John soared through the sky towards the place where Naelia and Zuri were standing, approximately half-way up the ten-mile-tall arena. As he soared through the sky, the stunned crowd roared back to life as cheers and boos boomed out in unison.

The number of cheers had increased since yesterday, a sign that more and more people were slowly being won over by John's strength and status as a dark-horse underdog. He was oblivious to that fact, as his mind was occupied with something far more important.

As he flew through the air, the Yang-Dao Sect Elder's voice filled the arena.

"The next fight will begin shortly. Verica of the Illusory Mist Sect and Ji'Han of the Sword-Dao Sect, please enter the arena within the next ten minutes."

He landed softly on the balcony next to his companions, and was greeted with a resounding cheer from Naelia.

"Congratulations!" she exclaimed with a radiant smile on her face. "That was awe-"

Her smile vanished as John strode right by her without acknowledging her with a deep scowl on his face, brows furrowed.

"Ah…" Naelia mumbled, stunned by such a cold reception from John. Zuri gave John a curious glance, as she had noticed that something had changed in him even before he entered the arena. She patted Naelia on the shoulder in a comforting way.

"He most likely has a lot on his mind right now," Zuri said, then quickly explained the situation between John, Ji'Han and Lilian through sound transmission. Naelia's eyes lit up with surprise and then anger upon hearing the summary of what was going on.

She thanked Zuri and then raced to catch up to John, no longer upset or disappointed by his previous actions. She raced up alongside him, a furious look on her face.

"That Ji'Han," she grumbled with a frustrated pout. "He always acts so high and mighty, but that was fine since he is strong. But to think he dares to force your friend into marriage! What an overbearing asshole!"

John shot Naelia a quick glance, surprised to hear her bring up this subject, then looked at Zuri who merely shrugged. He didn't really care if Naelia knew the truth, so he remained quiet, marching through the tunnel connecting the arena and the interior hallways.

"What's going on?" Zuri asked as she walked up beside him. "I know the situation with Ji'Han is frustrating, but shouldn't that all be resolved once you win the tournament?"

"It's not that. I'll explain in a moment," John said, his voice calm yet slightly cold.

Zuri raised an eyebrow, surprised that John was so caught up on something else. She remained silent, walking alongside him all the way to the Prime Shadow's room. With the tournament officially started, the interior hallways were relatively empty, allowing them to quickly make their way to their destination without being surrounded by a curious crowd.


John slammed the door to the Prime Shadow's room open, his mind too occupied to think about using a delicate touch. The Prime Shadow, sitting at the window overlooking the arena, looked over his shoulder towards the group. Naelia said some parting words with Zuri and stayed behind at the door, while John and Zuri stepped into the room.

As they did so, the Yang-Dao Elder's voice sounded out within the room, as if coming from all directions. Clearly, there was some sort of formation that played the sounds of the arena within the room.

"The victor by forfeit, Ji'Han!"

John ignored the announcement and the crowd's roar as he walked up to the Prime Shadow, brows furrowed. The Prime Shadow raised an eyebrow as he watched John walk up next to him.

"I was going to congratulate you, but it seems as though you're not in the mood to be congratulated," the Prime Shadow said.

John glanced about the room for a moment, then returned his gaze to the elderly powerhouse before him.

"Can you make it so that we can't be spied on? I have something important to tell you," John said through a sound transmission.

Usually, sound transmissions were a safe and secretive method of communication, with outsiders being unable to spy on the conversation. However, there were some formations that were able to intercept the sound transmission waves and spy on them. John was unsure how they worked, and had never encountered one, but had learned of their existence during his time in the Shadows of Death Guild.

The Prime Shadow raised an eyebrow, his eyes meeting John's. He then waved his hand a movement later, bringing a sphere of darkness to life. The power and profundity of the darkness Qi was awe-inspiring, although John was not in the mood to appreciate such things.

A sphere a dozen yards wide enveloped the group like a cocoon, startling Zuri as she had no idea what was going on.

