If the tournament committee hadn't restricted the age of the competitors to below twenty and demanded that at least five members of each sect had to have at least four rings, there would have been ten times more teams competing in this tournament then last time!
Even with such restrictions, there were still a total of one hundred and seventeen teams, many more than last time!
As the wealthiest empire on the Douluo Continent, hosting this tournament was nothing for the Sun Moon Empire. Even so, they took three months to prepare for it. As the biggest city on the continent, Radiant City constructed several hotels and guesthouses to receive guests coming for this grand event. They benefited greatly from businessmen coming from foreign lands.
The Sun Moon Empire also invested a lot in this tournament, since they were the top soul engineering empire on the continent. The top prize wasn't just soul bones anymore; they were soul tools. The winning team could obtain a Class 9 soul tool, while the runner-up and third place teams would receive Class 8 and Class 7 soul tools respectively.
The values of these soul tools were much higher than soul bones. This was especially true for the champions. Currently, a Class 9 soul tool was priceless, and only the Sun Moon Empire possessed Class 9 soul tools. At the same time, Class 9 soul tools were also the biggest threat to the other two empires on the continent.
Every competing team was itching to obtain the prizes and working hard to perform better in the tournament. This wasn't just an opportunity for them to gain fame, it was an opportunity for them to profit greatly!
Modern soul masters had to rely on soul tools in addition to their own cultivation if they wanted to gain greater abilities. However, the astronomical costs of advanced soul tools limited most soul masters. It was impossible to become the best without money.
Radiant City, Sun Moon Empire's Imperial Palace, a backyard garden...
A wheelchair was moving slowly on the quartzite path in the garden. There were different types of plants planted here, every region of the garden was perfectly designed. There was a small waterfall atop a sculpted hill, an imperial painting of a bouquet of flowers, and huge, tall trees. The entire backyard garden felt like a beautiful forest.
"How's my father?" Xu Tianran's eyes were shut. There was a blanket on his thighs, and he appeared very relaxed.
Ju Zi was the one pushing his wheelchair.
Ju Zi was clad in a long, yellow dress today, which accentuated her delicate white skin. She looked classy and elegant. She exuded a much more mature aura than before. A wise look flashed across her eyes.
"I'm afraid he's nearing his end. The imperial physician said that he often passes out and loses consciousness these days," Ju Zi said softly.
Xu Tianran continued to close his eyes. It was as if he was unrelated to the ailing old man that Ju Zi was talking about.
"My father has always been very cautious and conscientious. He does not aim to acquire merit, but only hopes to avoid mistakes. He has missed out on great opportunities! When we look back in the future, he will only be regarded as an ordinary emperor. What's the reaction of the military?"
Ju Zi said, "They are very calm. Ever since we took control of the garrison, opposition from the military has disappeared. At least two-fifths of the empire's military is directly under our control now. Out of the other three-fifths of the military, around two-thirds of them are still monitoring the situation, or are loyal only to the emperor. Once you succeed the throne, I believe they will join your side. As for the last fifth, they are military officers at the borders. Some of them have been brought over by other princes, while some were your enemies in the past."
Xu Tianran gave a half smile. His smile was very nice, but for some reason, Ju Zi felt very cold in her heart when she saw this smile. That was because she was clear that Xu Tianran was ready to kill when he revealed such an expression.
Xu Tianran smiled as he said, "No rush. When I succeed the throne, you can make a trip if they are still unwilling to budge."
Ju Zi shuddered a little, but still nodded and said, "Okay."
Xu Tianran turned around and looked at her. He said, "Ju Zi, you don't have to be so reserved around me. When I succeed the throne, the first thing I'll do is make you my queen. You are always so reserved. You lack the grace of a queen."
Ju Zi revealed a slight smile on her face and replied, "Your Highness, I'm not with you because I covet fame or status. I only have two wishes. First, I just want to be with you. Second, I want to destroy the Star Luo Empire."
Xu Tianran nodded and said, "Your two wishes will come true. Your performance in the military was better than I had expected. Even the hard-headed old generals are impressed by you. If this continues, you'll be my commanding general when we start our war against the Star Luo Empire."
