Read Clear Amber Hammer King: A Douluo Dalu Fanfiction - Chapter 16 online

Chapter 16: Chapter 16

Flender was exactly the kind of person you'd see in one of those real-time strategy games sending peons out to fight armies. But, at least I'd like to think he means well.

We all stood in a circle by the academy's outskirts, with teacher Zhao by the side. Interface told me it was ten in the morning right now, and we were ordered by Flender to start making our way to the forest., or camp out if we don't make it by then.

"Little Jin," Mubai said, "you lead in the front, with Xiao Wu and Zhuqing at your flanks. Rongrong and Oscar, you two stay in the middle, and me, Tang San, and Hongjun will guard the rear."

We all nodded and said, "Understood."

Mubai continued, "Should we encounter any trouble, Rongrong should boost both little Jin, Tang San and Hongjun first with power to meet our foe, and Xiao Wu and Zhuqing with speed should they find opportunities to attack. I'll make sure nothing happens to Rongrong and Oscar, and Oscar will pass out sausages for recovery with Tang San covering for the retreating person."

We all gave another round of affirmatives.

"Next is our movement formation," continued Mubai, "Rongrong shouldn't use her spirit at all to conserve spirit power, as well as to avoid attracting suspicion, and Oscar will supply us all with sausages as we run to keep up our conditions. Should they need any help with movement, I will support Oscar, and Tang San will Rongrong."

Xiao Wu pouted at that, and Tang San spoke up, "Perhaps we should have little Jin do so instead?"

Oscar this time was the one to pout, but his expression dissipated soon enough.

Rongrong then shook her head and said, "Fine, let's just avoid trouble. Little Jin, I trust you won't let me come to harm?" Her smiled hid something ferocious.

"And risk your grandpa flaying me alive?" I said with a shrill tone. I puffed out my chest and continued, "Of course not my dearest princess!"

She sighed at that, and the matter was settled. I was hoping to work on synthesizing more nitroglycerin later in the night, but I guess this changed a few things.

As a former student of chemistry, I put all my lab instructors to shame by storing the darn stuff on its own in a little vial in Inventory, but with the help of spirit power, getting the stuff to not explode was a cinch. Now I just needed something to keep it inert like fine sand or diatomaceous earth if I could find the stuff, but in all this time I still hadn't been able to find it. Sure, I could just throw it out in vials, but that defeated the point of a safe and usable anytime explosive.

The eight of us broke into a run following the slowest person's pace, Rongrong's, while Zhao Wuji ran behind us as insurance, and our goal was to go exactly where I thought we would: Star Dou Forest. I was hoping to save ourselves a second journey by breaking through together with Xiao Wu before it, but oh well. We could just go there again later.

The same forest scene as last night played out, but this time with us in the lead and not going all out. Parkour with spirit power helped me maintain a steady rhythm, gliding over moss covered branches and swinging around sharp corners, while Zhuqing favored quick straight dashes and Xiao Wu hopped about just like her spirit.

I glanced a look back to see Rongrong running together with Oscar, but not taking to the trees like we did. It was a consequence of their being tool spirit masters and of the auxiliary type. I just happened to practice moving around enough on difficult terrain, but beast spirit masters had the best advantage when it came to having stronger bodies.

Every thirty minutes, Oscar would pass us all sausages each, and though we had a run-in with some stray pack of spirit beast wolves, my Shock Domain was enough to scare them away. I would've wanted to absorb them as well, but the major fuck up from all those years ago made me think otherwise. It was best to wait until my third or fourth ring before I went all out.

The journey was uneventful after that, and the constant blur of trees let my mind wander about.

Uncle Xiaogang agreed with my theory of having twice the capacity for each spirit ring, and following the trends of my cultivation so far, I should be able to get something at around five thousand to six thousand years for my next. It was absurd at first, but the math checked out. My first ring was near a thousand, and the next was at two, then adding the two together and doubling it then gave me the terrifying number I needed to fill.

