Outside the regiment commander's office of Leiting headquarters, Lin Zhidong suppressed his urge to flee and forced himself to press the doorbell.
"Who is it?" A cold voice came from within — it was the voice of the current regiment commander of the Leiting Mecha Clan, Qiao Ting.
"Regiment Commander, it is I, Lin Zhidong." Lin Zhidong sucked in a breath and stated in a still relatively steady voice.
"Come in!" At the same time that Qiao Lin's voice rang out, the room's door slid to the left. The first thing that came into Lin Zhidong's sight was a well-built youth with a stern and frosty expression seated on the sofa on the right — he was Qiao Ting.
Meanwhile, on a sofa to his side, another youth was seated. His expression was sinister and he was clearly a little younger than Qiao Ting, and he was currently looking at Lin Zhidong with a wide smile. In fact, this person was actually seated in a position which was even more easily noticeable by anyone entering the room. However, Qiao Ting's aura was too powerful, unable to be ignored, which was why the first person Lin Zhidong saw was Qiao Ting.
Seeing the other youth, Lin Zhidong's expression changed slightly, but he quickly recovered and forced himself to stay calm and walked through the doorway. As intelligent as he was, by now he had already realized that this youth must have come one step earlier to tattle to Regiment Commander Qiao. It looked like he would not be able to overcome this matter easily.
"Sit!" Qiao Ting casually pointed at the sofa across from him, signalling Lin Zhidong to sit down and speak.
Lin Zhidong sat down carefully, as if in the presence of a great enemy — this behaviour of his made a mocking smirk appear on the corner of the other youth's lips.
"I heard Lin say that, a month ago, you initiated a wagered arena battle and lost?" Right then, two deep furrows had appeared on the stern-faced youth's brow. It was clear to see how bad his mood was.
Lin Zhidong bowed his head, deeply ashamed. "I am sorry, Regiment Commander. I was careless."
The youth who had tattled was Qiao Ting's younger brother, Qiao Lin — Lin Zhidong knew that no matter how he tried to explain, it would not stand up against one word from the regiment commander's own blood brother. The regiment commander most certainly had already formed his opinions beforehand, so he might as well admit the fault honestly — the regiment commander might be merciful this way.
Qiao Ting said nothing. His right arm resting on the arm of the sofa, his index finger and middle finger were rubbing vigorously against his thumb — this was a habitual motion of his while in thought.
Qiao Ting's silence made Lin Zhidong even more afraid to say anything; he could only watch silently as he waited for Qiao Ting's decision.
"Freshmen?" Qiao Ting seemed to be inquiring, but also seemed to be talking to himself.
"Yeah, it's that bunch of arrogant freshmen! Even creating a new cadet regiment. Who knows whether in their second year, after entering mecha piloting, this new cadet regiment will still be standing," Qiao Lin butted in with a face full of anger. He cast a cutting glare at Lin Zhidong across from them and said resentfully, "And our Vice Regiment Commander Lin, before fully understanding the other's true strength, impulsively suggested a wagered arena fight, losing all our Leiting's face, even helping to boost the New Cadet Regiment's reputation ..."
Lin Zhidong could only bend his head even lower, hunching into himself. Even if he knew Qiao Lin was saying all this because Qiao Lin was dissatisfied with his position, and so was intentionally mocking him, there was nothing untrue in what the other said. On this matter, his responsibility was indeed the greatest. His tactical error had caused Leiting's reputation to be greatly impacted — if not for the fact that the Tianji incident had coincidentally occurred right after, drawing away the attention of the entire school, Leiting's situation would have been much worse than how it was now.
"Zhidong, so hastily rushing into a wagered arena fight and submitting a wager to fully absorb the other side into our Leiting, was there some special reason behind this?" Qiao Ting stopped the motions of his fingers, peering intently at Lin Zhidong as he asked.
