Dai Yueheng arrived next to Wang Yan and nodded. "Your guess is correct, Teacher Wang. My father has evaluated the emperor's martial soul before, but he only said a few words - enigmatic and impossible to predict. My father also said that the emperor is the most talented and prodigious individual in the past three hundred years. However, I have never heard of the princess…"
Wang Yan took a deep breath and said, "Let's watch the lots first."
The four representatives from the final four academies were already on stage, and the lot drawing had begun.
The four team leaders arrived before the Star Luo Emperor under the watchful eyes of four Titled Douluos. The Star Luo Emperor smiled and said, "It's a pleasure to meet such outstanding youths such as yourselves. Before the competition begins, I'd like to remind all of you that friendship takes priority over anything. I hope you can finish the competition with that in mind. I will toss four inscribed balls after this, and you guys will vie for them at the same time. Are you ready?"
Ma Xiaotao narrowed her eyes slightly as she stole a glance at Princess Jiu Jiu beside her. "Ready."
Princess Jiu Jiu smiled and nodded her head as Ma Rulong and the Imperial Mystical Academy's team leader tilted their heads in response as well.
"Pay attention." The Star Luo Emperor squinted his eyes. Immediately after - and nobody saw how he did it - the four golden balls were tossed into the air at the same time.
Ma Xiaotao was already lying in wait. She shot into the air the moment the Star Luo Emperor made his move. Releasing her martial soul and using soul skills wouldn't affect her speed at such a short distance. Her choice was the same as Ma Rulong and Imperial Mystical Academy's team leader, as all of them leapt into the air towards the four golden balls in the sky as fast as they could.
Princess Jiu Jiu was the only one that didn't move an inch - she just stood there with a grin on her face.
Ma Xiaotao lived up to her status as Shrek Academy's team leader. One shouldn't underestimate her just because she was a girl- her enchanting figure was like a spring as she shot up into the air. She caught the tiny ball in an instant before she drifted back down. As she was descending, the Imperial Mystical Academy's team leader and Ma Rulong caught theirs respectively, while Princess Jiu Jiu casually reached out to catch the last remaining golden ball as it dropped down.
A faint smile appeared on her face. She glanced at the tiny ball in her hands. Even though she was the last one to catch the ball, she was the first to report.
Ma Rulong said, "Two."
Ma Xiaotao stared straight at Princess Jiu Jiu's face. "One."
Even though the Imperial Mystical Academy had yet to report their number, the results of the ballot were decided. Shrek Academy would face off against the Star Luo National Academy today, while the Sun Moon Imperial Soul Engineering Academy would go against the Imperial Mystical Academy.
After the Star Luo Emperor personally checked the lot numbers, he announced the results to the audience. The audience roared with a mix of excitement and surprise the moment they heard their home team was up against Shrek Academy.
On the surface, it appeared as if Ma Xiaotao drew the better number for Shrek Academy. According to Wang Yan's analysis the previous day, the team from Star Luo National Academy was the weakest one amongst the final four teams.
The semifinals and the finals followed the same rules as the previous elimination rounds and were carried out over two days, with both group elimination rounds and single elimination rounds. The only difference was that both rounds had to be won before they could advance. If both parties won one round each, the format would be changed to a 2-2-3 round. This meant that winning the group battle no longer gave a team any advantage.
While the semi-finals were held throughout the course of a day with breaks in the middle, the finals' group elimination, single elimination and 2-2-3 rounds were to be completed in one go. In the end, it wouldn't just be a battle of strength - it would become a battle of attrition, endurance and determination.
The Star Luo Emperor smiled and said, "I hope all four teams will give their best in the subsequent rounds of the competition. The balloting has been concluded, so make your preparations. Shrek Academy and the Star Luo National Academy will start off today's group battles, and the second match will be between the Sun Moon Imperial Soul Engineering Academy and the Imperial Mystical Academy."
Ma Xiaotao returned to the resting area. Wang Yan was the first to step up as he lowered his voice and said, "Xiaotao - what do you feel about the princess from the Star Luo Empire?"
Ma Xiaotao shook her head and replied, "I can't see through her. She's very complicated. I had hoped to gauge her mastery through her physical strength during the lot drawing, but she didn't move at all. She didn't activate any soul power either, and there was no way I could discern her abilities. Yuhao, try using Spiritual Detection."
Huo Yuhao's eyebrows creased as he said, "I've already tried. However, the princess seems to be carrying some sort of special item. When my Spiritual Detection landed on her body, there was a mysterious layer that blocked me. I couldn't detect her soul power's circulation or predict her actions. My Spiritual Detection is also affected when the gap in mastery is too great."
At this point, everybody circled around as the semi-finals were about to begin. There was a sudden and unforeseen change in circumstances with their opponents, and this wasn't good news at all for Shrek Academy. They weren't even all from the official team.
Wang Yan's expression was solemn as he said, "We will follow the original plan. Don't think too much about this, and trust your own abilities. Ma Xiaotao and Yueheng will anchor the single elimination rounds. Even if Princess Jiu Jiu is a powerful Soul Emperor, we must not let our self-confidence fall. Since this is the case, winning the group battle is a must. I will announce the order of battle for the group elimination round."