Chapter 198: The Old Man Beckons
Lan Jue nodded his head. “It’s not breaking the rules, either. When you threw down the proverbial gauntlet, you called for anyone from the school. I am a part of the school.”
Su He looked at him in surprise. “You’re a teacher here?”
“Yup,” Lan Jue replied, “though I’m only really interested in an easy and care-free life. You helped us a lot back when we were schoolmates in university. I’ve been wanting to see you for a while, in fact. Now, I’m going to need to ask for your help in keeping this secret.”
Su He’s breath had quickened since the beginning of their conversation. Lan Qing, and Lan Jue! To him, the two names were like a curse. Memories of days past crashed against his brain like a tidal wave.
The memories ran deep. He recalled being young, Lan Qing and Lan Jue had just entered in to the university. He was a national scholar in his school, and already a Sovereign-ranked pilot. He stood out from the others in his class as exceptional.
At that time his school had a policy, in which upper classmen were expected to take care of and show around newer students. They would lead them around, and acclimate them to university life.
Su He had been assigned to Lan Qing. A name that would forever be branded on his mind.
Everything Lan Qing did, he did with supreme concentration and care. It took him no time at all to get right in the swing of things. It was easy, as all he did every day was study religiously.
Su He still clearly remembered that the young Lan Qing was often asking for help and advice. His response had been to be aloof and superior, sometimes even arrogant towards the new student.
However, Lan Qing didn’t seem to mind. He poured all of his energy in to his studies.
This continued until one day, when Su He told him not to waste his life with those books and notes. If he wanted one day to be a strong pilot, then he needed to get out there, and experience it for himself. Su He then brought him to the sparring arena.
That was when Su He’s nightmare began.
He saw it in his mind’s eye like it was yesterday. Three matches, with worse results even than he’d suffered today. Three terrible defeats at the hand of that quiet underclassman. He never had a chance. Like Su He, Lan Qing was also a Sovereign-ranked pilot but he had only just enrolled in classes.
Worse still, the entire debaucle had been recorded by the school and kept for posterity. It was for good reason, for not three years later Lan Qing was a God-ranked pilot. A God-ranked pilot, still in college. His college! From then on Lan Qing didn’t attend any of the national scholar classes, in fact leaving school entirely. It was said he left for a very important reason, one which attracted Alliance-wide attention.
If that had been the end of it, it would have been fine. However, a year before Lan Qing left, his younger brother had also enrolled in the same school.
Whether by the university’s design or cruel coincidence, Su He was selected as Lan Jue’s chaperone as well. By that time, he was already preparing to graduate from the scholar program.
Once again Su He bore witness to the inconceivable. In precisely the same amount of time it took Lan Qing, Lan Jue became the second God-ranked pilot in four years to graduate from the university. Like his brother before him, he never entered into the national scholar program, and left school. He, too, left a legend.
What Lan Jue did after he left, Su He had no idea. His brother, though… everyone knew Lan Qing’s name. The Anlun Supersoldier, Hero of the East!
The Great Protector, who saved a whole planet, and thus the alliance.
Su He thought back to his lengthy time as Lan Jue’s chaperone. He was even smarter than his brother, from what he could remember. Both were equally mysterious. No one know where they’d come from, but their talent and strength were still spoken about in that school to this day.
“I never would have thought I’d run in to you here, much less that we’d meet in the ring again. I appreciate you showing mercy.” The last few words seemed difficult for Su He to spit out. However, now that he knew it was Lan Jue he’d just faced in the Arena, everything started to make sense.
Without a doubt, he did get off easy.
“My classmate’s abilities have improved tremendously since the last time we met. Still, there are some… limitations.”
Su He fixed him with a stare. “What do you mean?”
“My dear classmate,” Lan Jue began, “you still haven’t recognized your biggest failing. And that is, you’re too fixated on your genetic talent. Unless I’m mistaken, your Talent is explosive energy. It’s an incredible Talent, which even though you’re eight-level can contend easily with many other kinds of ninth-level Disciplines. And yet even back then, you were convinced you would have a difficult time reaching God-ranked, simply because you weren’t ninth-level.”
“I was still young and inexperienced then, and so had no way to contradict your belief. But now I can, and I must tell you that your thinking is flawed. I’ve met several seventh and eighth-level Talents who achieved God status. You must stop pressuring yourself in this. Focus on your mecha ability, let go of your old mindset, and strengthen your self-confidence. Mentor, your greatest fault has always been a lack of confidence!”
Lan Jue’s words were like a thunderbolt. He simply stood there, staring at him.
His former classmate smiled, waved, and left.
Sometimes the slightest scratch could change the view from a window. Sometimes even the slightest chance can bring a revelation.
Su He had long been preparing for God status, but it appeared now that he had been taking the longer road.
