Skyfire Avenue, Chapter 234

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Chapter 234: Genius

“Right. Now you try.” Lan Jue placed the two glass balls in Zhou Qianlin’s palm.

She extended her palm as she’d seen Lan Jue do, with the balls in the center. She paused for a moment, as though thinking, then began to appreciably undulate her fingers.

Qianlin’s fingers were longer than Lan jue’s, and thinner. However, she left no space between them as the pearl rolled, so that the ball bounced precariously from digit to digit. At the onset it was clear she was struggling, but little by little a fluidity crept in to the ball’s movements. It was absent the smoothness Lan Jue had displayed, but her control was impressive. Qianlin herself stared fixedly upon them, concentrating on her work.

Lan Jue nodded approvingly. “Your kinesthetic control is good. Let’s make it a little more difficult. Now have the left-hand pearl roll counter-clockwise, and the right side clockwise.”

“Mh.” She paused, considering his instructions, then began to roll the balls in circles along her palms and fingers.

She adapted quickly, performing well but for a few brief pauses. But before long the new exercise was mastered.

Lan Jue watched in silence, surprised at her speed. It appeared she had a real talent for this. Of course, a woman’s poise and suppleness were innately superior to your average man’s.

“How am I doing?” Qianlin continued to roll the balls around as she shot her instructor an inquisitive glance. There was the faint glint of pride in her eyes.

He pursed his lips and nodded sagely. “Not bad. That’s enough.”

“Got it!” Qianlin complied, allowing the balls to settle in the hearts of her palms.

Lan Jue had more balls in his hands now, at some point plucking them from some unseen locale. He took back the two from Qianlin as well. “Watch carefully,” he instructed.

Each hand had two balls; one in the palm, and the other near the fingertips. With Qianlin lending close scrutiny, Lan Jue had the ball in his palm move towards the radial end of his hand, while the distant ball followed it’s trajectory in a circle until the two glass balls had switched places. Both hands undulated in similar fashion to the exercise before, but this time the balls rolled and danced around one another.

In theory the addition of an extra ball wasn’t much, but practically it was significantly more difficult. Lan Jue’s movements were slower than he was capable of, so that his student could observe.

The exercises were called palm spinning, either mono or duo. It was a viable metric to determine hand speed, as someone who could maintain a good speed and fluidity with the balls could sustain ten CPS 1. If you couldn’t complete this exercise, then there wasn’t even any point in getting in a mecha suit.

“You give it a try.” The balls were passed to Qianlin.

She didn’t say anything, but leapt right in to it. The movements were fine, but when it came time to swing the ball around she hadn’t used enough power. Both were cast in to disarray, and fell to the ground.

Lan Jue snatched them up and put them once more in to her hands. Qianlin’s face was red.

“I must seem pretty dumb,” she said, hanging her head sheepishly.

Lan Jue shook his head. “When I first started doing this, it took me three days to master the basics. You’re just starting, don’t rush. When it comes to controlling anything, the most important thing is a calm heart. Pay attention to your state of mind. Start slow, and when you’ve got the movements down you can add speed.”

“Got it.” Qianlin began again, with Lan Jue at her side periodically giving pointers. Tiny details, tricks and pointers were delivered in her ear as she practiced.

Time passed, with Qianlin carefully working the exercises. She never complained, never commented, only diligently performed what her teacher demanded.

Lan Jue’s surprise only grew as their session continued. She really did have a natural ability for this, and her choppy movements were already much smoother. She was as yet unpracticed, but the rhythm and foundation were there. It had taken him a whole day to get to this point, when he started learning. If this was any indication, the fact she started her training late didn’t look like it would stop Qianlin from achieving a very high CPS. The suppleness of her movements were as good as a child’s.

“Spend the next two days working on this, and once you’re ready we’ll move on to the next. This is specifically to help your hand speed, and you’ll see the benefits of it soon if you keep it up. Speaking of, tell me what you think about your mecha manipulation ability.”

“I haven’t reached second-grade yet, I think,” she answered. “All the basics I know, but I’m not proficient. I haven’t studied much.”

Lan Jue nodded thoughtfully to himself. “That’s fine. It’d be better if we started from the beginning anyway.”

Qianlin looked up from the balls. “Why do you say that?”

