He was in a city for the first time in ten years. However, this city was nothing like his old multicultural and technological world, so for him, everything was new. Looking at the sunset made him think about the previous day where they had arrived.
The Rong entourage had arrived the previous day, and moved through the city. On the way Hui Yue had seen a number of shops and stalls all around, and even market places that seemed to be owned by the different noble families within the city.
However, Hui Yue did not manage to have a good look at anything as they travelled rather quickly, everyone within the city made space on the populated roads to allow for the City Lord’s guards and the Rong Twins to pass through undisturbed.
Arriving at the City Lord’s mansion shocked Hui Yue quite a bit. His mansion was styled very much like a Chinese palace.
It was big with multiple buildings, where some were surrounded by walls, others by moats. Some of the buildings were one storage, while others were towers and even four pagodas could be seen within the outer wall.
As soon as they passed through the gate, Hui Yue noticed that each of the buildings had their own courtyard. Some of them seemed to be small businesses while others were residential areas. Between these different kinds of buildings were beautiful gardens and elaborate statues.
In the middle of the palace was a big building that was erected on a hill with hundreds of steps leading up to the entrance. It looked incredibly similar to the Hall of Supreme Harmony that Hui Yue had seen in the Forbidden City. The few differences were that this building had been erected on a hill at least double as tall as the Hall of Supreme Harmony, but the building itself was not as big.
“That is the City Office,” Bu Huang explained, “it is the place where everything that has to do with the city is decided.”
Hui Yue nodded, it was obvious that a city had an insane amount of land under its protection, and it would definitely need quite a large hall to house every scholar and government official that worked for the city.
Bu Huang, Rong Ming and Rong Xing were heading for another gate, they called it the Donghua gate, and it was heavily guarded by Duke ranked experts.
Behind this gate was the City Lord’s personal living quarters, but even so, it was bigger than what Hui Yue could ever have expected.
The city guards that had followed the entourage on the trip were left outside the Donghua gate, and headed towards the barracks where they had been given a few days of rest.
Bu Huang, Rong Ming, Rong Xing and Hui Yue continued forward together, moving to a corner of the residence where the City Lord’s stables were erected. On the way there, Hui Yue was placed on the ground and told to stay behind so that he did not shock the other magical animals within the stables, and he did as he was told, while admiring the beautiful surroundings. He felt as if he had been travelling back in time.
‘this style has been in this world for thousands of years’ Lan Feng said with a silent voice, only daring to speak now that they were alone, ‘The reason it has become popular in your world is most likely because an expert visited this plane and returned home with the designs or the other way around.’
‘You can travel between the worlds?’ Hui Yue asked shocked, this would definitely be amazing.
‘Yeah,’ Lan Feng answered as if it was common knowledge, ‘if you are strong enough, then you can create your own path between the different planes. Because of that you will see a lot of different styles and cultures all over the different planes. Everyone steals their ideas from other places.’
Hui Yue nodded, he knew how every part of Earth itself had different designs and styles depending on where they went.
‘When you become an expert your lifespan increases. The stronger you get the longer you can live. When you become a god you can live for an eternity if that is what you want.’ Lan Feng continued, ‘Imagine living out eternity in one place. That is really no fun, after a couple of thousand years you ought to have seen every little stone of your home plane. Then most experts will travel to other planes.’
Hui Yue furrowed his brows. ‘Earlier you said that there were only four gods, the four divine beasts, how can there have been other gods then?’ he asked questioningly
‘I have only seen four gods,’ Lan Feng explained, ‘and while I lived on this plane only four gods had ever existed here. But there are so many planes in the world and gods are able to create planes if they wish for it to happen. This plane is considered a very young plane and it is around the same age as the one you came from.’ This knowledge shocked Hui Yue, as he did not consider millions of years to be young, but before he commented Lan Feng continued, ‘it is obvious that so many planes will create an insane amount of experts. Not even I know how many gods there are or where they live. If I were to travel around outside of this place, I would be considered a weakling, even though I am a saint.’
Hui Yue could not help but gulp as he was shocked by the knowledge he had been provided with.
‘Don’t worry too much about it,’ Lan Feng sighed while quickly slipping back into the qi cave as he saw Bu Huang and the twins come closer, ‘when you reach God rank we will go grab your girlfriend’s soul and you two can go tour the different planes as much as you want.’ His voice became quieter and quieter as he descended into the dantian and hid himself once again.
The Rong twins were both much older now than they had been when they first met each other, and their maturity had changed greatly, but even those two youths were grinning shamelessly and laughing while dragging the young Hui Yue around, showing their favourite places within the gardens to him.
It was long past dinnertime before they finally reached the main house where Lord Rong Liang himself resided and hurried into the dining room where an extravagant feast was ready for the three youngsters.
