"We can join right?" the red-haired Yorsha asked with an excited look on her face. She didn't understand what was happening. All she cared about was the fact that she got to take part in today's competition, which she previously could not due to being a first-year student.

the others didn't show the same excitement as her. The prince and princess were already meant to be fighting today, and so were their bodyguards, so there wasn't a newfound excitement in their eyes.

Instead, they were confused like most of the newly arrived people as to just what was happening.

"8 huh? Any more?" the staff asked the teacher, who shook his head.

"That's all, I'm afraid. It's a miracle we even have these in the first place," he said. "Thank you for understanding and waiting for us."

"No problem," the staff said. "Go have these kids registered immediately."

"Yes, at once," the teacher said.

Once the staff left, the teacher turned around toward the 8 students with a rather thankful look.

"Thanks to you guys we're still in the competition," The headmaster finally spoke with a sigh of relief. "I am very grateful to each and every single one of you."

"Uhh... Can you explain just what exactly is happening?" the prince asked. "It sounds like there was some trouble."

"Sure," the teacher said. "Come with me, I'll explain while you guys register."

The 8 students were taken away from the place to a hall where over 200 people were already gathered. These included staff and teachers, but mostly it was just students from the various academies that were going to take part in the combat competitions for the next 3 days.

"Someone poisoned our students," the teacher spoke softly.

"What?" the prince shouted at once, followed by a few gasps from the girls.

"Are they dead?" the princess quickly asked.

"No, it wasn't a lethal poison," the teacher quickly replied. "Just one that caused bowel problems for everyone at night. They had to spend the majority of their time and energy taking care of themselves."

"By the time we got them antidotes, it was already morning and they were already too tired to fight today," the teacher said. "They couldn't even walk to come here and are resting back in the lodge right now."

"Shit, that's quite bad," Kaleb said. "Are you fine, teacher? You must've eaten the same food, right?"

"Yes, but our body is stronger, so at least we could come here," the teacher said. "If I were to fight today, I can't do that either."

"Who did this?" the princess asked. "There must be a culprit. Did you find anyone?"

"No, but we do have a suspicion," the teacher said before slowly turning toward the group of students and teachers who were quite happy right now.

The Essence Heart Academy.

"Was it those guys?" Yorsha asked.

"We are not sure, but there is a very high chance it was them that did it," the teacher said. "After all, no one else benefits as much as they by doing what they did. They have the 2nd most amount of points, right after our academy. If we were suddenly out of the competition, they would rack up a whole lot of points, which would easily push them above us in the rankings."

"That way, they would have a very high chance of winning."

"They might still do it," the princess said, looking around. "I don't want to bring down our morale, but our team isn't the cream of the crop either. Not to mention, we don't even have half the number of fighters that are allowed."

The teacher sighed when he heard that. "I can't help it," he said. "Only you 8 remain after all."

"We'll have to make do with what we've got," the prince said. "Let's go register."

The group of 8 was taken to the registration place where they were all asked for their names. Aside from the names, however, they were also tested for their Essence rank, which surprised all of them, as that was not something that was ever tested beforehand.

"What's the point of trying to check our Essence rank?" Yorsha frowned as she asked. "Shouldn't we be allowed to keep it a secret so we can surprise our opponents?"

"It's for the seed," the teacher said.

"The… seed?" most of the students there had no idea what they were talking about.

"The competition has a total of 200 participants, but having them fight one on one will at some point leave out single fighters that won't get to compete."

"It's fine early on, but imagine it happens around the semi-final where one person gets to move up without fighting. So, from the very start, they will have to make sure that as soon as the first round of competitions is over, there are only 128 participants remaining in the 2nd round."

"For that, they seed fighters into the 2nd round. I don't know the numbers exactly, but I'm sure we will be finding that out soon," the teacher said.

As soon as he mentioned, a big board of light was crafted using someone's Essence where brackets started forming.

There were a total of 200 spots for names as of yet, of which a significant portion was separated to come in the 2nd round.

"Is that the seed you are talking about?" Yorsha asked.

"Yes," the teacher said. "Let's see…"

He counted for a few seconds before coming up with a number. "56. It seems 56 people will be able to move on to the 2nd round without fighting anyone. Of the remaining 144 fighters, 72 would move onto the next round, making a total of 128 fighters to choose from."

"Oh!" the students said with a surprised look. Names started appearing one after another as names were marked in the 56 spots first.

Their names were there based on strength. From the Blackhawk Academy, only 3 people had their names on the seeded list.

The prince, the princess, and the male bodyguard were the only ones that moved on to the 2nd round without any fights.

As for the remainder, they would have to fight to move on to the next round.