"Hello, I'm Xie Anan. I'm a student of the Refining Department of the Flying Star University and also one of the staff of the Skyhill Sword Seminar. It was me who helped you sign up at the registration spot. So, I will be responsible for catering to your needs when the reception work begins tomorrow. I didn't know that I would run into you today! Hahahaha. What a coincidence!"
Li Yao stared at the double-ponytailed girl who was like a rabbit; she did look familiar.
Xie Anan's appearance was alike to hers in the virtual world. She was more solemn in the registration spot. But right now, her impishness was fully revealed.
"I am supposed to call you 'master'. But I didn't think you would be so young. Can I call you Senior Brother? You wouldn't mind, would you, Senior Brother Li Yao?
"I know it is kind of aggressive to jump out of nowhere. But I was too excited when I saw you. I have many questions regarding refining that I want to discuss with an expert like you. Please don't refuse me!" Xie Anan said earnestly.
Li Yao scratched his messy hair. 'Refining Department of Flying Star University' made his eyes shine. Since he had nothing better to do anyway, it didn't seem like a bad idea to talk with student who had been receiving the most formal education of the Flying Star Sector.
However, before he opened his mouth, a cold wind swept close.
A tall, beautiful, and indifferent girl pulled Xie Anan behind her, as if fearful that he might gulp her in.
"Long Yunxin, from the Refining Department of Flying Star University, of the Long family of Spiritual Stream. May I know my fellow Cultivator's name?"
"Li Yao, from Great Horn."
There was clearly a misunderstanding, but Li Yao didn't care about it. He scratched his nose and was preparing to leave at any moment.
Long Yunxin had heard the name of the Great Horn Exo Society before and, knowing that he was not an evil man, was somewhat relieved.
But she had never heard that there were any extraordinary sword-forging masters in the Great Horn Exo Society.
Long Yunxin took a step back and asked in a low voice, "Anan, you said that the guy is a mysterious expert? How did you know?"
Although Xie Anan could be incompetent sometimes, she knew what she was doing when it came to the important things. As staff of the Skyhill Sword Seminar, naturally, she was not allowed to leak the details of the contestants. She stammered for a long time but failed to come up with anything. In the end, she jerked and said, "The bottom line is, Senior Brother Li Yao is really an expert. A very awesome one!"
"How awesome? Even more awesome than me?"
"Well" Xie Anan stammered again.
Her hesitation suggested that, in her opinion, this plain-dressing guy might really be better than Long Yunxin.
Long Yunxin was very curious.
The Flying Star Sector was a large place, but there was only a limited number of top experts in refining. There were only a handful of families that had lasted for more than a thousand years. Even taking the Cultivation sects that were famous for refining into account, the total number of the people who were adept at the job was quite small. Most of them had been in touch with each other since they were very young.
Even though they had never met each other in reality, they must've at least heard a thing or two about them on the Spiritual Nexus if they were real experts.
But Long Yunxin had never seen Li Yao before, nor did she ever know of a 'Li family' that was good at refining.
She was better than judging other people by their appearances, and she knew too well that the last thing many great Cultivators cared about was how they looked.
Although the guy in front of her did not seem to be a great Cultivator, it would be the most foolish decision if she were to take Xie Anan away now. She would be admitting Li Yao's seniority if she left just like that.
Thinking about this part, Long Yunxin smiled and said courteously, "Brother Li, Anan said that you are an expert and that you have been concealing yourself for a long time. I assume that you must be prepared to show your sharpness with your amazing skills at the Skyhill Sword Seminar.
"The annual Skyhill Sword Seminar is not just about competition. More importantly, it is about communication and the overall development of sword-forging technologies of the Flying Star Sector. Don't you agree?
"As it happens, a few friends of mine are gathering in a finely-made cottage behind the museum. We call it 'Sword Tasting Gettogether '. There are not many people, only around ten. However, they are all capable refiners who made it to the top 300 in the Skyhill Sword Seminar last year and have been preparing to fight again this year for a long time.
"Before the match begins, we will meet each other first. We will be enjoying delicious wine and discussing swords and sword-forging techniques. It will be quite a pleasant party.
"The competition of the Skyhill Sword Seminar is extremely fierce. The top 300 all have a chance of securing a place in the top 100. If my fellow Cultivator is free, why don't we go there together, have a nice talk, and make friends with each other? What do you say?"
Li Yao's eyes were shining.
He didn't know, nor did he want to know, Long Yunxin's purpose.
For a maniac in refining such as himself, he wouldn't even blink if he had to pass a mountain of blades and an ocean of flames as long as experienced refiners were waiting on the other side to talk to him.
He felt his hunger disappear. Nodding, he said, "Alright. Lead the way!"
Behind the museum was a large area of gold bamboo that looked like interconnecting swords and spears; it was known as 'Sword Forest'.
A cottage had been established in the middle of the bamboo to entertain the honorable guests.
They were mostly the young generation of the noble refining families. With their familial background, their own talent, and their hard work, they had distinguished themselves with people of the same generation and all marched into the top 300 in the Skyhill Sword Seminar last year.
