Chapter 133: Fantascia Injection

Tan Lingyun shot a glance of her shoulder, her brows wrinkling at what she saw. “Take a break,” she said, finally stopping.

The two male teachers and Jin Yan sighed, finally given quarter. They immediately sought places to sit and drink in the air with deep, gasping breaths.

Tan Lingyun extricated her canteen from her pack and took a swig, taking the time to peer at their surroundings. Her two female counterparts stood at either side of their impromptu leader. They were in cover formation, looking after the five electives teachers – very much in military fashion.

Wang Hongyuan settled beside Jin Yan. “How are you doing, Professor Jin? Sit a while and I’ll help you up.”

Jin Yan shook her head. “I’m fine. Though it looks like I really need to get in shape. I’m already tired after only this little while.”

Wang Hongyuan frowned. “We’ve all been sitting in a ship for the past few hours. That’s no rest. It’s natural for the body to get exhausted. Leader Tan, it looks like we’re in the neighborhood of a campsite. We’re here on vacation, we shouldn’t tire ourselves out so much. You three are mecha teachers, but us electives teachers are just normal people.”

Tan Lingyun huffed at him. “Professor Jin I can understand, but you guys are also struggling? At this pace, we’re barely moving. Even your average person shouldn’t find this tiring. You all a bunch of soft-footed weaklings?”

“It’s fine, it’s fine. Professor Wang, I’m ok really.” Jin Yan hurriedly pushed herself to her feet with the aid of Wang Hongyuan, stopping him from speaking further.

Their group leader approached regardless. Stopping in front of Jin Yan, her features softened perceptibly. “Professor Jin, are you really alright? If not we can ease up.”

Jin Yan smiled thankfully. “I’m fine, honestly. Sadly our stamina really isn’t where it should be. Perhaps, if possible, we shouldn’t rush so much on the first day.”

Tan Lingyun hesitated for just a moment, then nodded. “Five kilometers then, then we pitch camp. You guys can make it, yeah?”

Jin Yan turned her head to look at Lan Jue. Their ‘etiquette teacher’ stood nearby, hands stuffed in the pockets of his pants. He looked unfazed. Seeing her eyes dart his way, he shrugged. “I’m fine.”

The two other gentlemen hurried to agree with Tan Lingyun’s new plan.

At last Tan Lingyun swept her eyes towards Wang Hongyuan. “Gain a little masculinity, why don’t you. And don’t pull any of that ‘orchid fingers’ crap in front of me.”1 She spoke to him, but her general displeasure was surely with all the men before her.

“You!” Wang Hongyun jabbed a finger angrily at her, but he couldn’t help the dainty motions derived form years of dance training from creeping in to the motion. His face immediately reddened and he dropped his hand.

The other two women couldn’t help but titter at the display.

There in the forest, none of those gathered could know that the satellites far above Taihua were picking up something more interesting than their squabble. Several small dark red dots appeared in their images, spreading out over Taihua and bathing it in dim light.

**

“Jin Tao, are you prepared?” Hua Li’s question was solemn, serious.

The young man nodded. He was clad in only a pair of underpants, and sat within a nourishment pod. Maybe he really did have a problem with his head, because there was no sense of trepidation in him at all.

“Teacher, why are you always wearing that mask? Isn’t that uncomfortable?” Jin Tao watched Hua Li, his curiosity getting the better of him.

Hua Li lifted the exceptionally large surgical tubing in his hand. “This kid… are you really an idiot or are you just pretending? You actually care about this shit right now?”

Jin Tao chuckled 2. “Wouldn’t this count as my greatest ability, to remain calm? Fatty Tang got absolutely ruined, and Professor Lan said I would face greater risk. I know what’s coming, and how hard it’ll be to get passed it. But we have to face the things that scare us. If I’m relaxed, the nerves can’t get to me.”

Hua Li looked at him in utter amazement. “It’s no wonder A-Jue chose you. You’ve got some real insight. Fine, I’ll take the mask off and you can have a look.” With that, he used his free hand to pluck the mask free, revealing his features.

“Ah!” Jin Tao cried out in alarm.

Hua Li took pride in the sudden reaction. He spoke with a quiet self-confidence. “What are you screaming about. You know me, eh?”

Jin Tao bobbed his head up and down like a chicken. “Y-y-y-your Poseidon, right? Ah man, you really are a good lookin fella. No wonder you’re everyone’s idol.”

An infinitely suave smile spread across Hua Li’s face. “Alright, time to lie back. Let’s get started. The decoction will be absorbed in three steps. This is the first. The other two will be once a month.”

“Oh.” He settled back in the pod. “Teach… actually Poseidon, man. Hey, looking like that, you aren’t actually a woman dressed as a man, are you? If you are, you’d probably fall for a handsome guy like me, huh!”

“Damnit!” Hua Li’s pleasant smile was gone, dead on his face. He angrily scrunched his face and lifted his head, jabbing a finger pointedly at his neck. “Are you a moron?! You know what this is? YOU’RE a damn woman!” He slammed the lid of the nourishment pod shut, crushing Jin Tao in to a lying position.

The pod was full of a thick, transparent gel. Jin Tao lay within, eyes wide.

