After regaining his good cheer, Ling Yu noticed Ling Lan staring curiously at the particle-beam handgun at his waist. Showing off, he pulled out the handgun and passed it to Ling Lan, saying, "You like it? This is a particle-beam handgun — although its firepower is no match for submachine guns, it's still more than enough to wipe out anyone not wearing a protective vest."
Ling Lan's eyes sparkled as she accepted the handgun, excitement clear on her face. She lowered her head and began studying the gun, as if curious about how the particle-beam gun was assembled.
A smile played on Ling Hua's lips. In this moment, Ling Lan had reverted to a regular child, full of curiosity towards something she had never seen before.
Only Ling Qin looked strangely at Ling Lan — he knew that Ling Lan had long known about this sort of weapons, why did she want to feign enthusiasm? Still, he said nothing. He believed that Ling Lan must have her reasons for doing so, so he would wait patiently for the answer to be revealed at the end.
Watching as Ling Lan fiddled around clumsily with the handgun, Ling Yu nervously reminded, "Don't flick off that safety. That's the switch — pressing it carelessly will cause problems."
Ling Lan cast a reproachful look at Ling Yu, as if cross that he didn't trust her, but she was soon fully absorbed in playing around with the particle-beam handgun in her hands again. Not long after, after she had played her fill, she seemed to lose interest, and just as she was about to return the gun to Ling Yu, she suddenly saw that the handgun on Ling Hua's waist was different than the one in her hands. With some confusion, she asked Ling Hua, "Why is your particle-beam handgun different from this one?" shaking the gun in her hand.
Smiling widely, Ling Hua answered, "This is because the captain's designated weapons are different from the team members'."
"Oh? So that's why ... can I take a look at your handgun?" Ling Lan's eyes were full of curiosity, as if she really wanted to know what was special about the captain's handgun.
With just a little hesitation, Ling Hua pulled out his particle-beam gun and handed it over to Ling Lan. Of course, he did not forget to caution, "Make sure you don't open the safety catch. This handgun is four to five times stronger than the regular particle-beam handguns, almost on par with submachine guns. Young Master Lan, take care."
Ling Lan nodded obediently; she was not one to reject another's good intentions. Accepting the obviously larger handgun into her hands, she held the two guns up side by side in comparison. They actually didn't look that much different from the outside; only the tail-end, which housed the energy storage unit, and the barrel were noticeably thicker and larger than those on the regular particle-beam handguns.
Ling Lan played around with the two guns in her hands for a bit, but just as Ling Hua and Ling Yu were about to ask for their guns back, Ling Lan's next move immediately caused their eyelids to twitch uncontrollably. They had never thought that their own Young Master Lan could be so shameless — she blatantly put the two handguns directly into her protective vest, and even patted the compartments they were in with satisfaction after. That smug expression on her face told them loud and clear that the two particle-beam handguns were hers now, confiscated as part of her collection.
Ling Hua laughed helplessly, looking at Ling Qin in hopes that he could say something to convince Young Master Lan to give the guns back. After all, these were their standard weapons, a necessary part of their equipment.
However, just as Ling Qin was planning to do just that, Ling Lan sent a pointed look his way, sharp and determined. His heart thudded in response, and he instantly changed his mind. Instead, he subtly indicated to Ling Hua that they should just let Young Master Lan satisfy her curiosity, and as for their weapons, they would be suitably compensated by Logistics when they got back to the Ling household.
Ling Hua and Ling Yu could only pretend they hadn't seen anything, while Ling Lan smirked like the cat that ate the canary. Their small group quickly left the deserted plains and returned to the place where Ling Hua and Ling Yu's mecha were parked. Ling Lan eyed those two gigantic mecha. Right now, standing proudly on the ground, looking down upon Ling Lan and the others, the mecha loomed large before her, making her feel exceptionally weak and fragile. It would be so easy for these mecha to crush her. The rush of emotion was too great, causing the excitement to blaze from her eyes as if she had just seen her most beloved toy.
In reality, Ling Lan wasn't as crazy about mecha as she made herself look to be, however, the cool mecha that she had only seen in anime and manga in her previous world was now standing right in front of her as something real and tangible ... this made her feel as if she was in a dream, and for a moment, she was unsure whether she was still here or had gone back to her previous world. Thus, Ling Lan could no longer maintain her calm facade.
"So this is our Ling family mecha? It looks so powerful." Ling Lan couldn't help but exclaim.
Ling Hua laughed, thinking back on his first time ever seeing a mecha — his reaction then had been much like Ling Lan's now.
Ling Yu became even more animated, boasting proudly, "Of course! But private mecha can only be this sort of standard mecha. If you enter the military, perhaps you can get even better mecha, and if you can become an ace operator, you can even change the colour of your mecha freely ... I really wish I could paint my mecha in my favourite colour red ..."
"Stop dreaming. We won't even have the chance to upgrade to a captain level mecha." Ling Hua voiced his regrets for the first time. Every mecha operator would like to pilot the best mecha he could handle, and soar freely among the stars, cutting down all enemies before him, being able to dominate through fearlessness and sheer strength.
Unfortunately, mecha were still considered restricted goods in the Federation. Even if some families had the right to own private mecha, all they could get were still the most basic standard mecha within the Federation.
Having his dream shattered by his own captain, Ling Yu could only sigh. Becoming a family loyalist meant that they could no longer pursue a military career.
