Walking out from the Ling family main house, Ling Yu finally couldn't contain himself any longer, and asked Ling Qin in front of him, "Elder Qin, why didn't you ask about the cockpits ejecting from the mecha?"
Ling Yu knew that that must have been caused by Ling Lan somehow, otherwise he wouldn't have been so calm when the mecha had fired. It's just — he really couldn't figure out how Ling Lan had done it. Could it really be that he could control A.I.?
Of course, Ling Yu knew that this was preposterous — a joke. Everyone knew that A.I.s were self-contained systems. If a hacker was crazy enough to try and control an A.I., the A.I. would shut down automatically, and the mecha would automatically switch over to manual controls.
Even the most skilful hacker in the world would not be able to succeed. Moreover, once the A.I. had shut down, the controls would still be in the hands of the operators in the cockpits. It couldn't be that all three operators had made the same control error, right?
Of course, another possibility was the A.I. itself glitching ... Ling Yu naturally shied away from this avenue of thought. If that were true, it would certainly be a catastrophe of epic proportions — it would utterly destroy the entire weapons system of the Federation. The Federation just could not afford for this to be true.
In front of him, Ling Qin paused for a moment before turning his head back to caution, "Ling Yu, you overstep."
Ling Yu's heart skipped a beat. Every generation of the Ling family head had his own trump card and last resort, and these were considered forbidden territory within the Ling family. No one was allowed to look into it, and violators of this unspoken rule would receive a bloody end. And here he had stumbled across the line unknowingly.
"Yes, thank you, Elder Qin, for the reminder." At this point, Ling Yu no longer held a whit of curiosity about it; perhaps this was just one of the Ling family's last resorts. It made sense when one thought about it. Mecha were the ultimate solo weapon — even the common standard mecha could easily wipe out a bare-handed martial expert. If he didn't keep something up his sleeve, how could the Ling family head put mecha into others' hands without worry?
It had to be said that Ling Yu had an overactive imagination, his brain easily coming up with all sorts of wild ideas to fill in the blanks. The result of his 'reasoning' was a back drenched with cold sweat, and the already loyal Ling Yu had no more stray thoughts, becoming Ling Lan's most loyal loyalist in his lifetime.
Ling Qin observed Ling Yu's realisation and acceptance, and smiled a satisfied smile. Ling Qin was a good elder, and a good guard, but he was not a good steward. If he hadn't been so lax in his management all these years, the people of the Ling family wouldn't have been so uncertain about their own position within the household, resulting in that tragic betrayal. However, Ling Qin was a person who knew how to reflect. Since he had made a mistake previously, then he would change now.
So he had deviated from his usual agreeableness into this stern demeanour, and had issued an immediate warning in the face of Ling Yu's curiosity. If this was before, Ling Qin would have patiently explained things to Ling Yu before counselling Ling Yu to drop the matter. He wouldn't have outright warned Ling Yu without providing an explanation.
It looked like Ling Lan wasn't the only one who had sensed the problem within the Ling family. Ling Qin had sensed it too and had begun his attempts to correct it. As for whether it would be effective, only time would tell.
Of course, Ling Qin may have been affecting an enigmatic look as he warned Ling Yu, but in reality, he himself had no clue how the cockpits had been automatically ejected from the three mecha. Back then, his first thought was indeed that this was a last resort of the Ling family.
He still recalled that when Ling Xiao had left, he had said something carefully and intently by Lan Luofeng's ear. Perhaps even then, Master Ling Xiao had sensed the problem within the Ling family, and for precaution's sake, had passed the secret of this last resort on to Lan Luofeng. (Grandpa Chamberlain, you're really thinking too much. The man just wanted to say some sweet nothings to his beau and was embarrassed to be overheard.) And later, Lan Luofeng must have passed it on in turn to Ling Lan.
It should be noted that Chamberlain Ling Qin's ability to fill-in-the-blanks was certainly a match for Ling Yu's — initially, Ling Lan had still been worried about how she would explain this issue away, but now, because of these two's misunderstandings, it was no longer a problem.
Mind you, as Ling Lan had been discussing the matter of Ling Yi earlier, she had been constantly worried that they would ask about that. Of course, she had already come up with a strategy to handle it, but unexpectedly, the dreaded question hadn't come even when they had left. This made Ling Lan very thankful, and she could finally relax. Since everyone was willing to pretend, she was also happy to play along.
Still, Ling Lan wasn't happy for long before she was mercilessly dragged into the learning space.
That night, under Lan Luofeng's praise, Ling Lan had played up her cuteness to the max and feasted until she was full. Just as she was humming and preparing to lie down to rest, she felt her consciousness being sucked out of her body by a terrifying force.
F*ck! Not again!
Ling Lan savagely raised her middle finger against the dark world before her, mentally cursing at the tyranny of the learning space, and at how it didn't know how to respect its own host. Of course, Ling Lan only dared to be so impudent now — once Instructor Number One showed up, Ling Lan would be as obedient as she could be. It couldn't be helped. Number One was just too scary — Ling Lan's strength was improving little by little, and the more it improved, the more she could sense how overwhelming Instructor Number One's strength was. With just one look, he could render her immobile ...
As expected, the sombre coffin-faced Instructor Number One appeared, and Ling Lan immediately hid away her indignant expression, lowering her head and smoothing her brows into a face eager to learn.
"Today's ambush. What are your thoughts?" asked Number One directly.
