Volume 2 Chapter 5: Zero to Hero (2)

Later that evening, Xiaoxia related the days happenings to the others.

While Gu Di managed to stifle his laughter for a few minutes before finally succumbing, Jay laughed hysterically from the onset and tears of laughter freely flowed down his face.

Little monster, that is why you are here in the world,” Jay told Xiaoxia, while barely able to hold it together.

It took him a moment to calm down, before he dived into puberty as well as the birds and the bees. It was done without any tact and even Gu Di felt flustered by it.

Words could not describe how Xiaoxia looked when he was told about these matters, and to say he was traumatized is an understatement. He was shocked to learn that girls did not have a ‘pee pee’ like boys, and more terrified when told how babies come into the world.

He still could not comprehend how girls could contain ‘milk’ in their chest when they had babies. To him milk was from animals, and it is a very healthy drink.

While it answered a lot of questions, like how six year earlier he started sprouting hair all over, there were still many that he couldn’t comprehend.

“All right, I hope you keep your thoughts out of this. It will only serve to distract you when you train,” Gu Di cautioned him after Jay was done with his explanation.

“Yea, just don’t be too concern about it. It’s only natural,” Jay winked.

Soon the conversation led to the topic of whether Xiaoxia should join the girls, and Gu Di felt it was not an ideal situation.

He emphasized the need for Xiaoxia to rest at least a week before considering anything else. While relating what happened, Xiaoxia mentioned that the girls wanted him to join them daily, in order to train for the ‘Sole Plate World Cup’. It was going to take place in a month and a half time, and it was hardly considered sufficient enough to practice as team.

“No, you must tell them you can’t make it for at least a week, and whether you join them to train thereafter, is all depending on this,” Gu Di suggested the course of action.

“So I should accept it if they agree?” Xiaoxia asked.

“If they agree, there isn’t any reason not to,” Gu Di replied.

Gu Di knew what the ‘Sole Plate World Cup’ is from past experience, and felt that it will be a good chance for Xiaoxia to measure his growth. On the other hand, he will easily reject it if it meant Xiaoxia could not rest for that week.

Xiaoxia looked a little sullen at this, while he loved flying and the chance to see some action in a competition, it was not the reason for his demeanor. He felt a little sad that he could not practice with the girls immediately, especially Carol.

She was the redhead who called him a zero. This is a very unflattering way to indicate that someone has zero IQ or thrash, and it was a common phrase among teenagers on the island.

Carol is tom boyish, rash, brash and prone to a rather quick temper, but instead of the other three girls, she was the only one that came to Xiaoxia’s mind.

“I have to go tell them now, the deadline for the team registration is before midnight today,” Xiaoxia said, as he left the suite.

They were staying in the best suite available at one of the island’s top resort hotel, it was acquired by Wuming centuries ago, and left under the management of a local family. It wasn’t apparent whether the family was connected to them.

From there to where the girls lived, took slightly less than an hour. Xiaoxia was not thinking about Carol now, but what the girls explained to him about the World Cup.

**********

The ‘Sole Plate World Cup’, is an annual five person team event, which lasted for three days. Each team must consist of at least one of the opposite gender, or they will not be able to register.

Registrants were then made to participate in preliminary tests, to ensure they are suitable to enter the tournament. There were a myriad of tests involving the abilities of maneuvering a sole plate, as it was after all a contest for that purpose.

While the abilities to maneuver a sole plate is vital, the tournament is also a pseudo ‘Battle Royal’. The final team with at least one member left, were the champions. Although it hardly happens, and  has been modified over the years.

Instead during the past few centuries, the Champions were usually the ones who have obtained the highest point score within the time limit.

There was no rule of fair play here, which allowed any item to be used, and neither was there a stringent age limit. This made it difficult for younger teams to score points against others who had members nearly a thousand years old. Hence it was usually the older teams who had the higher points.

Besides the Champions, there were top 10 prizes. These prizes were extremely lucrative, and every team ruthlessly employed any means possible to gain them.

One system of points allocation, is when contestants successfully obtain special items at designated areas. These areas are guarded by flying beasts which were of an uncertain class and strength.

The added difficulty, was that each item was placed in hard to reach areas which required superb maneuvering skills to access. The passageways were tight and highly dangerous with jagged edges, and some were even rigged to exploded in the presence of the participants.

To make matters complicated, all such areas were considered ‘no-holes-barred’. Teams can stab each other in the back, as they becomes distracted maneuvering or while battling the flying beasts. Otherwise, they have to officially challenge each other outside these areas.

