Huo Yuhao wanted to get the Tang Sect on track in one month, and wanted to get the plan that they'd devised the previous day underway. He also wanted to establish the Tang Sect's subdivisions so that he could focus on closed-door cultivation without any distractions. Furthermore, there was one more important thing to do before the big competition: obtain his Spirit Eyes' fifth soul ring.
The quality of soul beasts in the Great Star Dou Forest was better than the Star Luo Empire's Jing Yang Mountain Range. As such, he was confident that he could find a suitable one if he spent enough time on the endeavor.
He didn't care too much about the activity that his eldest senior brother had mentioned, and the young girl that he'd encountered that day had been thrown to the back of his head.
Huo Yuhao had always had one dream, which was to make the Tang Sect flourish and return to its original glory and splendor—this wasn't just because he was part of the Tang Sect and the sect's Secret Techniques had been imparted to him, but because he felt an attachment to the Tang Sect. His dream was also because of Tang Ya.
Tang Ya was the first person who Huo Yuhao had ever called teacher, and even though Bei Bei had probably guided him more than Tang Ya, both her and Bei Bei shared a special place in his heart.
He'd met them when he was in the most difficult and painful of times back in the day, and they had been the ones to bring Huo Yuhao to Shrek Academy, who'd in turn taught him the Tang Sect's Secret Techniques. Huo Yuhao would never forget that day, and it was from that day onwards that his life had been turned around.
Huo Yuhao had felt as agonizing and terrible as Bei Bei when Tang Ya disappeared. However, how could he display his own grief when Bei Bei was already so sad?
Even now, there was still no news from Tang Ya. Huo Yuhao could tell that his eldest senior brother's eyes always held a dash of faint anguish even when he was smiling. More than two years had gone by, and Bei Bei seemed a lot more mature for his age—only he knew the amount of agony and torment he'd been languishing in over the past two years.
The only thing that Huo Yuhao could do for Tang Ya since he couldn't find her was attempt to accomplish her dream for her. This was the same dream that everyone in the Tang Sect shared: To restore its glory and splendor. Bei Bei had stayed strong and emerged from the initial pain and suffering because of this target. No matter how important his personal cultivation was, Huo Yuhao would always prioritize the Tang Sect, and was willing to sacrifice and delay his cultivation without hesitation or regret.
Huo Yuhao could tell that Bei Bei had lost weight, but he didn't know how to console him, so all he could do was give everything he had for the Tang Sect. All he hoped for was that he could alleviate his eldest senior brother's burden and suffering with everything that he was doing.
When Bei Bei came to visit Huo Yuhao in the foundry a second time, he saw Huo Yuhao carving a formation array with intense concentration in the distance.
The youngest member of the Sea God's Pavilion in its history was currently sitting on a wooden stool at the foundry's entrance. His clothes had been stained with all sorts of dirt and grease, and his hair was messy and unkempt—but there was only focus in his unnaturally sparkly eyes.
Little junior brother has grown up. A gratified and pleased smile could be seen on Bei Bei's face, but something sparkly and translucent quickly appeared at the corners of his eyes.
Where are you, Xiao Ya? You're still alive, aren't you? The Tang Sect is on the right track; I'll search for you once I fulfill the promise I made. I'll search for you for an entire year if that's what it takes. I'll search for you for my entire lifetime if that's what it takes! I won't stop until the day I meet you, and if I never find you, then we'll meet again on my path to find you, even if that means it's in another world.
He took a deep breath and forcefully suppressed the roiling emotions in his heart. He was the Tang Sect's eldest senior brother; he never wanted to let his junior brothers and sisters see his fragile and vulnerable side—at least not on the surface—and he would never want his negativity or grief to affect them. He tried his best even though he knew that it wasn't entirely possible.
Bei Bei walked up to Huo Yuhao and said softly, "Why are you still here, little junior brother? Go and wash up and change your clothes. We'll be heading back to the Sea God's Pavilion soon."
"Yes, yes." Huo Yuhao acknowledged with his mouth, but his hands didn't slow down at all. Bei Bei could clearly see the carving knife in Huo Yuhao's hands waltzing and dancing with nimbleness and agility. Huo Yuhao was incredibly quick and impeccably precise with the carving knife; metal fragments continuously drifted to the ground, while an intricate and exquisite formation array gradually appeared in his hands.
Bei Bei didn't hurry him, as he knew that soul engineers had to be very focused when they crafted soul tools, and that they were most afraid of being disturbed. He simply stood there and quietly watched Huo Yuhao.