"In front of mecha, the ultimate solo weapon, pure physical strength is nothing, like an ant." Ling Lan would never forget the helplessness she had felt when facing the mecha. If it hadn't been for Little Four's help, she would have been done for.
"For the present you, it's already not bad that you could comprehend that." Number One didn't seem particularly satisfied with Ling Lan's response, but he wasn't angered by it either. He continued, "Based on your current performance and condition, I have to adjust your training plan."
Ling Lan was taken aback; she had no idea what Instructor Number One meant.
"Number Five!" Number One spoke once again, but called out an unfamiliar number.
"Big Bro, I'm here." A vaguely lazy voice rang out from behind Ling Lan.
Ling Lan abruptly turned her head, and saw a rather dashing looking young man with a smile on his lips. When his eyes met hers, he waved at her enthusiastically. Facing Number One's stifling presence, he seemed entirely unconcerned.
Ling Lan's gaze narrowed; this man was definitely more than he seemed. She knew very well how formidable as usual Instructor Number One's presence was — the fact that this man could be so carefree in the face of that ... did it mean that his presence was just as formidable?
"After this, your training will be led by Number Five, with Number Nine assisting." Number One didn't seem to mind Number Five's flippant attitude, disappearing after laying down the law.
Meanwhile, Number Nine had also appeared in the learning space. When she saw Number Five, the subtle smile on her face faded into ice. "Number Five, long time no see."
"Lil Sis Number Nine! It's been such a long time. Your brother here has almost contracted lovesickness since it's been so long. My hair turning white overnight and all ..." Number Five scurried over to Number Nine, face filled with emotion as he clasped Number Nine's hand. His expression was full of longing, completely oblivious of the throbbing green vein on Number Nine's forehead.
Faced with Number Five's shameless words and actions, Number Nine threw a kick at him without any hesitation.
With just a single leap, Number Nine escaped the range of Number Nine's attack, but he still showed no restraint, continuing to tease, "Lil Sis Number Nine, so passionate even after so long. You make elder brother so happy."
"Number Five, do not forget your mission. Number One isn't as patient as I am," huffed Number Nine coldly. She seemed used to Number Five's lackadaisical attitude, directly reminding him not to go overboard.
When Number Five heard this, his grin visibly froze for a beat.
Number Nine didn't pay any more attention to Number Five, turning instead to Ling Lan to say, "Ling Lan, Number Five's training will not be easy, you must be prepared." Facing her pet disciple, she couldn't help but worry a bit more than usual. She understood that Number One wouldn't allow her to be the only one responsible for Ling Lan's training this time because he was afraid that her affection for Ling Lan would affect her progress.
Although Number One seemed to be very dissatisfied with Ling Lan, nitpicking at any little flaw, Number One actually thought very highly of Ling Lan, even training her up as if she were his successor. Otherwise, Number One wouldn't have modified his training plan for Ling Lan again and again.
Hearing this, Number Five's smile deepened once again. "Number Nine, relax, Ling Lan's also my student. I'll take good care of him." For some reason, looking at Number Five's smile, Ling Lan felt a chill settle over her heart.
Ling Lan's intuition was not mistaken. When Number Nine heard Number Five's words, she did not relax at all, but rather looked at Ling Lan with strange pity in her eyes. This gaze set off the final alarms in Ling Lan's mind — hells, this was definitely nothing good.
Before Ling Lan could ask Number Nine any questions, Number Five flicked a finger, and Ling Lan was thrown into a new learning area, an endless grassy plain. With a tortured look on her face, Ling Lan heard the voice of the system ring out by her ear:
Mission: 1 minute later, a wolf pack will come. Please hold out against the wolf pack's attack for 20 minutes without dying. Reward for completion unknown! Punishment for failure unknown!
Ling Lan had no thought to spare right now for reward or punishment. Her forehead was beaded with sweat — goddammit, actually expecting her to fight bare-handed against wolves! And she had to hold out for 20 minutes as well — this was definitely a mission meant to kill someone. Ling Lan did not believe that the wolves in this wolf pack here would be like the wolves from her previous planet. The wild beasts within the learning space were definitely several times bigger and stronger than their earthly counterparts.
It wasn't that Ling Lan had not considered running away, but unfortunately she had no idea which direction the wolf pack would come from, or even if they would attack from all directions. Since she couldn't be sure, recklessly running away might just put her in a worse situation. She might as well just save her strength and wait for the final battle.
Ling Lan naturally used the last of her waiting time to observe her grassy surroundings. If she could just find an easily defensible location, then setting aside 20 minutes, she should even be able to defend for a fair bit longer.
Unfortunately, Ling Lan was disappointed. The learning space was not like the games of her previous world, full of bugs — in this grassland before her, there wasn't a single obstruction in sight, the endless flat plain of grass only followed by yet endless flat plain of grass. And on the ground itself, there was only soft grass on top of loose soil. There weren't even any hard rocks, so Ling Lan couldn't even find one to use as a weapon even if she wanted to.
Dammit, the learning space was truly vicious. It wouldn't allow Ling Lan to borrow any external strength whatsoever, determined to make Ling Lan fight off the wolves with just her bare hands.
A minute's time went by swiftly, and then countless howls broke the silence from all around Ling Lan. Sure enough, the wolves were not going to come from just one direction, but were surrounding her. For Ling Lan, this just made the situation even more perilous.
Ling Lan narrowed her eyes and released the malevolent aura contained within her body in a sudden blast. The moment this malevolent aura appeared, a change fell over the wolves' howls ...