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The night passed in silence. The next day, Ling Lan's group of four arrived at the combat hall bright and early. At this time there were even less students in the combat hall, with more teachers present instead. Their objective in coming here now was to adopt one or two outstanding children for personal instruction — this was also one of their responsibilities as an instructor.

For the record, any child who could remain till the final day was most certainly an exceptional seedling that had managed to weather the beating of waves and the erosion of sand — a buildable talent, certainly good enough to satisfy their conditions for taking on a personal student. Of course, whether or not a match was made still depended on compatibility.

Mind you, for some of the stronger instructors, taking on an apprentice not only depended on talent, but a large part also depended on affinity at first glance.

The tournament soon started, and first up were the fights for the advancement of the top 13 into the top 7. This round, the one to receive a bye was no longer Ling Lan but the Class-A first-rank Li Yingjie.

Ling Lan saw this notification within the communicator and couldn't help but wonder if the academy arranged byes according to a student's strength? If the next to receive a bye was Wu Jiong or Qi Long, then this assumption would pretty much be verified. In Ling Lan's eyes, Li Yingjie, Wu Jiong, and Qi Long were of the same level.

Ling Lan's opponent was the Class-A ninth-rank Qin Yi. She had seen Qin Yi's combat style before — he was an intelligence-type fighter, who liked to first figure out the opponent's true strength before countering, so almost every fight of his started with him dancing around the opponent.

Ling Lan had never encountered this type of combat opponent before. In the learning space, Instructor Number One upheld the principle of sure kills in one blow, and was definitely a pure suppression-type attacker. Instructor Number Nine held fast to the most orthodox combat ideal — if soldiers come, send a general to defend; if the waters rise, build a dam. This principle advocated the combat style of countering a move with a move, exchanging one blow for another. Instructor Number Five's combat style was even nastier than his character — as long as he could obtain victory, he would do anything. Recalling some of Instructor Number Five's methods, Ling Lan couldn't suppress her shudders. Even now, she still felt the chills running through her body. The training of that time had almost destroyed her "three outlooks".

Qi Long, Luo Lang and Han Jijyun, who were Ling Lan's regular sparring partners, were also not this type of opponent. Qi Long liked to start with a bang and end with a bang — fighting with him made for the wildest and the most intense battles, not requiring much thought. Because Qi Long wouldn't give you the time to strategize and think of your next move — you could only pull up your sleeves and throw yourself into the fight if you wanted to keep up with his wild attacks which pelted at you like rain.

Luo Lang's combat style was of the same stream as Instructor Number Nine's, however, the difference in their abilities were like heaven and earth. For Ling Lan, handling Luo Lang was the easiest and most thoughtless thing, because Ling Lan was just too familiar with Luo Lang's style of attack.

Meanwhile, Han Jijyun was the weakest among the four of them. Aware of his own weakness, he liked to experiment with strange moves when fighting them. Every time he fought he would use a different combat style — who knows where he collected that many combat styles from — but unfortunately, due to the difference in strength, he had never been able to achieve very good results in the end. Only a few times, when Luo Lang had not adjusted in time, had Han Jijyun managed to wrest victory from his hands. But against the much stronger Qi Long and Ling Lan, Han Jijyun had not won even once. This also proved that when there was enough distance between strength levels, all schemes and plots, and all the strange moves in the world, were useless.

Therefore, Ling Lan was particularly alert in facing this upcoming match with Qin Yi. Of course, it wasn't that Ling Lan was worried that Qin Yi would give her any trouble in advancing, but rather, she wanted to be ready to process any insights she might obtain from fighting an opponent with a different style, which could enrich her battle experience.

Meanwhile, Qi Long was up against the 7th-rank of their class, Xu Zhizhi. Coincidentally, Xu Zhizhi's combat style was almost the same as Qi Long's, so this match between them was definitely going to be bursting with passion and energy.

Luo Lang was relatively unlucky. He, who had been plagued with horrendous luck over the last few days, had actually been matched up with the 3rd-rank of Class-A, Ye Xu. Any child who made it into the top 3 of Class-A was definitely some supreme genius, and would most certainly have outstanding combat abilities ... this was obviously going to be another tough fight for Luo Lang.

When Luo Lang saw his opponent's name, his entire face collapsed, and he could almost cry. This was undoubtedly a tough bone that would be extremely hard on the teeth. Even if he managed to win this match by luck, he would probably be unable to continue fighting due to his depleted stamina, which would mean that he could only stop here, fated not to see the next match. It should be known that the matches for the top 7 to advance into the top 4 would follow right after — would he have any hope of winning without having any time to recover his energy?

The answer was that he most definitely would not ... how could he not be depressed?

Helplessly, Ling Lan patted Luo Lang's shoulder, consoling him weakly, "Luo Lang, just do your best!" She just couldn't bear to see Luo Lang's sorrowful eyes anymore, this pitiful child ... why was he oh so unlucky?

Qi Long rubbed his chin, and said to Luo Lang with a serious look on his face, "Luo Lang, don't do any more bad things from now on."

Luo Lang was taken aback by these words, unsure what Qi Long meant.

Qi Long donned a look that said 'this child is unteachable', and shook his head saying, "Didn't Boss say this before? Too many evils done will damage your RP."

"Qi Long, I'm going to kill you." Only then did Luo Lang figure out that Qi Long was messing with him. He leapt up and lunged at Qi Long. Qi Long saw Luo Lang coming at him, and perked up joyfully. And so the two of them started throwing punches and kicks in a noisy clatter, completely ignoring everyone else around them, not at all bothered at being the centre of attention.

Oh, these two insensitive children ... Ling Lan rolled her eyes dramatically, and dodged to one side with Han Jijyun. The two of them tacitly started whispering to one another, pretending as if they were just members of the audience.

