“It looks like you guys are here, took you long enough. Hurry up and stand in line,” said the instructor.
Luon and the others quickly got in line, but as they were doing so Gizmo asked Luon, “Is that really Instructor Lin? How come she looks way too different in reality?”
The person who was selected to be their instructor was Lin whom Luon and the others had met during their time in the underground net. But she didn’t have the same appearance as before, she wore a black military uniform with a patch on her chest indicating her rank as a Lieutenant. Her black hair was short and was slightly tied up as if she had twin tails. Her body was more voluptuous than her slim self in the simulation, and although the difference didn’t amount to much as it was like she went from being a barely A size to a B size.
“Was Instructor Lin was a girl? Are you guys sure about this? They may look the same, but they could be related to each other,” Bendan said as he and Gizmo had yet to figure out that Instructor Lin was a female even after they had graduated from the course.
Gizmo shook his head in response as he didn’t know about this either while Luon kept quiet as Lin’s eyes were like daggers staring at the two. She said, “It seems your energetic enough to have a little private conversation? Are you two done?”
Although her query seemed reasonable on the surface her creepy smile and the aura she emitted didn’t match the way she iterated it at all. Gizmo and Bendan shivered from her stare.
Seeing how she managed to grab everyone’s attention, she said, “Alright folks, as many of you may not know but you can address me as Lin, and while you’re still in the military you are to call me Lieutenant Lin or Instructor Lin. The only reason why you address me that way is because Belle and Kiri already know who I am while the rest of you are new faces that I haven’t seen before. For the remainder of the day, I will go over some basics you need to know at the camp and evaluate your physical capabilities by having you run laps around the track. Is there any questions, if not then start running for now.”
Kiri raised her hand and said, “Instructor Lin, how long do you want us to run for?”
Instructor with a deadpan expression said, “Until I say stop, and if I find you lightly jogging, then there will be no dinner for you. If there’s anything else, then start running Kiri.”
Kiri rapidly nodded as she started to sprint off to the tracks with a frightened expression. Luon, Gizmo, and Bendan grew curious about why she was so afraid, and Belle filled them in by saying, “Instructor Lin is actually Kiri’s cousin. I’ve known her for a long time, and so does Kiri. In fact, you might even say that she treats Kiri harshly, but in reality, she wants Kiri to be strong enough to take care of herself.”
Lin looked over at the remaining members and said, “What’s wrong? Didn’t you hear what I said? Hurry up and start running or else something’s bad is going to happen.”
On her remark, Belle started to sprint off along with Gizmo and Bendan leaving Luon behind. Belle had experienced the terror that Lin talks about whereas Gizmo and Bendan couldn’t help but recall their experience at the camp in the virtual world. Someone who would keep their students in the program by charging an exorbitant fee for quitting would definitely have a punishment that they definitely don’t want to experience at all.
The three of them ran off quickly and before Luon knew it was quite far away from him. Lin found it strange for only Luon to remain there standing and she asked him. “What’s wrong? Is there something you would like to say?”
“Umm, I noticed you mention it earlier that you knew Kiri and Belle, but don’t you remember us?” Luon asks as he probed her reaction.
Instructor Lin squinted her eyes and analyzed Luon’s face before checking the list of students using her BMPU. She said, “Besides Kiri and Belle I have no recollection of meeting the three of you before. Luon have we met somewhere else before?”
Luon was still perplexed at the situation and hesitated to tell her that they met in the underground world since it wasn’t legal after all. However, after seeing her confused complexion, he decided to explain it. Luon slowly said, “Well I don’t think you can remember it, but about almost two years ago Bendan, Gizmo and I along with some other friends attended your course at the Zero Delta Center. Ther-”
Once Luon mentioned Zero Delta Center Lin’s expression changed. Luon who was carefully watching her expression noticed the change and stopped his explanation. He looked at her face and had a sudden thought, ‘Did I just step on a landmine?’
He tried to laugh it off as he slowly turned his body while saying, “Ahh, nevermind it might have been someone else… sorry for the misunderstanding. I’ll go do my runs now!”
However, before he could even take more than a step, Lin appeared behind him and grasped his shoulder while saying, “Running can be done later… let’s have a little chat first.”
She dragged Luon along and went behind the building which was designated as their lodge. She roughly tossed Luon against the wall and slammed her hand beside his head and said, “Now tell me once again, who did you meet in the Zero Delta Center?”
Luon eyes dodged her gaze as he said, “Ah, it was some man who taught us how to do some neat parlor tricks. It seems like my memory was failing me a bit as I mistook you for him.”
Lin made a little snicker as she said, “Oh, you aren’t mistaken. Indeed it was me, but at the same time it wasn’t me, and if you’re saying that you and your friends came and learned from me then you should already know my personality. Keep the underground stuff buried ten feet down, right now you’re my student, a greenhorn soldier who has yet experience a real battlefield. Do you understand?”
Luon who was receiving her threat gave her a slow nod. However, as he did, he felt confused at the words she had just said. The instructor is and at the same time wasn’t her? He suddenly recalled a conversation he had with Zekar about the topic.
Lin who was staring down at her prey noticed the change, she stood up and let Luon loose as she said, “That’s right. The Lin you met in the underground world was a carbon, artificial copy that I have the system made of me. You aren’t going to expose me, right?”
NPCs, her existence was like those beings that the system created to be a part of the world and at the same time mimic the original behavior of the designed person. Luon understood that there were very few of them in most virtual worlds, but the underground world was different. They had something called Fakers, they were developed and used to automate the shopping process within storefronts when the owners weren’t around, and they weren’t managed by the world system. However, the usage of them became illegal in public fronts as it violated the privacy of many users who would create a carbon copy of their idols and create bad public images of them by doing inhumane acts.
