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However, in the end, Qi Long still lost to L13, the team leader of the Golden Scales. Yet, Qi Long wasn't too disappointed. From the very start of the match, he had already known that no matter how talented he was, or how solid his combat foundations were, he wouldn't be able to match up to these battle-seasoned veteran soldiers in terms of combat experience.

Both fighters had honest and hearty dispositions — after clashing in battle, the Golden Scales' team leader had a really good impression of Qi Long. Therefore he extended an invitation to Qi Long — while they were travelling together, as long as he was free, Qi Long could come seek him out for a spar any time.

It had to be said that human relations really depended a lot on chance encounters. Qi Long and L13 were undoubtedly destined to meet; this was a great surprise that pleased Ling Lan.

Ling Lan knew very well that Qi Long's combat arts had reached its first bottleneck stage. To break through it, there were two ways. One of them was to wait for the right timing, for that opportunity of sudden insight — this way, the bottleneck would naturally be resolved on its own. The other method was to increase battle experience by throwing oneself into countless fights, especially against experienced combat experts. In those fights, one could seek inspiration bit by bit to spur a breakthrough.

Of course, these two methods all needed a certain degree of luck. Still, compared to the vagueness and uncertainty of the first option, the success rate of the latter method was clearly higher. Ling Lan naturally hoped that Qi Long could walk the second path to seek his breakthrough.

Unfortunately, although Ling Lan's strength was high among Ling Lan's party, because everything she mastered were ultimate killing moves, she was not a suitable candidate for this sort of energy-draining, drawn out spars in search of inspiration. On the other hand, the others in the group were weaker than Qi Long, and so had no way to place the intense pressure needed on Qi Long to spur his breakthrough.

On this, Ling Lan was extremely helpless. The lack of suitable candidates around had caused Qi Long to stagnate indefinitely at his bottleneck, just waiting for the fluke of sudden insight. As for those combat instructors in the academy, due to the sheer number of students they had to instruct, they just didn't have the time to provide these guidance spars for Qi Long.

Of course, there was still one more good candidate, and that was Qi Long's initiate instructor. The more Qi Long learned, the more he could sense how strong his initiate instructor was. But unfortunately, after mentoring him for over a year, his initiate instructor had become very elusive — they did not even know where to begin looking for him. Thus, they could only patiently wait for the instructors to come to them.

Moreover, Qi Long's bottleneck had only appeared recently, so his initiate instructor would have no idea that his student had already encountered his very first bottleneck.

Ling Lan's mood was exceedingly great! She had not expected to help Qi Long resolve this issue with just one unintended spar on this starship. L13's combat level was clearly higher than Qi Long's, and even more perfect was the fact that his combat style was extremely close to Qi Long's. The success rate for breaking through a bottleneck was undoubtedly higher with the help of an opponent with a similar combat style.

At this moment, Ling Lan's lingering resentment towards L15 was naturally lessened by her good mood. In her mind, she decided that as long as the other did not cross her in future, she would definitely leave him alone.

Just when everyone thought the sparring matches were over, something unexpected happened! Ling Lan actually spoke up to ask the instructor, "Sir, why don't we have a match?"

At these words, the instructor turned to stare intently at Ling Lan, and then said, "It would be my pleasure!" Ling Lan's clean and efficient interception of L15's attack had shaken the instructor, and he was actually a little chilled by the ruthless way Ling Lan had broken L15's wrist. A tendril of fear had even risen in his heart when a little of Ling Lan's bloodlust had leaked.

The instructor knew well that Ling Lan's strength was considerable — perhaps not much weaker than his. Thus, he too wanted to fight a match with Ling Lan personally so that he would be able to properly gauge this child's true strength. The Central Scout Academy was known as the focus grounds for aberrant prodigies ... this child, who was clearly the strongest of this batch of prodigies — how strong was he exactly?

Ling Lan's words made all the students bubble over with excitement. Who would have guessed that Ling Lan would challenge the starship's instructor? Everyone knew that the starship's instructor would certainly be one of the strongest few on the ship.

All the spectators self-consciously went silent, eyes trained on the two in the combat area.

Ling Lan and the instructor faced one another from a distance, each at their respective corners. It was as if the fight hadn't begun yet, but all the spectators knew that wasn't true. This was because the demeanours of both combatants were extremely serious, and there was a vague sense of a formless pressure slowly gathering between them. Even the spectators could feel the pressure pressing down on them mentally, making them back away involuntarily.

Very quickly, the audience in the combat room had stepped back about ten or so metres from the combat area. At that point, only the stronger people on the starship managed to stand their ground; meanwhile, of the academy students, the only ones who could stand in this area were Qi Long and Wu Jiong. Li Yingjie and Luo Lang were one step behind them, while Ye Xu and Lin Zhong-qing were behind Luo Lang and Li Yingjie by a half-step. This, was a reflection of their true strength.

The outermost circle was mostly scout academy students. This made the students grit their teeth, silently determined to train even harder — they definitely could not disgrace their Special Class-A. All of them looked with faces full of hope at Qi Long and the others standing right at the front, and told themselves that one day they would also stand beside them ...

As for Ling Lan standing in the ring ... uh, that wasn't human anymore — they wouldn't try to match an anomaly.

The forces of Ling Lan and the instructor's presences clashed, both trying to suppress the other. The instructor put in all his strength from the start, but found that Ling Lan was standing there like a mountain buffeted by winds, impossible to budge.

