Chapter 321 - Same Boat
"Think you guys can just do as you like?"
A messy haired old man guarding the door shot a side glance at Tong Gui and Yu Jin. He leaned against a big, glossy black wine jar and strange bubbling noises could be heard coming from inside.
Without retorting the two vice division leaders, Tong Gui and Yu Jin, bent over slightly and listened respectfully.
"Do you know how much blood and sweat I’ve poured for this bowl of porridge? That’s right, blood and sweat. I found the people and contacted them, but they refused to agree no matter what. Said something about the portion being big, but barely enough! Was I gonna give up just like that? Of course not! I found out that they were lacking in ingredients. Let me tell you that someone with willpower will not give up so easily!"
Tong Gui’s copper mask did not give off its usual cold luster. Instead, it looked as if it was going to melt soon. Meanwhile, Yu Jin’s high bun looked like a frosted carrot.
The old man became increasingly excited and radiant as he spoke. His saliva flew everywhere.
"I saw that they had yet to gather the best quality canna flowers, hahaha. Coincidentally, I knew that the leader of a bandit crew was in possession of them. I set off that very night so you can tell how important this was. The canna flowers might fall into the hands of others if I were to delay my journey any longer. After a night of work I wiped the whole crew out. For the next two hours I searched the whole mountain and finally found this precious canna stump. What do you say, does it sound easy?"
It could’ve been because of the blazing sun that beads of sweat dripped onto the floor from the edge of Tong Gui’s mask and that Yu Jin’s back was soaked.
The old man sighed. "Not easy! In exchange for this stump, they finally agreed to give me a bowl of porridge, but what do you know? They sent me out here to guard the door. I was furious. Asking a person of my status to guard the gate? But on second thought, wouldn’t all my previous effort be superfluous if any brat simply stumbles over and tries to get a bowl of the porridge that I’ve worked so hard for? That little fellow, Ai Hui, made sense. If more people come over, wouldn’t my share be reduced?"
Tong Gui and Yu Jin sweat poured profusely.
Satisfied, the old man asked them, "What do you guys say? Does it make sense?"
"Yes, yes, yes, Senior. You’ve worked so hard. No one should freeload!" Tong Gui agreed repeatedly.
"You’re a sensible lad." The old man heaved a long sigh as a nostalgic look appeared on his face. "Old fellows like us have been slogging our whole life for the Elders Guild, but after sustaining a full body of internal injuries the Elders Guild tosses us aside. How mournful! Since I’m finally getting my hands on a bowl of porridge, I’m going to be direct. If the old fogeys from the Elders Guild come over for a free ride, they’re going to have to fight me first!"
Tongue-tied, Tong Gui shuddered slightly. "Senior, you… you…"
Under the attentive gaze of the old fellow, Tong Gui clenched his teeth and continued, "… are completely right!"
The old fellow was mollified. "Hahaha, well done! You ain’t too bad, lad. Decent abilities. What vice division leader… you can totally be a division leader!"
Amid the old man’s candid laughter the duo fled in fear.
Breaking news: The Green Dragon Bandits that took over Green Dragon Mountain for years have all been wiped out. Their corpses and valuables are lying everywhere. "Venerable Volcano" is the current suspect.
Tian Huzun, 64 years old, nicknamed "Venerable Volcano," fire elemental master.
He was one of the former candidates for the division leader position of the Ardent Flower Division. Because of his irritable nature, he lost control in a duel, killed somebody, and withdrew from the competition. He then went solo and accepted all kinds of missions, accumulating a net worth of 330,000 Heaven Merit Points. He was seventh on the recent list of wealthiest men.
At 46, Tian Huzun tried and failed to become a Grandmaster. Instead, his old injury reappeared and infrequently relapsed.
The friendship between Tian Huzun and Le Buleng ran deep. They had fought numerous times.
This report was sent to the study table of every residence and those who had seen it either gnashed their teeth or kneaded their head in worry. No one wanted to face Tian Huzun as an enemy. He had outstanding achievements, was very reputable, and was strong. Furthermore, he had a fiery temper and was easily triggered.
It was normal for a disagreement to lead to a fight. These people were all too familiar with this and were not shocked when a bloodbath occurred due to conflict.
The key was that they might not win.
These people banked on real abilities instead of hope. They were all old foxes, sly and tough.
Yet, everyone knew that his internal injury was the main reason why Tian Huzun had failed to break through. In order to heal these injuries, Tian Huzun would make an enemy out of anyone.
Madam Ling exclaimed in admiration, "This young fellow is simply too crafty!"
After a short while, feeling somewhat stifled, Family Head Ling said begrudgingly with a pale face, "Withdraw! Get all of them back here!"
Upon returning to the mayor’s residence, Tong Gui immediately flipped out and started cursing, "Treacherous! Too treacherous! How dare he ask Tian Huzun to guard the door! Base, cheap, and cunning!"
