1

(Planet Caorn- Jasimin Island)

(Main Administrative Building- Central Hall)

There was a building located in the northernmost tip of Jasimin Island that was currently occupied by muscular men and women wearing formal attire.

The main room of the building was a large central hall that was around the size of a football field.

Chairs and tables had been neatly stacked in a semi-circular formation with a central podium as the focus point.

Standing on the podium and surrounded by several blue translucent holographic projections was a scarred woman with hair that was slightly greying.

She wore a long black suit that covered most of her body and the necklace hanging around her neck shone with an eerie light.

"There will be over one thousand candidates participating in this year's Inter-University Tournament from across the Federation," the woman in a black suit calmly spoke.

"As I am sure that you all are already aware... the interest in this batch of students is higher than expected."

"News stations, live streams, analysis videos... they have all been performing much better than previous years."

A round of applause spread across the room as the examiners clapped their hands together in admiration.

"And it is for precisely for that reason why there can be no mistakes," the woman sternly spoke with her voice no higher than a whisper.

Head Examiner Madison Burke had been put in charge of overseeing the second-year competition and she was a stern no-nonsense woman.

Her resume was impressive and included two hundred years of service in the Imperial Army and fifty years as a professor at Atlas University.

One of the examiners in the room raised up his hand politely and Madison pointed at him to allow him to speak.

"What safety measures are we going to put in place to prevent any unwanted accidents?" the examiner asked curiously.

"The archmages from Mer University have personally warded and placed time reversal spells underneath every arena and stage," Madison replied in an even tone.

"In the event of death or severe injuries, the spell will reverse the flow of time and bring the students back to life."

"It will not prevent them from remembering the pain of death, but this is by far the safest method."

"We must remember that these students are all precious geniuses that cannot be replaced."

Madison tapped her wrist communicator and one of the holographic windows expanded until it reached over twenty feet in height.

Lines of text began to appear on the blue screen. The examiners in the room remained silent since they could not believe what they were seeing.

Soon voices of shock and horror echoed through the hall as the more sensible ones among them rushed to voice their concerns.

"This is complete madness! Even with a time reversal spell... isn't this too much?"

"These students are just second years! Why are we making them face such difficult challengers?"

"There is no precedent for this!"

The head examiner cleared her throat and an invisible wave of pressure radiated off her body.

The voices of complaint fell silent as Madison opened her mouth and calmly explained what was going on.

"I understand your concerns. However, these changes have been made with the approval of the examination board," Madison calmly spoke.

"The ongoing war with the Insectoid Empire means that these students may be sent to the frontlines sooner than expected."

"It is the wishes of the higher ups that they be prepared for life and death conflicts and the possibility of dying."

The Inter-University tournament would be divided into three stages. The first would be a group event, the second and third would be individual stages.

What was unique about this year's tournament was that students would not be facing off against each other until the final stage.

"Are we getting any more details about the stages?" an examiner raised up her hand and asked cautiously.

"No. The full details will only be available on the day of the tournament in order to prevent the spread of information," Madison replied with a cold smile on her face.

Shivers ran down the spines of the men and women present in the room as Madison's eyes meaningfully stared at some of them.

It was expected that some examiners would be tempted to sell the information that they received in advance but under Madison's watch no one had succeeded yet.

She may be a professor at Atlas University, but Madison was famously impartial and had even kicked out a student from her own university for cheating in the last tournament.

"The students will be informed to create squads of three and the names must be submitted by tomorrow," the head examiner continued to speak.

"I understand that this may seem a bit sudden but let's just say that there is a good reason why I need the names as soon as possible."

"Now... before the big day. I would like you all to get some rest and prepare."

.

.

.

.

(Mariena Hotel- Penthouse Suite)

Bleep! Bleep!

Sophie checked her wrist communicator and saw an incoming message arrive in her inbox. It was late at night and Cleo was sleeping quietly by her side.

The princess' body was completely naked, and her pale flesh was covered in love bites and angry red marks.

Her chest slowly heaved up and down as she took in quiet breaths. Sophie smiled sweetly and traced her finger down the side of her girlfriend's back.

Maybe she had gotten a bit too enthusiastic a few hours ago.

Tossing those happy but dirty memories to the back of her mind, Sophie focused her attention on her wrist communicator.

There was an announcement written inside the message and its contents made Sophie raise an eyebrow.

Apparently, all students needed to form a team of three for the first stage of the tournament.

Students who did not find a team by the deadline of tomorrow would be randomly assigned a group.

An additional line of text revealed that they could be randomly assigned to a group with students from outside of their university.

Hmm... this could be a bit difficult.

Sophie wasn't going to be separated from Cleo and she was pretty certain that Astrid and Qiana would be on the same time.

That meant that she needed a third person.

Wait... she knew just who to ask!

Sophie: [Rachel did you see the message?]

It took around ten minutes for Sophie to receive a reply back from her Quafes friend.

Rachel: [Which one? I get a lot of messages... also sorry for not replying sooner... I'm 'busy' at the moment... if you know what I mean...]

Rachel: [Wink wink!]

Sophie: [Well basically we need to form groups of three for first stage of the tournament, so I was wondering if you wanted to join my team."

Rachel: [Sure you can put me down. I was going to head over to your place tomorrow anyways so we can discuss the details then.]

Sophie: [Awesome! Well good night :)]

Sophie: [Enjoy being 'busy']

Rachel: [Oh I am... got three cheerleaders from Tantibus University in my room who wanted to know more about... well... let's just say they learned a lot about me...]

Rachel: [Not to brag but... damn... they were flexible]

Sophie: [Gross... do you really have to tell me about your one-night stand?]

Rachel: [What are friends for? Goodnight!]