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Chapter 128: The Light of the Seagods Pavillion

    The Sun Moon Imperial Soul Engineering Academy's Illustrious Virtue Hall.

    This was a spacious great hall, and every decoration was styled with metal, and were mainly pale-gold in color. The ornaments weren't extravagant, but they were full of tactile qualities. A horizontal inscribed board hung from the top of the great hall's entrance, and the enormous pale-gold characters had an intimidating feeling about them - Illustrious Virtue Hall.

    "Stand up." There was a person sitting in a chair in the center of the great hall's inner regions. He looked not more than forty years of age, and he wasn't tall, yet he was robust. A simpler way of explaining his appearance would be that he was short and plump.

    Long hair wasn't suitable for a person with a short and plump build, but he had a flowing lock of long reddish-brown hair that draped behind his head, and this made his short and thick neck even more obscure.

    There was a person prostrate on the ground, and he stood up at this moment as if he had just received great amnesty.

    "Please punish me, Hallmaster. I failed to lead the team to success." This person's appearance became apparent once he stood up; it was the teacher that had led the Sun Moon Imperial Soul Engineering Academy's students into the finals. However, his face was overcome with a haze of terror, and it appeared as if he was as frightened as he could possibly be.

    The short and plump middle-aged man was actually the Illustrious Virtue Hall's famous Hallmaster, and that meant he was also Xiao Hongchen and Meng Hongchen's grandfather. One wouldn't be able to tell his age purely from his appearance.

    "You didn't do anything wrong. There were many coincidences and unforeseen circumstances that you couldn't control. Furthermore, you and your students' takeaways have been relatively fruitful even though a few people perished. As for the Judgment Sword, I will personally visit Shrek Academy, as we can't let it end up in their hands. The grand competition's results actually turned out to be disappointing, but I cannot be bothered with defeating Shrek Academy when they are having some internal issues."

    The Hallmaster's magnanimity and mercy took the teacher in charge by surprise, as the Hallmaster's temper wasn't so mellow if memory served. He raised his head and stole a glimpse, and he realized that there was a faint smile on the Hallmaster's pudgy face, as if he wasn't furious at all.

    "Thank you, Hallmaster." Only then did the teacher in charge dare to heave a sigh of relief.

    The Hallmaster's mood seemed to be on cloud nine. "Do you know which of your harvests I'm most satisfied with?"

    The teacher-in-charge tested the waters and said, "Is it because of the hundred thousand year soul beast embryo?"

    The Hallmaster shook his head and answered, "No. That may be part of the harvest, but we have also given up large amounts of wealth, so that can only be said to be a fair exchange. Of course, the embryo in our hands is different from the embryo ending up in other people's hands, but it has also brought much trouble to us. There have already been three batches of people who have attempted to steal it from the Illustrious Virtue Hall, and this exemplifies the crime of treasuring a cherished item. Furthermore, there's still the Godsealing Avatar. The Godsealing Avatar isn't worth much amongst the other Class 9 soul tools, but it can only be forged by Class 9 soul engineers. I do want to know which Class 9 soul engineer from the Sun Moon Empire sold this supreme treasure to the Star Luo Empire instead of handing it over to the Illustrious Virtue Hall."

    A hostile glare flickered in the Hallmaster's eyes as he spoke that last sentence, and this terrified the teacher in charge so much that he got down on his knees once more.

    "Continue guessing," the Hallmaster went on with a plain voice.

    "The... The..." Beads of sweat were breaking out on the teacher in charge's head, "Can it be the information we have obtained regarding Shrek Academy's students?"

    The Hallmaster answered, "That can be considered a part of it. Three twin martial souls - Shrek Academy is truly extraordinary, and they also have an Ultimate martial soul. Shrek Academy has already agreed to an exchange between our respective students, but the news from yesterday stated that the exchange will have to be pushed back due to some internal reasons in the academy. They will decide the exact postponement after their investigation. It seems like they're afraid of us making a move on their students! Still, I have to admit that Shrek Academy is the best in the entire Continent at attracting talents and soul masters. It's a pity. However, this still isn't the greatest takeaway from your expedition."

    The teacher in charge was a little lost as he gazed at the Hallmaster with perplexed eyes.

