Volume 2 Chapter 7: This is what life is

He was standing in an underground chamber, in what looked like a dungeon. The guards were looking at him, with looks meant for convicted criminals.

Wanliang was pissed at being abducted in the middle of the night. He was even blindfolded, and went through a spatial portal without any potions to ease the transit.

He was sick and turned green from the effects of spatial displacement, and is still currently suffering from it. He  had no doubts it was the handiwork of some jealous business rivals, who were doing it in order to get rid of him.

After all, his business has been quite successful, thanks to the huge influx of capital a little over nine years ago. It was when he sold his daughter to someone claiming to represent a king.

It didn’t even occur to him, that this was perhaps somehow related to it. According to what he knew, no one should be able to find out.

After all it was a king they were talking about and there probably wouldn’t be anyone who had the influence or power to offend him. Besides, it was not as if Xiuxiu was reported missing, hence no one would care.

He was going to bribe his captors when they arrived. He felt that if it boils down to cash incentives, he could offer his captors double what they were given. It shouldn’t be much of a problem, since all his competitors combined wouldn’t be as rich as him.

He was in the middle of scheming how to get out of this, when a tall lady appeared. Her looks were stunning, and he couldn’t keep his eyes off her.

“What the hell are you looking at? Do you want me to order my men to dig your eyes out?” she demanded and asked.

Wanliang did not understand the hostility, and neither did he understand why she was angry at him. He was wondering why would his captors be agitated, even though they already had him. He tried to see if it was about money.

“I will pay you two times, whatever they offered you! I won’t be like them, I will pay upfront before you release me,” he tried to ease the situation by negotiating.

What he was actually thinking at this point, is that even though he was abducted, his rivals did not pay the abductors. It was only the possible route, as hiring thugs like this group, who seemed more like professional mercenaries, would not have come cheap.

“How dare you talk to her Royal Grace in such a manner!” a guard smacked Wanliang’s face, and it caused his mouth to bleed.

When he heard ‘Royal Grace’, Wanliang’s eye bulged out from their sockets, and he wondered aghast if the impossible have happened.

“I am sorry your Royal Grace, I did not mean to say that!” he dropped to his knees immediately and kowtowed to her. He was good at groveling, since it got him where he is today. Unfortunately, that is not something that will work with this lady.

“WHACK!” “ARRGGH!”

This time it was not the guard, but the lady, and she kicked Wanliang in the guts causing him to scream. Blood began gushing out of his mouth, as his spleen ruptured.

His mind was reeling, and he was confused as to what made him deserve this. Even if there was a possibility that word got out on his dealings with the king, it should not be this bad.

As he lay on the ground whimpering, the lady repeatedly kicked him, till he almost fainted. She was about to crush his family jewels, before a man stopped her.

An expression of relief was clearly seen, even on Wanliang’s mangled face.

“shank uu surr sha..” he grovelled weakly, thanking the man.

He grovelling ended abruptly, when he got kicked in the face. This flipped him head over heels on the ground. When he finally stopped rolling, only the whites of his eyes could be seen.

Bloody foam was coming out of his mouth, as a guard went over to check.

“Your Royal Grace, Milord, he is still alive,” the guard almost said it grudgingly

“Good! I want to repeat this for a few more days, till I am satisfied,” the woman replied.

As she turned and left the dungeon, the man said to her.

“Amelia, I think I should handle this.”

“No! Maling, I want to handle this myself!” Amelia told him.

Not arguing, since it was pointless, Maling followed her as she left.

The initial questioning of Wanliang, took place on the main world. The information was hindered from reaching Maling’s hands in time, and when that happened, extradition was not forthcoming.

Only with Amelia’s help, he managed to wrest Wanliang from one of the royal cities. Wanliang was not an easy man to extradite, as he had wealth that created substantial influence there.

(AN: a royal city is a tier below the Imperial city, and at the same time on par with the colony capital. Refer to compendium)

Maling was the one who gave Wanliang the final kick to the face, it could have been much worse.

