On this day, as usual, Ling Lan was entering the combat room to carry out her basic training. However, not long after she began, she was interrupted by a grim-faced Ling Qin.
"Grandpa Ling Qin? Is something wrong?" Seeing the other's solemn expression, Ling Lan halted her movements to ask, as she grabbed a towel to wipe off her sweat.
"Master, we just received an urgent notification that the newly promoted General Ling is on his way to visit you." Ling Qin's expression was extremely perplexed.
It should be known that generals were the true military authority below the marshal — there were only nine of them in the entire Federation, inclusive of this newly promoted general. Each and every one of them was a commander-in-chief of one or more army divisions. Just a simple stomp of their feet was able to make the earth quake and the mountains shake within the Federation. This kind of personage whom they had to look up to in the past ... why would someone like that make a personal visit to the Ling family?
If the old family head Ling Xiao had still been alive, he would not have found this so strange. After all, Ling Xiao was one of the mere twelve god-class operators of the Federation — even the marshal did not dare take him lightly. Thus, these generals too would not dare to treat him flippantly, so it was not impossible for them to come pay a visit. But now, the family head of the Ling family was Ling Lan who had barely turned 16. Furthermore, to the outside world, he was a youth who had sustained serious injuries which had limited his growth. A typical person would never pay much attention to the Ling family like this ...
What worried Ling Qin the most was that the other's surname was Ling. Ling Qin could not help but be suspicious — could this visiting general be part of the old Ling elite family that they had chased out of Doha?
If that was the case, this might very likely be a warning from the other party. It could be that this visit may be to force the Ling family into paying some price! Unavoidably, some apprehension reared up in Ling Qin's heart.
Hearing this, Ling Lan frowned lightly. She too was a little bothered by this surname Ling. However, she was not thinking as far or as complicated as Ling Qin was. She was only a little bummed because it had taken her so much effort to distance herself from the sights of the upper ranks of the military, but now all that effort may be wiped away by this General Ling's visit. This was going against her original plans.
Still, Ling Lan knew that since the military had already notified them, they were not in a position to refuse. She could only go with the flow and take things as they came.
"Grandpa Ling Qin, make preparations, and then we'll play things by ear!" Ling Lan still had a trump card in hand — she was the orphaned child of the god-class operator Ling Xiao. Even if this General Ling had any evil intentions against the Ling family, he would not dare to be too blatant about it.
"Yes, Family Head!" Ling Qin left with his orders.
Only then did Ling Lan return to her bedroom and change into a set of formal attire suitable for meeting guests. Since the other was a general, she could not afford to give offense.
As for Lan Luofeng, neither Ling Qin nor Ling Lan notified her. Ling Qin did not, because Ling Lan was already the family head of the Ling family. All household matters would be carried out according to Ling Lan's will — only if Ling Lan was not present would Ling Qin consider notifying Lan Luofeng. Meanwhile, Ling Lan did not, because she did not want to disturb Lan Luofeng with these matters. Ever since three years ago when Ling Xiao's legacy space had disappeared and his shade's final words were a reminder to take care of Lan Luofeng, Ling Lan had solidified Lan Luofeng as someone she would protect for the rest of her life.
When Ling Lan and company received the news that the general's car was about to arrive, Ling Lan led Ling Qin and Ling Yu to stand at the Ling family mansion gates to wait respectfully. As a common citizen with no battle exploits or ranking to her name, Ling Lan did not yet possess the right to wait indoors to greet the general.
The first thing that came into view were two miniature mecha. Ling Lan could tell from the emblem at their chests that they were part of the mecha escort forces available to those of general rank in the military. Behind them was a convoy consisting of five luxury hover cars, with three miniature mecha on each side, and another two miniature mecha protecting the convoy's flank. The entire procession was flying swiftly towards them.
The general's procession was surprisingly simple, not at all as ostentatious as Ling Lan had expected. Ten miniature mecha and five luxury hover cars, so simple was the convoy which made its way over. This gave Ling Lan a better impression of this General Ling; at the very least, he did not give off an air of oppression.
When the convoy arrived at the Ling family gates, the ten mecha hovered up in the air, beginning to monitor all directions of the convoy. At the same time, from four of the luxury hover cars, ten or so fully-equipped guards disembarked and swiftly formed a large circle around the last remaining hover car in a tight defensive formation.
Subsequently, the car door on the assistant seat's side of that last hover car opened, and a major who was approximately 30 years old stepped out from the car. After taking a careful look around, he then opened the back door of the hover car.
Ling Lan then saw a figure dressed in a general's uniform step out from the hover car, head bowed and waist bent. She did not know if it was just a misperception, but Ling Lan sensed that the other was somewhat nervous in that split second when he had stepped out of the car ... this made Ling Lan rather puzzled.
But this was no time to ponder. Ling Lan quickly suppressed this puzzlement and rallied her spirits, and led Ling Qin and Ling Yu to hurry forwards in welcome.
Right then, that General Ling lifted his head and looked over. When his eyes met Ling Lan's, the both of them felt a jolt in their hearts.
The moment Ling Lan saw that person's face, she almost lost all colour in her face. That face was still clearly etched in her memory — not only because Lan Luofeng constantly rambled at her with Ling Xiao's picture before her face, but because that face had accompanied her through a large part of her childhood in the legacy space.
Ling Qin's reaction was even worse. Overcome with emotion, he could not stop his body from trembling, his jaw opening wide, trying to call out that name in his memories. But perhaps due to being too emotional, his voice just would not work.
