Within the building where all the beasts were kept, a giant beast was laying quietly on the ground.
This was a bull with huge, sharp horns. If this place were brighter, you would be able to see its brown coat.
It was a beast sent from Red Star City every five years and had won every battle it participated in. Due to the patterns that resembled flames, it was named the Inferno Bull.
This Inferno had been enslaved by Red Star City, this was not its first time in the pit. This beast was often considered the star of the event.
While it was agitated by the noises from the pit, they were not enough to provoke it for there were sedative herbs around it.
There was not much light coming from the slits between the stone walls but it was unaffected by the dim conditions.
Suddenly, it heard a scutter across the ground. It turned to see an insect.
Inferno was not bothered, proceeding with its rest after a look. It was getting ready for the battle ahead. Just an insect.
However, the insect seemed to grow irritated at its ignorance. Every once in a while, it bit the bull and circled randomly, growing bolder by the second. The bull’s sweeping tail did not chase it away, it was quick.
This was annoying.
Like most of the battle beasts, it had been starved for two days for the battle. Although the bull was still fed, compared to its regular diet, it was measly. In addition, it hadn’t been able to eat its favourite type of grass ever since arriving in Beast Battle City. In the past, in Red Star City, slaves would bring it fresh grass every few days. Here, all it had was hay and unpalatable, strange plants.
This was annoying too.
Inferno exhaled hot air through its two large nostrils, its quiet calmness slowly fading.
On the other side, within the arena.
Shao Xuan stared at the horned lizard walking into the sandpit.
It had a flattened, elongated body with an oval torso area. From far, it resembled a spiky toad except for a tail behind. The horned lizard was a dark sandy colour, covered in pointy scales. It looked as if it had a suit of armour with spearheads pointing outwards. Other than the cone-shaped spikes, its rough scales were sharp and pointy too.
The horned lizard looked vicious, especially with its entire body covered in sharp ends. Although they were for defence, they were a problem enough to frustrate the fighters.
It crawled on all four limbs towards the centre of the sandpit, irritated by the loud crowd around it. It turned its thick neck to survey its surroundings, then its gaze fell on Shao Xuan and the rest of the fighters. The rust-coloured head had dry, red stains around its eyes so they looked as malicious as ever- especially when it peered at the row of fighters.
When their eyes met with the beast’s Shao Xuan heard a few gulps from the people behind him, perhaps even their quickening heartbeats.
Even Lei and Tuo, who had been hunters for years, could not maintain the calmness they had during hunts. There were no places to hide, they were fully exposed here!
The gigantic beast opened its jaws wide, unleashing a loud roar at the humans.
It wasn’t as loud as the previous beasts, nor was it deep and deafening like them. This one sounded like a sandstorm billowing over sand dunes, it made your hair stand on their ends.
A strong breeze blew with its roar. Sand flew all around them, the audience couldn’t help but squint.
“Ah-Xuan, what do we do now?” asked Tuo.
“Wait.” Shao Xuan was observing the horned lizard, recalling Su Gu’s words and calculating the probability of winning. He hadn’t expected to be tossed into a life-or-death duel against a beast like that. If this escalated into a full fight, Lei and Tuo might not survive, for they were already injured. He had witnessed how destructive these animals could be from the previous fights. Especially Lei, who was already in pain with every move. His movement was severely restricted.
After its loud cry, the lizard crawled quickly towards Shao Xuan and the rest, kicking up sand with every sand.
Before Shao Xuan and the rest moved, the four slaves behind were already shouting and running away.
The horned lizard was initially heading towards Shao Xuan but upon seeing the runaways, its attention was now on every runner. The heavy beast covered huge distance with every lunge and within a few steps, it was already in front of the first slave. The horned lizard did not reach out its relatively short limbs, nor did it sweep its also relatively short tail. It merely hurled itself horizontally across the arena into the stone wall.
Sand flew, and upon impact, large pieces of stone from the wall fell on its spikes.
The first slave was stuck between the lizard and the stone wall, everyone knew of his fate.
The rest of the men felt like they were suffocating, shaking with their knives in their hands. The courage they’d taken so long to muster had all faded with this one move.
In the viewing boxes surrounding them, the young slave masters were red with excitement, their faces looked almost feral as they cheered and shrieked.
They heard that four of the fighters (whom they recognised from their sun-tanned skin) were slaves while the rest were tribesmen. This excited them.