Lin was different from those perverts, rather than feed off of a fetish she used her carbon copy to generate revenue based on her knowledge on using NG-Arms. It was if someone who went to study at a University and began teaching students in private the contents that they have learned while reaping a considerable amount of profit. The act itself wasn’t entirely illegal, in fact, many places had done so. But what Lin did was partially illegal, since she leaked the training methods that they had used in the military to civilians without any consent.
Nobody in the underground world mentioned or notified the authorities of this information for several reasons. One, because the information she provided helped save lives. A foolish malfunction while using NG-Arms in a real battle could cost people their lives. Two, she blatantly said that learning NG-Arms isn’t for everybody and did many things to prevent people from taking the program. And finally, she provided some entertainment and chances to earn revenue in the underground battle arena through the means of betting.
Luon who understood this didn’t say anything or try to expose Lin. If he did, it was the same as telling the authorities that he and his friends had gone to the underground market and done business there. Although people do it all of the time, it was quite look down upon when openly exposed.
Luon was thankful to Lin who had helped teach him about using the NG-Arms and the stage beyond it, but Lin’s expression frightened him as he said, “No…”
Hearing him say so Lin nodded and gave him a bright smile as she said, “Good, although I can’t entirely trust that you’ll keep it a secret. I’ll have you know that I have a lot of connections. No one will want to see an unidentified dead body suddenly appearing out of nowhere the next morning after all.”
Luon nodded his head with vigor as Lin told him to run. As Luon started to leave, he stopped for a moment and asked, “If you’re so afraid of it being exposed then why do you do it?”
“If what I taught you helps you live on the battlefield then why should I feel bad about it? Enough talk, hurry up and run with the rest. Oh, and tell your friends to shut their mouths as well,” said Lin.
Luon nodded and quickly ran off. Lin who stared at his back still had the bright smiling expression she said, “Of course, that may be one small reason. But the main reason is that it’s so lucrative to do so. There’s no such thing as a stable job market after all.”
Everyone ran on the tracks for a few hours with very short breaks in between where they were allowed to be hydrated. Lin wasn’t entirely inhumane as she understood the physical capabilities of each student from how they ran.
Lin called everyone in for dinner as they all ate the same nutritious but not so delicious meals that they were given. As they dug away at the mess before them, Lin had them watch a basic overview video on behavioral patterns, the use of military facilities and their location, and their squad’s future scheduling plans.
When they got to the final part, everyone noticed that the names for their official military roles have already been filled in.
Besides the members that Luon knew there were two more people in their squad whose names he didn’t recognize.
At this moment the door opened, and everyone’s eyes turned towards the noise. A lady dashing blonde hair tied up in a ponytail while wearing a military uniform walked into the room, but before she could even say a word Lin said, “Angela Hoen… I told you hours ago that the newcomers were here. Why have you only arrived now?”
“Hmph, I came right on the designated time but these kids were late, so I went off and continued to pack my stuff. Then you called me when my friends were giving me a farewell party before I was forced to join this squadron? Demoting me from squad leader to vice-leader? You’ve got to be kidding me. If they’re allowed to be late, then how come I can’t?”
Lin gave a short sigh as she said, “You know why you were placed in this position so don’t make it too hard for me.”
“Of course I know. Those higher-ups want Belle to stick out like her Father and stuck me to babysit the brat and her friends. This is clearly an abuse of authority,” she said with dissatisfaction.
“You… nevermind, Belle, this is your vice-leader. Listen to her advice as she has experience on the battlefield,” Lin said as she gave up on the explanation process.
Belle stood up and politely said, “Nice to meet you Angela Ho-”
Before she could even finish her sentence Angela snappily replied, “Enough talk, save it for tomorrow. I’m too tired and irritated to listen to you say anything. If you guys need anything, then I’ll be in our room.”
She let out a small yawn before she made her way out, but she happened to bump into someone who was making their way in. She looked at the man with an angry stare only to see the smiling expression on his face, she let out a sound symbolizing her indignation before leaving the room.
The newcomer was a tall and robust minotaur who had a smiling expression he looked like a simpleton, and Lin addressed him by saying, “This is the last member of the team, he arrived a bit late today since he came from a different planet and was recommended here by some higher-ups.”
“The names Opo, nice to meet you all,” said the newcomer.
Luon had yet met a minotaur from the beastmen race, he was quite surprised by his appearance.
Bendan stood up and clapped his shoulders as he compared his muscles to Opo. He bellowed, “Hahaha, your good. I can see that you trained quite well.”
“Same to you, hahaha,” the two men laughed it off as if they had met their match. Lin gave a light cough as she said, “Enough, that’s it for the day. Starting tomorrow, I’ll start training you the basics so everyone should go get some rest. I don’t want to hear any excuses tomorrow.”
Lin left the room after her remark, the room was quiet to some extent, and all one could hear was the laughter coming from two animals. Luon looked at his teammates and Belle who was designated the squad leader.
She was playing around with her meal and looked like she hadn’t been paying attention to a single word that Lin had said, Gizmo was doing the same thing, only he was muttering to himself. Luon could hear him say things like, “Maybe I need more salt? Or pepper? Do we even have sauce?”
Apparently, he and Belle were dissatisfied with the meal, Luon turned to face Kiri who may seem to be the only reasonable conversation partner left, only to find her occupied.
Kiri was writing something down as she stealthily stole a glance at Bendan and Opo, as for the contents, Luon didn’t bother trying to find out. Luon thought to himself, ‘Is this team going to be alright?’
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