The door of the training room slowly opened, from which Li Yao walked out.
Watery brightness was curving around him, cladding him in a translucent battle armor which was glittering in the sunlight.
Yuan Manqiu, Xiong Baili, as well as many teachers and soldiers in the military base recognized what had happened when they saw his grand appearance.
"Building Foundation Stage! A Cultivator has entered the Building Foundation Stage!"
"Who is it? Let me through! Who broke into the Building Foundation Stage?"
"Li Yao! Li Yao of the Grand Desolate War Institution!"
"Vulture Li Yao has successfully entered the Building Foundation Stage!"
Exclamations came from the crowd nonstop. More people ran to the spot upon hearing the news, as they gazed at Li Yao in admiration.
Neither Xiong Baili nor Yuan Manqiu were combat-type Cultivators. Naturally, they would not be involved in the battles inside Red Lotus City directly but were fulfilling their duties in different positions inside the military base.
As a knowledgeable admin-type Cultivator, Xiong Baili was in charge of analyzing the identity, features, and specialties of the expert demons and store their detailed files into databases for future references.
As a refiner, Yuan Manqiu, leading the refiners from the Grand Desolate War Institution, was responsible for maintaining the damaged magical equipment in the fierce battles.
The moment they heard that Li Yao was breaking into the Building Foundation Stage, they hurried to his training room and happened to run into Li Yao who was just walking out of the training room dazzlingly.
Yuan Manqiu's thrill was apparent from her expression. Xiong Baili was nodding his head approvingly, too. Other teachers were also smiling with their mouths wide open.
In this fierce battle unseen for over the past hundred years, breakthroughs were not unusual. During the past ten days, the spiritual roots of many ordinary soldiers had undergone mutations, making them become Cultivators. There were also several Refinement Stage Cultivators who perceived the true destiny of Cultivation and embarked on the Building Foundation Stage.
Li Yao was not the first of them. But he was definitely the youngest.
Stepping into the Building Foundation Stage before 25 years old. He was even one year younger than Ding Lingdang when she entered the Building Foundation Stage. It was a remarkable achievement, not just locally but nationwide!
Xiong Baili and Yuan Manqiu exchanged glances with mixed feelings.
In recent years, the Grand Desolate War Institution had been quite fortunate. At first, Ding Lingdang distinguished herself as one of the youngest Building Foundation Cultivators in the federation; then, the Refining Department rose to fame; now, Li Yao had entered the Building Foundation Stage as a student.
Without anyone knowing, the Grand Desolate War Institution was no longer the tail-ender among the Nine Elite Universities in regard of the comprehensive capability. It was almost as good as the influential colleges such as Star Nebula University and First Military Academy of the Federation.
"Professor, Principal, I've entered the Building Foundation Stage!"
Li Yao withdrew the liquefied spiritual gas and enjoyed the amazing feeling when every vein and nerve of his was being nurtured by the elixir with complicated thoughts.
He had finally caught up to where Ding Lingdang had been more than one year ago, through arduousness and troubles that only he knew.
There was still a long way to go ahead.
But, with the support of so many people, he was confident to finish the journey one step after another.
Li Yao turned on the mini crystal processor, opened the war mission system, and upgraded his files with his latest progress.
"Li Yao of the Grand Desolate War Institution has entered the Building Foundation Stage. Applying for missions that befit his current strength."
Li Yao nodded at Xiong Baili and Yuan Manqiu in apology.
"Sorry, Professor, Principal. My Cultivation is not stable at this moment since I just stepped into the Building Foundation Stage and I need to be engaged in massive fierce battles to consolidate it!"
"That's alright. Go now."
Yuan Manqiu smiled. She and Xiong Baili were too experienced not to know the criticalness of the period when one just entered the Building Foundation Stage. Naturally, they wouldn't hamstring him.
Xiong Baili patted his shoulder and said solemnly, "Li Yao, remember, the Grand Desolate War Institution will always be proud of you!"
Li Yao was stunned for a moment. He had never expected the serious, meticulous principal to be so emotional.
