The intense battle between Celaine and Lyria still lingered in the air as Aelina declared the outcome.

Excitement buzzed through the stands, the crowd electrified by the raw display of power they'd just seen.

The lineup for the quarterfinals was: Mira, Seraphina, Nova, Rayna, Eden, Everly, Asami, and Celaine.

It wasn't obvious to all, but those with a keener sense kept noticing a pattern; these women shared a connection to one person: Mira.

It wasn't clear if Mira was directly behind their impressive strength, but one thing was sure—their group had an advantage. Was it a secret training regimen, access to rare resources, or superior cultivation secrets? The crowd was left to wonder.

Meanwhile, as medical attendants flocked to Lyria to mend her injuries, Celaine remained motionless for a moment to catch her breath. The energy of her Weapon Endowment – Saber Ruler, soon evaporated, and with it, she sighed and left the arena.

With the fights concluded, Aelina raised her arms, quieting the crowd. "My disciples, please give a round of applause for their incredible performances today!"

The crowd erupted into a thunderous ovation, the sounds of cheers and clapping filling the arena like a roaring storm.

"Now," Aelina continued, her voice amplified to reach every corner of the stadium, "we shall have a brief intermission before the quarterfinals commence. The next round will start in a couple of hours."

With that, the crowd got up and dispersed, with everyone still talking about the matches and just how strong the top disciples were.

Mira wasn't any different. She saw Nova and the others in the distance, gave them a nod, and walked off toward Rhydian and Elenei, who were both in their human forms.

"It seems things went about as expected," Elenei muttered, looking at the people who made it to the quarter-finals. "However, it seems the Top 32 doesn't represent the strongest disciples in the Sect." She said while looking at more than a few women who were at the Peak of the Soul Transformation Realm.

"Mmhm." Mira nodded, walking off toward her residence. "This competition isn't about finding the strongest. It's about who's most suitable for the Prime Disciple position. Meaning, strongest under 100 years old, or I suppose 80 given that the Central Continent Competition is in a little under 20 years."

"I see. That makes more sense as I think this would've been a lot harder tournament around the board if those older disciples were allowed to participate." Elenei nodded thoughtfully.

"Who do you think'll make it to the next round?" Rhydian chimed in. Her words sounded much more fluent after her time in the Secret Realm, but there was still a 'beastly' accent to it.

Mira just shrugged, "Doesn't matter. It'll be me and Rayna in the finals, anyway. I'm sure Aelina won't have me fight her before then."

However, she was a bit worried about that fight. Although her strength right now couldn't be quantified in simple cultivation terms, there was a limit. She hardly ever dealt with poison, especially one as strong as Rayna's.

'Her poison is too potent. Not only does it destroy one's body, but it also corrodes the meridians and Qi within whoever is affected, draining them of their energy and causing them to lose control.' During all of Rayna's fights, she had done her best to study her poison to try and come up with a countermeasure.

Right now, all she had was overwhelming strength, but that might very well work against her.

'From what I could tell, the stronger the person, the more deadly the poison became, as if it fed off of their energy and not Rayna's.' Mira's eyes narrowed as her mind ran through simulations, but no matter what she tried, once she got hit by any of Rayna's attacks, she was on the clock.

She either defeated Rayna before it ran out, or she lost. There wasn't an in-between.

'Tsk.' Mira clicked her tongue. 'What a fucking overpowered ability.'

Suddenly, a thought entered her mind, 'Should I purchase something from the Firmament? I'm sure there are a few techniques that can help me deal with the poison.'

As soon as that crossed her mind, she stopped in her tracks and slapped herself.

The impact caused the ground beneath her to crack, but she paid no mind to that.

'Fuck me! What was I thinking? I'm this strong, have received so many different kinds of strength boosts, and I can't deal with a little snake venom?!' Mira's resolve hardened. 'Tsk! If I really lose to Rayna, then I should just kill myself now and forget about my revenge!'

