Chapter 32: Secret Signal
Translator: Irene Editor: Pranav
Everyone had forgotten Lou Lan.
Zu Yan had initially paid no attention to Lou Lan. Additionally, he had been provoked by Ai Hui, and while fighting, he had naturally neglected a useless sand puppet. Ai Hui was in a highly strained state and was completely relying on his instincts and wealth of experience to dodge. He, too, had no time to spare for Lou Lan. The members of the audience were enthralled by Zu Yan's dazzling and sharp moves and were staring, full of shock, at the stage. How could they possibly remember that clumsy sand puppet?
All this while, Lou Lan was standing in a corner, watching Ai Hui dart around the stage. He pondered expressionlessly over the possible ways he could assist Ai Hui.
He had completely recovered from his initial nervousness, but alas, it was now of no use.
He was truly a rookie when it came to battling; he was completely unable to enter their combat. Ai Hui, whom he regarded as akin to a war god, was forced to flee around the stage without the least bit of energy to retaliate.
The opponent's skills were too powerful!
With such an absolute disparity between the strengths of both parties, Lou Lan could not come up with a practical idea to turn the situation around.
If Ai Hui had stopped and asked, "Lou Lan, have you thought of something?"
He would definitely respond, "We'd better surrender."
He would then tell Ai Hui that judging from the current situational development, they were bound to be defeated at some point. Ai Hui's right arm was broken, and its treatment would cost quite a bit. If the fight continued, he would sustain more injuries, which in turn meant spending more money. He would then, as a loyal friend, remind Ai Hui that he was destitute. This was the most logical thing to do.
Yet apparently, over here, all logic was thrown out of the window. Lou Lan vividly remembered Ai Hui's eyes: they were not bright but instead ice-cold and profound, while slightly flickering with an intense battle intent.
Was that deeply hidden passion going to erupt at this moment?
Lou Lan was a little envious. He did not understand why Ai Hui was so determined and reckless. Why did he choose to fight on, knowing that he was far weaker than his rival? Why didn't he surrender even after being chased around until he could not even hit back?
Was that passion?
Lou Lan seriously assessed himself but found no such passion within himself.
He mocked himself. He really was thinking too much.
Lou Lan, you're a sand puppet, he reminded himself.
Nevertheless, to have a friend like Ai Hui was truly something to be happy about. Moreover, he was battling alongside Ai Hui! Huh? Suddenly remembering the battle, he scanned across the aggressive scene that was taking place not far away and muttered uncertainly to himself, "Somewhat alongside..."
He had been a little troubled, but his unhappiness immediately vanished-like smoke into thin air.
Although I do not have that kind of passion that you do, you are a friend. Lou Lan's one and only friend. That, in itself, was a sufficient reason to battle, Lou Lan said to himself.
Lou Lan was a sand puppet!
Lou Lan's body suddenly shattered and transformed into a pool of sand.
The stage was filled with a surging airflow, and Lou Lan borrowed its energy to noiselessly hover in the air. Occasionally, fire fragments would pass through his body, but he displayed no reaction; he was like an unremarkable cloud, floating silently amongst the raging storm of violent flames.
Lou Lan not only had a degree of understanding of [Flaming Heavenly Spider Transformation], but he had also read descriptions of [Hellfire Spider Web]. [Flaming Heavenly Spider Transformation] had been classified as an absolute art mainly because of its enormous potential for growth. Once comprehended, the absolute art's strength would jump to a higher level with each palace opened.
With a base level of only two palaces, executing [Hellfire Spider Web] was remarkably difficult, and at the very least, four would be required for complete implementation. [Hellfire Spider Web], when executed with only two palaces, had an enormous loophole: it could affect only those enemies that were on the ground. If enemies approached from above, they would not trigger the response of [Hellfire Spider Web].
It was a pity that Ai Hui could not fly.
However, as a matter of fact, all weakness were only significant when two opponents were of similar strength. In the current situation, with such a large gap in skill level, identifying a weakness was somewhat useless.
Lou Lan floated in midair, as he calmly drifted along with the airflow.
Lou Lan could feel that the opponent was consuming huge amounts of elemental energy and physical strength, and this was evident from his increasingly slow attacks and his large, heaving breaths. However, Ai Hui was comparatively more miserable; his whole body was thoroughly exhausted.
