Written by Tinalynge & Blue Jay
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Startled, Luo Xiao turned around only to be met with a beautiful young girl with long, slightly wavy blue hair and clear blue eyes.
Just looking at her Luo Xiao was momentarily stunned. The girl’s face was practically flawless, with phoenix eyes and peach colored lips. That beauty was absolutely natural, charming in a manner one couldn’t explain.
Anyone normal would have been completely gobsmacked at meeting such a beauty, especially with the regal and ethereal feeling she gave off. Luo Xiao was lucky that he had seen many beautiful women during the travels with Jiang Yao and quickly shook himself from that feeling.
“Ah… Yes. I really don’t know what to choose – there are too many topics…” he awkwardly sighed, looking back at the signboard.
Luo Xiao slightly rubbed the back of his neck as he felt a myriad of gazes focused at him. The other students in the plaza had been shooting looks at him as soon as the blue-haired girl approached him and he could even hear some of their whispers.
“Isn’t that goddess Jin Chuan? Who is she talking to?”
“That’s the youth I told you about yesterday, nobody knows who he is!”
“Who is he that beauty Jin Chuan would talk to him?” and many more which Luo Xiao didn’t try to hear clearly.
Luo Xiao almost sighed at the whispers, choosing not to mind them. At this point, he had understood that wherever one went there would be rumors and whispers regardless of his status. However, the titles beauty and goddess they put on the girl, whose name was apparently Jin Chuan, did make him turn his head around to look at her.
Indeed, she was a beauty… Though, somewhere deep inside Luo Xiao’s heart, there was a different figure he thought of as beautiful.
“You should pick basic herbology and soul studies. You’re a soul cultivator, right?” Jin Chuan smiled as she pointed to two of the titles on the list.
“Oh! Yes! Thank you… Miss Jin?” Luo Xiao nodded at her suggestion, deciding to follow it. It was probably the best option he had at the moment as he truly had no idea what to decide on.
The girl laughed, her laughter almost sounding like a bubbling stream. Those who heard it felt as if their hearts were melting, with various adoring gazes focused on her.
“No need to call me Miss,” Jin Chuan smiled, offering her hand for a handshake. “Alright, we need a formal introduction. I’m Jin Chuan, a soul cultivator at the high Sky Rank. What about you?”
“I’m Luo Xiao… Soul cultivator at the Low Sky Rank,” Luo Xiao also smiled in return, taking her hand in a gentle handshake.
As soon as he stated his name, various more whispers broke out between the people observing them. The school was truly a place where rumors spread quickly. Hearing his name being whispered by the other students made awkwardness creep into Luo Xiao’s expression before he quickly let go of Jin Chuan’s hand.
“It’s surprising to find a new soul cultivator here! There’s almost nobody…” Jin Chuan smiled. “And if there are, they are all taken in by some faction. No fun! What about you, Luo Xiao, do you belong to a faction?”
The question made Luo Xiao lightly frown, thinking. “A faction?”
Jin Chuan looked at him with amusement in her gaze. “Well, yeah. Didn’t you know? Ah, I’ll explain to you on the way to the soul studies lecture. Come with me!”
The girl’s hand once more found his as she led the way out of the main plaza towards the inner parts of the Academy where the elders gave their lectures out. Awkwardly, Luo Xiao was forced to follow her, finding himself too awkward to ask her to let go of his hand.
As soon as they got away from the main square, the number of students walking by them lessened, even if the looks towards the two of them seemed to be even more as the pair stood out amongst the others. After all, one of them was the beauty Jin Chuan, and the other was the delicate, almost feminine looking Luo Xiao who wore the eye-catching special silk robes.
“Basically, most of the cultivators here are followers or belong to different factions of Cloudsoar City! These factions shape which royal prince you follow,” Jin Chuan looked at Luo Xiao with a bright smile before finally letting go of Luo Xiao’s hand. “Do you know who the royal princes are?”
“The royal princes?” Indeed, Luo Xiao had two royalties immediately in mind – Jiang Yao and Jiang Guanyu. However, he couldn’t mention their names directly, could he? “I do know the Seventh and the Sixth Princes.”
Jin Chuan looked at Luo Xiao momentarily at the mention of the two but didn’t question it. “Well, you do know they exist. So, basically, there are eight royal princes in the Demon Empire, and that means there are eight factions in the Academy you could be in. All of the princes have graduated from the Academy and some of their factions run deep. Actually, the Ninth Prince studies at the Academy right now!”
At the mention of the Ninth Prince, Luo Xiao’s mind formed a rather odd mental image. He tried to imagine a younger version of Jiang Yao, which, unfortunately for him, didn’t quite work out as his hand covered his mouth, trying to fight back a sudden burst of laughter.
Suppressing his spontaneous snickering, Luo Xiao took a breath before resuming the conversation. “The Ninth? What is he like?”
