Ling Lan stood once more at the entrance to the tunnel; she had never stopped challenging it. She closed her eyes and counted the seconds, and then abruptly opened them again. Her eyes blazed with a vibrant light, and her fingers flew in a coordinated dance. With a strong push of its hindlegs, the rabbit mecha bounded into the tunnel.
At this moment, Ling Lan's entire body and soul were immersed in the mecha — she already knew the situation within the tunnel like the back of her hand, so there was no need for her to even think about how to overcome the obstacles. All of it was already a steady flow within her mind.
The rabbit mecha leapt and soared nimbly within that small and narrow space. At times it crawled, at times it leapt, at times it moved rapidly, at times it slowed to turn ... quite a few times it narrowly scraped by a wall, where just a hairsbreadth closer would mean a forceful crash and a violent tumble.
This time, Ling Lan did not hit the wall at all, successfully making her way through the tunnel swiftly. She looked down at the time — as expected, she had finally broken past the 20-minute barrier. In fact, she had improved her time by a whole 5 minutes, ending the course within 15 minutes.
Compared to her first time, Ling Lan had undoubtedly reduced her time by half. However, to achieve the 3 minutes required to complete the mission, Ling Lan still had a long way to go. Still, Ling Lan was very happy. This progress proved that her control of the rabbit mecha had improved by a substantial margin.
Ling Lan wasn't anxious to raise her hand speed further at this point; instead, she continued to work on stabilizing her current hand speed. She practised over and over again — running the same obstacle course repetitively was very dry and boring. Making the mecha jump and leap and run to break through obstacles may have been new and exciting for the first run or two, but after the tenth time and beyond, all that was left was boredom. Fortunately, Ling Lan was a very tolerant person. The dry monotony and boredom of the exercise were not enough to turn her off and make her choose to give up halfway.
In this manner, she stayed in her house for three to four consecutive days. Then, Ling Lan was dragged out of the learning space by Little Four over an unexpected occurrence.
Back then, Ling Lan had been focused on her training in the tunnel to try and apply a higher hand speed. Just as she had been running, the scene in front of her eyes suddenly twisted and spun, becoming blurred and unfocused. By the time Ling Lan could see clearly again, she had already been brought to the great hall of the learning space.
Little Four was waiting for her there with an anxious expression. Seeing Ling Lan come out, Little Four immediately rushed over as he shouted, "Boss, hurry! Qi Long and the others are looking for you."
During this time, Little Four had been substituting Ling Lan to enter the virtual world. So, he was also responsible for reporting anything of note that happened there.
"Can't you handle it?" Ling Lan automatically assumed it was something to do with the virtual world. That's why she was rather surprised, because Little Four had patted his chest and guaranteed that he would be able to handle anything in the virtual world back when he had first taken on this duty.
"It's a real world issue. They were just trying to contact you online, and it looks urgent. They want you to go to the combat hall immediately. It looks like something major is happening," explained Little Four in a hurry.
Ling Lan was rather bewildered, unsure what could have happened to make Qi Long and the others so anxious. With a worried heart, she quickly left the learning space and climbed out of the login pod to the virtual world. She took a moment to change into a clean uniform, and then immediately set out for the combat hall.
The moment she arrived at the entrance to the combat hall, Ling Lan found that there was an unusually large crowd here today. She took a swift look around, and found that there were not just students from her grade, but also quite a number of students from the other grades. There were younger juniors who had just started school here, as well as seniors from a grade or two higher.
Among the groupings of blue and green, Ling Lan could even see some white and red — looks like there were also quite a few students from the special classes. Ling Lan grew even more curious. What in the world had happened to make the students of the lower division gather here?
Although the scout academy had ten grades, these grades were in fact split into three different divisions. Grades 1 to 4 made up the lower division, 5 to 7 was the intermediate division, and 8 to 10 was the upper division. The students of every division had their own circles, and aside from those with intent, very few people were willing to cross these circles to get to know the students of the other divisions. Just take Ling Lan's group for example. They may know about the matters concerning the lower division students, but they only knew vague details about things to do with the intermediate division, and the upper division was completely out of the consideration of these lower division children.
Ling Lan immediately contacted Qi Long, and finding out that the others were at arena 3, she hurried over. On the way there, Ling Lan's ostentatious red uniform drew the admiration and envy of the surrounding merit class and regular class students.
Although Ling Lan kept a rather low profile within the academy, there were still quite a few people who recognised her. These people were talking in hushed whispers to the people beside them who didn’t know Ling Lan.
"Do you know who that person in the red uniform is?" said one of the informed grade one students excitedly to a student beside him whom he had just met.
"A Special Class-A student? From which grade? I don't think I saw him at the cross-grade challenge matches." Some of the people who had no acquaintances in the upper grades naturally did not know much about their seniors.
"You should at least know about Qi Long, right?" Qi Long had obtained the top rank of the special classes multiple times in succession, and so had often appeared at the cross-grade challenge fights. Thus, even the new students knew him.
"Of course I know! The leading person in the second grade — I've seen him in the cross-grade challenge matches. I get excited just speaking of him! In the last challenge, he actually managed to challenge all the way up to grade 4 before losing. He really makes us lower grades proud!" It looked like this new student was a fan of Qi Long's; his face was filled with idolisation.
"Hehe, let me tell you ... that person just now is Qi Long's boss! He's also in the second grade." The informed one was very smug; he actually knew about the strongest hidden boss.
