27 Dining hall
"Right foot forward, and punch out," Elder Xing said dodging backward. "Use the flames to form fireballs, and continue with them."
"Why," Bai Qi said huffing, "the fireballs don't ever hit you, and it's just a waste of energy."
It had been two hours already, with Bai Qi trying every trick in his limited arsenal to hit Elder Xing, though he kept missing by just a margin. Evry fireball he threw missed, every punch hit either the air or was pushed aside by Elder Xing's staff, every spike formed from the ground would be off by an inch or to, Elder Xing taking small and quick steps to move aside as soon as he felt the earth shift under him.
Sweat it against his eyes as it dripped down on his face, the training area feeling humid, even though they were in the middle of nowhere, fighting for the last hour. Bai Qi's lungs protested with every punch he drew out, his vision somewhat blurry, as he was clearly exhausted from those two hours of nonstop combat, trying to get his punches to land.
Elder Xing, on the other hand, was nonchalant as ever and didn't even break out a sweat.
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Bai Qi collapsed.
Elder Mu stared at him from a distance. "You know, trying to catch me off guard again using the same tactics won't work."
"I give up," Bai Qi said.
"Well," Elder Xing said. "It's about time for breakfast anyhow, we'll do the rest of your lessons afterward."
Elder Xing opened up a doorway leading to a cafeteria-style room, a large dining room with a high ceiling. He motioned Bai Qi to walk through.
Glowing white orbs illuminated the room, basking the tables in low comfy light. The front end of the room, the place where Bai Qi entered from had a giant hourglass behind him, the sand continuously falling. The hourglass had various markers, leading up the hourglass. As Bai Qi watched, the sand level reached one of the markers and a deep chime reverberated through the room. As it did so, gateways began to open up on the other end of the room, numbering up to a hundred in total.
The first table was curved outwards, and also on a raised platform, about a meter and a half high, giving the occupants of the table a view of the entire dining hall. It was clear that this was the elder's table, and only high ranking people would be sitting up there. Elder Xing then walked through the doorway and sat down at the head of the table, in the middle of the arch. He motioned Bai Qi to sit in the seat directly to the left of him.
As people began to slowly trickle into the dining room, the seats started to get filled at a faster rate. Each person who entered usually made a beeline for a certain table or a seat, giving Bai Qi the impression that the seats were fixed according to rank.
The table closest to the elders had exactly 10 seats, and the one directly behind it had 90. After that, the tables were organized in batches going vertically along the length of the hall, each holding about a hundred or so seats. The dining hall was wide enough to hold 4 of these tables in parallel, relatively comfortably.
Besides this arrangement, Bai Qi could tell that the tables were also arranged in a way that was sectioned off. Near the front, for example, there was one table that was made from what looked to be black wood, with candles sparsely running down the middle, giving it a gloomy look. Moreover, as the table slowly filled up, the seats on that table remained empty, and the seats closest to it on the consecutive table were also ignored. The tables closer to the front of the hall were generally more furnished, though the ones in the back weren't dilapidated by any means, rather those sported a clean minimalistic look.
After about 10 minutes, the rate at which people teleported into the hall tricked down to a stop, with one or two people coming in every few seconds. About two-thirds of the hall was filled, with empty seats littered from table to table. The elder's table was also empty, only one elder at the far end of the arch, reading something quietly. Elder Xing cleared his throat, and the elder looked up, glancing at Bai Qi for a moment, and turned back to his duties.
Elder Xing seemed to be preoccupied with something, so Bai Qi continued to observe the dining hall. As he did so, he couldn't help but notice people glance at him from time to time, then turn to their neighbors to murmur about something, most likely him. It was quite interesting to watch, to say the least. Those that did notice him would tell their neighbors, who would then look up to see him, who would gossip with their neighbors, almost if a wave was moving across the entire hall.
From the corner of his eyes, Bai Qi saw a flash of light, as a doorway opened near him. He turned to look at the doorway, and Elder fang, the short pudgy elder that had greeted Bai Qi when he first arrived, walked out. The elder face lit up as he saw Bai Qi, and he briskly walked and somewhat ran over, as he came to greet him. "Bai Qi, the celebrity."
Bai Qi laughed. 'Why would I be a celebrity."
