Chapter 310: Victory!
“I don’t blame him. After seeing how much he’s grown, I’m happy. Not bad… the fight was not bad at all. I’m delighted you took take the tactical victory.” Lan Qing’s voice was soft. It was still hard, and cold, but lacked any malice. As ever, he appeared entirely indifferent despite his words of elation.
Lan Jue chuckled. “So, should we call an end?”
His determination was correct. With the loss of Gao Lei and Lan Qing, the soldiers couldn’t compete with Lan Jue’s students. Despite their dogged determination, they’d lost.
The strengths of the NEU pilots was simply too much. There were two ninth ranked adepts on their side – Lan Jue and Mika. Xiuxiu, Tan Lingyun and Tang Xiao were eighth ranked, as well as the Accountant who’d hid through most of it. Several more were seventh. They were more than an equal to any soldier.
“If any of your students are interested in joining the Iron Army, they have my blessing,” Lan Qing announced. “They’ve earned every promise and commitment we’ve sworn to. Cease fire!”
As the words rang through everyone’s cockpit, the students of the NEU erupted in a triumphant roar! They’d done it! They’d defeated the Iron Army! Although they knew their advantages were many, they still faced an experienced opponent in higher numbers, with mid-level Adepts of their own. To take on and wrestle victory from their idols… this sort of feeling was intoxicating.
Just as Lan Jue had promised them, this was an experience they would remember until the end of their days.
On top of this, they knew their victory meant they could enter the Iron Army themselves at their leisure, AND they got to leave with a mecha to use for a whole year! They were the Bloodlust Warsuits, symbols of the brave departed. This was their prize. They weren’t just sturdy suits, for when you got in to one you were imbued with the spirit of Blood and Iron!
The field was cleared, and the students gathered back at base to celebrate. So elated were they in their victory, that they temporarily forgot their fear of their Demon Drillmaster and hoisted him in to the air.
Lan Jue didn’t stop them, or admonish them for their actions. He let them have their moment – it was the release of two months of pressure.
There was no alcohol anywhere on An Lun, so when the students were done with Lan Jue and sought further ways to expel their energy, they took to the training field. They ran about wildly, shouting and recounting the battle. They were as wild as the planet they’d come to adopt.
Standing on the sidelines, watching his charges jump and shout, the hardness gradually went from Lan Jue’s eyes. He was pleased to find his own hard work paying off. Not only had he given them a true battle experience, he’d given them confidence. If they could take on the Iron Army and come out victorious, who else stood a chance?
“Thank you.” The soft voice came from behind.
At once, Lan Jue adopted his ice-cold persona. He turned his head, and spied Tan Lingyun standing nearby. The Savage Goddess had snuck up behind him at some point.
She walked to his side, fixing him with an appreciative look. “You’ve changed them for the better. Me, too. I’ve learned quite a lot these last two months, and improved more than I have in the last several years. If possible, I would like to continue training. If you accept, I’d like to stop being an assistant, and be a student.”
“The training isn’t over,” Lan Jue answered.
“Huh?” She looked at him inquisitively.
They’d said the training would be two months! They’d already learned so much. From knowing only the basics to taking out the Iron Army, that was how far they’d climbed!
“Didn’t you say we were leaving? What do you mean the training isn’t finished?”
Lan Jue answered with a nod. “Who said training finished once we left here? If you recall, I said this portion of our training was finished. We’ve still got the third round of exercises. Like I said at the beginning, this training might take longer than two months.”
Tan Lingyun blinked at him. “What else could there be to learn?”
“You’ll know when we get there,” Lan Jue said dismissively. “Stop asking questions. If there’s nothing important you may rest for the remainder of the day. We leave in the morning.”
Tan Lingyun looked at him for a moment. She chewed on her lips for a moment before blurting out.
“Are you married?”
Surprised did not describe Lan Jue. The possibility of this happening was the farthest thing from Lan Jue’s mind.
“What the hell?”
“Nothing,” Tan Lingyun said. “Just a casual question.”
“It’s a question I refuse to answer,” Lan Jue replied. “This has nothing to do with the training.”
He gave her no space to reply. He turned his back on her, and left the field.
Tan Lingyun watched as he walked away. Suddenly, she shouted after him. “Give me a chance to pursue you!”
Lan Jue very nearly fell on his face. He recovered, and nearly ran to the dormitories.
Tan Lingyun burst in to a fit of laughter. All of the pressure fled from her through gasping breaths. This man, this demon drillmaster, Lei Feng, Zeus – he was a coward!
