So, Dyon stood and watched as the brackets raged on. Nothing too outrageous happened from bracket three to eight.
Thor and Vidar made the Ragnor look strong and capable as usual. Thor with his stoic and firm martial arts and Vidar with his savage and often tasteless torturing of his opponents.
Caedlum treated these rounds no differently than he had the previous few. He used no weapon, preferring to use his fists as his main tool for combat. His red skin seemed to glow with every punch he through as he effortlessly glided his body through his fights with an elegant ease. However, this elegance was very clearly backed by powerful and robust bursts of energy, giving his style a shift from hard to soft and a snappiness that made him unpredictable.
Delia, who Dyon had been the most worried about in the non-death brackets, seemed to have the easiest time. Dyon could tell that she was being targeted by some Planet Deimos rankers, but they had been much too low tier to handle her. Something had fundamentally changed about Delia, and although Dyon didn't know exactly what it was, he was happy that it seemed like it was for the better.
Surprisingly, the reason Dyon had been the most worried never manifested itself. He had been apprehensive not because he doubted Delia, but more so because from what Ri and Madeleine told him, she had had her psyche attacked by an elder during her last fight. However, it seemed that that elder was either being held at bay or had forgotten about Delia. There was also the possibility that they were biding their time for something else… But, Dyon didn't want to think about that too much. All he could do was keep Delia by his side.
That said, although things weren't too out of the ordinary, there were some odd occurrences. For one, a few top rankers never challenged during their brackets. This led to the top 9 accumulated 108 points and excluding them from moving onwards.
It had gone under the radar for the first few, but after the third time, Dyon realized that something was wrong.
"They're stacking the deck," Dyon said softly. He was proven even more correct after the occurrences stopped at three. Why? Because if you excluded Madeleine and Ri from the death bracket rankers… There just so happened to be three top nine spots remaining.
Ri and Madeleine, though, were much more care free. They didn't seem to mind. While Dyon felt like his arrogance had brought trouble to his loved ones again, Ri and Madeleine felt different. To them, they didn't want Dyon to have to lower his head to anyone. They had been more angry than even Dyon was when his named was being smeared. So, how could they possibly trade a bit of safety for their husband's pride? They would rather face the dangers with him. And, should anything happen to them, they knew fully well that he wouldn't rest until those responsible paid.
"Ri, I understand the sentimental value of the sword your mother left you, but would you like another one? I have plenty of transcendent swords you could use." Dyon asked.
The truth was the he had a whole armory of transcendent level weapons. In his first visit to the Celestial Deer Sect, he had found a special door using his innate aurora that led him to their most valuable possession.
An ancient God clan like the celestial deer sect, who had experts as powerful as half step to transcendence, wouldn't have a lack of transcendent level weapons. In fact, considering the demon sage had a supreme level tower, it was almost disappointing that the celestial deer sect, as an array alchemy sect, didn't have even more powerful weapons.
But, the truth was that even for them, supreme level weapons were a bit much. That said, Dyon's spatial ring and the Dragon King's weapon likely surpassed even that grade.
Ri's hand flashed as a sword appeared. It was normal in every way. In fact, it was the lowest of the common level weapons. Ri had always hung onto it because it was the first gift her mother had ever given her. Because she missed her mother, she refused to switch – she wanted it to act as a piece of the mom she remembered.
But, her mother was back now.
Kawa Acacia seemed to notice when Ri took out the sword nearly immediately. Tears welled up in her eyes as her sharp eyes trailed along the length of its common metal body.
As a martial expert, she could see the amount of work Ri had put in with this weapon. She saw the chips on its body and the wear of its handle. She even saw evidence of it being repaired again and again.
"Little Alex…" Kawa whispered. King Acacia lightly held onto his wife's hand. "You'd handicap yourself like this?..."
If Queen Acacia knew that Ri had fought for months on end with this weapon as her only protector, words would not be able to express her level of guilt. Without doing so intentionally, she had placed a cap on her daughter's potential.
Why did Ri insist on learning the sword? Because Kawa was a swordswoman. Why did Ri insist on learning ice will? Because it was Kawa's best will. Why did Ri fall in love with Dyon so easily? Because her mother told her it was okay to trust anyone who could survive in the cave she left behind.
Kawa's impact on Ri's life was more than she knew.
"Little Alex," Kawa's voice made her way to Ri's ears, causing her to pause, "Release your shackles…"
Ri smiled, nodding firmly. "Dyon, can you turn this sword into something for me?"
"Of course," Dyon's eyes softened, "What do you want?"
"Make it the belt that holds my new sword." Ri's smile was brilliant and blinding.
Dyon placed his hands on either one of Ri and Madeleine's shoulders before his eyes flashed with a deep purple gold.
In an instant, everything around them changed.
Madeleine's dress was once again her long white qipao – a transcendent level treasure. Her purple hair flowed and her eyes were just as deep and sharp.
Ri dressed in a silver and crystal lined armor, resized to her perfectly. It transitioned into robust white leather that clung tightly to her curves, sculpting around her immaculately. But, her most standout feature was the new belt around her waist.
It was a striking silver of interlaced chain, reflecting the sunlight to perfection. Its center held was looked like a miniature Ice Petal's Dance fruit that doubled as a buckle. That said, it was the 3ft sword to her waist that shined.
It had a frosty white handle wrapped in a soft but comfortable leather. But, when Ri pulled it out, its blade erupted in a dense darkness, adjusting to her affinity immediately.
Queen Acacia's eyes widened, "Edrym… Alex, she…"
"She's not a River type Kitsune…" King Acacia finished.
But, there was nothing the couple could do. It was clear that Ri wasn't surprised by this. They had been away for too long. That said, what they were about to find out was that their daughters wasn't so simple as just not being a river type kitsune… She was the peak most of all Void Kitsune.
"The time for the final bracket has come!" Elder Den's voice boomed before his eyes trained on a certain triplet family. "Please come to the stage, rankers." His eyes narrowed with an almost unconcealed glee as a sneer colored his features