"Uncle Qin, long time no see!" Seeing this, Ling Xiao could not help but greet him with a wry smile. Meeting the person who had taken care of him from young again after 17 years, his feelings were a complicated mess — he almost burst into uncontrollable tears.
"Master ..." Ling Qin finally squeezed out, his tears unlocked in a sudden torrent.
As the current leader of the Ling family mecha squad, Ling Yu's heart was also filled with stunned shock. After all, Ling Xiao was the idol of his youth. However, compared to Ling Qin's emotional state, he was somewhat calmer. This was because he was now the leader of the mecha protection squad of the current family head, Ling Lan. As such, he was only loyal to Ling Lan, so even in his excitement, he reflexively looked towards Ling Lan for instruction.
"Your Excellency General Ling, please forgive the attendants of yours truly for their disrespect! Please come in!" Ling Lan threw a cold glance at Ling Qin, jolting Ling Qin to awareness instantly. He knew that he had forgotten himself, and quickly stepped back to stand behind Ling Lan, no longer daring to even look at Ling Xiao.
Right then, Ling Lan had become extremely calm. The torments she had suffered for 16 years in the learning space showed their extraordinary results now — Ling Lan did not lose her composure just because the other looked like Ling Xiao. Before the other properly expressed his identity, they could not afford to trip over themselves.
Ling Lan's courteous response caused Ling Xiao's steps to slow, and the smile on his face froze for a beat. However, he knew that this was not an appropriate place for discussion, so he braced himself and walked through the gates.
This was clearly his own home, but now it was like he was just here as a visitor! Looking at his son's attitude, he was extremely unwelcome ... there was no hint of pleasant surprise at seeing his father. Instead, his son was carefully on guard against him, just as if he had come to steal something or another — this was really too much! Resentment sprouted in Ling Xiao's heart — he had wanted to hug him close or do something along those lines, but unfortunately, it looked like his son would not give him this chance.
Ling Lan watched Ling Xiao walking ahead of her, and her mind started turning in puzzlement: What was going on? Could it be that this Ling Xiao before her was really Ling Xiao? The Federation used genetical DNA testing to determine a person's real identity though, so this completely precluded the possibility of someone impersonating Ling Xiao through plastic surgery. Still, Ling Lan could not help but be suspicious — because this General Ling had truly appeared at such a coincidental time. Ling Lan still remembered that Ling Xiao's legacy space had disappeared three years ago ...
Of course, perhaps the Ling Xiao before her was really Ling Xiao — but then why did he fake his death for 17 years? And why had he suddenly chosen to resurface again now? Was there some deep mystery to explain this? He had to go complete some top secret mission? And so had no choice but to fake his death? Or perhaps Ling Xiao had not died on the way to that battlefield, but had been rescued and lost his memory?
At this moment, Ling Lan was filling in the blanks in her mind with her imagination, countless scenarios flashing through her head. In particular, imagining the possibility that Ling Xiao had remarried and birthed more children during his amnesia, only to suddenly regain his memory 17 years later to return home ... a blaze of anger flared in Ling Lan's heart. Whatever the case, it was an injustice to her mother Lan Luofeng. Casting aside one's wife and child for his career, status, and prestige — this man deserves to be killed! Remarrying and starting a new family due to memory loss, it would be fine if he just stayed away and never returned. But coming back to try and enjoy a life with two separate families — he would still deserve to be killed!
Ling Xiao, who was walking ahead, suddenly felt a chill run through his body. Somehow, he kept sensing some unexplainable killing intent around him ... but who here would want to kill him? Ling Xiao shook his head, baffled, and chased away that chill in his heart.
Entering the Ling family mansion, Ling Xiao saw the familiar great hall before his eyes. A photo of him and Lan Luofeng still hung on the wall, but of course there was now a new picture beside it. It was a photo of Ling Lan on the day she turned 16 years old.
This familiar setting caused Ling Xiao's eyes to well up with heat, tears almost falling from his eyes. Fortunately, the trials he had gone through in these past few years had made his heart much stronger than it had been 17 years ago; Ling Xiao managed to control this surge of emotion.
"Uncle Qin, where's Luofeng? Is she doing well?" First off, Ling Xiao wanted to know whether the person that mattered most in his heart was doing well.
Ling Qin was just about to answer when he thought of something. He turned to look at Ling Lan, waiting for her instruction. Although Ling Xiao was Ling Lan's father, Lan Luofeng's husband and their previous family head, the present family head was Ling Lan. He needed to first obtain Ling Lan's approval before responding.
From Ling Lan's behaviour at the gates, Ling Qin perceptively sensed Ling Lan's unhappiness with Ling Xiao. There was even some wariness in her demeanour. This made Ling Qin have no choice but to become cautious as well — as his emotions slowly settled down, Ling Qin too began thinking that the sudden appearance of this General Ling before them was just too coincidental.
After all, Ling Xiao had already been officially dead for 17 years ... if this General Ling was really Ling Xiao, then why had he hidden away for these 17 years? Ling Qin's gut feeling was that there was a deeper story behind all this. Before he could remain level-headed in the face of Ling Xiao's return to life, it would be better for him not to act presumptuously. He might as well leave the current situation in the hands of his current family head, Young Master Lan.
These past 3 years, Ling Lan's performance at home had completely convinced Ling Qin. He believed that Ling Lan was fully capable of handling all this — so he lowered his head and kept silent, taking one step back to make Ling Lan stand out more. With this move, he was showing Ling Xiao that Ling Lan was the current master of the Ling family.