Chapter 134: Some Unknown Danger
“Me?” Lan Jue pointed a finger at his nose.
Tan Lingyun only grunted, then turned and started off. Lan Jue smiled wryly and followed.
Li Wei shuffled to Wang Hongyuan, who’d recently finished setting up his own tent, and grumbled towards him. “Professor Wang, you’re right. Is this a trip or some sort of military survival training?”
Wang Hongyuan scowled. “This savage woman, she’ll probably never find a husband.”
Jin Yan furrowed her brow at the two men. “Don’t be so malicious. She’s a good woman! It’s just what happened years ago…”
Lan Jue followed close on Tan Lingyun’s heels as they made their way back in to the forests. The mecha instructor was in the lead, her pace slow. Her eyes swept along the brush, in constant motion.
“You look like you’re in decent shape. Do you exercise?” She didn’t look at him as she asked her question, continuing her earnest surveillance.
“Yeah,” he replied. His response was brief, curt. He had no kindness prepared for this woman – the way she’d treated him earlier was unforgivable.
So Tan Lingyun just went on, talking to herself. “It’s strange. I don’t remember the wildlife on Taihua being this sparse. We’re five kilometers in and we haven’t seen anything.”
“You’ve been here before?”
She nodded. “I come every year. Hunting’s always permitted, the air is good, it’s relaxing. It’s a good way to reconnect with nature. By the way, what was your name? Flat-foot?”
Lan Jue considered silence, but went on. “Lan Jue. You can call me Professor Lan, or my full name if you must. You’ve probably hated men your whole life, huh. Something must’ve happened.”
Tan Lingyun stopped, and spun suddenly to face him. She nearly speared Lan Jue to a tree with her cutting stare. “Shut. Your. Mouth.”
Lan Jue only smiled indifferently in the face of her anger. “If you’re so predisposed to hating guys, why’d you make me come along?”
Tan Lingyun hissed chillingly at him. “I needed a pack mule. Stay here, and don’t move. I’ll take a look around.”
She hefted her machete, and stuck it in to the trunk of a nearby tree. She shut her eyes. After a moment, a faint green light began to emanate from her.
As the viridian halo expanded Lan Jue was surprised to discover that she had begun to completely blend in with her surroundings. Hm? What was this Discipline? Despite all Lan Jue’s experience, he couldn’t guess her Discipline at a glance. The dim light she was releasing was gentle, almost cozy. Her own aura vanished, and it seemed she was almost a tree or shrub herself – not a woman at all.
It was no surprise she liked it here. It appeared her Discipline somehow had a connection with nature. Considering his unfortunate run-in with her before, perhaps physical power as well. So was it that power?
As Lan Jue was lost in his thoughts, Tan Lingyun’s eyes suddenly shot open. Shock shone brightly within them.
“Whose afraid?” Lan Jue asked, inquisitively.
“Everything.” Tan Lingyun’s voice had grown perceptibly softer. “All of them, all the plants here are afraid. At my level of cultivation I can feel the mood of every living thing within three thousand meters. There isn’t a single wild animal in that diameter, just plants. Not coming across any wildlife on our trip out here could be written off as a coincidence, but nothing in three kilometers? There’s something wrong. Quick, let’s head back.”
She grabbed Lan Jue, and the two raced back to the campsite.
Lan Jue felt an intense power coming from her hand, and suddenly he felt himself literally being dragged through the air. The physical power exuded from Tan Lingyun expanded and enveloped him within it, like a protective shield. Any plant or insect that was unfortunate enough to draw near was cast away in their wake. He feared even trees wouldn’t be able to stand against them.
Lan Jue didn’t speak. But if he had to describe the situation, visually it was like flying a kite. He was the kite.
“Base, come in. This is NEU Group Seven Leader Tan Lingyun. There’s something strange going on, come in.” As Tan Lingyun dragged Lan Jue behind her, she called in to the communicator on her wrist.
“Hello Group Leader. What is it?” A calm voice answered.
She responded, her voice low. “We’re five kilometers in to the forest. Trekking in we didn’t come across any wildlife. I used my discipline to search, and found nothing. There’s definitely something going on here, requested satellite survey immediately. We’re heading back to the encampment.”
“No wildlife? Alright, we’ll take a look. We’ll let the other groups know. Come on back. Be careful on the return trek. We’ll send out a reinforcement recon team, they’ll link up with the coordinates on your communicator.”
Lan Jue was not enjoying being the kite. However he had to admire Tan Lingyun’s handling of the situation. She was certainly a competent mecha instructor. From the instant she discovered something wrong, her responses were clear, calculated and not in the least wasteful.