His calculation though for Tang San was even more absurd. Apparently, he underestimated the resilience of his student's Blue Silver Grass, and to actually intake three times the cultivation years of his first ring from the four-hundred-year snake, to the thirteen-hundred tree, then finally the four-thousand-year mantis, then surely, he should already be able to get a twelve-thousand-year ring next.

Monsters, was what uncle Xiaogang called us, completely baffled but smiling all the way, and the rest of our family could only celebrate at the possibilities.

We stopped our running to take a quick break when the sun was highest to conserve energy.

Already used to the motions, me and Tang San had already taken out some bamboo mats for people to sit on, and I got our cooking tools out and ready for a quick meal. I set a pot of water to boil shortly after making sure the cookware was clean, and set aside a few spices to flavor the soup with. Running like this required carbs to function, so a chowder was best to give everyone something easy to eat but still just as nutritious.

"I didn't expect the heir of the Clear Sky sect to know the ways of the road," teacher Zhao said, looking the make-shift camp once over.

Rongrong stood next to me, watching me handle the ingredients with a knife, and the fantastic oddity that was my spirit stove. It was a marvelous find in Heaven Dou capital's auction house, and a sort of weaker version of Tang San's mobile forge.

"I had to travel a lot when I was younger," I said.

Teacher Zhao looked surprised. "And the furthest you've been?"

"I've been to Silvers City before near the sea," I said. Out of curiosity for why the fuck sea food stuffs were so damn expensive. Besides 'stay the fuck away' from the sea though, I didn't learn much else.

Zhuqing sat alone with Mubai hovering near her, and her mat was next to Oscar and Hongjun's, while Xiao Wu sat with Tang San, and teacher Zhao had one of his own. Rongrong was supposed to sit by Zhuqing, but stayed with me instead.

A few minutes passed and the pot came to a boil, I started sautéing some garlic and ginger in another pot with butter, then added in some salted pork for extra flavor. When the aroma started to come out, I poured in the boiled water then thickened it with flour and shredded flat bread. Later came in the black peppers, some rosemary, a bit of chili flakes to get the blood going, and some a bit more salt to taste. Noodles were sort of an option, but I decided against it in favor of some carrots and scallions for color and flavor instead.

Xiao Wu then hopped over and smiled. "Little Jin cooks well for a man," she said to Rongrong, "and if you ask nicely, he'll even make you these sweet little cakes with a sweetened sauce he calls pancakes."

Rongrong stared intently into my eyes and said, "You must." Then shook her head, curiosity turning into transparent intent. "You will," she ordered.

I stared straight back and sighed. "Fine."

When the soup came to another boil, I let it simmer for a while to join the conversations. The three older boys were bantering on their tastes with women, but a peeved Zhuqing kept Mubai from treading into deeper waters. Eventually, the topics fell to me.

"How does a little master know how to cook?" Mubai saod, looking way too much at the pot.

"Who gives a shit if he knows!" Hongjun said, already drooling. "Quick, little brother, tell us what you're making instead."

"It's a simple soup for lunch and should go well with Oscar's sausages," I said. Just thinking of the salty goodness of those saveloys together with the smooth and steady base of the chowder. "It has flour and flatbreads mixed in to give us energy, and some choices spices and vegetables to add to the taste."

Oscar smiled to that little tidbit and nodded my way.

"More sausages?!" said Hongjun. "Don't you get tired of sausages?"

Xiao Wu stood up and said, "No," with the flattest and gravest tone. She shook her head and continued, "If there's something wrong with little Jin besides his masochism…"


"…then it's his horrible stubbornness for food," Xiao Wu continued. "He'll tell you to eat vegetables and the like but he won't give a crap about what he eats if he likes it. And that could mean this same soup for two weeks straight: breakfast, lunch, and dinner."

Everyone else looked over at Tang San, who nodded, saying nothing more.

