Chapter 2: The Arrival
Translator: TYZ Editor: Lis
Ai Hui carried a threadbare backpack and stood in the crowd with a gloomy face. He was feeling thoroughly terrible. Just now, when he opened his pouch, he'd found all his money gone, replaced by a heap of stones.
That wretched Fatty still stole from him at the end of the day!
He swore that once he returned to the Old Territory and saw this fellow, he would beat the hell out of him.
Shaking himself out of his daze, he exhaled deeply. He prayed that the Avalon of Five Elements would really provide him with lodging and food like Fatty had said. Otherwise, when they met, he would... beat him up with more force.
For now, he put the issue of the stolen money aside and focused on what was happening before him.
It was still too early for the reporting time, but the Induction Ground's entrance was already surrounded by students excitedly greeting each other. In groups of three or four, they held animated discussions and asked questions without holding back.
After staying in the Wilderness for so long, Ai Hui was not used to the bustling scene before his eyes. He was more accustomed to the silence, killings, and dangers that had been his life for three years. Back then, his instincts would have gone on high alert at anything within five meters of him.
However, within his range right now... there were fourteen people.
He fidgeted restlessly, but it was pointless. He could only try his best to restrain the urge to escape or kill these fourteen people on impulse. In the Wilderness, an approaching unknown creature would immediately activate the fight-or-flight response in him.
Fine, it was the "Wilderness" again...
He had already sensed his incompatibility with his surroundings even before entering the Induction Ground. Taking in a deep breath of air, he forcefully calmed his palpitating heart. He knew that this was a mental barrier that he had to overcome.
After a while, he summoned the courage to force his way through the crowd, heading towards the Induction Ground's entrance.
Squeezing through the crowd that pushed against him like torrential currents, Ai Hui was drenched in sweat, his clothes disheveled. Panting hard, he felt that this fifty-meter trek was somehow more tiring than walking for fifty kilometers.
Upon reaching the entrance, Ai Hui raised his head and gazed up at the towering gate.
From a visual estimate, the Induction Ground's entrance gate was approximately sixty meters tall, giving it an imposing atmosphere The gate itself was poorly assembled; however, it was made up of pieces of irregular iron panels put together. Its appearance was akin to that of a large, patchy rag that was speckled with rust and riddled with scratches everywhere.
In front of the metal gate was a half-meter-wide stone slab with a perfectly straight groove slashed across its surface. Years of corrosion had smoothed its corners, and a few droplets of water collected along the edges.
Ai Hui stared silently at the gouged slab of stone.
Everyone in the Avalon of Five Elements knew the story behind it. Even he knew about it since it was related to swordsmen.
It was known as the "ultimate defensive line."
During the dark ages when the Wilderness invaded, this groove that was one meter in width and two hundred meters in length became the final defensive line in a battle to the death.
The last famous swordsman in history sacrificed his life to carry out the most dazzling sword strike to kill the enemy leader, carving out the ultimate defensive line.
Inspired by his bravery, the human race tenaciously defended against the invasion and persevered until the opening of the Avalon of Five Elements.
They dragged the scrap metal collected from the battlefield to assemble the towering metal gate that stood today, riddled with scars . Eventually, the Induction Ground was built upon this place by the pioneers who wished for the future generations to remember that dark era and to never forget the purpose behind establishing the Avalon of Five Elements.
The sufferings of the individuals would fade through the passage of time, but the memories and legends would pass on from generation to generation.
The history behind the Induction Grounds surely made it a place of utmost importance to the Avalon of Five Elements.
The only reason Ai Hui knew about the ultimate defensive line was because of the swordplay manuals that he had arranged back in the swordsman school.
Almost all of them that mentioned it praised the strike to the greatest extent, saying that it saved humanity, beginning the chapter of a new era and so on. For those who cherished the legacy of Swordsmen, that strike marked the ultimate end of the Cultivation Era and the beginning of the Avalon of Five Elements.
These facts had nothing to do with Ai Hui, however. Even if his job was to arrange numerous swordplay manuals, he'd never thought to revive swordsmanship.
That was where the owner was foolish. Because of it, his business failed, he owed a huge debt, and he lost his life. Ai Hui felt pretty good to witness the historical remnant that he had read about in numerous swordplay manuals, but it was tinged with sadness when he thought about the owner.
Soon, however, he regained his usual calm. After enduring three years in the Wilderness, he was used to life-and-death situations. He was not as sad as he used to be over such matters. As long as those who were alive did their best to stay alive, those who were dead would be able to rest in peace.
Done admiring the monument, he quickly escaped from the crowd and withdrew to the outskirts. His heart rate returned to normal, and he heaved a sigh of relief.
Suddenly, at the corner of his eyes, he caught sight of a familiar figure. Ai Hui's facial expression swiftly sank. With large strides, he lifted his leg and kicked it with lightning precision.
The plump figure flew across the air and plummeted heavily to the ground.
Before Fatty could get up, a foot was planted onto his face. "Hand the money over," Ai Hui growled.
"It's all gone!" Fatty replied without even blinking his eyes.
"Whose money is gone?" The threat in Ai Hui's tone grew heavier as he pushed down with more strength.
"It's all gone." Fatty said quickly, "I've already sent the money home."
"My money." Ai Hui's tone remained composed, but even the most insensitive person could sense the anger surging beneath the facade of tranquility like scorching lava.
"I used it to buy a spot for this place," Fatty said with swag, before continuing, "I had no other choice. The application date has long passed, and only money could buy me a spot here. I actually pulled a lot of strings, and your money happened to be just the right amount. You better treat me well. Haven't you heard that debtors are always the bosses? If I die, you won't get your money back..."