"Thank you, Your Highness." Ju Zi knelt down beside Xu Tianran's wheelchair.
Xu Tianran used his hand to lift her up and said, "I told you that we don't have to be so formal with each other. If you hadn't saved my life, I wouldn't be here now. I have many subordinates who are more capable than you. However, you are the only one that I feel at ease with."
Ju Zi's eyes were filled with gratitude, Xu Tianran didn't realize that there was also a feeling of indifference behind them.
Can I really do what I want in front of you? In the past, there was an official who you owed gratitude towards. However, he was killed in his house after he acted a little more freely than usual. I was the one who carried out the kill order for you.
Ju Zi understood Xu Tianran's character very well. He was very ambitious. There was only one goal in his life: to rule the entire Douluo Continent. Furthermore, he was intelligent, had great tolerance, and was quite vicious. Although he was disabled, he had all the qualities needed to succeed.
However, he became colder and more merciless after he lost his legs and his manly ability. Even Ju Zi didn't dare to get close to him when he revealed his violent and hostile aura sometimes. He wasn't just an anti-hero; Ju Zi even believed he was a maniac at times. However, he was an extremely intelligent maniac!
But she wanted revenge, and thus she needed the support of a maniac like him. However, she didn't want to follow in his footsteps. That was why she acted very cautiously in front of him, concealing her true feelings very well.
Furthermore, there was another person in her heart along with her true feelings. This person was a youth who had once suffered grave injuries because of her.
"The preparations for the tournament should be done, right? Did Hallmaster Hongchen report back?" Xu Tianran continued asking. Ju Zi had become his most important intelligence officer. There was one thing that Xu Tianran didn't exaggerate, and that was his trust towards Ju Zi.
Ju Zi nodded and said, "We are already prepared and ready to go. Everything is progressing according to plan."
Xu Tianran said, "A fine fowl only perches on a fine tree. I hope that they are wiser. Otherwise, it'll really be a pity. Have Shrek Academy's team arrived? They are the current reigning champions. If the intelligence is right, it's the same bunch who became champions the other time competing this time. If this is the case, it's likely that they will become champions again! It's a pity that it'll be very difficult for me to use them!"
Ju Zi seemed to be jolted. She clearly remembered that Huo Yuhao was part of the team from Shrek.
Xu Tianran said, "It's better not to touch Shrek Academy for now. Let them leave. I shall give this face to Shrek. I'll see what kind of sparks will be created between Shrek Academy and our people. Oh yes, please invite Mister Zhong Li here. Tell him I have something important to discuss with him."
"Yes." Ju Zi stood up and hurried out.
Xu Tianran shut his eyes again and once more wore the leisurely smile on his face. He seemed like he was napping. The quiet and peaceful comfort in the garden was mesmerizing.
The group from the Tang Sect landed about a hundred kilometers from Radiant City. If they ventured any further forward, they would enter the borders of Radiant City. As the capital of the greatest soul engineering empire, they might become practice targets of the city's defense system if they dared to violate the airspace of the city.
They didn't meet with any danger on their journey here, and had arrived after only half a day of travel.
They started a fire for cooking. Although everyone missed Huo Yuhao's cooking, they couldn't let a 'disabled person' cook for them. Jiang Nannan, Xiao Xiao, and Wang Dong'er took on the responsibility as cooks. As for Jing Ziyan, even though she was also a lady… Besides wielding blades and spears, she didn't know anything about cooking! She could only act as an assistant to the three chefs.
Jiang Nannan was the best at cooking among the three. Although Wang Dong'er had learned from Huo Yuhao for a few days, she didn't pick up much. Huo Yuhao had heard Xu Sanshi mention that Jiang Nannan was from a poor family. She had thus matured young, and was good at carrying out household chores. It turned out to be true.
They had prepared sufficiently before they set out for this tournament, bringing quite a lot of ingredients. With Huo Yuhao around, they weren't worried about the freshness of the ingredients, since he was the owner of Ultimate Ice soul power.
Huo Yuhao was fed by Wang Dong'er. Of course, she fed him with a spoon, and not through her mouth. After all, there were many people around!