Chapter 394: Big Uncle
The song was a tempest of emotion, bringing to mind images of two great armies meeting on the field. Poseidon brandished his golden trident, and where it passed waves of light burst outward.
“Come, you fierce gods of battle! Fight for glory and honor! Today you blaze hotter than the sun, and light up the sky with your radiance.”
The golden light restrained itself, until it was just hanging over the entertainer’s body. The trident itself remained a resplendent beam of congealed light, and launched to the skies like an arrow. It was a single line of pure golden light in a sea of soothing blue. The golden light spread like an infection. In an instant, that deep blue became a radiating light that blanketed the entire arena.
The blinding light slowly receded, until it vanished from sight. Overhead the audience was again treated to the crystal-clear blue sky of Luo City, and it’s happily burning sun. Enchanted though they were, the listeners began to cheer as they regained their senses.
Amazing… truly amazing. They were in shock.
A digital voice arose in the silence after Poseidon’s concert. “We will be commencing the tournament soon. The first round will be decided by lots. Competitors, prepare to meet your opponents.”
There would be no waiting. The competition would start right away, beginning with drawing lots. In the skies overhead pictures began to be projected against the backdrop of the blue sky. Each one represented one of the registered competitors, and in the end over three thousand faces hung in the sky.
The man known as the Terminator slowly rose to his feet. When he spoke, his voice cracked across the arena like a blast of thunder, without the help of any sound amplification equipment.
As his voice rang out, the pictures in the sky began to flash and change. They rearranged themselves over and over again in to orderly pairs. It only took a matter of seconds for the first round of fights to be set.
In the waited area, the badges pinned to each fighter’s chest began to glow with a pale light. They projected a number before their eyes, different from their own – they were the the badge numbers of their challengers. They rose and filed out in to the arena to find their places. The computerized voice called out anew.
“Round One of the Cutting-Edge Grand Adept Tournament. Would the competitors please make their way to the arena grounds.”
Lan Jue’s own badge illuminated; One thousand seven hundred and twenty four. Now he had to find the person that number belonged to. They were slotted to meet at arena thirty five. The final number was three – meaning they would go out with the third batch of fighters.
Each batch was about two hundred competitors. They would need fifteen batches to cover all of the contestants today.
The rules of this tournament had been expressed to them when they’d applied to compete. These were all Adepts, so they didn’t have any problem comprehending the simple instructions. None of the fights would go beyond half an hour, and each one was closely monitored to ensure all rules were followed.
The fight ended the moment a fighter surrendered or could no longer fight back. It was absolutely forbidden to hurt anyone intentionally. In the event a fight was not over by the thirty minute mark, the results would be determined by a specially selected group of cross-Alliance judges. The final decisions would rest with them.
The sheer number of competitors was a blessing to sponsors, who no longer needed to worry about stunts to keep the action moving. They could move right through to the fights, and they did. Already the eyes of the galaxy were locked on them.
Transmissions rights and advertisements would earn enough to run a small planet for a year. The hype had been building for more than two months already, so the extravagant prices they’d promised had been earned over time. Whatever costs they’d accrued would certainly be countered by the proceeds from the games. But even considering that cost was hard to fathom the surplus.
Although Lan Jue wasn’t due until they called the third batch, he stepped out on to the field anyway. There were a couple familiar faces among the first group preparing to compete.
Three of the first group were representatives from Skyfire Avenue; the Barber, the Seamstress, and the Pharmacist. They stood upon their platforms and waited. Anyone not on their designated platform in five minutes would be disqualified.
The massive projectors flared, and a countdown hung against the clouds. It began at sixty, and began to drop.
“One minute until fights begin.”
Fifty-nine, fifty-eight, fifty-seven…
The competitors were busy getting ready. They weren’t permitted to use their Disciplines yet, but the time was spent adjusting ones internal energies and considering a plan of attack.
“… Five, four, three, two, one. Begin!”
At the computerized voice’s command, two hundred Adepts burst in to action. All one hundred segments of the arena were suddenly covered in a shield. This was as much to protect the audience as it was to ensure one arena didn’t unfairly influence another. They were practically on top of each other, so it was a real danger.
The shields stretched over the arenas, and out three meters passed the designated fight zone. If a competitor stepped out, or struck the shield, they would be disqualified. The dome was fifty meters tall at it’s highest point, which was enough to allow Adepts full use of whatever Discipline they had.
“Boom–!” The Pharmacist was the first to silence her challenger.
