Ling Lan had initially thought that she would have to stay in this virtual forest for up to two or three years before she would get used to it and see some results … but in reality, humans were exceedingly smart and adaptable creatures. Especially for those who were already equipped with offensive and defensive abilities, adapting to this dangerous environment was even easier than expected. Within a month, Ling Lan was now able to move freely through the forest.
Ling Lan had never been a reckless person, so when Instructor Number One had disappeared, she had been very, very cautious with her every step. After all, having never been in the wild before, the forest was an unknown swathe of darkness in her eyes. Furthermore, she strongly believed that this forest was a terrifying place — so her first thought was not about hunting, but rather on how she would be able to survive to see the light of the next day.
Reality proved that she had still been too naïve and had underestimated the dangers of the forest. She had not even made it till the night of the first day before she had been bitten by some unknown venomous insects hidden within the grass. This was her first experience with death — in the net-speak of her previous world, her virgin death.
Frankly, Ling Lan’s virgin death was not at all easy. It could even be described as gory, capable of turning the stomach of anyone who saw it — the scene of her death was unbelievably horrific.
For the rest of her life, Ling Lan never wanted to experience that sort of death ever again. The venom of the insects had been potently vicious, causing immense pain to its victim. This pain was even worse than the pain she had endured through her sickness from her previous life, even more penetrating than the pain she had endured during the medicinal baths of this life — because on top of the pain, was an uncontrollable itch that could not be resisted … she would never forget it.
For three whole days, Ling Lan had suffered and itched. She had watched as she personally scratched away the bloody flesh from her body bit by bit, and all she had felt then was relief and a perverse sort of pleasure, until her body had been reduced to scraps of skin and flesh hanging on an almost empty skeleton. Only then did she breathe her last breath.
Back then, she had thought that that was the end of it, that she was finally free from the torments of this forest, free to go back to reality. But when she opened her eyes once again, she was back where Instructor Number One had first dumped her, still within the forest. It was then that Ling Lan realised that this virtual world created by the learning space was not as simple as she had assumed — she would not be able to return to reality just by waiting it out.
It was tied up with a mission — so until the mission was completed, she was stuck here, unable to return.
Thus, even though she was still traumatised by her first death experience, for the sake of returning to reality, Ling Lan had no choice but to buck up and force herself to continue exploring the forest so that she could complete her mission. Ling Lan had not forgotten what Instructor Number One had said — his words had clearly indicated that she was to learn how to hunt.
However, when Ling Lan managed to kill one of the forest creatures weaker than her, the learning space did not react at all. This told Ling Lan that she would not be able to accomplish this mission on a technicality — she would most likely have to kill a fierce beast several times stronger than her for it to count.
And so she started challenging this primordial forest. She encountered many dangers along the way — some she managed to escape, while most of the others naturally resulted in her death.
She had been devoured by a swarm of ants, eaten alive until she was nothing but bones. She had been ambushed by an adorable looking animal, small but vicious, ending up as its meal. And she had also died from eating some poisonous fruits by accident, as well as experienced being bitten by some pestilent mosquitoes, dying in the end from the ravages of disease.
However, all these countless deaths were not for nothing — Ling Lan gradually learned how to survive in this primordial forest. She absorbed all the knowledge she gained from her deaths, throwing away the kind and softer emotions that were unnecessary here, only keeping her level-headedness and her ruthlessness. From then on, all the creatures in the forest had only two labels in her eyes ——‘threat’ or ‘food’.
Through it all, Ling Lan gradually shifted from her initial timid and uncertain self into her current cool and self-composed persona. She could now face any danger without fear, and confidence oozed from her every pore. The entire forest was like her own backyard to her now — she knew all the animals and hazards here as well as the palm of her hand.
This time, she had decided to hunt the swamp king after much thought and consideration. Even though the terrain here was more treacherous than many other areas within the forest, this also meant that the swamp king had a much lower guard than the other kings of the forest. Due to a lack of contest, the swamp king was also comparatively weaker, and although the terrain was to the swamp king’s advantage, it wasn’t necessarily a disadvantage for Ling Lan either.
And so, Ling Lan had set a trap. Her first few attempts all ended in failure, where she often ended up as the swamp king’s excrement, only managing to escape a handful of times. However, every failure added to her experience and Ling Lan slowly but surely started to grasp the swamp king’s hunting habits. To give the swamp king a false sense of security, although Ling Lan had been lying in ambush every day, she had not made a move for over a week …
Ling Lan could still remember Instructor Number One’s rebuke, saying that she did not know how to mix feints into her attacks, that continuous sneak attacks were not really sneak attacks anymore. And Ling Lan did not want to make the same mistake twice.
Finally, today, Ling Lan saw a rare opportunity. Perhaps because Ling Lan had not attacked at all this week, the swamp king seemed to think that it had killed off all the stupid animals that dared threaten it. Moreover, it had just managed to capture its favourite snack of juicy, tender water snake, putting it in a great mood, and so it had subconsciously let down its guard …
Which was when Ling Lan had struck. This time, Ling Lan finally managed to deal a beautiful killing blow, which was also proof that Ling Lan had truly mastered the art of hiding her killing intent, successfully nabbing her prey.
As the swamp king fell dead before her, Ling Lan closed her eyes and reflected on how she had felt back when she had dealt the killing blow. There had been no agitation, no excitement, only cool patience and focus — Ling Lan savoured the difference between her previous attacks and this one, and understood that she had been too hasty before, too concerned with the final outcome to maintain her composure. The moment the still pool of her emotions had rippled, her killing intent had seeped out.
Ling Lan laughed as her hands tightened into fists. Perhaps she could go back now and leave this godforsaken place behind. Although Ling Lan was no longer afraid of the primordial forest, it didn’t mean she liked it here. It was too lonely here – there was no one to talk to, no one to spare her any bit of warmth – she was just about to have a breakdown over the imposed solitude. It was just fortunate that she had great mental fortitude, otherwise she’d have already been driven insane by now.
Just then, Ling Lan sensed a change in her surroundings, coming from right behind her. She did not turn around, but her posture shifted minutely so that she would be ready to defend herself and fight back at any moment.
"Not bad at all!" A familiar voice rang out from behind her, and Ling Lan felt rage roil within her even as she felt a profound sense of relief.
Without thinking, she sprung backwards with a dip of her feet, leaning back as she flew through the air, flipped into a somersault, and then facing that man, she resolutely unleashed her leg into a savage kick aimed in his direction …
Dammit, Number One, you bastard! I’ll kick you to death! The long-suffering Ling Lan could no longer keep calm.
Instructor Number One was expressionless as always — seeing Ling Lan’s attack, he did not even move his feet, merely holding out two fingers and aiming them at Ling Lan’s incoming foot.
"Bam!" The two clashed, producing a rather muffled sound, and Ling Lan felt a huge wave of energy swell from the bottom of her foot. Her entire body was thrown backwards, and that delicate foot that was capable of crushing the swamp king’s skull actually felt a little numb, losing all combat ability in a moment.
Ling Lan took control of her body in mid-air with a twist of her waist, allowing her to land on her feet right back where she had started, on top of the dead swamp king’s head.