"If it has all the nutrients and vitamins you need, there's nothing wrong with that, and I'm the one cooking here," I said. I always like what I cook, and I've had enough of this world's bland dishes for the last six years of my life. And salt was so damned expensive in the capital, hence the small fortune I made with that one trip to the sea. Not having to worry about carrying capacity sure had its wonders.

Hongjun groaned into his hands, but thanked me anyway when I started passing the soup. Oscar made more of his two sausages, and I passed some more flat breads together with them. With my Crown, running well into the night wasn't a problem so we could take as much time as we needed during these breaks to rest up then move whenever.

Hongjun and teacher Zhao finished theirs before I finished passing out the others' bowls, and it was a good thing I used one of my bigger pots. Tang San and Xiao Wu had tasted this recipe before during our trip to Xianji for their iron mines, and I remembered grandpa Shan complaining about it on the fourth day we had the same stuff. Nobody else knew much about cooking save for boiling eggs or grilling meats, so they were at least thankful for the flavorful foods.

At the end of our meal, Oscar was the first to talk. "I never knew I could enjoy my own sausages like that," he said with a solemn expression.

I clapped him on the back and looked into his eyes before saying, "I can show you much more than that."

Mubai laughed hard together with Hongjun, and Tang San only looked at them weird. Zhao Wuji joined in on the fun together with Rongrong and Xiao Wu, and Oscar shuffled back a bit.

Zhuqing tsked, and muttered, "Idiots."

"Who knew little Ao's pretty face would net him a man instead?!" said Mubai.

"He has good sausages," I said, meaning everything I said, but the humor wasn't lost on me.

Rongrong burst out laughing at that, joining Hongjun who was doing vulgar gestures, but the rowdiness died down in a flash, all eyes on the girl. Xiao Wu, Zhuqing, Oscar and Mubai were all stunned with what they saw, and Tang San had on a difficult expression.

"That's new," I said, and shrugged.

Rongrong looked around and immediately went beet red—and I was using the metaphor without an actual real-world example because beets didn't grow here dammit. The pink-haired girl then put down both arms still in that unnatural form, one hand holding the crook of the elbow with the fist pointed up, and straightened out her pristine white dress.

She cleared her throat, turned to me with a sad smile and spoke, "I guess my poor buns lost to that big sausage uncle after all."

Shit went wild.

Hongjun went red in the face from lack of air due to all his laughing and Mubai's face hadn't changed since Rongrong dropped the bomb. Tang San was blushing hard, and Xiao Wu just kept laughing, though if from the joke or San's listlessness, I didn't know. Teacher Zhao had on a straight face ever since, and Oscar was blushing with a very flustered expression.

I waggled my eyebrows at him and Hongjun started wheezing and coughing and Mubai finally shook himself out of his stupor. Tang San opened his mouth to speak but no words came out, and Xiao Wu kept laughing while pointing at him.

Zhuqing sighed, and again said, "Idiots," but this time without hiding anything.

When the laughter finally died down for real, I stood up, gathering everyone's attention, and said, "For the record though, I'm more into older women." I winked at Rongrong with a very obvious gesture.

"Who are you calling old?!" she said, and threw her steel bowl at me.

I cleaned up after us with some baking soda I happened upon a peddler selling sacks of back in Gonghu city, and stored all my dinnerware back into my ring. Camping out with everything and the kitchen sink was a very liberating experience.

We resumed our running, more smiles around this time than earlier, and with hope a lot more like a team now than before.

It took us a good four days of journeying whenever we could before we reached the frontier town around nighttime, and by then Hongjun was already sick of eating my food over and over again, though the others held out somewhat.

"I told you so," said Xiao Wu to Hongjun as they practically tackled the first person they saw selling food.

"Fuck," said teacher Zhao, joining them, "you owe everyone dinner here for what you did, little Jin."

"Then you all better bring your own food next time we do this!" I said.

We then squared ourselves away to the best hotel there was—read as the least dirty—and we all settled down for some dinner other than soup and sausages.

