"Haha, why do I feel like you would be more suited to be a team leader instead?" Wang Zheng said jokingly. Raston may have had a rough exterior, but a calculating mind lay underneath. He was nobody's fool.
"I know my limits. I have moments of clarity, but I'm unwilling to dedicate it all to leadership. With a good leader, I can bring out the full potential of my powers."
Raston had touched on a key point. Although it seemed inconsequential as to who took up the mantle of leadership, in truth, it mattered very much. As a team member, you had to obey orders, but what if the leader's orders left you frustrated and with a bad taste in your mouth?
In a place like IG, a leader needed to have the power to cow the masses, as well as be able to coordinate the team dynamic, in order to bring out the team's full strength. After all, the Solar System IG qualifiers was not the goal. The true goal lay outside.
Otherwise, Meng Ao and the rest would not have needed to go through such pains.
Raston saw clearly that Wang Zheng had not contemplated these matters before, mainly because his thinking was not on the same level.
"Actually, you're pretty suited to be a team leader yourself," Raston suddenly said.
Wang Zheng started, and brushed it off. "This is overblown praise. I accept it, haha."
"Keke, these aren't empty words. Your performance in the first phase was admirable. Some people might feel it was luck, but in matters of strength and weakness, you did well in keeping your team together and taking care of the details."
Raston recounted how he had seen Wang Zheng run the mountain with Zhang Shan on his back. Someone who did not desert his teammates could not be all that bad. He was also not one of those weak nice guys who would encumber the team. Zhang Shan had later risen to the occasion and helped the team succeed.
This spoke well of Wang Zheng's judgement of character.
One other thing made Raston curious was that Achilles was not one to actively seek out others - he would feel it was beneath him. But was Li Er not different?
He could not believe that a good judge of character like Li Er would not have recognised Wang Zheng's potential.
Furthermore, with the name of the Cronos family behind him, it would have been all too easy to seek out anybody he wished.
Actually, Taros was holding the same question as well.
A person like Wang Zheng, who had solid foundations and yet did not have an Ability X, was definitely a good find.
"Li Er, isn't this Wang Zheng an Earthling too? He seems to be one of the better ones from Ares College. Why don't you take advantage of this opportunity to improve your chances?"
At that moment, Taros was luxuriating in Li Er's hospitality at one of the Cronos family's palaces. He was living as comfortably as a Tibetian king and loving every moment of it.
If even Taros could spot this, it was inconceivable that Li Er had not considered this. As it were, Li Er had already done so in the past.
"After further observation, I decided that it was impossible to go far without Ability X." Li Er smiled.
"That's true too. Taros reached a hand under the robes of one of the beauties attending him and began to fondle her enthusiastically.
There were four of them attending him, each a beauty in her own right. Li Er remained alone.
"Li Er, are you sure you don't want one of them? Good things are meant to be shared, you know." Taros' other hand patted an ample rump. What a pert and firm buttock, and a virgin to boot! Li Er definitely treated guests well.
Li Er smiled mildly. "A gentleman never divests the benefits of others for himself. It is rare that you have come. You must enjoy yourself to the fullest. But remember to take care of your body."
"Haha. Rest your mind. This little bit of frivolity will not wear me out. A man like myself only gets more energetic the more I exert. Isn't that right, my dearies?"
Wine and women, the pleasures of life. Taros was no fool. He would play when he could and get serious when he should. Li Er recognised his abilities. But Li Er's reminder put Taros at ease. It was meaningless to fret over the petty details.
After leaving the room, Li Er had already put Taros out of his mind.
Wang Zheng... in the end, he left Li Er with a sense of unease.
Drupe materialised without a sound. "Master, everything went smoothly. He has departed."
Li Er nodded. The Cronos family had pulled many strings in influencing the invitations of the Solar System Alliance's Science College. Wang Zheng's giftedness in other aspects was a good thing. Would more glory and accolades lead him to consider another path?
Regardless of the result, distraction was inevitable.
Drupe opened his mouth, then closed it. Li Er smiled slightly. "Don't stand there gaping like a fish, out with it."
Drupe, who followed Li Er around every day, dared not mince his words.
"Master, is this person worth it?" Drupe felt that a person who did not even have Ability X was not worth such an effort. Besides, there were other ways to overcome the problem.
Li Er shook his head slightly. "Take this as a form of experiential learning."
What Li Er was referring to was a king's agonising discipline of the inner self. Victory and defeat were decided by his control, judgement, and foresight.
Whether one wanted to eliminate a person or conquer them, rushing into battle was a mediocre means to accomplishing one's ends.
Wang Zheng and Taros were good examples.
The best kings in history were those who could influence development intangibly.
Things could be planned, but when it came down to it, nothing beat experience.
Wang Zheng and Raston were both talkative. Raston's easygoing nature suited his temperament. In the IG qualifiers, everyone was a rival, and interactions were rarely forthcoming. But things were different now; one was free to express oneself. Both parties were confident and needed nothing - conversely this made them even more natural in expressing themselves.
