Ling Lan smoothly leapt up into the mecha's cockpit, and then swiftly closed the door and activated the mecha. After 3 minutes, on the lower right corner of the display screen, the 3-minute countdown timer appeared once more. As before, the numbers flashed at her, a constant reminder of their presence.
This time, Ling Lan only took one glance at the numbers before looking away. This was not because the string of numbers made her nervous, but because she wanted to focus on the final image being displayed on the screen.
Sure enough, the image on the screen changed, and Ling Lan was once again at the entrance of the test tunnel. The learning space did not give Ling Lan much time to prepare; the numbers on the bottom of the screen began to roll, the countdown had begun ...
This time, Ling Lan did not rush — she did not try to increase her hand speed desperately to push the mecha out as fast as she could — instead, she chose to decrease her hand speed. Her current speed was definitely not fast, with some pauses mixed in at times. She worked hard to coordinate her two hands, and facing the small and narrow tunnel, she controlled the rabbit mecha to hop lightly into it!
This hop was very short, not even 2 metres, not even the length of her rabbit mecha's body. However, this caution guaranteed that she made no mistakes this time. Slowly but steadily, she hopped her way to the centre of the tunnel. There were still no mistakes.
Ling Lan did not rush to make the next jump — only after properly calculating the distance needed did she flex her fingers and operated the mecha to jump.
Having calmed down, no longer affected by the 3-minute countdown, Ling Lan now noticed that this seemingly straight tunnel actually had a slight curve to it. However, it would not be noticeable with the naked eye when moving at fast speeds.
Right then, Ling Lan finally understood why she had kept slamming into walls previously. Having been unaware of the curve of the tunnel walls, even if she had used the coordinate data provided by the mecha and jumped to the marked coordinates, it would not have helped. Because in reality, she had already made a judgement error — all that awaited her was a crash into a wall.
3 minutes time wasn't very long, but it also wasn't very short. Ling Lan had just made her way through roughly 30 or so metres of the tunnel, avoiding several obstacles along the way, when her time ran out. However, Ling Lan was not aware of this. Because this time, strangely enough, the learning space did not impose punishment the moment the countdown hit zero. The electrocution did not happen, and Ling Lan also was not chased back to the starting point. Instead, after the timer hit zero, it did not stop, but continued to count down, going into the negatives ...
All this happened silently, so Ling Lan, who was thoroughly focused on operating her mecha, noticed nothing ... only after she had jumped a few more times, going about 10 metres deeper into the tunnel, did she remember to turn and look at the countdown timer. Ling Lan was wondering why the 3 minutes seemed to stretch on for so long this time.
Ling Lan glanced at the timer and saw that the timer was still moving, but this time, the numbers were not getting smaller, but getting larger and larger. In fright, Ling Lan abruptly stopped her hands, and the rabbit mecha immediately froze and lay down on the ground.
Looking closer, Ling Lan finally saw that the countdown timer was now displaying negative numbers. In other words, she had long gone beyond the allocated 3 minutes. Ling Lan started to think. Before this, she had been too anxious, desperately increasing her speed to charge and slam her way through the course, so much so that she completely ignored her surroundings. Thus, she had slammed into the walls repeatedly, and the final outcome was getting electrocuted after the timer ran out and being sent back to the beginning ... why did the learning space not react this time, seemingly content to let her do as she pleased?
Ling Lan thought back to when she had pushed open the 'Mecha' door, and her conversation then with Instructor Number Three. She recalled how she had so easily fallen for Instructor Number Three's misdirection and believed that there would be punishment if she did not finish the mission after the 3 minutes on the timer ran out. She thought about how she had become overwhelmed with panic and frantically tried to make her mecha run forwards recklessly ... she had really been so bloody stupid!
She had actually forgotten that, in the learning space, before a mission's deadline was up, there would not be any punishment for failing in training! She had had 7 full years of learning experience — and she had completely forgotten everything in that split second. No wonder the learning space had gotten mad. It had to be said that, ever since she had managed to obtain Ling Xiao's legacy from right under the military's noses, Ling Lan had become a little cocky. This made her lose her initial sense of caution.
Ling Lan mocked herself, "How shameful! I actually neglected such an obvious clue. And this trap would have been discovered easily if I had just stopped to think ... is this because I've lost my mental balance? Because I thought I was stronger than most other people, so I became too proud?"
Was the learning space trying to tell me through punishment that I still don't have the right to strut around with my tail up? Ling Lan had the realization that this electrocution wasn't punishing her for failing, but was punishing her for her recklessness and carelessness, as well as her loss of mental balance. This was a warning from the learning space!
Ling Lan's lips curved up into a slight smile, her eyes glittering. Although the learning space was somewhat offbeat at times, it would always step in to prevent her from making mistakes at key moments. She really felt that she was extremely fortunate to have received the learning space.
Having thought things through, Ling Lan's mind was at peace. She no longer worried about the so-called countdown timer, but merely focused all her attention on operating the mecha to slowly manoeuvre her way through this tunnel. The start of the tunnel was so narrow that it only allowed one mecha to squeeze through at a time, and though the tunnel gradually widened out, the number of obstacles also increased. There were even sections where there were obstacle piles, which required several consecutive hops to clear.
