The entirety of Wolfsoul City practically exploded once word of Yin Long's challenge had spread. The last Throne Seekers Rite took place nearly 8000 years ago when Yin Long's grandfather bested and killed his brother to take over the position of the clan leader, thanks to this there were many that didn't even know such a tradition existed. But the clan archives contained more than a few texts about the tradition so there was no questioning its legitimacy, once it was invoked there was no stopping it without someone dying.
Yin Long made the challenge and Lang Huo had no choice but to accept it. Normally the one who received the challenge would set the date for the battle but as Lang Huo was unable to even accept the situation, Yin Long got to choose when the fight would be. And the day he chose was the 5th of the triangular moons, the day he and Lang Huo would turn 20, as well as the day that Lang Huo was supposed to get married. In one fell swoop, what should have been one of Lang Huo's happiest days had been twisted and corrupted by Yin Long.
Yin Long only received a single visitor after he made the challenge, and that was Lang Ru, who visited him on the day of the battle, a mere two hours before he would be taken to the arena. She was clad in slightly wet white mourning robes and only took a few steps into the room and didn't even bother closing the door behind her. She took out a normal gourd from her interspatial ring and placed it on the ground while casting a deep glance at Yin Long, whose entire body radiated the chilly aura of a murderer. She didn't linger after placing down the gourd, stepping out of the room and closing the door behind her, only leaving behind a single short sentence.
"Having to hurt those we care for to do what's best for them, what an accursed thing it is."
Yin Long's gaze moved slightly to glance at the door that was already closed, eventually sinking slightly and landing on the gourd. It seemed like Lang Ru might have already realized what he was doing, but it didn't matter, everything was already set in stone. Yin Long went over and picked up the gourd, sitting back down on the bed and taking a few sips from the wine.
"It certainly is bitter."
Yin Long continued to sip the bitter wine until the sound of footsteps echoed throughout the entire dungeon, Lang Cui opening the door to his cell. 15 soldiers were accompanying him, all of them clad in full armor and with their weapons at the ready. Lang Cui threw a set of metal armor and a sword into the cell, wordlessly beckoning for Yin Long that it was time. Yin Long finished the last of the bitter wine and then stood up, disregarding the armor and picking up the sword.
"Armor is pointless, it'll just slow me down."
Yin Long removed his robes after he finished his statement, switching from the traditional yellow Lang clan robes to a chestnut brown one. He left the cell after he finished changing, the 15 guards surrounding him while Lang Cui led the way out of the dungeon. A soft drumming sound reached Yin Long's ears as they approached the exit of the dungeon, reaching its height when they ascended the stairs and arrived in the empty room above the dungeon.
The group left the house, heavy drops of rain pelting Yin Long the moment he stepped out of the door. The sky was covered in dark clouds, a torrential downpour covering the entire city as the sound of distant thunder occasionally rumbled through the clouds. Yin Long was escorted through the nearly deserted streets of the city and taken through five different transmission stations before they finally reached the location of the duel, a gargantuan circular coliseum that was located close to the western end of the city.
The area around the coliseum was completely packed with people, there were even some that climbed up the outer wall so that they could reach one of the thousands of arched windows, some even tried to climb all the way to the open top of the building. Yin Long's face remained calm and cold as he was escorted into the building, which was similar to the judgment hall in that the inside of the building was just several hallways leading to either the seating area or the arena.
Yin Long was led straight to the center of the building where the arena was located, an area that also looked quite similar to the judgment hall, a single circular stone stage surrounded by elevated seating areas. The stone stage was a little over a kilometer in diameter and Lang Huo was already standing on it, she too had skipped the armor and was only wearing a yellow robe.
Yin Long walked to the stone stage alone, ignoring the ocean of spectators that were all looking directly at him. His eyes and mind were focused on only a single person, Lang Huo, everything else vanished from his mind. He stepped onto the stone stage and held his sword ready, raising his head slightly to look at the dark sky that was visible through the open top of the building.
"The weather really is fitting, isn't it? It's almost like the Netherworld knows that it will receive another sinner today."