"No way!" Shocked cries rang out one after another — eavesdroppers drawn by their discussion all had expressions of disbelief on their faces. Qi Long was the high-profile academy star of the lower grades — how could a superior being like him submit and acknowledge another person as boss so easily? And someone from the same grade at that, with a lower ranking!
"Hmph, you really think Qi Long dominates the second grade? If my elder cousin sister wasn't in that grade, I may not have known about this secret." The ones who paid attention to the internal grade rankings were basically those in the same grade. Very few students from other grades would bother with the rankings of another grade, which was why most people from the lower grades and the upper grades would not know the internal matters.
"What secret? Tell us quick!" Those who loved uncovering the truth all began urging the informant to hurry up and reveal the secret he knew.
"My cousin sister said that, every time that person encountered Qi Long, he would automatically forfeit, never ever choosing to attack."
"Why?" Everyone wondered.
"Is it because he knew he couldn't win, so he chose not to fight? That doesn't mean that person is stronger than Qi Long though!" someone objected.
"I have proof. You all know that in the grade ranking matches, what's the least number of moves Qi Long took to defeat his opponent?"
"Yup, I remember someone mention it once. I think it was 3 moves, against the weakest opponent in the first round ... Qi Long's combat skills are amazing — he's not just agile, his strength is also greater than others his age by too much. On top of that, his foundations are very solid, and I heard he has some sure-kill moves as well."
"But as the opponents get stronger, Qi Long also can't defeat them that easily anymore. From around 10 moves to over 10 moves, even using up to several hundred moves ..."
"That's why I say, Qi Long is strong, but he still hasn't reached the level of domination," said the informant airily, nodding as he heard what everyone had to say about Qi Long's abilities.
"You can't say that. Anyone who can enter the special classes in our academy is a talent from the cream of the crop. Qi Long being able to press down everyone his age already proves that he is extremely outstanding." The other people felt that the informant was being rather unreasonable with his comments.
"Hehe, once, that person managed to defeat an opponent in ... guess how many moves?" asked the informant coldly, in response to the others doubting his words.
"What's his strength like? You can't just ask us to guess blindly without any comparison point."
"That opponent was also from the special classes. Qi Long managed to defeat that person in roughly 50 moves." The informant provided a comparison point.
"About 50 moves?"
"Could it be less than the number of moves Qi Long needed?" Seeing the informant's impassive face, everyone was shocked. "40 moves? Or maybe 30 moves?"
The informant just smiled but said nothing.
Everyone there drew a cold breath. "20 or so moves? Maybe about over 10 moves?" Everyone felt that their guesses were already very bold.
Sadly, the informant did not seem to agree. He shook his head, sighing, and said, "Can't you all be more daring with your guesses?"
"Within 10 moves?" In a sea of silence, a wavering voice piped up quietly. This guess made everyone hold their breath, waiting for the informant to respond.
"Within 10 moves? Hehehe, you're all wrong. He only used one move ..." revealed the informant proudly, just as if Ling Lan was his own boss.
"Woah, that strong?!" There was a cacophony as everyone exclaimed in shock. If this were true, then that person was definitely the reigning champ of the second grade.
"I predict that, if they really fought, even Qi Long wouldn't be able to hold out for long." The informant finally gave his hypothesis.
"Then why would he choose to forfeit? If he became the top rank, then he would be able to participate in the cross-grade challenge!" Some people felt it was a shame, because they had not been able to see that person's awesomeness in defeating his opponent in one move.
"Who knows? Perhaps he prefers to keep a low profile." An oracle of truth presented himself.
"Right, what's that person called?" Those with superior strength would always garner respect; the surrounding students were eager to find out the identity of their new idol from the informant.
"Ling Lan, the true number 1 of Year 4738 ..."
Ling Lan deeply mourned the fact that her hearing was so sharp — she had actually heard every single bit of gossip loud and clear. She had already tried her best to keep a low profile! Who knew that someone had still found her memorable? Still, Ling Lan wasn't really bothered. This gossip would probably just circulate among the lower division; the upper division would have no interest in following the gossip within their circle. So, no one outside would care or recognise her ...
Very soon, she had rushed to arena 3, and she immediately saw Qi Long and the others waiting in front of the stage. Ling Lan walked over quickly and asked, "Qi Long, why did you call me to come over in such a hurry? What exactly is going on?"
Subconsciously, Qi Long glanced at Han Jijyun, clueing Ling Lan in that it was probably Han Jijyun's idea to call her here.
Sure enough, Han Jijyun received Qi Long's signal, and spoke up, "Boss Lan, I was the one who asked Qi Long to call you here. Actually, calling you here this time is to discuss the matter of Lin Zhong-qing."
"Him? Is there any connection to us?" Ling Lan was too busy; she did not have that much time and effort to go worry about the other students in her class who she was just on regular terms with.
"Of course there's no connection right now, but there'll soon be one." The corner of Han Jijyun's lips quirked up, and there was actually a trace of deviousness in his smirk.Meant mockingly. Basically someone who likes to step up and provide obvious answers which could be true but are pure speculation.'Class of XXXX' or 'Year of XXXX' is the typical way of referring to a group of students who graduated in year XXXX. However, in the context of this story, the author uses it to refer to the year the students were admitted. So the class of students who entered first grade together with Ling Lan in year 4738 is what is referred to here.