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Litaor was a fool. He spoke about Ryu being enraged by his words, and yet the one between them to make the foolish choice was him.
As Ryu had expected, attacking outside the confines of the rules of the round was strictly prohibited and would be punished accordingly. Litaor wasn't thrown out, but he was sent backward a substantial amount, probably what amounted to about one and a half turns. That meant that unless he could do something drastic, he would always be a half step behind everyone else.
He was also likely lucky that he had learned this lesson now. There was a chance that the punishment could have been far worse the further along they wenit.
Beyond that, Ryu also confirmed something else. It might have been called a "duel", but it wasn't one in the normal sense. Anything that happened in this round would happen within the confines of a Dao Discourse. Although Ryu hadn't gotten up or opened his eyes, it wasn't just out of arrogance, it was because he knew he didn't have to.
Had Litaor waited just a few seconds, the Heavenly Path would have likely spawned a duel arena for them akin to the challenge arenas that they had seen for the first three turns taken. Then, they would have a battle of Daos. This was how things would work.
But he was impatient and he took Ryu's challenge as an insult, and as a result of that, he was crushed.
Luckily for him, it was just a Bronze Challenge and he only lost 10% of his Heavenly Favor. But he didn't feel "lucky" at all right now. Instead, he felt furious and wanted to vent, but he truly had nowhere to do so.
'But what now?' Ryu wondered, his eyes opening as he looked forward.
The steele in the skies had explained a lot, but it seemed to have purposely left some things out as well. For example, the punishment was definitely not listed, or else Litaor would have never made such a mistake.
Another thing that wasn't explained was what would happen in this situation. Was his challenge considered successful? Was it canceled now that Litaor was punished? And if it was successful, then what would happen now?
These were all things the round seemed to want them to figure out for themselves, and this felt… interesting to Ryu.
Seeing how the surroundings were designed like a Domain Board, he vaguely understood the purpose. The board should be more a facade than anything, a red herring, even. The point wasn't the board, but the state of mind.
It was letting everyone know that this wasn't just a game of strength, it was also one of strategy and observation. The rules might not be conducive to a game of Domain, but it was a game, and there were advantages and disadvantages to be had.
Domain was a game meant to simulate battle, or more accurately, battle on an impossibly large scale. When you were working with a battlefield like that. absolute strength wasn't enough unless you could appear anywhere, any time, instantly.
But it was curious that this was the lesson the Heavens were trying to give. Shouldn't it want them to pursue absolute strength? Or was it trying to tell them that the Dao of Strategy was one that was far too overlooked?As Ryu was thinking, the challenge that Litaor had been targeting flashed and then crumbled. He took over the location, but the pensive look in his eyes didn't fade. He felt like he was missing something.
As he was in thought, Reykian's pillar moved and Ryu instantly challenged him as well. But just when he was making the attempt, his own pillar trembled and stopped. His attempt at starting a duel had failed.
Ryu's gaze narrowed further.
There was a problem with this, and it was beyond just the fact that his continuous challenge had failed…
Others could witness his attempts.
Everything was broadcasted. Even individual challenges were shown to everyone and exactly how the challenge was dealt with was placed in full view of everyone.
In such a situation, every move he made to learn something new, would be instantly learned by everyone else. It was like his efforts, and even his eventual mistakes, would be used to make everyone else stronger.
He felt that he was starting to understand the game within the game, because he had another thought soon after.
Just now, his challenge had failed. The obvious thought would be that continuous challenges weren't allowed, but was that really the case? Ryu could think of several other potential reasons.
One could be that Litaor's punishment had affected him. It was unlikely, but there was a small chance that this was the case. Maybe the Heavenly Path decided that he was partly to blame as well. Though this sounded ridiculous, what was important wasn't logic or fairness, what was important was what hidden rules there may or may not be.
The second was that the Heavenly Path wouldn't allow him to challenge someone on the same level as himself. If he challenged Reykian now and lost, he would move laterally, and not forward, so maybe he would have to fail another turn, wait for everyone to start their second challenge, and then he could trigger another duel.
The third possibility was that there were hidden duel types, maybe more than the two that were introduced. These hidden types could be related to Heavenly Favor quantity, Heavenly Favor ratios between the two participants, it could be related to the challenge type or compatibility… Maybe Challenge Disputes triggered while a challenged party was going after a highly compatible trial would automatically fail.
After all, part of one's turn was picking the right Dao Trial for yourself. So maybe there was a hidden reward for picking perfectly.
These were just three possibilities, Ryu could think of dozens more, and that was the point.
Now he had to play another game within the game. He had one of two choices before him.
The first was to lean back and allow others to make attempts and mistakes, learn from them, and build a database of hidden rules in secret.
The second was to choose methods of testing out the rules out in the open that might misdirect others into choosing the wrong possibilities or premises of the rules.
'Why not both?' Ryu thought to himself, watching Reykian complete his Dao Trial.
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