Chapter 157: Discipline Awakening?
A flash of electricity, and Lan Jue’s hazy form appeared once again at the edge of the mountain forest. His face bore a peculiar expression.
“Discipline Awakening? Her ‘illness’ is from her Discipline blooming? And how is it her Discipline fells so much like Hera’s did in the beginning? Hera never told me what her Discipline was either, but these energy fluctuations can’t lie. They’re weaker than Hera’s was, though, like it has just Awakened. What’s going on?”
His confusion gave way to joy, however, since in the end her problems weren’t serious. On the contrary, a person’s Discipline awakening was a grand occasion.
It had been three years since he’d lost Hera, but he remembered everything about her as though it just happened. In the beginning, like him, she was a talented mecha pilot. However, she was different from all of the higher level pilots, too. Her Talent didn’t appear to have any specific combat proficiency. It just made her body better. He responsiveness, flexibility, agility and physical strength all were beyond the levels of an average human. That was how she managed to reach the heights of mecha piloting that she had. By virtue of that strange Discipline, her hand speed had been even faster than his.
He’d asked her more than once about it, her Discipline. With such high energy output, he said, why is it her Discipline was never used in combat? It would certainly make her a sight more powerful. She said nothing more than that her Discipline didn’t fuse well with mechas. The result was she was never able to break in to the God-class of pilots, and remained an Emperor.
Every time he asked she was secretive, and would only tell him that there would come a day when he would find out what her Discipline was. But she never expected that day…
To feel that power again brought the memories flooding back, so similar to Hera’s own. The difference in power was inescapable, but so too was that familiar feeling.
She was already so similar to her, and then now at his age to have her Discipline awaken, a discipline so similar to Hera’s… inconceivable couldn’t describe it. Lan Jue knew nothing, not even if she would be able to cultivate her Talent to be stronger. What in the world was this?
With these questions still roiling unanswered in his mind, Lan Jue made his exit from the mountain top. He swung up on to the seat of his bike and began rolling down the path.
By the time he got back to the jewelry store, Hua Li and Chu Cheng were already waiting.
Today’s disguise for Hua Li was a hat, and thick black-rimmed glasses. It wasn’t a major effort to hide his identity, but then there were never very many people on the Avenue. There wasn’t much of a need for his snowman suit.
Chu Cheng was seated on the counter, discussing something with Ke’er in quiet tones. Something unsavory, judging by the small grin on his face.
Ding ding. The door announced Lan Jue’s arrival.
“Boss, you’re back,” Ke’er greeted without hesitation.
Lan Jue nodded in greeting. Chu Cheng’s smile was gone, and he stared at the ceiling in the very picture of false innocence.
His friend’s very poor cover-up caused him to laugh. “Alright, alright. No need to pretend. We all know what sort of man you are.”
Chu Cheng chuckled. “Yeah? And what sort of man am I?”
“A bastard,” Lan Jue said without missing a beat. “Xiuxiu, Ke’er. You ladies give this scoundrel a wide berth, you hear me? He’s no good for any of us.”
Xiuxiu covered her mouth sweetly as she laughed, while Ke’er shot her recent conversation companion a glance. “Well he did just offer to take me out for a meal and a movie, boss. You think he harbors evil intentions?”
“Ah-heh, hm!” Ch Cheng was suddenly overcome by a fit of coughs. It did little to dispel the awkward situation. “Well. I heard you were taking us out there, bro. Hua Li was telling me there’s this Gourmet on the Avenue that makes some delicious grub.”
Lan Jue made his way over to the small crowd and took the glass of water offered by Xiuxiu. He took a sip before answering. “No idea what he’s making, though. We have the time, so how about we head underground. I can see how my two baby apprentices are doing.”
“Off we go then.” Hua Li arose and stretched. He looked tired.
“What’s got you in such a sore mood, A-Li? You’ve got that huge concert coming up,” Lan Jue asked.
Hua Li’s pretty face revealed a hint of lamentation. “Mo Xiao, as always! She’s paying me back for disappearing like I did. She’s got me training twice as hard as I would for any normal concert. I’m sleeping only a few hours a night! You guys have no concept of her cruelty. What’s worse is this righteous kick she’s on, all about how this is a benefit concert and we need the donations for the search and rescue operations. All of this and I have no means of rebellion, she’s got it all locked down tight. Poor me! A-Jue, let’s just elope and get outta here.”
Lan Jue chuckled at his pitiful companion. “Let’s do it. But first you’ll have to find a habitable planet Gobi Entertainment hasn’t got it’s claws in yet.”
