Chapter 246: Dancing Blades
The trays were heavy with surgical razors!
But no, that wasn’t right. Scalpel blades were only sharp on one end. These looked painfully sharp on both sides.
Each student very carefully plucked four from the trays as the workers wandered by, then placed them in their palms. They didn’t know what the Drillmaster had planned, but their hearts were full of foreboding.
Before long, every palm bore a set of razor blades. A worker with surplus blades approached Lan Jue.
The masked jewelry master snapped up two blades, pinching them between his thumbs and forefingers. He approached the students, hands high. “Two more each for Emperor pilots, and six more for Sovereigns.”
Tang Mi, Tang Xiao and Geng Yang were given two more blades each, while Tan Lingyun and Wang Hongyuan were given six more.
Lan Jue kept just the two.
“Watch carefully,” he instructed, as his hands begun to move.
Under the student’s scrutiny, the razor blade began to dance along the back of Lan Jue’s finger, flipping over and between them back and forth. The sharp inch of steel tumbled back and forth over his finger joints like it had a life of its own.
The sun was high over the outdoor field. With the sun high overhead, shining directly upon Lan Jue and his razor blades, it gave the onlookers a strange sense of beauty. They felt like they were watching a man playing with a friendly spirit, as the blade flashed occasionally catching the sun’s rays.
However, no one was excited to watch. By now they expected nothing but terrible things from their demon Drillmaster.
Lan Jue meandered among the lines of students, still coaxing the razor blade along his fingers. His trek was slow and deliberate, giving everyone ample time to see what he was doing.
His finger speed was fast, but very rhythmic. Despite the sharpness of the blade, no damage was done to Lan Jue’s hands. The rise and fall of his fingers, and the flash of steel as it tumbled along them, was almost hypnotic.
“For the next hour, you will learn to control this blade as it runs over and between your fingers. The other drillmasters and I will be responsible for supervising you. Should anyone stop, or deviate from the method shown, you’ll all be treated to a wonderful surprise. Begin.”
Lan Jue returned to the front of the class. The razor blades were gone, and now an orb of roiling lightning crackled in his palm.
The sizzling sound it produced filled the air. It’s cobalt blue, electric light cast stark shadows on the faces of the nearest students.
With the ‘wonderful surprise’ of this morning still fresh in their minds, the students didn’t dare hesitate. They took a final, dismal look at the razors, then started.
Lan Jue never told them any tricks, never related any techniques. He’d just showed them the example.
These young pilots had all done similar finger exercises before, however their training methods had involved either crystal balls or small iron rods – never razor blades. Who used razor blades?
They proceeded carefully, with ginger and jittery movements.
Hua Li and Chu Cheng made a tour of the student lines, heading off in different directions. Chu Cheng wandered among them with his hand raised, a roiling ball of fire swirling within. The orb was alive with licking flames of red and orange, but the core of it was black as night. Looking at it too long, it felt like your soul was being drawn inside. Most unsettling of all, however, was the heat – or rather, the lack thereof. Instead of heat, the orb released a palpable, ominous chill.
None of the students knew what it was, or what it did, but the feeling it released was enough to frighten them. No one was willing to discover the properties of this devil’s fiery orb.
The morning’s lesson was clear; the Prince of Devils demanded obedience, and none dare challenge that. Not after Tang Mi.
It took very little time for the first student to cut their hand. He picked it up where it fell, and continued.
Of course anyone who let their cadence slip, or who slowed even a little, was met with a streak of lightning, a lick of flame, or a blast of water.
It was a mistake to assume the water was the least terrible of the options. The moment that water touched them, it felt like their skin was simultaneous numb and itchy. It made controlling the blades harder, and thus made them more likely to suffer other punishments.
Fresh drops of blood began to trickle on to the dirt of the training ground. Fresh cuts and slices appeared with every passing second, whether boy or girls, making their hands slick with blood.
Still the grounds were silent as a grave. No one dared cry out, and no one dared stop. Tight-lipped, they trained.
Lan Jue made his way to Tan Lingyun, and stopped. He waved Wang Hongyuan over to join them.
The two of them were also sporting cuts, mostly due to the extra number of razor blades they bore. With five in each hand, it made the motions chaotic and uncoordinated.
“Watch carefully,” he told them. He grabbed the ten razors from Tan Lingyun. Under his ministrations, the blades rolled harmlessly along his fingertips.
Tan Lingyun watched, the surprise on her face hidden by the mask, as the sharp bits of metal undulated in his hands. They flashed as they moved unceasingly along his fingers, over and under, over and under.
This time, as he demonstrated what he wanted, he lectured them on the proper techniques. They were responsible for ten razors, so their basic knowledge of the exercise wasn’t going to be sufficient.
Tan Lingyun listened intently. It didn’t appear as though the several cuts she’d suffered troubled her in the least. How much blood could the fingers have, anyway? This pain meant nothing. Nothing was more important than achieving God-ranked status.
The afternoon’s lesson, despite the bloodshed, was significantly less terrifying than the morning. Relaxed wasn’t the word, but something akin to it. But oh how the fingers suffered. Several of the students were struggling to control the blades, since their hands were coated in blood. They couldn’t help but stop to wipe the blood on their flight suits, and continue.
An hour later, Lan Jue called for them to stop.
By the time the razors were collected, blood sloshed along the inside of the worker’s trays. Another set of workers rushed ahead with prepared bandages to wrap up the students’ hands.
Each of them had performed admirably, working hard and not trying to shirk the training. Their Disciplines were sealed, and they’d only get them back once the training was complete.
They were unpleasantly surprised to discover that the bandages were coated in some sort of medicine that made their wounds burn, but they suffered in silence until the discomfort was pushed to the background.
Several of the students took deep breaths of relief. It wasn’t as bad as the morning routine, they told themselves. That satisfaction was short lived.
“Good, it looks like you’ve had enough time to digest. It’s time to begin the afternoon class. Horse-stance, begin!”
Horse-stance began easy enough, but where it became a problem was as time stretched on. Things changed the longer you held the stance, and they couldn’t even use their Discipline to help dispel the pain.
Their legs went from sore, to pained, to numb.
Five minutes later sweat was pouring from their foreheads. Soon the pain in their fingers was utterly forgotten.
Ten minutes later, and a few of the students were threatening to collapse.
They desperately wanted a break, to rest and give their tortured legs some respite. But before them stood Lan Jue, idly twirling a steel needle they were all so familiar with. There was no mistaking what would happen if they couldn’t hold the stance.