“Brave warriors, the time has come for you to fight for your dreams!”
Along with Antonio’s rousing declaration, majestic music started playing in Leinster’s colosseum. Ribbons danced in the air as white doves flew toward the vast sky. Deafening cheering echoed from the spectator stand, and the applause was resounding.
After half a year of preparation, the long-awaited Challenger Cup was finally commencing today. The number of participants and spectators for the tournament was at a record high, and many of humankind’s top brass had their eyes here. The special exception to allow First Grade students to participate in the tournament had further enlivened the event.
Over at the spectator stand, many students coming from various academies proudly waved their flags in support of their fellow classmates.
In the center of the colosseum, Roel and the other ten thousand participants could hardly curb their excitement. They looked at the stage ahead of them and waited with bated breaths for the allocation of dungeons in the preliminary round.
The preliminary round was a group battle royale that would be held in thirteen different dungeons. The groups had already been decided beforehand, but the dungeon each group would be sent to hadn’t been confirmed yet.
On the stage, Leinster’s Chief Scholar placed his hand on a crystal ball, causing the scenery reflected on it to project outward. Everyone stared at the projected scenery intently, knowing that it would determine the fate of the respective group.
Every transcendent possessed their own unique set of abilities, so a change in location could vastly affect their performance.
In the history of the tournament, there was once a group that was allocated to the Lost Sea Cliff. Some of the challengers were particularly adept at water warfare, and through their terrain advantage, they managed to defeat one of the seeded challengers. It had caused quite a huge stir back then.
Seeded challengers referred to popular champion picks by the public, and most of them were either at Origin Level 3 or from renowned transcendent houses. That being said, it didn’t mean that they were bound to do well. There were far too many variables in the Challenger Cup to guarantee that.
Other than location, the complete lack of restrictions on the type of spells used and equipment could make a huge difference too. There could also be dark horses who possessed special bloodlines or spells that allowed them to make an impact comparable to Origin Level 3 transcendents.
Of the unofficial ranking of seeded challengers, Roel was ranked in twelfth place. The first place was Lilian and the fourth place was Nora. Charlotte’s ranking was slightly behind in thirteenth place due to the defensive nature of the Sorofyas’ transcendent abilities.
The fact that Roel couldn’t even make it into the top ten showed just how inaccurate the seeded challenger ranking could be, though to be fair, Roel had yet to showcase his full prowess thus far.
“I shall select the dungeon for the first group now.”
Watching as Leinster’s Chief Scholar infused his mana into the crystal ball, the projected scenery from the crystal ball began to change.
Roel thought that the situation was oddly similar to the slot machines from his previous life, be it the swiftly changing images or the incredible excitement of the crowd. Gamblers who had put money on the tournament had their eyes scarily reddened.
The challengers in the first group fidgeted nervously as they prayed hard that the chosen dungeon would be advantageous to them.
In this tense atmosphere, the mana in the crystal ball finally ran out, causing the projected scenery to stop at a dimly-lit location.
“First group, Chaos Marsh!”
“Chaos Marsh? Goddamnit!”
“Shit, I’ve never been to the marshlands before.”
There was a mixture of delight and frustration from the challengers. Those who had experience fighting in marshlands or dark locations cheered in delight, and those who lacked those two skills were visibly worried.
Such a situation continued on for the other groups. Soon, it was time to choose the dungeon for the sixth group, which Roel was in.
“Sixth group, Silent Temple!”
“What?! Of all places, why must it be that hellhole?”
“Holy Sia, it’s actually the Silent Temple!”
Most of the challengers in the sixth group looked mortified at the revelation of their dungeon. Some of the more cowardly ones even considered backing out of the tournament.
Roel wasn’t too surprised by their reactions since the Silent Temple was known for its eeriness.
The Silent Temple was a famous dungeon in the Country of Scholars where non-material demonic creatures gathered, or to put it simply, it was a haunted place.
Since there were skeletons in the Sia Continent, it only made sense for there to be ghosts as well. The chance of ghosts appearing in a peaceful era was extremely low, not to mention that the Genesis Goddess Church was everywhere. Similar to most RPGs, the church was particularly adept at dealing with undead.
There had been few major internal wars in the Sia Continent over the past few centuries, so most humans hadn’t seen a ghost before, including Roel. It was inevitable that they would feel a little apprehensive about encountering one.
But to Roel…
Is that all?
Having traversed through numerous ancient battlefields and encountered terrifying calamities, the Silent Temple was nothing but a mere appetizer. All of his experience would have been in vain if he were to be intimidated by something like this. Besides, when it came to the undead…
… he had an undead god with him.
Soon, all of the groups were allocated to a dungeon. With all preparations ready, the staff members led the ten thousand challengers to their respective dungeons.
It was common for those who had never been to the Country of Scholars to think that dungeons were a physical location in Brolne’s territory, but that was a misunderstanding.
Dungeons were like tangible mirages, possibly a little similar to the concept of Schrödinger's cat. It would be a stretch to say that they really existed in reality, and yet, there they were.
Roel himself interpreted dungeons as locations similar to that of Grandar’s plain and Peytra’s mountain valley, an alternate world that existed between dream and reality.
Silent Temple was rumored to be the remnant of an ancient civilization. It was impossible to tell what kind of civilization it used to be since time had eroded most discernible information, and that was probably why it was chosen to be used in the tournament.
Staring at the dense forest canopy and the moon that had been blocked off by dark clouds, Roel heaved a soft sigh out of lamentation for the lost civilization. He could see white apparitions scintillating in his vicinity, and he could hear incomprehensible whispers coming from all around.
A dark forest under a moonless night, together with prying eyes and creeping malevolence—it was a standard troupe for horror movies. Quite a terrifying one, if he could add, judging from how the terrified cries hadn’t ceased for a single instant ever since he entered this dungeon.
“Don’t come here!”
“Damn it, these things can’t be hacked to death!”
Piercing shrieks, furious howls, explosions, and clashes of blades. It had barely been a few minutes since they entered the dungeon, but it was already pandemonium in the forest.
It was all within Roel’s expectations though. He had no intention of needlessly interfering with others’ business. He only had one goal in mind—the silvery sphere of light located in the distant sky.
When that sphere of light landed on the ground, it would release a given number of crystals decided based on the number of challengers in the respective group. In order to qualify for the next round, a challenger would have to obtain a crystal and retain possession of it for ten minutes.
This tournament format reminded Roel of the airdrops from a game in his previous life. Those who managed to get to the airdrop first would receive a decisive advantage for that match.
The same applied here too. Anyone who was able to acquire a crystal first would be able to get a lead over others.
Ten minutes wasn’t exactly a short period of time for transcendents. It wasn’t enough to pull off anything fanciful, but it was sufficient to put the challengers’ skills to the test. Be it guarding the crystal or snatching a crystal away from another challenger, both required considerable skills.
In that sense, the rule was fairly well thought of.
Of course, there were also loopholes too.
If there was a huge disparity in strength, it was possible for a single challenger to monopolize all of the crystals and eliminate everyone else. Otherwise, a challenger could also claim multiple crystals and distribute them to his allies.
Such behavior was permitted in the tournament. The organizing committee justified it under the pretext that luck and connections were part of one’s strengths too.