Lord Rong Liang was waiting for them and quickly greeted the three children before he and Bu Huang moved into another room where they had some issues that needed counselling.
Hui Yue looked at the table and saw so many different foods that he had never seen before, some were shellfish, while others were meat of unknown origin. There were salads and sauces, vegetables and stews. Different types of soups and breads. It was the biggest feast that Hui Yue had ever seen.
“Don’t be too nervous about tomorrow,” Rong Ming said while waving around something that looked a lot like a chicken drumstick.
“Your cultivation is high enough for you to join the academy, and we will go with you to make sure that everything is fair,” he continued with a smile, before tearing half of the meat off the bone, and chewing it with delight.
“I hope it is not Elder Wang that is dealing with the admission test,” Rong Xing said with a quiet voice, and Hui Yue looked at her questioningly, “he does not like commoners,” she explained, “so he sometimes cheats a little on the test to make sure that they don’t get into the academy.”
“But don’t worry!” Rong Ming assured, while still gobbling on his food, “We will make sure that no one cheats when it is your turn.” Rong Xing gave a determined nod, showing that she too agreed upon this.
“When you get accepted just stick to us at the start,” Rong Ming continued, “we will make sure you get to your classes at the right time and the right place. And with us around no one will even think about bullying you,” he had a big smile on his face, and quickly grabbed something that looked like mashed vegetables and handed it to Hui Yue, “Try this, it tastes really good!” he said with a mouthful of food.
The three children spent the rest of the evening eating the food on the table, but no matter how hard they tried, it was impossible to eat it all. Eventually it had turned completely black outside and Rong Xing led Hui Yue towards a small two storey house with a personal courtyard that was placed close to the wall surrounding the residential area of the City Lord.
“Stay here tonight,” she said with a smile and clapped her hands, causing crystals to light up all over the building, both inside and outside, “we will come and pick you up tomorrow,” she said before wishing Hui Yue a good night and turned around, walking towards her own home.
Although Hui Yue had tried to fall asleep it had been impossible as he kept worrying about what was going to happen the following day. The admission test was incredibly important for him as he needed the extra help from the academy to quickly get past the student rank, however if anyone from the academy noticed Lan Feng, then he would be in trouble.
‘Bu Huang is a five-star King ranked expert and Rong Liang is nine-star King ranked. They both know that you hide something but they have been very considerate so far. Don’t expect to find other considerate people.’ Lan Feng warned, and Hui Yue nodded at the warning,
‘If we see anyone else who has unlocked the upper dantian then we need to scram,’ the blue phoenix continued, and in the end the two of them ended up spending the night planning a number of escape plans in case they were noticed. Before they realised, they saw that the sunrise was painting the beautiful sky in a warm light.
Had he still been in the village, then he would already be on the hillside by now, looking after the goats, but although it was only two days since he had last done his chores, it already felt as if it had been a completely different world.
Being in Riluo City was like moving within a dream. Everything he looked at was so familiar, but at the same time so foreign. He had seen chickens, which made him feel familiarity, but as soon as he looked closer he noticed a horn on their heads and a scaled tail behind. Even if things seemed familiar, there was always something else hidden beneath.
Hui Yue spent the morning cultivating while listening to the tranquil sounds. Hui Yue had expected the city to be bursting with sounds, however the City Mansion was so big, and the City Lord’s residence was located so far away from the busy city that the sounds couldn’t reach them.
At first, the only thing that Hui Yue did hear, was the sound of guards that would casually talk together while switching from one shift to another, but slowly the mansion woke up. Servants were rushing back and forth to ensure that everyone had their breakfast and necessities ready for yet another morning.
Scholars was soon running around picking up scripts and scrolls for their teachers to be ready for another busy day at an office, and suddenly the whole Mansion was filled with life and energy, much like any other day would have been.
A servant arrived at Hui Yue’s courtyard and brought an invitation to eat breakfast together with the Rong family, which Hui Yue quickly accepted, however as soon as he entered the dining room, he halted slightly as he noticed that Rong Liang and Bu Huang both were present.
The young white-haired boy quickly cupped his hands and did a slight bow towards the two adult men, which both responded with a gentle nod, before they engaged in conversation once again.
The Rong twins and Hui Yue ate a hearty breakfast filled with fruits and yoghourt, cured meat and bread together with some kind of milk and fresh pressed juice. Hui Yue could not help but be shocked upon seeing the insane amount of food that was created for each meal.
“Don’t worry, the leftovers from the buffet always goes to the martial art schools that dad manages,” Rong Ming said proudly, upon noticing Hui Yue’s judging look, “all kids below ten years old can go to the martial art school and learn how to cultivate and then they get a meal every time they show up,” Rong Xing explained, “dad wants to help them learn how to cultivate so they can help their family earn money instead of being poor.”