Huo Yuhao had truly grown up. He was a lot taller and more robust than he'd been two years ago, so much so that his steadiness and calmness sometimes made Bei Bei feel as if he were looking at Xu Sanshi instead.
They hadn't stopped exchanging letters over the past two years. Even though Huo Yuhao had never mentioned his own hurdles and difficulties in his letters, Huo Yuhao hadn't been Bei Bei's only source of information.
However, what made Bei Bei astonished was that he couldn't feel a single ounce of exhaustion from Huo Yuhao; there was only flourishing energy and vitality, as if Huo Yuhao was a perpetually moving machine that didn't feel fatigue.
Bei Bei was actually quite worried about Huo Yuhao's state. However, he thought about the activity that was about to begin, and that worry and anxiety naturally dissipated. The corner of his mouth curved into a mischievous smile. Today will be an exceptionally exciting day.
Fifteen minutes passed before Huo Yuhao finally completed the formation array in his hands. He quickly stood up and walked into the foundry, then passed the formation array to a worker from the Tang Sect. Only then did he heave a sigh of relief.
"You're here, eldest senior brother." Huo Yuhao hurriedly greeted Bei Bei when he saw his eldest senior brother standing there.
Bei Bei said exasperatedly, "My dear little junior brother, you're treating me like the air around you! I've been here for quite some time, and you even answered me when I called you earlier!"
Huo Yuhao scratched his head in embarrassment. He felt like he would always be the teenager of before in front of his eldest senior brother.
"You're too focused. You've just returned little junior brother. You can't tire yourself out like this. Everybody would feel pained to see you collapse from fatigue, and the academy wouldn't forgive us either. Let's go. Go and wash up and then change into some clean clothes. We're heading back to the Sea God's Pavilion."
"Okay." Huo Yuhao hurriedly went to take a bath before changing into a clean set of Shrek Academy's uniform.
Bei Bei, Xu Sanshi, and He Caitou were waiting for him when he finished.
Xu Sanshi whistled when he watched a clean and refreshed Huo Yuhao walk out and said, "Not bad, sixth junior brother. After two years of not seeing each other, you've become a real man."
He Caitou snapped, "What kind of appraisal is that? Are you saying that little junior brother wasn't a real man before?"
Xu Sanshi chuckled and said, "What I mean is that it's time for sixth junior brother to find a girl."
He Caitou's face turned red, but it seemed like he'd suddenly thought of something. He glanced at Bei Bei as if he were asking for help and said, "Me… how about me?"
Bei Bei laughed. "I don't know about that. It'll all be up to your own ability. However, I think that you should have some more self-confidence. If you're a little more thick-skinned, you'll have a greater chance of success."
"Oh." He Caitou's blushing cheeks weren't that obvious because of his tanned skin. However, upon closer inspection, one would see that he'd become as purple as an eggplant.
Huo Yuhao was both taken aback and curious when he saw the bashful look on his second senior brother's face. He walked up to his third senior brother and couldn't help but ask, "Eldest senior brother, third senior brother… what's going on with second senior brother? You guys are talking in riddles."
Xu Sanshi chortled and said, "It's about the activity tomorrow. Let's go, we'll talk about it on the way. If we don't, we won't make it to the Sea God's Pavilion in time for dinner."
The four of them left the Tang Sect and proceeded along the streets of Shrek City. Bei Bei and Xu Sanshi were more familiar with the road, thus they led the pack. It was obvious that they spent a lot less time walking, compared to Huo Yuhao when he'd tried to find his way here on his own.
"What activity is it, exactly?" Huo Yuhao hadn't really thought too much about it at first, but after witnessing He Caitou's conspicuously unnatural state, his youthful curiosity had been piqued.
Xu Sanshi said, "Let me tell you a joke, little junior brother. As there's four of us, it's quite relatable."
"What's it got to do with tomorrow's activity?" Huo Yuhao asked skeptically.
Xu Sanshi replied, "Nothing at all!"
Bei Bei laughed and said, "Can you not see, little junior brother, that he's trying to change the topic and talk about other things? He doesn't want to tell you!"
Xu Sanshi sincerely said, "It's for your own good. Can't you see that He Caitou has become stifled and taciturn? I believe that you'll be like him if you know what the activity is about. It's not my fault that the two of you are still virgins."
"What's this got to do with being virgins?" Huo Yuhao suddenly felt that something was amiss.
Bei Bei said seriously, "Don't look down on virgins. I'm also a virgin."
"Ahem! Actually, me too… at least, I'm one in spirit." Xu Sanshi immediately tried to explain himself.
