The group stared at one another, and Han Jijyun was the one who asked in the end, "Boss Lan, who are you really?"
Helplessly, Ling Lan rubbed at her forehead once more. In the end, she still could not avoid answering this question, but since she had chosen to be honest, she should really introduce herself properly. Thus, she answered seriously, "My name is definitely real. I am really called Ling Lan. My family background isn't fake as well, but, I just didn't tell you all who my young dad who passed away was."
"Boss Lan's father? Surname Ling? Sacrificed 10 years ago?" Qi Long muttered to himself as he thought.
All of them here were intelligent children. Almost immediately, an astounding yet sorrow-tinged name emerged in their minds. All of them could not help but stare at Ling Lan incredulously, "Ling Xiao?!"
Ling Lan nodded expressionlessly, indicating that their guess was not wrong.
"Ah ..." Knowing that they had not guessed wrongly, Qi Long and the others couldn't help but exclaim. The shock of this answer was really too much for them.
It should be known that Ling Xiao was one of the twelve god-class operators of the Federation, as well as the only human being who had managed to successfully advance to god-class operator status at the young age of 24. Throughout human history, the youngest to advance to god-class operator status before Ling Xiao was a 33 year old mecha operator from the Caesar Empire. In one jump, Ling Xiao had raised the bar by a whole 8 years, proof of just how aberrant he was.
Thus, to the people of the Federation, Ling Xiao was a godlike existence. Although he died early in the end, having been killed in a plot by the Twilight Empire in the death tunnel, this did not stop the passionate soldiers and those children chasing their dreams from viewing him as their lifelong idol.
Moreover, Qi Long, Luo Lang, and the others had grown up within the federal military system. All along, Ling Xiao had been a figure often mentioned by their guardians, in tones wistful for what might have been. They even emphasized the fact that if Ling Xiao had lived, the Federation would have been able to hold complete deterrence ability over the other nations for the next 50 years, with no worry of border trouble. So, as they gradually grew up learning about Ling Xiao and his exploits, they also began viewing Ling Xiao as their own idol. They hoped that one day, they would be able to achieve everything Ling Xiao had achieved, and perhaps even go one step further to complete what Ling Xiao did not get to complete.
Right now, Qi Long and the others actually learned that their Boss Lan was the son of that aberrant genius, Ling Xiao, the people's idol. The lot of them were instantly stupefied by the news.
Ling Lan coughed empathically, shaking them from their stupor, before continuing to say, "Because my father died young, and also because his circumstance is a little special, it didn't seem very appropriate to talk about him."
"No wonder Boss is so good at operating mecha," sighed Han Jijyun softly, his entire body relaxing. He had actually been afraid that Ling Lan was from a major faction from within the military. If that was the case, their relationship would very easily drag their paternal families into an unnecessary faction feud, and this was something he did not want to see. If that happened, their friendship would certainly change, no longer able to stay pure and simple.
"Boss, could you teach us how to operate mecha?" The mecha maniac Qi Long's eyes were sparkling; he had really been fantasizing about this moment for so long.
Qi Long's suggestion stirred the hearts of the other boys as well. With faces filled with expectation, they looked at Ling Lan with stars in their eyes, hoping that she would agree.
"I cannot," Ling Lan refused resolutely.
She had secretly absorbed so much gene agent, and then trained both body and spirit repeatedly in the learning space and in reality. Besides that, she also had Little Four doing his best to keep the mecha in check, lowering the feedback energy to the absolute minimum. Under these circumstances, her body still received heavy damage. Not to mention, Qi Long and the others were children who had not been through specialised training for mecha. Qi Long may still be fine, but the others' bodies just would not be able to support even two or three mecha movements.
Seeing their stubborn gazes, Ling Lan said sternly, "Because of our Ling family secret methods, that is why I can learn mecha a few years earlier. Even so, I still was not able to take the feedback energy of the mecha and was injured badly. What will support you all to learn mecha now? The Federation does not allow children to learn mecha before the age of 13 for a good reason. Don't play the fool with your lives."
Ling Lan was most afraid that these children would not listen to reason, secretly sneaking off to try and learn control on their own. This was no laughing matter — a misstep would easily end in disaster. They could even lose their lives.
Ling Lan's scolding words caused the boys to break out in cold sweat instantly. Because they had seen Ling Lan dispatching the three enemy ace mecha so efficiently, they had naturally assumed that they could also learn how to operate mecha, completely forgetting the repeated warnings of their own parents and instructors. It should be known that the reaction force from operating mecha was very powerful — even for adults, not everyone was suited for operating mecha.
"Even with our Ling family secret arts, my father never wished for me to operate a real mecha before I turned 13 ... if the situation hadn't been desperate, I too wouldn't have done it," said Ling Lan to Qi Long and the others. She had only operated the mecha because the situation forced her to.
Qi Long and the others were ashamed. They knew very well that Ling Lan had done all of it to save them. Otherwise, Ling Lan would not have left the outpost to look for them, and so would not have operated the mecha and ended up with a body covered in wounds.
They no longer felt the restlessness they had felt before, nodding to show they understood. Still, deep in their hearts, the seed of yearning to become ace operators had been planted. One day, those seeds would sprout and grow tall and strong.
