'I wonder if everyone arrives the same way.'
As Izroth descended down from the sky like a meteor and approached the platform, he activated the Falling Feather Steps skill that was attached to his Skystep Boots. Just as Izroth's body was about to collide with the platform, it straightened out and the energy built up from his fall was canceled out. This made it so that he was able to safely land on his feet.
No one on the platform seemed to be surprised by Izroth's arrival or the fact that he survived. It was as if it were a common occurrence to them.
'The Sky Palace of Zushuatri... I've never heard of it before.'
Even after reading all the books on the first and second floors of the Amaharpe palace library, Izroth had no clue as to what this place was. He was not even sure if this place was anywhere near Amaharpe as his coordinates only showed as question marks.
"How did this weakling get here?" One of the nearby individuals scoffed as they observed Izroth.
"Who knows? After what took place five years ago, they'll let just about any piece of trash join the selection these days. Still, I have no idea what Master Zushuatri is thinking about allowing someone like that to join."
"Idiot, hold your tongue. If Master Zushuatri or any of those students of his heard you then it'd be troublesome."
"Tch, I know..."
"That guy has a pretty good weapon though. Maybe I'll add it to my collection if I run into him during the selection."
"Heh, there you go again picking on the weak. Don't make the same mistake as your elder brother and get killed during the selection due to fooling around."
Those near Izroth simply took one glance at him and then immediately lost interest. In their eyes, he was probably one of those rare young masters whose parents had a large network of connections and somehow managed to join the selection.
While this was an incredibly rare case, it was not unheard of. However, those type of people always underestimated the selection and had no idea what they were getting themselves into. They were usually the first to cry out for help before getting themselves killed.
Izroth did not pay any attention to those who mocked him from the side. However, he made sure to memorize the faces of those who insulted him and even openly threatened him. He decided that if he ran into them during the selection, he would show them no mercy.
Izroth examined his surroundings, as well as, the individuals that were already present on the platform.
'I can see why Aru reacted that way.'
Since Aru had followed after him for quite some time, then he should have been well aware of Izroth's strength. However, even still Aru kept insisting that he was still a bit too weak and that his success was only a possibility. Now, Izroth finally had a decent understanding of why Aru spoke that way.
'The average level does make me seem a bit out of place.'
As Izroth inspected the individuals around him using the system, he found that the average level range was between 50-52. There were even a few people who were level 55! At the moment, Izroth was only level 45. This meant that even those who looked the weakest were still five levels higher than him. Not to mention, the natural gap that existed between NPCs who were level 49 and level 50 was massive.
This meant that even a rare NPC like First Sword Zephyr would have suffered a defeat to almost any random person currently on the platform! However, Izroth was not intimidated by this fact. In truth, he was looking forward to it.
It was difficult for him to find challenging opponents that were around his level. Izroth knew that the fastest way to increase one's experience and skills was in actual combat situations. But, if there was never any pressure in those situations, then one's progress would be extremely slow.
Therefore, with such a wide gap in base strength, it was likely that he would finally be able to find a decent match and train his sword forms to their peak levels.
'It hasn't even started and yet I already feel as if my time here will not have been wasted.'
Izroth stayed to himself as more participants arrived. Just like Izroth, they also descended from the sky and landed on the platform. They used a large variety of methods such as a summoned beast that could fly, a magic item, and a few even used skills similar to Izroth's Falling Feather Steps.
There were also a few who missed the platform and ended up in one of the separate regions. Whenever that happened, there would be a pillar of light that fell from the sky that would vanish a few moments later.
"Fools, don't they even know the basic rules? If one lands outside of the platform area they'll be automatically presumed as a threat to the Sky Palace and eliminated by the massive magic formation that protects it." One of the participants said.
"From what I've heard, there are always a handful of idiots who try to explore ahead and end up paying the price for it."
After nearly thirty minutes went by, there were now one thousand people gathered at the platform. Luckily it was extremely spacious and so they were not too crowded together.
'This is much more than I expected. Though given the size of this place, I suppose any less than this would be pointless.'
As more people arrived, the platform started to become increasingly rowdy. There were even some fistfights that broke out among those who had a previous bad history with one another.
"Master Zushuatri approaches! Silence yourselves!" A loud and thundering voice echoed throughout the surrounding area and reached every corner of the platform.
Immediately after that voice made the announcement, the entire platform became dead silent. In fact, it was so quiet that one could hear the sound of a pin drop.
'Just who is this Zushuatri?'