"Did you make sure to leave room for a proper meal?" Tang San asked Xiao Wu who was still snacking on a chicken skewer.

"It's fine," said Hongjun with a bag of the same stuff. "After what little Jin made us go through, she should be allowed to treat herself."

Xiao Wu actually agreed with fatty for once, and Rongrong was quietly nibbling on a skewer herself. Our eyes met, and the girl sighed, and gestured at Zhuqing next to her doing the same to some grilled fish fillet. Mubai called a waitress over and passed Hongjun the menu, and teacher Zhao pointed at some choice dishes. Oscar didn't skimp either on making his displeasure known.

I figured as the guy who keeps making them, he was surely the first to get sick of the taste.

"We'll have these three pork dishes, and this and that chicken, and that one fish for the poor lady over there who had to eat the same soup again and again and again for four days," said Hongjun in one breath. "And please also leave out any carrots in your dishes, I don't think anyone here besides that freak" —he snorted in my direction— "would like any right now."

Nods came from everywhere.

"And if you have any rice wine or beer," added teacher Zhao, "give me some too, I need to wash out that infernal taste off my mouth."

The waitress left with a strange smile and a long list of orders, and showed her list to a very pleased manager. The prices weren't steep enough to cost several gold coins, but at a total of around thirty silver , the place wasn't cheap either. Everything was more expensive here at so far away from everything else and so close to danger.

"I still can't believe Rongrong's grandpa is the Chen Xin," said Mubai with a low voice.

Rongrong's grandpa Sword was famous for standing at the top of all currently known Titled Douluo, even above uncle Hao, but definitely not above Spirit Hall's supposed rank ninety-nine peak Douluo whom uncle told me about, and was apparently the reason why him and our family was in hiding.

Thanks to coming from a family of seven Titled Douluo, I understand from their own experiences that the difference in power between their individual ranks was like the difference of Heaven and Earth when it came to matching spirit powers in the tens, twenties, and thirties and so on levels. Uncle Hao and father's rank ninety-fives were like rank fifty spirit masters trying to go up against—well—a Titled Douluo, and adding another few rank ninety-twos and ninety-threes didn't add much to the equation. And that's assuming we only went up against that one guy, not counting the for sure other Douluos Spirit Hall was hiding.

Teacher Zhao only nodded. "I'd met Sword Douluo once before, and it was good I wasn't causing trouble with Rongrong's clan at the time."

"Just imagine getting hounded by him for giving Rongrong a precious gem," I said, and teacher Zhao shook his head at me and started clicking his tongue

I noticed Rongrong changed out her ruby earrings for sapphire ones some time ago, contrasting her light pink hair with a striking blue. "What precious gem?" she said. "What you gave me was an uncut and unpolished rock." She hmphed and turned away, finishing the rest of her skewer.

Oscar paled at the topic, and Hongjun just stared straight into my eyes and said, "Has little Jin always been a crazy maniac looking for fights?"

Tang San spoke up, "If you count not caring whether poisoned and coming back up until you hurt him enough, then yes."

Xiao Wu scrunched her nose. "Fighting little Jin is like an exercise in masochism, especially under that second ability of his."

Teacher Zhao nodded some more and added, "He's the only one in your current generation who's ever come to me for instruction without Flender's orders."

"Such is the confidence—or arrogance, of someone with twin spirits," Mubai said, shaking his head.

Rongrong then pinched my side. "Now that I remember, how come you never told me you had those weird spirits of yours?"

I chuckled, remembering the gap between her angelic face and that vulgar mouth of hers, and said, "Just like how you tell dirty jokes in front of your grandpas?"

Chuckles went around the table.

"Fair," Rongrong said, letting me go.

"Anyway," I said, "how did you all end up in Shrek Academy anyway?"

Mubai went first. "I ran away from home to pursue strength and to avoid certain… responsibilities." His eyes darted to Zhuqing and she narrowed her eyes at him. For sure, these two had some history at least.

