Chapter 118: Consent
Piao Hong stopped here, pausing for just a moment. When she spoke again, her voice was graver still. “According to our own calculations at DreamNet, there is a sixty-four point seven eight percent chance they will come our way. If that ends up being the case… humanity could be at war.”
“Judging by their distance it may be years before we face the risk, but we should prepare ahead of time. Because of this, we at DreamNet hope to improve the quality of our civil defense. We’ll start with inflaming the passions of the younger generation. What better way to do that, then to stage a god-team match, in full view of the human population. It would be an unprecedented event, one for the ages. The Four Monarchs, top of the lists, would be the main event. It was good you came today – another three days, and I’d have had to approach you through different channels. I hope, in light of these circumstances, you’ll consider the future of the human race. I hope you will participate, for everyone’s sake.”
“Of course the DreamNet corporation will compensate you for this. All you need to do for now, is participate in this competition. In addition to the decoction you requested, you’ll also receive one s-ranked power gem each. And, thirty percent of the proceeds from telecasting. This doesn’t include advertising or screening costs – a pure thirty percent. With this sort of money, you can make yourselves each a brand new, top-level mecha.”
Piao Hong went silent. Zeus and Poseidon stood in quiet contemplation.
Three alien planets… the words weighed heavy on their consciousness. The universe was indeed vast and boundless, and who knew how many intelligent species and habitable planets existed out there? After humanity had begun it’s interstellar programs in a serious way, it encountered many habitable worlds and strange species. Some were even threatening, but they were decidedly few.
However never before had they encountered something with the ability to rival their own destructive power. These three planetary bodies somehow had the sheer obliterating force of a space bastion. It was a threat unlike humanity had ever faced. A menace that threatened their very existence.
“We can’t shirk our responsibility!” Zeus’ head rose as he made his thoughts known.
Poseidon, said nothing.
“I’ll relay this information to our other two companions, and give you an answer as soon as possible,” Zeus concluded.
“Very well. But please be quick.” Piao Hong nodded towards Zeus, and the roiling red aura around her undulated. With nothing more to say, she vanished.
Zeus turned to Poseidon, who in turn looked back at him. They knew what each other thought, and a tacit understanding was reached. A light flashed and they, too, were gone.
Lan Jue and Hua Li pulled themselves from the simulators and faced each other.
“What do you think?” Uncertainty lived in Hua Li’s moving eyes.
“There was no doubt that was a Guardian,” Lan Jue muttered. “The information should be reliable.”
Hua Li’s brows wrinkled, adding a dash of melancholy to his handsome features. “Your response was too quick. This whole thing… too sudden. Fine, so what did you want the Fantascia Genetic for anyway?”
“Tang Xiao’s own abilities are pretty solid,” Lan Jue began. “He’s begun to unlock his potential. But Jin Tao’s genetic talent is minimal, and without some sort of catalyst I’m afraid he’ll never advance past third rank. The only method left to him is man-made.”
Hua Li lifted a brow at his friend. “You mean business with these two apprentices of yours, huh?”
A devilish grin spread a across Lan jue’s face. “Didja like my joke?”
“%!*$!” Hua Li brazenly displayed his middle finger under Lan Jue’s nose, his face dark.
Lan Jue’s voice interjected, flippant and disinterested. “Keep it up. I’ll take a picture and send it to all your fans in DreamNet. Let them see what their hero is really like.”
“A-Jue,” Hua Li muttered. “I haven’t seen you for a long time. You’ve become a real pain in the ass!”
“The first time I met Tang Xiao was in DreamNet. That little piece of comedy was something he told me. I only just managed to win that fight. I won through oscillation, and it was then he begged to learn from me, wanted to see me. I beat him viciously to vent my anger.”
“A-Jue, I suddenly thought of something…”
“Eh?” Lan Jue looked at Hua Li inquisitively.
The superstar chuckled in supremely sinister fashion. “There are some out there who can’t use their disciplines for… various reasons. I, too, seek to let go of a little agitation. What should I do, do you think?”
Lan Jue’s self-satisfied grin faltered. “J-Just wait for me to finish talking. We really shouldn’t just go around beating people, it isn’t good for our abilities. I used lightning to give the kid a little shock, but hadn’t expected he’d actually have considerable talent. Natural evolution, even.”
“Evolution?” Hua Li suddenly appeared to be paying more attention. “That’s certainly rare! So you’re saying it’s possible for him to develop to ninth rank?”
Lan Jue nodded. “The kid’s endurance is almost supernatural. He certainly doesn’t look like much, but he’s got the heart of a victor. He’s also very clever. He definitely knew why I beat him that day, but he was still willing to call me his teacher. In his eyes I saw that familiar look, that pursuit of power. The second time I saw him, when he accepted me as his master, I saw sincerity there, too. I had nothing to do, free time at my disposal. I saw his talent, and decided to teach him. But where he ends up, is up to him.”