Lin Zhidong looked up in astonishment — he had not expected Regiment Commander Qiao Ting to be willing to hear his explanations. This made Lin Zhidong feel extremely grateful, his loyalty to Qiao Ting increasing by a level higher. He nodded solemnly and said, "Yes, there is one very important reason. I believe that taking in the New Cadet Regiment would push the power of our faction one step further."
"Even if we don't take in those punks, our Leiting will still be the number one faction in the academy." Qiao Lin did not believe Lin Zhidong's words at all, feeling that he was just making excuses.
Lin Zhidong seemed about to say something but stopped. Seeing this, Qiao Ting said, "Just speak if you have something to say. Lin is my younger brother, he will not spread what we say here lightly." Hearing this, Qiao Lin sent a glare in Lin Zhidong's direction, believing that Lin Zhidong was certainly doing this on purpose, trying to get his elder brother to think that he was unreliable.
Lin Zhidong knew that this time, Qiao Lin had truly been offended. Still, Lin Zhidong could do nothing about it — who asked Qiao Lin to find him disagreeable? Till today, he did not know why this was so.
Although Lin Zhidong felt that Qiao Lin was untrustworthy with secrets, since the regiment commander had spoken, Lin Zhidong could not continue to hedge. He passed a document he always kept on him over to Qiao Ting, and indicated for him to take a look.
Qiao Ting flipped it open casually, and then he abruptly sat up straight, the expression on his face becoming grim and focused. Meanwhile, from the moment his brother had flipped open the first page, Qiao Lin had scampered over to peek at the document as well, and when he saw the grading of 'excellent' and 'good' attached to row after row of names, he too was dumbfounded.
Qiao Ting snapped the file closed and asked sternly, "Is this document true?"
Lin Zhidong nodded heavily, "I retrieved it from the S-tier partition of the academy mainframe. There can be no error."
Qiao Ting stood up, pacing back and forth a few times before turning his head to ask, "Who else knows of this information?"
Lin Zhidong replied, "All the other vice regiment commanders of Leiting know, but I've already told them clearly from the start that this information stays with us few. All of the documents were destroyed after they looked at it ..."
"Good, well done!" Qiao Ting shouted abruptly, a slight smile finally appearing on his austere face. He paced back and forth animatedly a few times in the room, involuntarily clenching his fists in his excitement and said, "Their joining would not only advance our Leiting by a step, it might even allow us to become the true rulers of the entire military academy ..."
Qiao Ting's words made Lin Zhidong excited as well. Worked up, he smiled and said, "Yes, that's what I thought back then, which was why I wanted to take in all these freshmen in one go before the other factions discovered this info ..." At this point, Lin Zhidong's smile vanished, his excitement and adrenaline fading, leaving behind only endless regret. "Unfortunately, in the end, I messed up. I did not fully understand the depth of the New Cadet Regiment's strength, thus helping them increase their reputation instead."
Lin Zhidong's words made Qiao Ting's high spirits settle down as well. After some careful consideration, his mood turned up once more and he said, "No, the wagered fight this time did not turn out too terrible. Although Leiting's reputation has been damaged somewhat, the other side's wager has also given us another chance to integrate them into our ranks in the future."
Lin Zhidong raised his head in confused shock, unsure why Regiment Commander Qiao Ting would say this. Was he just trying to console him?
"No, this is not consolation," said Qiao Ting, sensing Lin Zhidong's confusion, "Didn't we promise to help the New Cadet Regiment fend off all harassment from the other factions for two years? This means that, in these two years' time, the New Cadet Regiment will still be right under our watch and will not be consolidated into any of the other factions."
"This wager gives us an excuse to pull the New Cadet Regiment under our wings, preventing any of the other factions from coveting them. Once the two years are up, that will be the chance for us, Leiting, to try our hand again!" Qiao Ting's eyes were filled with fire — just the information in this document alone was worth Leiting spending two years' time to wait and plan.
