Chapter 8 - Blue Phoenix

Chapter 7: Three Years Later

Xia Lang, the village elder’s grandson, ended up looking after the goats for the rest of the month, as the Rong twins insisted that Hui Yue go to their campsite every day. The reason they gave the elder, was that Hui Yue had the talent to become a cultivator and they would spend the month helping him to improve his cultivation method and teach him martial arts skills.

Lan Feng didn’t care about Hui Yue learning the martial arts skills from the Rong twins. The proud phoenix wouldn’t even bother with learning the names of the three skills that Hui Yue had been taught.

When Hui Yue told Lan Feng that he was too arrogant, the phoenix answered that he did not care about the low ranked skills as he was certain that he would be capable of providing Hui Yue with much better skills whenever the latter had perfected Velocity Flow.

Such an answer stunned Hui Yue, but he didn’t retort, as he knew that Lan Feng was not bragging, but merely stating the truth.

Hui Yue spent the rest of the month together with the Rong twins and Bu Huang. Bu Huang eventually stopped scrutinizing Hui Yue, which allowed Lan Feng to stop hiding and instead participate in whatever was happening, although only Hui Yue noticed him.

Learning martial arts skills from scrolls was vastly different from the mind transfer that Lan Feng had used previously with Velocity Flow. His body instantly knew how to use the Velocity Flow skill, and the pattern needed to make the Qi flow within the meridians was also mapped out within the body. Now, although the skill was explained and the Qi flow pattern within the meridians was mapped out in the scroll, the user needed to be perceptive to apply the written skill into the body.

Hui Yue was greatly helped by his previous experience with Velocity Flow and his old occupation as a university student while trying to understand and imprint the lower ranked martial arts skills. Hui Yue had to admit that the only reason that he was succeeding was due to the simplicity of the low ranked skills.

The month flashed by much quicker than usual while Hui Yue practiced these martial arts skills and cultivated together with the Rong twins. Rong Ming’s goal for Hui Yue was to learn and to perfect those three martial arts skills by the time Hui Yue turned ten years old.

The village was proud upon hearing that Hui Yue was skilled enough to become a cultivator. They assisted the Hui family even more than before. The village elder even offered for Xia Lang to take over the chores of looking after the goats permanently, so that Hui Yue could focus on cultivating.

At first Hui Yue had been slightly annoyed by the extra attention that everyone paid him.He quickly rejected the offer of having Xia Lang taking over his chores. He needed the daily visit to the hills for privacy and to practice his martial arts.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long before the village returned to normal. Everyone was busy with their own work while trying to survive in this poverty stricken village.

One month turned into another while Hui Yue spent the time practicing his Velocity Flow skill together with the three skills he had been given by Rong Ming. These three were called Raging Strike, Shattering Kick, and Stone Fist.

The Rong entourage would visit the village after a year had passed, and Hui Yue would take a month break from looking after the goats while sparing with Rong Ming and getting pointers on how to improve the three martial arts skills he had been given the year earlier.

Time passed while Hui Yue and Lan Feng trained martial arts skills and refined high-quality Qi, but for once the time felt as if it were rushing by, as the two of them tried their best to reach the five star student level needed to grant them entrance into the Royal Academy.

Soon three years had passed along with Hui Yue turning ten years old. He had managed to reach the fifth star six months previously during the cold winter and had perfected the three lower-ranked martial arts skills along with Velocity Flow.

Velocity Flow had been perfected a year ago after years of intensive training, and Lan Feng had kept his promise of giving him another high ranked skill.

The new skill was a lower Duke ranked defensive skill called Qi Guard. An unknown cultivator had created this skill as a Qi version of the spiritual energy shield that was gained after opening the middle dantian.

While this guard was not as strong as the spiritual energy shield, it was still the strongest defensive skill that a practitioner below Master rank could achieve. Hui Yue hoped that Lan Feng would have given him a strong attack style martial art, however, the phoenix had pouted and complained that since Hui Yue got three attack skills from Rong Ming, he did not need another from Lan Feng just yet.

Hui Yue stood at the village square saying goodbye to his parents and everyone else who had gathered to wish him well in his scholastic endeavors at the Royal Academy.

The Rong entourage had been to the Magical Forest, but this time they would not go directly back to Riluo city, but revisit the village to pick up Hui Yue.

