Chapter 233: Private Instruction
“So what are your thoughts, Wang Hongyuan?” Lan Jue asked with a smile. His voice had reverted to a more congenial tone, almost lethargic.
Looking at him, Wang Hongyuna felt almost as though he were in a trance. He couldn’t even determine whether the person in front of him was even really a man.
This was the same person who, just moments before, was as cruel as the name-sake he’d given himself. Before the eyes of DreamNet and the NEU students, he treated them like slaves and prisoners. Yet here he was now, polite and smiling.
Wang Hongyuan’s expression was stiff. “Pretty good… just, was it true what you said about the lightning. That it would promote their Discipline?”
Lan Jue chuckled. “Of course! As long as it’s within a reasonable scope, and it’s bioelectric energy, then it will indeed boost their abilities. So that is to say, we can’t use the electricity we employ to, say, power our televisions, but an adept’s bioelectric current will have an effect. How much will vary from person to person, though. Why? Are you interested in giving it a try?”
Wang Hongyuan grit his teeth. “If what you’re saying is indeed true…”
Before the dance instructor could even finish his thought, Lan Jue slapped a hand on his shoulder. There was an ominous crackling noise, then suddenly Wang Hongyuan’s body went stiff as a board. Arcs of electricity danced over him, filling the air with a charged buzzing noise. The man’s meticulously slicked-back hair now stood out in every direction.
Ahh, so nice! Lan Jue stretched his arms out in a display of contentment. He nodded his head to the violently twitching Wang Hongyuan, then left.
Darkness had begun to creep up, turning the sky purple. By dusk most of the classes had already finished for the day.
As he meandered through the campus walkways, he came across Tan Lingyun walking the opposite direction. Fury was written plain as day on her pretty features. She really looked in a bad way. Her hair was tousled, and part of her face had been burned black. Her clothes were damaged as well, covered in tears and burn marks. She certainly looked like she’d suffered some inhuman treatment.
Lan Jue, recognizing the danger of the situation, immediately stepped to the side of the road to give her space. He was playing the role of etiquette teacher once again, so he had to avoid conflict.
Naturally Tan Lingyun saw him as well. Much to Lan Jue’s surprise, however, she didn’t sweep by, but instead stopped right in front of him.
“Hey! Have you seen someone come by here, with a golden mask? About as tall as you are. Maybe a little stronger.” Her tone was accusing and impolite.
Lan Jue rubbed his nose. Stronger than me, eh? She needs her eyes checked, I guess.
“Nope!” Lan Jue’s response was simple, to the point, and likewise not very amicable.
Tan Lingyun huffed at him. “If you do, find me right away.”
“Mmhm.” The etiquette teacher replied by nodding his head, simultaneously sizing her up as he did so. Despite her pitiful appearance, he found that there was a difference in her. Her rough edges had been somewhat smoothed, if only just slightly. In her complimenting flight-suit she was actually quite feminine. However, there still remained that wild, untamed energy about her.
“What are you doing.” Just as she was about to leave, she noticed the guy drawing his eyes over her. She hadn’t stopped long enough to see what she looked like, but she could imagine she wasn’t at her best. She narrowed her eyes dangerously at Lan Jue, desperately hoping he’d dare crack a joke.
“Nothing!” Lan Jue animatedly shook his head.
“Nothing?” That tell-tale hardness crept in to the Savage Goddess’ eyes. She was absolutely lousy with choice curses and violent intent. She took a threatening step forward, and grabbed the front of his shirt. “You think something’s funny, don’t you?”
He could only helplessly allow himself to be man-handled. “Professor Tan, please control yourself. Take it easy.”
“Take it easy, my ass!” She pivoted on her foot and, whipping Lan Jue over her shoulder, violently thrust him to the ground. She stomped over, growling like a wild animal.
Lan Jue lay on the ground, all twisted limbs and odd angles. Higher voltage next time, he thought. This woman! Why in the world was she always so violent? He had to remind himself, though, that while on the outside she was as monstrous as they came, she had a good heart. After all, she’d thrown him on the lawn instead of on the concrete.
He clambered back on to his feet and set about fixing him rumpled clothing. His musings were interrupted by Zhou Qianlin’s voice, ringing through his mind.
Zhou Qianlin: Don’t send me home today! I’ll be going with Tang Mi.
Lan Jue: You’re angry.
No I’m not!
Now that you’re a student, I have to treat you the same as everyone else.
I want to study piloting. Of course I’ll study hard.
Good, then I can teach you.
Then come by my place tonight. I have a simulator we can use.
So you really aren’t angry!
Yeah, I’m just upset that I’m so unskilled. You really are something else.
Naturally. Otherwise how could I be your bodyguard. Are you sure it’s alright if I go at night?
My parents are out on a trip. There’s no one home.
Are you trying to find out if I’m a bad boy?
Would you dare?
