In front of her, an Aslan official approached and tapped his wrist with a finger, reminding her that the meeting would begin soon.
"Do you miss him?"
The question stunned Aina. She said nothing for a long while, her mind full. Some were instantly suppressed emotions. As a Princess, she knew that she had to control herself, and she always guarded against that control slipping. But Lin Huiyin's one careless phrase had opened the doors in her heart.
I am a Princess. Why must I sacrifice myself? Why must it always be conflict? Why must I care so much about the opinion of others?
"Sis, are you OK?"
Aina, who had been quiet for a while, smiled radiantly. "Huiyin, thanks, you're braver than I am!"
Although Aina had to attend a meeting, she felt renewed. For the sake of her goal, she had recently become compliant, living up to others' expectations of her as the perfect, dutiful Princess. But was this perfect?
If she kept it up, she would lose herself!
Little Huiyin paused for a moment. She didn't feel like she had said anything, but she recalled the look in Aina's eyes. It seemed to have changed somehow. A mechanically, rule-abiding Princess led such a colorless life. One should not always have to be concerned with judging matters of black and white, but lead a colorful life.
Although she had never had the experience before, she was not about to care about the opinion of others. She would just write her feelings out. Even if nobody liked it, it would still be her. After all, the last disaster did indeed express someone else's feelings!
In a flash, inspiration burst forth for Huiyin!
Lin Huiyin caressed her tear-stained face. It was the first time she had found the inner spirit for a love song. When she first debuted, the love songs she sang were catchy but devoid of meaning.
Angela had no idea what had happened. Could it be too much stress? She had long said not to mind the haters, who enjoyed nothing better than to watch the world burn.
At this moment, Lin Huiyin began to lightly hum a melody, pensive and light, a simple tune that spoke directly to the heart.
"This is but a little, simple love song"
"Which sings of the way the heart twists."
"I think I'm really happy"
"When I feel your warmth."
"The air beside my feet starts to twirl."
"This is but a little, simple love song"
"Which sings of the dove that flutters in our heart."
"I think I am suited"
"To sing praises."
"Youth floats in the breeze."
"Even if the whole world was taken hostage by loneliness,"
"I still would not run away."
"No one escapes the ravages of time."
"Instead I will write of the palace where time and the sound of pianos come together."
"This is but a little, simple love song"
"… Everyone grows old in the end."
It was the first time that Angela had lost herself in Lin Huyin's voice, and she felt tears well up in her eyes.
"My new song, the title track of my new album."
Lin Huiyin turned her head back. Her tear-streaked face made one's heart ache for her, but her mouth was upturned in a smile as bright as a flower.
Early on the second day, everyone was woken up by the assembly bell. They began the most grueling training that was utterly devoid of any skill.
This was no qualification, this was a recruits' hazing.
Everyone rode their own mecha and advanced through the most basic drills. Precision aiming, strafe shooting, obstacle shooting, and the fundamental stabbing drills that was most common among exercise troops. The high and mighty competitors were fuming and chafing at the training.
"Earth's training is unbelievably mundane. They're treating us like recruits. What's the point of this?"
"We barely started the training, but it seems it's already time to leave. We can't train here forever, it's a waste of our time."
"When are we going to get something difficult?"
"Earth is such a low-difficulty-level place…"
When the afternoon training was over, everyone fumed as they ate. At this juncture, the canteen broke out into an uproar.
Someone was fighting.
The ruckus was between Achilles' team and Lie Xin's team.
Atos had long been giving Luo Fei the evil eye, and had tripped him when he passed.
The food was scattered all over the floor. The fatty smiled as if it was nothing, but a Martian would never let such an incident pass.
Lie Xin gave Carl a look, and Carl immediately went over and flipped a table. Unbelievable. It had always been the Martians who started things. Who would dare to pick a fight with them?
Fatty was equally callous, immediately attacking at vulnerable spots below the belt. He gave no consideration to any fair notions of one on one and directly took Atos down.
The Moon team originally thought it was a one on one, and, when they saw Fatty move, could not hold themselves back. They swarmed up as one.
Suddenly, the canteen was transformed into a chaotic battlefield!
By the time the troops arrived, the canteen had been turned into a garbage dump.
Qiu Si watched the melee dispassionately. Achilles wanted to stop the fight but did not. Lie Xin held back, afraid of exacerbating the matter. Taros was brawling, and Raston had no choice but to block him, attempting to keep the fight fair.
Lie Xin and Achilles would not intervene unless matters got out of hand. Both had the presence of mind to realize that they should hold back.
Upon Qiu Si's command, everyone, both fighters and onlookers, hastened over.
Wang Zheng and the rest had also finished eating. They had watched the show through their meal with detached interest.