There had only been a flash of golden light before her foe went sprawling through the air. He smacked against the far face of the shield, and slowly slunk to the ground.
The shield flashed red, then disappeared. It meant that their bout had come to an end.
On the main platform, the gourmet was seated with a young girl in his arms. She bounced happily on his knee, shouting “Go momma go!”
Jun’er pretty hair was covered by a metal helmet. Although her eyes stared blankly, they were alive with an indescribable joy. Her pure, jubilant cries were sweeter even than Poseidon’s. It certainly captured the Terminator’s attention.
The enormous man was so large he took up the space of two men, a mountain sitting on a chair. Thankfully there was only he the three of them in this section of the platform, or they’d be tight for space.
“Who is this child.” The Terminator looked at Jun’er in curiosity.
The gourmet answered with a gentle smile. “This is the Pharmacist’s daughter.”
“The woman who just finished her fight,” he confirmed to himself. “Very impressive. Strong.”
The Gourmet nod with a congenial laugh. He had to show respect for this old-guard Paragon. “Her Talent is unique. Even I don’t know what the true scope of her abilities are. It was hard to convince her to come, honestly.”
“Very well, let’s see how it plays out,” the terminator replied. “I hope she lasts a while.”
“My mommy’s the best, big Uncle 1! And my daddy, too! They’re both great. If mommy doesn’t win, then daddy will!” Jun’er began to bounce again in excitement.
The little girl’s words startled the Conclave leader for half a moment. It had been a very long time since anyone had called him ‘uncle.’ He felt… strange.
“What makes you think I’m not your grandpa?” he teased.
“No, you’re too young!” Jun’er tittered. “You’re really big, but I can feel that you’re not scary. Mommy told me that a person’s outside doesn’t always match their inside. I can feel your heart, uncle. You have a good heart.”
A child’s voice, especially a young girl, did not have great volume. However, it penetrated the din, enough so that those around them turned to look after hearing her strange assertion. Everyone, the Terminator in particular, wasn’t sure how to react to that. Metatron, Lucifer and the Gourmet were just as flabbergasted.
It was amusing enough for her to call the Terminator uncle. He wasn’t as old as the Clairvoyant, but he was no spring chicken. Because his Discipline was closely tied to his body, he was able to maintain the appearance of youth. In reality he was about as old as the Keeper.
What was more surprising was her brazen assertion of his goodness. She was only six, maybe seven, but she’d spoken like an oracle.
Before he was a Paragon, the Terminator has been known as the Cyborg Weapon. Could someone with such a name be kind-hearted?
Much to everyone’s surprise, the titan of a man fell silent. After a few moment he leaned his giant girth down and took Jun’er tiny face in his hands. “What’s your name, little one?”
She smiled up at him prettily. “My name’s Jun’er, big uncle!”
He beamed a smile at her. To any other creature it would look ferocious, but Jun’er smiled right back. The helmet allowed her to see through psychic projection, enough to react to a kind smile.
“Can big uncle give you a hug?” He asked with a wry grin.
She thought for a moment. “Okay. Mommy said I shouldn’t go with strangers, but I know uncle is very nice. You can hug me.” She stretched her arms out wide toward the Paragon.
He chuckled heartily as he picked her up, with no more effort than he might a doll. “Well said, little one.”
The Gourmet made no efforts to stop him, and openly smiled at the two. The man was a Paragon, and he wouldn’t dare harm a child. It looked like the two were destined to be friends, in fact.
The two together were an almost comical juxtaposition. Jun’er was almost lost against the giant man’s body. She sat comfortably on his forearm.
“Can big uncle give you a present, Jun’er?” The Terminator thumbed the helmet as he spoke.
“Oh, I love presents! Other than mommy and daddy no one else really gives me presents. I like you, big uncle!” Jun’er wobbled precariously on the big man’s forearm. She was still trying to take it all in; this new place, her new sight, and these nice people.
“Tomorrow, uncle Gourmet will bring you back. I’ll get your present ready and give it to you then, alright?”
“Ok! Thank you uncle!”
The Pharmacist made her way up the platform among the others. She was a ninth level ninth ranked Talent herself, so she belonged among them just as much as the others.
She heard the two talk as she approached to take her back. Her heart was filled with gratitude and surprise when she saw the look on the big man’s face.
Her little girl was going great on her first trip out. Even Paragons were making play dates.
1. The Chinese refer to any older person who is not related as aunt or uncle/grandma grandpa. It’s a sign of respect.