Chapter 153: The Original Inheritance and the Pact
Translator: YH Editor: X
A siren rang out while Ai Hui was on his way back to the training hall. Troops of anxious elementalists were patrolling the streets, reassuring everyone that things were under control and that they should stay at home as much as possible.
Ai Hui had a bad feeling about this. He could feel that the elementalists' were tense like he had never seen before.
He kept his head down, silently passing through the streets and headed toward the Vanguard Training Hall.
Both the noodle shop girl and Duanmu Huanghun had already left.
Fatty's face was filled with panic, but seeing Ai Hui allowed him to relax and heave a sigh of relief. He asked, "What's happening outside? Why does it seem so chaotic?"
"I have no idea," Ai Hui said, shaking his head. "Something big must have happened."
"Is there anything Lou Lan can help with?" Lou Lan chimed in with his head tilted.
Ai Hui let out a short burst of laughter upon seeing Lou Lan's cute actions before replying, "Not for now, but I'm sure we'll need your help soon enough."
Fatty knew Ai Hui like the back of his hand. He already knew that something was amiss from the moment he saw Ai Hui's expression. "Is the situation really that bad?" Fatty asked.
"I can't say for sure yet," Ai Hui replied flatly. He knew that he would not be able to stay out of it this time.
The reward he received came with certain expectations. Moreover, Ai Hui knew that the city's strength was considerably limited. The teachers may be powerful, but their pitiful combat experience hardly qualified them as competent fighters.
His worries about the blood poison incident worsening appeared to be coming true.
"Why are you still standing here?" Ai Hui asked while glaring at Fatty. "You should be training!"
Fatty could see that Ai Hui was in a foul mood. Dejected, Fatty silently retreated to a corner to train.
"Don't worry Ai Hui, Lou Lan will definitely help you!" Lou Lan cheered.
Ai Hui smiled and thanked Lou Lan.
Considering the Induction Ground's sluggish response, it was not exactly surprising that the situation had worsened.
If the situation continued to deteriorate, there would be nowhere to escape to. Based on their current strength, they would likely end up as food for the blood fiends once they left the city. Furthermore, his master and the others were still here. It was impossible for Ai Hui to sit back and watch as they succumbed to the disaster.
He was suffering from all these agonizing thoughts.
He was still too weak. The thought of facing the blood poison disaster with his meager power made him feel utterly insignificant. Ai Hui was not even certain that he could contribute much to the city's defensive efforts.
After all, what could a student who had only recently activated four palaces accomplish?
These unbearable thoughts were suffocating Ai Hui. He had been a free spirit in the Wilderness, where his only concern was his own survival. Now, he was tied down by the lives of so many others whom he wished to protect: Master, Mistress, Senior Mingxiu, Lou Lan, and Fatty.
He took a deep breath to dispel the wild thoughts flooding his mind and started to train.
Having just activated both of his foot palaces, he had yet to properly analyze them.
Ai Hui was soon deeply immersed in his training.
The sky began to darken as time quietly passed. A student hurriedly rushed over to inform Ai Hui that he was to return to the academy immediately.
Ai Hui did not hesitate in the slightest.
Upon reaching the academy, he was summoned to the dean's office.
The dean looked as if he had aged ten years, and the hair along his temples had grown white. He smiled at Ai Hui and said, "Student Ai Hui, you have given me a big surprise. I shall get straight to the point of why I've called you here today. The first thing I'd like to settle is your reward. Student Duanmu should have already spoken to you about this. Feel free tell me what you have in mind as a reward, even things such as inherited knowledge, elemental food, or equipment. Of course, it has to be something that the academy can provide."
Ai Hui replied without delay, "Dean, I hope to learn the [Big Dipper] technique."
"[Big Dipper]?" the dean asked, a little surprised. "This must be your teacher's idea. It looks like he's been guiding you well. The [Big Dipper] is Central Pine Academy's greatest inheritance and, although it isn't a lost skill, it still has its distinct features. Learning it is no mean feat since studying the [Big Dipper] requires the trainee to have seven strong palaces. Oh, I'm so muddleheaded. Old Wang must have already tested your constitution before encouraging you to ask for the [Big Dipper]. He just loves to study such things."
The dean solemnly shook his head, appearing to remember something from his past.
He walked toward the bookcase, pressing his palm on it. A complex pattern of light emerged along the bookcase, dazzling Ai Hui. The next moment, different-colored balls of light appeared all over the bookcase in a picturesque fashion, each one about the size of a fist.
The dean retrieved a ball that looked like a dark nebula. The lump of black vapor in his hand was scattered with tiny dots of light and was extremely eye-catching. Ai Hui came to a sudden realization that every one of these balls of light contained an inheritance.
His gaze fell on the nebula. Could this be the [Big Dipper]? How is this thing accessed?
Having never seen something like this before, Ai Hui was filled with curiosity and anticipation. Ai Hui thought of himself as a country bumpkin without much experience.
The dean noticed Ai Hui's nervous anticipation and laughed. He was reminded of his younger days, back when he first laid eyes on an inheritance. The sense of nostalgia invoked by this memory seemed to have cleared up his mind quite a bit.
"Put your hand on it," instructed the dean.
Ai Hui carefully placed his hand on the nebula in the dean's hand.
"Circulate your elemental energy," the dean continued.