"I was about to announce this in the afternoon, but I assume you all already know. The second round of IG qualifications requires a leader, one choice each from Earth, the Moon, and Mars. Achilles, Lie Xin, Taros, Raston, for brawling and failing to stop such childish behavior, are hereby eliminated. But by the rules, at least two nominated leaders must participate in the contest, so…"
Qiu Si's words left Achilles and Lie Xin pale. They had thought that Qiu Si would merely scold them and let them off with some token punishment, but to come to this…
In the three stages, whoever took down two leaders could compete for first and directly become a leader.
If all three fought to a draw, there could be a tiebreaker. Each step was crucial, and one had already been eliminated. Didn't it essentially mean that Lear was almost confirmed to win??
"Lear, Wang Zheng, step forward!"
Lear was unsurprised, but Wang Zheng had blanked out for a moment, although he did not particularly mind.
"According to the last test's results and the desert trek scores, Wang Zheng was determined to be a leader candidate. In the training to come, whoever wins will receive Earth's vote. Furthermore, the victor, regardless of whether they eventually become a leader when compared against the vote from Mars or the Moon, can receive an invitation to enter the Galaxy IG as a representative of the Solar System Federation. As this round's leader, he can choose a person to compete with him!"
His announcement shook them like a stone that broke the calm surface of the water. Everyone had slogged it out for so long and fought for so long, all for this. Suddenly, it was decided.
The Moon crowd was astonished, while the rest was afire with excitement. The important thing was not the eliminations. It was the later half of his statement - that one person could be chosen for promotion.
This was the privilege of a leader!
Instantly, Wang Zheng became the center of everyone's attention. Although Ares College had put up a decent performance, no one actually took them seriously, beside the five famous experts.
Of course, this focus shifted quickly to Lear, because Lear had no one beside him!
As for the competition between Lear and Wang Zheng, that was already decided. Whoever followed Lear now might be chosen by him to enter the next round.
Suddenly, Lear became the beacon of hope for everyone.
Lear needed to do nothing. One single slot was enough to gain him all these people's favor. Although not everyone who had made it here was suitable to be a leader, everyone had their own strengths that gave them a fighting chance at representing the Solar System with distinction. All they needed was an insightful and knowledgeable leader. Achilles and Lie Xin were both too snobbish. Besides their own clique, everyone else was treated like trash.
Achilles and Lie Xin exchanged glances. They both felt resentful but helpless. Milo and Lin Ruofeng both stared at Fatty, who was the very picture of innocence. He was the most spotless among those who had fought, and his mouth was still stuffed with half a piece of bread.
There were so many paths to get to his table, but Fatty purposely had to walk past Atos, and to glare at him as well. Wasn't this a purposeful aggravation?
Achilles and Lie Xin were not stupid. They began to feel as though they had been had.
But who was there to blame but themselves for their lack of awareness?
Lear's face was still a mask of composure. "Wang Zheng, let's work hard together!"
"Oh, likewise, likewise."
Lear shot a look at Meng Tian, and the corner of his mouth lifted.
"In the training to come, both of you have powers of observation and can raise questions to me," Qiu Si said. This was the right of a leader, in order to facilitate their decision-making.
In an instant, everybody's gazes were on fire. They had a chance now as well; it was no longer a monopoly between Achilles and Lie Xin.
Although no one voiced it, it was not a nice feeling. Watching the Moon and Mars teams form alliances, it seemed as though the rest were mere adornments for them.
No one had made it here by merely going through the motions.
Qiu Si grinned without realizing it himself. Achilles and Lie Xin had been foolish to bring so many escorts with them. Were they afraid that others would not know they were rich heirs? They had not only revealed their trump card for all to see, but also alienated others. They had not started off on the right foot.
The Cronos family was not short on experts, but Lear had only brought a useless fatty with him. This was evidently the difference in how they did things.
Martians and those of the Moon would never defeat the Earthlings.
As for Wang Zheng… It would not do to directly grant leadership to Lear, so he had picked the best scorer as a gesture to make things look more fair.
Achilles and Lie Xin kept their complaints to themselves. It would serve no purpose except to further display their weaknesses for all to see.
This round had been lost in too unjust a fashion.
Judging by their abilities, under normal circumstances, they could definitely defeat Lear on his home ground. And upon returning to their own home grounds, where the stars would align in their favor, the odds were even better. Therefore, this round on Earth was crucial. They would never have dreamed that Lear would rise thus. They had been robbed of even the chance of a contest.
To brawl during special training was indeed below them.
Fighting for control over his emotions, Achilles watched Atos. He had expended so much effort to get him back and had specially trained him for an entire summer, all only for him to lose control over his own emotions.
A person who was rash and would react easily could never shoulder heavy responsibilities.
"All those involved in the brawl, the case has been recorded. You will all receive a 10-point demerit!"
Qiu Si announced coldly. But this was now of secondary importance. The highlight was over.
As expected, even Qiu Si could not actually directly eliminate the brawlers.