All three pairs of eyes were on Zhang Shan. Zhang Shan himself was also bemused.
"At Academy X, we heard that such abilities existed. We thought it was just a legend, but to think that it actually occurred. Congratulations, Zhang Shan! Your Ability X has awakened, and it seems to be a pretty high grade one as well!" Meng Tian exclaimed.
Zhang Runan patted Zhang Shan's elbow. "Well done, Mountain Maiden. The next phase of IG depends on you now."
Zhang Shan laughed exultantly at the uncommon praise, the cold sweat on his brow now forgotten.
"I always knew I was a genius. Wait till Wang Zheng gets back. He'll probably drop dead with envy."
Meng Tian and Zhang Runan smiled knowingly. Sufficient genetic potential could trigger under special circumstances, but it would have to be a time of real danger. It was useless to try to simulate such a situation, and Zhang Shan had indeed been at the brink of death.
What was even more frightening was that if his ability had not awakened, he would be dead beyond a doubt.
A strong person truly needed a bit of luck.
Although Luomu did not fully comprehend what had just happened, he knew that this meant that the Ares College's ability had just taken a step forward.
Zhang Shan gritted his teeth and scrunched up his face.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to activate it again. Perhaps next time I could enter the girls' dormitory without even walking through the front door," Zhang Shan said.
But nothing happened.
Meng Tian and Zhang Runan were between laughter and tears. "Do you think mastery over Ability X is as easy as breathing? Your type of awakening happened during a point of near death, and it happened unconsciously! You still have a long way to go. But if you perform well, we could give you some advice along the way."
Zhang Shan immediately adopted a solemn face upon hearing this. "My empresses, I am at your beck and call. This little one would bow, scrape, and lay its life down for you."
Surviving a close brush with death had raised everybody's moods. It was no small challenge for Zhang Shan to achieve mastery over such power, but if he did, Zhang Shan had the potential to be a great mech pilot.
In Zhang Shan's view, he did not care about the strength of his Ability X. As long as he had it, he could find his way slowly.
He suddenly felt grateful for all the years he had dedicated to his passion for physics. If he had known things would turn out this way, he would have researched the concept of time more. How much more capable he would be now!
Zhang Shan felt he was becoming more and more like a superman.
But Meng Tian was quick to rain on his parade. Although he was a rare bird, he was not the only one. Much still depended on his ability and level of control. Furthermore, powering a mech with Ability X cut the effect by a huge multiplier. Everybody needed long periods of drilling and practice to make it work.
However, it was still a matter worthy of celebration.
While Zhang Shan was overjoyed, Meng Tian and Zhang Runan spotted a mutual twinge of pity in the other's eyes. Wang Zheng really was good at everything, but he lacked good fortune. If only he could awaken an ability of some sort. Even if it was that of a weak caliber, it would still strengthen him significantly. He would be able to see the world in a way which only those who possessed strength would understand.
In the car, Wang Zheng sneezed uncontrollably a few times. Someone must have been thinking of him. They were planning to go to the Sage Sect for a quick visit. If chance would have it, he might even be able to meet the leader of the Sage Sect. After that, they would attend Lin Huiyin's concert.
To Wang Zheng, this was a lucky break. This was an opportunity prepared for Raston; clearly Lie Guang and Lie Xin both favoured Raston, an ally they strove to please. Wang Zheng was riding his coattails to glory. Alone, Wang Zheng was not worthy of such great effort on Lie Guang's part.
About the meeting and other concerns, Wang Zheng had left a message for Xiao Fei and switched off his Skylink. This was a standard request for all who entered the Sage Sect's encampment.
"Lie Guang, is there a chance or not?" Even the usually calm and composed Raston could not restrain himself.
Lie Guang and Lie Xin exchanged a look and broke out into smiles. "Raston, we were so curious to see if you could resist."
Lie Xin said, "Looks like you aren't as composed as you thought."
"Lie Xin, I'm just a normal person acting calm at times. Forget composure, if I could meet the Sage leader, it would be the honor of my lifetime."
Although he was not a Martian, as a citizen of Caragal, there were not many bastions of culture. He yearned endlessly to meet this living legend from Mars.
Back in the day, only Earth's Sacred Hall came close in comparison to the Sage Sect. After the Sacred Hall disappeared, the Sage Sect remained the only enigmatic existence in the Solar System. Although the Solar System's paltry influence did not count for much when seen from the greater interstellar perspective, the Sage Sect remained noble and important to the Solar System.
He couldn't believe it, he was finally there.
Raston was clearly a believer. Wang Zheng had only heard of the Sage Sect in passing, in addition to some wild tales. Something about determining fate... it was too difficult to put into words. He would see for himself.
"It's difficult for me to meet the old man as well. I don't have the power to ask. There, this one in front of your eyes is the esteemed benefactor, the last disciple," Lie Xin said, pouting at Lie Guang.