    The Hallmaster gradually stood up. He wasn't even one-and-a-half meters tall, but his girth was definitely over a meter-and-a-half. He placed his hands behind his back, and there was a flowing black robe embroidered with golden patterns covering his bulbous tummy.

    He sauntered before the teacher in charge as he suddenly raised his leg and sent him tumbling with a kick. "The only reason why I'm not going to kill you is because you have let Meng Hongchen and Xiao Hongchen realize the danger and urgency from this competition, and they now know it's time to focus and buck up. They took the initiative and requested to go into closed-door cultivation when they came back, and that is the greatest takeaway from your expedition. Get lost, and don't let me see you in the near future - if not, I will remember all the children who have passed away, and I will send you to the grave to accompany them."

    "Yes... Yes..." The teacher in charge was elated instead of feeling angry, as he knew he was going to live. He didn't even bother getting up, and just crawled out of the room.

    The Hallmaster's brows creased as he watched him crawl away. "The Taotie Douluo was personally at Star Luo City to hold down the fort. Fine! We shall meet again during the next Continental Advanced Soul Master Academy Soul Dueling Tournament five years later, and we shall see if the Taotie can hold back this toad. Hmph!"

    He turned around and walked towards the back of the hall. He strolled through the main hall and stopped before a metal statue by a certain spot in the wall. A sphere of light flashed before his chest, and a peculiar golden rune was printed onto the wall before him as if it had just flown out from inside his chest.

    The entire wall seemed to come alive in the next instant as it split open into two sides, while gears and machinery crackled within. There were several faint ripples of frightening energy that flickered when the wall first opened up, but the Hallmaster was undeterred and unmoving from beginning to end.

    He stepped into the crack, and the wall closed behind him.

    The Hallmaster arrived in a silent room without any windows at all after ten minutes.

    Everything inside this room was also made of metal. The ceiling, the floor and the walls were all filled with metal sculptures.

    A soul engineer would be able to tell that these metal sculptures had a similar functionality as formation arrays, but they were extremely sophisticated, and emanated a magnificent and elegant feeling.

    There was a squarish metal pillar erected in the center of the room. The metal pillar was about one and a half meters tall, and there was an object placed on top.

    It was a wooden base, and there were several hundred jewels of a myriad of colors inlaid on its surface. A sphere of air undulated faintly above this wooden base.

    This sphere of air was white. The tender white hues resembled streams of air, and there appeared to be several shapes glimmering faintly within, yet it was hard to perceive its profundity or arcane might simply by looking at it.

    This sphere of air was condensed, and seemed to surge left and right, as it were trying to break out of some barrier. The wooden base beneath it constantly released a barrier of pale-golden light that enveloped the air sphere within throughout the entire struggle, rendering it unable to break free.

    Yes, this wooden base was the Starlight Auction's final item up that was up for bidding - the Godsealing Altar, and the item sealed inside was the one-hundred-thousand year soul beast embryo.

    The Hallmaster squinted his eyes as he stood before the Godsealing Altar. He actually directly spoke to the one-hundred-thousand year soul beast embryo that was sealed inside the Godsealing Avatar.

    "I can feel your immense power. I have affirmed by speculation through various experiments that you're not a typical hundred thousand year soul beast. Anybody that tries to absorb you and assimilate you into a soul ring or a soul bone after obtaining you will definitely die a painful death. I can sense that even a powerful Titled Douluo will find it extremely difficult to absorb your strength, and it might even lead to a toxic backlash. Am I right?"

    The white air sphere grew quiet, as if it were listening intently to the Hallmaster's voice. A small human figure shimmered within the pale white mist, much like a human infant.

    "Therefore, I believe my guess is correct," the Hallmaster chuckled and said, "I am extremely clear about the Starlight Auction's background - they belong to the Star Luo Empire's royal family. Their intentions in putting you up for auction were meant to cause some trouble for me, and for me to wonder: who forged this Godsealing Altar? They wanted to use the fact that a person's treasure will arouse the envy of others to instigate powerful beings from across the Continent to attack the Illustrious Virtue Hall - so what? Let them come. This is a test for the Illustrious Virtue Hall's defense mechanisms, and the Illustrious Virtue Hall's disciples cannot live a life this smooth, can they?"

