MEN – Volume 1 Chapter 7

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Volume 1 – Between Daybreak and Evernight, Chapter 7: The Cannon Fodder Special

When Zhang Jing wasn’t smiling, she looked as dignified as a noble lady from history books. With an animated expression, however, she had an indescribable sense of charm and seductiveness.

At this moment, her voice and movements were incredibly appealing, causing some of the older children to begin breathing heavily, yet the large thugs responsible for odd jobs wore fearful expressions instead. Even Long Hai’s expression had become strange.

Qianye recalled the two companions she had beaten to death because they failed her examination. He also felt a chill from the bottom of his heart.

Zhang Jing then explained the theory behind and cultivation of origin power, as well as how to begin learning the Combatant Formula.

There were nine great origin nodes in the human body. Three of these nodes were located inside the lower abdomen, chest, and forehead, while the remaining six nodes were located in both arms, legs, and knees. Origin nodes were the most important part of storing and deriving origin power.

Since all of human history consisted of war, the current, most commonly used power ranking was incredibly militarized. After a person ignited their first origin node, they would officially join the ranks of Fighters and become a rank one Fighter. Every new ignition after that counted as advancing one rank.

After igniting all nine nodes, the Fighter would have the opportunity to assail their first great bottleneck, and successfully accessing all the nodes would result in the formation of an origin vortex. This was a breakthrough to a whole new level! A person at this level would have the power to face a member of the dark races head on, and be considered a true elite. They would be called a Champion, a pillar of strength, as soon as they stepped onto the battlefield.

Since the Combatant Formula was the basic cultivation art of the imperial army, its style matched its name in that it was extremely harsh and powerful. Its greatest aspect was the accelerated rate in which it could be cultivated. As long as the first node had been successfully ignited, the origin power inside one’s body would rush forth like a tidal wave, overlapping one wave after another like a continuous tide to crash against the origin node again and again.

Compared to the secret arts of other noble families, the Combatant Formula allowed a person to quickly progress through the early stages of cultivation. The cultivator might even be able to break through the limitations of their original potential. However, its flaw was also very obvious. The power of the origin tide was so strong that it would damage the cultivator’s body. The more an individual cultivated the Combatant Formula, the worse the damage would become.

As a result, no one had ever stepped into the Champion rank with just the Combatant Formula. If they wished to progress further, they needed to switch to another cultivation art during the later stages of their cultivation. This was exactly why the Combatant Formula was known as the art exclusively meant for cannon fodder.

Yet it was just as Zhang Jing said earlier. Regardless of status, anyone who cultivated the Combatant Formula had their own unavoidable reason for doing so. Most of these people would not live past rank nine anyway, so what was the point in worrying about it?

If there truly were someone who had the talent to break through to rank nine and become a Champion, this person would naturally have infinite opportunities. They would be invited to join a person’s force no matter where they went. Such people did not need to worry about the resources required to rise through the ranks in the later stages of cultivation.

Now that Qianye thought about it, he and his group had trained their bodies in all sorts of ways during their first year in the training camp. Only a strong, healthy body could endure the vicious, powerful Combatant Formula.

From this day onward, two additional hours of cultivation were added to Qianye’s daily timetable—one in the evening and one at night. However, the amount of physique training and mastery of knowledge or skill had not decreased in the slightest. After hearing about the new arrangements, the faces of the children who had survived the past year of bloody training lost all composure, appearing depressed.

In the evening, this group of students was led to a small valley not far from the camp.

Steaming hot springs were at the center of the valley. Dozens of metallic pipes were embedded into one end of the hot springs, while the other end connected with the other pipes in a serpentine manner.

These huge, metallic pipes, which were more than a meter wide in diameter, sprawled across the entire valley like a spider’s web. Ten meter tall machines of unknown function stood between these pipes. These machines did not have protective exteriors, and even the smallest cog exposed to the outside was more than a meter in size. They were held together by dense clusters of transmission belts and metallic chains.

Rows of metallic longhouses were constructed around these machines. The outer walls of these longhouses were a glistening yellow. They looked like they wore a copper skin, showing no trace of any rust.

The kids were split into several groups, with ten people entering a metallic longhouse at a time. The interior of each longhouse was separated into several isolated rooms. These rooms were their cultivation rooms.

The cultivation rooms were considerably small and narrow, and their walls were surprisingly thick. The inside of the rooms were filled with copper rust. The floor of each room consisted of copper barbed wire, through the gaps of which one could see a bottomless, pitch black hole.

Following orders, Qianye entered a small room. The room was empty, devoid of furniture. Only a small leather-wrapped cabinet was in the corner beside the door.

Qianye removed his shirt and long pants before stuffing them into the cabinet. After some recollection, he then crossed his legs and sat upright, just as the instructor had demonstrated earlier. Almost immediately after he sat down, the door to the room was opened from the outside.

A dark-skinned, bare-chested slave walked in and opened a copper door in the wall. He set a log of dark, heavy-looking wood on fire and tossed it into the opening.

From beginning to end, the black slave said nothing. Furthermore, he completely shut the door to the room when he left.

After the harsh ring of a bell, the cultivation room shook slightly. Rumbles of machinery resounded faintly from outside. A while later, a large amount of boiling steam gushed through the four walls and the ceiling, swiftly spreading throughout the room.

