Chapter 266: Keeping Watch Over Brother
The two had a very close relationship, as brother and sister. Ever since they were small Tang Mi had bullied her brother, despite being younger. However, regardless of the abuse the cunning Tang Xiao would always be right where she needed him if everything were to happen. He was her protector. He was a large man, but in Tang Mi’s heart he was heroic.
She had quite a mischievous streak in her younger years, and Tang Xiao couldn’t recall how many times he’d warded her from danger with his own expansive girth. Now, here he was silent a the grave and gaunt as a corpse. How could she not be worried? How could she not feel for her brother?
“Drillmaster, is my brother alright?” Tang Mi saw Lan Jue approaching from her position beside Tang Xiao. She shot to her feet and trotted over when he drew near.
Lan Jue answered by moving in front of his disciple. He did not touch him, but stood in silence and looked over his situation. Eventually, a smile split his face and a twinkle lit his eyes. “Don’t worry,” he assured her, “he needs just a little more time, then he’ll wake up. There won’t be any problem.”
Tang Mi still struggled with her anxiety. “But all the others are up already. Why not him? My brother’s a seventh-rank Talent! He should have come to earlier than me, at the least.”
“When I say no problem, that means he’s in good shape,” Lan Jue replied. “Don’t mess with him – you should go back and rest. Tomorrow the training continues.”
Tang Mi, still unsatisfied, opened her mouth to protest. However, Lan Jue had already turned and was making his way from the training field. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust the Drillmaster’s determination, only this was her brother they were talking about. Simply relaxing was easier said than done.
And so, she did return to her dorm, but only long enough to grab a comforter and return to her brother’s side. When she grew tired she would sleep for a little while, but otherwise she remained at Tang Xiao’s side, keeping vigil. No matter the goings-on around her, she refused to move. Zhou Qianlin had to bring her dinner.
Terrifying waves of power raced through Jin Tao’s meridians, to the point where he genuinely feared for his safety. However, as he meditated, growing accustomed to the changes, he found the power to be easily controllable. Each precarious situation was surpassed, and the dangers navigated. Each time he did, he adopted a new perspective. Each step forward came with an epiphany. Of course each breakthrough was underpinned with pain and struggle, but he was used to it. Pain was a comfort to him at this point.
Eventually even the most impetuous river meets with the sea. The tumultuous waves of energy within him eased to a glassy calm, then were absorbed by crackling bones and numbed muscle.
Finally he moved, stretching his arms and arcing his back. The gratifying sensation of taught muscles washed over him. It felt like growing pains.
He wasn’t far off in the assumption. He had never had an Adonis-like physique, but ever since imbibing the Fantascia Genetica decoction his body had been undergoing physical changes. His physical capabilities were heightened, he felt stronger, and after a month of dreaming he came to with his dream figure.
It was, in a word, wonderful. And just as Lan Jue had anticipated, the more physically capable he got, the crazier he became. He found joy in the most bitter of hardships, something the Genetica had strengthened in him. Compared to the unnatural, cell-fracturing torture of the Fantascia Genetica, this training was like a weekend on the beach. It was helping tremendously in his effort to understand his own body again.
Through the course of his meditations, Jin Tao was able to profoundly feel every change he’d undergone. He could see how large a leap he’d taken. He could feel the latent strength in his bones and muscles, strength that had yet to wane.
After a good long stretch, he finally opened his eyes.
The blanket of night hung heavy in the sky, smothering the training field in darkness. However, Jin Tao was surprised to discover that he could see everything as clearly as though it were midday. He was on his feet with what felt like negligible effort.
“Shh!” Suddenly, a quiet but determined sound accosted him from nearby. Jin Tao’s eyes sought the source. When he caught the sight, his gaze seemed to last an eternity.
Tang Xiao sat nearby like a fleshy mountain. Judging by his posture, he was still meditating. A blanket had been laid out in front of him, and a bedraggled head popped out from within. Tang Mi was staring back at him, with one finger pressed to her lips, imploring silence.
Under the gathering darkness, Tang Mi was even more beautiful than usual. The hard exterior she worked so hard to cultivate was missing, and beneath the blanket she looked as gentle as a kitten.
“What’s going on,” Jin Tao asked quietly.
Tang Mi pointed to her brother. “You were all meditating. He hasn’t woken up yet. I’ve been worried, so I’m looking after him.”
Jin Tao looked from one Tang to the other. Envy was bright in the depths of his eyes. “I wish I had a younger sister like you.”
“Shut up,” Tang Mi grumbled in irritation. “Your sister isn’t good enough to you? It isn’t their fault you never live up to their expectations.”
Jin Tao answered with a bitter smirk. “True. I’ve let them down. That’s why my sister doesn’t treat me like you treat your brother. She’s tired of me and my weakness. My whole family is disappointed in my failure. They hide away, embarrassed. I’m a burden to them, to her especially. I know she loves me, but I can’t bear that look in her eyes. To them I’m a waste. Perhaps they aren’t wrong.”
Tang Mi had no relationship with Jin Tao, knowing him only through reputation as a troublemaker. The most unbearable student the NEU had. However, it had to be said that his performance during this training was out of character.
Was this really the same obnoxious boy from before? The best of the NEU were gathered here, and as they screamed and cried and nearly went mad, requiring the intervention of the psychic lady, Jin Tao persisted. He never complained, never once screamed. He did as he was told with calm indifference, and suffered the slings and arrows with stoic silence. Sometimes there would be a look in his eyes, but it wasn’t pain or regret – it was excitement! She was sure of it.
In this hellish experience dressed up like a training course, he was having fun. Either he was totally insane, or he was much stronger than his classmates thought.
“You’re performing so well during the training, this proves you’ve got it. But why haven’t we seen this earlier?” Tang Mi asked in curiosity.
Jin Tao took a seat beside Tang Xiao, and took a good long look at his rival. “Because of our master. He changed my destiny. I still remember the day I pledged myself as his student, what it was like. At first Master wasn’t interested in teaching your brother and I – he made it pretty obvious. I guess he was in a sour mood or something, so he beat us both to within an inch of our lives. As powerful as he is, it was quick work. But afterwards he used his own abilities to stimulate our Discipline. Those strikes of lightning we’ve been getting, they’re the same thing we experienced. At first, you know, I thought I’d been fooled. I’d attached myself to some garbage sadist. But soon after that, I learned this was the greatest opportunity I would ever encounter, in my entire life.”