Chapter 185: Huo Yuanlong
Translator: YH Editor: Lis
"... His stone-cold eyes looked at us as though we were lambs sent to be slaughtered. He was supposedly one of the students from the academy, but I was pretty sure that his name had never appeared on the top two hundred lists. Perhaps he had some unique capabilities? Who knew! Regardless, he appeared to be a cold-hearted person, like someone who might send us to our deaths. I wished that the one leading us was the respectable Shi Xueman and not this nameless person."
-- Taken from《Huo Yuanlong's Diary》
The tender youths standing in front of Ai Hui reminded him of the coolie that he had been three years ago.
Without any trace of elemental energy, coolies out in the Wilderness were just like paper dolls and were meant to be treated as cannon fodder. In the face of the blood disaster, these relatively formidable yet inexperienced students were not much stronger than the coolies out in the Wilderness. They were pretty much just cannon fodder as well.
Winning with numbers alone wasn't going to be possible anymore. Now was the time for experts to shine.
A Grandmaster would be much more useful than everyone in Central Pine City combined. If the city had just a Grandmaster, they probably would have escaped by now.
It was a pity that there weren't any in Central Pine City.
Besides making use of numbers, the city had no other tactics available. It was as though the humans were mimicking the blood ants' use of group tactics. In today's Central Pine City, humans were not much better than beasts.
Newly formed groups of one hundred people each were gathered on the streets. The leaders were shouting at the top of their lungs and waving their arms in an attempt to drum up the troops' morale.
Ai Hui could see the fear hidden beneath their impassioned faces.
Chaos and despair filled the air as the darkness of night engulfed the black smoke that was rising everywhere.
Collapsed walls and houses blocked parts of the streets while bricks were strewn all over. Dried bloodstains were everywhere and the air reeked strongly of blood and smoke. The jack-o'-lanterns that neatly lined both sides of the streets were now badly damaged and scattered about, making the street sides look like combs with missing teeth. The remaining lanterns radiated a haunting, feeble glow, casting shadows throughout their street. Central Pine City had undergone a drastic change.
He had never seen anything like this, not even in the Wilderness.
At the warehouse, Ai Hui queued for half an hour before he managed to meet the frantic officer-in-charge. The officer immediately recognized Ai Hui, who had left a deep impression the last time they'd met.
"Hardly anything good is left, although you can pick out two items. I'd advise you to hurry."
The officer gestured towards the long line.
Ai Hui knew he didn't have the time to slowly saunter in and pick out items. He directly replied, "Alright. I'll need a weapon for a fire elementalist, something like a fire jug."
"For that fatty?" the officer asked. The officer's memory seemed to be very good, but he remembered Fatty because he too had left a deep impression when he'd put on the Steady Mountain.
"That's right," Ai hui answered, nodding.
"Ha, you guys are in luck," said the officer, laughing. "There're no more fire jugs, but we do have a fire vat. Nobody has taken it because it's so heavy, but I think it's very suitable for him."
The officer brought Ai Hui to a corner of the warehouse and pointed to a huge vat that was almost as tall as he was. Ai Hui instantly understood why nobody wanted to use it, it was simply too big. The vats that fire elementalists used were more expensive the smaller they were. Fire gourds were one of the smallest types but were very expensive, so most fire elementalists used fire jugs.
Standing before Ai Hui was practically a wine jar.
"Is it useful?" Ai Hui asked skeptically.
"Of course," the officer replied matter-of-factly. "It may be huge, but it's good stuff. Besides being a little bit heavy, it doesn't have any other shortcomings."
Ai Hui almost rolled his eyes at the officer. Being heavier and larger were huge shortcomings. He pictured Fatty donning the Steady Mountain armor, raising the tower shield, and lugging this huge vat on his back. This getup would be a bit too... indescribable!
"This is really something good!" the officer exclaimed discontentedly as he noticed Ai Hui's skeptical look. "The artisan who made this had intended to create a Heaven-grade weapon, but ultimately failed. He then used its core to forge this fire vat. If you look carefully you can see an inscription on it, it's not something I made up."
He pointed to the fine print on the side of the vat.
If it was someone else who had suspected him like that, he would've thrown that person out long ago; however, he remembered Ai Hui and understood that the two of them must be quite capable to have survived until now.
Upon hearing that it was a product resulting from a failed Heaven-grade weapon, Ai Hui immediately agreed. "I'll take it!"
Heaven-grade weapons were high-grade arms created for elementalists to use. In order to distinguish them from treasures of the past, they were named as such because they were created in the Avalon of Five Elements.
Shi Xueman's spear was one such weapon.
Heaven-grade weapons possessed mystical powers and were able to greatly enhance an elementalists' fighting prowess. Wielding these weapons was, however, highly taxing on the user, usually requiring at least the completion of eight palaces. In other words, one pretty much had to be a full-fledged elementalist to use one.
Shi Xueman was unable to unleash even one percent of her spear's true power.
The materials required for forging a Heaven-grade weapon had to be of the highest quality. This was why Ai Hui immediately agreed to take the vat after hearing that it had been created from a failed Heaven-gradel weapon.
The complex techniques and high-quality materials required to forge a Heaven-grade weapon were the reasons why their prices never fell. Ai Hui had seen many great elementalists in the Wilderness, but had only seen a handful of them wielding Heaven-grade weapons.
The warehouse officer was satisfied with Ai Hui's quick answer. "What else do you need?" he asked.
"Spiderweb Iron Pellets, Wolftooth Heavy Arrows, and chillies."
