"Oh? It has always been a tradition that whoever places first in the selection is awarded the role as captain. However, it seems that young Zouren is not satisfied with this arrangement?" Zushuatri said with a gentle smile on his face.
Zouren stepped forward and cupped his fist in a respectful manner towards Zushuatri as he responded, "It's not that I doubt the selection process or Master Zushuatri's judgment... It's just that the words I speak are the truth. I find it strange that two completely unknown individuals have the power to claim the top two spots of the selection. Surely, I'm not the only one with these thoughts weighing on my mind."
The atmosphere became somewhat awkward at those words. Indeed, nearly everyone there questioned how two dark horses had managed to usurp the top spots in the selection. One was already strange, but two? Could there be something more going on behind the scenes?
"What's this? Since you've failed to claim the top spot you want to find fault with those who did? Not only that, but you wish to put your words into the mouth of others? Sadly, these words are some that I do not agree with. You sure are shameless, Zouren." Lances stated with an amused expression on his face.
To be honest, even he had a difficult time believing that Izroth was able to come in 1st place. Back within the Living Forest when they first met one another, he was certain that Izroth was someone who could potentially make it into the top 50, however, the top ten was not even in his thoughts.
It seemed as though he had severely underestimated Izroth at the time. Although others may not have noticed it, Lances could tell that the third young master of the Dragon Palace thought highly of Izroth. Otherwise, with his temperament, he would have already sent Izroth flying to display the clear difference in their level of strength. Therefore, he believed that Izroth was not as simple as he originally thought.
"Logically speaking, he should have participated in the third team's selection. However, just from what I witnessed in the Living Forest, no one within the third selection would have been his match. To get on good terms with the third young master of the Dragon Palace and have such monstrous talent as to claim first within the second team's selection... I'm afraid his talent surpasses even that of those five individuals." Lances thought to himself.
Zouren narrowed his eyes as he glared at Lances and said, "Mind your words! Don't think that I won't teach you a lesson just because of your Pride Family, Lances."
"Do I need to use my Pride Family's status to speak my mind freely? If I see something shameless, then I'll call it shameless!" Lances said without giving Zouren any face.
"I'll remember these words." Zouren stated in a cold tone as his facial expression darkened.
"Alright, what's done is done. Young Zouren, the official selection has already ended. It would be inappropriate for you to start a battle with those who will be your allies during the Lustrum Imperial Bout. However, since you appear to have some doubts, let this old man clear them away for you. Your junior Roudin was personally defeated by the young man you hold doubts against." Zushuatri stated in a casual and friendly tone.
Zouren widened his eyes in shock, however, he was not the only one who was surprised to learn of this. The other three individuals who had strange symbols on their forehead were also left dumbfounded. The other participants seemed to be taken aback as well. That guy who seemed to be the weakest among everyone present was able to defeat someone like Roudin?! How was that even possible?
"I see, so that's why that guy isn't here. He was already..." One of the participants muttered to themselves.
Zouren spoke through his teeth as he restrained his anger and said, "Master Zushuatri, surely he must have used some underhanded tactics to achieve victory. How could he possibly-"
"You seem to be forgetting something important. The rules of this competition do not prohibit the use of underhanded tactics. Even if he did use despicable means to achieve his goals, there is no rule against this within the selection. If one lacks the power to face whatever is thrown at them, then they only have themselves to blame. Treasures, intelligence, and possessions are also a part of one's own strength. Will you continue to pursue this nonsense? If so, while old man Zushuatri may be willing to be patient with you inexperienced brats... Don't blame me for being impatient." Kayn said as he released an immense pressure as he locked his gaze onto Zouren.
Zouren furrowed his brows as he felt cold sweat run down his back. Kayn was not someone he could afford to offend even with his incredible backing. Even though he felt wronged, he would swallow this humiliation for the time being. In the end, there was still nearly half a year remaining until the Lustrum Imperial Bout began. During that time, it was not unheard of for there to be "accidents" among the top ten participants.
"Since Master Zushuatri and the third young master of the Dragon Palace can vouch for him, I shall no longer pursue the matter." Zouren said as he stepped back. However, he had already etched the name and face of Izroth into his mind.
Izroth, however, was unbothered by the sudden turn of events. Did he have to prove himself to someone he did not even know? Who was Zouren compared to someone like the Netherworld Monarch or the eternal darkness of the Shadahi? Izroth did not even place Zouren in his sights! To him, this was simply a stepping stone to achieve a higher goal.
He had no grudges against Zouren nor would he intentionally seek it out, however, if Zouren dared to block his path, then Zouren would only have himself to find fault with when he came to regret it!
"Now that that's settled, it is time for your rewards! But, first..." Zushuatri waved his hand as ten golden tokens with a unique design and energy being emitted from them flew out towards the top ten participants. Each of the participants caught the golden token in their hands. Each token had a number on it that reflected the owner's ranking within the selection.
'Hm? This is...'
Name: Golden Lustrum Imperial Token(Magical Item)
Imperial Peninsula Realm(Current Status): Closed
Usage: This token is proof that the user has successfully passed the second selection. At the time of the Lustrum Imperial Bout, the user will be alerted and capable of using this token to immediately transport to the fifth layer of the Imperial Peninsula Realm. Being in possession of this token also provides the user with many hidden benefits and those who recognize it will treat the user with a greater level of respect. Wield it with great authority!
Special Note: This item is Soulbound to the user. This item cannot be traded or sold. If the user forfeits possession of this item, it will automatically self-destruct.
