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Han Jijyun's words made Ling Lan very curious. With a slight quirk of her brow, she waited for Han Jijyun to continue explaining.

"Earlier, Lin Zhong-qing contacted me urgently in the virtual world. He hopes that we can help him out, because he has been blockaded by Li Yingjie. "

"What? That punk Li Yingjie hasn't given up on making Lin Zhong-qing submit?" Ling Lan was rather speechless to hear that. This Li Yingjie was really too stubborn — starting back in the first grade, ever since Lin Zhong-qing had refused to be his subordinate, this brat had been determined to pick a bone with Lin Zhong-qing. He kept finding opportunities to make trouble for Lin Zhong-qing, trying to make Lin Zhong-qing submit to him. As luck would have it, Lin Zhong-qing was also someone who was open to persuasion but not to coercion — the more Li Yingjie tried to force the issue, the more he refused to submit. Thus, the two of them had become locked in a never-ending feud.

"It can't be helped. Li Yingjie is now stuck riding the tiger. Ever since he hit a dead end with Lin Zhong-qing, he thoroughly lost all credibility to become the boss of the special classes. Many students in class are now just agreeing in words but not in mind — some have even mocked him behind his back, saying that he should handle Lin Zhong-qing first before doing the talking. So, this year hasn't been easy for Lin Zhong-qing."

There was one more thing Han Jijyun didn't say. Another reason why Li Yingjie couldn't become the undisputed boss of year 4738 was the existence of their group. Compared to Lin Zhong-qing, Li Yingjie actually hated them even more for blocking his way. It's just that Qi Long alone was already hard for him to handle, not to mention Ling Lan, who was stronger than Qi Long. So, Li Yingjie, who was unable to take his anger out on them, could only go after the vulnerable Lin Zhong-qing who had no one backing him.

At the heart of the matter, Lin Zhong-qing was actually collateral damage of Li Yingjie's dispute with them ... Han Jijyun sighed deeply. Although the academy tried its best to minimize the influence of family background among the students, setting up lots of regulations preventing students from possessing special rights due to their backgrounds, was there any child who was stupid among those who could enter the Central Scout Academy's special classes? A full year of time and more had been enough for them seek out the loopholes in these regulations. With that, they managed to artfully avoid the rigid external protection of the academy, using other methods within the boundaries of the rules to force some children without reliable backgrounds to become their attendants, subordinates, or even gophers ...

In Special Class-A, most of the children came from some sort of weighted background. After all, genes determined everything — it was much more likely for a powerful and wealthy elite family to produce an outstanding child. So, in the Special Class-A of Year 4738, there were only three or four people from more common family backgrounds. Besides Lin Zhong-qing who stood his ground to keep his independence, the others had all chosen to rely on other classmates with stronger abilities and backgrounds.

Among the array of wealthy and powerful backgrounds present in the class, Ling Lan's background (leaving aside Ling Xiao's identity) was considered insignificant, but no one dared to bother him. In the academy, background wasn't the most important thing — might was the foundation which truly allowed a person to stand their ground.

Though Lin Zhong-qing, who had come from a poor district, had been gradually increasing his strength, the top 5 of the class could still handle him easily. In other words, Lin Zhong-qing was the easiest to handle among all of the Special Class-A children — who else could Li Yingjie target if not him?

However, Lin Zhong-qing himself knew that he would not be able to stand up against Li Yingjie. So he had chosen to tolerate — no matter how much Li Yingjie taunted him or insulted him, he had taken it and refused to react. This made Han Jijyun admire him greatly for his ability to restrain himself for a greater purpose.

"Hasn't he been targeted before all this while? Didn't he manage to resolve it all himself so far? Why does he want our help this time?" Ling Lan was curious. She knew very well that even though Lin Zhong-qing was a poor commoner, he had a prideful heart. Unless there was no other choice, he wouldn't have reached out for their help.

What could have happened? What could be grave enough to corner Lin Zhong-qing? Ling Lan stroked her jaw absent-mindedly as she thought about it.

Han Jijyun replied, "It's like this. Lin Zhong-qing told me that the opponent invoked the rule of nemesis combat, and challenged him to an arena battle. The one who loses will have to recognize the other as boss, and become his subordinate. A nemesis combat match cannot be avoided. The moment one chooses to refuse the fight, the academy A.I. will see that as a forfeit and automatically declare it as the loss of the side which refused ... This time, Li Yingjie was smart. He used the combat rules of the academy."

"How did Lin Zhong-qing fall for it? Hasn't he always been careful?" To avoid Li Yingjie's taunts and challenges, Lin Zhong-qing had learned all he could about the academy's rules. He was always careful to stay away from things that wouldn't benefit him, but it looks like he had been set up this time.

"Yes, well, in the virtual world, Li Yingjie recruited a regular class student and sent him to offend Lin Zhong-qing. You know how as well how all the students of Special Class-A have their pride. They would never permit someone else to trample over it easily. So, Lin Zhong-qing chose to teach him a lesson ... and then, this was the result ..."

"The other boy recorded a video of himself being beaten up and submitted it to the school A.I. to request for a nemesis combat match. After it was approved, he challenged Lin Zhong-qing. Under nemesis combat mode, Lin Zhong-qing cannot refuse, so he had no choice but to accept." Ling Lan naturally knew what was going on instantly. "Looks like Li Yingjie really invested a lot of thought and effort to trap Lin Zhong-qing. For this plan, he had to complete the team formation mission in the virtual world. He's most likely the third person of our second grade to succeed in building a team ..."