"You can speak now," the Prime Shadow said, his face more serious than before as he could tell what John was going to tell him was quite important. "No one other than us three will hear your words."

John nodded, then gave Zuri a quick glance. She looked at him with a curious expression, to which he sighed deeply. That curiosity was going to turn into rage in a short moment. He took a deep breath, exhaled lightly, and then spoke.

"Who is that woman sitting next to the Sword-Saint?" John asked the Prime Shadow.

The Prime Shadow looked to the side and upwards, his gaze piercing his cocoon of darkness, then looked back to John.

"That is Azurae, a Swordmaster Elder of the Sword-Dao Sect," the Prime Shadow answered.

John had no idea what 'Swordmaster' entailed, but it was probably a rank of Elder, much like the Shadow of Death had captains, Masters, and Grandmasters.

"What do you know about her?" John asked.

"Azurae? There's not much to know there," the Prime Shadow replied. "She's been a member of the Sword-Dao Sect for the last one hundred years, ever since she joined the sect as a teenager. Since then, she's made her way up the ranks of the Sect, proving herself as one of the more talented younger members of the Sect, and became one of the youngest Swordmasters in the sect's history. Other than that, there's not much else of note. No grand feats, no powerful enemies slain. She has lived a rather modest life, focusing only on the sword, and rarely ever shows herself to the world. To see her here is quite the rare occurrence," the Prime Shadow said, then titled his head to the side.

"Why do you ask?"

John glanced again as Zuri, then set his jaw firm.

"Because…she is the one who killed Furi," John said, his voice calm yet tinged with a sliver of hatred.


The space within the cocoon flared to life as Zuri's aura exploded outwards. Her eyes were wide with shock for a moment, then murderous bloodlust.

"I'll fucking kill her!" Zuri screamed out like a banshee, her voice shrill. She turned to leave the cocoon of darkness, but was stopped by its power. She tried to force her way through it but was unable to. She stopped and shot the Prime Shadow, a gaze filled with anger and bloodlust, as if saying she would turn her focus on him if he didn't let her out.

The Prime Shadow sighed and flicked his wrist. Coils of darkness enveloped Zuri, binding her body tightly, making her unable to move. She struggled against the power but was completely helpless against it.

"I understand your anger," the Prime Shadow sighed, "but you must be calm for now. Anger and bloodlust will get you nowhere at the moment."

Zuri continued to struggle against the bindings for a short while before calming down, realizing the futility of it all. The Prime Shadow gave her a questioning glance.

"I'm…I'm calmed down," Zuri said through gritted teeth. It was obvious she was barely able to contain herself, but she had calmed down to the point where she was no longer feral with rage. John remained silent the entire time, understanding Zuri's rage. The murderer of her father and two beloved siblings was nearby. If it was him, he would act the exact same way.

The Prime Shadow undid the darkness bindings, then studied Zuri for a short moment. Her face was red with hatred, and she fidgeted with rage, but she no longer tried to force her way out of the darkness cocoon. When he was certain she was calm, the Prime Shadow shifted his focus back to John.

"That is quite a bold claim to make. Are you certain of this?" he asked.

"One hundred percent," John replied with the utmost certainty. "I already explained to both of you the events of what had happened. I managed to survive the blast, although they thought I had died. That allowed me to get a glimpse of part of her face and feel her aura as she killed Furi and then left. It's no doubt her."

At the time of Furi's death, Azurae had been facing the opposite direction of John. He was only able to see parts of her face when she turned to look at her companions, and wasn't able to use his divine sense to scan her face, otherwise he would have given away his position. As such, he was unable to give the Shadow's of Death a detailed depiction of the woman's face, and had only been able to describe parts of it, as well as her aura.

Her aura was slightly different now, as if she had masked it before, or was masking it now. It had been more passionate and fiery before, but now was sharper like that of a sword. Which aura was the true one was uncertain, but the underlying feeling and nature of her aura was unmistakable.

The Prime Shadow studied John's face for a moment, then sighed.

"It seems there is a lot more happening within the shadows than we know, and I think what you revealed is just the tip of the iceberg."