A wisp of smoke suddenly seeped in from the copper door in the wall, which was about half a person tall. The long, drawn out smoke could be seen clearly within the room filled with steam. As it gradually dispersed, merging with the steam, the room was filled with a strange fragrance.

It was somewhat suffocating to sit inside of such a small room where the humidity had skyrocketed. Qianye instinctively inhaled deeply, and he suddenly felt energetic. He could actually feel something fervently stirring in the surrounding air. It was similar to the blue raindrop that had splashed on him on the night of the Crimson Moon, yet it was different.

It was origin power resonance!

Qianye was overjoyed as he hurriedly calmed his mind and thought about the Combatant Formula’s mind incantation. As expected, it was as if something had awakened from its slumber within his body. The origin power in the air grew even more lively, and it gradually began to enter his body as if attracted by an invisible force.

Two hours quickly passed, and the clear ring of a bell suddenly resounded throughout the valley, waking all of the children from their meditation.

Qianye slowly opened his eyes and felt unfathomable regret inside of his heart.

He had managed to condense a substantial amount of origin power in this evening alone. It might be considered incredibly small, barely discernable, but it was enough to make Qianye go wild with joy. According to the depictions in the Combatant Formula, being able to condense origin power into an actual shape on the first day meant that the cultivator’s talents were extraordinary. It meant that they could hope to cultivate to the level of high ranking Fighters, or rank seven and above.

The incense inside of the copper door had finished burning. There was no longer any fragrance spilling from it. Although the room was still filled with steam, Qianye’s awareness of the origin power gradually grew dull and hazy.

The class was over.

The rumbling of machinery suddenly resounded within the room. The walls began to shake, and a terrifying vacuum came from the barbed wire floor. The steam that filled the room was gone in an instant. Then, amidst the creaking of gears and hinges, the bulky copper door of the cultivation room slowly lifted.

Unconcerned about the fact that his undershirt was still wet, Qianye put on his clothes as fast as he could before exiting the cultivation room, running toward the specified area and properly standing in formation.

Long Hai appeared once more, wearing a cruel, calculating smile as he said slowly, “I believe that all of you have just experienced the benefits of ‘Vermillion Countenance Blood’ during that lesson.

“I think you should all know that a piece this small…” He gesticulated the size of an index finger and grinned, his gold and silver teeth gleaming coldly. “…is worth more than a dozen human lives!”

Qianye knew that the log had not been an ordinary object from the start, but he hadn’t thought it would be that valuable.

That being said, the value of “more than a dozen human lives” depended on the quality of said lives. A dozen or so kids like Qianye, who had grown up in the junkyard, might not be worth even a single silver coin. Before he met Lin Xitang, Qianye had seen a total of two copper coins. One of them had even been missing a corner. He had never seen a silver coin before in his life.

Long Hai paused for a moment before suddenly raising his voice, roaring, “From now on, you will no longer enjoy such luxuries! From this week onward, every drill subject will be marked according to their performance, and there will be a test the week afterward! Those who rank in the lower half will not be given any ‘Vermillion Countenance Blood,’ while the upper half will get double the ‘Vermillion Countenance Blood.’ I would congratulate you if you could make it into the top ten, because you would be rewarded with a third portion of ‘Vermillion Countenance Blood!’”

The faces of the kids changed. They looked at their companions warily.

Several gazes swept across Qianye and quickly landed on other people. Qianye was unremarkable, and his rank during the previous training sessions had always been low.

The first week passed very quickly, and at the end of the week, Qianye was in the seventy fifth place. This meant that he would miss out on an entire week of “Vermillion Countenance Blood.”

The night that the results were announced, Qianye could not sleep.

He began contemplating all of his drill subjects. The Combatant Formula did not need to be ranked at the moment, and Qianye was always able to rank among the best during the knowledge classes taught by Zhang Jing. The majority of the subjects, however, were still physical. Qianye was slightly behind in every single one of them.

Qianye lay on his back and quietly stared at the ceiling above his head. He gently touched the giant scar on his chest. The malnutrition he had suffered due to many years of life in the junkyard had almost been completely fixed by the meals of the training camp, but this scar was the reason why his constitution was far weaker than that of a normal kid’s.

Qianye could currently understand some of the things that Gu Tuohai had said before. This scar left with him with hidden hardship. Every time he performed strenuous training, his scar would pain him, lowering his endurance and strength. It was only because Qianye had a will that was far more tenacious than most, and because he put in a lot more effort and sweat, that he was barely able to keep up with training.

Now, however, the new rule was obviously going to wash out half of their group. There was a massive difference between cultivating with Vermillion Countenance Blood and without Vermillion Countenance Blood. If the difference continued to accumulate like this, then the distance between the first and second halves of the group would only grow further and further apart.

Qianye had thought about a lot of things by the time he finally fell asleep. Surrender was the only thing that hadn’t crossed his mind. As long as he endured, he would see tomorrow. The small light that shone through the darkness would not always remain out of reach.

Qianye would overcome his disadvantage bit by bit. He would fight with his life to obtain every point in every subject!

That week, Qianye trained with everything he had, and his ranking rose as a result. However, it was only by one place.

Another week passed and Qianye managed to overtake the hurdle of 70th place, rising to 69th place. However, during the third week, Qianye overdid it and fell sick. His ranking immediately slipped to 93rd.

Starting from the fourth week, perhaps because the goddess of fate had seen Qianye’s struggle and hard work, the knowledge-based classes suddenly increased in quantity.


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