Yup, they would definitely, definitely never admit that they knew those two big idiots who had absolutely no concept of upholding appearances.

Qi Long and Luo Lang's fierce battle drew the attention of everyone in the combat hall. Among them, two instructors, who had initially had a trace of boredom and impatience on their faces, became much more energetic when they saw Qi Long and Luo Lang's spirited exchange of blows as they fought.

"Not bad, not bad, the old dean really didn't lie to us. The little brats from this year's first grade really do have some chops," said one of the instructors, chuckling.

The other person remained stern, observing intently as Qi Long and Luo Lang continued to exchange moves, before responding, "Hn, the foundations of these two brats are pretty good."

Qi Long and Luo Lang had trailed Ling Lan for this half a year; though it was hard to say if there was any improvement in other aspects, their foundations in combat were definitely much sounder than they had been at the start of the school year. This was because the learning space had always emphasized that the basics were the most important — Ling Lan naturally brought this principle to Qi Long and the others during their regular practice sessions.

After watching for a moment, the grinning instructor suddenly sighed. "Tai, don't you find this scene familiar?"

The serious-faced instructor looked at the other, uncomprehending.

"Thinking back, when I met you, it was also at the scout academy. Back then, we also fought like this." The smiling instructor's face was filled with nostalgia.

Hearing this, the stern instructor couldn't help but huff mockingly, and say, "The silly grin you had on your face all day back then annoyed me whenever I saw it." That said, he side-eyed his good friend coldly, and continued, "Your face right now is still like that, still annoying."

"Dammit, well, aren't you still wearing that coffin-face of yours around scaring people?" The smiley instructor became disgruntled. Still, even so, his face continued to bear a smile — looks like he was naturally born with a smiling face.

"Want a fight?" Coffin-face stared narrowly at Smiley-face, fighting spirit thick in his eyes.

Smiley-face blinked in realisation, and said sullenly, "F*ck, almost fell for your plot. I'm not going to fight you — so troublesome." How had he forgotten that his friend was a natural battle freak? His hands would itch if he didn't get to fight at all in a day. Moreover, whenever he actually fought, if he didn't fight till both the skies and the land were dark, and till both his body and energy were exhausted, he wouldn't stop. Nope, he wasn't going to inflict this self-torture on himself.

Coffin-face saw that his taunts weren't going to work, and his face was full of regret. This year, it was the turn of their batch of operators to teach at the scout academy for one year. Having just left the battlefield, they were still really unused to this sort of civilian lifestyle — they naturally belonged to the battlefield.

"Which child do you favour?" asked Smiley-face, brimming with curiosity.

"That one with the crew cut." Coffin-face was referring to Qi Long.

"Yep, the crew cut brat should have the better strength. However, that pretty boy's physical characteristics are really not bad, a real trainable talent." Smiley-face seemed to like Luo Lang better.

Hearing Smiley-face's words, Coffin-face's already stern face became even sterner. He peered intently at Smiley-face and said, "You want to take him on as a student? An initiate? Have you thought it through?"

The military world really placed a lot of importance on the master-disciple relationship. Regardless of whether it’s taking on an 'initiate disciple' or the final 'legacy disciple', once their relationship was confirmed, they wouldn't be able to get away from this connection for the rest of their lives. For instance, if Smiley-face wanted to take on Luo Lang, even just as an initiate disciple, it would be equivalent to Smiley-face acknowledging Luo Lang as a disciple of his branch. From then on, Luo Lang would receive the protection and cultivation of Smiley-face's branch — in other words, whether Luo Lang was good or bad in the future, Smiley-face would have a hand in it.

"Yeah, just as an initiate disciple though." Smiley-face continued smiling widely, utterly unconcerned.

"Precisely because it's just as an initiate disciple, that's why I need you to be more serious about it." Coffin-face was a little angry now. If Smiley-face was taking the boy on as a legacy disciple, then he would have nothing to worry about, because in that case, both the instructor and the disciple would already be grasshoppers tied together on the same string — both would have to be equally responsible, and that relationship would be akin to that of a father and son.

But an initiate disciple was different. That relationship did not require anything from the student, but had requirements for the instructor. In other words, taking on an initiate disciple meant a unidirectional relationship where the instructor provided painstaking care and effort. If the initiate disciple decided not to become the instructor's legacy disciple in the end, all the invested effort of the instructor previously would be wasted with no avenue for recourse, because all of it was out of the instructor's self-will.

"It's rare to find one that I like. It's worth it to take a little risk." Smiley-face seemed to have made up his mind.

Coffin-face knew that once his good friend made a decision, he would not change his mind. He could only sigh to himself, and said nothing more.

"Angry?" asked Smiley-face, prodding at Coffin-face's shoulder. Smiley-face felt that his willfulness may have been a little disrespectful in the face of his good friend's concern, so he couldn't help but seek reassurance.

"No. I've just made a decision," said Coffin-face placidly.

"What decision?" Smiley-face was very curious.

Coffin-face peered at Smiley-face for a moment, then said, "I have decided to take on that crew cut boy as my initiate disciple."

This is Chinese internet slang referring to the following three 'outlooks' - world view, life perspective, and value system. Having your 'three outlooks' destroyed is just a humorous way of saying something is so shocking that your world is shaken down to its foundations.In Chinese, the acronym stands for 'ren-ping' (人品), which literally translates as 'personal character'. Taken at face value, doing bad things will damage your character, but implied is that your karma would also be affected. Someone with good 'ren-ping' will have good luck, while someone with bad 'ren-ping' will have bad luck. FYI, I've decided to leave the acronym RP here as it is, but use 'reputation points' as the translation. :p
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