TOTLS Chapter 94: Arc 6.9

Arc 6: Interstellar Art Soldiers Chapter 9

As the music started, the prelude was a melodious and graceful duet of ancient flute and guqin. When the curtain opened, the audience was presented with a scene of ancient charm.

Tao Yuan wore a red long dress and trousers, a relatively androgynous ancient costume. He chose not to wear a skirt because the dance involved big movements, with lots of leg lifts and jumps.

Tao Yuan was crouching with his back to the audience. As the curtain opened, he slowly stood up, stretching his body, and began to dance.

When he turned around, and his face appeared on the big screen, the audience couldn’t help but gasp in astonishment. This was the first time they experienced what it truly meant to be breathtakingly beautiful.

Tao Yuan’s appearance was not only androgynous but also showcased a blend of softness and strength in his dance movements, giving a strangely handsome and unrestrained impression. Usually, when other cixing cross-dress, there might be a bit of a masculine feel to it. But Tao Yuan’s attire gave them a sensation of a female dressing as a male, exuding both alluring femininity and the grace and elegance of a woman in male attire.

Sitting in the audience, Zuo Lei watched Tao Yuan dance gracefully on the stage, feeling the urge to pull back the curtain to shield him from others’ gazes. Tao Yuan’s mesmerizing eyes seemed to captivate everyone’s heart and soul. Zuo Lei knew that after this performance, more people would be drawn to Tao Yuan, and he couldn’t help but feel a hint of jealousy.

The soldiers in the audience felt their hearts racing and couldn’t help but swallow hard. Tao Yuan’s enchanting gaze had a seductive allure, while the faint smile at the corner of his lips carried an unapproachable and cold aura. Although they were captivated and could even hear their own heartbeat, there were no inappropriate fantasies because of the imposing aura he exuded. It made them feel a sense of respect, and even the slightest fantasy felt like a sin.

As Tao Yuan danced to the rhythm of the music, the audience initially admired his beautiful face. However, as the performance continued, they became more and more captivated by his movements. This dance, combining martial arts elements, was a novelty for them, yet they found it exceptionally mesmerizing and focused their attention on his every move.

In the eyes of those soldiers, Tao Yuan appeared like a blooming red lotus, fiery red like a fire, both alluring and divine.

While everyone else was captivated and focused on Tao Yuan’s performance, Erman stood in a corner on the other side of the stage, clenching his fists tightly, staring at Tao Yuan with extreme jealousy, and his eyes unwilling. 

Seeing Tao Yuan’s beautiful face after make-up, Erman knew he was destined to lose. Watching Tao Yuan’s dance movements, no matter how unwilling he was, he had to admit that at least in the field of dance, he was not as skilled as Tao Yuan.

Anyone with professional dance training could tell that Tao Yuan’s seemingly effortless and graceful movements were actually quite challenging to execute properly. It required a certain level of martial arts skill as well.

Erman had come here worried, but now he had less reason to be concerned. The outcome was already quite apparent, even though the final result hadn’t been announced. The only relief he felt was that Ke Ning hadn’t come to watch Tao Yuan’s performance. Otherwise, he would have been even more anxious.

After the curtain closed, Tao Yuan came down from the stage and took the towel that Lin Ya handed over, wiping the sweat from his forehead and neck. Unlike a musical, where there are breaks in between, a dance performance requires continuous movement. Due to the difficulty of the dance movements, Tao Yuan felt a bit tired even though he performed only for half an hour.

“Thank you for your hard work.” Lin Ya said to Tao Yuan, “I observed the expressions of the soldiers while you were performing. You will definitely be the lead performer in this debut.”

“I danced so hard, if I still can’t get the lead role, then I won’t dance again in the future.” Tao Yuan replied while heading towards the dressing room to remove his makeup.

As the soldiers left the performance hall, they were all excited and thrilled. Some of them had recorded Tao Yuan’s dance performance and couldn’t wait to go back to their rooms to watch it again. Those who had captured the footage were surrounded by other soldiers who were eager to watch the videos. They wouldn’t let them leave until they shared all footage.

