In outer space, in the control room of the Twilight Empire interstellar mothership, a group of people had already been waiting patiently for several hours. But as time went by and there was no news from below, they began to grow restless and began discussing what they should do next.
"Commander, the enemy's reinforcement fleets are at this point, while our reinforcement fleets are here," reported the chief of staff, pointing out the locations on the star map on the big screen.
"In three hours, the enemy's starships will appear in the outer space of this planet," the chief of staff continued to say after referencing the information.
"This fleet — before they can reach here, they should be attacked by our empire's reinforcement fleet. We still have time." The commander was unwilling to just give up now. The planet below was currently in a melee combat stage — no one could tell yet who the final winner or loser would be.
"Where are Ikeda-kun and the others now?" asked the commander.
"They've already landed safely and are currently carrying out Operation Decapitation. However, only two teams have managed to assemble. The others are either missing or have been nobly sacrificed in battle," replied a staff officer in charge of keeping track of the dead and injured.
"Any movement from the other fleets of the Federation?" the commander asked the chief of staff.
The chief of staff immediately pointed out three dots closest to this planet and said, "At each of these three points, a fleet is stationed there. Although our covert scouting did not manage to find out their destinations, based on the current situation, they will definitely be heading our way.
"If they rush here, we will have no chance of winning this battle." This planet was the closest to the three countries — the Federation, Caesar, and Gelland — and was honestly a bit far from Twilight. Thus, their interstellar fleets could not speedily send assistance, unlike the Federation.
After a thoughtful silence, the commander asked, "How much time do we have left at most?"
"If we don't consider that first fleet, at most 7 hours." The chief of staff gave his verdict.
"Pass on the order to Ikeda-kun. They only have 7 hours, no, 6 hours and a half. If they cannot carry out Operation Decapitation in 6 and a half hours, they will be abandoned," said the commander ruthlessly.
"Hai!" Everyone bowed their heads fearfully as they accepted the order. Within Twilight, the supreme commander had the ultimate right to decide whether the warriors below lived or died.
Time passed bit by bit. The first reinforcement fleet was attacked by a Twilight Empire reinforcement fleet even before they entered the starspace of this planet. Both sides began an intense starship battle, involving thousands of starships respectively. Over a hundred thousand starship warriors were killed in this space battle.
When only half an hour remained on the clock, dark clouds blanketed the whole Twilight interstellar mothership control room. Everyone's face was a sheet of grey — they could already feel the failure of their invasion plan this time.
"Why do we still not hear anything from Ikeda-kun?" Seeing that the opponent's reinforcements were almost here, the commander of the mothership in outer space started yelling in anger.
The people around him could only bow their heads in silence. At this moment, everyone felt that the odds were not in team leader Ikeda's favour.
"Baka! All useless trash!" Frankly, the commander did not have a good feeling about this as well; he was just unwilling to accept it. Of course, they did not know that of their two surviving teams of ace mecha, one had died without fanfare, courtesy of Ling Lan. It was just that no one would ever know, besides Qi Long's group of four.
Meanwhile, the other team very unfortunately crossed paths with the mecha squad of the camp's supreme commander. The supreme commander himself was an ace operator at his peak, just one step away from advancing to imperial level. And the weakest member of the squad protecting him was still a special-class mecha operator. The camp commander was extremely cunning — seeing this ace mecha team, he immediately ordered his mecha team to surround and kill them.
That team did not even have the chance to fight back, dying under the collective shots of countless beam guns. In this way, Operation Decapitation was easily nipped in the bud.
As Qi Long and the others were rushing back to the main camp, the battle was already reaching its end. The starships in the space above the planet were beginning to retreat systematically in the directions of their respective countries.
Of course, the departure of the starships meant that any mecha operators left on the planet had basically been abandoned. The planet's main camp released the call to surrender — however, the Twilight Empire mecha operators had been brainwashed very thoroughly by their nation. When they knew they had no more chance of survival, these Twilight mecha operators did not lose their fighting spirit, nor did they choose to surrender. Instead, they exploded with astounding combat ability, dragging quite a few Federation mecha operators down with them as they died. This frightened the cold sweat out of the Federation mecha operators, so they no longer dared to hold any sympathy for these abandoned soldiers — they began shooting the moment they saw one alive.
This situation resulted in very few injured members on both sides. Twilight did not need any prisoners, so if they won in a fight, they would immediately take the opponent's life. In return, the Federation returned tooth for tooth, blood for blood — by the end, no one was willing to spare the lives of these enemies who had taken their comrades' lives and take them prisoner anymore anyway, so the killing continued.
After rapid-marching for a whole 15 hours, Qi Long and the others finally managed to get back to the main camp. When the camp's medical officer saw Qi Long and the others carting in the unconscious Ling Lan, he hurriedly let them put Ling Lan into one of the healing pods for treatment.