"Spiderweb Iron Pellets? For Miss Sang? She should be able to use them considering her ability with the bow." The officer nodded. "There are around two hundred or so of them left, you can take them all. Trust you guys to think of something so unorthodox."
Spiderweb Iron Pellets were about the size of a thumb and didn't look very different from ordinary iron pellets. As their name suggested, the Spiderweb Iron Pellets, however, contained highly compressed spider webs within. Triggered by elemental energy, the spider web within each pellet would expand upon impact and restrain the target.
The officer was truly an experienced individual. Ai Hui had indeed requisitioned the pellets for Sang Zhijun. Although Sang Zhijun was more skilled with a bow than Jiang Wei, her fighting strength lagged behind his. As such, Ai Hui had thought of using these pellets to maximize her utility, but hadn't expected the warehouse to actually still be stocked with them.
The use of Spiderweb Iron Pellets was uncommon because spider webs weren't particularly tough. They wouldn't be so cheap if they had more restraining power.
Ai Hui didn't really care about this since he only intended to use them to confuse the enemy.
"I can only provide you with two quivers of Wolftooth Heavy Arrows," said the officer, then swiftly continued upon seeing Ai Hui's intention to retort, "A lot of people still need these. I'm already looking out for you guys by giving two quivers' worth, the others are only being given one."
"Alright, I'll take whatever I can get." Having seen the long line at the door, Ai Hui accepted his explanation.
"We don't have any chillies in the warehouse." The officer was a bit puzzled by the request. "Why do you need chillies? What a strange request! I'd suggest that you buy some from the spice shops since it's rare for people to stock up on chillies. I'm sorry, but the mayor prefers sweet foods over spicy ones."
Ai Hui was disappointed that he couldn't get the chillies.
The officer had already left to tend to others. Knowing that he couldn't get anything more, Ai Hui dragged the huge wine vat out of the warehouse.
Those who were still queueing up cast sidelong glances at Ai Hui.
The students gathered in the Vanguard Training Hall had just undertaken one round of gruelling training and were enjoying a well-deserved break.
Shi Xueman was the one leading the training since Ai Hui had no interest in looking after this group of students.
Her power and prestige were common knowledge among the students, allowing her to quickly win over their trust.
She had secretly read many of her father's books from a tender age and was, as such, better versed in military tactics than the others.
When Ai Hui had handed them over to her, Shi Xueman had felt a hint of excitement. She finally had the chance to practice what she had been learning since she was young.
The only thing that she was slightly unhappy about was her assistant. She'd wanted Duanmu Huanghun to be her assistant, but Ai Hui assigned Jiang Wei to the role instead.
Stealing a glance at Jiang Wei, she had no choice but to admit that Ai Hui was a better judge of people than her.
Jiang Wei wasn't as outstanding as Duanmu Huanghun, but he was calm, dependable, patient, and meticulous. Without Jiang Wei's help, Shi Xueman would have been flustered.
Duanmu Huanghun was completely immersed in his own practice.
He wasn't particularly willing to help out with the students' training; his dream was, after all, to become a Grandmaster.
In the past, he hadn't been sure of his aim in life. Experiencing these cruel battles and facing death had made it much clearer to him - he wanted to become a Grandmaster, and not just any grandmaster, but the strongest grandmaster ever!
A depressed mood pervaded the atmosphere during the break. Everyone was apprehensive about the future and a little terrified of the battles to come.
Fear and confusion made the students restless.
"Why do we have to listen to Ai Hui's orders?" Huo Yuanlong asked, just loud enough for everyone around to hear.
He had done it on purpose. Having consistently been among the top ten students in the academy, he was unhappy that he had to listen to the orders of a first-year student. It was fine if someone like Duanmu Huanghun was the one in charge, but not if the leader was an unknown like Ai Hui.
Huo Yuanlong had secretly observed Ai Hui earlier while the dean had been speaking. He didn't see anything special about Ai Hui.
The only thing that had left an impression on him was Ai Hui's cold gaze. This gaze was, however, also the reason why Huo Yuanlong was so annoyed. Huo Yuanlong simply couldn't stand being sized up by an unknown junior with such an indifferent gaze.
Shi Xueman furrowed her brows, Jiang Wei was roused from his rest, and Sang Zhijun shot a glance over upon hearing this. A grin crept onto her lips as she strummed her bowstring like an instrument.
The atmosphere was heavy.
Some of the students urged, "Yuanlong, mind your words!"
Huo Yuanlong stiffened his neck and raised his voice. "Did I say something wrong?"
Duanmu Huanghun's was displeased that his practice was interrupted.
"I'm willing to listen to Miss Shi and Huanghun's orders, but who is Ai Hui to command us?" Huo Yuanlong exclaimed.
His words resonated with the thoughts of many others, causing an uproar.
"Yes, only Miss Shi and Huanghun are qualified!"
"Who is this Ai Hui? Where did he come from?"
"Enough!" Shi Xueman commanded. She walked towards Huo Yuanlong with Cirrus in hand, her expression solemn. "You, fall out. Fifty strokes for causing trouble!"
Huo Yuanlong's face completely drained of color. He couldn't understand why Shi Xueman was siding with Ai Hui.
Fifty strokes... He trembled and hurriedly called out to Duanmu Huanghun for help. "Huanghun, don't you have anything to say?"
"I do," Duanmu Huanghun replied as he walked over.
Huo Yuanlong was filled with relief upon hearing Duanmu Huanghun's words. "Exactly! Tell them what you think, Huanghun. Everyone will listen to you."
"It's really quite simple." Duanmu Huanghun sneered, revealing a set of snow-white teeth. "I'll personally mete out these fifty strokes."