Chapter 120: Teacher Benefits?
“Hey Professor Lan, did you hear? In two days the school’s going to separate us in to units and send us on a trip. It’s supposed to be a team-building exercise.” Jin Yan spoke excitedly to Lan Jue as he entered and sat at his desk.
“A trip?” In truth the word was rarely directly at Lan Jue, ever since he was small. Every outing he participated in had purpose, not for fun. He looked back at her blankly.
Jin Yan continued enthusiastically. “Yeah! Every year the school will send us out on a field trip. It’s different every time, with the cost and how long. This is the first one this year. I heard we’ll be leaving Skyfire for it’s closest cousin planet, Taihua. It’s the holiday paradise for all of the Eastern Alliance! It’s supposed to have the most beautiful beaches and lakes. They chose this planet specifically for it’s gorgeous scenery. The legislative assembly of the Eastern Alliance set rules to make sure it doesn’t get overdeveloped, so that it stays a vacation paradise. There’s supposed to be thousands of acres of amazing old-growth forests that are untouched, just chalk-full of beautiful colors and scents and sounds. We electives teachers have relatively fewer classes, so for something as nice as this, it’s certainly a first. We can finally go check it out for ourselves.”
In the face of Jin Yan’s overwhelming excitement, Lan Jue could only smile. Unfortunately, in his condition, it wasn’t conducive to his healing to leave.
“Professor Jin, is it possible to skip the trip?”
She blinked, taken aback. “Of course not. It’s a benefit given by the school, but team-building is a part of it. Only teachers with prior notice and special circumstances are exempt. What is it, you don’t want to go?”
“Oh, no. It’s just I’m so busy lately…”
Jin Yan gave him a playful ‘hmph’. “Two classes a week and you say you’re busy?What’s this class on jewelry you’re teaching tomorrow anyway? I want to come listen again.”
Lan Jue smiled mysteriously. “It’s a secret. You’ll find out tomorrow.”
As ever, the nearby Wang Hongyuan shot a glance at Lan Jue. His mouth turned in a scornful sneer.
Lan Jue excused himself from the office. Once outside he tapped a number in to his communicator.
“Jin Tao, half an hour after lunch. Tell Tang Xao and meet me at our teaching spot.”
“Got it, Teach,” Jin Tao joyfully responded.
Lan Jue was continuously surprised at this guy. This kid really was insane! The last few times he’d been beaten bloody, and yet he was just as excited as the first time.
Jin Tao certainly was excited, and the reason was simple. He was seeing improvement.
Hua Li had beaten and healed them more times than he could remember that afternoon, so bad he didn’t know what was hurt more by the end – his body or his mind. But this morning when he awoke, he clearly felt as though he’d made a good leap forward. Not just his discipline, but his physical strength and reaction time as well. These new aspects of his training had him completely forget the agony he’d lived through.
As usual, Lan Jue’s meal was a simple one: rice, and vegetables. It was hard to make the plain plainer. Whenever he was forced to eat things less than his expectations, he always chose the simplest fair. After all, adepts at his level were able to assimilate energy from the world around them to act as nourishment. Eating was just the most primitive and original source of energy intake.
After lunch he took a brief walk around the NEU campus. Everywhere he went he spied students, heading this way and that. He didn’t know why, but in this crowded and noisy environment he felt at peace. Comfortable. He found himself growing more and more accustomed to this school as time went on, even came to enjoy it. He almost felt like a teacher, and all was well.
He made his way to the two young gentlemen he called his disciples. Upon finding them, he saw two distinctly different expressions on their faces. Jin Tao was excited, and wasted no time in running forward to greet his teacher. Tang Xiao, on the other hand, was more complicated. There was a thirst for growth in his eyes, but there was also fear.
“So teach, what’re we doing today?” Jin Tao dramatically rolled up his sleeves. He looked almost eager to get beat on.
“Let’s talk first,” Lan Jue said. He patted Jin Tao’s shoulder, and they both walked towards Tang Xiao.
The overweight young man felt a trepidation rise up within him. Though he didn’t know from whence it came, he knew that this was the proverbial ‘calm before the storm.’ The Professor had something up his sleeve.
“Talk? Will talking improve my abilities?” Jin Tao spoke almost without thinking.
Lan Jue slapped his young pupil upside the head, frowning. “What are you in a rush for? ‘Good tools are essential things’ – you need proper preparation before you jump in.”
Jin Tao rubbed the back of his head. But instead of chastisement the look in his eyes was strange. This beating, he felt, was deserved.
“Jin Tao, Tang Xiao, I’ll ask you one more time. Do you truly, unequivocally desire to study under me? I’ll tell you candidly, up till now I haven’t really treated you as my disciples. You’ve only studied with me for a short time, but when we truly get started your methods of cultivation will be ten… a hundred times more difficult, more painful. So much that you’ll wish you were dead. I can’t guarantee results with this process – in the end, it comes down to your own effort, and tolerance.” Lan Jue spoke earnestly, fixing them each in turn with a steady gaze.
