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778 1-on-1 Match 2 in 1

 At the exact moment the black crystal exploded, a huge black wall appeared in front of them, seemingly forming a barrier between them and the heavens and earth. All the energy in this space was absorbed by this giant black wall and integrated into its own power, causing this 'giant wall' to grow to hundreds of meters in height instantly. It became larger by so much that they couldn't see where this wall ended, and it appeared to be expanding still.

This huge barrier isolated all danger outside of it. Through the black energy barrier, you could see numerous faint ripples appearing and spreading across the surface of the barrier, but it remained intact nonetheless.

This \"Joker Black Barrier\" was a defensive runic array created by Master Jolie, a famous Wards Master in the Holy Land. The impressive thing about this was that it required very little Soul Power to activate, and it was an excellent defense against energy attacks. It cost 6,900 Holy Coins and could last for at least a minute as long as the attack was not insanely powerful and the magnitude of the attack was weaker than that of a Heavenly Soul Stage. At that moment, Oscar felt like he was going crazy; they wouldn't even be getting pocket change out of this mission.

While the Ward[1] isolated them, it also blocked the concentrated fire elemental power from reaching them. They saw that the color of their Pioneering Orders had returned to normal, and they could now leave anytime.

Oscar heaved a sigh of relief. He made it just in time, if not they would have been killed by all the lava.

\"Leave now, this barrier would only hold up for another ten or twenty seconds!\" Oscar sprang to action immediately. If it was an ordinary energy attack, this barrier could last for a few minutes even. However, judging by the Lava Monster Leader's fierce attacks, this barrier could be considered a fine creation if it could hold up for a minute.

Grai and the others reacted quickly too. After all, they were participants in the CHF and had real-life combat experience. They followed Oscar and ran for their lives. As long as they weren't in the central area, there would not be much of a problem. Although this Lava Monster Leader had a pretty savage power, it was not the type to be able to move fast, and it seemed to depend on its surroundings for power.

\"Hey, where's Wang Zhong?\" Sharmie asked suddenly, surprised.

Grai turned to look into the distance and only saw Wang Zhong's back to him. Wang Zhong waved from afar, and at that moment, the Ward collapsed. The place that they were standing at previously had been enveloped by flames completely.

Grai and the others could feel a burn in their throats. \"Has that guy gone mad?\"

He was trying to play the hero in this situation???

The Lava Monster Leader was at the Peak Heroic Soul Stage, and the environment they were in was in its favor. How could Wang Zhong, an Initial Phase Heroic Soul Stage, take it on solo? Oscar knew Wang Zhong was strong; otherwise, he would not be valued by the two insanely strong experts from the Empire. Frankly speaking, he had talked about this with Feng before. Both of them thought that Wang Zhong had some special ability that the two experts valued, and that ability would be very powerful and useful when used in a team setting. However, based on individual ability, Wang Zhong had just reached the Initial Phase Heroic Soul Stage, yet he wanted to challenge something at the Peak Heroic Soul Stage?

This idea was too bold and risky, or rather, he was overestimating his ability.

Oscar's first reaction was to stop Wang Zhong, but how? If he was at his peak period, there might have been a glimmer of hope; but if he went back now, he would just be digging his own grave.

The six of them glanced at each other, not knowing what to do.

\"How about we go over too?\" Napier was eager to give it a try. Recently, after hanging out with the Wanderlust Team, a part of his joker personality had returned. He didn't care whether he was alive or dead after this, carpe diem.

\"Go there and dig our own graves? Not everyone is crazy like Wang Zhong!\" Sharmie said. Everyone knew clearly that Wang Zhong's desire to fight was ignited. \"His Dharma Idol also commands the fire element. Maybe he has something in mind.\"

\"What could Wang Zhong possibly come up with? The enemy is at the Peak Heroic Soul Stage and has almost reached the highest tier. We are like insects to it.\" Mo Ling laughed bitterly. He thought that Wang Zhong had become more mature after coming to the Holy Land, but it appeared he was still too naive. Wang Zhong was even crazier than when he was in the CHF. The enemy was too strong, and the difference in their levels of power was really too big this time.

\"Don't be impulsive.\" Grai didn't look nervous at all; he even looked a little indifferent. In this team, Grai was the one who knew Wang Zhong the best.