Ai Hui carefully circulated his elemental energy. A bright flash appeared in front of his eyes and he appeared to have been dragged into a void. Packed together in dense clusters, stars were all around Ai Hui.
The star-filled sky suddenly began to revolve.
The star-filled sky swirled into rings of light, drowning Ai Hui within. After an indeterminate amount of time, seven stars emerged from the light rings, tracing out the shape of a ladle. The ladle rotated and expanded in front of Ai Hui's eyes, appearing to fly toward him.
It was quite a while before Ai Hui awoke from the trance-like state with a violent jerk.
"How does it feel?" the dean asked, smiling.
Ai Hui hesitantly replied, "It's not easy to describe. It feels as though I've gained some knowledge, but I really can't say for sure. Dean, is this the [Big Dipper]?"
"Yes, indeed," the Dean answered, nodding his head in affirmation. "This isn't just the [Big Dipper], it's the original [Big Dipper]."
"What do you mean by 'original'?" Ai Hui was confused.
The dean patiently explained, "The original [Big Dipper] is the primary source of this inheritance. In accordance with academy regulations, legacies and skills that are passed on to students are done so via copies. In addition to the details of the inheritance, the primary source also contains some of the creator's experiences and realizations, making it extremely valuable. You'll soon come to realize that every round of replication results in more information being lost from the original. Inheritance skillsets that are sold on the market tend to be very inferior copies. So, do you think you've got a good deal?"
The dean was amused by Ai Hui's look of amazement.
"Definitely," Ai Hui replied as he attempted to keep his facial expression in check. He looked up at the dean and continued weakly, "Although, why am I feeling guilty? I guess there's no such thing as a free lunch..."
"You didn't even falter after experiencing a surprise this huge. With such mental fortitude, old Wang has indeed taken in a good student." The dean was all smiles as he proceeded with his instructions, "I'll now continue with the other matter at hand."
After Ai Hui gave the situation some serious thought, he realized there was definitely something he had to do to earn such a reward. Given his current ability, Ai Hui was definitely not capable of resolving any major issues for the dean. He would most likely be asked to deal with some minor concern.
The dean paused for a moment before speaking, "You'll be cooperating with Shi Xueman and the others from now on. Shi Xueman, Sang Zhijun, and you will be working hand in hand. I believe that you three are already quite familiar with one another. This group, which the three of you will be a part of, is relatively stronger than the other groups and will thus be assigned several missions."
Ai Hui quietly waited for the next part.
"You have rich combat experience. I've looked through your file and noted that you've previously stayed in the Wilderness for three years. It's no mean feat for a laborer to survive the Wilderness. I'd say that you have the most combat experience in the entire academy. Shi Xueman is the leader of the other team, of which I have no control over. You'll be the leader of a new team, taking charge of several outstanding students that will be handpicked by me. Duanmu Huanghun will be your deputy. Both of your teams will operate together as a group."
Ai Hui continued to remain silent.
"If, and I'm only saying if, the situation becomes critically dangerous, I hope that you will guarantee Shi Xueman and Duanmu Huanghun's safety. Do you understand what I mean?" The dean spoke solemnly, his gaze set on Ai Hui.
Ai Hui did not avoid the dean's gaze as he calmly replied, "Do you mean to say that the others are disposable as long as Shi Xueman and Duanmu Huanghun survive?"
"That's right!" exclaimed the Dean. Ai Hui had taken the words right out of his mouth, relieving him of his apprehensions. "Perhaps the situation won't degrade to that point. We're definitely the first city in line for reinforcements, so there'll be support coming to join us."
"Because of them?" Ai Hui asked.
"Yes," said the dean while nodding his head. "Life is often unfair. The lives of some are worth more than others. Although such things are better left unsaid, this is the truth of the matter. If something happens to the two of them and the reinforcements get wind of it, everyone here will be knee deep in sh*t. Your wealth of experience, mature disposition, and outstanding swordplay reflect your potential. While these may not necessarily be useful, I'm still willing to place my bet on you. For all we know, you might just give me a pleasant surprise."
"I accept this mission."
Ai Hui's straightforward reply startled the dean. It made the carefully chosen words of his speech appear to have been for nought.
The dean was happy to know that he picked the right person.
"However, I have two conditions."
The dean was again taken aback by Ai Hui's audacity. Surprise turned to admiration as he responded, "Say it, if it is within my means."
"First, as the leader I'd like to pick the other members myself. Everyone in my team will have to obey my orders unconditionally, even Duanmu Huanghun."
"This, I agree with," the dean swiftly answered.
"Second, I need a few spots in the first batch of people to be evacuated once the reinforcements arrive."
The dean was gobsmacked. He scrutinized the young man standing in front of him.
Dark, clear, and calm, Ai Hui's eyes were as deep as the ocean.
After a moment's hesitation, the dean asked, "How many spots do you need?"
"Me, my teacher Wang Shouchuan, his wife Han Yuqin, Senior Mingxiu, my good friend Qian Dai, as well as my sand puppet Lou Lan."
The dean heaved a sigh of relief, "You do not need to worry about those 3 from the Jade Embroidery Workshop as they have already been allocated evacuation slots. Adding you in won't be a problem either, which means you only need an additional 2 spots. All right, you've got yourself a deal."
Ai Hui responded with his own sigh of relief. "Deal."
The two stood there as they exchanged glances and smiled.