Chapter 16: Meeting of Rivals
Translator: YH Editor: Pranav
The faint silver glow gently lingered around Ai Hui as smoke-like spirals, gradually transforming into hazy, sword-shaped forms that flitted about. Suddenly, everything vanished with a flash.
Ai Hui was entirely immersed in his cultivation, completely unaware of what had just occurred.
An hour later, he finally opened his eyes, which were filled with an incomparable joy. He had never experienced such a marked improvement in his past three years of arduous practice. Ai Hui could barely contain his excitement; after all, he had persevered for three years before now finally glimpsing the light.
What else could make one happier?
Although he ultimately absorbed only five percent of the metal elemental energy, the total elemental energy within his body had been tripled; an unimaginable improvement for him.
Even though Ai Hui had a low absorption efficiency, it did not particularly concern him, as this shortcoming could be overcome with persistent practice and perseverance. To him, any visible improvement-no matter how little-was an achievement. He was most afraid of staying utterly stagnant despite practicing for many years.
Ai Hui carefully reflected on his training. Lou Lan's soup had fulfilled a crucial function; without it, Ai Hui would not have been able to absorb such a relatively large amount of metal elemental energy. Without its aid, however, Ai Hui did not know how much energy he could have absorbed, but he sensed that the result would have been drastically different.
Ai Hui shook his head and banished these distracting thoughts to the back of his mind.
The wealthy had their own practice methods, but the less-affluent had theirs too.
While the metal elemental energy that was infused into his body was exceedingly harsh, it was, at the same time, much more condensed and pure. Although Ai Hui could only absorb a tiny fragment of the energy, it was countless of times purer than what the average novice could achieve. Because he was aware of this, Ai Hui did not stop cultivating the elemental energy, even when most of it had already dispersed.
Most students pursued a higher cultivation level and hence vigorously strived to strengthen their elemental energy. Ai Hui, who had an abundance of combat experience, had encountered all types of powerful individuals. He had come across many elementalists who had similar cultivation levels but vastly different fighting strengths. Ai Hui had long since comprehended that the purer the elemental energy, the easier it was to manipulate, thus allowing one to have greater efficacy in their attacks.
Ai Hui had also understood that although the silver of elemental energy in his body was weak, it was extremely pure, and because it was also highly versatile in his hands, this elemental energy had repeatedly saved his life. Several of his tricks had even been praised by elder elementalists.
Powerful weapons are no match for those readily on hand!
When Ai Hui stepped out of the room and saw a pristine, completely clean training hall, he was shocked.
Noticing Aui Hui's expression, Lou Lan explained, "I had some spare time on my hands and so conveniently cleaned up the place. If you aren't happy, though, I will not do it again."
"You did a way better job than me," Ai Hui stammered with embarrassment. The hall looked as if it was thoroughly washed clean, and even the remote corners were totally free of dust. Ai Hui had always claimed that he was a hall-cleaning specialist; never did he imagine that there would be someone who was several times better.
When he received the praise, Lou Lan was obviously elated, and he cheerfully remarked, "I am a sand puppet, and we are better at such things."
Who would remember a sand puppet?
Ai Hui wondered why this phrase had suddenly popped into his mind. He glanced at Lou Lan, and then said out of the blue, "Thank you for the elemental energy replenishing soup. It was very useful."
Ai Hui rarely praised people in the same way; in fact, towards others, he was usually much more guarded and distant. In front of Lou Lan, however, he was evidently much more relaxed. Was it perhaps because Lou Lan was a sand puppet? It certainly seemed to be the case.
When he heard that his soup was effective, Lou Lan felt even more pleased. Suddenly, his eyes started to glow with a rather demonic yellow light as he earnestly began to scrutinize Ai Hui.
Ai Hui felt his hair stand on end.
"The bruises and swelling require some time to recover, but the muscle damage has largely healed," Lou Lan unexpectedly reported, as the glow in his eyes disappeared.
After listening to Lou Lan's report, the uneasiness that Ai Hui was feeling had completely vanished. He also started to feel that Lou Lan, with his unusual set of abilities, was becoming stranger by the day. Lou Lan was proficient in preparing meals, brewing soup, cleaning and even appeared to be well-versed in medical treatment. Just what kind of combination was this?
"I am going off to practice," said Ai Hui, as he prepared to leave. He planned to make necessary preparations and purchase a few things before heading back to the Suspending Golden Pagoda.
"I should head back to work too, then. Goodbye, Ai Hui," Lou Lan replied as he waved farewell. Immediately after, his body transformed into a pile of sand, before seeping into the ground and completely disappearing from the training hall.
Duanmu Huanghun occasionally scanned the crowd as he marched alone on the streets. Ai Hui had not attended class for the past several days, leaving Duanmu Huanghun with no choice but to bring himself outside and try his luck in finding him. He knew that trying to find someone like that was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. However, if he was to tell Teacher Xu that he wanted to give up, that would be very embarrassing for him.