Both Hui Yue and Lan Feng were incredibly excited as it was finally time for them to leave this place that had been their home for the first ten years of their lives in this new world. Although Lan Feng originated from this world, he was unable to tell if he was in his old kingdom or what had changed since his last visit.

Both boy and phoenix were aware that they were taking a risk upon entering the Royal Academy. Although Lan Feng was capable of hiding himself almost perfectly within Hui Yue’s body, there were some variables that needed to be considered.

Lan Feng hid himself using his Saint ranked soul, but if he were to meet another Saint ranked expert then that expert would be able to recognize Lan Feng’s presence. Also, King and Emperor ranked experts would be able to notice that something was hiding within Hui Yue’s body, but they would be unable to break through the defense layers Lan Feng had erected around his home in the Qi cave.

Additionally, although Lan Feng had hidden himself within Hui Yue, it was impossible for him to completely conceal his aura, allowing some of it to seep out, thereby scaring any magical beast that came too close to him.

However, both Hui Yue and Lan Feng decided that even if it was dangerous, they still needed to take the chance and attend the Admission Ceremony at the Royal Academy.

Joining the Royal Academy would be a great help to Hui Yue’s cultivation. Lan Feng had promised that refining Qi would get much easier upon reaching the Disciple rank. To reach that point, he needed to rely on cultivation rooms that had more natural essence or even medicinal pills that could directly increase his Qi. Otherwise, Lan Feng and Hui Yue would be stuck at the Student rank for a very long time as each star required more refined Qi. The requirements to break through to a higher star would soar now that he was at the fifth star rank.

The village being very pleased that they had produced a person who could qualify to study at the Royal Academy and had saved up enough money to buy him a set of new clothes.

Hui Yue was wearing his new clothes, a white robe with blue embroidery and blue ribbon ties around the waist, while awaiting the Rong entourage to pick him up. The fabric was much more luxurious than anything Hui Yue had ever owned He was quite touched as the clothing cost must have been incredibly expensive for this poor village.

The women had also spent time patching up and washing all the rest of his clothes so that they would be in their best condition when Hui Yue reached the academy.

Hui Yue was very well aware that his family was unable to pay any costs associated with his schooling in town. Fortunately, the Royal Academy had no tuition fee and both boarding and food expenses were to be paid by the Royal Family. It was obvious that the academies spread across the country were often used to discover and develop geniuses, giving them a feeling of belonging to the Royal Academy, and therefore, also to the Royal Family.

Hui Yue forced his thoughts back to the present and looked down the gravel road leading out of the village. Along with wearing his new white clothes, he had a small bundle hanging on his back which contained spare clothes and his few personal belongings.

He had been waiting since early morning, not knowing when the Rong twins and their family guards would arrive to pick him up. The sun had broken through the sky long ago, and it was now past noon, but Hui Yue was still patiently waiting.

The villagers had decided only to do the absolute necessary chores today so that they could send off their promising young boy. Every villager came up to Hui Yue and wished him well in his endeavors, or reminded him to visit them every now and then. Some even implored him to become someone great, to become someone who would bring fame to their unknown village.

Hui Lifen and Hui Guang were standing on either side of their son, their faces filled with contrasting feelings as both were incredibly proud of Hui Yue, but at the same time overwhelmed by their parental worries of letting their son into the world at the age of ten. They agreed to him going because they knew the Rong family would support him.

Every second felt like an eternity as both Lan Feng and Hui Yue were anxious to move on to a big city. They were both tired of their life in the village. Although Hui Lifen and Hui Guang had given all their love and care to the white-haired boy, he had never needed to mature the way an infant usually would, and all he remembered were the last ten years where he had cultivated together with Lan Feng and once a year spent time with the Rong twins. It was time to move forward.

“I promise to come home and visit often,” Hui Yue promised his parents with a smile, “I am not going far away, just going to start in a school,” he reassured his parents once again so that they did not need to feel worried.

‘This is going to be an exciting adventure,’ Hui Yue continued to Lan Feng, and he could feel the phoenix nodding in agreement.

‘It has been four thousand years since I last traveled around this world. I am really curious to see how it has developed.’

