Chapter 154: Recruiting Members
Translator: YH Editor: Pranav
"Dean, regarding that siren earlier, did something happen?" Ai Hui took the initiative to ask.
The dean suddenly didn't look too well, but he remained composed and answered with a reassuring smile, "Nothing much. Our lookouts were too anxious upon spotting a few blood fiends close to our defensive perimeter, so they sounded the alarm."
From the dean's voice, Ai Hui could hear that he was dissatisfied with the city's elementalists. He regretted letting the Society of Excellence's instructors leave; he would have insisted for Li Wei to stay back if he had known that the blood disaster would spread to Central Pine City.
Compared to soldiers who had served ten years ago, the elites from the current Infantry Division felt much more dependable.
Ai Hui felt slightly relieved.
The dean didn't say much else besides telling him how to collect his reward from the magistrate court and to pick out his team as soon as possible. Shi Xueman's team would then be able to join up with his. The dean had many other matters to take care of, he hadn't intended to spend so much time on Ai Hui's issue since it was merely a last minute decision. Wang Zhen was his biggest hope.
Never before had the dean imagined that he would pin this much faith in a student. Moreover, this was only his first time meeting Ai Hui.
Perhaps many years down the road he'll look back and remember how panic-stricken and desperate he was. Like a drowning man, he'd gladly grab onto anything he can find. Although, he could not deny that Ai Hui was different from any other student he had ever met.
This youth, who wasn't exceptionally powerful, had a certain air about him. His eyes were as calm as the deep sea, unaggressive and restrained. He had a maturity and mellowness that you would often find only in those of middle age, and only in individuals who had a wealth of worldly experience. It was difficult to ascribe such a manner to a youth of only 16.
When serious, he would become as keen as a knife's edge.
He had, generally speaking, an aura of elegance.
Ai Hui bade farewell to the dean and walked through Central Pine Academy.
To prevent the blood poison from spreading, the trees in the academy's garden had to be cut down. Trees that were hundreds of years old were not spared either, and their roots were thoroughly destroyed for safety. Playful and joy-filled scenes under those great trees were now only distant memories, and the campus once filled with lush greenery had become utterly bare, like a battlefield devoid of life.
The young, tender faces of the students were riddled with signs of panic, their eyes filled with fear and confusion. Several teachers were delivering announcements while flying over the academy grounds, using elemental energy to project their voices all around the school. The announcements made known the administration's decision to make a set of skills available, which were, in the past, only taught to those with additional contributions. A group of teachers was organized to impart these skills in the hope that it will aid the students in fighting the blood poison.
It looked like things had really gone south.
Ai Hui's mood was inexplicably low. Central Pine City was the safest and most peaceful place he had ever known. It was a place filled with sunshine, dreams, and vigor-the complete opposite of what he had encountered in his past. Here, there were no massacres, no chilling nights, and no need to be on guard all the time. He remembered how much he had wanted to just stay in Central Pine City forever.
This was the world he had yearned for in his dreams.
Was it now time to wake up from this dream?
Ai Hui was devastated.
Teacher Wang was panting hard as his voice dragged Ai Hui out of his emotional state. The grief and sadness he had just experienced were quickly buried deep within the recesses of his mind. Raising his head in surprise, Ai Hui called out, "Teacher!".
"I've finally found you," Wang Shouchuan said as he tried to catch his breath. He was drenched in sweat. "Everyone was worried about you when we heard the siren. The situation doesn't look too good. How did the blood catastrophe end up like this? Has it actually worsened this much?"
Wang Shouchuan looked around as he spoke, his eyes filled with sentiment. He had been a teacher in Central Pine Academy for twenty years, and he had deeply-rooted feelings for the school. It wasn't hard to imagine just how much this desolate sight upset him.
He effortfully suppressed the throbbing heartache and told Ai Hui, "Follow me to the embroidery workshop. We'll weather out the storm there with your mistress. With her around, nothing bad can happen! All these blood insects aren't even a match for her soles."
Wang Shouchuan spoke highly of his partner, describing her as though she was a valiant general capable of crushing all opposition.
Ai Hui did not tell him about his agreement with the dean, and instead, he shook his head and replied, "Your disciple humbly wishes to contribute whatever he can to help fight against the disaster. In the face of calamity, should one not calmly resist? Having escaped from the Garden of Life, I have a better understanding of the blood catastrophe than most people. Don't worry, Master, I'll hurry back to the embroidery workshop if things truly get out of hand."
The determination in Ai Hui's eyes gave Wang Shouchuan a great headache. This disciple of his was excellent in many ways, but he was such a stubborn individual. Nobody could shake his resolve once his decision was made.
Moreover, his disciple's way of thinking wasn't wrong. Assuming responsibility instead of escaping in such times was indeed a precious quality. Wang Shouchuan was conflicted. He didn't want his disciple to be a coward, but he feared for Ai Hui's safety as well. He thought about it for a moment before asking, "What do you plan to do?"
"The administration intends to organize a team of elite students with me as the leader. Duanmu Huanghun is also a part of this. We'll be working together with Shi Xueman's team." Ai Hui continued, "I have also absorbed the original [Big Dipper], and I need to process this inheritance as well."
"The dean gave you the original [Big Dipper]?" Wang Shouchuan asked in disbelief. "Has he gone mad?"
