Hymin replied disdainfully, "It's the Tianjing Evening News! Ha! We've become popular! Oh yea, Wang Zhong, where's Ma Dong? That fellow is a self-proclaimed grand master of economics and the president of the Prodigy Society. He should be hopping around trying to increase his fame and spread propaganda that matches his newfound reputation and status, no?"
Wang Zhong spread his hands out and shrugged. "Even I don't know where he is at. That guy has recently been acting odd."
"That fellow really has been neglecting his job. Before, he had annoyed Scarlet and Milami into becoming the leader. But now, I haven't seen him around for the last two, almost three days." Senior Sister Hymin snorted her displeasure.
"Right, Ma Dong has been weird lately." Scarlet thought about and continued, "Yesterday, Senior Sister Milami told me they hadn't even been together as of late."
"Did they have some kind of argument?" Hymin's gossipy heart began to burn with interest.
"That's not it. Senior Sister Milami even wanted me to ask Wang Zhong about it. But since we were all too busy with the preparations for the competition the last two days, I just forgot to ask…" Scarlet felt a bit apologetic as she just remembered.
Wang Zhong's brows wrinkled as he shook his head. He didn't know how to feel about this.
He had been too busy the last two days preparing for the competition that he actually forgot about his own brother. This was his negligence.
But even so, he did feel something was off about Ma Dong. It had started over a month ago that he began to mutter to himself the entire day. Wang Zhong, however, didn't think much about it and assumed it was just some slight contradiction with Milami. Now it seemed he needed to have a good talk with Ma Dong.
"Alright, fine. You guys go and understand the situation first. Let's push back publicity matters for a later time." Hymin shook her head and joyfully turned her attention to the newspaper fluttering in her hand. Her voice was excited as she said, "I'm gonna go find Barran. Once that guy knows he's in the newspaper, he'll definitely die from embarrassment! Haha!"
Once they imagined the burly Barran with an embarrassed expression upon seeing the newspaper, Scarlet and Wang Zhong couldn't hold it in an burst into laughter. But Hymin's schemes were all too clear to the two of them. Scarlet couldn't help but tease, "Senior Sister Hymin actually wants to go the freshman area to see Grai, right?"
"What! Did I become a person who would shove her friends away just for others?" Hymin rolled her eyes as she snapped back. The grin on her face, however, betrayed her true intentions.
Freshmen of any academy would always consist of the most hardworking and diligent students. Each freshman should have the behavior of a freshman. They should be the first to enter the academy and the first to enter the classroom. As such, the soldier department's first-year classes had already begun when Hymin walked over.
But the morning class today was different from usual. From first-years to third-year seniors to even teachers, everyone was gathering around. While it couldn't be considered a large crowd, it was still enough to completely fill in the small training grounds while also crowding the outside areas.
"Look, Barran is over there!"
"He doesn't seem that fierce and powerful up-close!"
There were even some female students showing interest in Barran. In fact, the conversations between the girls was even bolder than the ones between the boys. Their conversations even managed to make Hymin shiver with goosebumps. The tastes of Barran's fans was of considerable difference from Grai's fans.
When she saw Lily in the crowd, Hymin walked over to greet her. She asked with slight curiosity, "What's with the situation, Lily?"
"Heh. What else could it be but how eye-catching Barran and Grai's performance was yesterday." Lily grinned and continued, "It's fine for Grai as he'd always been strong, but the improvements Barran revealed had been too great. Therefore, several teachers from the third-year soldier department wanted to learn and study from him. They wanted to observe his everyday training sequence. I'm here to accompany those teachers."
"Is that it?" Hymin gawked before laughing out loud, saying, "Then I'm afraid the teachers will leave disappointed."
While everyone else was still curious, she was a part of the nine person squadron and knew how Barran spent every single day just crashing against a wall of the Prodigy Society training room. Everyone in the squadron could see how Barran progressed leaps and bounds in his foundations, but most of this was due to his miraculously recovered broken soul sea. It was just a waste of their time trying to examine Barran's performance during class.
When he arrived for class today, the passion being emitted from his classmates caught the simple Barran off-guard. He watched as the lineup of students came gushing out like a swarm of bees and was so frightened that he assumed he'd entered the wrong place.
After he experienced yesterday's big battle, Barran had grown calmer and less distracted as before. But being the focus of so many people still made him a little uneasy. There were just too many of them. Not only were they people from his class, but there were also people crowding the pathways, windows, and training room. He could hear his name being whispered from time to time as he became the target of everyone's discussions. This kind of attention was really a bit too much for him to handle.
He had even heard how there were quite a number of teachers from the third-year classes within the crowd. Wasn't this just a first-year morning class…
Unable to hold in his curiosity, Barran shot a look at the windows and spotted Senior Sister Hymin and Senior Sister Lily. Senior Sister Hymin was even waving at him.