Her thoughts settled as she walked through the Sect. The Firmament, ever since she received it, had been akin to a backup plan.

Need something? Just earn points and buy it! Need help? The Guardian was there in case things went bad.

It even granted her new abilities that allowed her to grow stronger at a rate faster than anyone else. However, that Primal Ascendance Convergence showed her that the Firmament wasn't the greatest thing in the Universe, nor was she the only one allowed to obtain heaven-defying opportunities.

If she had to constantly rely on an external factor to get by, then she wasn't worthy of it in the first place.


On the other side of the arena, Rayna silently watched Mira leave with furrowed brows. She also knew that it would very likely be the two of them in the finals. However, unlike Mira, who was confident she could beat everyone else, Rayna wasn't.

If it were an open battleground where she could sneak up on her opponent, then yes, she was confident in winning without even being seen. But, in this kind of arena-style setting, the odds were stacked against her.

She glanced at Aelina, who sensed her gaze and turned to smile at her.

Rayna's furrowed brows deepened. 'What's she planning?'

Suddenly, Aelina disappeared, leaving Rayna to stew in her thoughts.


Outside of the Sect, near the base of the mountain, Aelina reappeared with a growing smirk. She looked around the forest, seeing nothing but the dark shadows under the trees, but she could feel dozens of auras within them.

"You know, it's rude to show up at someone's home unannounced." She spoke with a smile, then waved her hands. To the untrained eye, she looked like a crazy person talking to the air, but-

"ATTACK!" A roar swept through the surroundings, followed by several flashing shadows that darted at Aelina.

The woman in question shook her head with a condescending look. "If you had run for your lives, I would've given you a head start. A shame you had to ruin the fun."

With a flick of her fingers, void bubbles shot toward her attacks, catching them out of thin air. Within them were familiar beasts, part of the Clan that nearly caused a war between both species after exiting the Secret Realm.


There were about a dozen Rank 9s, with several times more Rank 8s. She was more than pleased with this line-up.

'The best part is, I didn't even have to go looking for them.' She chuckled. It would've been a bit annoying if she darted into the beast's territory and captured half a Divine-Grade Clan, but it was a different story if they came to her.

Aelina's smirk didn't waver as she waved her hand again, and the caught Shadowfangs were instantly transported.

Within moments, she stood at the edge of the arena where the Prime Disciple Competition was taking place. Large, fortified cages materialized from her spatial rings.

One by one, the Shadowfangs were deposited into these structures, growling and snapping at their sudden captivity.

"Settle down," Aelina spoke, her voice carrying a mix of amusement and authority. The beasts were forced to shut their mouths as Qi wrapped around them, but their eyes still glared at her with hatred.

She turned away from them, surveying the expansive arena.

She walked along the periphery, her hands trailing in the air as she channeled more Qi.

The ground shook slightly, runes glowing to life beneath the soil, creeping like ivy along the walls of the arena. The earth rumbled as sections of the arena floor rose and fell, forming obstacles and varying elevations.

Suddenly, a group of Elders appeared with wide eyes. "Sect Master Aelina, the preparations are ready. Should we proceed with the enhancements?"

Aelina nodded, her gaze still fixed on the terrain. "Begin. And make sure the Formations are strong. We wouldn't want any... accidents during the quarterfinals."

As she spoke, the Elders nodded and immediately got to work.

Aelina finally stopped walking, her eyes settling on the center of the arena where a grand platform rose. It was from here that she would oversee the quarterfinals.

Turning her attention back to the caged Shadowfangs, Aelina allowed a thin smile to cross her face. "I was just wondering how I should entertain my disciples and celebrate their newfound strength. Luckily, you lot showed up at just the right time!" she exclaimed, causing the beasts' eyes to widen with rage as they smashed against the cages in an attempt to break them.

"Now, now, just wait patiently. Your death is already set in stone, so we might as well make it interesting!" Aelina giggled before disappearing.