He lowered his gaze again and focused it on Lang Huo, his eyes cold and sharp. Lang Huo's expression was complicated, wavering and uncertain as she looked at Yin Long, but he cut her off just as she started to open her mouth.
"Don't even bother talking, I don't think I'll be able to stand hearing your voice. How long have you simply been enjoying the love of our parents and the clan? How long have you so selfishly hogged it all for yourself, leaving all the burdens and pain to other people? No more, it ends here. Today, only death will allow me to claim what is rightfully mine."
Yin Long put on the act of a vengeful and neglected child and then started walking forward, the tip of his sword dragging along the stage as he moved. The distance between him and Lang Huo was quickly closed, but Lang Huo still didn't seem to be able to wrap her head around the situation, the sudden shock that had been Yin Long's shift in attitude had left her somewhat whiplashed.
"Big Yin, why must you keep up this joke of an act? Can't you just tell me what's going on so that I can help you reso...!"
Yin Long cut off Lang Huo's words by suddenly slashing out with his sword when he got close to her. His blade moved upward in a diagonal manner and cut into her stomach and waist, leaving a gash that gushed forth blood. Lang Huo quickly stumbled back, a layer of fiery Qi surrounding the wound on instinct while her pained gaze landed on Yin Long, who laid things out in blunt terms.
"I'm not joking, and I'm not acting. Lang Huo, today, the only thing that's on my mind is death."
Yin Long pointed the tip of the sword directly at Lang Huo, a few drops of her own blood still in the process of dripping down the tip. Lang Huo's mouth opened and closed, it was almost as if she couldn't get out the words, or simply didn't know what to say. But Yin Long didn't give her the time to organize her thoughts, stepping forward and slashing out with his sword once more, faster this time.
Lang Huo steppe back on instinct, her two-meter long crimson greatsword appearing in her grasp and blocking the horizontal slash. Yin Long responded by tilting his sword and sliding it down the length of Lang Huo's blade, flicking his wrist when his blade reached the hilt so that it skipped over the hilt guard and slashed a wound into Lang Huo's fingers.
The sudden pain caused Lang Huo's fingers to loosen their grip on the sword and resulting in it tilting forward toward Yin Long. He took advantage of this to slide his right leg back so that he stood sideways, Lang Huo's sword falling down right in front of his face. His sword slashed out again at the same time, once again cutting into Lang Huo's abdomen and increasing the size of the gash that was already there.
The pain caused her to suck in a sharp breath, the cold and merciless look she saw in Yin Long's eyes causing her heart to tremble. She noticed his wrist moving again, her body moving on instinct as her right hand tightened her grip on the greatsword and swept out sideways with it.
Yin Long jumped up to evade the sword that was wreathed in faint flames, but the speed of it as well as the short distance between them resulted in the sword cutting into his leg before he managed to jump over it. The attack was an instinctual reaction that didn't contain Lang Huo's full power so the sword didn't cut clean through his leg, but it still flung his legs out underneath him and caused him to fall headfirst to the ground.
He stretched out his free hand and landed in a handstand, bending his elbow and pushing himself up into the air so that he could put some distance between him and Lang Huo. He performed a somersault before he touched the ground, landing somewhat unsteadily due to his practically ruined right leg.
Lang Huo remained in place, her eyes opening wide as she looked at the wound on Yin Long's leg, at the blood that was gushing forth. And then she heard it, that thunderous applause and cheering from the ocean of spectators, all of them cheering for her, praying for her victory. And at that moment, as the image of Yin Long declaring her marriage to Tang Fen flashed through her mind, all the pieces fell together.
"It's the same... You're doing the same thing again..."
When he was a child he had willingly abandoned his feelings for Tang Fen, he had then also willingly abandoned all thoughts towards the position of the clan leader. He had abandoned his love and ambitions for her, and now he was abandoning his life for her. With realization setting in, she couldn't help but look at him with a pained gaze, the ache in her heart far worse than any of her wounds.
