Chapter 453 - Ai Hui’s Own Path
Whether it was openly or discreetly, many were paying attention to Ai Hui’s recuperation. No one noticed, however, that the sand puppet beside him was gone.
Even Gong Peiyao, who adored Lou Lan, was focused on the news of Great Elder’s death and had no mood for playing with Lou Lan.
A rustling sound could be heard coming from the underbrush in an empty corner of Clearwater City.
Shortly after, a faint and cheerful voice sounded from the bushes.
"No one on the left."
"No one on the right."
A moment later, a finger-sized Lou Lan made his way out of the bushes.
"Keep watch from the rooftop, Lou Lan!"
"Keep watch from the alley mouth!"
"Watch the left side, Lou Lan."
"Watch the right side, Lou Lan."
A few mini Lou Lans called out to each other, one after another, before turning around and running off. One jumped to the rooftop and hid within a crack between the tiles. Two ran to the junction of two walls by the alley mouth and stood watch, one for the right and the other for the left side.
"Lou Lan’s here!"
"Lou Lan’s here!"
Cheerful shouts sounded incessantly as, one after another, Lou Lans started threading their way out from the bushes. They dashed toward one another joyfully and their mini bodies joined together and expanded to eventually become one big Lou Lan.
Having recovered his appearance, Lou Lan’s glowing red eyes flickered non-stop. He was processing every mini Lou Lan’s feedback. After a short while he muttered to himself, "There’s nothing in this region. To the next, Lou Lans, let’s go!"
Lou Lan did not use any clever method. What he used was actually silly.
He’d separated the whole city into different sections and upon reaching each region, he would scatter into many mini Lou Lans and scour the region like sand. Mini Lou Lans would remember the conversations they eavesdropped on and the people’s faces. Finally, the information the mini Lou Lans gathered would be summarized.
Such a huge amount of information would cause ordinary sand puppets to overheat. But Lou Lan’s sand core, Midnight, could sort out all this information effortlessly.
If there was any suspicious target, Lou Lan would arrange a mini Lou Lan to stand guard. No one would pay attention to a tiny pile of yellow sand hiding on the ceiling beams, under the bed, within the cracks between bricks or in a dark corner of their rooms.
There’d never been such a sand puppet.
What people generally knew about sand puppets was that they were all about the same size and had about the same abilities. The bigger the body the stronger in battle they usually were. An example would be a Sand Sentinel, because the bigger its size the more the sand core could do.
Sand puppets weren’t suitable spies since they weren’t quick or smart enough. They weren’t good at disguising themselves too. When sand puppets were first invented, people were easily deceived. Now, an extra pool of sand would alert everyone.
No one used sand puppets to spy nowadays, unless the earth elementalist really had no team-mates to rely on.
Lou Lan’s method depended solely on Midnight’s capability, so while it wasn’t clever it was extremely effective.
It worked also because Clearwater City did not cover a big area. If Lou Lan were to use this method on a big area like Silver City, he would need at least ten to fifteen days to investigate.
Lou Lan, who had arrived at the newest area, repeated the steps.
He found something this time.
The mayor had paid an enormous sum to build the underground meditation room. Not only was it soundproof, it had been reinforced by an earth elemental master. No matter how violent things went on inside, the meditation room was indestructible.
Only slamming sounds could be heard from the meditation room.
Ai Hui’s whole body was red as his blood surged and his head steamed. It was as if he’d just been taken out from the oven.
He held onto Wintry Jade Blade and walked around the room barefoot, waving his sword from time to time. Sword rays flew out from its tip and struck the fortified walls, causing impacted spots to light up.
The elemental energy within his body was like boiling lava. It was losing control.
To Ai Hui, using [Red Dust] had simply been too forced. Han Li’s judgment wasn’t wrong. No one under the level of Master would be able to break his [Yin Yang Fish Sword Formation].
And [Red Dust] was actually a Master-level move. It was his first time using it since conceptualizing it.
Ai Hui’s judgment was very accurate as well. When he saw Han Li’s [Yin Yang Fish Sword Formation] he knew that ordinary moves weren’t going to be effective and the only usable move was [Red Dust].
But how could there not be a price to pay for using a Master-level move when he wasn’t a Master yet?
The surging and disorderly elemental energy within his body was the consequence of forcefully using [Red Dust]. If he was unable to tame the elemental energy, his five residences and eight palaces would be damaged. If it was serious, his base level would drop.
But how was he going to calm the elemental energy down?
Ai Hui tried operating Circulatory Cycle Revolution but to no avail.
He then tried exhausting all his elemental energy but still to no avail. The newly born elemental energy continued to be in a chaotic state, unable to be suppressed.
What could he do?
Ai Hui panted heavily while his brain spun rapidly.