As the soldiers watched the recorded clips, they kept discussing and admiring Tao Yuan’s performance.

“It’s so beautiful! Look at his face, it’s like it’s CGI or something. The makeup alone can make him look this good, it’s incredible!”

“I think it’s not just the makeup, but also his aura and dance movements that are amazing. Look at this move, even if I don’t know much about dancing, I can tell these movements are not easy to pull off. It’s truly mesmerizing.”

“The dance movements are fantastic, but I personally love looking at his face. I feel like I could never get tired of it, even if I stare at it for a lifetime.”

“We can only watch the recorded clips, but just the thought of someone being able to see him in person for a lifetime makes me jealous enough to want to beat that person.”

“Don’t be so pessimistic. We also have a chance, even though it’s small. At least for the next two or three years, we’ll be in the same fleet as him, and we’ll have many opportunities to be on the same ship. There’s still a chance, right…?”

“Don’t dream too much. Whether on the ship or at the base, the literary soldiers have dedicated living areas. It’s much harder for us to get close to them than to approach enemy targets.”

“Are we not even allowed to dream? That’s too cruel. I declare that from today, he is my dream lover. But just the thought of him marrying someone else in the future makes my heart ache now…”

“I hope he gets married later, so we can keep our hopes alive for a little longer.”

Two hours after the performance, the recreational area was almost empty. Ke Ning was puzzled as he entered a soldier’s dormitory and saw them all looking at their tablet screens, completely captivated. He curiously asked, “What are you all watching?”

“Squad leader, didn’t you go to see the literary soldier’ performance today?” one soldier looked up and asked.

“No, why?” Ke Ning asked, perplexed. He had promised Erman not to go, so he didn’t attend the performance.

“Squad leader, come and take a look. After seeing this, I guarantee you’ll regret it.”

“Regret? Regret what?” Ke Ning walked over and looked at the soldier’s computer screen. When he saw the face, he was first stunned, then asked, “Who is this?”

“It’s the literary soldier, Luo Xi. Squad leader, you haven’t seen him before, right? Although he looks quite different with this makeup, you can still recognize him.”

Ke Ning stared at the screen for a while, unable to come to his senses. How could he not know who this was? He had never seen the original owner dressed as a woman or dancing like this. Though Tao Yuan’s attire couldn’t be strictly called women’s clothing, the makeup on his face was enchanting but not flamboyant. His dance moves were sometimes gentle like water, sometimes as agile and powerful as a fish. This appearance and posture made him look like a virtual character created by computer technology. Regardless of whether it was real or fake, it was irresistible and stirred something in him.

“Squad leader, do you want me to send it to you?” The soldier asked, wanting to let him use his own communicator or computer to watch since he seemed so engrossed.

Ke Ning snapped out of it, but his eyes were still fixed on the screen. After hesitating for a while, he said, “No need.”

“Really?” The soldier looked surprised because Ke Ning seemed so captivated, yet he refused. But then he immediately understood when he remembered that Ke Ning already had a partner.

Ke Ning got up and walked out, standing in the corridor for a long time, feeling very conflicted and torn inside. He wanted to go back to his room, but as he took a step, he found himself turning around and entering the soldier’s quarters again.

“Squad leader, what’s wrong?” The soldier looked up, puzzled.

“…Send those clips from your computer to my communicator,” Ke Ning whispered to the soldier, suppressing his guilty conscience.

“Oh… but you just said…” The soldier began to reply, but Ke Ning had already turned and walked out again. The soldier felt that Ke Ning’s behavior was strange, but he did as he was asked and sent the clips to him.

Ke Ning looked at his contact list and received the video clips the soldier had sent him. Just then, he received another message from Erman.

After reading Erman’s message, Ke Ning hid the received video clips in a password-protected folder before heading out to meet him.

In this world, people believed in living life to the fullest, even soldiers. When there was no combat, they knew how to relax and enjoy themselves wholeheartedly. They were trained professionals who could switch between being fully focused for battle and completely unwinding and enjoying themselves. In one moment, they could be savoring something, and in the next, they could be entirely immersed in a combat-ready state.