“As for Jin Tao, he… moved me. That crazy kid. Completely disregards the fact that his genetic talent is practically nonexistent. But his desire, his heart exceeds his abilities two hundred percent. His desires have been pent up for so long, he wants change even more than Tang Xiao. I need to keep an eye on his temperament.”
“Are you done?” Hua Li’s arms were crossed over his chest. He grinned unsettlingly at Lan Jue.
“Yup. Alright, let’s go, I need a drink. What do you feel like?” Lan Jue calmly turned and began to walk away.
“All I want, is to LET OFF SOME STEAM!”
“A-a-Li, don’t be like this!”
“I’ll beat you till you shit your pants!”
Half an hour later.
“Do you want to tell him, or should I?” Hua Li sat upon the floor of Zeus’ Jewelry Shop, sipping on a soda water.
Lan Jue was perched on a chair, tenderly massaging his face. There weren’t any marks there, but from his pained expression one can only guess at the inhumane treatment he’d just suffered.
“I will! Imma tell my brother you were beating on me, hmph!” Lan Jue spat the threat.
“Hua Li leveled his eyes at his pouty friend. “Have a little integrity guy. Don’t go running to your family like a child.”
Lan Jue was indignant. “And beating on the infirm shows integrity? I’m hurt, and here you are taking advantage.”
Hua Li fluttered his eyes, those long lashes brushing against one another. Those moving sky-blue eyes, full of mirth, shone at his friend. “Am I not helping you to recover?”
“Can you help with the pain in my heart?!”
This took Poseidon by surprise, and his playful demeanor became quiet. “Go on then,” he said. “Call him.”
Lan Jue snorted once more for good measure, then tapped a number in to his communicator.
“Hm?” Lan Qing’s voice rose from his wrist. “You called?”
Lan Jue revealed what he’d learned moment earlier from the DreamNet Guardian.
Lan Qing was silent, listening intently as Lan Jue related the tale. Eventually he spoke. “I know the Dreamburg guards. If you can be sure of their identity, then what they told you should be the real deal. And, top secret. I’ll let the higher-ups know, and see if I can get cleared. As for the contest, I’m in.”
“Alright,” Lan Jue said.
“How are you feeling?”
“No problems. A-Li’s helping me get better. Shouldn’t be long before I’m back to normal.”
“Good. If there’s nothing else, we’ve got things to do.”
Hua Li watched the exchange, silent until Lan Jue dropped the connection. His brows wrinkled slightly. “If I didn’t already know you two, I’d never guess you were brothers. Things still no good with him?”
Lan Jue shook his head. “I can’t say I don’t blame him at all… for him, in his heart, duty will always come before family. But this time, when he came to see me… the hate was gone.”
Hua Li sighed. “He actually cares quite a lot for you. After all, you’re the only family he has.”
“Yeah, well…” Lan Jue waved his hand, as though trying to sweep away the depressing topic.
Hua Li went on. “Rest for a while, then we’ll continue with the healing.
“Granny Bess, I’ve cleaned your clothes for you. They’ve been dried, and I put them away in your cabinet. I have to head home, but you look after yourself. Drink some more warm water. 1” Zhou Qianlin rolled down her sleeves, smiling politely at the old woman perched on the side of the bed.
She looked particularly advanced in years, with a head of long snow white hair past her shoulders. Her pink coveralls were matched with a pink scrunchie that tied her hair back. Inside was a pink shirt. Her pants were black.
She was exceptionally skinny, and the outline of her bones were clearly visible. But her two green eyes were clear and bright, without any hint of confusion. She stared quietly out the window, her thoughts a mystery.
“I’ll just be heading out now, Granny Bess.” Zhou Qianlin pulled over a small blanket, draping it over the elderly woman’s knees. She then quietly stood and left.
As the door closed, the elderly woman finally turned to look at where Zhou Qianlin had just stood. She remained quiet, but her clear eyes were alive with emotion. She lifted her right hand, and skinny fingers slowly splayed wide. The nails on each finger glittered like crystal, and from their tips silken threads of red light slithered forth. Gently they gathered together, intertwined, until they constituted a familiar figure; that of Zhou Qianlin, remarkably life-like.
“Go!” the woman commanded. An instant later the glimmering red outline vanished without a trace.
The woman returned her clear eyes to the world outside her window. Suddenly those green eyes became glazed, distant, as though revisiting an old memory.
- ‘Drink warm water’ is a Chinese trope and cultural phenomenon where literally every single ailment in history can be fixed with rest and warm water. Cold? Warm water. Hemorrhoids? Warm water. Lupus? AIDS? Cancer? Car wreck? Warm water. Still not better? You obviously need more warm water. ↩