The instructor took a deep breath, and knowing that his strength had accumulated till its highest point, it was time for him to strike ...

The spectators were still patiently waiting when suddenly both combatants rushed at each other at the same time, each throwing a punch.

Both punches did not look that heavy, almost seeming somewhat casual. They did not have any of the flourishes of combat stances, but were merely simple punches. One might say they were fast, but they were not that fast either — all the spectators saw were two fists travelling on the same straight line, getting closer and closer to one another, to finally connect.

A loud "BAM"! What seemed like two very casual punches actually created such a deafening sound upon contact. On top of that, the formless energy caused by the backlash from the crashing of fists pushed the spectators back once more. Qi Long, Wu Jiong, and the others were forced to move back another 3 to 4 steps, a heavy weight on their chests, as if they had been struck.

Wu Jiong and Ye Xu exchanged a shocked and doubtful glance, while Li Yingjie's complexion paled. Qi Long and Luo Lang both remained unperturbed, while Lin Zhong-qing's eyes flashed with a fierce light.

Meanwhile, some of the more average starship crew members had even been sent tumbling by this force. This punch of Ling Lan's shocked all the crewmen, and they completely lost any last bit of disdain they had for the students.

In the captain's room, seeing this scene, Old Lian's expression changed drastically and he choked out, "How can this be, he has actually attained the Qi-Jin stage ..."

The development of physical skills was expressed by six major stages — Foundational, Manifestation, Refinement, Qi-Jin, Domain, and God-Realm. Except for the Foundational and Manifestation stages which had 10 levels, the other 4 stages were a kind of plane. How strong the embodiment of each plane was depended on how well an individual understood the plane.

Meanwhile, the differentiation between the 10 levels of the Foundational and Manifestation stages were in terms of punching power, speed, and reflexes. Once all those attained particular numbers, a bottleneck would form naturally — and if one broke through that bottleneck, one would enter the Refinement stage of physical skills, which was the proof of joining the ranks of the physical skills masters.

So, there was a saying in this world: Of physical skills, those below Refinement, are all mediocre.

Generally, in the scout academies, students below the age of 13 would all be in the ranges of the Foundational physical skills stage, while those above 13 were basically all at Manifestation stage.

Of course, very few talented children might be able to enter the Manifestation stage before 13 years old. Qi Long's talent was truly astounding, to already touch the fringes of the Refinement stage. All he needed was to break through his bottleneck to enter it officially.

Thus, the fact that Ling Lan had managed to enter the Qi-Jin stage at this age caused even the steady and experienced Old Lian to be gobsmacked, his expression filled with disbelief ...

In truth, Cheng Yuanhang had also been shocked by Ling Lan's display of strength. He had known that Ling Lan was very strong, but he had never imagined he was this strong.

Of course, this was also Ling Lan's fault for not displaying her strength before this. Every time she was matched up against Qi Long or Luo Lang, she would just forfeit and end the match. And then, her previous matches were all one-move events, which did not really allow anyone to figure out her real strength. But today's match finally let him know why Ling Lan refused to fight during regular combat practice. Within the Central Scout Academy, other than those last few aberrants in the upper grades that may be able to put up a fight against him, if Ling Lan fought with any other student, it would definitely just be one-sided bullying.

Shaken from his thoughts by Old Lian's words, Cheng Yuanhang put a confident look on his face and said stubbornly, "Why can't it be? In our Central Scout Academy, prodigies are everywhere."

Old Lian glared at him angrily, "If you have that many prodigies, why don't you send some our way?" The new soldiers dispatched to them every time were all the extremely mediocre type.

Cheng Yuanhang shrugged and said helplessly, "You know as well that I'm just responsible for cultivating them. The ones in charge of dispatching them are your upper ranks of the military ... Besides, those crazily talented prodigies would first be taken away by the military schools ... and once they come out from there, they're all junior officers. Can your starship hold them?" In the end, Old Lian's starship was really too low in level ...

At these words, Old Lian sighed heavily. Indeed, covert teams like theirs which existed in the grey areas ... really didn't have any way to possess those prodigies with their endlessly bright futures before them.

In the combat area, Ling Lan could sense from where their fists met that the opponent's strength was waning, and knew that the other was at the end of his rope. A thought flashed through her mind, and she started to pull back her strength, matching the other's as it decreased. In the end, the two of them were pushed back by the rebound of their respective strengths, falling a few steps back.

The two of them separated once more, and once again faced one another from a distance of several metres, as if waiting for the next move to begin.

Unexpectedly, the instructor actually closed his eyes, as if reflecting on the feelings he had received from the previous move. But very quickly, he opened his eyes again, and holding back his emotions, he said, "What is your name?"

"Ling Lan!" Although Ling Lan's expression was blank, perpetuating her image of a slackface, her brows could be seen to lift slightly, showing that she was in a great mood.

"Thank you, I'll remember this kindness. Also, this match is my loss," said the instructor loudly, and he nodded to Ling Lan. Winning or losing wasn't the point here — the main point was that he had learned something from this encounter.

Original phrase here is 'ocean-calming cudgel/staff', referring to Sun Wukong's weapon which had the ability to stop raging ocean waves in its tracks. In other words, very steady and unmoveable.气劲: Decided to just keep the original pinyin here as other ways of translating it just came off as awkward. The meaning of it though is in line with 'Qi-expression' or 'Qi-force'. My guess is that combatants at this stage can express their inner Qi and use it outside their bodies.
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