It wasn't entirely because they were familiar with each other. Grai could sense that Wang Zhong carried a lot of secrets even when Wang Zhong had just reached the Holy City. He didn't know why Wang Zhong had a mysterious aura, but he could sense it. Previously, there was a rumor going on that a Holy Disciple had beaten up Wang Zhong, but Grai had secretly gone to 'visit' that dude at night, and it was evident that things were not what he claimed to be. He could understand why Wang Zhong wanted to keep a low profile. Those rumors could save him a lot of trouble, so why not go along with it?

Honestly, Grai had been waiting for a long time to see what combat power Wang Zhong's Dharma Idol had. He had never believed that Wang Zhong was less than average.

\"We won't be of any help even if we go there, and we might even hinder Senior. Let's just wait here. Maybe we'll witness a miracle,\" Grai said calmly. Since Wang Zhong was still inside the battlefield, they couldn't leave without him.

Grai's calmness made everyone calm down too. Frankly, the others also didn't believe the rumors that Wang Zhong was useless. Since he chose to stay in the battlefield, he probably had an idea in mind.

Oscar regained his composure. It would seem greedy of them to continue their mission now, but going over to help Wang Zhong wasn't an option either. On the other hand, Oscar would be rather worried if they left Wang Zhong behind in this secret realm alone.

\"Let's just wait here for Wang Zhong.\" Oscar came to a decision. Even the newcomers weren't afraid, so what else could he say?

......

There was a reason why Wards Master was considered one of the three major subsidiary careers along with alchemists and gourmets. The alchemists focused on creating soul tools; the gourmets focused on potions and medicine; while the Wards Master focused on runes, Wards, and the power of the natural laws. In a sense, being a Ward Master was a career that was even more abstruse.

The similarity between these three careers was that the products they sold were very expensive. Their products were rather popular in the Holy City since they could save an entire exploration team in times of grave danger.

Of course, the products that Oscar possessed were of good quality since he had been collecting them for so many years. Those products weren't of much help in the forest of tree demons previously, but they certainly worked miracles here. Wang Zhong didn't have time to think anymore before the Ward fell apart under the Lava Monster Leader's powerful attacks.

The Lava Monster didn't care at all about the other group of people who escaped. It was awoken by the human in front of him. This fragile and weak creature seemed to have something in his body that was calling out to him, something that could release it from its shackles. If it consumed him, it could gain freedom. This was an innate desire.

Its gaze locked on Wang Zhong, and its boundless desire and greed filled the space.

At the instant the Lava Monster Leader locked on to him as its target, Wang Zhong could feel the temperature of his surroundings rise again. Other warriors needed to use up a large amount of Soul Power to counter it, but Wang Zhong didn't.

High temperatures and flames didn't do much harm to Wang Zhong, other than the fact that the flames suppressed his soul, but even that didn't affect Wang Zhong much since his physical body was a lot stronger than the average person.

This was a form of training since tempering one's Dharma Idol was something every Heroic Soul soldier must do. Perhaps there were other milder methods, but Wang Zhong didn't have so much time on his hands. He was simply more comfortable with real-life combat since it was more effective. He summoned his Flaming Spirit King.

\"My Noble King, Salamander is at your command.\" The Flaming Spirit King knelt down on one knee. It could be seen that his flames were much stronger than the previous time; his body grew bigger and the quality of his flames became better too. It wasn't entirely because of the small increase in his power over this period of time, but rather, because of the magma environment. The high temperature made the Flaming Spirit King feel at home as it was accustomed to the fire element here. It felt dear to him and made him stronger too.

\"Destroy the enemy.\" Wang Zhong cut straight to the point. Both of them could read each other's minds. Right after Wang Zhong said this, the Flaming Spirit King Salamander was already dashing toward the Lava Monster Leader at high speed.

Although the difference in their levels of power was huge, Salamander was still very confident, not showing any fear at all toward the powerful Lava Monster Leader. He could absorb the concentrated fire element in the surroundings anytime and replenish his power, making him feel that his body was filled with endless power. The sudden burst of flame power was like a thruster attached to his legs, launching him forward like a rocket. He was around several meters away from the enemy, yet he had already closed the distance the moment he moved.

Thump!

There was a loud bang upon collision. The defense barrier that blocked Sharmie and the other's attacks earlier on suddenly gleamed and appeared to be distorted in front of the Lava Monster Leader. Although this didn't break through the barrier completely, the barrier seemed to be one with the Lava Monster Leader. The massive impact forced it to retreat a few steps backward.

The Lava Monster Leader let out an angry roar. It probably didn't think that this little thing could actually cause any harm to it. It waved its arms which were made up of flames, and they instantly transformed into a huge sickle, headed for Salamander. Unlike ordinary Lava Monsters which were clumsy, the Lava Monster Leader's arms moved at a fast speed, which was probably because its arms weren't made up of heavy and large rocks. The flaming sickle gleamed brightly in mid-air.

