Chapter 298: Manifest Excellence
Training at West Hill was much harder than this. The students exchanged glances, some actually beginning to suspect they weren’t being taken seriously.
“No holding back!” Lan Jue’s harsh voice sent a shiver down their spine. They snapped to attention, with the stark reminder that there was no relaxing when the Demon Drillmaster was watching.
Gao Lei followed on the golden masked man’s heels. “Go!”
Lan Jue did not remain to observe like the First Pilot. Instead, he lead the group, with his assistants fanning out behind.
The Demon Drillmaster would train as well? The young pilots where stunned to discover that he was, but they knew it only meant they had to work harder. They had better keep up, because the consequence for falling behind would likely be dire.
Gao Lei languidly swung to meet the gaze of a soldier standing nearby. “Double the gravity,” he ordered.
“Sir!” The soldier snapped to attention before darting off to do so.
Upon seeing their Drillmaster move to the front of the fine, the students were filled with an inexplicable happiness. So far, compared to the torment they’d suffered on Skyfire, this was paradise.
Running was an afterthought now. They were adepts, with Disciplines that fed strength to their bodies. After their first month of training and the medicine baths, it was hard to gauge just how much they’d improved but it was more than just significant. If what they were seeing was the gist of it, this An Lun training would be a vacation.
A few minutes in to their first kilometer, something seemed off. Their legs were heavy, like they were drained. There was no agility in them.
“Double gravity,” Lan Jue shouted to the others. “Maintain pace.”
Double gravity? Sure enough, the training wouldn’t be as easy as it seemed. At least they were prepared for the unexpected, after Last month’s experiences. Their pace remained lock-step, if a mite slower. They never broke rank.
Really? Now, Gao Lei really was stunned. Even specially selected soldiers doing their first run here had trouble with sudden shifts in gravity. Many of them tripped straight off. These kids’ physical fitness was quite a bit better than one would expect! They hardly reacted at all.
Their first circle passed quickly and without incident. They moved like a single organism, with only the slightest of variations. Second lap passed much the same, then the third…
With each completed circuit the surprise in Gao Lei’s eyes grew. He was beginning to understand why the COs were allowing these kids to train here. Of course they’d have to be above average.
In the next hour they completed seven laps without a dip in speed. The steady thump of feet were like a metronome. Sweating was inevitable, but Gao Lei couldn’t see an ounce of fatigue in their faces. On the contrary, they were smiling!
What was double gravity to them? It was hardly a warm-up.
“Pick up the pace, run at your peak!” Their Drillmaster’s voice called back again, and in the next second he was off like a shot down the track. His four assistants were right in his tailwind.
The students audibly groaned. The pace they’d been running was just above comfortable. Now there was no more playing around.
The first to break in to full sprint was Tang Mi. Her pent up rage and frustration were too much. The second she heard the order to go all out, she exploded like a hurricane. She stretched out her long legs to break ahead of the pack, plowing through toward the Drillmaster.
Before the dust of her passing could settle the others were on her heels. Geng Yang, Tang Xiao, Jin Tao and the rest didn’t hold back. Tang Xiao had the worst of it. His weight and the increased gravity conspired to make this doubly difficult.
The students flailed and kicked as they fought to keep up. They were racing at twice the speed they’d just maintained.
The soldiers at Gao Lei’s side watched with surprise. Since when were college students so fierce? They sure ran like soldiers.
Lan Jue completed the run, coming to a stop before the First Pilot. He didn’t breath heavy, nor was his face red. He regarded Gao Lei the calm expression. “Commander Gao, we’re ready for the next exercise. I imagine we can complete at least one more before lunch.”
Gao Lei’s expression didn’t change, nor did the look in his eye. What did this mean? Fitness wasn’t everything.
The students quickly put away the remaining laps. Though out of breath when crossing the finish line, they didn’t seem all that drained. Even the stragglers were in good shape.
“Alright, you guys finished the first exercise very nicely. Next we’ll work on your stamina and defense. We’re going to pair you up with the soldiers behind me in a bare-fist fight. Your job is to not got punched in the face. If you give up, you’re out of the program. Three minutes in the minimum to pass. Let’s get going.”
“Can we hit back?” Several dozen wide eyes looked in disbelief at the speaker. Jin Tao’s seriously expression met their gaze.
“Hit back?” Gao Lei sputtered in laughter. “Of course! If you think you got the stones for it, go ahead. Tell you what, if anyone lands a blow on one of my soldiers, you’ll get honored.”