He then continued, "Remember to keep these Golden Lustrum Imperial Tokens on you at all times. It will allow you to enter the Imperial Peninsula Realm when it opens. It can also provide you with many benefits to assist you in better preparing for the Lustrum Imperial Bout. If you dare to lose it, don't even think about getting another one."
Everyone heeded Zushuatri's words as they put away the Golden Lustrum Imperial Token for safekeeping. Afterward, Zushuatri's six students were dismissed as he led the remaining participants into the grand palace along with Kayn.
"I wonder what rewards we'll get. I can barely hold back my excitement!" One of the participants said.
"I know what you mean. When I return to my family with a great treasure, a huge celebration will be thrown. Master Zushuatri lives up to his generous reputation. But, it's a bit disappointing that we also didn't receive golden tokens, otherwise, even the king of my Pzenium Kingdom would have to personally greet me when I visit the capital city. I wonder if those in the third and fourth selections also received golden tokens..."
"You mean you don't know? The tokens are separated into four different grades. Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Bronze tokens hold the least influence, while the Platinum tokens hold the greatest influence. There are only ten of each token rewarded to the top ten in each respective selection. The fourth team receives bronze tokens, the third team silver tokens, the second team gold tokens."
He then continued, "However, those within the first team receive platinum tokens! The amount of influence that each token holds is like that of night and day! Legend has it, that one would even be granted an audience with the Dragon King himself if they possess a platinum token."
What?! One could be granted an audience with the Dragon King?! With that kind of influence, who would dare offend an owner of a platinum token? One had to know that the Dragon King even looked down on other legendary existences and even they wished for an audience with him!
One of the participants sighed, "How can we compare to those on the first team? This is already a great fortune for people like us."
Izroth listened closely to their conversation and found the topic to be interesting.
'It's unfortunate that my current level strength didn't allow for me to participate in the first team's selection.'
As if knowing Izroth's thoughts, Kayn grinned and said, "If you claim the top spot in the Lustrum Imperial Bout and become my brother, then naturally, you'll be welcome to visit my Dragon Palace."
"Then, I'll have to thank the prince of the Dragon Palace in advance for his hospitality." Izroth said in a carefree tone. Now, he had an even greater motivation to succeed. If he could enter the Dragon Palace, who knew what kind of benefits awaited him? After all, a place like that could not be so simple.
"We've arrived at the Treasure Room. I will warn everyone now that you may only choose one item. If you attempt to leave this room with more than one item, then I cannot guarantee your safety. Those of you who have not made it into the top ten can only choose a treasure from the first floor. Those within the top ten can go up to the second floor and the top five can go up to the third floor." Zushuatri explained.
He then continued, "As for the one who claimed first place... You may choose one item from the fourth floor. Be warned, those who try to go up to a floor higher than mentioned will have to face the consequences of their own actions. You have thirty minutes, choose well."
As soon as that was said, the participants rushed to explore the grand Treasure Room. On the first floor alone, there were already a large collections of items ranging from strange magic items, maps, pills, and talismans, all the way to weapons and armor. There was not a single uncommon or common item in sight and the lowest quality available was items of rare quality! Unfortunately, there were very few epic quality items on the first floor.
Izroth took his time as he looked around the first floor. He found a few interesting items, however, he would not make a hasty decision since he was only allowed to leave out of the Treasure Room with a single item.
'The first floor has a few good items, however, I'm more interested in the upper floors.'
There was a grade four pill on the first floor that would have sold for a fortune and caused endless fighting among the top guilds if they knew of its existence, however, Izroth did not even put it into his sights. After all, it was only a matter of time before he crafted his own grade four pills.
'I guess I'll head up to the second floor.'
Izroth went towards the staircase as he left the first floor and made his way to the second floor. There was a transparent barrier that he passed through as he stepped onto the second floor that transported him into a separate room.
When Izroth left the room, Kayn stepped next to Zushuatri he said, "Are you sure it's alright to give him access to the fourth floor? I'm certain that the top five, including first place, have always only had access up to the third floor."
Zushuatri smiled as he replied, "This can be seen as a small gift for having spared the life of my student."
"Is that really the only reason?" Kayn asked with a grin on his face. However, Zushuatri remained silent and kept a simple smile on his face in response to Kayn's inquiry.
"Heh, if you don't want to discuss it, then I won't continue to ask." Kayn stated as he shrugged. But, in his mind, he knew that there was a deeper reasoning behind Zushuatri's decision.
The first thing Izroth noticed was that there were still a decent amount of treasures, however, the quantity could not compare to the amount that was on the first floor.
'As expected, there are even fewer items here.'
There were four other individuals that were already on the second floor, including Lances who had placed seventh. When he saw Izroth enter the room, he went up to greet him.
"It's a bit late, but congratulations on claiming the top spot in the selection, Izroth." Lances said in a respectful manner as he congratulated Izroth.
Izroth nodded in response as he replied, "Congratulations on making it into the top ten."
"In front of you, the top ten does not seem that impressive. However, I shall shamefully accept your good intentions." Lances stated.
He then asked, "Are you headed to the fourth floor of the Treasure Room?"
Lances was surprised to see that Izroth was still on the lower floors. The other four who made it into the top five had immediately gone up to the third floor without sparing a single glance at the items on the first and second floors.
"Just a bit of curiosity, that's all." Izroth replied with a carefree expression on his face. However, Izroth's goal was not simply to pick an item and leave. Each item had some history to it and even contained important information. There were even some maps with the location of treasures and rare materials that were possible to look at. With his perfect memory, how could he forfeit such a grand opportunity?
'I should have thanked the master of the Sky Palace in advance.'
Izroth was not walking around without purpose. He planned on completely exploiting the system with his perfect memory to reap the greatest benefits!