    "It's a pity, because Star Luo City has made a grave mistake, and that is the fact that they hadn't discovered your true power. That means I will have the last laugh. You're not some typical one-hundred-thousand year soul beast, but a soul beast with at least one hundred ninety nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine years of cultivation, except you haven't been able to break the bottleneck, am I right? This shouldn't be the first time you're attempting the soul beast's bottleneck, except you weren't successful in the end. I'm curious about something - according to what we humans know about you guys, soul beasts only have one chance to cultivate into human form after the one hundred-thousand year mark. However, how is it that you haven't broken through the capstone, yet you are still able to do this? I am very curious about this."

    "Don't worry, though. We will make the best use of you here. I will study you meticulously, and I will extract every single ounce of energy from you, so that your almost two hundred thousand years of cultivation will not be wasted. This is wonderful - maybe I can even lend you a hand, and help your overall strength break through that bottleneck, so that you will become a transcendent soul beast before I strip your power from you. It may be difficult for normal soul masters to absorb your power, but it's not that much of a challenge for me. It's a pity, because I already have nine soul rings, and I can only extract your power to bestow upon my prodigious grandson. Everybody will be in the same family in the end."

    The Hallmaster's eyes were tender, as if he were speaking to his own child, and there was even a tinge of benevolence within his voice.

    "Sssss..." The white mist abruptly crashed violently against the Godsealing Altar's golden light barrier, as if a wail had suddenly appeared in the Hallmaster's consciousness.

    The Hallmaster continued to grin as he said, "You should count yourself lucky, as there are hardly any treasures that are worthy of my emphasis and my cherishment. Do you know what a person's greatest agony is when he or she has reached the pinnacle? It's the lack of happiness. I can feel this blissful sensation from you, and I believe this blissfulness will be with me for quite a long time."

    ------

    At Shrek Academy's main gate.

    It was almost midday, and it was still lesson time. Shrek Academy's main gate felt extremely tranquil today as the myriad of vendors and merchants that would gather here on typical days were all absent. There were five people standing before the enormous gateway.

    The person standing in front was Shrek Academy's Martial Soul Deparment's Dean, Yan Shaozhe, and the Soul Tool Department's Dean, Xiao Lin'er.

    The three people behind them were: the Martial Soul Department's vice-Dean, Cai Mei'er, the Soul Tool Department's vice-Dean, Qian Duoduo and the Soul Tool Department's core teacher, Fan Yu, who was also Huo Yuhao's mentor.

    The four Deans were all present along with Fan Yu, who was almost set to become the Soul Tool Department's next vice-Dean. This group was substantial and monumental, but they were not accompanied by other teachers.

    Their heads were slightly tilted as they glanced towards the far end of the horizon, and everyone was standing silently in wait.

    Several figures that looked like tiny black dots gradually drifted into view one after another in the skies in the distance, and descended from the sky as the five of them looked on.

    "They have returned." A faint smile broke out on Yan Shaozhe's face.

    Xian Lin'er took a step forward and muttered, "They're finally back." Her eyes flowed with obvious excitement and exhilaration, and it was a wonder she wasn't trying to oppose Yan Shaozhe at every available opportunity like normal.

    Yes, the five of them were here to welcome the return of Shrek Academy's heroes.

    Several figures flitted onto the ground. The first person that came into view was the slovenly-dressed Elder Xuan, and he waved his large hand, and the others descending behind him caught the two stretchers in the sky.

    Xu Sanshi was still unconscious on the stretcher, but Jiang Nannan was wide awake. She was so thrilled when she saw the words "Shrek Academy" across the enormous gate that tears of excitement flooded from her eyes.

    Even though they hadn't even been gone for two months, they had experienced and gone through far too much over these two months.

    Bei Bei and Dai Yueheng caught Xu Sanshi's stretcher, while Huo Yuhao and Wang Dong were responsible for Jiang Nannan's stretcher. Everybody's eyes sparkled with excitement, and the younger ones all began to tear up.

    They had been through so much suffering, but they managed to defend Shrek's honor and glory. They were finally home, and they were finally standing before the main gate that they were so familiar with.