Lan Feng was even more impatient than Hui Yue. The four kingdoms had changed from being the property of the descendants of the four divine beasts. He had no way of knowing if he was even in his old country.

The history from more than four thousand years ago was call in this era the Dark Age, and only the strong knew what had happened back then. All others were prohibited from knowing the past of the countries, and even the Rong twins were not allowed to know. This rule had roused some curiosity within Hui Yue and Lan Feng. Knowing that it was a taboo subject made them even more curious. Neither Rong Ming nor Rong Xing seemed to show any interest in the matter, as they had grown up with being told about the taboo.

Lan Feng would easily be able to answer which country they were currently residing in as soon as they got their hands on a map. It was possible to change the names of the countries and remove the history, however it was not possible to move the four mountain ranges that the four divine beasts had created to separate the countries.

Knowledge of the Dark Age, however, would not be as easy to gain access to but as long as Hui Yue got stronger, the mystery would eventually be unraveled.

It was another three hours that passed slowly before Lan Feng suddenly woke up, ‘I can hear someone!’ He said hurriedly with an eager voice. Hui Yue could not help grinning. He too was incredibly excited now that they were finally arriving!

The few minutes it took before the magical beasts and their riders arrived in the horizon felt like a whole year. Rong Ming, Rong Xing, and Bu Huang were riding at the front on their qilins, with Rong Ming grinning widely, while Rong Xing’s eyes were shining like stars with excitement.

“How do we do this?” Bu Huang asked with his usually furrowed brows as he looked at Hui Yue. The plan was to let the white-haired boy ride on one of the magical horses, however, the horses were rearing up on their hind legs or trying to kick their handlers to escape from the innocently looking boy’s presence.

“What if he rides with me?” Rong Ming asked, but he quickly noticed that this idea was no good, as his young qilin was uncomfortable with the young child too. Rong Xing then tried to see if she could help, but her qilin reacted in the same way.

Bu Huang sighed heavily. This child was definitely hiding some great secret. It was obvious by his look of despair that Hui Yue was worried whether or not he would be able to actually leave his village if all the magical beasts continued to turn and run away from him.

None of the present people knew that Hui Yue were swearing at Lan Feng within his heart.

“We have no choice; you must ride with me,” Bu Huang finally said sternly. Although his qilin was uncomfortable around the young child, it was still of a higher cultivation than any of the other magical beasts, and therefore it had a higher level of intelligence. This qilin had been reared by Bu Huang since it was a foal and their long history together was enough to create a bond of trust.

Happiness filled Hui Yue’s eyes as he grabbed Bu Huang’s hand and allowed the stronger man to pull him up in front of him. The young boy waved goodbye to his family and the villagers who were still present before the Rong entourage once again set out from the small unknown village.

Hui Yue had never actually left the village before. He had gone to different hillsides around the village, but it was no more than ten minutes after riding on the magical beast before he had reached further away than he had ever gone before.

The landscape was beautiful. It didn’t take long before they had left the hillside surroundings and entered into a thin forest. Upon riding through the forest it seemed as if it was placed on a slope, and that they were moving downwards.

“Your village is located in a valley,” Bu Huang explained, “generally speaking, your village is actually located within the Magical Forest, but it is at the edge, so it is relatively safe.” Hearing this Hui Yue was slightly surprised.

The Magical Forest was a very dangerous place from what Hui Yue had heard, both from the villagers and from the Rong twins, however the villagers all had a very low cultivation base so they would not be able to defend themselves against magical beasts.

Also, the Magical Forest would usually have groups of mercenaries or cultivators traveling within to hunt for medicinal herbs or magical beasts for their beast cores. Hui Yue had never seen any visitors in the village apart from this Rong family.

Bu Huang seemed to understand the younger boy’s train of thought as he chuckled slightly before continuing, “your village is hidden very well within a valley where people will not usually enter. When reaching this part of the forest, it looks as if you exit it again, however, what seems like an exit is actually the only entrance towards your village. Not many would be willing to go that way.”

Hearing this did answer some of Hui Yue’s questions, and he once again focused on his surroundings. It was obvious that they were about to leave the outskirts of the Magical Forest and enter the outside world. Hui Yue’s heartbeat increased as his eyes grew larger.

