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Ling Lan's agreement caused the smile on Han Jijyun's face to deepen, and his gaze brightened even more. Perhaps Han Jijyun had found a game he wanted to play, and so his spirits were running high.

When Han Jijyun wasn't paying attention, Qi Long nudged Luo Lang lightly with a shoulder, and asked quietly, "Did your initiate instructor arrange some sort of mission?"

Luo Lang was startled, somewhat unable to wrap his mind around how sharp Qi Long's instincts were. This was because Qi Long always gave off a brash and forthright vibe, and seemed like he would be extremely careless. However, Luo Lang very quickly gathered his thoughts and nodded almost imperceptibly with a subtle dip of his chin, telling Qi Long that he had guessed correctly.

Qi Long grinned. Only he knew that he had guessed so easily, not because he was intuitive, but because his initiate instructor had also given him a mission. So, seeing Han Jijyun suddenly become so proactive, his mind connected the dots to his own situation, which was why he had jumped to this assumption so quickly.

"How about this? Let's leave Qi Long in charge of this matter." Ling Lan currently intended to cultivate Qi Long as the spokesperson for their team, wanting to put him in charge of representing their public image. This was because Qi Long's appearance was bright, lively and extremely positive, easily gaining the trust of others. In the future, no matter what mission they accepted, this disposition of his would be an unexpected boon when cooperating with others.

As Ling Lan had been trolled multiple times by the smiling faces of instructors Number Three and Number Five, she believed that people who smiled like they were kindly gentlemen were often representatives with 'black innards', bellies filled with murky waters of deceit and evil intentions. Therefore, she wasn't particularly fond of that kind of smile. In addition, she had the utmost respect for Instructor Number One, and held Instructor Number Nine in high esteem — and these two people were classic ‘slackface’ representatives. This led her current expressions and speaking tone to gradually shift infinitely closer towards the behavioural patterns of those two instructors. In Little Four's words, right now was the developmental phase of the slackface shota ...

"Ah ...?" Ling Lan's arrangement boggled Qi Long. What was he supposed to be in charge of?

"I'm saying that Lin Zhong-qing will be your attending follower. You'll be responsible for him." Since she would be pushing Qi Long to take centre stage, then it made sense for her to assign a lackey to him, right? Besides, Ling Lan had way too many secrets, which made it unsuitable for someone to keep following her around.

"Later, when you fight in the arena, you need to do your best, alright? Otherwise, you'll lose your follower ..." Ling Lan patted Qi Long's shoulder in encouragement, and then washed her hands of the responsibility.

Yet, Qi Long didn't care about Ling Lan's unexplained transfer of duties to him; he was in excitement mode. As a battle freak, the moment he heard the words 'arena' and 'fight', his blood boiled, and he just wished he could rush over immediately to the stage to satisfy a little of his battle lust. Although that punk Li Yingjie was somewhat iffy in the way he handled things, his personal combat ability was not bad. Good enough to be Qi Long's opponent.

Meanwhile, Han Jijyun had already got hold of Lin Zhong-qing via communicator, and told him to meet them secretly in a small room they opened for private arena combat. As this type of combat was set as private, no one would be able to get into the room without entering the correct password. Since Han Jijyun was prepared to let Lin Zhong-qing join the team, he would have to teach Li Yingjie a lesson no matter what. In the process, he wanted to reap more benefits from Li Yingjie, so he couldn't let Li Yingjie find out that Lin Zhong-qing had already joined their team.

Very soon, Lin Zhong-qing entered the private combat room. When he entered, Lin Zhong-qing couldn't see anyone, but just as he was wondering if he got the wrong room, he saw Ling Lan and the others waiting for him in a corner of the room that had been in his blind spot. Out of worry that Lin Zhong-qing could have been followed, Han Jijyun had arranged it so that everyone was located within a blind spot when someone first enters the room. This would eliminate any chance of them being discovered by an unintended audience.