Senior Sister Hymin is also here… Barran's already flushed face grew even redder. Deep down, he never felt he was anyone outstanding or had any excellence in him. He just took up all of the responsibility he was tasked with accomplishing and even felt he was far from having done them sufficiently.
The morning training for the heavy soldier class went on like blazing wildfire. With the attention of so many people on them, the youths roared with fire and blossomed. They all wanted to show off a worthy performance.
Naturally, everyone had come over to see Barran. But instead of becoming more fired up, Barran had calmed down. His senior had once told him it was enough for him to just be himself. Therefore, after the first few minutes, Barran quickly disregarded everyone else and the commotion they caused and entered his usual training state.
After being flattered by a few of his fellow third-year colleagues all the way up to cloud nine, Teacher Zhao Gang opened his mouth and called, "Barran, Kroft, step forward and prepare for a head-on training!"
Barran replied honestly and stood up. When he heard the teacher's order, Kroft gawked a bit before also standing up.
Kroft was the class monitor of the heavy soldier class and the strongest among the first-year heavy soldier class… or at least, he was once the strongest.
Although he hadn't purposefully bullied Barran in the past, it was common for him to show off a bit of his awesomeness before a weakling like him.
But life was a series of ups and downs and Kroft was not completely convinced. Was Barran's strength really that powerful? If it was, then he definitely didn't show such strength on a day-to-day basis.
Kroft thought about it for a moment. This might be the chance for me to become famous!
The audience of teachers and students in the surroundings immediately quieted down as Barran and Kroft entered the practice arena. Head-on training was a common form of training for heavy soldiers. It pitted explosive power against explosive power, defensive might against defensive might. Both aspects were considered the foundation of any heavy soldier.
Soul power began to condense around the two. Their gazes turned increasingly cold and frosty. As a well-known figure among the first-years, Kroft could be considered a part of a circle of influential characters. High hopes had been placed on him from the start. While he wasn't considered anything within the boundaries of the Federation, he was indeed someone that could be considered 'not bad' within Tianjing Academy. When he entered a combative state, an imposing aura started to radiate from him.
In contrast to Kroft, Barran's state was very weird. The distance between the two was quite close, not like yesterday's competition at all. As such, everyone could feel the atmosphere of the field more clearly.
Comparing the degree of imposingness, it seemed that Kroft was much stronger. Could it be that Barran… hadn't yet recovered from yesterday's fight?
"Start!" The order rang from Zhao Gang's mouth and Kroft immediately charged forth like a rampaging wild bull.
After a split second, Kroft felt as though he'd just suffered a collision against an armoured train. His body was instantly sent fluttering up into the air. So soft…
Everyone was completely dumbstruck. Kroft could be considered this year's most talented heavy soldier recruit. He was the one to take the initiative at the start, yet had actually been directly knocked out…
Neither Lily nor Hymin were the least bit surprised by such a result. Even Adolf's experts had taken heavy damage from Barran's strike. To actually try and take the initiative against a person of such caliber, Kroft was truly seeking his own death.
The teachers watching in their surroundings all nodded in succession. This display was worthy of the heavy soldier profession. One's aura had to be concealed at normal periods and only the instant before an attack should one transform into a ferocious beast. Their soldier department finally had someone who could lead them to glory. Barran had to be properly nurtured.
When he swept his gaze across the other students, Zhao Gang discovered everyone looking at the ground. After seeing how Kroft ended up, no one else dared to test Barran's strength. It was fine to just mingle with the liveliness of the arena, but to personally test that strength was a whole other story.
The class continued on as usual, but the gaze sent by those outside the class had changed after the demonstration. Regardless, Barran just changed his mentality in response and ignored them. He wanted to become strong and knew he hadn't yet achieved the goals his senior had set for him.
When class ended, Hymin rushed to Barran and waved her hands. The action jolted Barran into jogging over.
"The physique of those in your class ain't bad!" Hymin said with a smile as sweet as flowers. "Ah, it's such a pity. If only you all weren't wearing clothes."
Barran immediately felt awkward and just muttered, "Ah?"
"Look at that foolish appearance!" Hymin smiled and handed him the newspaper. "Look! Good news!"
"What's this?" Barran asked while receiving it. He turned the first page and was instantly shocked. The picture had actually turned him into an idiot.
"You made it, Barran! This is feathered headlines!" Lily also started to joke around with him and said, "You've stolen all of the limelight of our squadron. Later, you'll definitely have to treat us!"
"Ah, I will!" Barran's reply was subconscious, and when he sobered up an awkward expression appeared on his face. "Um, Senior Sister Lily, I don't have any money…"
"How will you grow up if you act like that? Still, I'll lend you some if you don't have the money!" Hymin's grin grew as she conveniently hooked her arm around Barran's shoulders. "You'll just have to invite the guests and I'll foot the bill. Isn't you senior sister good?"
