Chapter 249: Withdrawn
Three days passed in the blink of an eye. Well, For Lan Jue, Chu Cheng and Hua Li at least. For the talented students of the NEU, it may as well have been three years. They had no words for the torment they’d endured, and the only thing stopping them from collapsing in to a broken heap was the last vestiges of their spirit.
Their spirit was never exhausted. This was not entirely of their own making, however. Every time they’d see the new assistant teacher – the one in the silver mask, surrounded by golden light – they would feel soothed and emotionally renewed by her presence. Her golden light was like an infusion of courage and power, giving them the will to push on.
There were drawbacks, though, for while the new woman’s powers empowered them, it also heightened their sense. It made everything they went through during the training that much more excruciating.
The students learned that the only way to avoid punishment and pain, was to never allow their willpower to flag. Otherwise, it a vicious cycle of emotional torment awaited them. Having their spirit refreshed inevitably meant their future tribulations became a hundred percent more tragic.
So for them, the sentiment was different; At long last, three days limped passed.
Each one of the students were the not-so-proud owners of several more needles, some with as many as nine. They were beginning to look like they had some sort of genetic similarity with hedgehogs.
‘On the brink’ was certainly the best way to describe these poor souls. Even though the bulk of their torturous experience had been psychological, they were still on their last legs. Breathing came difficult, and long ago the numbness in their bodies had them wondering if they were even still alive.
Early morning on the fourth day, they gathered in the training grounds, arranged in lines before the Prince of Devils. They were so beaten, so broken that they hadn’t even had the energy for food.
Luckily, due to the careful ministrations of the masked teachers, no one had encountered any long-lasting problems or injuries.
In Lan Jue’s hand was a tablet, with the names of every student and how often they’d had to be healed by Lin Guoguo’s psychic mending. There was also detailed reports on their physical and psychological well-being. Some of them, he noted, had never needed Guoguo’s attention.
There were certainly some exemplary examples among them. Many of the female participants really displayed the toughness of their Talent.
First among them was Tan Lingyun, though the light of stubborn indignation in her eyes – the fire of her spirit – was exhausted. Still, she stood straight and tall.
Zhou Qianlin, Tang Mi, Gu Yingying and Yan Ningya where the four others. None of them had required Guoguo’s services. Though they were all bone-tired, each of them bore an iron will.
Qianlin’s expression was hard, tough, though her eyes were calm. Tang Mi’s face was obstinate, almost arrogant. Gu Yingying had threatened to give out several times, however each time she approached the red line she’d somehow manage to pull through. Yan Ningya appeared similar to Tang Mi. The furtive glances she shot towards the long-legged beauty spoke to a hidden rivalry.
Yan Ningya wasn’t part of the illustrious ‘school beauty’ sect, but was nonetheless a recognized hottie in the eyes of NEU’s gentlemen students. Her problem came when she and her brother had entered school. Ever since then, the two were ever in competition with the ‘great fighting duo’ of Tang Xiao and Tang Mi. It was a seething rivalry, that never gave them any rest.
One’s looks were determined by their parents, and was not something so easily changed without the help of plastic surgery. There was too much pride in Yan Ningya for that, so if she couldn’t compete with Tang Mi in looks, it would have to be through ability. She harbored a desperate desire to surpass Tang Mi, and it was this goal that had given her the strength to push on.
Her brother, Yan Zhanchen, lacked the mental fortitude of his sister, but his heroic appearance ensured he was enshrined as top three of the most desired male students. It had imbued him with a rather serious superiority complex – at least, until Tang Xiao had so handily showed everyone up during the Lir competition. Since then his arrogance had diminished, somewhat. Strength was what a pilot relied on, he realized, not looks.
If Tang Xiao could endure against this inhuman treatment, he thought, why then couldn’t he? The determination drove him.
But surviving was about all they could manage. There was one more who not only managed to maintain, but thrive – like they enjoyed it.
Ever since the very onset, when he’d been stabbed with the needle and struck by lightning, Jin Tao was in heaven. The discomfort he’d originally felt in his body was beginning to subside. With every needle that stunted his Discipline, he could feel his body reacting. Nothing, however, compared to what he’d gone through with the Genetica.
Part of that was due to the fact that he’d experienced it before, he knew what to expect. He survived once, what could any of this do to him? He was also keenly aware that whether it was the drugs, the lightning or something else, all of it was having a direct and positive effect on his body. One’s strength was contingent on familiarity, and adapting to one’s own power. There was certainly pain and discomfort, but it was all taken with joy since it meant the result would be improvement. It got to the point where Lan Jue even had to treat him harsher than the others.
