Chapter 334 - Karakorum Sword League
Silver City was also known as Pagoda City. As the most elite city in the entire Silver Mist Sea, every inch of land was filled with wealth. The tall pagodas blended well with the other buildings and had gradually become a large part of Silver City’s unique style.
Looking down from a bird’s eye view, one could see large numbers of pagodas everywhere, each and every one them standing tall like swords that were pointing towards the sky. Bamboo carts, Fiery Floating Clouds and elementalists with their azure wings spread opened shuttled amongst these majestic pagodas. In the distance, the sparkling Silver Mist River loomed. The towering dams in the upper reaches and the mountains appeared to cover half of the horizon. This view was simply breathtaking.
Being the largest city in Silver Mist Sea, Silver City consisted of 13 towns of varying sizes. The furthest town was 220 kilometers away from Silver City and the nearest was 26 kilometers away. Every town was relatively busy and buzzed with enough activity to rival that of a small city.
The headquarters of Karakorum Sword League were located in a small, obscure town.
Ai Hui initially thought that Karakorum Sword League would be well-known throughout Silver City. However, upon reaching Silver City, he realised that the locals had limited knowledge of Karakorum Sword League.
Rather, the Dragonrise Training Hall was the most influential place in Silver City.
The location of headquarters of Dragonrise Training Hall was proof of this. Situated within Silver City itself, the training hall covered quite a bit of land area. Its buildings were lofty and grand, giving the area an extraordinary presence.
Money alone wasn’t sufficient to create such a spectacular training hall in Silver City. Solid backing was definitely needed as well.
In comparison, Karakorum Sword League was much more low-profile. Ai Hui’s curiosity towards Karakorum Sword League didn’t change because of this.
Karakorum Sword League was directly responsible for the recent rise of swordsmanship’s popularity.
It was rumoured that the chief of Karakorum Sword League was a highly skilled young lady with a mysterious background. She had also created numerous swordsmanship inheritances and therefore had the power to nurture a new generation. But as with all rumours, it was difficult to determine their reliability.
The further away one got from Silver City, the less pagodas could be seen. In their place stood low courtyards and shorter buildings.
The headquarters of Karakorum Sword League were relatively old and must have been around for many years. Collapsed and shabby structures were everywhere, but the owners did not seem to be interested in repairing them.
Countless broken swords were strewn about the place, many of which were stabbed firmly into the surrounding walls and green ceramic tiles. Some were coated with layers of rust, while others shone brightly.
Racks made from bamboo poles lined both sides of the stone road that led up to the main gate. The racks were filled with grass swords placed out to dry.
A gust of wind blew past, causing the grass swords to ring out in harmony. The crisp, ringing sound was rather pleasing to Ai Hui’s ear.
After walking two steps, Ai Hui saw the craftsmen who were handling the grass swords dip them into vats of black starch before swiftly taking them out. These shining black grass swords were then hung onto the bamboo pole.
Rows of bamboo racks were stretched across a few hundred feet in a spectacular display.
Although Karakorum Sword League’s location was a little remote, it was not deserted at all. Groups of young ladies with long swords hanging from their waists would brush past Ai Hui from time to time. They would talk about their gains and losses and discuss the day’s competitions.
Ai Hui was already enjoying the atmosphere - it reminded him of Central Pine Academy.
There was no trace of the hustle and bustle found in the rest of the Avalon of Five Elements.
The word "Karakorum" was written on the top portion of the main gates. Ai Hui found the handwriting rather familiar but couldn’t figure out where he had seen it before.
Stepping through the gates, he found his field of vision widened. Every single training ground was filled with people practicing their swordplay.
There was a teacher allocated to each one, lending their expertise and guidance to the students practicing within.
Upon seeing Ai Hui scanning the area, one of the youths in charge of attending to guests walked up to him. "Honored Guest, is there anything I can help you with?"
The youth looked no older than sixteen. A sword hung limply at his waist, and he looked pretty nimble.
Ai Hui took a small sword about three inches long and said, "I’m here to experience the sword formations."
The youth took a quick glance at the small sword and repeatedly nodded, "Those who hold the small sword token are Karakorum’s distinguished guests. Please, come this way. We have six types of sword formations, which type would our honored guest wish to experience?"
"Six types?" asked Ai Hui, slightly taken aback. He never imagined that there would be several types of sword formations.
Upon hearing the surprise in Ai Hui’s words, the youth suddenly displayed a strong sense of pride. "The swordsmanship of our leader is unrivalled. All six types of sword formations were invented by her and we’ll probably have even more in the future."
"Truly impressive," replied Ai Hui sincerely. Come to think about it, he couldn’t even create a complete sword formation, yet here they had already invented six types. He couldn’t help but feel impressed.
No wonder they dared to use Karakorum’s name, their leader must be pretty powerful.
The youth had a favourable impression of Ai Hui. He continued, "The sword formations are good for the training of swordsmanship. However, it is extremely pricey and ordinary people probably cannot afford it. Since you have the small sword token, you’ll be able to experience three types of sword formations."
Ai Hui asked curiously, "Don’t you usually use the sword formations?"
"How can I possibly afford it?" the youth uttered as he shook his head. "Activating a sword formation requires blood crystals and essence elemental beans. Hang on, not just any essence elemental beans, they must be of the highest grade."
High-grade essence elemental beans contained much more elemental energy than ordinary ones. Furthermore, the elemental energy within was also much purer, which was why they were priced so highly.
A high-grade essence elemental bean was worth twenty ordinary ones, although the market for them was extremely volatile.