They had not gone out far, so by the time her report was finished they were already back at the campsite. Her hand shook, and Lan Jue tumbled to the floor. She called out to the others.
“Alright everyone we’re breaking camp and moving out now. There’s something wrong out here. Drop all excess weight, we’re only bringing solid foods. Hurry it up!”
By this time all the tents had been constructed. The physically beat electives teachers were already resting within. Tan Lingyun’s sudden and vocal declaration took them all by surprise.
The other two mecha instructors rushed to her side. “Lingyun, what is it?”
“I don’t know yet. There isn’t any wildlife in these rainforests, I checked. The plants are also giving off a palpable fear. There must be some unknown danger. We have to rush back to base camp. And then immediately back to Skyfire. No delay.”
“How do you know this isn’t some guess or mistake on your part?” Wang Hongyuan glared at her, rising from the interior of his tent.
That withering gaze she wielded so well fell upon the dance instructor. “It is a guess. But it’s well-founded. We have to get out of here. As group leader I have to keep the safety of the group as my first concern.”
“Professor Wang, I believe her. Let’s get out of here first, then we’ll see. I also feel like something isn’t right.” Lan Jue felt the need to interject.
Lan Jue’s sudden agreement was unexpected, and Tan Lingyun shot him a curious glance.
“You?!” Wang Hongyuan barked suddenly at him like a dog who’d had his tail trampled. “And what are you? Just some new face, fresh and worthless. Why don’t you just PISS. OFF!”
“Professor Wang! What are you saying?!” By this time Jin Yan had also left her tent and, seeing Wang Hongyuan address Lan Jue this way, couldn’t help but shout angrily at him.
The dance teacher only shot her a hateful glare, and stomped back in to his tent.
A dangerous glint flickered through Tan Lingyun’s eyes. She turned to speak to the two other female teachers. “Get them out of here. Now!” She didn’t wait for an answer, she was already making for Wang Hongyuan’s tent. She flicked her wrist, the machete in her palm glinting ominously.
Rrrrip! A great tear appeared in the side of Wang Hongyuan’s tent.
“You b*tch! I’ve tolerated you long enough!” The man’s tittery voice screeched from the entrance. Then, a figure emerged from newly created opening.
A clawed hand reached out, grabbing at the knife in Tan Lingyun’s hand.
“Wha-?” She cried out in surprise and retreated a step. She yanked her wrist to free it from his grip. Her left hand curled in to a fist, a punched at the origin of the hand.
The moment she threw that punch, Lan Jue felt a powerful wave of energy expanding outward from the attack.
Bang! A muffled thud preceded Wang Hongyuan unceremoniously tumbling from the tent. Tan Lingyun stood in the same spot, looking down at him. The only change in her was five white marks on her knuckles.
The dance instructor was a sight different than normal, now. Long, sharp nails had extended from each of his fingertips. His face had grown pale, stretching longer and more slender than before. His effeminate aura was gone, replaced with an unsettling chill.
“An adept? Your power has a darkness to it…” Tan Lingyun’s features were confused, almost trembling, as she looked on his hideous face.
Wang Hongyuan’s voice had become higher still, screechy. “Tan Lingyun, you’re a powerful woman. I didn’t want to strike out at you. But the way you speak, the things you say, and this groundless assumption of danger to make us retreat. We’re here on vacation! Nothing else. If you want to leave, then go, but don’t drag us electives teachers behind you like mules! I have power enough to protect myself!”
Jin Yan was also shocked, looking at the change that had overcome Wang Hongyuan. She hadn’t realized that this man she came across every day, greeted in the office, and sat beside was in fact an adept. And a powerful one at that, it appeared.
The only one who didn’t appear surprised at the revelation was the man standing a few short meters away: Lan Jue.
They couldn’t see it, but how could he not recognize Wang Hongyuan’s hidden powers? Lan Jue’s own thunderbolt Discipline was in direct opposition to such dark powers. So, the moment he met Wang Hongyuan he felt the energies pulsing from him. Wang Hongyuan may not know about Lan Jue’s own powers, but the fact that they were opposed meant they were destined to dislike one another from the start.
Tan Lingyun dropped her arm. “Now that I know you’re an adept, that’s better. I don’t want to sit here and argue with you – you’re right, we’re here on vacation. Still, safety has to be our primary concern. If in the end we find there indeed was no danger, I’ll happily accept whatever punishment the school sees fit to levy against me. But, right now, I am the group leader, and you must listen to me. We’re leaving right – now.”
“And if I don’t want to?” Wang Hongyuan challenged.