Chapter 127：Skyfire Necklace
The first time Tang Xiao and Jin Tao entered Skyfire Underground’s Zeus’ Jewelry Store, their reaction was just as severe as when they entered the underground itself. They were stunned, but not by the jewels. Before them stood Mika and Lin Guoguo.
“Boss.” The two women called to Lan Jue in greeting.
He smiled. “How’d it go? Is your cooperation improving?”
Lin Guoguo shook her fist dramatically. “We’re making progress! But don’t come looking yet boss. Give us some time to get better, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
“Alright.” Lan Jue nodded with a chuckle. He indicated to the two young men beside him. “These are my two newest students. They’ll soon become common faces around here. This is Tang Xao, the other is Jin Tao. Jin Tao will be staying with us for a little while.”
“So the decoction I fetched,” Mika offered, “was for them, I assume.”
Lan Jue nodded. “Jin Tao will use one. Tang Xiao has no need for it. We’ll use it tomorrow. Today we’ll be spending our time prepping. You’re all done with what I asked you to do?”
It was Mika’s turn to nod. “All set.” As she spoke, she walked over to the young flabbergasted disciples. “I’m Mika. You can call me Miss Mika. Work hard, and don’t disgrace the boss.”
“Yes, Miss Mika. We’ll do whatever the Professor requires, and soon be strong enough to make him proud!” Tang Xiao stuck out his flabby chest as he made the declaration. His normally fluttery eyes were full with determination.
One of Jin Tao’s primary advantages over Tang Xiao was his fearlessness towards the unknown, and while he wasn’t timid around his new surroundings, he did feel as though he’d entered an entirely different world. It was the first time meeting these two gorgeous women, and yet he felt none of the instant disdain he was used to from others. The feelings this called up in him were too difficult to describe.
“Yes.” His response was simple, but the emotion within them gave them power.
“Jin Tao’ll go with you. I’ll take Tang Xiao,” Lan Jue said to Hua Li.
“Mm.” Ever since last night, he appeared considerably less upbeat.
They entered the giant warehouse at the back of the store. Thor was conspicuously absent. The warehouse seemed deserted.
Lin Guoguo took over the store business for the time being while Mika joined the others, leading the way. The way was lit by wall sconces, their tungsten light illuminating the strange world they found themselves in. Their mouths were dry from nerves.
Lan Jue fumbled in his coat and produced two small boxes. He handed each of his disciples one. “Wear them. These are the badges that will allow you to enter Skyfire Underground unmolested. Next time you wont need me to bring you in.”
The boys opened their respective boxes and spied the necklace within. It was no fancy thing, just a simple golden chain with a pendent. It was round, and in it’s center was inlaid a translucent gemstone.
“It’s a Skyfire Necklace, be sure not to lose it. If you do, you must tell me immediately.”
“Got it!” Jin Tao and Tang Xiao answered with one voice, slipping the necklace around their necks.
Hua Li took Jin Tao out, while Tang Xiao and Lan Jue remained in the warehouse. Lan Jue looked towards him. “If you want to become powerful, your personal powers are the foundation. As I’m sure you know, in today’s world of modern technology a person’s discipline and ability determine their success as a mecha pilot. Because an Adept’s endurance surpasses that of a normal human, they are able to better control and suffer the strains of a mecha suit. So, every single top-level mecha pilot is the product of a perfect symbiotic relationship between man and machine. And the proper power gems. These are the single greatest soldiers at an army’s disposal. Because of this, whether you or Jin Tao, our first priority must be your personal abilities.”
“I’ll tell you, the risk Jin Tao are undertaking by imbibing this Fantascia Genetica medicine is to employ acquired Western assistance to improve his Talent. Therein lies the danger. But you, your situation is different. You need to be strengthened, forged in the fires. To search for every opportunity, to the very limit, to improve upon what you were blessed with. If there comes a day you think you can’t keep going, where you can’t handle it, then quit. But if you do, you can no longer call me your teacher. Understood?”
Tang Xiao took a deep breath. He nodded resolutely at his master. “Professor. I will call you teacher for the rest of my life.”
“Just words,” Lan Jue said indifferently. “Show me you mean it. Today, you’re task is to hold your own against your new colleague. Mika, if you would…”
“Yes, Boss.” Mika shoved her black-rimmed glasses higher on her tiny nose. She made her way to the center of the warehouse, and turned. Her eyes locked on to Tang Xiao’s.
He looked at the woman in her business attire, with her fiery temper. He couldn’t help but gulp in fear. His heartbeat rang in his ears. If I’m to take a beating, at least being whipped by a woman like this isn’t so bad.
He shuffled to a spot twenty-some meters in front of her, and stopped. The distance was one he’d chosen deliberately. In general it was accepted that an adept’s range of discipline had it’s limit. Even if their focus was ranged attacks, twenty meters was enough to give him time to react.
“Are you ready?” Mika looked pointedly at Tang Xiao.
“Ready, Miss Mika. Go easy on me.” Tang Xiao laughed nervously. His feet shook ever so slightly beneath him.
Wordlessly Mika took off, rushing headlong towards Tang Xiao. However, just before she landed her strike, the ground shuddered from beneath her and a metal barrier flashed to life. She cut off her charge. Tang Xiao sidestepped to the left and stamped the ground with his left foot. A hearty boom arose in response. His skin coagulated, hardened, and took on a silvery look.
With his level of metallic control, he not only possessed the ability to manipulate himself but also – by virtue of metallic malleability – employ it as an attack. The warehouse itself was entirely composed of metal, which gave him the advantage in that regard.
But, just as he was getting ready to feel proud of himself, the smile melted from his face.
As Mika rushed again at the barrier he’d created, her body began to burn a fiery, translucent red. Her flaming figure crashed against the metal cover, penetrating it. As she did, it melted away behind her in to a pool of molten iron. Tang Xiao didn’t have time to react before Mika’s fist was barreling towards his face.
Tang Xiao’s face went askew as the fist landed. Mika’s scorching fist had been burned in to his cheek.
However, to Mika’s surprise the violent strike hadn’t caused Tang Xiao to be cast away as she expected. He only stumbled slightly. How heavy WAS this kid, she thought. With the question rumbling through her mind, she took advantage of his stagger to launch herself unimpeded in to the air. One foot connected with his stomach, and she arced around to connect her other foot viciously with his head.