Ling Lan overcame each and every one of the challenges of the tunnel, but then, a new problem appeared. A huge boulder appeared before Ling Lan, and there just was not enough space on either side of the boulder for the large rabbit mecha to pass through. Moreover, there were several rocks of uneven height below the large boulder as well; this completely prevented any challenger from passing through the bottom of the boulder.
It only took one look for Ling Lan to determine the path she should take. Right at the top of the boulder, there was a 'coincidental' gap with just enough room for the rabbit mecha to leap through. Note that she said 'leap through'. In other words, this time, she needed to make sure the rabbit mecha jumped high enough to reach the gap and moved forwards enough to clear the boulder, otherwise it would be all too easy to slam into the rock.
Ling Lan let the rabbit mecha's A.I. analyse the path she needed to take for this jump, along with the controls necessary for it. She then visualized it over and over in her mind, and only after she felt somewhat confident about it, did she get ready to move.
She controlled the mecha to retreat around 10 metres — the boulder was too tall, so she needed to use a run-up approach to build up momentum. The first time, Ling Lan sprinted up to the rock, but when she reached the jumping point, she felt that there was a deviation in her positioning and hit the emergency brakes. The mecha only managed to stop at a distance of 0.01 metres away from the rock, scaring the cold sweat out of Ling Lan.
The second time, she got the jumping position right, but she did not use enough power to reach the required height. Luckily, Ling Lan reacted quickly — at the moment she was about to hit the rock, she controlled the rabbit to kick out with its limbs at the rock, sending the mecha into a flip. She then controlled the mecha to land safely, avoiding the tragedy of slamming into the boulder ...
These two failures gave Ling Lan a better idea of what to expect. On her third try, with a steady grasp of all the key points, Ling Lan successfully got her mecha to leap swiftly through the gap at the top of the boulder. At this moment, Ling Lan was still unaware that making her way through the various obstacles in the course had steadily built up her proficiency with the rabbit mecha's controls. From being flustered at the beginning, till being able to handle unforeseen circumstances with ease now, Ling Lan's improvement was truly phenomenal.
Meanwhile, Ling Lan was still adjusting. In order to handle all sorts of scenarios, she had subconsciously begun slowly merging the combat moves she had learned in real life with her mecha control process. And this, was truly the ultimate objective of this tunnel mission.
Within the learning space, the passing standard for mecha operators was that a mecha operator had to be able to control a mecha as if it were their own hands and feet, just as if the mecha were an extension of their own bodies. And this wasn't something many people could do in the real world.
So, if Ling Lan wanted to pass, she still had much training to do to hone her mecha control! This also gave Ling Lan the false impression for a while that her mecha control was terrible ...
After overcoming several more obstacles, Ling Lan finally arrived at the finish line, completing a full run of the tunnel. The time she used was slightly less than 32 minutes and 13 seconds. Of course, this duration was worlds apart from the mission requirement of 3 minutes. Still, Ling Lan wasn't particularly worried. This was because she knew that she had limited her hand speed for this run, keeping it at a normal level. Besides, this first full run was just to map out the tunnel and get to know the situation inside it, so she had wasted a lot of time at every obstacle. The second time would be different.
Reality proved that it was indeed as Ling Lan had expected. The second time, Ling Lan directly shortened the time used to 23 minutes, and her third pass was infinitely close to 20 minutes. However, this time became her current limit — in the following fourth, fifth, and sixth attempts, she maintained this result, never being able to break past the 20 minute barrier.
To ensure that she did not make a mistake and slam into the wall again, Ling Lan still did not unleash her hand speed; she continued to use the hand speed she used at the start to control the mecha. But after testing out several different ways of jumping without being able to break past the 20 minute barrier, Ling Lan decided to increase her hand speed by one level.
However, after raising her hand speed, Ling Lan started making mistakes. Although she was still extremely careful, she still could not help but lose control at a particularly sharp turn, slipping out of her intended path to careen towards the wall. But Ling Lan reacted quickly, no longer allowing herself to slam helplessly into the wall like before. Instead, she used all four limbs of the mecha to kick off from the wall, and riding the rebound, she moved her mecha back on the correct path. Of course, this was also due to the fact that her speed was not yet at the maximum, and so was still within the limits of Ling Lan's control.
Just like this, she shuffled and stumbled her way through the tunnel — she then found that her time had not gotten any better, and had in fact gotten slower than before, clocking in at around 21 minutes. However, Ling Lan was not discouraged. This new speed would require some adjustment, and in the process of adjustment, it was perfectly normal to make some mistakes. As such, the time delay was within her expectations.
When she managed to fully get used to the new speed, Ling Lan was sure that she would be able to shorten the time to below 20 minutes.
And so Ling Lan maintained this speed, and went through the tunnel again and again, making adjustment after adjustment ...
The night passed without conversation — Ling Lan did not even know when she was kicked out by the learning space. From early the next day, aside from the classes that she had to attend, Ling Lan spent all her time in the learning space training to pass the mission.
Of course, to reassure her mum, Ling Lan pretended to be in the virtual world by lying in a login pod. Ling Lan naturally also did not forget to instruct Little Four to fake her appearance in the virtual world to collect information from all the major subject halls. She had not forgotten the threat within the military — it would not do to let that party notice anything amiss.be cocky