With her chest puffed out pridefully, Tan Lingyun sneered.
“You have no chance.” The soft, emotionless voice interrupted her laughter.
Tan Lingyun jumped. She’d never heard someone approach. When she turned, she saw only a woman with fiery red hair and a silver mask.
She knew this to be one of the other assistants Lei Feng had brought with him. No one knew who she was – they simply called her ‘assistant instructor.’
The red- haired one, and the black-haired one. That was how the students referred to Mika and Xiuxiu.
“Why do you say that?” Tan Lingyun was not affected by the negative comment. She stood where she was, surrounded in an air of high-handedness.
“You’re back of the line,” she said. “He’s had a healthy following for a while. So if you think you’re just gunna jump in, you’ve got another thing coming.”
Tan Lingyun blinked at her. “You two?” Tan Lingyun took a minute to size up her sudden competition. Mika, she discovered, was no less a catch than she. She looked back at the two ember-red eyes behind the mask. They glowed, almost.
Tan Lingyun knew that look. This was war.
‘Timid’ was never a word Tan Lingyun had had in her vocabulary. She bulled through every challenge she’d ever faced. The harder the task, the more she rose to the occasion. And the stronger her ego. Learn and overcome – that was principle.
She had always had an idol in her heart, like any woman, but it was not Zeus. It was Prometheus.
She was no longer a young girl. It was time for her to find a boyfriend and settle down, 1 but she had some pretty lofty standards. In her mind, her future man would be perfect; he would be possessed of herculean strength and sage-like wisdom. Prometheus fit that mold rather well, so he was her ultimate goal. Had her parents not expressly forbidden it, she’d have joined the Iron Army herself long ago.
She’d been blessed with the opportunity, through this training, to see Prometheus with her own eyes. However, when she finally met him that fervent sense of puppy love had calmed.
When she’d approached Lan Jue with her conjecture before, she was going to ask him to introduce her. She couldn’t slip from the excitement of the discovery. But never once during that night did she dream about the green-masked man. No, the scene that played in her mind over and over was an experience she’d remember forever.
She was on his lap, watching as he masterfully commanded his mecha suit. She remembered watching him work, feeling the heat of him against her, surrounded by his masculinity. That was what she remembered.
The next day she woke up red-faced and flustered. Throughout the morning she couldn’t shake the thought from her mind. The excitement she used to feel for Prometheus was gone. But the image in her heart wasn’t gone, just replaced. It was Zeus.
He was a cold, cold man – but heroic! For the last two months he had been ruthless to everyone he came across. She herself had to fight through more than a few weak moments.
But in the end this terrible experience had lifted them to lofty heights. The ARC classes were unprecedented, and through them she saw that Zeus was strong in more than just combat.
And just now he’d beaten Prometheus in smarts! Although she hadn’t seen how, the victory was enough. After that, Lei Feng completely usurped Prometheus from his spot in her heart. That’s why she’d confronted him like she had – she sure was backward when it came to relationships. But pouring her soul and seeing it reduced to a joke was more than she could handle.
“Just because he doesn’t like you doesn’t mean he won’t find interest in me. Let’s just see who he picks!” Her hands were clenched in to fists, and her voice rose to a challenging crescendo.
Mika just laughed. “Sure! At the very least we’ll see how novel you make the situation.” With the final words hers, Mika turned and walked away. She didn’t see Tan Lingyun as any sort of competition. She knew who her real competition was.
Lan Jue walked from the training field in a confounded daze. She certainly was cute…
But curiosity was all there was. She was a good girl. He could still remember his maltreatment at her hands, how awkward she’d made everything. Still, he had a very good impression of her. She was grumpy, mean, with a terrible temper – but with a fundamentally good heart. That’s why he’d risked his identity to help her out – and ended up somewhat getting himself exposed anyway.
“Come with me!”
Lan Jue turned his head, and saw his brother standing nearby.
- This is the single greatest Chinese trope you’ll come across. Understand this, and you’ll get relationships in China. A woman’s role in the far east has always been to find a good man, and provide. They are expected to do this immediately – I mean, immediately after university. Remember that they are forbidden from having any relationships prior to college, and even then it should never go beyond a few stolen kisses. This means there are slews of 25 year-old parents, and every year you don’t have a husband and a child, you’re less and less desirable. So much effort is poured in to nabbing a good man from both parents and the girl herself that school can often be an afterthought. This is, however, thankfully changing. ↩