Izroth was curious as to just what type of person was capable of being the master of a place like the Sky Palace, as well as, gather so many strong individuals. Not to mention, the moment that person made the announcement, the atmosphere became heavy and tense. It was almost as if everyone were afraid of showing any signs of disrespect to Zushuatri.
Even those who were brawling with one another halted their actions and straightened themselves out.
A few moments later, nine pillars of light descended from the sky as a grand stage appeared at the front of the platform. When the light cleared, nine individuals had appeared on the grand stage.
Eight of the individuals stood respectfully behind the old man at the front of the group. Six of them were men, while the other two were women. There was a powerful aura coming from the eight individuals behind that old man. As for the old man himself, there was a monstrous aura coming from him.
On the surface, he looked like a gentle old man and he even had a pleasant smile on his face. However, hidden underneath that Izroth could tell that he was someone in the same league as Gear and the other seven heroes. No, in fact, that old man may even be at a higher level than them! Of course, this was only a feeling Izroth had, however, he was confident in his instincts.
'That old man is indeed strong, but the others accompanying him are no pushovers.'
Izroth had his Energy Vision Sense active. He was only around fifty meters away from the stage and so he did not expend too much Essence. Although it was only for one second, Izroth clearly saw just how abnormal the nine on stage were.
The flames around them were absolutely quiet without a single leak making it impossible to judge their level of strength. In other words, they were capable of perfectly controlling their energy!
"Master, all of the participants have arrived. You can proceed at your leisure." One of the male individuals who stood behind the old man said in a respectful tone. This male had the ears and tail of a cat-like beast with piercing golden colored-eyes, black hair, and tanned skin.
He was very handsome and looked to be the type of man that women would fall in love with at first sight. He was a member of the beast race in RML known as the Zensana, a powerful warrior-like race.
"Mm! Sphinx, it seems like this year is a good batch of promising talents." Zushuatri responded in a delighted tone to the male known as Sphinx.
"Forgive me for my insolence, but this group seems even weaker than the last, Master. Maybe you should start raising the requirements so that we don't get so many weaklings wanting to test their luck. There are two out there that bothers me the most." One of the female individuals said with a frown on her face.
The one who just spoke wore a beautiful robe with earrings that resembled that of small circular shaped bells. In her hand was a folding fan which she held to cover the lower part of her face. Her cherry blossom colored hair was braided in an elegant manner and the pupils in her eyes were in the shape of pink crescent moons. There were also three pink stripes going down the right side of her cheek.
Although the lower part of her face was hidden, one could tell that she was a high-level beauty!
"If we did that, I fear that no one would be willing to send individuals to participate. After all, there is not an endless number of those under the age of 30 who could meet the strength requirements, Sage." Zushuatri replied as his gaze swept through the crowd and he immediately realized the two individuals Sage was referring to.
"As for those two, they were sent by that person. It's been more than twenty years since they last recommended anyone to participate in the selection. I look forward to their performance." Zushuatri said in a kind tone.
"Now, I suppose we should begin." Zushuatri stated as he stepped forward.
Izroth received a warning from Soul Sense the moment Sage set her sights on him. However, it quickly went away just as fast as it appeared. He was somewhat surprised when his Soul Sense went off. Had he already done something to offend one of the people on that stage?
'None of them look familiar to me. But, that person definitely wanted to kill me just now.'
Izroth locked his gaze onto Sage with a carefree expression on his face.
"Oh? That brat..." Sage smirked behind her fan as she saw Izroth look directly towards her.
"Hm? What is it, Sage?" Sphinx asked.
"Nothing." Sage replied as she closed her eyes.
"Everyone, welcome to my humble abode. I am the master of this Sky Palace and the host of the selection process, Zushuatri. I am sure many of you have numerous questions, but before we begin I would like to ask if anyone is having second thoughts about their participation. If so, this will be your only chance to back out. Once the selection officially starts there are only three ways to leave the Sky Palace, victory, death, or surviving until the four-hour time limit has expired." Zushuatri said as the gentle smile remained on his face.
Although it looked as if he was speaking normally, his voice was still loud enough to cover every corner of the platform.
Of course, no one accepted Zushuatri's offer to back out of the selection. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity! Who here did not know that a great reward requires a great sacrifice?
"Good, very good! Even in old age, this old man's eyes for talent is not too bad. Then, I shall explain the rules..." Zushuatri said as he went on to explain the rules of the selection.
'I see, so it's like that.'