Hua Li took a few angry breaths. Finding some semblance of calm, he injected the contents of the nearby syringe in to the pod port, and jammed a button. Now that things were started, his face became calm. He carefully watched the pod for any changes.

“Jin Tao, relax your body. No matter how bad this hurts, you have to stay conscious. You absolutely must stay awake through the whole process. You need to feel every change in your body. Only this way will you make sure the Fantascia Genetica’s effect reaches it’s full potential. Your teacher wanted me to tell you.. if you persevere, stick to it, you’ll come out a real man. Strong. A hero. If you don’t… well, then you’re doomed to life of mediocrity. A life where the disdain and disregard of others will follow you for the rest of your days. You understand what I’m saying?”

Jin Tao’s smile faded, disappeared. He forced himself to nod, displacing the gel around him.

A myriad of luminescent colors began to appear within the gel. The injection of the decoction wasn’t quick, but these spectral lights and colors quickly overtook the interior of the box.

At first, Jin Tao simply felt as though his body were going slightly numb, a sensation that appeared to be coming from all directions and affecting every part of him. The way he was settled in the pod, however, ensured his breathing wasn’t affected.

Suddenly, in the next instant, he felt as though his very pores were sucking in oxygen from outside. It was a strange but wonderful sensation.

The sense of paralysis increased, slowly spreading throughout his form. As he looked on in shock, he noticed his body begin to quake and jerk uncontrollably. They were small at first, but as time went on they grew more and more severe. With it came the terrible sensation that he was being torn apart; his skin, his muscles, ripped away. From the inside out, it felt like he was being flayed alive.

But it wasn’t pain, necessarily. It felt more like, the forces of energy that made up his being were being separated.

He groaned, as he felt his body suddenly go stiff as a board. He remained so for several seconds, with the nourishing gel surrounding him quivering with each tremble of his form.

Looking on, Hua Li saw him undergo a change. Thin white hairs were sprouting all over him, sprouting from every pore. His twitching mouth revealed elongated canines fighting past his lips.

It was his innate ability, brought to the surface. Cynanthropy.

Through the external forces that assailed him, Jin Tao’s Discipline was reacting and manifesting on the surface. The fear was, with his abilities as weak as they were, could Jin Tao resist the dangers of the Western Alliance’s greatest genetic manipulator?

Hua Li was glued to the pod, watching Jin Tao carefully, his every move and jerk. He adhered to Lan Jue’s wishes, making this kid’s safety his primary concern. He was also quite clear on the risks and suffering involved in playing with one’s genetics. He himself was from the Western Alliance!

He could recall several times he’d witnessed the Fantascia Genetica decoction being used. Each time, the recipient was no less than a level five Talent. Jin Tao’s was no greater than second level. More than just his discipline, it meant his physical endurance was also much weaker than was necessary. In the West, there was no way he would be permitted to use the decoction. He didn’t have the strength, and failure meant terrible things.

But here he was, through virtue of some lucky star, given his chance at becoming great. Still the decoction would be given in three stages, and this was just the first. Indeed, his suffering would be great. His willpower would be the decided factor in victory or failure. If he failed he would have a nervous breakdown. All of his pain and efforts would be wasted. The priceless formula would be lost. All Hua Li could do was watch, and protect him from the worst of it.

The shaking became worse. His metamorphosis continued, and in the gel he became more and more dog-like. Streaks of blood escaped from his pores along with the dog hair.

However, despite what he was seeing, Hua Li was most surprised by what the instruments were telling him. Not only was this kid lucid, but he was taking the whole thing in stride! There were no dangerous fluctuations in his nervous pathways. On the contrary, there were hardly any fluctuations at all. This was indeed a very rare kind of willpower!

ζ

“Here at last.” Li Wei was one of the other gentlemen in Lan jue’s group. He plopped to the floor with a defeated sigh. He was done, any the end of the world wouldn’t get him standing again. He fished his canteen from his pack and took several long gulps. He looked set to fall to pieces.

Five kilometers through a rainforest and five kilometers in the outside world were entirely different things. The terrain was uneven, sometimes high sometimes low. Though Tan Lingyun was in the font clearing a path, it was no picnic for them either. Li Wei was just a normal guy, and without any background in physical fitness it felt like he’d just spent half his life in energy reserves.

Tan Lingyun and the two other mecha instructors had already begun pitching their tents. They’d chosen to set up their spots on the periphery, creating a triangle. The other teachers would camp within.

Professor Tan had chosen well. A small brook gurgled nearby, and after a brief examination it was determined they could drink freely from it. For now, this was to be there campsite.

Lan Jue was also busying himself with erecting his tent. To him, it was quite a fun and relaxing activity. It didn’t take long for him to finish up, and once he threw his sleeping bag in there he’d be ready to rest.

“I’m off to look for dinner. You all stay here, don’t leave the triangle.” Standing before them with her machete, Tan Longyun struck quite the commanding presence.

But before she left, something curious came over her. Without entirely knowing why, she jabbed her knife towards Lan Jue, who’d already finished with his tent. “You’re coming with.”

‘Orchid fingers’ is a hand motion used in traditional Chinese dancing where the middle finger presses against the thumb, and the other fingers are splayed out, not unlike an orchid flower… ostensibly. ↩
I love this kid. ↩

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