Lan Jue explained. “If you’ve been teaching yourself, or you had a bad instructor who taught you poorly, you’re likely to have developed a number of bad habits. Reversing these mistakes would be much more difficult than just starting over with the proper methods. Your improvement will be faster, too. If what I’m seeing here with your hands is any indication, your hand speed improvement will be impressive in the beginning. Once you hit intermediate, we’ll see if your Discipline will be able to help you push it further. We’ll need to see whether or not your body will be able to handle higher speeds or mecha manipulation. The higher your abilities become, the more stress the suit’s actions will put on your physique.”

Qianlin gripped the ball in her hand, and raised her tiny fist towards Lan Jue. “I’ll study hard. Who knows, one day I might be better than you!”

Lan Jue chuckled at her zeal. “I’ll hold my breath.” Before Qianlin could answer, he’d dissolved in to electricity and vanished in to the nearby wall socket.

Qianlin stared at the wall with a small grin on her face. Her eyes dropped to the glass balls in her hands and, with an obstinate glint, got right back to practicing.

 

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Lan Jue was also smiling as he left Mount Tian. He was surprised at how good of a student Zhou Qianlin was. By the time he’d met Hera, she was already an outstanding pilot. Her hand speed had been as good or better than his own! He hoped her little sister would one day reach that level.

His mind turned back to his own days practicing hand speed, and the experienced he had. When you spoke about the four Monarchs, everyone talked about their power and ability. No one knew the torment each of them had suffered in their childhood.

He couldn’t speak for Chu Cheng and Hua Li, really, but it was certainly true for him and his brother. For them, it wasn’t glass balls they practiced with, but razor blades. For those few years at the beginning, neither he nor Lan Qing’s hands were ever fully healed. He didn’t know what they’d done to deserve such bitter punishment.

His brother had gotten the worst of it, often times as a result of trying to protect him. Often he’d sneakily replace Lan Jue’s razors with balls for him to practice with, then help him improve.

The reason Lan Qing’s hand speed would never match up to Lan Jue’s was due to that very fact. At one point he’d been severely punished, and sustained a serious injury to his hand. Though it eventually healed, his potential had been cut short. If it hadn’t been for that, there’s no doubt Lan Qing would have bested his brother in this regard, too, long ago.

How much emotion bubbled beneath that cold and solemn exterior, Lan Jue wondered? I’ve really never blamed you, brother. I only blame myself.

Lan Jue lifted his eyes to the heavens, thinking about his kin. He knew him to be on An Lun. He knew war was coming, and when that day came he would proudly fight by his brother’s side.

 

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Early morning.

“What’s with the panda eyes,” Lan Jue said when he encountered Zhou Qianlin.

Qianlin gave a soft laugh, rubbing the dark circles under her pretty eyes. “It’s nothing, I just didn’t sleep very well. I had bouncing glass balls in my brain all night.”

Lan Jue shot her a gentle smile. “So it is in the beginning. It’ll be better once you get used to it. You also shouldn’t overtire yourself, pace yourself and once you feel proficient let me know.”

“Alright.” She said nothing further, situating herself on the back of the bicycle and wrapping an arm around his waist. She rested her head against his back and shut her eyes.

Lan Jue could feel her gentle breathing against him. He kept his pace slow, so as to make the ride as smooth as possible.

It didn’t take long for Qianlin to fall asleep, even perched on the small back seat of the bike. A smile curled the edges of her lips, as she enjoyed some unknown dream.

When they arrived at the university gates, they once more played their roles. One entered before the other, as though they didn’t even know one another. She walked on ahead, but Lan Jue’s trek was blocked by the appearance of Director Wu.

“Do you have a moment to speak,” the Teaching Director asked in low tones.

“Mmhm, but don’t come looking for me like this. An observant person will know something’s going on. I was serious when I said I’d leave if anyone found out my identity.” His tone was quiet, but firm as he reminded Director Wu of their agreement.

“Relax, relax. I’ve already gone over all of this with the Dean. We’ll support you in any way you need, and spare no effort in keeping your identity secret. If there’s anything you need, you only need ask.” Wu Junyi’s pledge was sincere.

Lan Jue nodded. “So what do you need from me?”

“I was looking over the recording of your last class in DreamNet,” Director Wu began. “I’ve got to tell you, you’ve been hiding a great opportunity from us! You really are something special. I just wanted to thank you, and say how lucky we are to have you with us.”

The school’s DreamNet area was all under surveillance, and while of course Wu Junyi had no intention of sharing the video, he was curious how Lan Jue would teach the class. He was, after all, still the Teaching Director. He had no complaints or worries, but had simply been curious. He remembered how excited he’d been after Professor Lan’s first etiquette class. He wanted to see if that success would carry over.


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