    "Welcome home, children." Yan Shaozhe and the others strode forward and welcomed them with open arms. All five of them paid their respects to Elder Xuan as they spoke before they arrived before Shrek Academy's marvelous students.

    Yan Shaozhe and Cai Mei'er managed to suppress their emotions, but Fan Yu couldn't control himself, and lunged forward as he pulled Huo Yuhao and He Caitou over. He scrutinized his two dear disciples, and only heaved a sigh of relief after he was sure that they were in one piece.

    He Caitou swallowed and said, "I didn't embarrass you master. I didn't embarrass Shrek."

    Fan Yu glanced at him, and then at Huo Yuhao beside him, whose face was flowing with tears, and he grabbed the both of them into a bear hug as he said, "Silly child. I am not afraid of you guys disappointing me - all I wish for is that everyone returns home safely!"

    This period of time was way too torturous and agonizing for Fan Yu. He wasn't even supposed to be here, as he was not yet the Soul Tool Department's vice-Dean.

    Fan Yu hadn't enjoyed a single day of peace ever since the main team members had returned with heinous injuries, and his heart began to beat out of his chest when Elder Mu decided to let Shrek Academy continue on in the Continental Advanced Soul Master Academy Soul Dueling Tournament with an incomplete team. He was extremely aware that the Continental Advanced Soul Master Academy Soul Dueling Tournament wasn't an entirely safe competition, and participants died almost time.

    He only had two direct disciples! Fan Yu and Zhou Yi didn't have their own children, and he had long treated He Caitou and Huo Yuhao as his own children. There were several times when he wanted to venture into Star Luo City, but was stopped by Qian Duoduo.

    How could Fan Yu not be elated, now that his prized disciples had returned home? This hardened man couldn't help it, and tears cascaded down his cheeks in an instant.

    The four Deans shook hands with the group before they personally led them all back into the academy. A small boat was already waiting on the the Sea God's Lake's shore.

    Everybody exchanged looks with one another as they turned towards the Deans with astonished looks on their faces.

    Yan Shaozhe smiled and said, "You have sacrificed so much for the academy. You continued on in the Continental Advanced Soul Master Academy Soul Dueling Tournament with an incomplete team, and eventually brought home the championship. This record will forever be etched into Shrek Academy's history, and the conference held within the Sea God's Pavilion has decided that everyone shall be rewarded - on the Sea God's Island, inside the Sea God's Pavilion."

    Neither Huo Yuhao nor Wang Dong knew what the Sea God's Pavilion was about, but Dai Yueheng and Ling Luochen were aware, and they instantly reacted with intense shock.

    The Sea God's Pavilion was Shrek Academy's cardinal location for official businesses and meetings, and it was also Shrek Academy's actual treasury. Shrek Academy's top secrets were all kept there, and nobody was allowed to enter besides the Sea God's Pavilion's Elders and the four Deans under normal circumstances. The opportunity to enter the Sea God's Pavilion was an incredible honor. Both Dai Yueheng and Ling Luochen had never heard of any student who had been allowed to go inside, and this was the case even for their seniors that participated in the previous Continental Advanced Soul Master Academy Soul Dueling Tournament and eventually took home the crown.

    Everybody got onto the boat, and Yan Shaozhe personally checked Xu Sanshi's health. He immediately passed on an order for both Xu Sanshi and Jiang Nannan to remain on Sea God's Island for treatment and recovery.

    Huo Yuhao knew that the Sea God's Pavilion existed, but he didn't really know anything much about it. He was anxious and excited when he was told that he was about to set foot on the island. Sea God's Island had something that was touted as the most impressive cradle for soul masters across the entire Continent - Shrek Academy's inner courtyard!

    The fact that Huo Yuhao, Wang Dong and Xiao Xiao were able to visit the island at such a young age was enough to excite them.

    The Sea God's Lake's surface area was immense, and it was far larger than the rest of Shrek Academy added together. The boat pierced through the layers of mist, and the shape of an island gradually drifted into view after about fifteen minutes

    The Sea God's Island only appeared to be roughly two square kilometers, and its surface wasn't flat and smooth at all. Instead, it seemed like a small mountain, with all kinds of buildings constructed upon it. The structures that were usually obscured behind the layers of dense mist finally appeared right before their eyes, and the excitement in their eyes grew ever more radiant.