He suddenly recalled the contents from some notes he’d read. The notes were left by a senior from the Hall of Ancient Records. In his attempt to search for Senior Xiao’s notes, Ai Hui’d practically flipped through every single book in that hall. He’d been helpless at that time, but because of that he’d gained many strange insights and all sorts of preposterous sounding ideas. Also, he got to read more about rare treasures and all kinds of weird situations.
Ai Hui read them as he read storybooks, just like how he’d done for swordplay manuals left from the Cultivation Era.
He suddenly recalled a situation described by the senior. It was precisely what he was facing now.
How did that senior resolve the issue?
Ai Hui racked his brain and wanted so hard to open it up. He’d only read through them very briefly out of interest. Now, he was depending on that last straw of hope and was afraid of missing that moment of realization. He wrinkled his brows, pondering hard.
After a long time Ai Hui finally remembered the contents.
That senior did face the same situation as him. He remembered it so clearly because the writer described every detail very meticulously. However, the senior did not share the method to resolve it. Instead, he mentioned that this happened to him the night before he became a Master.
Wait, the night before a breakthrough?
Ai Hui received a jolt. Was it going to happen to him too?
This thought calmed his restless heart significantly and his almost burning body cooled off a little as well.
After calming down, Ai Hui’s mind spun quicker.
What should he do if this was indeed the sign of a breakthrough?
There were two conditions for an elementalist to become a Master. He must satisfy the elemental energy’s base level requirement and create his own absolute art. Ai Hui had already fulfilled the first condition. What about the second?
All of a sudden, Ai Hui’s understanding of a Master seemed to have skewed.
The keyword in the second condition wasn’t "absolute art" but one’s "own art".
Ai Hui fell into a daze.
He realized that he’d never thought about this before. His mind went to Han Li. Han Li’s choice was clear at first glance. He’d chosen the "Yin Yang" path. Ai Hui felt it a decent choice. Yin Yang appeared simple but was profound, unpredictable and everchanging.
What was his own path?
Ai Hui sunk into a deep, reflective state and completely forgot about his discomfort.
He’d seen quite a number of absolute arts and swordplay techniques. He thought about Karakorum chief’s ambitious swordsmanship encyclopedia, all-inclusive and diverse. Ai Hui thought about them one by one and felt even more bewildered.
Any force would become shockingly mighty with consistent practice and reflection. Each type of force had its own allure.
He started to understand the idea that finding his own path was the key to becoming a Master. This world was too huge and there were too many types of forces. Yet, human energy was limited. In order to grasp the true essence of the force, he’d had to give things up along the way since only focus and devotion could take him further.
Which kind should he choose?
Ai Hui felt calm now. He knew that his choice was going to influence his future greatly.
It was an important decision.
Ai Hui starting thinking about why he wanted to become an elementalist. His idea was simple at that time. He just wanted to survive. Three years in the Wilderness showed him that elementalists had a much higher chance of survival as compared to the laborers.
He had been muddleheaded and merely wanted to live on. Being able to live was good enough.
It wasn’t until he met his master, mistress and senior that his dull life started to brighten up.
It wasn’t because of the cold sunlight that shone down through cracks on the houses as he walked soullessly on the streets after the closure of Swordsman Training Hall. It was the warm and bright sunlight, accompanying the cool breeze, that fell before the drowsy-eyed fellow who was sweeping the entranceway, the peaceful morning in Central Pine City where smoke rose up from kitchen chimneys in spirals.
Amid the loneliness, sounds of water droplets falling filled the dark, meditation room.
Ai Hui’s eyes were shut tight. Tears willfully made their way to the corners of his eyes before flowing down his cheeks.
He’d found his answer.
A colorless image surfaced before his eyes.
In a street that wasn’t very wide, tide-like blood fiends were trampling about. It was a blood-colored flood. A youth grasping a sword stood motionless in the center of the street like a reef.
The sharp, cold sword cut everything before it. Fresh blood splattered and limbs of blood fiends flew in all directions.
The rich, choking, bloody smell seemed to have traversed through time and memory, hitting him.
The image blurred but the sword became heavier.
Only the blurry sky remained. Countless silver rays descended from the sky, illuminating the dark, cruel world.
The blood fiends lay limp and lost on the ground and the powerful red flood turned into soft red soil. Indistinct cheers sounded like a landslide or a tsunami. It was so vague, yet reassuring.
Darkness took over once again. It was so quiet that he could hear his own heart beating.
"Do you know what people call you?"
"The Lightning Blade! Descending from the sky with so many lightning bolts. You frightened everybody. That big lightning storm made all blood fiends drop their resistance and the mayor took the chance to block off the city gates."
"The Lightning Blade…"
"Ai Hui, blood fiends are afraid of the aura of lightning."