Chapter 280: Chapter 280 - The Auspicious
Translator: YH Editor: TYZ/CakeHermit
The swirling clouds that encased the mountain peak behind him were just like a peaceful horizon over a large ocean. The morning fog had yet to clear.
Yet, the little city had already started to bustle with activity. Wood elementalists had begun to replenish their elemental energy while shop assistants were hard at work transporting goods. One bamboo cart after another were gathered together as they prepared to set off.
By the time Ai Hui arrived, the caravan had already completed their preparations.
The steward who had been keeping watch quickly made his way forward. "Sir, this way please."
He led Ai Hui to a shockingly massive Fiery Floating Cloud. The steward noticed that Ai Hui was assessing it and respectfully said, "Madam informed us that you are a valued guest. How could we possibly disregard you? Please."
The fire-red magic cloud exceeded seventy meters in length and was over twenty meters tall. Strands of red clouds continuously rolled up and dissipated into the air, a gorgeous sight to behold.
Quietly parked at the plaza, the Fiery Floating Cloud was incredibly eye-catching.
Ai Hui was able to deduce the financial resources of the trading caravan just by looking at the majestic looking cloud in front of him. The sheer amount of material needed for it already commanded a great price, let alone the labor required to complete it.
Walking towards the front of the stairs, Ai Hui suddenly asked, "Does this Fiery Floating Cloud have a name?"
The steward courteously replied, "Auspicious."
Ai Hui nodded his head and walked up the stairs, his face as calm as ever.
Taking on the role of Chu Zhaoyang these past three years had accustomed him to handling such situations.
Walking into Auspicious, Ai Hui was dazzled by the decorations inside. There were no resplendent crystal chandeliers and no soft, magnificent fur carpets on the floor. There was, however, a gentle breeze and an elegant screen. Ai Hui could see only a graceful silhouette through the screen, nothing more. The imperceptible fragrance that lingered in the air perked him up quite a bit.
This amazing fragrance which calms the mind and replenishes elemental energy wasn't something that money could buy.
The well-trained servants bowed uniformly to greet him.
Ai Hui was secretly surprised. Such lavishness reminded him more of influential families than commercial enterprises.
However, Ai Hui didn't concern himself too much about it. Who cares what sort of organization it was, he was only here to ride the boat. Upon reaching Magic Cloud City, he would leave without a word.
Going around the screen, he saw a lady standing by the window, silently observing the busy situation outside.
In one corner stood an old servant who gave Ai Hui quite the shock. In his heart, Ai Hui noted that the old servant's presence had been practically undetectable. Previously, Ai Hui had only noticed the figure behind the screen.
Such things rarely slipped past Ai Hui's keen senses.
This old servant was pretty impressive!
The old servant was dressed in a simple blue robe and was impeccably groomed. He stood attentively at one corner and took a tall, yet relaxed posture.
The old servant appeared to notice Ai Hui's gaze and bowed to apologize.
Ai Hui's expression returned to normal as he returned the bow. Unable to detect the old servant's elemental energy fluctuations, Ai Hui was unable to fully grasp his strength. Comparing base level alone though, the old servant was probably at least two levels higher than he was. After some thought, Ai Hui decided that considering the chamber of commerce's financial strength, it'd be even weirder if they didn't have an expert holding the fort.
This "Madam" mentioned by the steward must be someone who was highly respected.
Ai Hui was fascinated by this Fiery Floating Cloud since it was his first time on one this huge. Although the cloud looked thick and completely opaque from the outside, one could look out from inside the cloud without any hindrance whatsoever.
The lady heard some noise and immediately spun around.
Ai Hui felt his field of vision become much brighter
The lady had a delicate and exquisite oval-shaped face. Her fair and defined neckline, coupled with her hair worn in a high double bun imparted upon her an air of elegance. Her eyes lit up upon seeing Ai Hui. "It is with great fortune that I managed to chance upon the Silver Wheel Swordsman here in Cloud Ridge City. Your humble servant (not really a servant, it's a way of referencing herself down in front of an esteemed person) Xiao Shuren, has actually met Mister Chu before."