    Even though everything was unfamiliar and novel, these things were still the stuff of legends to them.

    Yan Shaozhe didn't let someone take Xu Sanshi away to rest yet. Instead, he took them all and stepped along a narrow stone path towards the Sea God's Island's inner regions.

    Sea God's Island was extremely quiet, almost as if it were uninhabited. Everything just seemed too tranquil and serene, and the entire place felt like Shangri-la. The various pavilions and structures that were hidden within a myriad of tall and endless vegetation appeared graceful and elegant. This was Huo Yuhao's first time here, but he fell in love with it at first sight.

    The vegetation here had more than a few thousand years of history, and some trees were even a hundred meters tall. The air along the trail was fresh, and all that vegetation blocked everyone's vision. There was a mysterious and enigmatic feeling as they sauntered along the footpath, as if they were just inside the mountain.

    It didn't take long for them to reach a position near the mountain summit, and a single pavilion immediately appeared before everyone's eyes.

    This was a three-storey building, and the entire structure was gray and made of wood. It appeared simple and unadorned, yet there were tinges of vicissitudes upon it. One would realize upon closer inspection that there was a layer of grease-like light on the structure's wooden body.

    The three-storey building was about ten meters tall, and it didn't feel grand or magnificent at all. However, a black horizontal inscribed board hung from the top of the first level's entrance, and three radiant golden words announced the building's identity - Sea God's Pavilion.

    Everybody developed a solemn and respectful feeling as they saw these three words. Judging by the distance, the Sea God's Pavilion was not only close to the mountain summit, but was also near the island's center.

    Yan Shaozhe stopped before the Sea God's Pavilion's entrance and turned towards the Shrek team members with a faint smile on his face. "I didn't let Xu Sanshi and Jiang Nannan rest because I wanted them to have the experience of stepping into the Sea God's Pavilion."

    He turned back towards the Sea God's Pavilion after explaining himself, and he bowed respectfully and said, "They're back, teacher."

    Everybody was taken aback when they heard "teacher". Both Dai Yueheng's and Ling Luochen's faces were stricken with shock, even though they were disciples from the inner courtyard.

    Yan Shaozhe was the Martial Soul Department's Dean, and his status was already extremely high in the minds of the inner courtyard's disciples. Even Elder Xuan wasn't as important to them as Yan Shaozhe due to the differences in their responsibilities. Never once did they expect that Yan Shaozhe's teacher was still alive.

    "Come in, everyone." An old voice rang out, and a scene that astonished everyone appeared before their eyes.

    The three-storey Sea God's Pavilion that was just as unassuming as it could be suddenly brightened without warning right before them. Radiant beams of golden light glowed, and the entire pavilion became golden, as if it were a building made entirely from pure gold.

    The thick but tender golden light drifted down and enveloped everyone within. The warm and dense light aura nourished everyone's bodies, and all the exhaustion that they had brought back from their long road home was swept away in an instant. Xu Sanshi was still in a deep sleep, but his body quivered and gradually came to.

    Wang Dong's experience was the deepest. His body emanated transparent golden hues that interacted with this sudden burst of golden light, and his left arm was even completely golden in color as it sparkled radiantly. That pure golden luster was extremely bright and vivid, and it felt as if colors were flowing out from it.

    The Shrek team members and even Wang Yan subconsciously shut their eyes as they were bathed within the golden light. The four Deans, Fan Yu and Elder Xuan quietly stepped into the Sea God's Pavilion. They weren't affected by the Sea God's Pavilion's sudden outburst of light.

    The expression in Bei Bei's eyes was a little peculiar as he released the soul power in his body. The bluish-purple lightning radiance disappeared, and faint dragon roars could be heard from within the flickering golden lights.

    Everybody who closed their eyes had different sensations. Huo Yuhao's reaction wasn't as great as Wang Dong's, but the astonishment he experienced was extremely intense as well.

    The vitality of heaven and earth in the air became a lot denser, and the three powerful beings that were slumbering within his body awakened at the same time. These three powerful beings didn't unleash their respective auras, and neither did they attempt to interact with Huo Yuhao. Only Electrolux subtly passed Huo Yuhao a thought, telling him that the person who possessed this light aura was exceptionally formidable, and was almost at his level of cultivation when he was still alive. The Ice Empress, Skydream and he had to hide themselves completely, as they ran the risk of being discovered by the owner of this light energy even though they were inside Huo Yuhao's body.