The hunting course was not as long as Qi Long and the others thought it to be. After spending about half a year on planet Demonbeast, the academy finally sent a starship to collect them.
Initially, they had intended to take them back after the battle ended. However, due to the planet being invaded by Twilight Empire forces, the Federation had no choice but to reveal the existence of the planet to the public. This incited a great uproar within the Federation. The citizens were very unhappy about the Federation's concealment of this auxiliary planet, and had begun to organise large-scale demonstrations on various planets.
This caused the Federation government and the Federation military to become primarily reactive — they had to first focus on settling the commotion inside the nation. Therefore, they forcefully suppressed the request of the Central Scout Academy to retrieve its students. They were afraid that if the public found out that they had sent a batch of the Federation's most exceptional youths to the dangerous planet Demonbeast for training, the demonstrations would intensify.
Still, thanks to this, Ling Lan managed to avoid drawing attention and subsequent trouble from her injuries this time. If the Central Scout Academy had sent a military ship to retrieve them, then they would certainly have found out that their prized student had been seriously injured during this battle. Then, they would definitely have assigned a specialist medical team to treat Ling Lan. If that happened, the secret of Ling Lan's concealed gender might very well be exposed! (All the information the Central Scout Academy received was that out of the 50 students, there were 0 deaths, 0 missing, 21 injured, 29 unharmed, and that none of the students had any risk of dying.)
This was also why the Central Scout Academy was willing to wait. If there really had been any fatal injuries or casualties, the dean of the Central Scout Academy would likely have stormed into military headquarters and forcefully commandeered a starship to go pick up his students already.
Just like this, Ling Lan and company safely returned to the academy. After saying goodbye to her friends, Ling Lan hurried back to her villa.
At the garden gate to the villa, a lovely figure was peering out anxiously ...
Ling Lan felt tears spring to her eyes, once again experiencing the bittersweet feeling of having a relative worrying about her ... she had almost forgotten what it was like.
"Mummy!" Ling Lan shouted the moment she was within sight of Lan Luofeng. Lan Luofeng rushed out at a supernatural speed, sweeping forwards like a gust of wind, pulling Ling Lan into her arms.
"Ling Lan, you're really back! That's great! Mummy missed you so much." Lan Luofeng, who had always faced Ling Lan with a smile, actually had tears in her voice at this moment. This was a sign of just how much she had worried over this half a year.
Ling Lan abruptly realised that Lan Luofeng was still haunted by the shadow of her father's mysterious passing; perhaps she was afraid that Ling Lan too would disappear as Ling Xiao had. If Ling Xiao had taken away half of Lan Luofeng's soul, then the remaining half was undoubtedly tied to her. If she really passed away, Lan Luofeng would likely follow her into death without any hesitation. Losing her, Lan Luofeng would no longer have any soul left to keep her alive.
Ling Lan was unbelievably touched by Lan Luofeng's deep motherly love. She hugged Lan Luofeng back with all her might as tears fell silently from her eyes. "Mummy, I'm sorry for making you worry."
In her previous life, although her parents loved her, due to her illness, they were already slowly giving up on her. They gave most of their love to her younger brother, and the remaining love they had for her was slowly being worn away by the endless treatments and care she needed. Ling Lan did not blame them. This was a basic human instinct — to avoid the pain they saw coming, they voluntarily chose to slowly divert their love.
Thus, the death of Ling Lan in her previous life was actually a type of release for her parents and her brother. Of course there was sadness, but there was even more a sense of relief at finally laying a burden to rest.
The Ling Lan of this life had constantly been guarded with her affections, because she too was afraid of being hurt. Towards Lan Luofeng, she had deep respect and love, but not a lot of intimacy. Because she had taken over the body of Lan Luofeng's child, she needed to bear the responsibility. Her impression of Ling Xiao was mostly based on descriptions from Lan Luofeng. She had taken so long to tell Qi Long and the others that Ling Xiao was actually her father, in large part due to the fact that Ling Lan had never really registered that she was really Ling Xiao's child.
However, when Ling Lan personally felt the tremors running through Lan Luofeng's body right now — the physical manifestation of her deep-seated worries and fear, a reflection of that unnameable adoration of motherly love — the generous warmth of it instantly wrapped around her entire body. Ling Lan could no longer hold back her brimming emotions, sincerely saying sorry to Lan Luofeng!
Only Ling Lan truly knew what this apology meant — it wasn't purely referring to this most recent injury, but was for her closed-off heart over these past ten years. She was sorry for not responding properly to Lan Luofeng's ten years of unstinting motherly love.
Perhaps Ling Lan's warm response surprised Lan Luofeng, for she quickly gathered herself and pulled away a little from Ling Lan. After looking her over carefully, she asked worriedly, "Ling Lan, are you alright?"
Ling Lan patted her chest and replied, "All is well. I can even put away 20 servings of steak with no problem." Fully accepting Lan Luofeng into her heart, Ling Lan once again recovered her previous composure and began to joke around light-heartedly with Lan Luofeng, smiling.The original Chinese refers to a 'sour-achey' sensation, which doesn't seem to translate well literally. :p