“But Elder Wang hates the martial art school,” Rong Ming whispered, “there is a lot of the poor commoners who gets the right to join the Royal Academy because of them, and he thinks it is stupid to teach martial art to commoners instead of ruling over them.”
Hui Yue understood that this was not a subject to talk about while at school, but he instantly felt more positive towards the daunting Lord Rong Liang.
“It is because Elder Wang’s family is a part of The Great Hundred Names,” Rong Ming complained, however he still kept his voice low enough for the two discussing adults to not hear what was said, at least he was convinced of that.
Rong Xing sighed. Her twin brother kept saying things which Hui Yue had no idea of understanding, so she once again took the role of the translator, “The Great Hundred Names are one hundred families who can follow their ancestry all the way back to The Dark Age. It is only hundred noble families that survived whatever happened back then. They are in all three allied countries, so it is quite astonishing to be from one of the Great Hundred Names families.”
Hui Yue nodded. It meant that their family history was at least four thousand years old, it was indeed quite a history for any noble family, and he imprinted the name Wang in his heart, ensuring that he needed much more caution whenever he was going to deal with those people.
The meal was quickly eaten while Rong Ming was busy telling Hui Yue about some of his friends at the Royal Academy.
Hui Yue had worn some of his usual clothes today, and although it was worn out, it was incredibly comfortable, however a maid quickly brought his new white set of clothes to him. It had been cleaned during the night, and the Rong twins both wanted him to wear the white clothes. They wanted to show off their friend’s beauty.
With a sigh, Hui Yue followed their suggestions and quickly changed into his most beautiful piece of clothing. Hopefully they could convince the notorious Elder Wang that Hui Yue was a person fit to study at the Royal Academy.
Outside the City Lord’s Mansion was a carriage waiting for them. It was being pulled by four Kirins. They were related to Qilins, however they were much more elegant. Where the Qilin was like a horse and dragon mixed together, the Kirin was more a deer mixed with a dragon. It was gracious and elegant while the lean muscles were bulging underneath the scaled skin.
“The Royal Academy is located on a mountain range behind the city,” Rong Xing explained, “It is not too far away, but we are expected to ride a carriage when we travel from the City to the Academy.”
The travel through Riluo City was much like the previous day where Hui Yue did not have the time to see anything in detail, but he comforted himself with the fact that he had no money to entertain himself with. Cities were only fun for the rich people.
The travel to the Royal Academy really did not take long. As soon as the carriage exited the city walls they gained in speed and almost flew towards a distant mountain. With the Kirins pulling the carriage it only took them half an hour to reach the destination.
The carriage stopped right at the foot of the mountain where large fields were filled with young children and their entourages. Some of the children had come in groups and looked poor, which caused Hui Yue to assume that they were the commoners that Elder Wang was supposed to dislike, while other children were bringing a wide array of experts and servants with them to the examination.
There were seven elderly figures apart from these children and their entourages, and they were positioned in a straight line in front of the mountain entrance. There was exactly three metres between each of the elders, and in front of them were a small table.
On the table was a book, a pen and a white stone slab. In front of the elders were a queue of around ten children. One child at a time went towards the elder and stated their name and age, then the elder ordered them to lay their hand upon the stone slab, before they themselves inserted some of their qi to activate the slab, making it write down the child’s real age and cultivation rank.
Hui Yue furrowed his brows slightly, as the highest ranked of those Elders was a four-star duke, where the others were nine star Grand Masters. None of these elders would be capable of detecting Lan Feng.
‘Their skilled experts must be hiding within the academy,’ Lan Feng said with slight relief visible in the voice.
“Oh no,” whispered Rong Ming next to Hui Yue, who had been busy worrying about being noticed, “Elder Wang is here. Let’s go queue up over here,” he continued and grabbed Hui Yue’s arm while dragging him towards one of the elders all the way to the side.
Hui Yue was confused. Elder Wang was supposed to have a high standing within this academy, however none of the experts here were any real threat to Hui Yue and Lan Feng. Suddenly a thought hit Hui Yue, and he narrowed his eyes slightly while asking, “What rank are the teachers at the academy?”
“Hmm, most of them are Grand Masters. A few are Masters and we have a couple of Duke ranked experts,” Rong Xing answered after thinking for a bit. Hui Yue felt relief washing over him, as he had realised why. This was after all only the outer disciples. The students here all depended on the lower dantian to train, while the students who had already opened the middle dantian would be moved to the main Royal Academy within the Capital City.
It made perfect sense that any instructor or teacher with a higher cultivation would teach the higher ranked students. For now, it did not seem as if Lan Feng and Hui Yue would have any problems while moving around at the academy.