    Could he be more powerful than Elder Xuan? Huo Yuhao felt the muscles in his heart tighten. His original perception was that Elder Xuan and the several Deans were supremely powerful beings. It appeared, however, that the academy's strength didn't stop there - this was Yan Shaozhe's mentor!

    However, these thoughts in his mind dissipated after a while, and he entered a meditative state while standing inside the dense and thick light aura. He channeled the Mysterious Heaven Technique, and he could clearly feel his cultivation rising linearly with every circulation.

    His body's endurance had become a lot more powerful after the Life Gold's regulation and harmonization, and his life energy had also become much more bountiful. Even his Eye of Life started to itch as he soaked himself within the dense light aura - it was subconsciously absorbing the life energy in the air.

    The Mysterious Heaven Technique's soul power circulated smoothly, and the dense vitality in the air seemed to flow directly into his soul. Huo Yuhao's soul power was originally at around Rank 28, but he was already close to breaking through to Rank 29 after these few moments.

    If felt as if only a minute had passed, yet it also felt like a century. The warm and radiant aura gradually vanished, and everybody woke up from their strange sensations and experiences one after another.

    The first to recover was Dai Yueheng, as his cultivation was the highest, and there was an exhilarated look on his face. His soul power improved at a sluggish pace at his current rank, and even raising it by one level was extremely challenging. However, he had felt improvements in his soul power after these few moments, and what was more substantial was that he felt like his soul power had been completely rinsed, and was now purer. This was relatively more important than increasing his cultivation directly.

    The reason why Huo Yuhao didn't have this sensation was because his soul power had already undergone several similar experiences - the Life Gold's cleansing and nourishment was only the most prominent episode. Therefore, the light energy's effect on his body was just a pure boost to his soul power.

    Ling Luochen, Bei Bei and the others gradually came to after Dai Yueheng. Xu Sanshi's face looked a lot better after he woke up, as if he had just replenished all the vitality that he had lost. He gazed at the three-storey building before him with perplexed eyes as the golden hues gently receded, and he muttered under his breath, "Where am I?"

    Jiang Nannan had recovered a little from her injuries since the beginning, and that recovery process had been sped up with this golden light. She got off her stretcher voluntarily and whispered a few sentences in Xu Sanshi's ear to explain the situation.

    Xu Sanshi looked at her with a dazed look. "Are you alright, Nannan?"

    Jiang Nannan shook her head softly, and the expression on her face was a little complicated.

    "Let's go. Let's just go inside before anything else," Bei Bei said as he carried Xu Sanshi's stretcher.

    Huo Yuhao had already awoken at this point. He realized, to his pleasant surprise, that his soul power had broken through Rank 29 just like that, and it didn't feel like a long time had passed when he glanced up at the sky.

    What kind of power was this?! The light aura contained dense volumes of life energy - could this be achieved by soul masters?

    Wang Dong was the last to wake up. Huo Yuhao could tell from the look on his face that it was needless to say that he had also benefited greatly from this experience. The golden luster on his left arm was still sparkling, and wasn't receding quickly.

    They stepped into the Sea God's Pavilion in single file after everybody woke up. They had just been baptized by light, and this tiny three-storey building suddenly became incredibly majestic in their eyes. They walked inside with feelings as if they were undergoing a pilgrimage.

    They stepped into the Sea God's Pavilion's first level. Everything was just so plain and austere, and every single piece of furniture or decoration seemed to be made from this strange wood, just like the Sea God's Pavilion itself.

    There was a long table in the center of the great hall. The four Deans and Elder Xuan were sitting by the table, while Fan Yu stood behind Xian Lin'er and Qian Duoduo - it was clear that they didn't have the status to sit down at this table. There were several other elders sitting on either side of the table. Huo Yuhao didn't recognize most of them, and only the inner courtyard's Dai Yueheng and Ling Luochen could recognize some of them.