With that, their conversation came to an end. Lan Jue slapped his forehead in frustration. He muttered darkly to himself. “Am I too nice? Why is it everyone bullies me!”
Of course Zhou Qianlin being interested in learning to pilot a mecha was a good thing. If what Lan Qing told them was true, humanity would be facing a significant threat in the near future. Being able to protect ones-self would be an invaluable skill. There was also the matter of the unnatural speed with which her Discipline was improving. He promised himself to check her progress again soon.
By now Lan Jue had retrieved his bicycle, and was trundling along towards Skyfire Avenue. He ate a quick dinner with Chu Cheng and Hua Li, then furtively left without alerting anyone. To save time, this trip he chose to use his verti-car. In a few minutes he’d arrived at Mount Tian.
By now he was well familiar with the single road leading up the mountain. He made his way towards the chairman’s residence at the summit, but not before alerting Zhou Qianlin to his presence. He used his electric metamorphosis abilities to quietly enter the home.
Qianlin had already prepared everything, and though she’d experienced Lan Jue’s strange entry habits before, she was still surprised when his form appeared in a flash of light from a nearby socket.
“You’re here.” Her face was grown slightly red. Her thoughts turned to their conversation, where she’d inadvertently mentioned the absence of her parents. She mentally chided herself for the embarrassing slip. What sort of respectable girl spoke that way to a man!
Lan Jue kept a straight face, and when he spoke his tone was strict. “Refer to me as Drillmaster. Is this your learning attitude?”
He didn’t wear the mask, but in all other aspects he was once again the Prince of Devils from earlier.
Qianlin was surprised by the sudden change. She quickly recovered, though, and stuck her tongue out at him. She paid no mind to his blustering façade.
Lan Jue’s expression was hard and unfriendly. He’d wanted to frighten her!
“Pffft!” Seeing his irritated and surprised expression, Qianlin couldn’t help but snort a laugh. “Fine, Drillmaster Lan, hurry up and get this lesson under way. Do you want to go to the pods?”
Lan Jue fixed her with a fierce stare. “You think you’re good enough to use the pods, with the level you’re at? We start with the basics. Stretch out your hands, and let me see.” 1
“Ok,” she replied, then stretched out her hands palms up.
Lan Jue looked over the appendages, deep in thought. Uncanny, he thought. Even the palms look exactly like hers.
He grabbed one of her hands and pulled it up to eye level.
The blush in Qianlin’s cheeks darkened, but she didn’t struggle. She let him examine to his heart’s content.
His eyes carefully followed the lines of her hands, while at the same time he kneaded the flesh with his thumbs. Her hands were soft, and supple like there weren’t even any bones. Tender, and slightly cold, he couldn’t help but to warm her hands in his own.
With each passing moment Qianlin’s face was becoming more and more red. Her breath was coming a little quicker. His hands were not calloused, and like hers bore long slender fingers. However, where they different was in grace – his hands moved with an unconscious finesse. With her smaller hands in his, she felt warm, and safe. She felt her heartbeat quicken.
“Done yet?” She felt like she was having trouble controlling her own emotions, made evident by the challenging question.
“Hm?” Lan Jue blinked, as though coming back from some other reality. He released her hands with a nod, oblivious to anything out of the ordinary. “Alright. You got good hands for it. Your meridians are pliable and tough, good flexibility, all things necessary for a high CPS. But remember that hand speed isn’t everything when piloting a mecha, but the inability to reach a baseline speed means you’ll never be able to reach the higher levels of mastery. Your Discipline has yet to fully emerge, but I can feel how quickly its improving. A tremendous pace, really. If this keeps up, you’ll be a second-rank Talent in no time. Have you had any feelings? Something to tell you your Talent has awakened? It feels like… there’s something else within you, all of a sudden. Or maybe that you are something else.”
Zhou Qianlin shook her head.
Lan Jue narrowed his eyes in thought and, pondering for a moment, went on. “Anyway, keep up with your cultivation exercises we discussed. At least it isn’t hurting. If in the process you feel discomfort anywhere in your body, let me know immediately. I’ll help make some adjustments.”
“Alright,” she answered, and nodded.
Lan Jue flicked his wrist, and where there had been nothing a moment before, there now appeared two beads in his palm that looked to be made of glass. They were perhaps only a centimeter in diameter.
“Take a look!”
He stretched his hands out, a bead in each palm. He rhythmically began to wiggle his fingers.
As they did, the small bead tumbled from finger to finger, and the grooves between, from one side to the other and back again. The motions weren’t fast, but they were very fluid like the tide.
“See what I’m doing?” He asked.
“Mmh,” she replied.
- You see this sometimes in the West, but it’s a common trope in the East, and used as – they believe – an acceptable metric to determine whether you have the ability to be effective in a job that uses your hands (mostly instruments, like the piano, guzheng or pipa, but also art like calligraphy). If your fingers aren’t perfect for it – long, thin, slender and nimble – they won’t even bother to teach you. ↩