Barran was suddenly in near-contact with a mature beauty like Hymin. The fragrance of a woman instantly flooded his heart and lungs, causing the tips of Barran's ears to turn bright red as he tried to muster up a coherent reply. "I, I…"
"What is with all this 'I, I' and 'y, you'." Hymin shot a glare at him before whispering into his ear, "There's just one condition. Help me call up Grai, OK?"
"That's enough, Hymin. Stop bullying Barran." Lily couldn't continue to watch as Barran got teased and spoke up to help him out of his embarrassment. Hymin was good at everything except for one small quirk; she really did love to tease and take liberties with the male students.
Barran hastily nodded his head upon hearing Lily's words. He was slightly unable to endure that kind of atmosphere.
If Barran wanted to treat, then Grai would accept and hold up his promise. Everyone else would unconditionally reject Hymin. After all, it was obvious that Hymin's goal wasn't the alcohol.
As for the others…
Ma Dong? That fellow's opening price was way too high. Scarlet… other girls would be inconvenient. Wang Zhong? How to put it gently… After experiencing the recent events, Hymin felt a little pressure when she spoke with him. He was still their captain after all.
Compared to them all, Barran was the best choice to give out invites and Hymin believed Grai would take the bait if he was the one to place it.
Hymin reserved the seats for their dining location. It was a pretty good restaurant in Tianjing City. Although Hymin couldn't be considered an aristocrat, her family was quite well off and considered the cream of the crop in Tianjing City. Adding in her personal capabilities and she had the capital to do whatever she wanted.
The food wasn't expensive and consisted of just teppanyaki with beer along with an exceptionally good atmosphere. If an outspoken and straightforward man could create a good mood, then nothing needed to be questioned about an outspoken and straightforward great beauty.
Lily, Barran, and even Hymin weren't weren't that particular about their manners during meals. Thus, it didn't take long for them all to stare at Grai.
"Woah, you can even eat gracefully in a place like this, Grai?" Lily couldn't help but blurt out her question. Although she was a girl, she and Hymin paled in comparison to the grace displayed by Grai. He was just like an aristocrat.
Grai gave everyone a faint smile as he replied, "Ah, I have a tendency to eat much slower than others. Barran, that picture of yours was very handsome."
Hearing Grai's words, Barran grew embarrassed. "Actually, I think they should have taken a photo of Senior Wang Zhong."
"Senior's heart is broad and understanding. He wouldn't mind about such an insignificant reputation," Grai replied as he took a sip of his beer.
Hymin couldn't stand it anymore and shouted, "Grai, aren't you a man!? You have to drink beer in bigger mouthfuls! Come on, let's cheer!"
Grai remained unmoved. "My body isn't very suited to drinking alcohol. Please enjoy to your heart's content, senior sister. Barran can accompany you further. Barran, you know senior sister took care of you every single day you were injured. Shouldn't you have a drink with her?"
Barran immediately stood up. "Senior sister, I… I don't know how to speak properly. As such, I shall drink ten cups first!"
Taking up one cup after another, he proceeded to chug them down… Glug, glug, glug… Just like that, ten large mugs were downed by him, making even Grai stare vacantly. Barran really was too honest. Most people would've hit their limits at just three mugs.
How could Hymin not respond? As the stand-out figure among the girls, she couldn't back down from that! "Barran, that's not good! If it hadn't been for your bravery at the time, would I still be here? Your elder sister shall accompany and drink ten mugs!"
As the only two left, Lily and Grai glanced at one another. The current atmosphere had been completely changed after Grai offhandedly changed the subject.
Not everyone was feeling happy and elated while having a drink.
Compared to the laughter and merriment happening on Hymin's side, the scene inside the bar made Wang Zhong wrinkle his forehead slightly. For the sake of finding Ma Dong, Wang Zhong had searched all of the old places Ma Dong loved to hang out at. He had finally caught Ma Dong after quite some difficulty.
Gentle, laid-back music flittered through the bar while dim lights made it hard to clearly spot people. Right now, Ma Dong was currently sitting while drowning himself with alcohol.
Three empty beer bottles lay sideways on the table before him. They were all ones with very high alcohol content.
Great President Ma's hair was in a complete mess. His western-styled necktie was in a mess while his elbows rested on the table. Unfocused eyes stared at the cup in his hand which was half-filled with gold-coloured liquid. A thick stench of alcohol was emitted as he gently rocked the cup.
He seemed to be thinking about something and stayed in this state for quite a while before suddenly laughing in ridicule. The cup was raised toward his mouth.
A large hand reached out past his body and grabbed the cup. PA! A heavy sound rang out as the cup was slammed into the table.
Ma Dong jumped in fright and regained a bit of clarity. He raised his head and found Wang Zhong beside him. A smile appeared as he reached out a hand to grab the shot glass. "Ha. Looks like we brothers are the closest. Come, come, come. Accompany your brother for a few shots. Hey! Bring over another glass."
Wang Zhong drank three shots in silence before looking straight at Ma Dong. "Alright, I've drank my part. Speak. Tell me what's the matter."
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