After a while, Li Yao's lips curled, as he put on a sunny smile on his face.
"Principle, professor, I'm always proud of the Grand Desolate War Institution, too!"
The Mystic Skeleton Battlesuit enclosed him again.
Different from when he was at the Refinement Stage, Li Yao did not feel the least hindering from the equipment. The suit had melted into his flesh and blood, while the crystal processor and his brain had integrated into one.
Li Yao turned into a gold laser and darted towards Red Lotus City.
The fifty kilometers of distance were covered in no time. He appeared in the sky of the battleground which had been enshrouded in cannon fire and smoke.
"Swoosh! Swoosh! Swoosh! Swoosh! Swoosh! Swoosh! Swoosh!"
Four arrows of acids, three streams of venomous liquid and an invisible blast interweaved into a deadly net and thrusted at him.
"It feels good!"
Li Yao sensed his brand-new body of the Building Foundation Stage, while his soul rippled away and located eight bizarre-shaped figures in a dark corner by tracing back the furious attacks.
The eight attacks hit him, or rather, his blurred shadow, simultaneously. Li Yao himself was not at the place anymore. He turned into raging wind as he lunged at a collapsed building.
"Now commences my first battle in the Building Foundation Stage!"
Starting from that day, the intensity of the battles that Li Yao was engaged in within Red Lotus City had reached a whole new height.
As a Building Foundation Stage Cultivator, with the enhancement of his crystal suit, Li Yao was already one of the super elites on the battleground now. His appearance often meant the victory of his side in a battle.
He had also marched into the underground together with many other Building Foundation Cultivators and demolished dozens of the demon beasts' dens. He even slayed a seriously wounded high-level demon general in person.
Day by day, his strength had been on the rise in the bloody battles. He finally stabilized himself in the Building Foundation Stage.
In the meantime, the War of Seven Cities had almost come to end.
The brutal war lasted only some twenty days, which was even shorter than large-scale beast tide outbreaks.
However, the toughness of the regular army of the demon clan was fully demonstrated nonetheless.
Until the last moment, the regular demon army was still well-disciplined. It retreated silently overnight, leaving mediocre demon beasts behind as cannon fodder.
They also left a lot of deadly traps in the underground.
Red Lotus City was fine. But in Sunlit Cloud City, more than half of the underground ghost market was blown up by the demon clan at the same time. Caught off guard, one Core Formation Stage Cultivator was killed, and another seriously wounded, not counting the many more missing Refinement Stage Cultivators and Building Foundation Stage Cultivators who were buried hundreds of meters under the ground.
The tragedy cast haze to the joy of victory.
In the morning, the first ray of sunlight reached the battle-scarred city.
Li Yao and Yuan Manqiu were walking on an uneven street.
"During the war, you've earned enough battle credits to meet the criterion of graduation.
"Besides, it seems inappropriate for you to keep being a student now that you're in the Building Foundation Stage."
Yuan Manqiu smiled. "You should prepare to graduate when we're back. What's your future plan?"
Before Li Yao was able to answer, she continued, "The demon invasion this time was quite abrupt. Thankfully, two legions of the federal army have been equipped with the Mystic Skeleton Battlesuits, making them the first two crystal suit legions in the world.
"The performance of the two legions was quite remarkable. Stationed in Eastern Stone City and Eternal Mountain City, they managed to resist the surging beast tide without much help from high-level Cultivators and killed a huge portion of the regular army of the demon clan, like two millstones of blood and flesh.
"They were also one of the reasons why the demon clan suddenly retreated.
"The military is very satisfied with the performance of the Mystic Skeleton Battlesuit. They have expressed their interest in increasing the amount of purchase to build up at least twenty crystal suit legions within the next three years.
"Therefore, we'll be quite busy for a long time to come. How about staying in school after graduation as a researcher?
"This is a formal invitation from me on behalf of Principal Xiong.
"As for your benefits, you will be offered a package according to the highest standard. It will be even higher than Ding Lingdang's when she first started her career.