Only teams would allow the members of the team to substitute amongst themselves freely. And so, in the end, the one Lin Zhong-qing had to fight was no longer that regular class student, but Li Yingjie.

"That fellow is really willing to pay to get Lin Zhong-qing, actually willing to waste a team member slot." Each team only had six member slots, and after the members had been chosen, the team members could no longer be changed. The existence of teams was a way for the academy to foster cooperation and team battle sense among the students. It was also a way to cultivate lasting bonds among team members, so that the team members would be able to learn more responsibility by watching out for each other, lending each other a hand, and progressing together.

The growth and strength of each individual member of the team would also be a determining factor in when they'd be able to enter the real virtual world. Once students reached the age of 13, they would have the right to challenge for the right to exit. If successful, the Central Scout Academy would remove the restrictions on those children, and give them free access to the virtual world. Mind you, only in the extended virtual world would they be able to experience mecha controls, and this ... this was the dream of all the students of the scout academy. All the children dreamt of the day they could operate mecha!

Thus, every team was very particular about its members. They wouldn't take in just anyone, unless a team member accidentally becomes incapacitated ... that's why, the members of a team were definitely the best of friends, steadfast comrades that one would be willing to fight beside till they graduated from the scout academy.

"What does Lin Zhong-qing want exactly?" Ling Lan had an inkling of what Lin Zhong-qing's objective was, and her brow furrowed slightly.

"He wants to join us." Sure enough, Han Jijyun gave voice to the answer Ling Lan had thought of.

"I don't find him promising." Ling Lan didn't really like Lin Zhong-qing. She felt that Lin Zhong-qing was just too tolerant — in contrast with Ling Lan's voluntary self-restraint and tolerance, Lin Zhong-qing's brand of tolerance was forced by external pressure. As a result, he was very moody and sombre, and his gaze was always dark with murky shadows. Letting this kind of person join them may very well bring an unstable element into their team.

Ling Lan was totally preparing to lead Qi Long and the others to beat the exit challenge the moment they all turned 13. As such, she didn't want there to be any surprises.

"He's stated clearly that he wants to become Boss's subordinate, and that he's willing to serve you loyally," added Han Jijyun. It looked like he really favoured Lin Zhong-qing's addition to their team.

Ling Lan still wasn't moved. She had the Ling family loyalists, who were way more reliable than Lin Zhong-qing.

"Actually, Lin Zhong-qing is not a bad addition. In my opinion, he chose us only after thinking it over very seriously. He probably wouldn't betray us. You should know that right now, in Special Class-A, there are only 2 teams which can match up with Li Yingjie's group. One would be the Wu Jiong-Ye Xu team, and the other is our team," explained Luo Lang, chiming in. "But the Wu Jiong-Ye Xu team is aligned with the federal military system, and Lin Zhong-qing really dislikes this sort of authoritarian elitism. So, he doesn't really want to join them, which is why he chose us."

"And we're not aligned with the federal military system?" asked Ling Lan in confusion. She cast a doubtful glance at the boys standing before her, poking fun at their backgrounds. She had learned about their family backgrounds after over a year of hanging out together. Qi Long, Han Jijyun, and Luo Lang were all descended from upper ranking federal military families.

The three boys couldn't help but laugh. Still chuckling, Qi Long retorted, "But Boss, you aren't! Whether or not we are aligned with the federal military system depends on your identity as our leader."

Ling Lan scratched her face in embarrassment. She wasn't sure whether she should tell them now that she was actually aligned with the federal military system after all ... In the past, she had thought that with her father's death, that her family was just an extremely normal martyr's family, which would definitely have nothing to do with the federal military system. Therefore, she had told Han Jijyun and the others that she came from a middle-average family, and that her father had just been sacrificed in battle before she was born.

And so, back when Ling Lan had just discovered her father Ling Xiao's true identity, she had been very conflicted. She just didn't know how she could re-explain her identity to her companions now.

"You all want to accept Lin Zhong-qing?" Ling Lan wasn't a self-opinionated person. Although she didn't particularly like Lin Zhong-qing, she still decided that she would listen to what everyone had to say.

"Yeah, Lin Zhong-qing's potential is great, and he puts in a lot of effort into studying. His improvement is obvious — in the most recent ranking tournament, he managed to make it into the top 15. His future results shouldn't be too much off the mark. Boss, taking him in as a follower should bring us no disadvantages," analysed Han Jijyun.

"But we'll just have to go up against Li Yingjie's group." Ling Lan considered whether it was worth it to take on this troublesome issue for Lin Zhong-qing's sake.

"Isn't that pretty interesting? With no rivals, no competition, our improvement will be much slower," said Han Jijyun with a smile as he looked to one side; it was Li Yingjie and company. Right then, Han Jijyun's gaze was somewhat piercing, a little different from how it was usually.

A notion passed through Ling Lan's mind. While the innate talents of Qi Long, Luo Lang, and herself were geared towards combat, Han Jijyun's wasn't. His innate talent belonged to the intelligence stream; in other words, he could not rely solely on book-learning or fighting to increase his abilities, but had to clash wits often with others ...

Ling Lan thought of her future plans — Han Jijyun was definitely one of the most integral links in the chain. Only if Han Jijyun became more capable would she be able to accomplish what she wanted to do perfectly.

So Ling Lan nodded and said, "Alright, I agree."

in an awkward position, i.e. can't retreat, can't advance.
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