The secret etiquette teacher swept his eyes across the gathered pilots. As he made eye contact with them, each unconsciously let their eyes drop to the floor. All but Jin Tao, whose eyes were alive with a manic enthusiasm that would frighten a normal man, and Tan Lingyun who’s stubborn refusal to back down matched the young mutt’s.
Wang Hongyuan seemed discombobulated. He certainly wanted to improve his strength, but he didn’t have the strength of spirit Tan Lingyun possessed. What spurred him on was his position as an Assistant teacher. It kept him from needing Guoguo’s healing aura.
Lan Jue walked slowly to stand before the Savage Goddess. “Very good!” The words were soft, but surprised Tan Lingyun like a slap to the face. The masked drillmaster even extended a hand and patted her shoulder. When he drew back, he’d taken a needle from her shoulder with him. He placed it in her hand, and she was surprised to discover not a drop of blood on it.
She grunted, which from her invariably sounded like a disgruntled snort. Her body trembled, and for the space of an instant she felt a though she might fall over. But she didn’t, and instead a comforting warmth spread from her shoulder until it felt like it filled her up. She felt as though every single cell in her body was injected with vitality, and it was a sensation she couldn’t put in to words. All the pain and exhaustion she felt melted away.
Next was Wang Hongyuan, then the students. Each one of them felt something similar to the Savage Goddess, and it nearly put them in a stupor.
For the last three days they’d existed in a living hell. All they’d known was pain and torment, and had forgotten that such a pleasing sensation even existed. At first they suspected it was some trick or illusion, but gradually came around to the idea that life wasn’t an abyss of suffering. Their bodies were instantly refreshed, renewed, and even their mental state was beginning to return to normal – simply with the removal of these needles. It was a sensation that defied explanation. A few of the students openly wept.
By the time Lan Jue’s circuit was finished, they were all sporting one less needle.
“Everyone, drop and give me push-ups. Five hundred. Then we’re running three thousand meters around the training field. This’ll be this morning’s warm-up.” Lan Jue delivered his instructions, then turned and left. Today he would be returning to school, since he had his etiquette classes to take care of. He also needed to visit Skyfire Avenue, so that he could help prepare for the Pontiff and Satan’s upcoming visit.
The five-finger push-ups were designed so that only the five fingers of each hand supported the weight of the entire body. It was excellent for hand and arm strength. Before the needle had been removed, each of them probably would have fainted at the prospect of push-ups and running. Now, though, their body’s energies were a torrent, and they felt the need to let it all out.
Lan Jue left, taking Lin Guoguo with him and leaving Hua Li and Chu Cheng behind to handle the pilot’s training. He didn’t want them to get too comfortable – this type of physical training had to be maintained.
“Hey boss, is everything alright?” Lin Guoguo shot a glance towards Lan Jue as she drove the verti-car. He was planted in the passenger’s side, rubbing his face.
“I’m fine,” he answered. “My face just feels a little stiff, hiding behind that mask for days. I need a little bit of rest.”
Guoguo’s pretty figure trembled. “Too scary, boss. How did you even come up with a training regimen this inhuman? While I was giving them healing, some of them looked like they’d been dredged up from the bottom of hell.”
Lan Jue chuckled darkly. “You think this is the bottom of hell? In my younger days I suffered through ten times worse. More than a human should ever have to endure. But, if you want power, how can there be no suffering? Besides, they’ve only just begun. This whole thing has been to give them a solid enough foundation to continue. They’ve still got nightmares yet to face.”
Guoguo shook her head. “More! I’ll tell you boss, I’m ecstatic I’m not part of this training course. Never in a million years.”
Lan Jue smirked at her trepidation. “How could I ever make my Guoguo suffer such things. Your Talent is already at the ninth rank, so this sort of stimulation wouldn’t have any benefit. It really only works for those of lesser rank, so unfortunately your future improvement is entirely dependent on your own cultivation and knowledge.”
Lin Guoguo let out an audible sigh of relief, then chortled goofily. “I got me a good boss.”
Lan Jue made Skyfire Avenue his first stop, going directly to the Jewelry store on the Avenue’s surface. There, Xiuxiu and Ke’er were waiting. When they saw their boss, they were both quite pleased.
Lan Jue settled on the stool situated behind the counter, and took a sip of the warm water Xiuxiu had handed him. The Jewelry Master let out a long, tired sigh.