So they were tribal folk…
“Kill! Kill! Kill!”
The cheers shook the heavens.
The horned lizard turned its spotted neck at the rest of the people.
The slave nearest to the horned lizard was too terrified to charge at it. When the lizard’s gaze fell on him, this slave, who previously did not have the strength to lift his blade, sprinted in the opposite direction. He did not run randomly this time but back towards Shao Xuan and the rest.
However, this time, the horned lizard did not chase after him. Instead, it took one step and shook the sand and stone off its body. It did not look at the man it had smashed into pulp, slowly crawling towards Shao Xuan and the rest. Its eyes were half-closed, as if it did not care.
After what just happened, no one dared put their guard down. Their nerves were tightly coiled, their hearts up to their throats as they stare at the beast.
Seeing the approaching beast, one of the slaves eyed Shao Xuan and the rest, who were still standing their ground, then clenched his jaw and ran. However, he stopped abruptly within a few steps for he realised the lizard was staring at him.
As still as a statue, his limbs fixed mid-run, he did not dare turn to look at the beast. He saw it in his peripheral vision while sweat dripped down his forehead.
When the slave stopped, the lizard seemed to be disappointed and fixed its gaze back on the spot with the most humans. After a moment, it took two more powerful steps forward.
The four men from Feather and Tianshan tribe wanted to stay with the three Flaming Horn people to share the burden but their hearts were racing rapidly. As they watched the approaching beast, they wondered if they should stay further away. The beast took a step forward and the previous scene of murder flashed into their minds. They backed away quickly.
However, the pit was round. They were already near the wall and all they could do was move in line with the circumference.
They thought the horned lizard would hurl itself at them again but unexpectedly, it stopped with another cry.
Sand flew towards Shao Xuan and the rest.
The slaves had already backed away- though they did not run. They took slow steps, trying their best not to attract the beast’s attention while the tribesmen had already taken many steps back. With the rain of sand and pebbles, they back away once again.
At this moment, the three people nearest to the beast were the three from Flaming Horn.
The other seven visibly heaved a sigh of relief. No matter what, the first to face its wrath would be these three.
Tuo and Lei followed Shao Xuan. He didn’t move so they didn’t either.
His clothes were fluttering in the wind. Shao Xuan tugged at his hood then walked towards the beast.
When he moved, Lei and Tuo walked too. Thinking it was a signal to attack, Lei charged with the blade in his hand. He was never this rash while hunting but here, with the immense pressure from the environment, he was tightly wound. He hadn’t even thought of escaping ever since he saw the animal.
If I die, so be it. At least he could help Shao Xuan and Tuo a little. It would be even better if he could injure the beast.
However, before Lei, who looked like he’d decided to fight to his death, could run, Shao Xuan caught him and Tuo.
With a low, quick whisper, Shao Xuan said, “Stay here, both of you. Come help me only when I am unable to hold it any longer.”
Tuo wanted to say something but Shao Xuan waved and continue walking towards the beast.
“What is he doing?” asked one of the Feather tribesman.
“Is he insane?!”
The Tianshan people suddenly recalled a comment made by the shaman when he heard of the Flaming Horn tribe- a tribe of madmen.
They could see how made these Flaming Horn people were now. These people weren’t running but walking towards the beast instead!
Not just the people in the pit, even the slave masters wondered if the person clad in odd hooded clothing had a death wish.
Shao Xuan did not care what anyone thought, walking straight ahead. His hands were hidden within his long sleeves so no one could see if he was holding a weapon.
The beast was stunned for a moment to see Shao Xuan walking towards it. Its half-closed eyes widened a little, staring intently at this person. Other people might not know but this animal could sense an increasing surge of power in this human.
Twenty meters… Ten meters… Five meters…
Shao Xuan could now smell the beast’s muddy breath.
The beast looked at him and with a roar, lifted its front limb to knock Shao Xuan away.
Shao Xuan was faster, also lifting an arm.
He unleashed all the accumulated energy in a moment. In his mind, the totemic fire roared and rolled, the totem growing brighter as blue flames licked and danced like water dragons. The dragons swam with the current in an unstoppable force and gushed out of his lifted arm, energy charging out of his five fingers.
Blue flames engulfed his palm.
The sand kicked up by the beast’s roar spun in the air the moment the flames appeared, forming a visible giant spiral with Shao Xuan at the centre.