Chapter 60 - The Underworld
Zou Liang smiled. "Change the stick into a knife."
Lan Di pulled out his own dagger, but when he tried it he was left with limbs that wouldn't cooperate1.
"Don't be afraid of the blade. In reality, the only reason why the butterfly knife has an intimidating effect is because of the opponent's fear, so the blade has to dance between the fingertips. Look," Zou Liang took the dagger and began to perform with it once more at a high speed, "it is important that you link the movements while relaxed. The safest place is when the blade is spinning on the palm, and to increase the difficulty this accompanying link is essential! Of course, once you are familiar with this you can increase it even further, and in order to complete everything you'll need to add a revolution around the forefinger. If you follow with a quick throw and catch the knife, it'll result in an even more dazzling performance."
Lan Di and Ke Te were stupefied at seeing an Engraving Priest somehow being more calm and collected than a warrior. If everyone did not know that it was Ya Se's first trial by fire, they would definitely mistake him as a veteran who has traversed many battlefields.
"This kind of play isn't that mysterious. The hardest part is the rotations around the fingers; no one would be able to do it in the beginning. Not only do you have to practice, you have to learn how to lift something heavy as though it were light2 and it's also important to be as lively as an ember. Futhermore, If you break up the movements you won't necessarily need to use a safety knife; a folding knife would work to successfully complete the movement as well, and the resulting grip could be either the forward or reverse grip, whichever the user wanted and felt necessary for the situation."
Lan Di and Ke Te nodded their heads while concentrating, diligently trying to comprehend Zou Liang's explanation of his trick. It was easy to say, but when the blade of the knife slipped through their fingertips they would be sent into horrific panic.
"That's it, it's only this much, and if there is anything more to learn then it can only come through practice. Rest early; you two still need to show your strengths in the trial by fire and as a priest with high future prospects, I do not wish to die before my time," Zou Liang laughed.
The two expressed their thanks before Lan Di closed the door, each discussing subconsciously with the other while they were walking away. It wasn't until they arrived at their bedroom doors that they suddenly remembered they were rivals and immediately distanced themselves from the other.
"Heng, why am I spouting nonsense to a Crusader for? No matter what I say, you won't even understand!" Lan Di ridiculed. The amount that he had learned was not small and-as a Shadow Hunter-undergoing such training would bring about many benefits, like the fear a knife can bring.
For once, Ke Te did not argue with him. "Do you think that Priest Ya Se is a bit strange?"
"Strange your f*****g head! I'll tell you now, if you slander us brothers I'll wager my life against you!"
"You shithead, I'm just wondering how a priest like him could possess such battle strength. Did you not think about how the Luo Ge who could summon the storms3 in Tian Feng City's War Academy was beaten like a dog by Ya Se? Is this something someone can achieve with only technique?"
In a battle there was speed, strength, and perception, and not a single one of these could be lacking. It was important to look at how the obese Luo Ge's speed was even slightly faster than Lan Di, and in a fight between Shadow Hunters speed had immediately determined who had been favored.
"As if, it was definitely Luo Ge's carelessness, like a silver fox that revealed itself!" Lan Di objected; this moon-faced cat was always overly suspicious of people.
Ke Te pondered on that before agreeing. Though Luo Ge had shown himself as completely relaxed during the fight with Lan Di, in reality he had been exerting his entire strength and unceasingly provoking Lan Di in order to break his mentality. When he'd fought Zou Liang, however, Luo Ge did not even display 30% of his abilities4.
Lan Di couldn't be bothered paying Ke Te any attention, his brain filled with thoughts of Zou Liang's concealed actions. He gave a mumble to himself while continuously gesturing with his knife, and if someone did not know what was going on it would be natural to think he was mentally impaired.
Early in the morning, Zou Liang and Ou Nisi Te had not broken their habits just because they were no longer at home and continued their training; Ou Nisi Te was already used to this method. Ever since Ou Nisi Te's victory and the battle with the thieves, Zou Liang identified Ou Nisi Te's flaw was that he lacked the initiative to attack. Although Zou Liang's call could break this, it was ultimately caused by Ou Nisi Te's introverted nature and could only be fixed through continuous combat.
This place was not very convenient for him to pull out a duvet but hitting air still had a similar effect. Zou Liang knew what results he wanted, but having something solid to reference was always a good thing.
After the two had finished their training, the others had begun to wake up one after another. Ke Te did not know that these two would wake up for morning exercise, and although Lan Di was the last one out his appearance showed that he pulled a long night: both of his hands-especially his left-were full of wounds.
"Ai Wei Er, give me some gold wound medicine."
"Wounding your hand like that, are you a masochist?"
Lan Di looked at his hands before speaking, "These two are too dumb and clumsy so they were taught a small lesson. Don't worry, the wounds are all superficial."
"Let's go! Let's head out!" Ao Li Quan Ya exclaimed; out of everyone, she was the happiest.
The entrance to the underworld was an enormous cave and the interior was split into countless roads that nobody knew where they led. Ever since the beast tribes' origin the demonic beasts had existed, and some even claimed that the latter had existed earlier than the former. This enormous underworld was the demon beasts' territory with a size that could only be seen and not known. Its characteristics-along with the Beast Spirit World-was a secret of the Among De Empire.
The beast tribes' innate vigor towards taking risks had bubbled forward, and through many millennia countless adventurers had braved the underworld, collaborating with each other to create an underworld map section by section. The last two centuries had been the time that the beast tribes exerted the most control over the underworld, allowing these safe trials by fire to be practiced as well as the past traditions focusing on exploration.
One would first realise that the underworld was separated into layers. The first layer was the one that had been explored the most thoroughly by the beast tribes and was most often used by those on a trial, though of course this layer still had a few locations the trialists shouldn't provoke for fear of a few strong demonic beasts. Such beasts were strong enough that normal warriors couldn't handle them, and they were instead targeted by teams with high quality and desire for risk. With these pockets of danger, it was exceedingly important to follow the map throughout the excursion.
The records showed that the underworld had at least three layers. The lower layers were not as stable and didn't have the same kind of entrances as the first, the entrances and exits appearing randomly instead; after entering, it would be difficult to leave. On the second layer, the demonic beasts would show even more intelligence along with an increase in battle strength, though the amount of treasure that could increase Beast Spirit would not be small on this layer. As for the third layer, there many rumors but this was ultimately a domain that only the gold-grade warriors could touch, and even then they would require a team.
In the past three hundred years, The Pope had issued two holy wars in order to send expeditions down into the underworld. The target had been the lowest layer of the underworld-also known as the Abyss-and though the rumors say the rewards offered for the expedition were generous, everyone surmised that they experienced a crushing defeat.
The chance of being able to enter the second and third floor was low. It would be no different than winning the lottery.
The group went through their last inspections with hundreds of teams already gathered by the entrances.
"Ai Wei Er, which map did you prepare this time?"
The maps to the underworld were separated into ten different grades, and for newbies like them-and the rest of the people that they could see in front of them-maps of the third grade and below were the safest options. If they were to select a higher grade map, they would have to go out of their way to avoid the danger areas and would not attempt them; staying away from those spots had been taught through bloody lessons in the past. The more high-level areas on the map the more risk there would be, and though the demonic beasts were very territorial they would still change places time in and time out; having an updated version of the map was just as important as the grade.
The price of a quality map was considerable. Not only that, but finding a reliable map was useless if the correct entrance wasn't used.
"Blood Rose: a third grade map that was created only last month." Ai Wei Er smiled.
Chinese saying is hands busy, legs tangled. ↩
Luna Note: To approach something from a completely different direction than first impression. ↩
Stir trouble ↩