Ai Hui bowed slightly to return her gesture.
Xiao Shuren smiled and continued, "There's still some time before we set off, kindly take a seat Mister Chu. I hope you don't mind my embarrassing attempt at tea art."
"Much appreciated." Ai Hui graciously accepted her offer and sat down.
Ai Hui only knew how to gulp the tea down, how was he supposed to fully appreciate Xiao Shuren's exquisite tea brewing skills? The only thing going through his mind was just how little tea there was in each cup. Such a small mouthful of tea wasn't enough for him to taste anything.
Xiao Shuren's smile never once left her face and as the saying goes, never beat a person who is full of smiles. What's more, Ai Hui was about to hitch a free ride on their boat so he effortfully restrained himself and patiently sat still.
After about ten minutes, the trading caravan finally set off.
The Fiery Floating Cloud gradually floated off the ground and was unexpectedly stable. The experience of flying on such a huge Fiery Floating Cloud was extremely refreshing for Ai Hui, especially the unobstructed view that he had from within it. He could see everything outside the cloud, from the bamboo carts around them to the scenery on the ground.
Xiao Shuren was an understanding individual. Upon noticing Ai Hui's curiosity, she brought the Fiery Floating cloud to a higher altitude, avoiding the bamboo carts and widening Ai Hui's field of view.
The cloud was so stable that if not for the passing scenery, Ai Hui would think that they were stationary. A light breeze was constantly blowing through the cloud, making him feel carefree and relaxed.
After enjoying the experience for a while longer, Ai Hui asked, "May I know where my room is?"
Xiao Shuren shouted for another servant, "Bring our esteemed guest to his room."
Ai Hui followed the servant to the guest room. The room's decorations left him feeling warm and comfortable. Although it wasn't considerably luxurious, the room was huge and had a special area for training.
The servant informed, "Mister Chu, this ship also has a specialized training hall which you may feel free to use."
Ai Hui nodded, feeling quite satisfied. He instructed, "Kindly do not call for me if there is nothing important."
"Understood," the servant quickly replied.
Ai Hui closed the doors and promptly sat down to meditate. He knew that time was a scarce resource and had long adapted himself to practicing anytime, anywhere. Ai Hui would have attained elemental externalization if the blood plum blossom wasn't constantly consuming his elemental energy. Despite the presence of the blood plum blossom, Ai Hui was still able to achieve elemental internalization through hard training.
He needed one last step before he could attain elemental externalization.
The blood plum blossom made him a little worried because it appeared to undergo some sort of transformation as his base level rose. It now frequently became boiling hot, and Ai Hui would feel his mind throbbing whenever this happened. He had a feeling that the blood plum blossom would undergo a tremendous change when he finally achieved elemental externalization.
Although this hidden danger was present, Ai Hui had no intention of giving up. Achieving elemental externalization held more attraction than avoiding the potential dangers of the blood plum blossom.
Attaining elemental externalization would bring his power to a whole new level.
He dismissed all his distracting thoughts and concentrated on his training.
Back in the ship's hold, Xiao Shuren retracted her smile. She gently held up her teacup and leisurely asked, "He Lao, do you think this Chu Zhaoyang is real?"
Standing in one corner, He Lao replied, "I can't say for sure if he's real or not, but he is quite alert. What I find strange though, is his low base level. He has yet to breakthrough to elemental externalization."
"Yet to attain elemental externalization?" Xiao Shuren asked, momentarily stunned. She subconsciously continued, "Could this person be an imposter?"
Elemental externalization was becoming more and more mainstream in today's world. How could an expert like Chu Zhaoyang have only attained elemental internalization?
"On the contrary, I feel that he is the real Chu Zhaoyang," answered He Lao. "An imposter wouldn't possibly have such a glaring loophole."
