Chapter 48: Whiteboard Nooblet

White waist coat, and big shorts. That’s what Lan Jue had chosen to wear. At least, so it was in DreamNet where he’d earned another moniker: Whiteboard*.

Lan Jue was eight the first time he’d logged on to DreamNet, and he hadn’t been this much of a newb since then. Pair that with calling himself Nooblet, he couldn’t have appeared more virginal.

Looking down to view his ridiculous clothes Lan Jue couldn’t help but laugh. “Definitly the fabled ‘fresh meat.’”

The better schools were given the opportunity to apply for their own ‘space’ in DreamNet. That is where Lan Jue currently stood, the student’s center of National Eastern University’s DreamNet zone. There weren’t any public shops or ornaments here, only training areas for mecha instruction.

What’s would a new guy do, he thought. Lan Jue patted his forehead, as he certainly had no idea. After all it had been many years since he’d been new.

“Hey kid, stop!

As Lan Jue was recalling his comical first few steps with the original Whiteboard the voice stopped him in his tracks.

Three large figures loomed before him, each clad in flight suits.

Ah, right, I should probably go buy a flight suit first. They should be free as this is a school. Then find myself a basic mecha. Yeah, that’s what I should do.

He was brought back to the present by the three figures standing before him.

“Hey, I’m talking to you. You deaf?” One of the guys, a kid in his early twenties, kicked at Lan Jue and caused him to stagger.

“Ach,” Lan Jue grunted in pain, and it had indeed hurt somewhat. The DreamNet here had been fixed with pain simulation to make combat more authentic. In the civilian market pain meters could be adjusted between one and thirty percent, but in the school the meter was constantly fixed at fifty percent.

“Newbie, eh. Take out your new bonus,” the young man said threateningly. He approached and grabbed Lan Jue by his thin collar.

Ahh that’s right. Newbies get a bonus – should be fifty DreamBits for buying the essentials. DreamBits were actually a virtual currency, but actuality they could be exchanged for real currency at a whim. In fact it was accepted as a fourth universal currency in all the three Alliances.

“No,” Lan Jue responded in true miserly fashion.

The young man pushed him, causing him to tumble to the floor. “Listen kid, clearly you don’t understand the situation. So I guess I’ll have to beat some knowledge in to you. The pain meters here are set. And in DreamNet, no one knows who we are – a strict secret hidden in the DreamNet mainframe.”

Lan Jue pulled himself to his feet. He certainly didn’t intend to come here and beat on people, but nor was he inclined towards masochism. Unfortunately DreamNet didn’t have any Adepts or Disciplines. He was just a normal healthy Joe, possessing only the very base level one Talent needed to pilot the lowest level mechas. If he didn’t adapt to the circumstances, getting beat on what to be expected.

The other two guys moved to flank him, Lan Jue now surrounded. Obviously this wasn’t the firs time they’d done this.

Lan Jue sighed, and fixed each of the three youths in turn with his eyes, pity heavy in their depths. He began to move his virtual avatar.

Suddenly, a pretty voice rang out from behind him. “You three again!”

Following the call a figure like lightning skittered closer.

Bang! Pow! Crack! Thwap! In what seemed like less than a second the three guys went flying in all directions like scattered leaves. They came tumbling down, screaming, a dozen or so meters away.

A heroic figure appeared then standing before Lan Jue.

Lan Jue stood stupefied as he looked at her. At her long blonde hair, sky-blue eyes, and exceptionally long legs. Wasn’t this Zhou Qianlin’s friend? The one who’d accompanied her to class?

Tang Mi hadn’t changed a thing about her avatar in DreamNet.

The three boys stumbled to their feet, and without looking back raced away. Obviously, it also wasn’t the first time they’d met Tang Mi.

Tang Mi seethed. “If I knew which class those degenerates belonged to, I’d beat them until they couldn’t wipe their own backsides. Hey, whiteboard, you alright?”

“I’m fine, thank you,” Lan Jue said sincerely.

Tang Mi pointed to a tall building before them. “Newbs head over there to sign up and get a mecha. Grab one then head to the combat area for training. If you run in to those punks again just call out. The Campus security will be there right away. And you don’t need to worry about those guys, they scare all the new blood but they aren’t dangerous.

“Ah.” Lan Jue responded.

Tang Mi turned and left, her valiant figure pacing off in to the virtual sunset.

Quite the sense of justice in this girl, Lan Jue silently praised.

A sign hung over the high-rise building, ‘The Classroom Building’. Five minutes later, Lan Jue exited, newly registered and with a brand new flight suit. He did regret, however, the ‘Nooblet’ scrawled across the back of it.

Next was choosing a mecha. Mecha development ensured the machines were humanoid in appearance, but there were different sorts of mechas for various specific purposes.

And so as a blank slate Lan Jue had his choice of two suits; long range, or close combat. He picked the close combat mecha without any hesitation.

“Would you like to select this model, and enter the training area?”

“Yes.”

A light filled his eyes and in an instant Nooblet was settled in the cockpit of his new mecha.

Saber-Mech, that was the name of the suit Lan Jue had chosen. Ten meters tall, weighing in at thirty tons, the light mecha was equipped with a shield and sword of titanium alloy.

His ten fingers flew across the cockpits control panels, and in respond Saber-Mech rose to it’s feet. Steadily it began to lumber forward.

Modern mechas were controlled by a combination of physical manipulation and brain wave reading. Pilots with particularly high Talent were able to even fuse with their mechas, in a matter of speaking, amplifying their power. But that required top-level suits.

Operation by brain waves alone was unstable, and influenced by one’s body. Operation by hand, meanwhile, didn’t allow for quick enough reaction. Together, though, they allowed for complete, perfect control.

The training area had been separated in to three regions; for elementary, intermediate, and advanced pilots. Ten victories in the elementary region advanced you to intermediate. One hundred victories earned you a spot in the advanced area. Once a thousand victories were earned, even higher levels were made available. However it was usually only National Scholars who reached that level of success. In fact earning a thousand victories in DreamNet sim combat was a requirement for graduation as a National Scholar. Bachelors required only a hundred.

As a result every mecha combat student was required to enter here. Their courses required a basic mastery of control, and that meant a minimum of ten victories was needed to earn course credit.

*’Whiteboard’ here is like the equivalent of ‘fresh slate’, totally untested.

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