"Still able to unleash your anger, I see. Looks like you've adapted well." Number One stood in the air before Ling Lan, an almost imperceptible trace of mirth in his eyes as he acknowledged Ling Lan's achievements for the first time.
Ling Lan couldn't help the little surge of happiness she felt at Instructor Number One's words, feeling as if she had been praised by an elder. However, Ling Lan was not so easily placated — her face stony, she asked huffily, "Instructor Number One, weren't you afraid that I would be driven insane by this cruel environment?"
Ling Lan knew very well that if she hadn't been so mentally resilient, this primordial forest was totally capable of driving a regular adult out of his or her mind, much less an apparent six year old child like her. No matter how talented the child was, he or she would not be able to survive for long in this fearsome forest.
Although one could revive countless times in here, the various horrific ways of dying and their realistic rendering upon one's body was more than enough to devastate a child's growing mind, mission notwithstanding.
Ling Lan was very doubtful — was this learning space truly meant to cultivate children, or was it actually meant to destroy a child's future? Thus, she spilled her doubts to Number One.
Number One's expression remained impassive, as he asked in return, "Are you insane?" Implied was the fact that Ling Lan's apparent sanity made her protests moot. If Ling Lan had truly become insane, then she wouldn't have been able to protest anyway ...
Ling Lan stared up at the sky, speechless, weeping internally. Hells, she knew better now. As hosts, they had no true power whatsoever — as they grew up, they were subject to the cruel bullying of the learning space, with no room at all to fight back.
Satisfied with Ling Lan's acquiescence, Number One said, "Since you have completed the mission, the learning space will not skimp on your reward."
That said, Ling Lan immediately heard the notification from the learning space's system. "Hunting mission completed, 50 honour points awarded."
Hells, this learning space was so goddamn stingy!
Ling Lan spat in her heart. This proved that her original hypothesis had not been wrong — honour points were indeed difficult to obtain. This extreme mission which had almost driven her insane was only worth 50 points! She couldn't help but rejoice that she had not carelessly wasted those honour points she had received in the beginning.
After the system had rewarded her, Number One did not say anything, only flicking a finger. The environment around them twisted once again, and the endless greenery, the swamp, and the skeletons all faded away, to be replaced by an empty field.
They had once again returned to the learning space where she had learned physical skills from Instructor Number Nine. Looking at the familiar grounds, Ling Lan was struck by how beautiful this scenery before her was for the first time ... even though there really was nothing in front of her.
"Time is almost up — you should go back. Remember to contain your malevolent aura ..." Without clarifying further, Instructor Number One summarily kicked Ling Lan out of the learning grounds, and in the very next second, Ling Lan had appeared within the great hall of the mind-space.
In a corner, Little Four was seated in a thinking pose. As if sensing something, he lifted his head suddenly, and his eyes filled with joy as he saw Ling Lan. Just as he was about to pounce on her, he suddenly leapt back instead, scurrying to hide behind a large pillar in panic. From there, he peeked out warily, and said, "Boss?"
Little Four's shiftiness irritated Ling Lan. With a flying leap, she had grabbed hold of Little Four's earlobe before he could react.
"Little Four, what are you running away for…" sneered Ling Lan. Although she could do nothing against Instructor Number One, it was a piece of cake for her to handle the rascal Little Four.
"Objection! Objection! You promised me that you would never again use violence on me!" Little Four protested, jumping up and down in rage, and his initial fear fled. Trying to use violence on him — this must be Boss Ling Lan. Just for a moment, he had mistaken Ling Lan for someone else, a malevolent butcher filled with bloodthirst and killing intent …
With an annoyed huff, Ling Lan released Little Four's ear, asking, "Then why were you acting like you weren't sure who I was? Who else would enter this place?"
Little Four peered intently at Ling Lan, and then said, "Boss, have you not noticed the changes to your body?" As his voice tapered off, a large full-body mirror appeared before them, reflecting both their images faithfully.
Ling Lan lifted her head to look, and immediately understood what Little Four was saying. Now she also understood why Instructor Number One had reminded her to contain her malevolent aura when he left.
The Ling Lan in the mirror was no longer the wide-eyed innocent she had been. Ferocious eyes, killing intent lingering in her gaze, and the faint air of blood-tinged malevolence around her — all indications that this child was a savage wild beast, fully capable of attacking you the very next second if a chance presented itself.
"How did this happen?" Ling Lan rubbed at her face frantically, trying to soften her expression. If she went out looking like this, she would definitely scare the living hells out of her mother. And even if she did not frighten her mother, terrifying the old staff and guards in the family would not end well either.
Under Little Four's assistance, Ling Lan finally managed to reign in the malevolent aura around her. With some effort, she squeezed out a smile, and finally rediscovered the harmless Ling Lan of before. Satisfied, only then did she wave goodbye to Little Four and return to the outside world.
Little Four energetically waved goodbye to Ling Lan, sending her off. When Ling Lan's figure had disappeared completely from his sight, he finally gave up supporting himself and slumped to the ground, wiping away a handful of sweat from his forehead. Even if he was beaten to death, he would never admit to Ling Lan that he had been the one to extend the time period of the illusionary environment to its maximum setting …
Alright, so Ling Lan's forced stay in the primordial forest was not really Instructor Number One's fault, but rather due to Little Four's meddling. It could only be said that it was just Ling Lan's misfortune to have such an imbecilic teammate in Little Four — it was pure luck that she hadn't gone mad.
Back in the real world, due to Ling Lan's previous diligence, she seemed as weak and fragile as ever, appearing without her newly developed malevolent aura, and so garnered no special attention from the people around her. Still, the very next day, Ling Lan submitted a request for actual combat training to Chamberlain Ling Qin.
Naturally, the excuse she used was the final test at the academy, when she had had to fight the examiner. She claimed that — because she had never encountered actual combat before, she did not perform well in the exam and failed to get a higher score, resulting in her 17th spot ranking when entering the Central Scout Academy.
Ling Lan explained that she could not relax now — perhaps when she entered the academy, actual combat would be one of the specialised courses she would have to take, and she didn't want to lose face again. Consequently, she wanted to take the initiative before schooling started to train in actual combat.
In truth, this was an arrangement requested by Instructor Number One to solve the potential problem of her malevolent aura.
Malevolent energy should not be contained forcefully over long periods of time — this would harm Ling Lan's body in the long run, perhaps even affecting her growth. Only when she could control her malevolent aura freely, just like her instructors or other battle-experienced veterans, would the problem be resolved.
Ling Lan's request moved Ling Qin immensely. What elders loved most was to see their beloved juniors show ambition, aiming for success. Without any hesitation, he summoned the best warriors in the Ling household, and charged them as sparring partners for the young master.
In this manner, Ling Lan began her self-torture program in this one month before school started.
In the morning she fought against the Ling family warriors, while at night she was tormented by Instructor Number Nine. At her current level, Ling Lan still hadn't earned the right to be tormented by Number One …
With this continuous cycle of combat every day and night, Ling Lan's tightly contained malevolent aura began to seep out slowly, until she managed to reign it in again, little by little, until it finally disappeared without a trace. In the end, only when Ling Lan had the intent to kill, would her malevolent aura reveal itself.
Due to Number One's timely arrangements, Ling Lan safely passed the time when her secret could be discovered. Meanwhile, only two days were left till the start of school.