Taking out other teams is highly encouraged, and points given for defeating any member of the opposing teams, is comparable to a single special item. Likewise, points can be deducted into the negative for losing a team member.

The only rule that is strictly enforced, is the compulsory requirements that all contestants are to maintain a minimum of fifty feet above the ground, and special detection tags will be given to ensure they do not violate this. Any individual found not conforming to this, will automatically be disqualified.

The tag is also used as a location beacon for observer drones that flew around to cover the progress of the contestants, which in turn will be broadcast for the world to see. There are many fans, pundits and a plethora of others who watch the event, and remained glued to these broadcasts when the World Cup began.

As it is organized annually, it is even more popular than seven-years-once Inter-Continent Freshmen Event. Which is being held the same year, at a later date.

(AN: the Inter-Continent Freshmen Competition is held every 7 years, and it has already been seven years since the last one.)

**********

“I do not like the way he steals glances at me, thinking I did not notice. I tell you, this guy is a psychotic pervert,” Carol was complaining, while inspecting her sole plate. It has been giving her some problems lately.

She thought she felt Xiaoxia’s gaze falling on her occasionally, while they were telling him all about the ‘Sole Plate World Cup’ earlier in the day.

“I think you are just imagining, I have been looking at him since he arrived. He didn’t even show the slightest interest in a bum like you,” Cailing argued.

She agreed with Jane who had considered Xiaoxia to be cute, and was constantly looking at him like a piece of meat.

“I think that is beside the point, lets discuss what is more important,” Meiling interjected and digressed.

“From what I can see, his sole plate is a high quality one which is heavily modified,” Jane observed.

“But who did it, is the thing we should be asking,” Meiling said.

“That is impossible to tell, but he was flying too fast for even us to follow. It did not look like he was even putting much effort,” this time Carol joined in.

In the meantime, Cailing was smiling dreamily in her own world, barely aware of the conversation that was going on. She was momentarily distracted from it by knocking on the door.

“Knock Knock Knock Knock!”

It was a staccato of four knocks which the girls taught Xiaoxia if he returned. They had a reason to do so, as they were avoiding someone.

Cailing immediately jumped up and opened the door to greet him.

“Hey cutie, what took you so long?” she asked as he walk into their abode.

“Sorry, I was a little tied up with matters,” Xiaoxia replied much to Cailing angst, as he did not react to being called ‘cutie’.

“It is ok, there is still a few hours before the deadline,” Meiling told him, before asking, “So have you decided?”

Earlier, while explaining the World Cup to him, the girls already considered him part of their team. They did not even consult Xiaoxia, who was befuddled and confused at that time.

Thankfully he eventually came to his senses, and told them he could not join them, or give them an answer till he informed his seniors.

It brought them all back to square one, as Carol lambasted him for wasting their time. Meiling and the others, just kept their silence. They were rather displeased themselves, but held back and let Carol alone handle it.

“Yes, I will join you. But there is a condition,” Xiaoxia replied.

“Anything you want sweetheart,” Cailing was literally purring at him, while Jane giggled.

It was rather fortunate Xiaoxia did not know what Carol was doing or implying, else he would have gone off the deep end again.

“Shush! What condition will that be?” Meiling asked while she motioned for Cailing to behave.

At this point, Xiaoxia was feeling a little hot beneath the collar, as the girls were giving him an expectant look. He did not feel like telling them the facts, and wanted to tell them otherwise.

“Erm, I can join you. But I can’t practice with you, not until a week later,” Xiaoxia’s voice became softer with each word, and it finally became a barely audible whisper.

“What is it? Can’t you speak out clearly like a man,” Carol loudly chided him, she did not have a good impression of him.

This made him more miserable, as she was the last person in the room he wanted to give a bad impression.

“I said, I can join you, but I can’t practice with you until after a week,” this time fueled by her words, he spoke up a little louder than expected.

“Why? We do not have enough time as it is,” this time Jane joined the conversation.

She was not the only one, as the other three questioned this as well.

“I am really sorry, but my senior gave clear instructions that unless you are agreeable to this, he will not permit me to even join the tournament,” Xiaoxia explained, hopefully by pushing it on Gu Di, the girls will let it go.

“That is not an excuse, you should have told us outright if you can or cannot. Now there is no time to look for another, where are we going to find someone else at this point?” Carol further insisted.

“But I can still join you after a week,” Xiaoxia argued.

“We already do not have much time to train, if it wasn’t for the fact that the previous person wanted something disgusting, we would not ha…OUCH!” Carol was cut short in the middle of her speech by Meiling, who kicked her suddenly.

“I am sorry, but as you know we really do not have much time to train and prepare,” Meiling calmly told him, repeating what Carol had just said.