“Ah…” Hua Li glowered helplessly at the floor. “God damn I wish I wasn’t doing this stupid concert.”
“Shut your face!”
“Cut it out.”
Both Chu Cheng and Lan Jue spoke together, Lan Jue going so far as to clap a hand over Hua Li’s mouth.
“Don’t you realize what kind of chaos it’d cause if someone heard you say that? The economic ramifications?” Chu Cheng had changed suddenly, from his normally distant and lackadaisical persona to someone a sight frostier.
Hua Li slapped away Lan Jue’s hand. “Fine! Go check on your students. That fatty’s progress has been pretty good, he’s got some serious potential. The other one’s still asleep.
Lan Jue turned his attention to Xiuxiu and Ke’er. “You two come along as well. We’ll close the topside store for a little bit.”
“Yes boss,” Xiuxiu said, moving towards the door and locking it tight. It wasn’t as though it mattered much, really – the surface store rarely saw any visitors.
The five of them took the shop’s elevator to its Underground equivalent.
“Ah boss, you’re here.” Mika greeted them as the doors opened. Today she was dressed in a black suit and skirt combo, with her fiery red hair sitting atop her head in a bun.
The second he saw her, Chu Cheng’s eyes adopted a hungry light. Wordlessly he shot a glance at Lan Jue, though it’s meaning was clear. Lan Jue, however, seemed not to have noticed.
Lin Guoguo also trotted over. “Hey boss. I guess you brought Ke’er and Xiuxiu down here to see how our training’s been going?”
Lan Jue smirked and shook his head. “Negatory.”
“Oh?” Lin Guoguo cantered her head and blurted, “What’s the deal then?”
“You’ll find out in a bit,” he answered cryptically. “First take me to see Jin Tao.”
“Yes boss.” Mika led the way, bringing the others to the shop’s back room warehouse.
As they walked Lan Jue addressed his number two. “Mika, let me see the shop’s inventory list when you get a chance.”
“You got it,” she said. “I’ll have it for you tomorrow.”
He nodded. “It was by the grace of the Wine Master and the Doctor that I got back alive this time. I owe them a great deal. The Doctor had to expend an s-ranked gem as well. We don’t have any in stock, but a show of gratitude and intent to pay back is important. Make sure to take it from my own stock.”
“What are you on about boss,” Mika said. “We’re all in this together, stock included.”
Lan Jue smiled, but said nothing further.
Chu Cheng made a motion as though he were swooning from behind Mika. Hua Li kicked him back to normal.
Jin Tao was still asleep in the nourishment pod, quietly floating in the strange gel. From time to time, multi-colored flashes of light arced across the surface of his skin.
Lan Jue took a glance at the pod’s computer, reading over the vitals. He nodded, apparently pleased with what he saw.
“This kid’s got intense willpower. The effects look good. The second two injections should be a sight easier on him.”
Hua Li spoke up. “You got a good eye. When I first saw the kid I didn’t think much of him. Now I see you were right. He has no real Talent, but his willpower is damn near supernatural. In that way he’s got a ton of potential. We just can’t know how much this Fantascia Genetica decoction will improve his Discipline.”
Lan Jue turned to look at Mika. “When is Tang Xiao coming today?”
“Should be soon,” she replied. “He comes every day. He may be fat but he’s damn cunning in a fight. He keeps harassing me in the middle of it, so naturally I have to beat the piss out of him every time.”
Lan Jue snorted a laugh. “That’s his special combat style. Any indication of his Discipline’s second Awakening?”
“Nothing for the time being. Still, with the pressure we’ve been adding his progress certainly isn’t slow. Definitely faster than an average seventh level Adept. As far as I can tell it shouldn’t be long.”
“That’s good then,” he replied. “We’ll keep waiting.”
Hua Li gave him a wondering look. “So what are we all doing down here, anyway?”
“To watch a little spar.”
“Spar?” Chu Cheng asked. “Who what and where?”
Lan Jue looked them over. “Have you forgotten why you came here? We’ve got that challenge we accepted from Piao Hong and the Guardians. If we aren’t up to snuff and lose, big brother’s gunna let us have it. We need to get to training. We haven’t worked together in ages – it’s about time we remembered how to.”
Chu Cheng’s face lit up, exchanging a look with Hua Li. “So you’re really looking to make some improvement, eh? Good, so we’re here to compare notes as adepts or mecha pilots?”
Lan Jue’s grin split his face from ear to ear. “I came to a recent realization. Today we start with our Discipline. After a while, when Tang Xiao shows up, we’ll get to it in a big way. We’ll show them what a real team working together looks like. Tomorrow it’ll be mecha combat.”