Chapter 15: Return to Southwind Academy
Only a week had passed since Li Luo had last returned here. However, it felt like it had been a lifetime since he last stepped within.
Taking in the sights, he stared at the numerous people coming and going, the rowdy and cacophonous laughter, and also relished in the youthful vigor everyone exuded.
At the same time, he also noticed that within the groups of people were countless curious gazes focused upon him. Unsurprisingly, he started to hear gossip centered around him…
“Isn’t that Li Luo? He’s finally back to school. About time.”
“What’s wrong with his hair? Did he dye it?”
“He took a week of leave of absence the month before the final examinations. To do so willingly… perhaps the broken pot has now been completely shattered?”
“I heard that Li Luo is about to withdraw from the academy entirely… Perhaps he won’t even take part in the final examinations.”
Taking in all the random rumors, Li Luo was left speechless. He had just disappeared for a week, but the rumors had only gotten more and more exaggerated!
However, he was in no mood to entertain these clowns. He weaved his way past the crowd as he walked towards the Second School.
Upon arriving at the entrance to the teaching fields, Li Luo’s pace slowed down. This was because he had spotted the teacher of the Second School, Xu Shanyue! He was standing ahead of him, back straight and with the presence of a lofty mountain, severely staring at Li Luo.
Li Luo sheepishly let out a smile, redoubling his pace towards him and letting out a friendly greeting. “Teacher Xu.”
Xu Shanyue continued to glare at Li Luo, slight disappointment seen within his eyes. “Li Luo, I know your blank palace has brought you a lot of stress. However, you should not be giving up at this last juncture.”
“I haven’t given up” Li Luo hastily replied in his defence.
“Then why did you take a leave of absence during this critical point?” Xu Shanyue thundered. “Everyone has been struggling to make use of every available moment to cultivate and train. You, on the other hand, took a break to rest?”
Li Luo felt a little helpless at his conclusion. Deep down, he also knew that Xu Shanyue had his best interest at heart and thus did not try to defend himself, just gaily nodding at his lecture.
After a long tirade, Xu Shanyue eventually ended with a sigh. He gave Li Luo a deep look before turning away to walk into the teaching fields.
Li Luo hurriedly followed as they entered the massive teaching fields. In the middle was a platform several tens of meters long surrounded by a circular ring of stone steps, each stacked up high.
On top of the stone steps were numerous stone mats.
Specifically, there was a particular young lady sitting cross-legged on one of those mats.
When Li Luo entered, he was subject to the scrutiny of everyone around, his very appearance provoking numerous whispers.
The elusive Li Luo who had disappeared for a week had once again become the hot topic of Southwind Academy.
Li Luo disregarded the rancorous gazes and maintained his calm, heading to his assigned stone mat. Beside him sat the massively built Zhao Kuo. Seeing him take a seat, Zhao Kuo asked in surprise, “What happened to your hair?”
Li Luo gave him a glance before casually replying, “Just dyed it. Haven’t you heard? This is called Granny Grey. Isn’t it cool?”
Zhao Kuo was left speechless and his veins bulged at the nonsensical reply, seemingly wanting to ask another question. At this point, Xu Shanyue’s loud voice reverberated around the field. “Good morning, students. The final examination is coming soon and I hope everyone here will redouble their efforts during this final sprint. If you’re able to attend an elite college, your future will be limitless.
“I would also like to commend students Zhao Kuo and Yuan Qiu. Both of them have reached the Sixth Seal Stage, and if you two continue striving hard, it’s not impossible to reach the Seventh Seal.” Cheers and applause echoed as the rest congratulated the two. Li Luo, on the other hand, looked over with surprise. It seemed as though he was not the only one who was making improvements.
After praising the two, Xu Shanyue continued with the day’s lesson.
Li Luo focused on the teachings with rapt attention. Today’s lesson was regarding three resonance arts, two low-grade ones and one middle-grade one. He elaborated on all of the arts’ mysteries patiently, guiding people on their intricacies.
Resonance arts were also split into grades similar to energy cultivation arts. The only difference was that entry-level energy cultivation arts were all lumped into one grade, whilst resonance arts were still split into low, middle, and high grades.
After these three grades, they followed the nomenclature of General, Duke, and King Stage resonance arts.
Of course, such high-level resonant arts were too far off for these individuals who were still at the Ten Seals Stage. Even if they learned them, it might very possibly be impossible to execute these arts with their limited resonant power.
Li Luo had always possessed an exceptional affinity and talent towards the learning of resonance arts. If one were to purely compare their understanding and application of resonance arts, he was extremely confident that he would be unrivalled within the entire Southwind Academy, with few being his match.
As a result, it was no surprise that he quickly understood and grasped the three resonance arts taught by Xu Shanyue.
Two hours later, Xu Shanyue stopped their practice and made some arrangements before allowing them to rest. “Alright, today’s resonant art lesson will come to an end. The afternoon class will be about resonant power, so continue to cultivate quietly.”
Li Luo sat in his original seat, stretching like a lazy cat. Zhao Kuo quickly sidled over and smiled. “Esteemed Brother Luo, would you kindly give me pointers regarding the three resonance arts taught today?” Zhao Kuo was very clear as to how gifted Li Luo was when it came to learning resonance arts. Whenever he encountered difficulties with learning these arts, he would inevitably make a beeline towards Li Luo for his assistance.