It went without saying that the Lie family's favor towards Lie Guang was influenced by the Sage Sect's favor. In truth, all Lie Guang wanted was a genuine, warm family instead of all this respect. But he could not speak the words in his heart
"I don't dare to guarantee this. I did inform my master, but he did not reply. Once we get there, we'll know." Lie Guang shrugged frustratedly. He really wanted to show off a little in front of his friends, but this was not something he could control readily.
"Even to have secured a visit to the Sage Sect was no small feat. Whether we can see the Sage leader depends on our luck after all." Raston also knew that the chances were slim from the expression on Lie Guang's face.
If he was coming to see them, the Sage leader would have said something. If he did not, the chances were negligibly low.
Even if it had been the chairman of the Solar System, he might not have been able to request an audience with the Sage leader, who was considered above worldly matters.
Legend held that the Sage Sect had been left one condition from the past, which was never to interfere in any matter outside of Mars. Of course, these were merely historically unsolvable mysteries today.
The encampment of the Sage Sect was indeed bare and retained an air of mystery. As they entered a craggy, mountainous area, they finally saw an unremarkable structure well hidden in the mountain forest. Although simple, it held an otherworldly aura.
Wang Zheng and Raston looked at each other. Regardless of whether it was the influence of fables or an actual mystery, both of them felt thus.
Such places did exist on Earth, but they attracted large crowds, and important festivals saw many pilgrims come to offer incense. Yet this place was serene beyond comparison.
The magnetic car came to a halt at the foot of the mountain and the four alighted. Lie Guang said, "Let's walk up, it's a rule."
Once they entered the encampment, Lie Guang and Lie Xin had repressed their good humor and became exceptionally sober in their manner. To Martians, faith in the Sage Sect stemmed from one's inner self.
"Wang Zheng, what's wrong?"
The rest of them had walked forward more than 10 steps, but Wang Zheng remained rooted to the spot.
Wang Zheng was indeed stunned. He had felt a wave of stupendous power. It was unimaginable. This huge power was emanating from the structure on the mountain. It straddled heaven and earth, which merged as one.
Could the fables be real?
Could such mysterious, exceptional power exist?
But why could he sense it?
"Wang Zheng, let's carry on. You can admire it on your own time once we reach the top," Lie Xin said. Nevertheless, Wang Zheng's reverent manner was met with approval by Lie Xin and Lie Guang.
Whether you believed or not did not matter. But to be viewed favorably by Martians, one had to show respect towards the Sage Sect.
Wang Zheng's expression had become grave. "Sorry, just a little distracted. The Sage Sect really is a mysterious existence. Is this the central area of the Sect?"
"Keke, I like the way you think. I've never been to the central area. This is the Jippu regional area, one of the three major areas of the Sect. Not just anybody can come here, you know," Lie Xin said.
Lie Guang's gaze wavered with misgivings, but he turned around and shook his head. "Come on. Every single devout person will receive the grace of heaven."
Lie Guang was undoubtedly pious.
The four walked towards the mountain peak without any frivolity. Lie Guang and Lie Xin walked steadily forward in proper fashion. Their sincerity soon began to rub off on Wang Zheng and Raston.
The stately pace took a toll on their speed. They took close to an hour to arrive in front of the mountain gate's staircase.
Throughout the entire process, no one had spoken. Lie Xin and Lie Guang seemed to be undertaking a cleansing ritual. Lie Guang smiled lightly. "Please wait here, the three of you. I will go and knock."
What he called knocking was not on an actual door, but a preliminary notification as a gesture of respect to Raston and Wang Zheng, signifying their status as honored guests.
But before Lie Guang could move, a gong sounded from within the Sect.
Dong... dong... dong…
Lie Guang and Lie Xin's expressions changed. How could this be? Who was coming?
Once the gong had sounded eight times, Lie Guang and Lie Xin's hearts hardly dared to beat.
It meant that the Sage Sect had honored guests…
Yet the gong did not stop there. It sounded a full 12 times, the sound reverberating around the valley.
"This... How could this be?" Lie Xin muttered. She looked towards Lie Guang apprehensively.
Lie Guang laughed cynically. "The venerated master really is here. Too bad he's not rushing out to meet us. We must have coincidentally come at the same time as other honored guests. Well, this isn't a bad thing. You might actually have the chance to meet him."
This was the leader's ritual to welcome guests, but 12 times... it did seem to hold some particular significance.
Even at the regional area, it had not been used for many years.
At this moment, the mountain gate opened and two fresh-faced youths bounded towards them carefreely with a light step. Although there were a full thousand individual steps, they readily reached the four.
Both youths were very young. Two pairs of brilliant jet-black eyes took the measure of the four. They smiled at Lie Guang. "Senior, Master is in the main hall, you should hurry there."
"... Little Red, you mean to say that Master is waiting for us?" Lie Guang gaped in astonishment. "This- but I haven't done anything wrong recently."
The one called Little Red shook his head mischievously. "Master said that an old friend is here. I don't know about the rest."