"It is hard to believe that the Silverwheel Swordsman has only achieved elemental internalization," replied Xiao Shuren, clearly impressed. She had faith in He Lao's judgement.
"It is indeed rarely seen," He Lao nodded. "But outstanding swordsmanship or certain special inheritances can result in such a phenomenon. From what I know, there are more than ten inheritances that suppress base levels in their initial phases."
Out of nowhere, Xiao Shuren asked softly, "Does He Lao think he's a threat or just someone harmless?"
"It is still unknown at the moment whether he is a friend or a foe." He Lao lowered his volume. "But if he's going up against us, I'm sure he'll surely give himself away soon enough. You have handled him well so I suppose he'll only go after the caravan if he wanted to cause trouble. Furthermore, he's on our ship. We'll be able to take him down if he tries anything funny."
He Lao spoke easily and showed no sign of worry whatsoever.
Xiao Shuren smiled. "I would only dare to take such risks with you around."
He Lao chuckled. "You're too kind, madam. If this journey goes smoothly, we'll have overcome all the difficult issues in our way. Nothing will stop us from achieving success. Without your hard work and detailed planning, the chamber of commerce would most certainly not have been able to achieve its position today. To us, this journey is like a fight to the death. Please rest assured that I will risk my life to make sure these goods are delivered."
He Lao's voice became firm and resounding towards the end of his speech.
The servants and bodyguards behind them remained unperturbed.
Ai Hui was deeply immersed in his training. Over time, the blood plum blossom more frequently entered a boiling state and these states were lasting longer and longer as well. It had initially occurred once a month, but it soon became once a week and then once every three days.
It was now happening every other day.
The blood plum blossom was incredibly unorthodox. It was completely different from all the other blood elementalist techniques that he had encountered before. Even his tried-and-tested lightning had no effect on the blood plum blossom. Ai Hui had tried to utilize the lighting in his elemental energy to bombard the blood plum blossom. Upon realizing that it was capable of absorbing his lightning, Ai Hui immediately stopped and was scared out of his wits.
Ai Hui had to carry out high-intensity practice every single day to maintain his current base level.
The blood plum blossom ceaselessly devoured elemental energy and did not give Ai Hui any respite.
Ai Hui had managed to maintain his elemental internalization for one and a half months but had yet to reach the critical point for a breakthrough. Attaining elemental externalization was a huge leap from elemental internalization. With it came a completely new level of understanding. People often got stuck at elemental internalization, unable to break through to elemental externalization. Prolonged periods of stagnation at this level could even cause one's base level to fall.
Logically speaking, Ai Hui shouldn't be out and about during this period of time since undergoing a breakthrough might leave him in an awkward situation. The slightest issue could send his efforts down the drain or in worse cases, cause him to become injured.
He had obediently spent the last one and a half months in Peace City by Lou Lan's side. Ai Hui felt at ease with Lou Lan around.
However, he had no choice but to leave and pursue the leads he found regarding the blood plum blossom.
He couldn't be at peace as long as the blood plum blossom remained. Although it was only devouring his elemental energy for now, Ai Hui had a nagging feeling that it would eventually start going after his life. He had to find a way to deal with it soon.
Beautiful ladies were known to be ruthless.
Ai Hui's elemental energy training wasn't making progress. He knew that becoming overly fixated with achieving a breakthrough would eventually see him splitting hairs.
Recalling that the servant mentioned something about a training area on the ship, Ai Hui picked up his broadsword and decided to practice his swordsmanship instead.
Regardless of the type of weapon, practice was the key to perfection.
Ai Hui was delighted to find the training hall completely empty. Enjoying the peace and quiet, he quickly got to work.
The past three years saw him scouring through countless swordplay manuals for a greater understanding of various sword seals and sword techniques. His understanding of swordplay grew more profound with each passing day. He began to have more and more original thoughts surrounding swordsmanship as well.
His swordsmanship was on a whole new level.
Ai Hui was absolutely immersed in his training.
He did not notice the elegant figure watching him from outside the training hall.