Chapter 291: Everyone Passes
DreamNet’s evolution was under way. Deimos, the Starlord, has retired. The Star Alliance is lauded as the greatest god-ranked team in history. A day after the games, it was front page news across all three Alliances.
DreamNet’s gambit was a success, and mecha fever was sweeping the realms of man.
For the students of the NEU’s ARC class, though, their life was still an abyss of suffering.
While the sim training the Demon Drillmaster had them doing was very basic, it was a far sight better than the razor blades and boiling water they’d faced earlier. Of course, as time progressed, so too did their feelings.
Eventually they determined these pods not to be simulators of mecha combat, but a vision of what hell must be like. They could not hesitate, even for a moment, otherwise they were punished. That jolt of electricity only needd to be experienced once to convince the students they didn’t want to try it again. It was like their insides were squished together and pan seared. The feeling indeed was…
They had no recourse but to put their full effort towards completing the tasks.
Indomitable will persisted, until it didn’t, and then the shock stimulated them back in to action. They were performing at their peak, because anything less equaled pain.
This program designed by the Gobi Group was constructed to increase their fundamentals, so that they became second nature. They would never forget these basic movements, they were so deep in their muscle memory they performed them in their sleep.
Beyond that it was dull, but required their full attention at every moment.
After the third day everyone’s face was pale, drawn and gaunt. They looked like a coterie of starved vampires. As they left for the cafeteria on the fifth day, every student needed help getting there.
After seven days, only a fraction of the students could keep down food.
But for Tang Xiao this was a silver lining. After all, there was no better way to lose weight!
Jin Tao was one of the few who were able to take any sustenance. Like Lan Jue determined so long ago, here was a young man who was vicious, rabid, and would relentlessly pursue whatever he felt to be right. No matter the hardships, his willpower saw him through.
And he ate like a glutton.
Other than he, the only others who could eat were three women. The Savage Goddess was one, and though she was a sovereign-ranked pilot before they’d begun she didn’t look any better than the students she was looking after. But she did have a much more solid grasp of the basics, and that helped. She was progressing faster than any of the other participants.
Tang Mi was also among them, and though the training hadn’t even progressed to the one-month mark, the changes she’d undergone were surprising to behold. She hadn’t smiled in ages, and her pretty face grew hard and frigid. Her capricious and headstrong actions had caused her classmates to suffer inhumane torment, and it was a fact she lived with daily. The lesson was a scar she still felt stinging.
I won’t drag anyone down. I will be the strongest! A woman’s tenacity will trump a man’s strength any day. The mantra ran through her head again and again. Though she would vomit up a portion of everything she ate, she persisted. Her brother found it hard to watch, and any time he felt the need to step in, Mika was there to – violently – dissuade him.
The final girl still able to eat, much to Lan Jue’s surprise, was Zhou Qianlin. She was also performing best out of everyone, Tan Lingyun and Wang Hongyuan included.
Her clearance speed may not have been as fast as Tan Lingyun’s, but her adaptive abilities were unmatched. Though there was a pallor to her face as well, it wasn’t as pronounced as the others.
Zeus’ amazons were all simultaneously impressed and surprised by what they were seeing. As Lan Jue and Hua Li were not present, they were in charge of observing the students. Qianlin was the one they spent the most time watching. Their ultimate determination was that her balanced capacity and adaptive abilities were almost super human. What others had to grit their teeth and fight vehemently to sustain, she did with half the effort.
During meal times she didn’t eat as much as Jin Tao, but ate as she normally would as though the effort she was expending on training wasn’t having any adverse effects. It was like this training wasn’t anything different from the normal one’s she’d participated in at school.
Eleven days passed. They were approaching the fasted recorded time this procedure had been completed. Of course, no one participated in this batch would be able to beat it. In fact, many of them were reaching their physical limit.
Killing one’s students wasn’t conducive to proper training, though, so the program was designed to be at least moderately humane. When a body reached critical dehydration levels, the pod itself injected them with nutritive fluids to keep them going. There were also medications to keep them alert and awake so that they could finish.
When Hua Li and Lan Jue returned, they began by carefully examining the conditions of their charges. The most surprising discoveries for the Demon Drillmaster came in the form of his client, Zhou Qianlin. Hua Li was stunned by the progress of all the students.
