Lilian looked completely mesmerizing sitting on the throne-like chair, which seemed to be a natural fit for her, as if she had grown up sitting on thrones all her life.

She was wearing an exquisite white dress with blue and gold trimmings, most likely provided to her by the Sword-Dao Sect. The skirt of the dress shimmered and faded away to mist, adding to her ethereal appearance. The dress clung to her body, revealing her natural curves, while her blue hair fell elegantly over her right shoulder and then behind her back.

Millions of eyes in the crowd stared at her, some with envy, some with jealousy, and many with curiosity. They had all heard of the wager between the Sword-Saint and the mysterious woman betrothed to Ji'Han. None had ever seen her before, and most had only heard stories of her beauty and talent.

Most felt those stories had undersold her features, as many in the crowd felt she was the most beautiful woman they had ever laid their eyes on. While her expressions as calm and even icy usually, there was an allure to that iciness which many couldn't resist.

Countless discussions broke out immediately, discussing Lilian, her beauty, the wager, her and Ji'Han's betrothal, and everything in between. For a moment, neither the Sovereigns, nor John or Ji'Han were the center of attention.

Lilian ignored the attention, her gaze lingering on John for a moment, then shifting elsewhere.

"I will now announce the rules for the tournament," a Half-Step Holy Manifestation cultivation Yang-Dao Sect Elder said. The Elder had a bald head, a thick, fiery red beard, and a powerful build. He looked more like a body cultivator than an essence cultivator, and had a natural fiery aura around him.

All eyes fell onto the Elder, who stood before the group of one thousand youths.

"The rules are the same as always," the Elder continued. "Each fight will last no more than an hour. Each fight will be concluded when one fighter forces the other to submit, or renders them unable to continue fighting. Killing and crippling is strictly forbidden, and will be punished severely. If at the end of the hour a victor has yet to be determined, a panel of judges will determine the winner. Lastly, each fight will start ten minutes after the previous one had concluded. If a fighter does not show up during that ten-minute window, they will be disqualified. Are there any questions?"

No one amongst the Dao Transformation fighters asked any question, and so the Elder proceeded.

"As is tradition, the first fight will commence in a moment, and will be between the first seed and the last seed," the Elder said.

All eyes fell onto John as the Elder said this, as he was the one who held the first place seeding. He felt the weight of ten million eyes fall upon him, which was something many his age would crumble under in nervousness and fear.

John ignored the gazes as if they didn't exist. Not only had he been stared at and targeted by monsters far more threatening than these ten million people, his mind was occupied with a million swirling thoughts at the moment.

Thoughts about Lilian, thoughts about the mysterious woman who had killed Furi and his children, thoughts about the tournament itself.

The Elder continued to speak about the tournament for a while, although John mostly ignored his ramblings. While the Elder spoke, John felt someone approach him from his left. He shifted his gaze, eyes narrowing for a brief moment before returning to his normal calm.

Although he had never personally seen this man before, he instantly knew who it was. There was no mistaking Ji'Han's aura, his appearance, or his natural feeling of superiority he seemed to give off. Ji'Han's existence felt as though it was a sword, ready to cut down any obstacle at any moment. It was the first time that John felt any sort of instinctual danger from someone near his age, other than Asuros.

Ji'Han walked up to John and stopped next to him, turning towards the Elder who continued to speak about the prestige of the tournament, the honor the youths brought to their sects, the fighting schedule, and other unimportant things.

"I finally get to meet the infamous John Fenix," Ji'Han said, glancing sideways at John, eyeing him up and down for a moment before returning his gaze to the speaking Elder.

John gave Ji'Han another glance, then ignored him. Usually, he would want nothing more than to exchange words with Ji'Han, and then fists, for his audacity to capture and force Lilian into marriage. However, with the new developments of the woman in white and seeing Lilian for the first time in a year, Ji'Han had fallen down in importance for a moment as far as John was concerned.

Ji'Han waited for a reply, which never came.

"I saw your…battles yesterday," Ji'Han continued, his voice calm and expression neutral. "I'm hoping what you revealed yesterday is only the tip of what you are capable of. Your friend has spoken quite highly of you, and it would be a shame for her words to be proven false. I've been looking for a true challenge for quite some time, one that will push me and my sword arts to the next level."

He turned towards John, studying him once more.

"Will your friend's words be proven true, or are you merely a false genius like everyone else?" Ji'Han asked, and yet again received silence from John.

Ji'Han frowned ever so slightly, not used to someone ignoring him like this. Although he cared not for the attention and adulation of others, he still felt slight irritation at being treated as if he was not worth talking to.

Ji'Han shifted his gaze upwards, towards the viewing platform in the distance where Lilian sat.

"Your friend has placed a great deal of trust in you, wagering her entire future on your strength. I'm afraid for both of you that her faith in you is nothing but false hope," Ji'Han said, then smiled as John finally reacted and turned to look at him.

"Wagered her future?" John repeated, a slight scowl on his face. "Her future was taken from her forcefully when you and your father forced her into that farcical marriage. You and your father are no better than common slavers. The only difference is that slavers have the dignity to call themselves what they are, while you and your father pomp around like kings, trying to hide the truth of what you two truly are; common thugs."

Ji'Han studied John's face for a moment, then smiled. "Strength is the only truth in this world. Strength is the only law. Those who are strong can do what they want. Those who are weak can only follow the commands of the strong, or perish underneath their heel. Your friend...my future wife's situation is the natural outcome of her current lack of strength."

"Lack of strength?" John said mockingly. "How about you fight her right now and see who is the stronger one? No? That's what I thought. You hide behind the strength of your father and act as if it's your own strength. Like I said, you are nothing but a delusional thug."

Ji'Han's mouth curled up with displeasure, although he remained calm despite John's insults. John turned to face him directly, a wide smile on his face.

"You are right in one regard, that strength is the only thing that truly matters in the end. Your father was idiotic enough to accept Lilian's wager, which will unravel all your plans as I stomp you beneath my heels in the finals, if you make it that far in the first place," John said with calm confidence.

Ji'Han's frown lingered for a moment as he locked eyes with John. His frown faded into a small smile as he turned and walked away from John.

"I truly do hope your friend is not lying about your strength," Ji'Han said without looking back. "Nothing will give me greater pleasure than to cut you down before her, proving to her and the world that I, with my sword in hand, reign supreme."

John grit his teeth tightly, calming his growing bloodlust. It wasn't that he was annoyed by Ji'Han's taunts. It was merely the fact that the one who Lilian was to be forcefully betrothed to was right in front of him, and he wanted nothing more than to rip Ji'Han's head off his shoulders for even thinking of such a thing, let alone agreeing to it.

Before he could do or say anything, the Yang-Dao Sect Elder spoke loudly, his words stirring the crowd into a frenzy.

"With everything said, the Dao Transformation tournament will officially begin. Everyone but the first and last seed clear the arena, as the fight between Aragas of the Swiftsword Sect, ranked one thousand and twenty-four and John Fenix of the…unknown sect…ranked first, will begin in a moment!"