"Teacher Zhao there was the one who found me," said Oscar, smiling teacher Zhao's way. "We came from the same village and by luck he was visiting his mother when he happened on some kid with full innate spirit power on his awakening."

"You never told us you had full innate spirit power," I said.

Oscar just shrugged, but Rongrong stiffened up next to me. "You never asked," he said.

"Dean Flender found me after hearing of a rumor," Hongjun said, and the usually perverted smile he had on was instead resolute and steady. "I came from a village where everyone had shared in the same vein of fowl spirits, and I won the lottery with my Evil Fire Phoenix, but with no experienced spirit masters around, all I was was a kid who couldn't keep it in his pants." Hongjun sighed. "The dean saved me from my own Evil Fire, and I owe my life to him."

There was a moment of silence.

"Will you need to take care of it tonight?" I said, remembering the signs we passed coming here. "There should be a place nearby if you need it."

The girls blushed but didn't avert their eyes, and the guys all seemed inured of it already, then teacher Zhao spoke up, "Such matters should be left to us teachers instead, worry not little Hong, little Jin, I will settle this."

Hongjun shook his head with a small smile. "Little brother and teacher are both too good," he said. "But the Evil Fire hasn't acted up yet, and what little is there would instead help increase the temperature of my flames."

In the lull of that moment, Zhuqing spoke next. "I'm here to get stronger," she said. The girl was a person of few words, but her presence wasn't one to go unnoticed. People from the other tables were looking her all over not just once or twice, and it was Mubai who glared at them back in her place. Others were also checking out Rongrong and Xiao Wu, but not as much as the girl who could only be called mature for her age. Me, Tang San, and Hongjun all took turns glaring back at those vulgar men, and Oscar was getting some looks himself, with him cringing adding some much needed humor to the situation.

"I'm here to get stronger too," said Rongrong, "and where better than a place hailed to cater to little monsters."

I raised an eyebrow at her. "I honestly never heard of this academy until Tang San's master told me of it, so how did you?"

Rongrong didn't miss a beat when she puffed out her chest and said, "Our sect's eyes and ears are simply better than yours."

And yet she told me her father didn't know of this, so that was either a lie or he knew more than he let on. Also, she should at least have some guards nearby if ever.

The inn's cozy atmosphere was broken when a group of eight, all dressed in pristine white spirit academy robes with the name Blue Sunshine on in unsurprising blue embroidery came in. They were led by an older looking man with a greasy black pony tail, maybe about the same age as uncle Zhi, and they all practically sneered at everyone else. There was only one lady among them, and the rest were all tall dudes with similar close cropped hairstyles. Their academy ought to be sponsored by Spirit Hall to be able to display the sword emblem on their backs.

All eyes in the inn went to them, looking flashy and all, and Mubai and Hongjun both looked on with annoyance, while teacher Zhao with amusement. The lead person then gestured for service, and the manager who thanked us earlier went to them, bowing all the way until they found a seat.

"Acting so high and mighty, these trashes," Teacher Zhao said.

The lead man looked over to our table, and the manager froze like he'd just had a heart attack.

Oscar leaned in to whisper, "This should be fun."

Hongjun next to him had a fierce smile as well, but Tang San pursed his lips and said, "Looking for trouble isn't something honorable people should do."

Oscar shook his head, "And yet our dean tells us spirit masters who don't are no good, only with pressure and enough tempering through combat can true monsters be made."

Teacher Zhao didn't break eye contact with greasy ponytail.

"Uhh, maybe we shouldn't," I said, tapping teacher Zhao's foot with my own.

He just smiled back something nasty. Hongjun then leaned in close to me and said, "If that offer of yours to suppress my Evil Fire extends to her, I might not mind emptying it out."

I frowned. "I don't think I can wing-man for a twelve-year old hitting on someone older than him by at least five years," I said, though I appreciate the courage.

Our waiter then came in with our food, but one of those robed students stood from their just settled table and walked to our area too quickly to be anything but deliberate, then without surprise, the guy bumped into the server.

