Chapter 27: My Sand Puppet
Translator: Irene Editor: Pranav
"Lou Lan, do you want to try?" Ai Hui turned his head and suddenly asked.
"Try?" Lou Lan reiterated vacantly, "Try what?"
"To go on stage and fight."
"Go on stage....and fight?" Lou Lan's eyes widened, and then he shouted, "Ai Hui, do you mean for me to go on stage and join the competition?"
Ai Hui, who had been perfectly composed, was startled by Lou Lan's sudden outburst. He calmed his heart before replying, "Yes. It says here that a team of two is required to participate. If you don't feel like, then..."
"Okay," Lou Lan answered straightforwardly, but he was not without any hesitation. "But I have never been in a fight. What if we lose?"
"Then we move on to the next one," Ai Hui replied matter-of-factly. "Win some, lose some. There's nothing wrong. You can take it as practice."
His words eliminated Lou Lan's worry.
However, when he tried to register, the manager plainly rejected him.
"Sand puppets are not allowed. They are not human, so they do not see with their eyes. Isn't that cheating?"
Ai Hui could not argue with that.
Yes, it was entirely true that sand puppets were not humans; in fact, they were both remarkably different. They judged situations differently and did not have similar physiological mechanisms. Some sand puppets had an acute sense of smell, while others possessed the ability of reptiles to detect opponents' positions through heat. Some even possessed the ability of bats to locate opponents through sound waves.
Throughout his life, Ai Hui had encountered all kinds of sand puppets, and he had gradually come to realize that many earth elementalists would create and modify their sand puppets to an unimaginable extent. Although the majority of earth elementalists were eccentric, antisocial, and dislikeable, no one could ignore their impressive presence on the battlefield, and it was chiefly because of their sand puppets that they were often deemed as the most dangerous of people.
Ai Hui felt like informing the manager that Lou Lan definitely had no such abilities, but in the end, he did not.
Lou Lan was the weakest sand puppet that Ai Hui had ever met. He could not see how Lou Lan could have possibly been designed for battling; in his opinion, Lou Lan was a sand puppet that was purely constructed for lifestyle.
When Ai Hui saw Lou Lan's bright eyes dim, he patted his back and faintly murmured, "Let's go."
As they walked outside of the hall, Lou Lan looked down and kept silent.
Ai Hui, having sensed Lou Lan's disappointment, started to silently think to himself. Lou Lan seemed to be really anticipating the opportunity to battle on stage, but as a sand puppet, he obviously had an advantage over the rest in such a blind battle. The training hall would never let him up on stage, unless...
Ai Hui's eyes suddenly lit up; he had an idea!
He glanced over the signs of the surrounding training halls before setting his eyes on one of them and charging in its direction.
"This way, Lou Lan!"
Ai Hui brought Lou Lan into another training hall and headed straight to the registration counter. "I want to sign up."
The staff looked pointedly at Lou Lan.
"He's my sand puppet," Ai Hui claimed, before hurriedly adding, "I'm an earth elementalist. Can I bring him along to compete?"
Lou Lan, who was standing behind, was shocked.
"Earth elementalist? Then yes, you can." The staff nodded; it was clearly not his first time in such a situation. "But your sand puppet is required to seal all sensing techniques and disconnect all telepathic communication. Also, soul-fogging grass would have to be stuck onto him, and if it falls off, then you will instantly lose. Are you still interested in participating?"
Ai Hui was secretly delighted; indeed, it was just as he had expected!
Sand puppets were the most important aspect of earth elementalists' fighting abilities; without them, earth elementalists were no different than sheep awaiting slaughter. Unless earth elementalists were prohibited from participating, which was highly unlikely because they made up a big community, training halls would have to use different methods to suppress and neutralize the natural advantages of sand puppets.
However, although Ai Hui had guessed at the possible preventive measures, he had never imagined that they would be so fierce.
Soul-fogging grass was concocted only by wood elementalists, and despite being non-toxic itself, it was used extensively in setting traps and making poison. However, since its most significant use was to interfere with their sensing techniques, it was used specifically to deal with sand puppets and had hence become hated by all of them.
This was especially true for lower level sand puppets, as the soul-fogging grass affected them significantly; in fact, it would suppress practically all of their sensing techniques. Without their sensing techniques and their telepathic communication, these lower level sand puppets were basically useless. Ai Hui mused to himself that this was probably the reason for such harsh methods.
Lou Lan swiftly responded, "No problem."
On hearing Lou Lan's reply, the staff was slightly taken aback. "Looks like you have an intelligent puppet." He laughed. "Intelligent sand puppets have a great advantage. Eh, good luck to you both."
Ai Hui knew that the man was correct. Without the ability to sense and receive orders, the sand puppet's own judgments were being put to the test. That was why intelligent sand puppets could be said to have an advantage.
How rare! Lou Lan actually had an advantage here.
The staff produced a blade of emerald green soul-fogging grass and handed it over to Lou Lan. This was the first time Ai Hui had seen a full blade of soul-fogging grass, and it somewhat reminded him of a bean sprout.
Lou Lan stuck the soul-fogging grass onto his head.
Ai Hui was unable to contain his laughter. Lou Lan's head was made of sand, and now with a blade of grass sticking out, it was as if a bean had sprouted on it. The sight was indescribably amusing.
Lou Lan noticed Ai Hui's peculiar expression and started to have some doubts. "Did I stick it in the wrong place?"
"It's very good," Ai Hui reassured him, before commenting, "You look fresh!"
After registering, they both stood aside to wait for the commencement of the next match.
Ai Hui took this chance to impart some last-minute knowledge to Lou Lan. "Do not panic when you get up there and are unable to see anything. Do not stray far from me or I can't help you. Do not panic as well if you encounter an attack. Remember, you're a sand puppet and can transform. Come, let's create a warning signal. We shall use the sound of grinding sand. Do not be too noisy, just make it loud enough for me to hear. Stop talking once you get on the stage to prevent others locating your position. The moment you decide to attack, do not hesitate. Do you still recall the techniques we practiced together that night? Remember, if you fail to attack, move away immediately. The best solution is to roll on the spot. Remember, you are a sand puppet. You can flow towards the ground, and even flow on top of it..."
"Ai Hui, don't describe me as if I am urine! I am a sand puppet." Lou Lan resentfully corrected him, "Not a water puppet."
"Something like that." Ai Hui chuckled dryly. "In any case, I will help you, so relax, rookie. This is the first battle of your life. From today onwards, you will be a sand puppet with combat experience. You will remember this day. But if it hurts too much, don't forget to surrender."
"Got it," Lou Lan replied honestly.
"Get ready to go on stage!" the staff called out.
"It's our turn." Ai Hui encouragingly patted Lou Lan's shoulder. "You can do it, my soup-brewing gem!"
Lou Lan did not notice the strange name Ai Hui had called him. His tone revealed some nervousness, as he began, "Ai Hui..."
Dong! Dong! Dong! The reverberations of the bell spread throughout the hall.
Ai Hui's gaze sharpened instantly; he seemed to transform into an entirely different person.
With steady hands, he wore the opaque mask.