Just thinking about that scoundrel, Ai Hui, made him tremble with anger.
His devilishly charming yet refined, good looks attracted the attention of many who passed by.
However, a good number of beautiful women had tried to approach him, only to be scared off by a furious, ice-cold gaze. After finding a camphor tree by the road, he leaned his slender body against it and started to leisurely eat a skewer of candied fruits. The bright crimson of the candied fruits contrasted sharply with his pale face, painting a dazzling, striking image.
The young ladies were afraid to approach Duanmu Huanghun, so they flocked together nearby to gaze at him. Oh, how they longed to be that skewer of candied fruits that he held in his hands!
Duanmu Huanghun, however, continued to stand with an elegant air of nonchalance. He had long been accustomed to being stared at and could care less about others were watching him.
"Duanmu Huanghun! Let's see how you're going to escape now!"
A yell suddenly rang out from the opposite side of the street. After a quick glance, Duanmu Huanghun promptly chose to ignore the situation and continued to leisurely eat his candied fruits.
A well-built, young man appeared not too far away from Duanmu Huanghun. With gleaming eyes and a mocking glare, he taunted, "Did you go into hiding after finding out that I, Zhao Zhibao, want to challenge you? Are you terrified? You disappoint me. I was under the impression that Duanmu Huanghun was some type of genius, but it seems like he's just a coward!"
Duanmu Huanghun did not even bat an eyelid.The enchanting sight of his long eyelashes, which gracefully stood against the glowing backdrop of his pale complexion, was enough to invoke jealousy from all the young women present.
The onlooking group of young ladies started to go wild with excitement.
"Zhao Zhibao! How can you simply shoot your mouth off like that? You're not even qualified enough to challenge our Huanghun!"
"Exactly! Do you think that any random Tom, Dick or Harry can challenge our Huanghun?"
"Take a good look at yourself, with your long hair, boxy torso, and equally boxy legs. Hehe! Are you trying to act like a wooden trunk with a mop stuck on top?"
Hearing the taunts and jeers of the young women, Zhao Zhibao's face flushed crimson as he flew into a rage. He had always considered himself to be a cut above the rest, and hearing of Duanmu Huanghun's talent did not instill even the slightest amount of fear in him. Since he was a student that ranked in the top five of his class, Zhao Zhibao was particularly confident in his own extraordinary strength and had hence openly issued a challenge to Duanmu Huanghun.
"So this is our talented Duanmu Huanghun, but his talent is in hiding behind a bunch of girls! Ha!"
Duanmu Huanghun, however, still did not lift a single eyelid. He then spat out the rosehip seeds that he was chewing, and said flatly, "I'm not in a good mood today, so you'd better scram."
"Not in a good mood? Ha! Come on, beat me up!" Zhao Zhibao teased.
Five minutes later.
Without even a minute ripple in his expression, Duanmu Huanghun elegantly withdrew his leg. Zhao Zhibao's beaten body could be seen lying pitifully on the ground; not even his face was left untouched. Finishing his last rosehip seed, Duanmu Huanghun tossed his bamboo stick aside before finally walking away indifferently.
Zhao Zibhao's gaze froze; he was too scared to move. The bamboo pick had forcefully dug into the earth barely two centimeters away from his nose.
The girls who were watching cheered and screamed while they trailed behind Duanmu Huanghun like a swarm of bees
A lady inconspicuously stood at a nearby street corner, wearing a light veil over her face. If one could look closely, however, they would see a glint in her eyes. Shi Xueman had unobtrusively come to Central Pine City to explicitly visit her clan's training hall, but little did she expect to witness such a scene. She had long heard of Duanmu Huanghun's renowned name, but she had not anticipated that he would be here in Central Pine City as well. Furthermore, he had displayed his exceptional prowess.
Could it have been him?
Shi Xueman quickly shook her head. Even though it was a blind battle, that scoundrel's fighting style was completely different from Duanmu Huanghun's; it was more violent and ferocious, much like that of a wild beast.
She shortly turned around and left in the direction of her clan's training hall.
After twenty whole minutes, Zhao Zhibao finally recovered some of his energy and started to effortfully struggle to get himself off the ground.
However, when he lifted his head, he saw something that stunned him.
Someone with a similarly battered face was walking towards him.
When Ai Hui, who had just finished buying his things, saw Zhao Zhibao in the middle of the street, he too was completely taken aback.
The two of them looked far too alike; they both had bloody noses, swollen faces, and bruises covering every inch of their bodies. Even their facial features were similarly disfigured, and both of their clothes were tattered as well.
When Zhao Zhibao, who had just been beaten to a pulp, saw Ai Hui as a reflection of his miserable state, he believed that the situation itself had appeared to ridicule and humiliate him. He felt a sudden rush of inexplicable anger, which propelled him off the ground, and he viciously barked, "I am not in a good mood today, you'd better scram!"
Ai Hui narrowed his bruised, swollen eyes.