"You will still be able to enjoy the subsequent profits of the Mystic Skeleton Battlesuit, too.
"If you want to better your martial arts, you can always communicate with the teachers of the school. Nobody will hold anything back from you."
Li Yao narrowed his eyes and stared at the rising sun. Pondering for a long time, he shook his head.
"Professor, I've made plans for what I will do in the next couple of years.
"Project Mystic Skeleton has succeeded. Many people in the military and in the Cultivation world who are skilled Exos wear the Mystic Skeleton Battlesuit professionally now. I'm just a test pilot who would not be of much significance even if I stayed. I believe that the professors and experts are excellent enough for the revision and improvement work.
"There's something that I haven't told you yet.
"I have an invitation card from Occult Orbs Fellowship.
"Speaking of my future plans, I will dedicate myself to training, before I join Occult Orbs Fellowship and explore the relics and secret treasures that were buried during the 40,000 years of blood wars."
Over the past half a year, the federal government had unveiled to the public a lot of secret projects and plans. Occult Orbs Fellowship gradually revealed itself to the public, too.
Besides, for an extraordinary figure such as Yuan Manqiu, she had heard of the existence of Occult Orbs Fellowship back when she was in Deep Sea University. She had also been invited to several magical equipment seminars to study the secret treasures recovered from the Occult Orbs.
Therefore, she was not surprised when she heard the name of Occult Orbs Fellowship. Raising her eyebrow, she commented, "Exploring the Occult Orbs can be dangerous."
Li Yao nodded his head.
"It is indeed. The casualty rate of the explorers is stunningly high. That's why I can't accept the offer of the school right now.
"However, exploring and training in the Occult Orbs will boost my speed of Cultivation, too!
"Professor, we both know that the War of Seven Cities was just a beginning. There will be even more fierce battles where more expert demons will show up.
"I don't want to be a spectator on the ground craning my head dumbly watching the engagement of the elites.
"I crave for the strength which can enable me to fight with them.
"I also hope that I can dig out unfathomably ferocious magical equipment from the Occult Orbs which is powerful enough to blow a demon emperor into pieces with one shot!
"Therefore, I have to go to the Occult Orbs!"
Yuan Manqiu was amused.
"Don't be childish. Even if there are prehistoric treasures inside the Occult Orbs, they will be protected by all kinds of barriers, which will be too much for a beginner Building Foundation Stage Cultivator such as yourself to excavate or manipulate.
"But you're right about one thing. A great war is coming. We all have to try our best to Cultivate. You have the full support from both me and Principal Xiong.
"The Grand Desolate War Institution will always welcome you. Please come back any time!"
"Of course I will!"
Li Yao smiled. "I'm definitely coming back. Don't forget that I'm going to knock the Refining Department of Deep Sea University to the ground, and the Refining Department of the Grand Desolate War Institution will take their place!"
The two of them looked at each other and laughed. Then they stared at the heated scenes of infrastructure rebuilding which was soaking in morning glow.
In the depths of the underground, battles were still breaking out now and then.
But on the ground, the reconstruction work had already begun.
Thousands of soldiers of the federal army were driving large-scale bulldozers and excavators. Some of them were even clearing away the ruins with spades that had been carved with rune arrays.
Red Lotus City was on a mother lode of a huge reserve. There was no way that the federal government was giving up such a precious place.
The old Red Lotus City had been devastated by the warfare. But with the help of the advanced magical equipment of the modern Cultivation civilization, a new, larger Red Lotus City would rise up from the ashes in no time, this time with higher city walls, stronger defense, denser street barricades, more flying sword formations, more automatic security systems, and keener underground monitoring systems.
More valiant soldiers and Cultivators who had been educated by the war would stay and guard the place.
Besides a dilapidated building, Li Yao suddenly stopped.
His eyes were attracted by a fresh greenness.
A blade of grass popped up from the blackened messes and danced in the morning breeze.
It didn't know what had happened to the city; it only stretched in the warm sunlight and sprayed hope and vigor.