On the spaceship, there were two types of places specifically designated for soldiers to relax alone. One was for physical relaxation, equipped with various facilities to address their needs. The other was a serene and pure place, resembling a café, where they could enjoy massage chairs, have coffee or tea, eat snacks, and watch videos.

While on the base, there were many places for leisure and entertainment, providing numerous options for their dates. However, on the spaceship, they were limited to rendezvousing mainly in the lounge room. Occasionally, they could meet in Ke Ning’s room, but since the vice-captain also shared the room, they didn’t want to inconvenience him too much.

Zuo Lei noticed the reactions of the soldiers. Although he had anticipated the increase in rivals for Tao Yuan’s affection, hearing them express their desire to pursue Tao Yuan still made him feel more agitated than he had expected. Yet, he couldn’t help but feel a somewhat smug irritation.

Later that night, after Tao Yuan and Lin Ya had taken a bath and were lying in bed resting, Lin Ya was continuously updating Tao Yuan on the growing number of gifts he received. Every now and then, Lin Ya would report the count, and by ten minutes after his performance had ended, Tao Yuan’s gift count had already surpassed Erman, reclaiming the top spot. Now, Tao Yuan has received several times more gifts than Erman.

“I really want to see the expressions of those who thought Erman would dominate the leaderboard forever. They must be jealous and anxious now,” Lin Ya said with a laugh while looking at the screen.

Tao Yuan also kept looking at the screen of his communicator, but he was reading the messages sent by Zuo Lei. Zuo Lei had sent numerous messages, all asking Tao Yuan to come and meet him. Tao Yuan purposely didn’t reply to any of them, just to make Zuo Lei anxious. But when he saw the last message, he had to get up and prepare to go meet him.

“I’m going out for a while, might not be back tonight. If there’s anything, message me immediately,” Tao Yuan told Lin Ya.

Lin Ya looked up at him and asked, “Are you two ending the cold war?”

“Let’s see how it goes,” Tao Yuan replied before opening the door and walking out.

Tao Yuan left the Literary Soldiers’ dormitory area and followed the familiar route to Zuo Lei’s room. Since Zuo Lei had messaged him, Tao Yuan decided to go there. Otherwise, Zuo Lei would come to the Literary Soldiers’ dormitory to find him.

Even though Zuo Lei was a Major General and the commander of the Special Operations Unit, he still needed special permission to enter the Literary Soldiers’ dormitory area. Tao Yuan didn’t want Zuo Lei to use his privilege just because they had a little disagreement, so he chose to go and meet him instead. After all, he hadn’t intended to have a cold war with Zuo Lei for too long.

As Tao Yuan walked to a corner, he was suddenly pulled by Zuo Lei and pressed against the wall.

“What are you doing?” Tao Yuan struggled, trying to free his hand.

“Why are you avoiding me and not replying to my messages?” Zuo Lei asked, looking at him.

“You know it in your heart,” Tao Yuan glared at him and replied.

“What did Erman say to you?” Zuo Lei asked again.

“You know why,” Tao Yuan answered in the same way.

Seeing Tao Yuan’s angry expression, Zuo Lei couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with love. He leaned in, wanting to kiss him.

Tao Yuan tilted his head to avoid the kiss, glanced at the position of the cameras, and whispered, “Can’t you wait until we’re in the room to talk about these things? Why do you have to ask me all this in the corridor?”

Zuo Lei didn’t manage to kiss his lips but planted a firm kiss on his face. Then he grabbed Tao Yuan’s hand and hurriedly walked back to his room.

In the monitoring room, the soldiers observed the scene but remained calm and composed. Despite witnessing a secret that others didn’t know yet, they couldn’t discuss it with anyone.

They are all professionally trained, and no matter how significant an event is, it’s challenging to disturb their emotions. However, people have a curious nature. If they come across something extremely serious and confidential that requires secrecy, they won’t get excited. But having gossip that they can share with no one makes them feel a bit frustrated and uncomfortable.

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