"Luckily you lot came back in time. If you all were just an hour later, the healing pods might not be even be effective anymore." Seeing the information released by the healing pod, the medical officer could not help but exclaim.
Qi Long asked anxiously, "How long does he need to be treated before he can wake up?"
"If just for waking up, perhaps about three days. However, to fully heal his body, he would most likely have to lie in the healing pod for up to 3 months." The medical officer was not exaggerating. In truth, Ling Lan's body was near the brink of collapse. There only remained a tendril of vitality left in her body, and this tiny tendril was what would power Ling Lan's recovery. If this tendril was utterly destroyed, then it would be useless even if Ling Lan laid in this healing pod for 10 years.
"Three months? That long?" The companions were struck with belated fear. They had known that Ling Lan had been injured badly, but they did not expect the injuries to be this severe.
"That long? Little fellows, you all should be grateful that it is only three months, and not no time at all," sighed the medical officer. Only kids like these would be bothered about the length of time needed for healing. For people like him who were used to seeing life and death, as long as there was a chance to lie down and receive treatment, it was a blessing no matter how long it took.
Every day the medical officer had to oversee countless patients coming and going, so after settling Ling Lan in, he did not pay any more attention to the matter. Meanwhile, Qi Long and the others came every day to the medical department to watch over the healing pod, waiting for Ling Lan to wake up.
The medical officer was very reliable; three days later, Ling Lan hazily woke up.
The others were thrilled, rushing to ask if Ling Lan needed anything.
Ling Lan shook her head at them. Little Four had told her everything that had happened after she lost consciousness, so she knew that Qi Long and the others were aware that she was the one operating the mecha. However, Ling Lan was very pleased with the clean-up that Han Jijyun had done. She had originally planned to do the same to destroy all evidence of the incident.
Meanwhile, at this time, this planet was finally fully back in the control of the Federation. They successfully killed all the invading Twilight warriors, though of course there were some mecha operators who had chosen to abandon their mecha and flee on foot into the forest to hide, biding their time for an opportunity to counterattack.
With regards to those people, the Federation did not specially send out teams to clear them out. This was because once they entered F-class savage beast territory, those mecha operator without their mecha were really unlikely to be able to handle those savage beasts ...
The rebuilding after the battle also commenced very quickly. The Federation delivered materials and resources in an endless stream to the planet. Some credit had to be given to the Twilight Empire for this — their invasion this time forced the Federation to publicize the coordinates of the mysterious planet and include it into the Federation's maps, where it was given the name 'planet Demonbeast'. This was because there was nothing other than endless savage beasts on the planet ...
Half a month later, Qi Long and the others resumed their hunting assignment. Of course, every time they returned, they would not forget to give Ling Lan a share of their earnings. In this way, three more months passed. Ling Lan finally obtained the approval of the medical officer to leave the healing pod and could once again move around freely.
The first thing Ling Lan after regaining her mobility was to go eat. She was seriously starving — although nutrient solutions could replenish all the minerals and other elements needed by the body, her stomach, which was used to working for over 10 years, just could not help but feel hungry.
After she finished eating her fill, she looked up to find Qi Long and the others sitting beside her, waiting patiently.
"When did you guys arrive?" Ling Lan was startled. She had been too focused on eating that she had not noticed anything happening around her.
Of course, she also questioned Little Four inside her mind, asking him why he had not alerted her. Little Four was speechless — Boss was the one who said that these few people were on the list of people whose presence did not need to be announced. When had Boss changed her mind? Why did he not know about it?
"Not too long ago. Seeing Boss eating so happily, we're also very happy," replied Han Jijyun with a smile.
Ling Lan rubbed her brow helplessly and said sulkily, "Han Jijyun, just ask if you have a question, this sneaky look doesn't suit you." Han Jijyun's sudden change from a cool and serious scout into a warm and smiling gentleman just seemed really awkward to Ling Lan; she couldn't help but feel goosebumps rising all over her body.
"Here is not a suitable place," said Han Jijyun regretfully, keeping his smile as he looked around.
Due to the rebuilding spanning 3 months, many of the veteran soldiers all managed to obtain new weapons of their own. Thus, they were in a great mood, so it was easy to see tables after tables of rowdy celebrating soldiers.
Observing the situation around them, Ling Lan nodded and said, "True. Then let's go back to the dorms."
Ling Lan led Qi Long and the others back to their dorms. She then took a quick shower and changed into a new set of protective clothes before sitting at her usual spot. Then, she said, "Alright, ask if you have any questions. But, this is only for today." Ling Lan wasn't someone who liked to talk about herself, which was why she had dragged on so long in revealing to the others that her father was Ling Xiao.