Just thinking about how he would have a chance to accomplish such a great undertaking, Qiao Ting's face was flushed with vigour and excitement. Finally, he forcefully suppressed the emotional upheaval in his heart and turned to look at Qiao Lin, whose head was spinning in confusion from the other two's conversation, and warned the other, "Lin, everything that you've heard or seen today, not one word can be leaked to the outside. Otherwise, don't blame me for skinning your hide!"
The unforgiving cold glint in Qiao Ting's eyes scared Qiao Lin so much that he shuddered, emphatically shaking his head and saying, "Never, never, I would never!"
Qiao Lin did not dare to disobey — he knew well that his elder brother was an absolutely ruthless person when the occasion called for it, so he would truly do what he dared to threaten. He really did not want to be skinned alive by his brother.
"But two years later, when you, Regiment Commander, enter an army division for your practical training, if the New Cadet Regiment produces another one or two genius mecha operators, I fear that our odds of winning a wagered fight will not be very high still." Having lost once, Lin Zhidong had become extremely cautious. Without Qiao Ting holding the fort, he still felt that it was rather risky.
At these words, Qiao Lin said angrily, "Don't worry! Two years from now, I'll definitely be able to take on the heavy responsibilities of my elder brother and make Leiting even bigger and better!" Qiao Lin had always considered himself to be the next regiment commander of Leiting, so Lin Zhidong's words had once again pricked and irritated him. Yes, he disliked Lin Zhidong so much because the other did not take him seriously, thinking he was an incapable fool — but his mecha skills were clearly not bad, able to place him within the top 5 in his class ... Qiao Lin had never considered the fact that his mecha class was not a special class, merely a regular class.
"Lin, shut up!" Qiao Ting, who had always been gentle and courteous with his own younger brother, instantly berated the other angrily when he heard such foolish and self-deluded 1 words coming from Qiao Lin.
Qiao Lin heard Qiao Ting's angry roar and glared back with an expression of stubborn indignation. However, his eyes were already turning red, a wounded sort of feeling expressed by his gaze.
Seeing Qiao Lin like this caused Qiao Ting to sigh helplessly, "Mecha piloting is not as simple as you imagine it to be. When you advance to intermediate mecha warrior level, I'll bring you with me to a clan battle and let you properly experience the depths of mecha piloting."
He was the reason why Qiao Lin, who did not have much talent in the way of mecha piloting, had refused to listen to the advice of their family and had stubbornly insisted to apply for the Mecha Piloting specialization in the First Academy. Although his ability qualified him for the regular mecha class, in the long run, it was impossible for him to develop to Qiao Ting's level. Still, Qiao Ting knew that Qiao Lin had not given up. He worked very hard — when no one was looking, he had always been training hard in his mecha control. Qiao Lin was willing to use hard work to compensate for his lack of talent — this made Qiao Ting unable to say anything discouraging, only able to sigh in the end.
Lin Zhidong wisely sidestepped this matter between the two Qiao brothers, pretending that he knew nothing. After comforting Qiao Lin, Qiao Ting turned his head to say to Lin Zhidong, "Don't worry. We have to spend six years in the military academy. Even if we go off for practical training in an army division, we will still be military academy students and can still fight on behalf of Leiting."
Lin Zhidong lifted his head in pleasant surprise, "Regiment Commander, you're saying that ..."
"Yes, two years later, I will return once more with my mecha battle squad and host this wagered fight!" After subduing the New Cadet Regiment, in his final year, he would utterly conquer the entire military academy and accomplish his grand goal of complete domination! Sheer naked ambition flashed through Qiao Ting's eyes.
Meanwhile, in the upcoming two years, the New Cadet Regiment would constantly be on Qiao Ting's mind, always within the sphere of his attention!不知天高地厚: I love the original phrase here, but it would sound strange in context. Literally 'not knowing how high the sky is or how thick the earth is'. Pretty much meaning this person is ignorant and living in his own world.