Lan Jue, standing at Gao Lei’s side, added, “No Disciplines.”
Gao Lei shot him a glance. “Alright.”
Upon hearing their drillmaster’s words, the students’ faces fell, because they knew it had been directed towards them. The battalion commander, however, didn’t seem to get it.
Gao Lei continued. “Give me ten groups. Prepare to fight.”
The Iron Army soldiers fanned out, as did the students under the Savage Goddess’ direction. The women were all placed together in one group.
Jin Tao was first in line, head of the first group. He visibly twitched in excitement.
Tang Xiao was also first in his group, and stood abreast to Jin Tao. The two Disciples eyed each other sideways with fervent, defiant glances. Clearly this was to be a competition. Who was going to last the longest.
Tang Mi stood at the head of the female group. She was clearly the strongest of the group in battle prowess. Their soldier training partner was also female.
There were decidedly few women in the Iron Army, but those who met the criteria were certainly something to behold. They were vicious warrior princesses.
“Round one. Begin!” Gao Lei shouted.
The students all reacted differently. For instance, Tang Xiao – his face doe-eyed and honest – waddled toward the instructor. With his apologetic smile and self-deprecating stance, he quietly asked them to go a little easy.
Jin Tao descended on his instructor like a rabid spider monkey.
Tang Mi also didn’t wait to strike. Her long legs lashed out like whips at the female soldier’s head. No one would mistake her for timid.
With five meters between them, she leapt in to the air and swung her leg heel-down toward her opponent.
“Showey. And impractical.” The soldier snarled disdainfully. She waited until Tang Mi’s foot was inches from her face, before taking a rapid step to the side. Her fist shot out through an opening.
The step was small, but quick and accurate. Tang Mi’s flailing kick met nothing but air.
The younger Tang reacted well, however, bending her knee and aiming for the woman’s temple. Her arms reached out to ward her counter strike.
The soldier didn’t change course, but did pick up speed. The moment her fist struck Tang Mi’s palms she could feel it vibrating. The force of her strike vibrated up in to her arms, shivering her bones. She couldn’t steady herself suspended in the air as she was, so she tumbled out of control. Her knee swung wide.
The soldier’s fist groped out in attempts to grab Tang Mi’s ankle. She gripped it tight, and viciously pulled Tang Mi to the ground. The young pilot struck the floor at a full spin.
Though smaller than Tang Mi by a head, this female soldier was at least twice as deadly. A startling aura of bloodthirst surrounded her, hung around her with a promise of violence. It rattled Tang Mi, for sure.
Tang Xiao’s sister curled in like a shrimp as the soldier’s fist met her abdomen. There was no mercy, and Tang Mi felt as though her organs were all shifting around one another. She met the floor again with a crunch. The soldier stood over her, foot raised. With a grunt she brought it crashing down toward her head.
Tang Mi managed to lift her arms up just in time to block her foot. She was knocked back several meters, but she hardly felt it through the grey haze the hung over her mind.
Seeing their fellow student so assailed, the girls were stunned and frightened. She was lauded as the best fighter, and she was put down in three hits. This soldier was terrifying!
Vicious, callous, and not the least bit showy. This was clearly her style, and it was frighteningly effective.
Similar scenes repeated themselves among all the other groups. These kids hadn’t the ghost of a chance against these hardened warriors. One after the other they were put down. And yet there were no cries for mercy; either because they didn’t wish to be disgraced, or because they’d already had the sense knocked out of them.
There were, of course, exceptions. Jin Tao and Tang Xiao, for instance.
Jin Tao had been on his enemy from the beginning, His attacks were anything but refined – after all, he’d never studied combat – but what they lacked in polish they more than made up for in pure mad ferocity. He swung his fists at the defending soldier like a crazed cheetah.
The soldier dodged and juked quick as lightning then, kicking out with his leg, tried to sweep the crazy little bastard.
Only Tang Xiao rolled free just in time. He wasted not a second, and went right for the soldier’s throat once again.
Tang Xiao, on the other hand, circles his enemy with wide lumbering steps. His hands her raised and would occasionally lash creep out like he was looking for an opening. Of course, the foxy bastard was just trying to buy time. They said three minutes, right?
The contempt in his opponent’s eyes was thick and fierce. With a roar of frustration, he rushed Tang Xiao head on.