Yu Jin added, "Ought to be killed!"
Tong Gui jolted. "Indeed! How do we kill him?"
After a short silence Yu Jin spat, "Suicide."
"Too treacherous, too cunning!"
Ai Hui shook his head sorrowfully. "I did not expect something like this from you."
No one on the outside would have imagined that having Tian Huzun guard the door was not Ai Hui’s idea. It was the brainchild of the seemingly honest, innocent, calm, and reliable Jiang Wei.
Jiang Wei simply smiled.
When compared to Ai Hui, he was more aware and knowledgeable about the complexity of the current situation. More and more people gathered at Swordsman Training Hall. It was like a magnet, attracting Central Pine City’s survivors who had assembled from all directions.
The crowd grew and, while everyone was cheering wildly, the more clear-headed ones were already pondering over some profound issues.
To outsiders, they were a community. In their hearts, they were also a community.
When Ai Hui stood up, people who were scattered everywhere got in touch, as if brought together by invisible threads. In normal times they would disregard such connections, but when Ai Hui made an appearance, they were shocked to realize that the connection they shared was actually this strong.
They were a community indeed. A community more tight-knit than they, themselves, or anyone else had imagined.
For three years, they had been working hard at their own posts. They were far from being shrewd and ruthless, but were no longer naive and ignorant. The surging undercurrents and lurking dangers served as a constant reminder that the outside world was very real and daunting.
They needed to face up to their own strength, and they needed to face up to their own ideas.
Aristocratic families or new citizens?
What would they gain and what would they lose?
Ai Hui had not expected things to turn out this way. His initial idea was beyond simple. Seeing that everyone was happy, he thought it was fine to share the leftover fire lotus seed with everybody.
The fact that the Eight Treasures Porridge had caused such an uproar left even the originator dumbstruck.
A smile followed.
Eating the porridge happily and training without mishap.
What did the battle between new citizens and aristocratic families have to do with him? What did the future of the Avalon of Five Elements have to do with him? He was just a minor character without the will to carry the burdens of the world. He was also incapable of saving those trapped in the abyss or the fire pit.
He had but one mission. Revenge.
This was the only thing he had to accomplish in this life, regardless of success, failure, or death. The moment his Dragonspine pierced through his teacher’s chest, his tiny life had been bestowed with the color of fresh blood.
Yet, he did not wish for the others to accompany him. He knew that this was a brutal journey with no return route. He did not want them to step into the abyss with him. All he wanted was for them to live on properly.
With a slight smile, he listened to the ongoing discussion quietly without expressing his opinions.
Perhaps the waves would return to their usual serenity when their enthusiasm blew over.
Jiang Wei was the first to sense Ai Hui’s calmness.
They sat on the roof and looked over the training hall that was illuminated by the bonfire. People were still arriving every day, resulting in the hall being soaked in a perpetual merriment.
Jiang Wei gazed at the distant mayor’s residence and spoke suddenly, "Ai Hui, are you afraid of dragging us down?"
Ai Hui did not know what to say.
Jiang Wei added, "Ai Hui, are you of the opinion that hatred toward the Blood of God involves only you?"
Ai Hui remained quiet.
"It is not, Ai Hui." Jiang Wei continued in a low voice, "Other than the fact that we weren’t forced to kill our own teacher, we’re all no different."
Ai Hui shuddered.
"Our teachers, classmates, friends, and relatives have died in Central Pine City." Jiang Wei’s voice was a little hoarse at this point as he continued with a slightly trembling voice, "How many have died? We don’t even know. You’re not the only one seeking revenge. All of us are after it and have never forgotten. These people shall not die for nothing and bleed for nothing. How can revenge simply be forgotten?"
"Ai Hui, do you really think we will be able to put aside the hatred and live on peacefully? The Elders Guild can do that. They have control over the Avalon of Five Elements and countless citizens. A small city is negligible as far as the state of the Avalon of Five Elements is concerned. They can tell themselves that they are doing it for the greater good of the Avalon of Five Elements, but we can’t. We’re unable to forget. Not now. Not in future. Not ever."
"Central Pine City could have recovered its appearance with the "Cloth City" plan, but would it have revived the corpses? Could the lost lives be recovered? Would our relatives and friends come back? Even now, we can’t forget that land full of corpses and blood. People were falling to the ground nonstop. We still remember the fear and dread. We can’t tell ourselves that this was a war and that we deserved it. We’re unable to tell ourselves that this was war so just forget about it and live peacefully ever after."
A sinister look flashed across Jiang Wei’s face.
"Why would you think that revenge belongs only to you? Why did so many people resign? Because we did not forget about revenge? It’s because we know that the Elders Guild is only after stability. New citizens or aristocratic families, we are going to pay blood with blood!"
"Ai Hui, we’re in the same boat," Jiang Wei concluded with these words, regained his composure, and jumped off the roof.
Ai Hui sat motionlessly on the rooftop.