High-grade essence elemental beans were expensive and had a low production rate. As such, people in general didn’t use them.
The beneficial effects of high-grade essence elemental beans were significantly better than that of the ordinary essence elemental beans, but the discrepancy wasn’t exactly twenty times, as the difference in value might imply. More often, they were used to refine weapons or manufacture elemental food to enhance the product’s quality.
"Doesn’t that make it super expensive?" Ai Hui asked as he raised the small sword token in his hand. "How much is this worth?"
The youth shook his head again and replied, "I don’t know the specific price, but it’s definitely worth quite a hefty sum. The thing is, you may not be able to buy it even if you have lots of essence elemental beans."
Ai Hui followed the youth and walked along the training grounds. He inquisitively asked, "How’s the standard of the teachers here? Are their rates high?"
"The teachers are without a doubt the best you can find," answered the youth haughtily. "Other places like Dragonrise Training Hall might be stronger in other aspects, but in terms of swordsmanship, they aren’t even worth mentioning. The price is reasonable, only five essence elemental beans per year, something that most people can afford. Of course, this is only for the daily lessons given by the teachers. If you’d like to learn swordsmanship inheritances, you’d naturally have to pay more."
"Reasonable indeed," nodded Ai Hui. "Looks like there are quite a lot of students."
A fee of five essence elemental beans per annum wasn’t expensive, especially since Karakorum was located around Silver City.
The youth held his head so high that his chin almost pointed towards the sky. "Of course! Karakorum Sword League in Silver City is the best place to learn swordsmanship inheritances. Everyone knows this!"
Just then, a man and a lady walked out from the backyard.
The man was charismatic, dashing and gracefully wielded a longsword in his hand. The lady by his side had a demure and refined presence.
The lady’s face was filled with indignation as she exclaimed, "This woman does not know her place. Ah Xian, you saved her from those people yet she treated you with such disrespect! This is too much!"
The man was however not angry at all. He replied, "Don’t be angry, Junyu. Her behaviour isn’t exactly out of sorts either. We saved her with the intention of taking a reward, which wasn’t particularly well-intentioned of us anyway. If I hadn’t heard that the ancient treasure she possesses is a swordplay manual, I wouldn’t have concerned myself with this. Besides, she’s probably still grieving over the unexpected massacre that befell the Great Wei Enterprise."
"That’s true. The attackers were absolutely vicious," sighed the lady. "Although, such things have been happening since ancient times. Talented people will always draw others’ jealousy, sometimes resulting in their family’s misfortune. I guess she’s quite pitiful too. Ah Xian, do you think someone will find their way here?"
"Junyu, you shouldn’t be worried since Karakorum is not an easy place to break into. Nothing will happen as long as they don’t come. But if they do, we’ll just have to take revenge for her and get rid of them all," said the man confidently.
After hearing this, the lady calmed down and diverted her gaze. Softly, she said, "Isn’t that Chu Zhaoyang?"
The man stopped in his tracks while his eyes followed the lady’s gaze. His eyes immediately lit up, "He really is Chu Zhaoyang!"
The two of them used to track Shi Youguang and stumbled upon his body soon after Chu Zhaoyang had killed him. Upon further inspection of the body, they were deeply shocked by what they had seen.
The lady felt a little surprised. "He’s very powerful."
The man made a sound in agreement, "Check out his pace and breathing rhythm, they’re both very relaxed, but completely in sync. Also, there is hardly any trace of his elemental energy around him. Doesn’t it feel like a sword hidden in its sheath?"
"Yes indeed," agreed the lady, astonished. "His entire body is shrouded by a faint metal elemental energy that appears to be well-concealed. This elemental energy around him seems to extend a good distance away from his body as well… He’s discovered us!"
Sure enough, Chu Zhaoyang turned to face them.
The man felt a shiver down his spine. It seemed like Chu Zhaoyang was much more powerful than he’d thought. He had heard that Chu Zhaoyang had only recently achieved elemental externalization, but upon seeing him for himself, he knew that this wasn’t true.
With a gentle smile on his face, the man took the initiative to greet Ai Hui. "Are you the Silverwheel Swordsman Chu Zhaoyang, Brother Chu? I’m Qin Xian, and this is my fiancee Lian Junyu. I wasn’t expecting to see Brother Chu here in Karakorum, it’s such an honour."
"A good day to both of you," replied Ai Hui with a smile. The other party’s friendly manner made Ai Hui less wary. "A friend gave me this small sword token, which allows me to face Karakorum Sword League’s sword formations as a learning experience."
Qinxian laughed, "Brother Chu, you’re too humble. The Silverwheel Swordsman is well-known by everyone."
Ai Hui self-deprecatingly said, "Being known by everyone isn’t exactly something worth boasting about."
Qin Xian and Lian Junyu both smiled.
The youth who had been bringing Ai Hui around was momentarily stunned. He had most certainly heard of the Silverwheel Swordsman Chu Zhaoyang who had risen to fame amidst the incident with the Great Wei Enterprise and his various other exploits.
Qin Xian addressed the youth, "Go attend to your other tasks, I will take care of Mr. Chu."
The youth made an indiscernible sound and immediately ran off. He was so excited that he couldn’t wait to tell his friends about what had just happened. Although they couldn’t enter the sword formation training area, they were still able to watch from the outside.
Being able to see such a famous swordsman in action was an extremely rare opportunity, maybe even once in a lifetime.
In the blink of an eye, news about Chu Zhaoyang’s visit to Karakorum Sword League’s sword formations spread like wildfire.
Be it the teachers or the pupils, everyone immediately stopped what they were doing and rushed towards the sword formation training area.