“Professor, I am not afraid. Pain means nothing, only strength. I’m ready to do whatever it takes.” Jin Tao scrambled to answer, without a hint of hesitation. “Don’t think I’m impulsive. I’ve thought very much about this. My dad told me once…
‘In this life you only have a set number of chances. If you grab them when they appear, you’ll succeed. If you don’t, you’ll be doomed to a life of mediocrity.’
I don’t want to die as someone ordinary. I want to be strong. I see how the talented look down on me, and I can’t help but want to beat them. I hate that look, that says because my Talent isn’t as strong as theirs that I’m somehow less. I hate that dismissive scorn.”1 Jin Tao’s voice was heavy with emotion, full of sincerity.
Lan Jue remained calm in the face of his stirring tirade. “And when you become strong? What then?”
The question took Jin Tao by surprise. He dropped his head and began to think. “When I’m strong…”
Lan Jue didn’t wait for an answer, turning his eyes to Tang Xiao. “And you? Do you still agree to be my student?”
“Professor,” he blurted, “may I first ask what level your Discipline is?”
“Ninth,” he answered simply.
Slap! Tang Xiao’s meaty fist slapped against the palm of his other hand. “I’m ready. Dumb-mutt said it, there are only so many opportunities in life. Everything takes work. Teacher, I’m ready to learn under you.”
Lan Jue responded with an easy smile. “Then answer the same question. When you’re strong, what will you do then?”
Tang Xiao’s response came right away. “Join the army! It’s been my dream since I was small, to be a soldier. Not to boast about being a protector of our land and people, but because I want to surround myself with the strong and capable. You say strong, but I don’t know how strong. Even then it doesn’t matter, no matter how strong I am I’ll always strive to get better. I don’t know if I’ll ever surpass you, but there’s no better place to get better than the army. My idol has shown me that, the An Lun Supersoldier!”
“A Soldier?” Jin Tao’s eyes lit up. “Nice! When I was small my dad always said I’d never have a future. I’ll be a soldier too! I also want to protect our people and alliance. I’ll go with you when you join. We’ll see which one of us takes out more Northerners. Whadda ya think?”
“Heh, you’ve got it all wrong. You’re too impetuous!” Tang Xiao’s voice was flat, not menacing or teasing.
Lan jue’s smile grew wider. “Not necessarily. Soldiers must be possessed of an indomitable will. For now it looks like the both of you have made improvements, but I warn you – when we begin, if either of you fail to keep up with our training schedule, you’re done. If in the future either of you use what I teach you to do evil, to abuse the weak, I will personally destroy whatever power you have.”
“Yes, sir!” Both shouted to their teacher in one voice.
“Professor,” Jin Tao shouted immediately after, “so what are we going to learn today? As far as I see it, the first time you beat me I saw the biggest improvement, so what do you think? Go for it again?”
“You’re circumstances are special,” Lan Jue said to the eager young man. “For you, we’ll need extreme measures. Because of your weak innate talent, they’ll be needed if you ever hope to be strong. These will be difficult, and it means you’ll have to suffer far worse than Tang Xiao.”
Jin Tao was silent, but eventually spoke up. “So that means that under these extreme measures, I may one day overtake Fatty Tang?”
Lan Jue nodded in affirmation.
Jin Tao shot his rival a cantankerous stare. “Then what are we waiting for? I’m ready any time.”
“If you agree,” Lan Jue said, “then call your sister here. I’ll need to speak with her. This can be dangerous, so she’ll need to know. Maybe not life threatening, but it could very quickly all lead to failure…” he stopped there.
Tang Xiao still felt that fear within him as he watched his teacher. His attention shifted between him and his fellow disciple. Jin Tao wasted no time, agreed, and raced off to find his sister.
“Professor.” Tang Xiao was clearly perturbed.
Lan Jue didn’t answer immediately, instead making his way towards a nearby stone bench and taking a seat. He patted the spot beside him. Tang Xiao answered his teacher’s call and settled beside him. His large backside occupied easily half of the entire bench.
“Tang Xiao, your Talent’s natural ability to grow is very good. As you’ve grown older, your discipline has improved along with you. According to my own observations, perhaps becoming this large really has had some sort of effect. Your ability may very well have undergone a natural evolution. That is to say, with the proper stimulation and work, you could very well become a ninth-level Adept.”
“Huh?” The previously uneasy Tang Xiao now stared wide-eyed at Lan Jue.
Lan Jue grinned at him. “Didn’t expect that, did you.”
Tang Xiao could only nod.
“However what I just said is also true. You’re already over twenty. If you want to reach your full potential at your age, you’re certainly going to undergo some significant hardships. But if you persist, you’ll find that it’ll all be worth it.”
“Teacher,” Tang Xiao timidly offered, “will there be any risk to my life?”
- Woo! That one got me right in the feels. ↩