As for the networking event, he would make it if he could, since he was already here. It was not a priority. He already knew himself well and did not see how the discussion could end up fruitful. Furthermore, he detested the fawning flattery that was inevitable at those events.
Knowing Xiao Fei, finding an excuse would be effortless.
Lie Guang and Raston were clearly familiar with each other and gave each other a warm hug upon meeting.
"Finally, you're here to visit after so many invitations."
"Well, I'm here, aren't I? First let me introduce you. This is Wang Zheng, a prodigy at the Ares College on Earth. And this is Lie Guang, a rich playboy of the Lie family," Raston quipped with familiarity.
Lie Guang eyed Wang Zheng. "So you're the pretty boy? Your complexion isn't that pale though."
Wang Zheng and Raston exchanged glances. This was unexpected.
"Haha, that's what Lie Xin told me. That there's a pretty boy with a good head." Lie Guang was always one to speak whatever came to mind and spared not a thought for politeness even at the first meeting.
Anyone else may have turned to leave in the face of such an insult, but Wang Zheng was not a petty person. "Yeah, I'd love to be someone's pretty boy. Too bad my complexion's too dark."
"Haha, anyone who left an impression on my sister as you did would have that problem."
Lie Guang reached out a hand and the two grasped palms firmly. Lie Guang's eyes flickered. "Welcome to Mars."
A slight probe was all that was needed to know what was expected of him. After all, Raston did not make friends with just anybody.
"You're the host here, so you'd better wait upon us well. Did you prepare the tickets for us or not?"
"You little rascal. You aren't even a pretty woman, why would I come all the way here just to see you? Of course it's the tickets to Huiyin's concert. Didn't you say you could get front-row seats?" Raston said.
Lie Guang slapped his forehead. "Shucks, I forgot. Recently I've been too caught up in bigger things. These trivial matters must wait."
The three were in a magnetic car that sped them towards the Lie family's villa in Jippu.
"What did you say? It can't be done? Do you even know who I am?" Lie Guang yelled. Just as Raston said, Lie Guang really seemed every bit the playboy.
The other person was clearly discomfited. The ordinary seats were definitely possible, but front row seats had been long reserved. It would be no small feat to even obtain anything. What was one to do when faced with such a sudden request for tickets?
"Forget it. Cut the bluster, man, we'll just get you for it later." Raston cut in. After all, he wasn't here just to watch a concert. He had matters to discuss with Lie Xin as well.
Raston's situation was special. He had to make his choice and decide the team he would join. Faced with Achilles and Li Er, he would rather choose Lie Xin. At least he would maintain a degree of freedom and feel more at ease.
Lie Guang shrugged irritably. "Curse them. What in the world? I wanted to show off a little in front of a new acquaintance, but I stumbled. The Lie family's name is losing its luster."
"You little rascal. You've been using the Lie family name to back your wanton lifestyle for so long that nobody believes you anymore."
"Tch! These aren't hard times. It's the return of the prodigal son. What a pity that today's result was different." Lie Guang laughed, apathetic to the Lie family's reputation.
"You and your nonsense. If I had known you were this unreliable, I'd have booked it myself." Raston said, belying a little regret.
"Perhaps I could give it a try." Wang Zheng smiled.
Lie Guang and Raston started, turning to stare at Wang Zheng. "Haha, are you trying to imitate me? Don't mind me, guys. I always brag without thinking. Once you're familiar with me you would know this all too well." Lie Guang said.
Wang Zheng Skylinked Lin Huiyin's number. Truth was, he did not even know himself if Lin Huiyin would pick up.
The dial tone started up. No reply.
"Forget it, Wang Zheng. This concert's tickets are too hot, they must have sold out ages ago. Just make a note that this fellow's words are not trustworthy." Raston jibed in Lie Guang's direction.
The two had been close since young, and their similar personalities meant that conversation was always unreserved.
Wang Zheng smiled. "I'm just giving it a try, if it doesn't work then it can't be helped."
Lin Huiyin must be busy. She probably didn't have time to talk to him.
Neither Lie Guang nor Raston gave him much thought. They thought that Wang Zheng uttered thus because he was feeling inferior.
"Huiyin is beautiful and has an angelic voice. She's really not bad. I think she's worthy of being my girlfriend," Lie Guang said. "Argh, how could I have forgotten such an important matter?"
"Will you die if you stop bragging?" Raston bantered. "Say those words only when you become the Chairman of the Milky Way Alliance."
"Tch! Behold my features. Look at this forehead, high and eminent, and admire my privileged life. Chairman of the Milky Way Alliance... I'll have to think about whether the post is worth taking," Lie Guang said.
Wang Zheng was beginning to get the impression that this person did nothing but brag. It would be foolish to get serious with this kind of person who spewed nothing but hot air.
At this moment, his Skylink began to ring.
"Wang Zheng!! Did you even remember that I was coming? How dare you take so long to get in touch with me!"
Lin Huiyin shrieked. Wang Zheng was not sure if he should laugh or cry. This pampered girl- no, this princess really saw no limit to her abilities. In her world, crossing solar systems, let alone planetary travel, was as normal as breathing.