“What is he like?” Jin Chuan repeated his question, furrowing her brows a little as her steps slowed down momentarily. “I’d say he is stubborn and a bit too… How do I say it…”
She rubbed her chin a bit, trying to find the right words for a moment before just shrugging it off. “If I find a way to describe him I’ll tell you later. I hope you don’t mind, right? Oh, by the way, we are there!”
At her words Luo Xiao looked up in front of him, his eyes looking at the enormous building in front of them. Indeed, they had arrived at one of the buildings which housed the large lecture halls. The front of the building seemed so large and overwhelming, with perfectly decorated white jade columns with gold and silver details. It was truly a grand and enormous place.
“Is this where the lectures are?” Luo Xiao couldn’t help but turn around to look at Jin Chuan for confirmation. Somehow he thought there would be small rooms for the lessons and not an enormous building!
“Well, most of them. The more popular ones are about battles, so they are in the large halls. The smaller ones, such as the one you chose, soul studies, are in some of the side rooms,” the blue-haired girl sighed. “Soul cultivators are quite low in numbers after all.”
After saying that she smiled slightly before heading to one of the entrances of the main building. “That’s why I was surprised to find another soul cultivator and without a faction too. I hope you don’t mind me being your friend, right?”
Luo Xiao followed her with a gentle smile, nodding at her question. “I don’t mind… Frankly, you will be my first friend.”
Jin Chuan, who was just about to enter into one of the side doors of the building, stopped in the middle of her tracks to look at him. “Your first friend? How come?”
Luo Xiao frowned, glancing away as he thought of how to reply. Frankly, he did have Jiang Yao as his “friend” but at the same time? The other man felt like something much more than a friend and Jin Chuan was the only one who could fit in the friends’ category, even if they only met a few minutes prior. Sometimes it just worked out like that.
“Well… From the time I was born, I used to be practically confined to my bed… So I didn’t really have others to play with, so, you know,” the youth sighed, memories and a sense of reminiscence flashing through his eyes. For a moment, Luo Xiao almost looked very lonely.
Actually, he used to be very lonely back in Jinwei village. Despite there being other children around his age there, he never really played with them. Truly, he was akin to a bird locked in a cage. His only friends were actually the books he had managed to get from the passing merchants.
In a way, he was lucky that Jiang Yao had picked him up and brought him to Cloudsoar City. That thought however immediately brought on the image of his village and family destroyed by the Corpse Puppet. Luo Xiao probably would never get over that horrible memory, his eyes clouding over as he looked away, a hand covering his trembling lips.
“Are you alright?” Jin Chuan’s voice trembled, her hand reaching over to rest on his shoulder. A worried expression had taken over her previously surprised face, her eyes trying to look into Luo Xiao’s and reassure him that everything was alright.
Luo Xiao gulped for a moment, closing his eyes as he did his best to shove the memory away. “Yeah… Yeah, I’m fine.”
He definitely didn’t look fine, with a slightly pale face and trembling lips as he remained silent for a bit. A moment later though he looked at Jin Chuan, a small smile appearing on his face.
“I just remembered something, don’t worry. It’s alright, just an unpleasant memory,” he added when Jin Chuan didn’t look very convinced, her eyes becoming even more worried.
After giving him a long look which spoke of her being absolutely not convinced, she took her palm off his shoulder and sighed. “You will have to promise me to tell me one day, alright? I don’t want my new friend to be upset, really!”
“Well, that I can do,” Luo Xiao smiled with a quiet sigh, rubbing the back of his head. On one hand, he began wondering what Jin Chuan would think if he told her the full story, not only the part which he remembered of his village getting destroyed. On the other hand, he was thinking about how Jiang Yao would react about him gaining a friend. Would he be happy?
Luo Xiao truly hoped so as he followed Jin Chuan into the building.
The inside of the hall wasn’t as grandiose as the front made it seem to be, a detail which made Luo Xiao frown a little. That didn’t go unnoticed as Jin Chuan smiled wryly in return.
“The main hall is through the main entrance and since that’s where a majority of the students go the craftsmanship of the structure is concentrated there. We, the soul cultivators, are a small number of people so naturally they wouldn’t give us the main entrance,” she explained while the two walked down a corridor with wide, open windows.
“Overall, it’s not a bad place – just a small one,” she smiled, stopping in front of two large closed doors. “Most of the others should be here now, at least those who actually attend. There’s quite a few who think of themselves as superior and go to other lectures. But that’s no matter.”
Luo Xiao lightly nodded his head to show that he understood what she meant. “Are they your friends?”
“Friends? There are a few I’m close to, but overall I don’t consider them friends. They are too arrogant at times,” Jin Chuan quietly huffed in amusement, looking at Luo Xiao for a moment with her bright blue eyes.
For a moment, Luo Xiao felt as if she could see right through him – a feeling he found both weird and unique. Regardless of the look she gave him, a moment later she just smiled to herself and opened the door to the small room where the soul studies lecture were to be.