Hui Yue was in a great mood when he stood in the queue, waiting for his turn to be tested. The Rong twins were standing next to him, and although they were already students and allowed to enter the Royal Academy already, they would not go before Hui Yue had been accepted.
The two children of the City Lord who stood next to the unknown beautiful kid did cause quite a commotion and many noble families started guessing as to what the heritage of this unknown child could be.
Neither Hui Yue, nor the twins had any interest in the gossip that was going around, as all three knew that his origin was to be kept a secret, and as soon as it was their turn, Hui Yue strode towards the elder with a calm radiating from within that was unlikely anyone his age.
“What is your name?” the elder asked with a friendly voice. This child was after all being guided by two students of high profile.
“Hui Yue,” was the clear answer,
“Place your hand on the stone slab,” the elder ordered, and Hui Yue did as he was told. A second later, the elder placed a finger on the same stone slab and allowed some of his qi to pull out a bit of Hui Yue’s qi from within his body. Suddenly letters appeared on the surface and Hui Yue removed his hand.
“five-star student rank. Boy age ten.” The elder said with a mumbling voice while recording the result within the book on the table. He opened a bag and pulled out an emblem. The emblem was small and shaped as a pentagon. Printed on the emblem was five flower petals that surrounded a sun in the middle.
“Here you go,” the elder said while handing the emblem to the child in front of him, “Keep this for the years you study at our academy. Make sure to keep it safe.” With a wave of his hand, the elder moved his attention towards the next child in line for the admission test and Hui Yue quickly moved forward, following the Rong twins towards the entrance leading up the mountain.
The entrance was simple. The three children moved through a stone pavilion, and Hui Yue noticed how his student emblem started shining as soon as he entered, but nothing else happened, and as soon as they had walked through, the weird shine had vanished.
“It is a key,” Rong Xing explained, “only the ones who has an emblem that belongs to the Royal Academy can enter the Academy grounds.” The Rong twins found their own emblems, both looked identical to Hui Yue’s.
“A golden one shows that you are an inner disciple from the Royal Academy in the capital. The teachers and instructors all have white symbols,” Rong Xing continued to explain.
“This is the worst part of the academy,” Rong Ming said with a sigh, while looking in front of him, and Hui Yue moved his gaze towards the front, only to see endless stone steps leading towards the mountain top.
The three children smiled to each other before they slowly started moving up, one step at a time. It has to be said that they were all cultivators so it required quite a bit for those three children to be tired, but Rong Ming was often bored, and he had had enough after half an hour of climbing the stairs.
“We got a lot of friends at the academy, and I am sure that they will like you too,” he started while looking disapproving at the many steps in front of him. “Quite a few of them are commoners, but your family background does not matter if you are strong, that is what father always taught us.”
“I usually hang around with Gao Yan, Ma Kong and Deng Wu.” He continued while the three climbed one step after another, “Gao Yan’s family is really poor, but his talent is as good as mine and Xing Er’s. Dad asked us to look after him at the start, and he is a really good guy. Most of the commoners at the academy look up to him. Ma Kong is from the Ma family, they are nobles, but they gained nobility quite recently so most of the other nobles looks down upon them, and then Deng Wu. He is a weirdo. The Deng Family is one of the Great Hundred Names, but Deng Wu is such a skirt chaser. He followed us from the start because he fell for Xing Er,”
After getting a quick explanation of the different friends’ family backgrounds they had arrived at the top of the stair and Hui Yue sucked in a deep breath.
This was supposed to be a mountain top, but instead it was a city buzzling with youngsters everywhere. Every mountain top had been connected with long bridges and there were flying magical beasts hovering around, waiting for their masters.
Four of the mountain tops were filled with small houses, counting at least a thousand on each, which Rong Xing explained to be dormitories. Each student had their own room. There was also a canteen placed on each mountain top that would offer food three times a day free of charge.
These four mountain tops were all to the left from the staircase while the right side was filled with tall buildings. Each building had different nameplates pasted upon. One said ‘Martial Art Skill Hall’, while another said ‘Qi theory lessons’, yet another said ‘Cultivation methods’.
Several mountain tops had been completely flattened and changed into training grounds and yet again others were changed into fighting arenas.
Right in front of Hui Yue was a big pagoda which was the Royal Academy main building. It housed the most important martial art skills and all the instructors and teachers lived within.
Everywhere Hui Yue looked he saw students. Some were young and scared, while moving around in groups, while others were older and much more comfortable while traveling with a certain feel of belonging.
This was the new place for Hui Yue to live, and he could feel joy bubbling inside. A whole new world was waiting for him, just waiting to be explored.
“Rong Ming!” a voice called from the side, and Hui Yue turned around to see a youngster rushing towards them.