Before I could react, Tang San had already caught the dishes and set them down on the table, even helping the waiter get steady on his feet. He then turned to the now isolated guy, "You could've gotten your clothes dirty, honored spirit master.

"Oh my," said the guy, "how clumsy of me." The least he could do was make his acting believable.

Teacher Zhao, Hongjun and Xiao Wu wasted no time with grabbing at the food, and I set some portions aside for Rongrong and Zhuqing, the more refined of our group. Mubai and Tang San could fend for themselves, and I didn't like the cheap smell of the cuisine.

The Blue Sunshine guy then circled round too close to Mubai's seat—and stopped walking, his face clearly in pain, and Teacher Zhao started laughing with a drumstick in hand at his miscalculation. If they guy got hurt with that exchange just now, then he was surely weaker than Mubai.

There was an awkward moment as the person in question looked up to that guy, meeting his eyes with a flat stare. "You should watch your step," Mubai said. "You could get hurt."

The dude went red but stayed his ground and said, "I only stopped because I thought you'd get hurt."

I sank with my head down on the table as the situation kept pointing further and further South. Oscar was engrossed in the chaos unfolding while snacking on the mapo tofu, and Hongjun didn't give two shits like Zhuqing, only eating. Rongrong raised an eyebrow at me, and Xiao Wu's expression looked less like a rabbit and more like a cat that found something to play with.

Two more students walked up, and one of them asked, "Is there anything wrong here?"

As much as I liked fighting to get my cultivation up, I was also not stupid enough to act without making sure of my opponent's hand. That teacher of theirs was still an unknown element, and to crumble from Mubai's unenhanced body, that one guy was at least less than thirty-seventh ranked in spirit power. Sure we had teacher Zhao, but there was a lot of things one could live through, and with Oscar here, that list only grew in length.

"Your friend there bit off more than he can chew," Mubai said with a smile, and I swear I heard 'oohs' and 'aahs' from the people who'd already cleared the area around us.

One of the two newcomers sneered and moved to shove Mubai who only raised a hand and stopped the guy cold. "This really isn't turning out like you expected," he said.

"Such rude students," that older man said from across the dining hall.

My chin was touching the table now, and I did everything I could to stop my cringing at the sad scene playing out. It reminded me of all the times I tried flirting and failed, then trying again only to get shut down even harder, sometimes even getting thrown out by the bouncer.

Teacher Zhao spoke up, "It's not our fault you prissy farts don't even know how to push."

Greasy teacher scowled and said, "Perhaps we should settle this ourselves."

"Of course, trash would need others to fight their battles for them," teacher Zhao said. Then leaned in to whisper to me, "Haven't you been itching for some pointers since yesterday?"

"What?" I said. "I never meant anything like his." Going all out in a controlled environment was what I was aiming for where all my bases where covered. Not some backyard brawl.

The man went red in the face, and the manager pleaded with all of us to take it outside.

"You heard the man," teacher Zhao said, and gestured for all of us to come out.

I sat on my haunches drawing circles on the ground as teacher Zhao pretty much negotiated the impromptu fight. People were already crowding around the small dirt street, eager to see the free show. There weren't too many forms of entertainment in this world, and other than gossip or the more… primal urges, the populace enjoyed watching spirit masters sock each other just as much as the average person did basketball back home.

"Hah!" said teacher Zhao, "I'll tell you now, these two are auxiliary spirit masters." He pointed at Oscar and Rongrong. "But everyone else is free to choose."

Greasy pony tail kept up his sneer, and said, "Wang Yu, you go first."

One of the guys stepped forward, white robe billowing under the torch's lights.

"So," teacher Zhao said, "I did say you're free to choose your opponent."

They all looked like they were in their late teens, and to be getting into a fight with a bunch of tweens was already beyond sad. "Then we pick your eldest," said grease tail.