Wanliang did not know that Maling have sworn to kill him just a few days earlier. This was when Maling received his confession about selling his daughter.

**********

Menon was having difficulties trying to get the trader to speak, it hampered his investigations into Elemental farming.

From what he understood, it is not a simple task to hunt an Elemental, let alone carving out it’s Ki center while it was still alive.

It will help cover a certain part of the frozen investigation into where bracelet came from. It was the one, which Huiling wore during the quarter finals of the Freshmen Competition.

The trader he was speaking to, could find all sorts of stuff onn the black-market. He also had many other contacts in the underworld. Although his name was never known, everyone knew about him.

It had taken all but a little over seven years to finally arrange this meeting. The trader was highly suspicious, and did not respond to Menon’s approaches years before. Even the reference of Instructor Wei, who highly recommended him to Menon, bore no fruit.

What finally made the trader meet with Menon was a deceitfully simple thing, it was the exchange of information. Sometimes, information is worth even more than actual wealth.

However, Menon was not foolish enough to give him what he wanted, till he gave what Menon wanted.

“It is simple, my information is more beneficial to you, than yours is to me,” Menon was saying.

“I disagree, letting you know the source behind farming the Elementals, might jeopardize my life. That alone is worth more than your information,” the trader argued.

The information Menon is offering, is the source of Void crystals. Over the years, Menon had discovered various sources for Void crystals. He would hire specific miners to mine them.

It didn’t come cheap, as Void crystals absorbs Ki from anything. It needed to be stored in specialized containers, that nullified its potency. These containers themselves costs a fortune.

Even by offering the location of some sources to these miners as trade off, he still had to fork out an obscene amount of money for just a piece. The one that was destroyed seven years ago, when he tested Xiaoxia, was worth the ransom of an empire.

The miners whom he hired, had specialize means to obtain them. Menon could only guess how they did it, and even though his really wanted to know, he did not pursue it.

After all, it was the miners’ bread and butter. He would be an idiot to think they would share their technique with him.

He did formulized a theory and invented a device himself, although it is nowhere near what he suspects the miners are able to do. In terms of efficiency, it was also far from perfect. But it can still do the job sufficiently.

This is what he has kept up his sleeves, as a trump card for the negotiations. There was even a hidden use which he was quite proud of.

“Here, this shall settle our business,” he placed the device on the table.

They were in a private room, at one of the high-society clubs of MeisterSchloss.

“What is this? Can it resurrect me if I died?” the trader jested, knowing fully well no known item can resurrect a person.

“Funny you should say that, while it cannot bring back the dead, it does applies a similar principal,” Menon replied.

The trader did not respond, but looked at him with doubtful eyes.

“The only reason why this deal seems lopsided to you, is because even if you knew where the sources were, you had to fork out a huge amount to hire miner’s,” Menon said and continued, “With this you can skip all the costs and do it yourself.”

“You conveniently skipped the part of the similar principals to resurrection,” the trader interjected.

“Got him!” Menon thought, he intentionally left that out. It was a troll move, once the trader bite onto the details for the device, the negotiation was as good as finalized.

“Well, it’s simple, Ki leaves body, you die. Ki doesn’t leaves body, you survive,” Menon explained the concept in a way fit for very young children.

The trader was a little irritated by that, but he allowed him to continue.

“This device, while shielding itself from the Void crystal, maintains sufficient Ki in your body for you to survive the mines,” Menon continued, then taking out another contraption, “This is its energy source, it is shielded as well and requires a medium grade vermilion Ki crystal to use.”

“I don’t suppose you are giving me a one of those as well?” the trader asked.

Even though medium grade vermilion Ki crystals are not even a fraction of what a Void crystal cost, they were still very expensive.

“Deal!” Menon immediately said, and the trader nodded.

Menon was smiling smugly, he didn’t even needed to tell the trader what the other hidden usage was.