Seeing the door close, Ling Lan and the others walked out of the corner. Lin Zhong-qing carefully glanced at Ling Lan who was standing in the middle of the group, and waited for the final verdict.

Being able to join Ling Lan's team would undoubtedly be the best outcome for him. Ever since Ling Lan had helped him previously without even batting an eyelid, Lin Zhong-qing had been extremely grateful towards Ling Lan. Back then, he had already been conflicted — wondering if he should lower his head and ask to join Ling Lan's group directly so that he could be under their protection. But at that time, he had just qualified for the Central Scout Academy and had also managed to become a Special Class-A student in one go — his pride and personal drive was high; he didn't want to become someone else's tag-along. Moreover, he was confident that he could evade Li Yingjie's pressuring, and so the thought of joining Ling Lan's group came and went.

However, reality was cruel. His relationship with Li Yingjie became increasingly worse, until it reached the point where they were almost archenemies. Meanwhile, although he continued to improve, the more he learned, the more he could feel the distance between himself and the top 5 of Special Class-A. Ling Lan, Qi Long, Li Yingjie, Wu Jiong, and Ye Xu were the ironclad top 5. Their strength exceeded the other Class-A students by a significant margin; it could be said that no one was even close to threatening their positions.

Of the five, Ye Xu was the weakest. And while Li Yingjie and Wu Jiong were about equal in strength, Qi Long was overall stronger than them by a head. Needless to say, Ling Lan was the uncontested #1 in the minds of all the students of their year. Although he had never truly obtained the top rank, the fact that his follower Qi Long had successfully earned the top rank 3 years in a row just proved how fearsome he was.

In the intra-grade ranking fights, Lin Zhong-qing had fought against Ye Xu and Wu Jiong before. Against them, he had only managed to hold out for 50 to 60 moves. Deep down, Lin Zhong-qing knew that if the other had really used their sure-kill moves, he would never have been able to hold out for that long. He could perhaps hold out for half that number of moves. The sheer pressure brought on by the gap between their levels let Lin Zhong-qing lose without any resentment.

Compared to the other four people, Lin Zhong-qing was actually much more curious about Ling Lan. In fact, you could even say that he was brimming with questions. Before this, he had asked around in a roundabout way to find out more about Ling Lan's family background. He found out that Ling Lan was from a middle-class family, and was also a posthumous child — while he had still been in his mother's womb, his father had lost his life in one of the Federation's battlefields. Aside from having a slightly better background, Ling Lan and he had rather similar conditions — they didn't have any additional combat skills, and didn't have access to any battle experience from their elders — then why did Ling Lan have such formidable battle power? Could it be a genetic issue? But they were just lower than Ling Lan by one level, so logically, the difference shouldn't be that large.

Lin Zhong-qing had also studied Ling Lan's fights before, and found that his battles were clean, precise, and efficient, never dragging things out (with only just one move used, there really was nothing to drag). Furthermore, his every attack was neither so strong that it was unstoppable, nor so fast that it was invisible. A simple straightforward move, without any extraneous frills or flourishes, directly aimed to strike at his opponent's biggest weakness.

Of course, he himself was very familiar with those attack moves Ling Lan had used — they were all sourced from the basic physical skills set of the Central Scout Academy, with only some being sure-kill techniques appropriated from other students.

Originally, Lin Zhong-qing hadn't known this. But then one time, he noticed Qin Yi's sure-kill technique being executed perfectly by Ling Lan's hands, letting him defeat Ye Xu in one move. Then, he had known that Ling Lan had the unbelievable ability to rapidly mimic and absorb others' sure-kill techniques. This had also given him some insight on how Ling Lan could have become so strong.

