The Mechanism Hall had different levels of puppets. These puppets could mimic the thoughts and actions of martial practitioners and would improve the more they fought. So, fighting with them was akin to fighting with an expert. Lin Yun could still face beasts on Cloud Horizon Mountain, but there was a difference between beasts and martial practitioners.
The Mechanism Hall was divided into two sections, one for the outer disciples and another for the inner disciples. Compared to the outer section, the inner section was much more spacious and less packed. But no matter how crowded the outer section was, no outer disciples dared to set foot in the inner section.
When Lin Yun arrived, he attracted the attention of many outer disciples.
“Hey, who’s that?”
“Isn’t that that sword slave, Lin Yun? Why’s he here and not off polishing Su Ziyao’s sword?”
“Heh, you still haven’t heard the news? This sword slave is now an outer disciple. A few days ago, he even defeated that trash, Zhou Ping. In front of a ton of people, too.”
The previous Lin Yun was famous in the Azure Sky Sect for his sword cleaning skills. His feelings for Su Ziyao seemed widely known as well. For some reason, people were very concerned about his little crush.
“This brat dared to come to the Mechanism Hall after practicing in the way of the sword for just a few days?”
“I’ll bet that he won’t last five moves.”
“Isn’t five a little too much? I’ll go with three!”
In their hubris, the outer disciples began making bets. Lin Yun did his best to ignore them as he chose an open training stage and hopped onto it. The moment he stood on the stage, the battle puppet in the corner activated.
Whoosh! Swish! Swish!
The wooden puppet whirred into action and agily brandished its sword. It was Lin Yun’s first encounter with the wooden puppet. He didn’t expect it to be so fast. By the time he managed to unsheathe his sword, the puppet was already on him.
As the two swords clashed, Lin Yun was forced back, almost losing his footing and falling off the stage.
“Hahaha!” A wave of laughter erupted from the surrounding disciples.
The puppets were clearly not programmed for empathy as this one mercilessly swung down with its sword once more. Lin Yun, on the verge of defeat, gnashed his teeth and circulated his Pure Yang Art.
“What’s going on?”
“He’s just barely holding his ground. He only managed to avoid being forced off the edge by unleashing his internal energy.”
“Yeah, that must be it. How else could that weakling still be standing on the stage?”
Their stiffened smiles gradually recovered. They were confident Lin Yun had only endured through dumb luck. It wouldn’t take long for him to exhaust his internal energy. His defeat would be even more miserable then.
Convergent Streams, Flowing Wind!
Lin Yun erupted with boundless momentum. He decided offense would be the best defense in this fight and launched a relentless assault on the puppet. It took only 20 moves to force the puppet offstage.
The crowd was silent once more. Sheathing his sword, Lin Yun descended from the stage with a satisfied grin. He made great progress during this fight against the beginner puppet, but its strength was middling at best. He applied to challenge an intermediate puppet for better training results.
Pa!... Pa!... Pa!...
Lone applause cut through the silence. Chen Xiao appeared at the entrance of the hall with his group of lackeys in tow.
“Junior Brother Lin is truly a genius in the way of swords. You only started training a few days ago, but you can already defeat a beginner puppet. I’m truly filled with admiration for your talent!” he announced mockingly.
“Step aside! Step aside!” Chen Xiao’s lackeys pushed aside the crowd and moved to surround Lin Yun.
“What are they doing?”
“Does Senior Brother Chen have grievances with Lin Yun?”
“This doesn’t look good. Chen Xiao is a known hypocrite. The nicer he acts, the more ruthless he’ll be. No outer disciple ranked outside the top 10 wants to provoke him!” The murmur of the crowd grew louder as tensions rose.
“Senior Brother, you’re too kind,” Lin Yun replied.
“No need for that. I’m your Senior Brother, it’s my responsibility to look out for those below me. Don’t bother applying for an intermediate puppet. I’ll spar with you and guide you in the way of the sword,” Chen Xiao smiled as he tugged at the hilt of his sword. “Don’t worry, I’ll lower my cultivation to your level. And here, I’ve got three Body Refining Pellets. If you can take one hundred moves from me, they’re all yours.”
Chen Xiao wasn’t going to take ‘no’ for an answer and tossed the bottle over. The crowd grew as more outer disciples realized what was happening. The tension was palpable. It was obvious Chen Xiao came for Lin Yun.
“What’s the matter? You never hesitated to grovel when Senior Sister Su gave you pellets. Why aren’t you taking mine? Are you looking down on me?” The smile on Chen Xiao’s face disappeared, replaced by a sharp glare as he released his fifth stage aura. Lin Yun could feel a powerful pressure assailing him. It was a display of the difference in their cultivation.
Suddenly, a commotion broke out in the crowd.
“Senior Sister Su!”
Two people, a young man and a woman, appeared at the entrance of the Mechanism Hall. The young woman was Su Ziyao, donned in an azure dress. Her cold temperament struck a stark contrast with her radiant beauty. All eyes were on her the moment she stepped into the room.
Beside her was Wang Ning, the inner disciple who had been with Su Ziyao when she collected her sword. He carried himself gracefully and was almost as stunning as she was.
Though he did not know why, Lin Yun’s heart fluttered whenever he saw Su Ziyao. She was a girl blessed by the heavens, blessed with outstanding beauty and the cultivation talent to match. She’d already become the strongest inner disciple in the sect at a young age. In the whole Aquasky Nation, there weren’t many people that could compare to her.
Su Ziyao’s achievements placed her far above others. Simply looking at her was enough to make a person feel inferior. She was someone no one could hope to reach. Lin Yun could understand why the previous owner of this body was laughed at for his infatuation. A lowly sword slave actually fell in love with Su Ziyao? Could there be anything more hilarious?
But this was all a thing of the past. Lin Yun’s previous affections disappeared along with the original owner of this body. He’d already seen through her act.
When Su Ziyao showed up, Lin Yun could sense the eyes on him change. He was able to maintain his calm, but couldn’t help feeling uncomfortable. Putting on a solemn expression, he lowered his head and started walking away..
“Hey, sword slave. I don’t remember saying you could leave,” Chen Xiao called out. His four lackeys moved to block Lin Yun’s path.
“Chen Xiao, don’t push it...” Lin Yun said through his teeth.
“What’s wrong? I’m just trying to help you out. You know, giving you some pointers in the way of the sword. If you turn down such a generous offer, you can’t blame me for not letting you save face. It’s fine if you want to leave, but you have to admit before all of us that you only accept rewards from Senior Sister Su and no one else,” Chen Xiao said. He was more or less forcing a confession out of Lin Yun.
Of course, Su Ziyao would remain indifferent, but Lin Yun would be humiliated. Lin Yun could already picture Su Ziyao coldly rejecting him while the rest of the crowd jeered. Intense emotion rose from the recesses of his heart. It wasn’t rage nor helplessness, but a feeling of anguish that lingered from the original owner. A pain that lingered even after death, born from the humiliation of being a sword slave.
Lin Yun looked around. He saw the mocking gazes of the crowd. Taking a deep breath, he centered himself. This wasn’t his first time facing humiliation. Everyone in the Sword Cleaning Chamber looked down on him. Even trash like Zhou Ping took advantage of him. The entire sect treated him like a joke.
The previous owner of this body had wondered if he was wrong for falling for someone. Lin Yun would have told him that everyone had a soft spot in their hearts, and there was no harm in having feelings for another person.
I, Lin Yun, will guard your last dignity!