Although it was fast, Salamander was faster.

An ordinary Dharma Idol couldn't think independently, but clearly Salamander wasn't the case. Most of the time, Wang Zhong felt like Salamander was a projection from the Dimensional World, but he couldn't figure out why he chose him as his master. Wang Zhong's level of Soul Power definitely restricted his combat power and even intelligence.

Currently, Salamander seemed to mirror Wang Zhong's fighting techniques. Salamander had changed his direction of power output the moment his body collided with the barrier, using his rebound to turn around. His movements were elegant and light, exactly the same as Wang Zhong's graceful fighting style. Simultaneously, he extended a flaming chain at lightning speed and hooked it around the neck of the Lava Monster Leader instantly, tugging hard.

A unique thing about Salamander was that he particularly liked to use flaming chains. Wang Zhong hadn't found any Dimensional lifeforms that shared Salamander's habit in the Holy Land's database.

The flaming chain contracted all of a sudden, and the massive pulling force even affected the balance of the space. Countless electric sparks could be seen coming from the flaming chain, and it was as if many small dimensional rifts were ripped opened by that force. The chain tightened around the Lava Monster Leader's neck instantly, and the friction between flames and lava created a sharp and piercing sound.

The Lava Monster Leader stumbled for a moment, but just for that moment. It could sense that this seemingly weak creature could control fire almost as well as itself, but his weak power was his fatal weakness. The Lava Monster Leader's flaming sickle transformed to take the form of a human arm again; it then grabbed the flaming chain and tugged hard.

A burst of massive force came from its arm, and Salamander could only feel an overwhelming force tugging his body toward the Lava Monster Leader. A flaming blade attack followed immediately.

Screech!

The terrifying blade attack was unstoppable and tore Salamander's body apart easily, cutting it into two sections. The power it carried also had a violent vibrating effect; it caused Salamander's body to crumble under the vibrations, fading into numerous fire atoms.

In the blink of an eye, those scattered fire atoms suddenly clustered together as if it was a divine intervention and condensed into Salamander's body again. Salamander still held on to his flaming chains tightly and continued trying to break the Lava Monster Leader's neck.

Wang Zhong was observing the entire battle. He wanted to know the limit of Salamander's power. Clearly, his Flaming Spirit King was very special. It retained some characteristics of a Dimensional lifeform. If a Dimensional lifeform was torn apart like this, they would be severely injured even if they didn't die. However, Salamander's power was just weakened a little.

\"ROAR ROAR ROAR ROAR!\"

The Lava Monster Leader flew into a rage, and it radiated scary heat waves from its body, creating streams of hot air that rushed out in all directions. Wang Zhong, who was heading toward them at a high speed, was hit by a wave of hot air directly and slipped. It almost sent him flying, but he quickly channeled his Soul Power and planted his feet on the ground firmly, stabilizing his body. On the other hand, Salamander - who was holding on to his flaming chains - was blown away by the streams of hot air, and his chains were already extended to the fullest.

Crack!

As the flaming blade made contact with the chains, it severed the chains immediately. Salamander was sent flying backward like a mosquito that was being blown away...

Thump!

Salamander's body was directly crushed and crumbled into atoms again, but it was as if he had an indestructible body as his body condensed again! Although he recovered from it and his will to fight was still there, it could be seen that his body became smaller compared to when he first appeared, and his Soul Power appeared to have weakened as well.

The difference in their levels of Soul Power was simply too vast...

The Lava Monster Leader had clearly seen through the weaknesses of these two ants. It continued emitting waves of Soul Power throughout the entire space, causing Wang Zhong and Salamander to struggle to even stand under the immense pressure. They couldn't move freely at all. The Fire Quartz head of the Lava Monster Leader sparkled brightly, and a terrifyingly powerful force was forming, tugging at and distorting the space surrounding it!

It harnessed a terrifying power. If they really took this hit directly, it could possibly end badly for them.

\"Simba!\" He didn't want to use his Ruler Talent the moment he encountered a difficult situation. It was not only to let Salamander get used to his fighting style, but he hadn't fought seriously in a while too, and he wanted a good fight now. He could sense that the Lava Monster Leader wasn't an enemy that they had zero chance of defeating; that is, as long as they could figure out how to stop their enemy from using its Soul Power advantage.

[1] Sigils or runic symbols that can prevent entry, somewhat acting like a barrier