Bei Bei muttered contemptuously, "You? Would Nannan reject you like she does if you were still a virgin? You still have the shame to laugh at others—I want to see how you pass this hurdle tomorrow."
Xu Sanshi was utterly destroyed by Bei Bei's words, and his face immediately turned gloomy and depressed.
Huo Yuhao played the good samaritan in the end and hurriedly said, "Weren't you about to tell us a joke, second senior brother? Come on and tell us."
Xu Sanshi's personality didn't have many merits, but his skin was really thick. If not, he wouldn't have been able to keep at it with Jiang Nannan for so long without giving up. He suddenly became invigorated when he heard Huo Yuhao's question.
"Shut it," Bei Bei abruptly interrupted Xu Sanshi and said, "we're about to have dinner; keep your disgusting joke to yourself so that you don't affect everyone's appetites. Let me tell you, I'm the host for today. If you antagonize me, I'm going to stir things up even if you can pass that hurdle with Nannan."
"Ugh… Bei Bei, are you even human?"
Bei Bei leisurely continued, "We have to treat other humans like humans, but it's hard to say for those things crawling on the ground."
"Who are you referring to by 'things crawling on the ground'?!" Xu Sanshi infuriatingly replied.
Bei Bei answered, "Some tortoise, of course. I wasn't talking about you—there are people who pick up money from the ground—but I never thought there'd be people who insulted themselves."
"That's it!" Xu Sanshi was about to lunge at Bei Bei.
Bei Bei didn't seem to care as he muttered to himself, "I think that some people don't even need to think about tomorrow's Sea God's Fate at the Sea God's Lake anymore."
"I…" Xu Sanshi stopped in his tracks resentfully. "Forget it. I'm a magnanimous and accommodating person, so I won't fuss with you. But seriously, you have to help me tomorrow! If I fail one more time, I'll lose all my confidence."
Bei Bei rolled his eyes and said, "Your skin is thicker than the city wall—is it really possible for you to lose your confidence? I'm not sure who that was last night, but that person told me that he would never stop until he got what he wanted, no matter what he had to do. However, I'm quite curious—what did you do to Nannan all those years ago? You've been nice and decent to her over the past two years, yet why won't she accept you? I've asked her privately before, but she still wouldn't tell me anything."
Xu Sanshi replied solemnly, "Then, I can't say anything either. Otherwise I won't have a chance at all."
The smile on Huo Yuhao's face became wider as he watched his brothers bicker and banter. It feels great to be home! Eldest senior brother and third senior brother are still the same. However… He suddenly realized something, and cut into the conversation from the side. "Eldest senior brother, what's this 'Sea God's Fate on the Sea God's Lake' that you just mentioned?"
Bei Bei chuckled and replied, "That's tomorrow's activity. You'll have to work hard, little junior brother."
Huo Yuhao pulled a long face and said, "You still haven't told me what the activity is about, eldest senior brother! How can I work hard?"
Xu Sanshi chimed in. "Two words are enough to describe it: Blind date!"
"Blind date?" Huo Yuhao's eyes widened. "What blind date?"
Xu Sanshi replied, "You don't understand? It means finding a girl for yourself! Do you understand now?"
"Uh…" Huo Yuhao's expression creased into a frown as he said, "How could the academy host an activity like that? Furthermore, it's even hosted in our inner courtyard."
Bei Bei smiled and said, "This is a traditional event in the academy. There's only one aim, and that's to keep the goodies within the family. You should know that the inner courtyard students are the true elites of the academy, and that there are rarely more than one hundred students in the inner courtyard; it's usually fifty to sixty. The inner courtyard are also responsible as the Guardians, while everyone has to work hard and cultivate as well. This is the reason why everyone is relatively familiar with each other, and why we hardly have the chance to interact with the outside world for a sufficient period of time. The inner courtyard's students aren't limited by age, thus the academy has noticed that many students are youths who have come of age yet haven't found themselves a suitable partner.
"I don't know when the academy started to host this event, but there will be a Sea God's Fate every year. Typically, the event will be hosted before the new batch of inner courtyard students take their assessments so that original inner courtyard students can have blind dates on Sea God's Lake. Everybody is able to put their abilities up on display however they want to at the Sea God's Fate, and they can go ahead and chase their crush or whoever they like. As long as the other party agrees, these two can then attempt to start interacting and communicating with each other. We are all students from the inner courtyard. As such, everyone has similar experiences and abilities, so it's natural for many of us to find a match. The truth is that the Sea God's Fate has brought many couples in the academy together."