Ling Lan seemed oblivious to Ling Hua and Ling Yu's actions, walking up to the mecha in a daze. She reached out to touch anywhere she could reach, and her fingertips met a smooth coldness, just as she expected from a metallic outer casing.
She wasn't content to just feel up one, running her hands over the other mecha as well. The slightly sleazy way she did it sent chills running through Ling Hua and Ling Yu as if they themselves were the ones who had been molested. It couldn't be helped — every mecha operator was very protective of his own mecha, loving it just as if it were his own body, which is why the two reacted this way.
At that moment, a loud rumble could be heard coming from above. Ling Lan lifted her head and immediately saw three mecha flying overhead in a radius of roughly 100 metres, each vigilantly watching the direction it was responsible for.
Ling Hua walked up to her and asked, "Young Master Lan, would you like to see how a mecha moves close up?"
Ling Qin frowned slightly. Was it really appropriate to use mecha to entertain a child at this time? Their safety hadn't been guaranteed yet after all.
Seeing this, Ling Hua explained, "The military group came together with us. They are guarding the outer perimeter right now, and we only managed to escape earlier due to their help."
Ling Lan looked up at Ling Qin with a face full of hope, stopping Ling Qin's words of refusal within his throat. Fine, just consider it as a sort of compensation. Ling Lan had almost lost her life this time, it should be fine to spoil her for a bit. So Ling Qin nodded, giving his approval.
At this, Ling Lan saw Ling Hua winking at her conspiratorially, prompting her to giggle. Looks like Ling Hua really wanted to entertain her and had arranged this on purpose.
Immediately, Ling Hua connected the communicator on his wrist. "Ling Ze, fly a bit lower so Young Master Lan can see how cool you all are. Make it a good show!" Ling Hua's words had a double meaning, subtly telling the other members that they shouldn't just do a simple sweep, but should include a few fancier moves — children loved those, after all.
"Roger!" Ling Ze got the point instantly.
The three mecha revved their engines and began flying circles above Ling Lan. And then they began executing various basic flying manoeuvers and combat moves, causing Ling Lan to drink it all in excitedly, clapping and jumping unabashedly.
After a set of extremely fancy movements, the three mecha suddenly dropped rapidly, causing Ling Lan to scream out in shock, before coming to a sudden stop, drawing laughter from Ling Lan once more.
Watching this scene, Ling Qin felt tears gather in his eyes. Ling Lan's usually mature demeanour often made Ling Qin almost forget that Ling Lan was just a six year old child — it was natural for her to be this innocent and carefree. Sadly, due to Master Ling Xiao premature death, she had had no choice but to bear the mountainous burdens of the Ling family, which was why he had no choice but to force Ling Lan to grow up so quickly ...
This was supposed to have been something her father would have shown her, but was now being performed for her by the Ling family loyalists. If only the mecha flying above were Ling Xiao's IN mecha — how wonderful that would be.
The three mecha finally finished their performance and began their descent. To avoid shaking the ground too much, they activated the anti-gravity function of the engine. The mecha gradually descended, and the immense thrust energy coming from the engine caused Ling Lan, who was standing closest to the mecha, to lose her footing. Just as she was about to fall over, however, Ling Hua reacted and grabbed hold of Ling Lan, holding Ling Lan still even as he stabilized her.
On Ling Lan's lowered face, a flash of killing intent came and went. Wasn't Ling Hua holding on just a bit too tightly?
A cold awareness spread through Ling Lan's eyes, and her hands, feet, waist, and torso all shifted slightly in preparation ...
The mecha got closer and closer, and Ling Lan raised her head with difficulty. From Ling Hua's height, he could clearly see the expression on Ling Lan's face, full of excitement and joy, completely clueless about what would happen to her soon.
A trace of regret and hesitation flashed through Ling Hua's eyes ...
Right then, the three mecha which had just landed suddenly raised up their right arms simultaneously, directing their lightspeed guns squarely at Ling Lan. Before anyone could react, Ling Hua, who had been holding Ling Lan, suddenly lifted Ling Lan's entire body up and threw her upwards into the air with all his might ...
Flying above Ling Hua's head, Ling Lan could clearly see Ling Qin rushing over from behind Ling Hua with a face full of fear and panic, while an enraged Ling Yu followed close behind.
Unfortunately, it was too late, as two of the three mecha aiming at Ling Lan abruptly turned to transfer their aim to Ling Qin and Ling Yu ...
Quicker than words could say, a decisive chokehold!
Ling Lan's right arm shot out at an angle which defied human physics, forcibly bending to lock onto Ling Hua's throat, and pivoting on this chokehold, she pulled back her body backwards in mid-air to hide herself behind Ling Hua's back. At the same time, a particle-beam handgun had appeared in Ling Lan's left hand and then it was pressed harshly against Ling Hua's temple.
"Don't move!" Ling Lan yelled out, freezing the three mecha in their tracks. If she had just been a bit slower, they would have pulled their triggers.
Suddenly finding himself in a reversed hostage situation, Ling Hua's face changed. With a chagrined look, he asked, "Where did we mess up, Young Master Lan?"
Ling Lan answered serenely, "From the very beginning."
"Huh?" Ling Hua did not understand.
"From the moment you all were late, I had begun suspecting all of you. And when you all managed to return without any injuries at all, I knew for sure." Ling Lan had never trusted the Ling family mecha squad from the very beginning.