ACO 12

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Chapter 12: First Day as Sword Protégé

There are hundreds of protégés that have gathered in the Ode Sword Hall and Lu Xiankai is among them.

Qiu Shengjun is also presented and he is casting long sweeping stares at them, causing many of the protégés to shift uncomfortably.

Master Practitioner Longxi was overheard saying to Qiu Shengjun, “Enlighten Celestial, your presence honors us. Is there anything we can do for you?”

Qiu Shengjun says, “I am just passing through. You may continue the initiation ceremony of the protégés.”

Master Practitioner Longxi then proceeds to say aloud to the protégés that are presented, “I am Master Practitioner Longxi, your protégé mentor. There are more than three hundred of you here. There are old and new protégés among you. But the fact that you are here means that you are not true sword protégés here. As long as you have not become a true sword protégé yet, I can expel you for any reasons that I seem fit without a need to report to the clan protégé masters. Therefore you have to pass the trials that I have set for you and quickly elevated your strength.”

He pauses for his words to sink in before adding, “Every six months, there will be an assessment to determine if you are fit to be promoted and to join the rest of the sword protégés at the Advance Ode Sword Hall.”

“I have grouped everyone into a group of 4. In your group, you are like protégé brothers and sisters. You will work as a team to overcome your trials. Men or women, you are all on equal footing here with no special privileges given. That is because you are sword protégés, the ones that will shoulder the responsibility of safeguarding the Honor Ode Clan against our enemies.”

“Unless a trial is going on, you must practice your swordplay three hours in the morning and three hours in the late afternoon.”

Master Practitioner Longxi points to his left where twelve stoic men are standing, “The twelve of them are celestial practitioners and they will be helping me to supervise your sword practice.”

“The Honor Ode Swordplay consists of twelve basic stances and twenty-four advance stances. The twenty-four advance stances will be available to you once you have passed the trials of the Ode Sword Hall and when you go to the Advance Ode Sword Hall…”

Lu Xiankai looks silently at Ma Biao, Chu Hai and Yuwen Feng, “So I am struck with them for now?”

Master Practitioner Longxi gives a great shout all of a sudden, “I want everyone to run round the Honor Ode Citadel and get familiar with all the mountain trails. After that, come back for your morning sword practices. You have better organized yourself in your group and to help each other to complete the run. The last ten groups to complete the run will have to stay back for two extra hours of sword practice. Do you hear? If yes, make your run now!”

With that, hundreds of protégés begin to make a dash for the entrance of the Ode Sword Hall!

Yuwen Feng says to them as they make a dash to follow the rest, “Quickly, let’s run together. It is easy to lose track of each other when there are so many of us.”

He turns to look at Chu Hai, “You can run?”

Chu Hai nods lightly but it is obvious that he is a weak runner for he is already breathing hard.

Ma Biao says to him, “Follow my pace. It is unlikely we can emerge among the winning groups but it is even worse if we don’t complete the run.”

Lu Xiankai says, “That will be at least twenty miles of run, all the more difficult especially because of the mountainous terrains outside.”

In his short time here, he had already surveyed the grounds of the Honor Ode Citadel.

Ma Biao looks at him with a hostile look, “Then I hope that you don’t lag behind us because I won’t wait for you…”

In the end their group is indeed one of the last groups to arrive. Chu Hai is completely exhausted and they had stopped several times along the way to assist him.

Lu Xiankai did not even sweat for it is as easy as taking a stroll.

Yuwen Feng is the second fittest in the group but even then he is tired from the run and has sweated profusely.

Lu Xiankai smiles to his group, “It seems that today we have to stay back for two extra hours of sword practice.”

Yuwen Feng nods, “It seems that almost all the groups that lag behind are from the group that had just passed the initiates yesterday. The older protégés are tougher and have more time to build up their stamina and strength. This is something that we have to improve upon.”

Chu Hai smiles bitterly and is overwhelmed with guilt, “My apologies…”

But Ma Biao pats him on his shoulder and says, “It is alright. It takes time.”

Yuwen Feng notices that Lu Xiankai is looking at the runners from above and asks, “What is so interesting about looking at the losers?”

Lu Xiankai smiles and points at the female protégés runners, “Don’t you think that some of the ladies here are pretty?”

Yuwen Feng is startled but he mutters, “Yes, these women have fierce spirits or else they won’t have passed the sword trial.”

Lu Xiankai sighs often, “You really need to be less tense and less dense.”

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