**********

The seven of them were totally exhausted after their training session with Brum and Instructor Wei. Brum himself was already a bad enough, and including Instructor Wei, it was hell.

“Ok! You all can go and rest, remember the previous victory was an easy one. Do not let it go to your head!” Instructor Wei told them.

Brum added a few more words, and dismissed them. He was very happy they have managed to won all the challenges over the past seven years.

One more year, and the lucrative purse money for the Instructors/Mentors will be theirs. He simply could not wait for that to happen.

In the meantime, the teenagers all mumbled their thanks, and moved off to the showers. They were Winfrey, Charlotte, Sima, Corian, Libby, Mingyue and Minglan.

It has been seven years since Xiaoxia vanished. Anyone would have forgiven them if they forgotten him. However that was not the case, these seven still spoke fondly of him.

They trained hard, as they constantly strived to improve themselves. It was something which Xiaoxia have inspired them, when they saw his matches in the competition.

Training was tough, but it made them rapidly climb the scales of the Ki Realms, and all including Libby, were already in the Ki Master Realm lower Tier.

Their previous challengers were from the Nosferatians, and it was a complete victory for them.

The Nosferatians were humanoid beings, who boasted abilities that can boost their Ki Realms. On top of this, they have superior strength, reaction, mental capacity, and constitution, when compared to the racial beings.

They did not however, have the cohesiveness of the seven. Their teamwork was almost telepathic, and spectators were in awe, when they saw the flawless execution of the battle plan.

The seven were hence known as the “7 Saints”, and their fame spread far and enveloped the entire world.

If there wasn’t the basic rule of limiting challenges to a bi-monthly event, they would have been swarmed every second of the day by challengers, who wanted to make a name for themselves.

“You guys do ahead, we need to speak with Mentor Brum and Instructor Wei,” Charlotte called after them.

She then grabbed Libby’s hands, as both girls went to look for the other two.

Instructor Wei still did not take on another disciple after all these years, but she was still registered officially as Xiaoxia’s Mentor.

Soon the girls caught up with Brum and Instructor Wei, who seemed to be in a light conversation.

“Yes, what is it you pretty little things want?” Brum greeted them.

He was fond of them, and treated them like his own children. However when it came to training, it was no longer the case.

Instructor Wei on the other hand, just nodded in acknowledgment of their presence.

“Mentor, Instructor. Libby and I need to request for special time off, it is official Academy business,” Charlotte informed them.

“What is it?” Brum asked, he usually does most of the talking in these cases.

He did not mind, since it was an official Academy business, challenges could be postponed till they returned.

It was related to the club Charlotte and Libby had joined, shortly after the freshmen competition. It was something they both decided to do, taking after the one person they both have a crush on.

It has been a long seven years, but those feelings simply don’t fade away, after all it was their first love.

The club is called ‘The Grand Flying Club’, and it is Instructor Sem who is in charge. It is also the club which Xiaoxia had prevented from getting into trouble, when he save the life of a princess from another empire. She was wearing one of the clubs sole plates, when it went rogue.

“In about a month’s time, with the flying club, we will be joining the ‘Sole Plate World Cup’,” Charlotte excitedly informed him.

**********

At this time, Xiaoxia was still soaking himself in the hot spring, looking at the deep blue sky. His thoughts were no longer on Carol, as his mind moved on .

It was jumbled with mostly food, and certain bits and pieces of images that popped into his head. That he missed he parents, was one of them. On the other hand, it was something he could not dwell upon, as it is necessary.

It will only bring harm to his parents, if the people who were looking for him knew he was in contact. Hence he tried not to think about it.

It took him a few moments to relax again, and enjoy the therapeutic calm of the springs. The group of women had left earlier, and all was calm. Jay and Gu Di were hidden in the steam, and no sign of them were evident either.

He closed his eyes, as the weariness of seven years seep away.

“Ah! This is what life is,” he thought, as he drifted away into slumber.

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