Ling Lan didn't have a formidable family background, nor did he have any additional combat skills (or so he thought; yet another poor babe being kept in the dark). And yet, he had become the number 1 of their year — Lin Zhong-qing truly respected and admired Ling Lan from the heart. He felt that Ling Lan had brought honour to all the students from common family backgrounds. The only regret he had, was that Ling Lan was very aloof — not seeming to care very much for the students around him. Aside from those few people from the start, after a whole year, it was still those few people who were close to him.

Then, this time, he had unexpectedly fallen into a trap and was now forced to fight against Li Yingjie directly. Lin Zhong-qing knew that he was no match for Li Yingjie, but he was unwilling to just roll over and become Li Yingjie's subordinate. And so, he had thought of Ling Lan. If he really had to submit and become someone's subordinate, then he would much rather become Ling Lan's subordinate. Even though Wu Jiong was also a good candidate, Lin Zhong-qing wasn't as keen to submit to Wu Jiong.

Thus, he had taken the initiative to contact Han Jijyun online and put forward his request. He had thought that he would feel horrible doing it — after all, he had fought hard for independence for over a year, but still couldn't escape the tragic outcome of becoming a follower. The only consolation he had was that at least contacting Han Jijyun to submit to Ling Lan was his own choice. However, unexpectedly, the moment the words left his mouth, he had actually felt at peace. His heart seemed lighter, as if shedding a heavy weight. Perhaps he had already been thinking about this for a long time subconsciously, but his pride and ego had not allowed him to consider it consciously.

Now, Lin Zhong-qing had come to face the person that could determine his future destiny. His initially steady heart actually started fluttering in panic — goddammit, he was actually nervous! And there were also feelings of fear; he was really afraid of being rejected ...

"Lin Zhong-qing, I have agreed to your request. But I'm used to acting alone, so, after this, you can just follow Qi Long and the others." Ling Lan's words brought both joy and pain to Lin Zhong-qing's heart. The joy was because he could finally join Ling Lan's team and receive their protection; the pain was because he had heard Ling Lan's rejection. Ling Lan wasn't taking him on as a follower personally, but handing him over to Qi Long and the others.

Who knew there would come a day where he would be dismissed by another as a follower? Lin Zhong-qing didn't know how to feel — he merely nodded his head in a daze to indicate that he understood.

Only the team leader could request the addition of a team member; an individual wasn't able to randomly search for a team and request to join on their own. So, when Ling Lan saw Lin Zhong-qing nod his acceptance, as the team leader, she used her communicator to connect to the academy's mainframe, and submitted the request form for Lin Zhong-qing to enter her team. Once the request was approved, the A.I. would contact the team member listed on the form. Next, the team member need only enter the password of his communicator to complete the process and join the team.

The A.I. very quickly checked Lin Zhong-qing's information to confirm that he was currently a free agent. Then, it forwarded Ling Lan's invitation to Lin Zhong-qing's communicator.

Lin Zhong-qing took a deep breath — he then resolutely pressed on the 'confirm' button and entered his password. When he saw the congratulatory message confirming his addition to Ling Lan's team, Lin Zhong-qing let out a large breath. It felt to him as if the dust had truly settled and he was back on solid ground. He hid it well though; no one else in the room noticed.

"Qi Long, I leave the arena battle to you." Ling Lan had simultaneously received a notification informing her of the successful addition, along with a copy of all of Lin Zhong-qing's data. As a team, they were considered as one entity, so all the team members' information was publicly available within the group. Meanwhile, any grudges on Lin Zhong-qing's shoulders would also be extended to encompass the whole team. In other words, any of the other team members could substitute for Lin Zhong-qing in the upcoming fight. This logic was exactly the same as the one behind Li Yingjie's plot to trap Lin Zhong-qing into a fight.

In contrast with the pure 'white' of innocence, people said to have black innards are those who are sly and calculative, good at scheming and manipulation.Original weight given here is 1000 catties (600 kg). Removed it because the specificity isn't really required here; 1000 is just a generic number often used in Chinese proverbs/sayings to emphasize great amounts of something.
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