Lan Jue did not return to the school once leaving Su He, it was too rowdy. Presumably everyone was still excited over the upset the NEU pulled. More than that, he was also afraid he might inadvertently run in to the Savage Goddess. He may have been wearing a mask and disguise, but the trouble that would ensue if she still managed to find out would be catastrophic. He just wanted to go home and change clothes.
Tan Lingyun eventually and with great effort managed to extricate herself from the throng of excited faces that penned her in. She convinced them to disperse, and only once the coast was clear did she return to the mecha warehouse.
Once more she climbed the ladder to the saber mech’s cockpit. She gently rapped on the metal chest plate, and when she spoke her voice was apologetic. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to lock you in here, I just thought it important that we talk.”
As she spoke, she coaxed the cockpit open. That was when she discovered it empty.
‘Lei Feng’ was gone.
Beep-beep-beep! The ring of a communicator demanded attention.
“Ah, Accountant. What.” Lan Jue spoke in to the device on his wrist.
“What’s with the mood, Jewelry Master? Still trying to burn bridges?” The Accountant’s voice was thick with irritation.
Lan Jue just laughed. “Nothing! I actually wanted to thank you. When it comes to hacking you’re a wizard.”
This seemed to placate the ornery man. “Well, yes. There was actually something I wished to discuss with you.”
“What is it?”
“I was just speaking with the old man,” he began. “I’m likely going to visit your university. As I understand it, you’re currently host to one Lir University for an educational exchange?”
“Yup!” Lan Jue looked surprised as he spoke in to the communicator. “The old man actually pays attention to such small things?”
The Accountnt huffed. “Of course he doesn’t care about some educational exchange. But someone – I don’t know who – called and asked if he could speak with him about the most recent research and development news from the last few years. The old man has me going in his place, already got me a temporary student I.D. and all. The problem as that I’m not familiar with the campus. The Keeper said that, seeing as you’re already there, you could how me around. So you can bring me with you tomorrow morning.”
Curiosity welled up within Lan Jue, and he couldn’t help but speak up. “Did the Keeper tell you to meet with someone named Su?”
“That’s right!” The Accountant’s excited voice bubbled from the communicator. “I guess he already spoke with you about it?”
Lan Jue could only sigh helplessly. “Alright. I’ll pick you up tomorrow.”
“Actually if you’re free, the Keeper said he wanted you to come and see the results of some research he’s been undertaking. That thing you brought back from Taihua, in fact.”
Lan Jue was stunned at the revelation. “Alright, I’ll head there now.”
As was customary, Skyfire Avenue was calm, quiet, and deserted. Lan Jue walked down the small street, surrounded by the classical architecture he’d grown to love.
His footsteps rang against the stone blocks that constituted the walkway, lending to the quaint atmosphere. Whenever Lan Jue came back, he was always struck with how fresh and pure everything felt. This is what it felt to have a family, he thought.
Still, Lan Jue’s pleasant mood was developing cracks. The reason was obviously what the Accountant had revealed about the research results.
The traumatic experience of Taihua was still with him, and probably always would be. It wasn’t about the beasts, despite their capabilities. At full strength he was confident he could have dealt with that massive sea creature himself.
What was troubling, was their enigmatic origins and purpose. Their ability to devour all life around them was terrifying. His own powers were sufficient, yes, but it would take a prepared team of average mecha pilots to handle such a threat themselves.
When paired with the information he’d received from Piao Hong in DreamNet, it made matters all the worse. This was an issue that threatened the safety of the entire human race.
It took him very little time to arrive at the Skyfire Library where the Keeper did his work. By the time he did, the Accountant was waiting for him by the door.
“Why are you waiting for me outside?” Lan Jue inquired.
The Accountant didn’t repose, instead rubbing his hands together lasciviously. “So, Jewelry Master… are there a lot of female students at the university you work for?”
“Tons!” He replied.
The squirrelly man’s eyes lit up. “Look, ehm, I’ve been under the Keeper’s strict thumb since I was small. Any measure of freedom is hard to come by. In some regards I’m still a… ‘blank sheet.’ So you think you could help a brother out?” 1
Lan Jue stared at him, speechless for a moment. “Help you. Chase skirts. That you can do yourself. Can you even teach this sort of thing? Cuz in fact, I’m no good at it either!”
The Accountant looked indignant. “No good?! You expect anyone to believe that? Like you aren’t surrounded by beautiful women all the time? Four! Four of them!”
Lan Jue patted the smaller man’s shoulder, and sighed piteously. “I’ve never chased a woman in my life. They all chase after me!”
- I know, the Chinese actually does say this, but in English it has different connotations. I kept it this way because a skinny, socially awkward pervert saying this paints a perfect picture of the Accountant in my mind’s eye. ↩