Lou Lan could even sense that Ai Hui's legs were trembling.
He could not help but admire Ai Hui. Willpower was an unfamiliar word to a sand puppet. He had only read it in books previously, but today, he had finally witnessed Ai Hui's marvelous determination for himself. He could now sincerely feel what willpower was.
Ai Hui was too awesome!
At that moment, Ai Hui lunged to the side, narrowly avoiding a massive leg that descended from the sky. Boom! It forcefully smashed on the ground. Yet another near miss.
Seeing that the opponent was close by, Lou Lan decisively made his move.
Zu Yan had not expected Lou Lan's attack since all his focus was on Ai Hui. Furthermore, the attack came from midair, which was not under the jurisdiction of his [Hellfire Spider Web].
A clump of sand suddenly materialized and wrapped Zu Yan up at lightning speed. A layer of fine sand started to make its way onto Zu Yan's palms. Eventually, a thin layer of sand had appeared in between Zu Yan's palms and the ground.
Caught completely off guard, Zu Yan's expression changed. With the layer of sand separating his palms from the floor, his connection with the Hellfire Spider Web was affected. His sense of his surroundings immediately turned blurry.
Rustle! Rustle! Rustle!
Countless grains of fine sand started grinding against one another.
The sound of grinding sand was like a bolt of lightning that pierced through the clouds and struck Ai Hui, instantly illuminating his almost unconscious brain.
"...Let's set a secret warning signal. The sound of grinding sand. Not too loud, just enough for me to be able to hear..."
His slackened pupils suddenly contracted as Ai Hui's demeanor abruptly changed.
He adjusted his posture and his right foot stomped vigorously on the ground. Creak! An ear-piercing sound, caused by the friction between his shoes and the ground, was generated, which was followed by a cloud of green smoke. Ai Hui's body was in a steeply inclined position-almost parallel to the ground. He maintained his balance by placing his hands on the ground to support his body.
Ai Hui, who had just stopped himself, unhesitatingly garnered his last bit of strength and elemental energy. He then engaged all limbs before shooting out, like a spring, towards the miserable figure that was bundled up by the yellow sand.
Ai Hui arched his body slightly in midair.
The moment his back touched something, his body reacted instinctively.
[Arching Fish Back]!
Unlike the explosive sounds that were being caused by Zu Yan's massive legs, this sonic boom was exceptionally dull and muffled, as if it had come from deep underground. However, it carried with it an even more frightening amount of power.
The yellow sand was like a hurricane; it was flying everywhere. As if a wild rhinoceros had slammed into his body, Zu Yan, with a resounding boom, was sent airborne before smashing against the isolation screen. A moment later, his limp body, which was spread out like a flatbread, started to slowly slide down.
The referees at the side rushed towards him, and after a brief inspection, they sighed a collective breath of relief. "No worries. He's just unconscious."
There was only dead silence throughout the training hall; everyone present was left utterly speechless by the turn of events.
The [Arching Fish Back] from earlier had drained every single drop of energy from Ai Hui's body; he could not even lift a finger right now.
Rustle! Rustle! Rustle!
Countless granules of yellow sand rolled about on the ground, resembling many creeks converging. Soon, a large lump of sand-Lou Lan-appeared in front of Ai Hui.
The sand moved under Ai Hui's body and propped him up, before gently sliding him off stage like moving quicksand.
Everyone dazedly looked on in silence. They had yet to recover from the earlier shock.
The golden sand did not pull Ai Hui out through the exit, but instead, slid towards the manager of the training hall. Pu! The mass of quicksand spat out the soul-fogging grass, which landed on the manager's table.
Then, a part of the flowing sand transformed into a palm and extended out in front of the manager.
The manager was still standing in shock.
After waiting for ten seconds, the golden sand hand impatiently slapped down on the manager's table a few times, before moving back in front of the manager. It continuously gestured-with a thumb and index finger made of sand-as a hint.
The manager instantly understood and hurriedly brought the prize money over, fluidly placing it on top of the palm of yellow sand.
It was only then that the golden sand pulled Ai Hui through the deadly silent hall, before exiting under the astonished gazes of the dumbstruck crowd.