Fatty continued to babble from under his foot. Suddenly, the anger disappeared and with blank face, he stomped his foot ferociously onto Fatty.
The surrounding people withdrew their gazes from this scene in disgust. Fatty's body was riddled with dirt and mud. Compared to him, Ai Hui's clothes were presentably clean, but they were obviously washed till the point of losing all color. The backpack that he carried was washed out as well, appearing extremely shabby.
With a face entirely covered with muddy footprints, Fatty helped himself up without the slightest sign of guilt or embarrassment.
Moving away from the crowd, they sat down. Fatty produced a malt candy from out of nowhere and popped it into his mouth with a crunch. He kept looking around, curiously sizing up his surroundings.
"How come you're not excited at all?" Fatty cast a puzzled look at Ai Hui and continued, "Hey, it's the Induction Ground! Now that we're here, we're no longer laborers! Give it another five years, and we can bring our entire families to the Avalon of Five Elements. This is where we can make a huge difference in our lives. Do you know how many people from the Old Territory would kill to be here?"
Ai Hui was too lazy to reply. He then pulled a strand of grass from a nearby pile of weeds and chewed on it. He asked, "You're of which element?"
"Fire element!" Fatty exclaimed as he squinted his beady eyes. "I had no idea that my physique would be that good..."
All of a sudden, Fatty stopped talking as he realized he had divulged certain information.
Ai Hui swiveled his head and asked with a doubtful look on his face, "Your physique is good?"
The Avalon of Five Elements ruled the Induction Ground with a firm hand. The people living within the Avalon of Five Elements, regardless of their gender or social status, were required at a certain age to enter the Induction Ground to study. As for the people from the Old Territory, as long as they passed the physical test, they would be able to enter as well.
Unflustered, Fatty replied, "Yeah, just a bit more, and I would have passed. My innate capability is way better than yours. Otherwise, even if I wanted to buy my way in, it would've been impossible. With how strict the Induction Ground regulations are, it wouldn't be easy to enter just with connections."
No matter what, he could never let Ai Hui catch on to the fact that he obtained a spot through passing the physical test. Otherwise, he wouldn't be able to explain the missing money. Fatty reminded himself of this fact repeatedly, remaining calm so as to not reveal anything.
"Oh," Ai Hui replied and withdrew his gaze. His physique was average and far from the basic requirement.
"It's a pity that we have different elements," Fatty said regretfully. His physique was of the fire element while Ai Hui's physique was metal. This meant that they would be separated into different teams.
Ai Hui agreed with Fatty. They worked well together, especially with the deep level of trust they'd developed. He could also take care of Fatty if they were on the same team.
As if he knew what Ai Hui was thinking, Fatty reassured him. "Don't worry, no matter what, I'm still a veteran who roamed the Wilderness before. How can I be bullied by those wimpy kids?"
At that moment, a scarlet cloud flew over from the distant skies and landed slowly on the ground, triggering a wave of commotion. Dismounting from the cloud was a well-dressed, handsome young man, causing many young ladies to cry out in admiration.
"That's extremely expensive!" Fatty's gaze was captivated by the cloud in an instant. Envious, he continued, "The quality of this Fiery Floating Cloud is excellent! Its color is a bright scarlet. No signs of impurity. Look, doesn't the shape of the cloud look like a burning flame? Well well, this Fiery Floating Cloud is of the highest quality. This lad must have come from a very powerful family. I have to find a chance to toady up to him!"
Upon biting the grass straw to nothing but dregs, Ai Hui suddenly missed the times in the Wilderness. At least there, the Ironback Canes could be found. Not only was it sweet, it also lasted longer. Even after gnawing on it for half a day, it would still be chewy. He shot a glance at the Fiery Floating Cloud and then withdrew his gaze. Not only was it eye-catching, it was slow as well, making it the perfect prey in the Wilderness.
This Fiery Floating Cloud was like a signal. After it appeared, various kinds of strange flying objects flew in from all directions and landed on the plaza before the Induction Ground.
Fatty became feverish with excitement as if he had taken some drugs. A string of words that Ai Hui had never heard of started to shoot out from Fatty's mouth. His eyes were very sharp. Not only could he identify those flying objects, he could also name their prices.
While listening to Fatty's gibberish, Ai Hui's bored gaze scanned the crowd. In the Wilderness, it was rare to see such young and tender faces. Everyone there was like a beast-fierce, agile, and dangerous.
Meanwhile, the youths here had delicate faces that radiated sunshine and vitality. Their excited looks were filled with hope for the future. The guys were proactively chatting and laughing alongside the girls, displaying elegance and humor in an attempt to attract their attention. The girls shyly blushed, resembling vermillion clouds dyed red by the morning sun. The corners of their lips displayed hints of laughter, as beautiful as blossoming flowers.
The sweet taste of the grass straw diffused throughout Ai Hui's mouth. He felt distracted, yet a little envious at the same time.
A yearning look flashed across his eyes, then disappeared. His face returned to normal, indifferent and calm. When he thought about the owner of the swordsman school, the three years he spent in the Wilderness, and the laborers that had been reduced to nothing but a pile of bleached-white skeletons, he felt that he was very fortunate.
Being alive was far more important than anything else. Being alive was the greatest fortune.
At this moment, Fatty's non-stop gibberish became much more pleasing to his ears.
The towering gate began to open slowly. Ai Hui stood up and brushed off the dirt on his body, his face steeled with determination. He knew that what lay beyond the door was a brand-new path-a path that he could not have imagined.
He did not know where it would lead to.
Just as he entered the Wilderness three years ago, he took a step forward, speaking to Fatty without turning his head, "Let's go."