Mubai shrugged and stepped forward. "Dai Mubai, thirty-seventh rank Spirit Grandmaster, Evil Eyes White Tiger," he said, releasing his spirit as his body grew another two inches, and all his muscles bulged out, becoming defined and his nails turning into sinister knife-like talons. Then, three spirit rings appeared behind him, two yellow and one purple.

That Wang Yu seemed to freeze under Mubai's gaze, eyes going wide.

"Well," said Mubai, raising an eyebrow, "your spirit?"

Grease tail tsked, and all the other students seemed to hide behind him.

Wang Yu bit his lip and said, "Wang Yu, twenty-fifth rank Spirit Master, Trident." A long trident appeared in his hands, and two rings appeared: one white and one yellow.

Mubai stared straight at the guy, then turned to our group. "I can't do this," he said with a pitiful tone.

"Fight me," said Wang Yu. "If you value your honor, then face me." He pointed his trident at Mubai, already somewhat red in the face.

All eyes there looked them both on, but none dared to break the silence.

Mubai scratched his head. "I went and looked for trouble and got… what I wanted, I think."

Wang Yu screamed as he charged, his yellow ring shining together with the tip of his weapon, and Mubai's purple ring shone, his body expanding further under his robes.

The prongs of the blade hit Mubai in the chest drawing blood, but penetrated no deeper than its points. Mubai seemed in pain somewhat, but his pitiful smile said otherwise. "Can we stop this now?" he said.

Grease tail stepped out, "Wang Yu, you lost. But how can I take this indignation to our school lying down? You, their teacher, fight me and I'll take back our pride!"

Zhao Wuji laughed at that, and grease tail went even redder. "Why don't you show your spirit first before I do mine and I'll decide whether you're worth the trouble."

The man no longer spoke, and the rest of his students all looked on with indignation. Mubai on the other hand was handed a big sausage by Oscar without a word.

"Fine," said grease tail, "I am Ye Zhi-Qiu, instructor of Blue Sunshine Academy, rank fifty-sixth Spirit King."

Teacher Zhao frowned hard, and looked over at me like he got cheated out of a big bet in the stands.

"Don't look at me," I said. "You started this."

He sighed, and Ye Zhi-Qiu then released his spirit, his back enlarging to produce a rounded shell and his limbs contracting to a third, behind him, five rings floated up: one white, two yellow, and two purple.

Tang San and Xiao Wu looked on in surprise, and grease tail took that in stride and sneered. Rongrong then started giggling with Hongjun and Oscar, and Mubai just scratched his head. I wanted none of this.

"This trash talks a big game for being such a small fish," teacher Zhao said. "Little Bai, little San, Rongrong, you three sort this guy out." He crossed his arms and nudged the three to move forward.

"You still won't give me face despite this!" grease tail said. "Then don't complain if I hurt your little rascals!"

He rushed out with a shining purple ring, his body expanding in size together with that shell, and went straight for Rongrong.

Well, shit.

I jumped into his path the same time as Mubai who already had both a yellow and his one purple ring shining, body nearing Zhao Wuji's height without his spirit, and blocked his advance. Red light engulfed us all, and white swords and black rain littered grease tail's path as Mubai met him head on and was thrown away.

Everything happened so fast, and as the red light faded, there I was with my Hammer out and spitting blood, but at least Rongrong was safe.

"Real smooth, little Jin," said teacher Zhao, his grip clamped tight against his just as tough arms.

"Y-you?!" said grease tail. "Why do you have that?"

I wiped the blood off my mouth, Rongrong's light filling me with strength, as Tang San, Xiao Wu, Hongjun, Oscar, Zhuqing, and Mubai all stepped forward with their spirits and rings out. When Blue Sunshine's students all saw the ideal and more than ideal spirit ring configurations, they all turned tail and ran—and teacher Zhao finally unleashed his, all seven rings, three of which were black, and grease tail could only look on in horror.

Me though, I was just happy I reached the twenty-eighth rank just now.

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