"Please... Don't do this... Don't make me do this..."
It was her, it had always been her. It was she who received most of their parents' attention, it was for her that he abandoned his own emotions, it was for her that he abandoned his own future, and it was for her that he was abandoning his own life. Time and time again she had taken from him, yet never had she given him anything in return, only now did these thoughts pass through her mind.
But Yin Long ignored her pleading and kicked off the ground to charge forward, ignoring the pain from his leg as he prepared his sword again. He had made his choice and he did not regret it, now he would charge forward until he touched the flames and burned away.
He slashed upward diagonally with his sword again when he reached Lang Huo, forcing her to take a step back while sweeping out with her sword to push Yin Long's attack aside. But Yin Long simply took advantage of the force within her attack to spin his entire body around and slash at her from the other side, forcing her to push out her left hand at an awkward angle. Flames roared out from her palm and clashed with Yin Long's sword, the sheer speed of the flames pushing his arm back.
Lang Huo looked at Yin Long with pained and despairing eyes and wanted to open her mouth again, but the moment she did so his left hand shot out and plunged itself into the flames she spewed from her palm. His gaze remained cold and merciless as the fire melted his skin and boiled his blood, his message to her was abundantly clear. No matter what she did, he refused to leave this stage alive.
Lang Huo pulled back and quickly removed her flames, but Yin Long's entire left hand had already been reduced to a charred skeleton. Lang Huo was the most talented member that the Lang clan had produced since they were founded, at the tender age of twenty she was starting to approach the peak of the Immortal Heart, or the Immortal Door, realm. With such a talent and strength, her flames were far hotter than most people could imagine, had she not been unconsciously holding back then it was likely that the flames would have burst forth and turned Yin Long's entire arm to ash.
Yin Long and Lang Huo both looked at each other, Yin Long's sword tilted ready at his right side in a casual stance where the tip of the sword was just above the ground. Lang Huo couldn't help but be reminded of all the sparring matches they had engaged in, his stance looked casual and relaxed but she had never been able to get a single attack past his defenses.
She glanced at his ruined left arm and right leg, tears finally starting to well up in her eyes as the thunderous cheers only grew louder and louder. She grasped her sword with both hands and raised it as high as she could, brilliant crimson flames bursting out from the sword and evaporating the rain all around the stage as the heat in the area constantly rose.
Yin Long looked at the raised sword, the crimson flames reflected within his black pupils, which he forced to remain cold and merciless. Lang Huo drew in a deep breath, the wounds on her body spurting forth a little blood that was quickly caught by the layer of Qi she had surrounded them with. She then stepped forward and charged at Yin Long, smashing the sword directly down at him with all her might, just like she had done so many times in their previous sparring matches.
And just like he had done so many times in the past, Yin Long's sword shot up and swiped at the side of the sword to deflect it. The flame around Lang Huo's sword vanished just before his sword reached hers, the two swords clashing loudly. But Yin Long's sword didn't even manage to resist for a single second before it broke in half and allowed Lang Huo's sword to continue without pause.
The greatsword fell slightly diagonally onto his right shoulder and sank deep into his body, tearing through his bones and flesh while it eviscerated his lungs and other organs. The sword practically cut him in two, just barely sliding underneath his heart and stopping just before it left his waist on the left side.
Blood gushed forth from the massive wound as well as from Yin Long's mouth, his shattered sword falling to the ground as his body slumped forward and was just barely caught by Lang Huo. He could tell that she was opening her mouth, but the words were unable to reach him, the entire world had turned silent to him.
"See...? I always told you... that my sword would shatter if you... properly used your power... Sorry, but I'm leaving Big sis Ru, Lan Yun... and Sister Fen to you..."
He didn't know if the words actually left his throat, he could just hope that they reached Lang Huo. His consciousness and vision quickly grew dim and dark, the last thing he saw before darkness swallowed him was a bolt of lightning as thick as a large tree crashing into the earth outside the city. And the last thought that flashed past his mind was that his teacher had been right all along, if his sword broke then he would die.