    Huo Yuhao and the others stood before the table and couldn't help but feel a little nervous. Yet, they were also a little excited. This was the Sea God's Pavilion, and the elderly people sitting before them were the most powerful existences in the academy. This overwhelming feeling and astonishment was amplified when they realized that the four Deans were sitting beside the last seat.

    Yan Shaozhe smiled and said, "Welcome back, children. Whether or not you've heard this before, I will explain it to everyone again. The Sea God's Pavilion is the supreme place for official business and meetings, and conferences held within the Sea God's Pavilion will determine the academy's future direction and path. Everyone here, besides the four Deans, are Elders from the academy, and they have each contributed greatly to the academy."

    "You represented the academy and emerged as champions in the Continental Advanced Soul Master Academy Soul Dueling Tournament with an incomplete team. We have heard of the entire process. Giving everyone the opportunity to come here is the academy's way of showing our gratitude and rewarding you guys. We hope that you will continue to work hard and not be overcome with pride by what you have achieved."

    Everybody immediately bowed respectfully toward the Elders sitting around the table. They were slightly surprised that Yan Shaozhe didn't introduce the Elders to them.

    This wasn't because Yan Shaozhe had forgotten - this was the Sea God's Pavilion's rule, and giving Huo Yuhao and the others the permission to come in was already an exception. Everything inside the Sea God's Pavilion could be said to contain Shrek Academy's core secrets, and anybody that wasn't part of the Sea God's Pavilion wasn't allowed to know.

    "I will announce the rewards," Yan Shaozhe said with a deep voice, "Dai Yueheng, Ling Luochen."

    "Here." Dai Yueheng and Ling Luochen bowed respectfully.

    Yan Shaozhe continued, "Both of you are inner courtyard disciples along with Ma Xiaotao, and you guys weren't able to protect your comrades while executing your surveillance task. Your teammates were severely wounded as a result, and this affected our participation in the Continental Advanced Soul Master Academy Soul Dueling Tournament. That's a grave mistake."

    "Eh?" Dai Yueheng and Ling Luochen hadn't seen this coming at all, and both of them turned pale with fright.

    Yan Shaozhe's face turned black as he continued, "What? You wish to dispute that? Ma Xiaotao and Dai Yueheng were the team's main assault-type soul masters. What are assault-type soul masters supposed to do? They have to push forward in the face of danger and protect their teammates. Did you guys done that? Ling Luochen, you are the team's main control-type soul master, but have you been pulling your weight in controlling battles? If not for Huo Yuhao's Spiritual Detection that gave you a timely reminder, you wouldn't even have been able to come back in one piece, no? I can tell from the situation during that time that your comrades were hurt because of your complacency, and because you underestimated the enemy. You are Shrek Academy's inner courtyard disciples, and was that the battle prowess that you should have displayed? Even the outer courtyard students know the principle that you have to give your best even if you're stronger - but what about you guys?"

    Dai Yueheng and Ling Luochen lowered their heads from Yan Shaozhe's chiding. They didn't dare to retort against his intimidating speech, and it didn't help that the Dean was speaking the truth.

    Yan Shaozhe's voice became a little more amiable. "You guys followed the team to participate in the Continental Advanced Soul Master Academy Soul Dueling Tournament afterwards. You managed to exercise enough fighting strength due to the sufficient time given by the reserve team's exemplary performance for you to recover and tend your wounds, and ultimately helped the team to win the championship. The academy is well-aware of this achievement. However, you are inner courtyard disciples, and you are also part of the official main team, so you guys will receive comparatively smaller rewards. Your achievements will cancel out your mistakes, and we will not include that in your records and our case files. We hope that you will learn your lesson from this, and bear in mind that life is precious - nobody can have another one."

    "Thank you, Dean." Dai Yueheng and Ling Luochen heaved a sigh of relief. It would become a serious blemish to their lives if their mistakes were recorded in Shrek Academy's case files.

    The difference between the inner courtyard's disciples and those from the outer courtyard was that the inner courtyard's disciples were bestowed with all kinds of resources, and they received the best mentors and teachings. The academy would naturally expect more from them in comparison to the outer courtyard's students. This was the main reason why Yan Shaozhe declared that they would receive fewer rewards than the reserve team, even though everybody was part of the team that won the championship.
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