Li Luo playfully scolded him. “If I guide you, will you continue to refer to me as Esteemed Brother Luo from now on?”
Zhao Kuo grinned mischievously, but the act of that caused him to feel pain from a bruise on his face, resulting in him clenching his teeth almost immediately after.
“What’s wrong with you?” Li Luo asked.
Zhao Kuo frowned as he replied, “It’s all because of that scumbag Bei Kun. I don’t know why he went mad, but he’s been constantly looking for trouble in the Second School. I couldn’t take his provocations any longer and thus decided to spar against him.” At this point, he pointed at a bruise on his face before arrogantly replying, “That brat didn’t pull any punches, but he did not get away unscathed. That gigolo face of his was almost hammered into mush.” At this point, some other students from the Second School gathered around and complained furiously. “That Bei Kun is really vicious. We were just minding our own business when he came over to provoke us.”
“Thankfully, Zhao Kuo stepped in for us; otherwise, no one could have handled him.”
Zhao Kuo waved his hand and waved awat the group who had suddenly appeared before saying to Li Luo in a low voice, “Did you aggravate that mad man Bei Kun recently? It looks like he has been looking for you.” Upon hearing that, Li Luo suddenly remembered that before he took his leave of absence, that Bei Kun fellow had indeed asked Difa Qing to pass a message on to him, inviting him to a dinner at Tower Qingfeng. He had originally just shrugged that off as a joke… could it be that that brat had spent an entire day waiting for him?
Following which, he didn’t turn up to school for a week… It looked as though Bei Kun had decided to come over to vent his frustrations in the Second School…
Li Luo smiled and patted Zhao Kuo’s shoulder. “Could be the case. Though it looks like you’ve already helped me wallop him a couple of times.”
“I don’t mind. If not for those bouts of sparring, I might not have managed to break into the Sixth Seal Stage.” Zhao Kuo loosened his shoulders at this point before continuing, “Though now that you’re back, I’m sure he will be here to visit you during the afternoon resonant power class.”
Thinking about it, he proudly clapped his chest before announcing, “If push comes to shove, let me handle it. Perhaps a few more rounds of beating will allow me to break into the Seventh Seal Stage?” Li Luo laughed. Zhao Kuo was direct and loyal, truly a reliable friend. He had hidden behind his friend for long enough—this just wasn’t his personality or style.
Hence, he replied mysteriously, “Let’s talk about it when it comes to that.”
Noon, Resonant Power class.
To the north of Southwind Academy was a vast and dense forest. Whenever the wind blew past, a wave of lush greenery would also be uplifted by the drafts.
And within the middle of the dense forest was a massive and imposing tree. It was dark yellow in color and was over two hundred meters in height, the dense branches spread out like a net made of wood.
The tree branches were thick and sturdy and riddled with leaves. What was most interesting was that each leaf was almost two meters wide and long, as thick as a rule, almost like a mini platform of sorts.
This tree was known as the Tree of Resonant Power.
The Tree of Resonant Power was not a natural creation but one constructed from numerous rare treasures. This was truly a case of something being more than what meets the eye.
Within the Tree of Resonant Power was an energy core. This energy core was able to absorb and store copious amounts of worldly natural energy.
The large leaves of the tree were to be used as cultivation dais, each allowing for one student to cultivate on.
Owning a Tree of Resonant Power was a foundational requirement for any academy, their strength depending on the might of the academy.
From a certain perspective, these tree leaves were similar to Li Luo’s family’s cultivation room. Of course, if one were to compare efficacy, the skygold room within Li Luo’s old manor would be significantly better. Though this was because Li Luo was fortunate and most students did not possess such a wondrous background.
The Tree of Resonant Power’s leaves were also split into three grades: Gold Leaves, Silver Leaves, and Bronze Leaves.
If one were to look from afar, they would notice that 60% of the leaves were Bronze leaves, 30% were Silver Leaves, and only 10% were Gold Leaves.
The Gold Leaves were all situated at the top of the tree and were relatively smaller in number.
Obviously, being able to cultivate atop a Gold Leaf would inevitably be more advantageous compared to a lesser grade.
However, the Gold Leaves were mostly monopolized by the students of the First School. This was inevitable as the students were stronger, and the face of the academy.
Hence, when it came to the Second School, there were only 10 Gold Leaves up for grabs, with the Third School and the Fourth School having no chance to even contest for this precious resource. These Gold Leaves were truly in demand.
The Tree of Resonant Power was only open for cultivation for half a day. Whenever the clock above the tree rang out, that would mean the start of the cultivation session. This was the most anticipated part of each day for every student.
Hence, once the clock rang out, the hordes of students would rush into the dense forest excitedly like a human wave, jubilant looks on their faces. They would ascend the tree via the wooden ladder that snaked around the trunk like a python as quickly as they could.
Li Luo followed the mass of people and ascended the tree as well. He stared awkwardly at the 10 Gold Leaves that belonged to the Second School. One used to be reserved for him, but that was back when he was the strongest within the school, bar Zhao Kuo.
However, because of his blank palace, he had taken the initiative to give up his slot and thus he no longer had a place. He also felt embarrassed to reclaim the seat he had given away…
“Forget it. Let’s just use what I can,” Li Luo thought to himself as he walked towards a Silver Leaf.
Just as Li Luo approached the Silver Leaf, a gaze full of mixed expressions from the peak of the tree landed upon him.