It seemed for a moment Carol had said something which she should not have. But Xiaoxia paid this no heed as he replied,

“Yes, I know this very well. This not something I can avoid either, it is something that was already decided when I arrived on the island.”

“Sweetheart, but we need to know if you are good enough,” Cailing purred.

“I am not sure what it means to be good enough, but I am confident in my skills with the sole plate.”

However this led to nowhere, as Carol once again debated the fact that it is more likely that his sole plate is a high grade one that he has the confidence. Of course the other three girls seemed to agree with her at this point, because the higher the quality of a sole plate, the much better it will handle.

It got to a point when Xiaoxia just literally blew up in their faces, he could not understand why they had to argue with him. He did want to join them, and was very sincere in all his replies to them, however they kept pursuing the matter and did not let it rest.

“Fine! It you cannot accept it, then don’t. Good luck in finding someone,” Xiaoxia blurted out exasperatedly.

By then, he was not even thinking of impressing Carol or getting in her good books.

The room went silent at that outburst, all four girls were looking at him with a ‘are you kidding me’ expression. It took them a moment to recover from the unexpected outburst, but when they did, they whispered among themselves, before Meiling finally turned around and spoke,

“Then we shall agree to this, we have to hurry it’s already getting late. We need to get to the registration counter immediately.”

Whether it was a good outcome, Xiaoxia did not know, as all of them kept their silence after that. They did not even speak to him as they left their abode and flew towards the registration counter.

Xiaoxia was behind them all this time, and he whispered his thanks to the Creator that they were at least decently dressed this time.

Nights were cold at that part of the world, and the girls have changed into much warmer clothing. Xiaoxia did not actually feel it for some reason, he was dressed in the usual garb, a simple tunic and pants.

Over the years, his wardrobe only contained duplicates of the same ones, and he hardly wore anything else even in the dead of winter. Gu Di and Jay likewise were dressed pretty much the same in any environment.

He had never given thought of it before this day. While teaching him about puberty, the birds and the bees, Jay included the reason why in certain places, people are dressed almost close to nothing.

The days in places like where they were, was a little unbearable due to the heat, and the materials as well as the little articles of clothing allowed the constant breeze to cool the body.

On the other hand, during the night, the temperatures dropped instantly to a freezing point, and they had to keep warm or suffer certain ailments.

Whether it was a satisfactory answer, Xiaoxia did not know. He only knew he felt the same anywhere he went, and since the other two were also unaffected, guess that it was perfectly normal.

Unknown to him, he could actually survive in the hottest desert or coldest winters, only due to his meridians. Since all of them were opened*, the body could naturally defended itself against the weather. It is similar to how a person perspires when it is too warm or shivers when it is too cold, except in Xiaoxia’s case, the meridians and Ki flow in his body protects him from it.

(AN: all of them refers to the normal meridians a person have, it does not include the special meridian unique to Xiaoxia)

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!”

A scream pierced the night, and shattered the thought process of Xiaoxia.

Startled, he looked right ahead where it originated from, only to see Carol already plunging towards the ground. They were about five hundred feet in the air, as they flew towards the registration counter, in order to avoid most of the rooftops that got in the way.

Xiaoxia himself lagged a little behind, caught up in his own thoughts and was approximately seventy feet away from the group when that happened.

Without thinking, he immediately dived after her, smashing the controls of the sole plate as he activated the acceleration mechanism he installed.

“BOOOM!”

A tremendous earthshaking sonic boom was heard, as he instantly sped towards her, while skillfully avoiding the obstacles that protruded out from the surrounding structure.

He grabbed her just as she was within a hairsbreadth of impaling herself on a metal pole, which was jutting out from one of the structures.

The other girls were too shocked to react at that instant and could only look with amazement at what just happened.

“Wow, he just saved her!” Jane exclaimed the moment she recovered.

“Word!” Cailing agreed, using another term common to teenagers on the island.

“Agreed!” Meiling smiled in relief.

Carol was not looking directly at Xiaoxia with her face averted, he was holding on to her tightly. She did not know what to say, and she never had a guy so close to her. Her face was flushed and she felt a little breathless at that time.

In the moonlight, the features of Xiaoxia really stood out, and she somehow felt Cailing and Jane were spot on in their assessment of how he looked.

In her mind, the stories of her childhood came alive, there was an image of a knight in shining armor who was a legend in the lands. He was tall, handsome and had all the courage in the world. He did great deeds and saved damsels in distressed.

At that precise moment, there was only one word in her mind which slipped out of her mouth, “Hero.”

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