“What’s there to bet? Ye Xingling is going to lose for sure!” Many said.
In their eyes, Ye Xingling and Lu Tao were in different classes altogether. There was just no way of setting up the betting odds.
Xia Ling maintained a calm expression, did a few warm-up stretches, and then indicated for the referee to start. The referee, who was chosen by the trainees who were watching on from the sidelines, upon seeing that Xia Ling was ready, verified with Lu Tao that he, too, was ready to start before signaling the start of the battle.
It was naturally disadvantageous for females to do the windmill dance move, but nobody could take their eyes off Xia Ling as she placed her hands on the ground, stretched herself out, and started to spin. Her long, straight legs gracefully kicked through the air in a perfect arc, cleanly, purposefully, and with a flair that could only be executed due to her confidence. Many people practiced the windmill move, but those who could execute the typically gruff dance move with such flair and elegance were few and far between. No, more accurately, no other person could do so.
The gaze of many onlookers landed on Xia Ling, and they remained staring at her.
“Oh my God, is this even the windmill…” A girl remarked in awe. “She’s so graceful. It doesn’t look like a break dance at all.”
“Yeah…” Another boy continued. “It’s both beautiful and cool. Her dance is one of a kind.”
Xia Ling’s focus at this moment was not on the murmurings of the crowd, but instead on the spinning world in front of her eyes. Colorful and confident. Although her forte was not in break dancing, this did not mean she was not good at it. In her past life, she filmed an MV that required her to do the windmill on set. The director then suggested that she use a stunt double, but Xia Ling had insisted on completing the move herself. For that MV, she trained hard to learn the move for quite some time, developing an interest in it along the way. Even after filming the MV, she would do the dance the move every now and then for fun, treating it as her daily exercise and training both her coordination and flexibility.
Pei Ziheng had even said that she was blessed by the Gods. Many had tried to learn the dance move for years but failed. She, on the other hand, learned it while treating it as a game, and easily hit a number of spins that was simply shocking.
Xia Ling’s thought drifted further away. Pei Ziheng… did he ever consider how much work she had to put in to be able to build her dance foundation to such a level? To be able to excel in all dance styles and to use them flexibly to fit every song and situation?
She vaguely heard the people around her counting out loud.
Those in front were counting for Lu Tao. “32, 33, 34…”
Those at the back were counting for her. “29, 30, 31…”
She had started at the same time as Lu Tao, but her speed of spinning was much slower than Lu Tao’s. That was inevitable since Lu Tao’s specialty was in break dancing, which required the moves to be slick and cool. In her case, when she was filming the MV, the director had requested for a slow take to bring out a mysterious and enchanting atmosphere. Even later, when she was doing the windmill for fun, she had focused more on an aerobic, flexible style.
She had never trained for speed.
Lu Tao spun faster and faster, seemingly never getting tired. “46, 47, 48…”
Xia Ling continued to follow at her own slower pace. “40, 41, 42…”
A look of surprise slowly entered Lu Tao’s eyes, since he had never thought that there would be anyone other than him that could persist for so long. The number of times that he looked toward Xia Ling while switching hands became increasingly frequent.
Xia Ling had a simple principle in mind. If Lu Tao did not stop, neither would she.
Finally, Lu Tao ran out of steam. As the crowd chanted “67”, he stopped abruptly and stood up. He ignored those who ran up to him with towels and water, keeping his eyes glued on Xia Ling’s moves, his lips pursed in concentration.
Xia Ling continued to spin at her pace, and the counting around her continued. “59, 60, 61…”
“Gosh, even Lu Tao stopped but she’s still going strong…”
“But she’s still lagging behind Lu Tao in terms of count.”
“Yeah, that’s true, but look at how stable Ye Xingling is. She’s going to overtake him…”
“66, 67, 68… Ah, she’s overtaken him! She has really overtaken Lu Tao!!”
The buzz of the crowd became louder, and the chants counting for Xia Ling became louder and more numerous. “69, 70, 71…”
They all seemed to be excited that she had overtaken Lu Tao. After all, it was not every day that something so out of the ordinary happened. Xia Ling listened carefully, and as they shouted out “75”, she stopped decisively. She just needed to beat Lu Tao, there was no need to win by too large a margin.
Groans of disappointment rang out from all around—
“Ah what a pity, she stopped…”
“She’s already spun for so long. What’s more, she’s a girl. It’s normal that her body couldn’t take it anymore…”
Amidst the murmurings, Lu Tao’s expression was dark. “Why did you stop?”
Xia Ling replied simply. “I’m tired.”
He glared at her as if he was trying to ascertain whether she was lying.
She simply smiled at him and said, “You lost.”
His face immediately contorted into a frown, as the news had just sunk in. Following which, he came up to Xia Ling with a dark expression and then knelt in front of her.
“Ye Xingling, I apologize.” He knelt without hesitation, showing responsibility for his wager.
Xia Ling had only wanted to see a change in attitude, to let everyone know that she was not easy to deal with so that they would not bother her anymore. Now that Lu Tao had admitted defeat, she had no intention of making life difficult for him. “You can stand up,” she said, and then turned to leave.
“Ye Xingling!” Lu Tao called from behind.
Xia Ling stopped in her tracks and then heard him ask. “Where did you learn to windmill?”
She did not reply and simply waved her hand with her back still to him, pushing her way out of the crowd.
Luo Luo, who had joined the crowd midway through the battle, wrestled Xia Ling as she walked out. “Xingling! How could you make such a dangerous bet with him! What if you had lost? You can’t be so wilful!”
As Luo Luo talked, her eyes started to turn red, and she looked like she was about to cry.
It would be a lie to say that Xia Ling was not touched by Luo Luo’s action. For someone with no relationship with her to be willing to show such loyalty and concern towards her… she simply could not handle it. Xia Ling didn’t want to experience the same betrayal and despair in her past life. In this life, she was determined to not have any relationships with anyone. Relationships scared her.
“Don’t cry for me.” She pushed Luo Luo away and turned around. “I can take care of myself, it has nothing to do with you.”
There was silence behind her for a moment, before she felt Luo Luo hug her tighter. “What do you mean it has nothing to do with me? We’re friends!”
“Friend…” Xia Ling shut her eyes momentarily and said, “There is no such a word in my dictionary.”
The small frame behind her froze. Xia Ling hesitated for a moment, but still pushed Luo Luo away. In that instant, she felt empty and reluctant to part.
Even if it was just for an instant.
Around her were the murmurings of the crowd. Clearly, for the onlookers the huge scene today was absolutely worth their while. First, the massive upset that Xia Ling performed, beating out Lu Tao. Following which, the falling out between Luo Luo and her.
Many were pointing at Xia Ling as they discussed the happenings enigmatically.
“I was just feeling such respect for her for having beat Lu Tao. Who would expect that she would treat her friend like that after achieving success? Did she forget who was by her side when she was almost kicked out of the academy?”
“Indeed, what an ingrate.”
Xia Ling walked towards the door in the midst of their criticisms but couldn’t resist looking back. Luo Luo’s small frame was still rooted to the same spot, with the crowd intentionally keeping their distance. She looked lonely and helpless.
Xia Ling hardened her heart as she turned and walked away.