“They’re doing much better than I’d have expected,” Hua Li revealed to Lan Jue.
“Oh?” Lan Jue turned his masked face toward his friend.
Hua Li continued with a nod. “They’re progressing very quickly. If they keep this up, they’ll be done in around twenty days.”
“Barely managing is ‘much better’?” Lan Jue muttered.
Hua Li’s response was curt. “Do you have any idea how many of the core Gobi personnel are able to even compete this simulation? No more than thirty percent. We have very strict selected criteria to Gobi, too. What I’m saying is, these kids are already better than most. Of course your bioelectricity and the medicinal baths have helped, but I suspect the protogenic powers they absorbed were most helpful. It helped them assimilate all that they experienced before and catalyzed their potency. It’s a perfect cycle! The training methods build on each other, making them better than the original.”
Lan Jue gave a little chuckle. “Good! And just wait till I get paragon. I’ll let you know and we can find a second batch to start training.”
Hua Li rolled his eyes. “Yeah, sure. I think I’m more interested in when I get Paragon. To be honest, though, I hadn’t thought coming to Skyfire would be so good for me. Not only do I get some residual protogenic powers from a Paragon, but the inspiration from our god-ranked battles is great. I feel like I’m on the verge of a breakthrough myself.”
Lan Jue nodded. “That’s great. Same here, ever since coming back from Taihua I feel like my improvement has sped up considerably. We have to keep it up! The Clairvoyant’s words have got me motivated as well.”
Hua Li replied with a helpless expression. “Unfortunately, I’m afraid I have to be leaving. If I don’t I’m legitimately terrified of what Mo Xiao might do. You saw her threaten me, in front of billions of people, right?”
Lan Jue gave a soft smile. “Head back. You’ve hung around here long enough. But Mo Xiao’s a good girl, alright? I think you two’d be a good fit. If this dreamlover of yours isn’t real, consider the girl.”
Hua Li petulantly waved away his words. “Cut that shit out. Look, being here hasn’t been a vacation alright. But I had a good time. Look after yourself, and call me if you need anything.”
Lan Jue’s face fell as he sighed. “I’m not sure what circumstances we brothers will meet for next.”
Hua Li looked at his good friend in the eye. “Don’t put any undue pressure on yourself. I don’t know what you and the Clairvoyant talked about, but humanity’s safety is everyone’s responsibility. Don’t fool yourself in to thinking you’re some kind of savior. You’ve got partners in crime. Whatever comes, we handle it together.”
Lan Jue’s heart was full of comraderie. He reached out and patted his brother on the shoulder. Hua Li took the opportunity to wrap him up in a fierce hug.
“Alright, I’m out of here. I’ll be back in three months. The big guy and Chu Cheng will too, I’m sure. The four brothers will meet again. I expect you’ll be a good host and keep us entertained!”
Lan Jue chuckled, and nodded.
Lan Jue left, with little he had to gather. He left Skyfire silently, without pomp or circumstance. It wouldn’t be long before his next Sounds of Nature concert, though.
The first one to finish the sim program, unsurprisingly, was Tan Lingyun. Relying on her supernatural gifts she completed it in fifteen days.
Despite her physical fitness, when she exited the pod she nearly collapsed, emaciated as she was. Lan Jue had his amazons immediately submerge her in a medicated bath.
Six more finished on the sixteenth day. Wang Hongyuan, Tang Xiao, Tang Mi and Geng Yang.
On the seventeenth day, seven more.
Jin Tao emerged on day eighteen along with nineteen others. Almost all of them immediately collapsed in to a coma.
On the nineteenth day, nearly all o the remaining students were done. Only a few holdouts remained.
Zhou Qianlin was among them, and hadn’t yet completed the simulation.
Lan Jue, looking over the data, found what he’d expected; though she adapted well, her basics weren’t as strong as the students who majored in combat.
On the morning of the twentieth day, the remaining students exited from their sim pods. All but Zhou Qianlin.
It wasn’t until nightfall that she emerged.
Finally, everyone was finished.
Of course the next few days were no better, it was just a change of scenery. Hours of boiling in turbid soup was the theme for a while.
By now, however, the students considered this a spa treatment over the training regimens. They determined boiling to be a better torture than being stabbed or electrocuted