Chapter 86: A Familiar Feeling
Translator: YH Editor: Pranav
Before the battle had begun, Ai Hui had thought to use it as a test of his abilities. However, once it started, he immediately tossed these thoughts out the window.
Every fight in the Wilderness had been a matter of life and death.
There were no retries, undos, or extra time for preparation. Nobody would tell him that he could always try again next time because...
...there was simply no next time.
Losing meant death, and death meant becoming food for the dire beasts and adding to the piles of bones that already littered the Wilderness.
The prize for winning was the chance to continue standing in that blood-soaked battlefield, taking breaths amongst the ice cold corpses, being able to feel the warmth of life and the beating of your own heart while gasping greedily for the piercing, bitter-cold air.
Since Ai Hui never knew when the next test would be, he never knew whether he would manage to get through it.
He had to squeeze out every last ounce of his potential because he was weak and could die at any moment. He would remind himself every day that there wasn't going to be a second chance-he had to give it his all.
Would there be a tomorrow? He had no idea.
Even if he gave his all, it still might not even be enough to make it to the next day, but he knew that any mistakes would spell certain death. There was no room for errors or luck; death was absolute.
Every single day was filled with fear and trepidation. He would often be too afraid to sleep, and even the shelters provided no reprieve from danger. When living in such conditions, where death lurked at every corner, merely being able to stay sane was a blessing. Many laborers had even experienced mental breakdowns, running out of the camp in the middle of the night as they howled like wild beasts, never to return.
It was the Wilderness, a place respected by the strong, and a place where the weak struggled to survive.
His teacher had told him that his all-out approach wasn't a long term solution, but he already knew that. However, it had been completely uncertain if he would even make it till tomorrow, and if he didn't give it his best shot, he might not have the chance to do so anymore.
Being able to take things one firm step at a time was a privilege that was not given to everyone.
Ai Hui had lost count of the number of times he had faced death. He had no wish to remember either, lest he lose himself to fear. All he could do was make use of his abilities to the fullest and steel his heart. In such an extreme environment, having any sort of sentiment could easily result in death.
The three years he spent in the Wilderness still clung onto him like a shadow. It was a large part of the person he was today.
He tried very hard to adapt to life in the Induction Ground, constantly reminding himself that this was not the Wilderness. What's important now was that he should refrain from killing others in battle.
Other than that, he wasn't going to hold back.
He never once believed that fate was something that could be controlled. He was never able to shape his destiny. It was just like the Wilderness, always fighting against him. The only thing that made him happy was the brief reprieve he had after each victory.
Fighting was the only weapon he could use to resist his destiny. It was the only means by which he could win; he was nothing without it.
To him, fighting was never to be taken lightly.
He didn't even have the chance to mock his silly thoughts before the battle started and he entered a fighting state.
His eyes were stone cold, and his soul was equally icy. Ai Hui felt that he was more like a sand puppet, a killing machine created solely for the purpose of fighting. He didn't find anything wrong with that-the only thing he lamented was his lack of power.
He never intended to meet force with force; that first blow was just to test the waters.
Ai Hui's keen perception allowed him to detect the subtle changes in Zu Yan's state of mind despite the latter concealing his abilities well.
Fighting habits that resulted from tireless training in seclusion were indeed entirely different from those bred through struggles of life and death.
Ai Hui didn't understand his opponent's sudden shift in mental state, but being able to sense it allowed him to exploit the moment.
Compared to his compatriots from the Induction Ground, Ai Hui could be said to be a whole other life form altogether.
The huge disparity between the two combatants were vividly demonstrated at that very moment.
Zu Qiuni, who had screamed her lungs out, watched as Ai Hui leaped into the air. Like a bat in the night, his body noiselessly traced through the air in an arc, heading towards Zu Yan's side.
She woke with a start, fear written all over her face.
She understood Ai Hui's intention-he had discovered the [Hellfire Spider Web]'s weakness!
Ai Hui had indeed found the [Hellfire Spider Web]'s weakness.
He had conscientiously analyzed their previous battle and had easily found the limitations of the [Hellfire Spider Web]. In essence, the skill was simply an elemental energy web spread out over the ground. Its natural weakness was thus aerial attacks.
This weakness was due to Zu Yan's inadequate base level-an absolute art would most certainly not have such a glaring weakness. Raising his base level would change the nature of the web.
This weakness, however, was not much of a concern in the Induction Ground, since most students did not have aerial combat abilities until they became full-fledged elementalists.
Ai Hui didn't either, but he had managed to come up with three different methods to deal with the web.
This was his habit. Even though he wasn't expecting to face Zu Yan again, Ai Hui had prepared well for this scenario.
Meeting him once more was rather unexpected, but it wasn't frightening to Ai Hui at all.
He unfastened the Blood Bandage from his Sword Rattan Gloves, infusing elemental energy that was many times purer than his own into his arm.
Zu Qiuni's hunch was right. The technique that Ai Hui was executing had something to do with bats. It was a very shallow form of swordplay known as the Gale Bat Blade.
The technique imitates the movement of the fast-flying gale bat, which, according to notes in the margins of the swordplay manual, had become extinct.
Ai Hui had run many simulations in his mind before he had finally found this technique, which would allow him to execute aerial maneuvers, in a swordplay manual.
Although he was unable to fully utilize the technique without a sword, he could still perform its aerial maneuvers to change his direction in mid-air. As he had previously practiced, Ai Hui straightened his arm and channeled elemental energy through it in an arc.
He immediately felt a surge of air pushing his body, causing him to circle around Zu Yan in a clearly-defined arc.
Ai Hui had thought through every last detail of the plan, but appeared to have missed out one thing. Ai Hui had thought through every last detail of the plan, but he appeared to have missed out one thing. His elemental energy was now much purer than before.
Thus, things did not go according to plan.
Ai Hui's plan was to attack his opponent from the side, but he soon realized that he had overshot and landed behind him.
Zu Yan's body was slightly suspended in the air, ready to unleash his next attack.
Any other student might have been fazed by this, but not Ai Hui. He always expected the unexpected and believed that nothing was ever certain in battle.
Ai Hui braced himself, taking a powerful driving step as he launched himself backward.
Zu Yan was shocked when he sensed a disturbance behind him. How was it possible that his opponent was there...
Ai Hui rammed his back into Zu Yan with the force of a trampling dire beast.
The [Arching Fish Back] was still a reliable formula. It gave him a familiar feeling.