Chapter 444 - Skyorder Star Ocean Academy
As the crowd reached the height of its excitement, a few people walked out of the gates. Their leader was a tall, muscular man with short graying hair and a sharp gaze. He made his way through the crowd and quickly laid eyes on Tang Wulin's blood essence soul ring. His surprise only lasted a moment, a brief flash across his face, but he instantly regained himself. He didn't even break stride. Soon enough, he stood before Tang Wulin's group.
"You kids are from Shrek Academy?" he asked, his eyes moving from the golden soul ring to meet Tang Wulin's gaze. "Are you from the outer or inner court?"
Tang Wulin stood his ground, staring the man down in turn. "I'm the class president of the outer court's first grade. My name is Tang Wulin." Unlike their raids on the Spirit Pagoda, there were certain formalities that came with using the name of Shrek Academy to challenge another academy.
"Class president?" Shock was visible in the man's eyes, even greater than when he saw the golden soul ring. "You can put away your banner now. Please come in." The man gestured for them to follow.
Tang Wulin nodded at Xie Xie and Xu Lizhi and the two quickly put away the banner. The first and most crucial step of their plan was complete. It wouldn't do to continue provoking the people of Skyorder Star Ocean Academy at their doorstep anyway. They had to leave them some face.
"Go to class," the man said as he swept his gaze through the crowd. "There's nothing else to see here." The man clearly commanded a lot of authority in their academy. At his command, students scattered like birds, rushing through the gates and off to their classes.
Tang Wulin's group of six followed the man in. They were impressed with the campus. As expected of an academy with millennia of history, its campus was enormous. It boasted beautiful fountains, well-groomed trees and shrubs, and numerous sculptures scattered in careful design.
The man glanced back at them as he led the way. "I am Li Zhilong, the headmaster of Skyorder Star Ocean Academy. This academy has been around for millenia and is the best advanced-level soul master academy in the city. We specialize in teaching flying-type soul masters, soul engineers, and mecha pilots. We also have an excellent graduate program for prospective battle armor masters. You came here as representatives of Shrek Academy?"
The mere mention of Shrek Academy left Tang Wulin prickling with guilt, and he made the decision to tell the truth. "To be completely honest with you, Headmaster Li, we aren't representatives of Shrek. We are only representing ourselves. The six of us are in the middle of an exam right now, and we need to fight opponents stronger than us in each city we visit. All of our IDs and uniforms were confiscated, so we had no choice but to pull that stunt at the gates. We chose to challenge Skyorder Star Ocean Academy because we believe it's the best academy in the entire northwest region. Please forgive us for our rashness."
Gu Yue and Ye Xinglan gawked at Tang Wulin. Does he have split personalities? What left them even more shocked, however, was Li Zhilong response.
"As expected of kids from Shrek! You're fearless!" The man broke out into laughter. "You're living up to our academy's reputation. I'm just glad you guys didn't outright ambush our students at the gates. Back when I was your age, one of my seniors raided a military base to complete his exam. It was pandemonium!"
'Our academy'? Tang Wulin and his friends stared at Li Zhilong blankly.
Then realization struck Tang Wulin. "You attended Shrek Academy!"
Li Zhilong cracked a smile. "Yes! I graduated about fifteen years ago. Unfortunately, I barely managed to graduate from the outer court." Although he spoke poorly of himself, his expression brimmed with pride. Just being able to graduate from Shrek Academy's outer court, if only barely, was an amazing accomplishment.
Tang Wulin couldn't help but smile as well. "Then we should greet you appropriately. Hello, Senior. We're really sorry about the incident this time. If it's too much trouble, then we'll leave immediately and think of another way to complete our exam."