Naturally, the topic of conversation was not gossip but the mysteries and secrets among refiners as well as the latest theories and academic problems.
There was a red stove nearby, in which a bottle of delicious wine was being boiled with the minimum fire.
It differed from normal wine in that there were a few scraps of ancient flying swords inside.
The wine that was boiled in such a way had the flavor of graveness. It was the most suitable beverage for refiners. The activity itself was known as 'Sword Tasting', which was quite a fashion among the refiners.
It was said that the seasoned sword-forging masters could tell the year, make, and story of the scraps in the wine after one sip. It was truly mysterious and remarkable.
"Mo Tianshui and Huangpu Xiaoya, the two most excellent heirs of the two most famous families, who have never participated in the Skyhill Sword Seminars before, are both joining the match this year. Two supernovas are going to collide furiously. It's definitely going to be earth-shaking!"
"Very true. This is going to be the most professional match in years. I'm told that, other than the masters of the three main crystal suit centers, big shots from Proud Sword Vale, Iron Blade Star, and Heavenly Horse Hall, as well as many reputable refiners that have been well-known for decades, are all coming to observe the game. They are all coming for Mo Tianshui and Huangpu Xiaoya!"
"It is said that the organizer even invited Master Fiend Star, the passionate expert of classical refining theories on the Spiritual Nexus recently, to come and comment on the games through the Great Illusionary Groups!
"But Fiend Star turned down the offer saying that he was 'otherwise occupied'. It is really a shame!"
"Speaking of which, this Fiend Star, who has appeared out of nowhere, is indeed a mystifying one! Who do you say he is exactly in the real world? A professor in a university? An elder in a sect? Or a grandpa of a certain noble family of refining? Chances are that he might be your father or mine. Hahahaha!"
"Fiend Star's theories are the new fashion nowadays. Why don't we set that as the topic of our get together today? Come on. Who wants to speak first?"
Everybody joined the conversation. As the debate got more and more intense, the door of the cottage was opened. Long Yunxin and Xie Anan brought Li Yao in.
Long Yunxin was the one of the highest level in the small group. Her appearance refreshed everyone.
However, they were all quite shocked to see Li Yao behind her.
He was like a cocky rooster, stained with blood clearly resulting from its last fight, whose feathers were messed up barging in a flock of elegant cranes; it didn't look right at all.
But the manners of the heirs of the noble families were really good. Although they found it quite odd, they nodded at the three of them in acknowledgement and continued the furious debate.
Long Yunxin guided her companions to sit down among the crowd. Then she chuckled in a low voice. "Brother Li, every Sword Tasting Gettogether has a theme, on which everyone offers their opinions in turn. The topic today is theories of Master Fiend Star, the popular expert in classical refining theories recently. We are finding the loopholes in his theories and proposing rebuttals. The winner is the one whose eyes are keenest.
Li Yao was stunned.
Long Yunxin continued, "The one talking right now is Luo Dong, heir of the Luo family of East Brightness. He has lambasted the hypothesis that Fiend Star came up with on the fifteen aerodynamic models of the ancient flying swords. Not bad. His observation is sharp and hits the ambiguities precisely!"
Luo Dong was a chubby young man who was wearing a red robe and had a bright red face. He was wagging his head and elaborating. After his long speech, everyone applauded for him.
"Well said! Fiend Star's theories about the aerodynamics of ancient flying swords are indeed incoherent and unsystematic. All his self-contradictions have been located by you!"
"Brother Luo, your speech is evident enough that you've made tremendous progress over the past year. You must be quite ambitious about the Skyhill Sword Seminar this year!"
Luo Dong smiled casually and looked at Long Yunxin and Li Yao.
Long Yunxin rose up and cleared her throat, before she opened her mouth. "May I have your attention, everyone? I would like to introduce a new friend to you. This fellow Cultivator is Li Yao, an expert in refining who has been hiding himself in the Great Horn Exo Society. He is also taking part in the Skyhill Sword Seminar this year. Let's all hear what he has to say, shall we?"
"Expert in refining?"
Long Yunxin was the one of the best refiners there. There wouldn't be anything wrong with someone she endorsed.
For a moment, everyone's eyes were beaming, like those of a leopard who had found its prey.
They were all the most enthusiastic lovers of swords and sabers who welcomed anyone regardless of their identities as long as they were proficient enough.
A tall, slender young man with green eyes stood up and said friendly, "Brother Li, greetings. I am Tu Yongqing, from the Tu family of Upper Woods. I'm also the host of this Sword Tasting Gettogether. We are all refiners here. Please make yourself at home and feel free to say whatever you want!
"Our theme today is finding loopholes in Fiend Star's classical refining theories, which have been quite a hit recently. Everybody is free to expound on his faults and propose a brand-new idea.
"But I'm wondering, have you found any loopholes in Fiend Star's theories, or do you simply object to them all?"
Shua! Shua! Shua!
More than ten pairs of expecting eyes were all fixed on Li Yao.
Weekend Bonus #2