"You actually passed Elder Xing's training in record time. You also made Elder Mu lose a hefty sum in bets."
"Did Elder Mu make bets with other people besides me," Elder Xing asked, butting in.
"Made bets the other elders and hall masters, we cleaned him out," Elder Mu said laughing. "You should have seen the look on his face when you sorted his last bead. Xing said he looked like he saw his master come back from the grave to scold him."
"Oh, did Xing say that," a quiet voice asked from behind Elder Fang. "Care to elaborate?"
Elder Fang nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard Mu's voice, then turned around nervously laughing. "Banter, banter, Elder Mu. Simple small talk." Saying that Elder Fang plopped down on the seat next to Bai Qi. Elder Mu just huffed and took the seat next to Elder Xing.
"Oh, Elder Xing, I forgot to mention, the snakes escaped again," Elder Mu said nonchalantly. He reached out to the middle of the table and grabbed a piece of bread that he started to munch on. "Southeast side this time, about 40 or so, less than before but they are an upgraded grade, so the apprentices might want to know."
Elder Xing looked down from the window of information he was reading. "Again?"
Edler Mu snorted. "Don't know why you keep Fang around if he can't control even a few snakes."
"You're just mad because I got the phoenixes to try and mate with you that one time." Elder Fang looked at Bai Qi with a grin. "It was a joke, and a short-lived one, but it was glorious."
"Enough." Elder Xing said. 'Knock it off, we're adults here."
Elder Xing got up to address the dining hall. The whole place quickly fell silent, as the low voices and murmurs came to a halt. Elder Xing cleared his throat.
"Apprentices in the southeast side, Elder fang has informed me there has been a breakout from the beast sanctuary, some snakes have gotten loose. If you have any information or capture any snakes, let your branch tower know. Elder fang will foot the bill for any and all damages that snakes cause. That will be all. Let breakfast commence."
Elder Xing's voice thundered across the entire dining hall, the sound being amplified as it traveled along. Bai Qi had no doubts that the back of the hall heard Elder Xing's voice as if Elder Xing was standing only a few feet away, rather than a few hundred.
Edler Xing sat back down. As he did so, food other than the small bread appetizers began to appear. Bai Qi noticed many of the things that he had eaten during his training, as well as many new things filling up the entire table.
"Dig in," Edler Fang said, filling his plate with a bit of everything. He started to ravenously eat as if this was his last meal. "Free food for you."
"Taking care of the beasts really did a number on you, eh?" Elder Mu said, trying to poke at Fang.
"At least I don't look more and more like a plant every time I come out for sunlight Mu," Elder Fang said, jabbing back. He grinned because he knew Mu wouldn't be able to respond. Sure enough, Mu turned up his nose, and started to eat, ignoring Elder Fang.
Bai Qi followed Elder Fang's example, taking a bit of everything until his plate was filled. He then proceeded to eat it quietly, as Elder Fang, Mu, and Xing discussed the management of the sect.
Their conversation was mostly unintelligible to Bai Qi, hearing bits and pieces, not following along.
After breakfast was over, Bai Qi returned to the training area with Elder Xing.
"All the day's meals happen there," Elder Xing said. 'You get notified by your sect issued communication device."
Suddenly a thought popped into Elder Xing's head. "That's right, we didn't get around to giving you the basic necessities yet."
Elder Xing waved his hand, and a marble podium rose from the ground. The podium expanded to form a table. On the table were assortments of different things, a light green ring, a jade rectangle, a gold coin, and a stack of 50 silver coins, a stack of 50 bronze, a few scrolls, and three metallic gold pins. The first one was shaped like the mage tower, the second a shield, and the third a lamp.
I promised a chapter on Sunday, so here I am 15 minutes before the day is ending to fulfill my end of the promise.
We ended the week with 144 power stones, an all-time new high for this novel. :))
To those that voted daily, you guys are the real MVP.
Each chapter takes anywhere from 2-8 hours to write, especially the longer ones where I have to cross-check information, rewrite drafts, etc. There were also the problems where I deleted my chapters by accident, so those def set me back.
Thanks for sticking with the novel, for the readers that have been here from month 1 of the novel. Silverbro and SkylarWolfe, looking at you two. :))
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