It took Wang Shouchuan a whole ten seconds to regain his composure, his displeasure betrayed by the deep frown on his forehead. "The dean's move reveals that he has abandoned all backup plans, meaning that the situation is much worse than I had imagined. You must be careful and escape to the embroidery workshop at the first sign of trouble, do you understand? I need to go back and make preparations with your mistress. The way things are, I wouldn't be surprised if the embroidery workshop becomes conscripted as well."
His master left with a heavy heart. However, hearing the names Duanmu Huanghun and Shi Xueman consoled him a little, as he knew how highly the dean regarded those two.
Ai Hui set off to find Duanmu Huanghun without any further delay.
There was no time to dwell on past grudges.
Duanmu Huanghun was still slightly embarrassed to see Ai Hui, especially since he had to be his deputy. If someone had brought up something like that before the calamity, he'd definitely have dismissed that person as insane. Now, however, he was clearly aware that Ai Hui was much more suited for the role of a team leader. Ai Hui had played a pivotal role in the past two escapes from the blood fiends' clutches.
Although he was a bit vexed, Duanmu Huanghun spoke calmly. "Give me the list of names and I'll gather the members."
Ai Hui went straight to the point. "You, me, Fatty, Lou Lan, Jiang Wei, and Wang Xiaoshan. We shall assemble at the Vanguard Training hall."
Duanmu Huanghun furrowed his brows. He had assumed that Ai Hui would select students with exceptional abilities and not this motley crew. Jiang Wei was pretty capable, but Wang Xiaoshan, the earth elementalist who had built the mound in the Garden of Life, was mediocre. He had never seen Fatty demonstrate anything before, but he knew there was nothing special about him either. At least Lou Lan was a good pick as his healing ability would definitely come in handy.
Ai Hui knew what Duanmu Huanghun was thinking and directly asserted, "Do you think the number of activated palaces will matter in front of the blood fiends?"
Duanmu Huanghun was at a loss for words. There would indeed be no significant difference if they were facing larger blood fiends.
Ai Hui glanced at Duanmu Huanghun and said, "We will not be handling dangerous missions. The elementalists, teachers, and training ground personnel will be around to take those. To be precise, we're just here as a backup, dealing with smaller things like blood insects. Furthermore, we'll be working with Shi Xueman's team. They'll be the ones going up against the stronger blood fiends. That's why trust is more important than ability for our team."
Duanmu Huanghun wasn't comfortable being told that his role wasn't particularly important. For a genius, being overlooked was a difficult pill to swallow.
He knew, however, that Ai Hui was merely stating facts, and that the things he said made sense.
"If you insist, I have no objections," Duanmu Huanghun said expressionlessly. "I'll perform my role as your deputy as required."
It took a lot out of him to say the word "deputy."
Since when had Brother Huanghun ever been someone's assistant?
Since when had Brother Huanghun ever been slighted by others?
Having experienced a series of disturbing events up till now, Duanmu Huanghun felt extremely discontent. He couldn't find an outlet to vent his frustration.
He may be a prideful individual, but he wasn't someone who made a fuss out of everything. Things that he had to bear with gritted teeth only served to trigger Duanmu Huanghun into action.
"I'll definitely surpass you in every way!" Duanmu Huanghun swore to himself.
Ai Hui was unaware of the vows that Duanmu Huanghun was silently swearing, but it wasn't as if he'd give a hoot if he knew. He looked Duanmu Huanghun in the eye and said, "Let's begin."
Duanmu Huanghun went off to find Jiang Wei and Wang Xiaoshan while Ai Hui headed towards Manager Li's shop.
AI Hui was flabbergasted when he saw Manager Li. He exclaimed, "What happened to you, Old Li?"
Manager Li's hair had all turned white as though he had aged rapidly.
Manager Li laughed bitterly and avoided his question. "I was just about to look for you; we have to settle the money for the Bunny Hair. Bunny Hair Arrows have been selling like hotcakes, and I can hardly keep up with the demand. Here's twenty million, keep it safe. If nothing happens over the next ten days, you can come over to settle the bill again."
Ai Hui kept the money, but strangely, he didn't feel any happiness upon receiving it.
"Old Li, are there any more Bunny Hair Arrows in the shop? Please keep some from the next batch for me."
Manager Li happily agreed. "No problem."
Ai Hui continued to ask, "Are there any more heavy shields in the store?"
"Heavy shields?" Manager Li responded with a nod. "Almost all of the arms have been expropriated by the magistrate court. All I have left are some of this second-hand heavy equipment from years ago. I haven't been able to sell them because they're too heavy. Come take a look, you can have whatever you like since they're not worth much anyway."
Ai Hui followed Manager Li to the storehouse where he really saw a bunch of rusty second-hand heavy gear. Ai Hui picked out an ironwood shield weighing over 150 kilograms. He brushed off the dust and polished off the rust, revealing a shield as sturdy as a wall. It was incredibly solid, truly an excellent find.
Ai Hui thanked Manager Li before lugging the ironwood shield back to the training ground.
The Dragonspine Inferno he was carrying on his body weighed 110 kilograms. In addition to that, he was lugging the even heavier ironwood shield which weighed about 170 kilograms, a combined weight of 280 kilograms. Carrying such heavy items thoroughly exhausted Ai Hui, reminding him of his days as a laborer in the Wilderness as he panted heavily.
After much effort, he finally managed to carry the shield back to the training ground. As he entered, he heard Lou Lan cheering, "Ai Hui is back!"
Before Ai Hui could put the shield down, however, he heard Fatty frantically shout, "Come quickly, take a look at this!"