"Nonsense!" Li Zhilong waved a hand dismissively. "It's no trouble at all. You're here already, so there's no point leaving empty-handed. Besides, with all the noise you made at the gates, it would be anticlimactic if nothing happened, and I wouldn't have any explanation to give to my students. I'll find you some opponents. They'll be our strongest students under twenty years old, just like you wanted. I'm also itching to see just how large the gap is between them and you. You know, speaking of Shrek, I haven't visited in so many years. I really miss Spirit Ice Plaza! Back then, I desperately wanted to enter the inner court and study at Sea God's Lake's. It's a pity I never made it in." A trace of disappointment filled the man's eyes as he recalled the past.
Surprise continued to color the expressions of the others, but Tang Wulin had fully expected this sort of result. In the first place, he had accurately read Li Zhilong's body language, prompting him to tell the truth. Tang Wulin had sensed an inkling of intimacy under the man's dignified air whenever Shrek Academy came up. Tang Wulin surmised that the headmaster was an alumnus of their academy, so by telling the truth, he was able to move the man's heart.
Skyorder Star Ocean Academy's main school building was enormous. It stretched multiple stories into the sky, reaching about a hundred meters in height. A giant domed roof adorned the top of the building, its grandeur nearly on par with Shrek Academy's school building. The only thing it lacked in comparison was size. It was far smaller than Shrek's.
Li Zhilong first brought them to a lobby to rest. "Ah, right, do you want to use mechas in this match?" he asked.
Tang Wulin shook his head immediately. "No, no. Just look at us. Do you think Shrek would have let us bring mechas?"
"Right," the man said thoughtfully. "Rest here for a bit. Drink some water and rehydrate. I'll go arrange your opponents then come back later to chat."
The moment Li Zhilong walked out the door, Xie Xie gave Tang Wulin a curious look, brow raised. "Since when were you so honest?"
"He obviously picked up on some clue that Li Zhilong had some connection with our academy," Gu Yue chimed in. "Why else would he tell the truth? Right, Wulin?" She hadn't understood what Tang Wulin was doing in the beginning, but her suspicions had quickly formed as she listened to the conversation develop.
Tang Wulin answered with a wry smile and pointed at his head smugly.
Ye Xinglan snorted. "Yeah, right…"
"Alright then. Let's get ready, everyone," Tang Wulin said. "I don't expect an easy match. Headmaster Li might be our senior and is helping us out with our exam, but he's part of Skyorder Star Ocean Academy now. He'll definitely pick the strongest possible opponents for us. Most of the soul masters here are flying-types. They're going to be annoying to deal with, but we'll proceed with our previous plan."
They all nodded in affirmation. With the matter settled, Tang Wulin closed his eyes to rest.
A short while later, Li Zhilong returned. "Your opponents are ready. Do you need a moment to prepare?"
Tang Wulin opened his eyes and stood up. "Senior, we're fine. We still have more cities to visit after this one, so the faster we finish the battle, the sooner we can complete our exam."
Li Zhilong chuckled. "Even the class president is scared of being eliminated?"
Tang Wulin shook his head. "I'm not afraid of that. I just hope to earn some bonus points to give to my classmates later. I don't want any of them to get eliminated."
Li Zhilong was taken aback by this answer. It moved his heart. "Excellent! You're a good class president. Alright. Follow me."
To Tang Wulin's group's surprise, the enormous building had no elevators. There was only a giant swirling staircase at its center. Li Zhilong explained that the building was designed like this to help temper their students. They climbed stair after stair until they reached the highest floor of the building. The ceiling of the room on this floor was over thirty meters tall. They were in the topmost section of the dome they saw earlier. After passing through a corridor, they found themselves in an enormous hall. They were shocked when they looked up at the ceiling. The domed roof opened up to the sky outside.
"This is our academy's astronomical observatory and our most important arena for combat training," Li Zhilong explained proudly. "The hall is about three hundred meters in diameter. Since we specialize in flying-type soul masters, this space was designed to have no height limitations."
Tang Wulin stared at the open area with eyes full of wonder. "It's so cool! You could stargaze here at night! I bet it would be a beautiful sight."