What he saw in front of him was a road that cut its way through plenty of fields. There was a village not far from their current location, but this village was many times bigger than the one they had just left. A wooden barricade surrounded the village, and two guardsmen were located at the entrance.

Both Guardsmen greeted Bu Huang and the Rong twins with deep respect before admitting them passage through the village.

Here the houses were much larger than what Hui Yue was used to. He also noticed arenas created for sparing matches, training facilities and an area where a group of children were cultivating next to a stone shining with a strange light.

Hui Yue was staring and moving his head from side to side, trying to look at everything at once. He noticed a big building where villagers of all ages were moving in and out with different scrolls.

“The villages here are different from yours,” Rong Ming said cheerfully while riding next to Hui Yue and enjoying the expression of shock that was visible on his young friend’s face.

“We will pass through quite a few villages on our way back to Riluo City, but these villages are better known as families.” Hui Yue looked at Rong Ming with a quizzical expression on his face, causing the older boy to laugh.

“The village is owned by a family, meaning this village is the property of the Hei family. The Hei family gains their money from agriculture and sells their harvest in Riluo City each year.”

“But they seem to put a lot of focus on cultivating?” Hui Yue pointed out while looking at the many training facilities.

“Yes,” Rong Xing said quietly from the other side, “They need to have strong cultivators to be able to keep their land.” Hui Yue remained quiet and looked at Rong Xing, urging her to continue.

“Every child below ten years old will be cultivating. Each child that reaches the five star Student rank by the age of ten is sent to the Royal Academy where he or she will study while the others will be working in the fields for the rest of their lives.”

“Every village does it like this,” Rong Ming took over the explanation, “the village, or family head has to be a strong person, and he needs to have a group of experts by his side so that they can defend themselves against the other villagers. If a village loses their experts, then they will lose their land. The stronger villagers will take it.”

Although it was incredibly unfair, Hui Yue could do nothing else than tighten his fists and nod his head. This was definitely different from the village he came from. This world was definitely different from the world he came from.

“Your village is special,” Bu Huang suddenly said, “not many villages would be able to survive the way they do, so it is important that you don’t tell anyone about the location of your village. It is likely that these families would go there and take it by force.”

Hui Yue nodded yet again as he understood just how important it was for him to keep quiet. Now it made sense, and he understood why his village did not even have a name.

The landscape changed every now and then from fields with crops to fields with livestock grazing. The entourage continued to travel through quite a few villages just as Rong Ming had said, and Hui Yue noticed how every village had equipment made for cultivating. Each and every one of these villages showed the utmost respect towards the Rong family’s party.

The Riluo City was closer than Hui Yue had expected. The party had been traveling for most of the afternoon when the young boy saw towers appear in the distance. The closer they got, the more the city was revealed.

The city had a striking resemblance to the ancient cities that Hui Yue had studied back in his old world. The whole city was surrounded by a twenty meters tall wall build with black stone. The wall seemed to be quite thick, with guards stationed at the top of the wall. A four meters wide and eight meters tall gate was open at the end of the road but was heavily guarded by guards who were wearing the Riluo City’s emblem on their chest.

Big buildings within the city seemed to be built in a similar style as the Chinese architecture from the Tang dynasty. Hui Yue could see several great Pagodas with multiple yellow roof tiles above the tall walls.

The closer they got to the city, the harder it was to see the buildings that were hidden behind the massive wall, but Hui Yue felt uncannily in his element. The architecture was so familiar, but at the same time, everything was different from what Hui Yue knew.

The trip to Riluo City had taken less than a day while riding on the magical beasts. However, the same trip took Hui Guang and the other men two days to travel by foot.

A feeling of reverence stole into Hui Yue’s heart as he looked upon the city in front of him. This place would be the start of Hui Yue and Lan Feng’s new life.

Suddenly a loud shout pierced through the air and dragged the young boy from his inspiring thoughts.

“The young master is back!” A guard yelled from above the city wall. Bu Huang, Rong Xing, and Rong Ming nodded towards the guards and slowed their qilins while riding past the seven meters thick city gate before entering the bustling streets.

Hui Yue’s eyes once again grew large as he realized his return to civilization for the first time in ten years.

“We will host a feast tonight,” Rong Ming said with a smile as he noticed Hui Yue’s excited eyes, “tomorrow we will go to the Royal Academy, and you will take the admission test.”