Right after the announcement by the system, a large black vortex appeared once more before Ling Lan and sucked her in without any fanfare.
F*ck, again?! Ling Lan was speechless; couldn't the learning space be a little more gentle? However, having experienced it once, Ling Lan was no longer as flustered this time.
It was still impossible to pin down a sense of time, but when a brightness flashed before Ling Lan's eyes, she knew that she was about to be disgorged.
Sure enough, just like the first time, she was spat out into the air, but this time Ling Lan was ready for it. She landed on her feet in an absolutely elegant pose; Ling Lan decisively gave an internal cheer for her own outstanding performance.
Of course, the check before landing was still necessary, for Ling Lan had not forgotten the sly ways of the learning space ... yep, it was definitely sly to the extreme. Ling Lan, who had fallen for its traps more than once at the beginning, had by now already learned the basic instinct of maintaining her vigilance at all times.
The spot where Ling Lan had landed on was a desolate hillside. The completely exposed yellow soil no longer contained any of the flourishingly beautiful vigour of life of the mountain valley, but was all dried and yellow cracked earth, with hardly any of the greenery which represented life. At a glance, there was only bleakness and desolation, and even an almost suffocating sense of despair.
Even more frighteningly, a weathered old road weaving through the land was already stained with a sheet of red, the way littered with corpses.
Not too far from Ling Lan, some frightened people were running in desperation, while a group of frenzied men chased them from behind with swords and knives in hand.
Ling Lan could see that this was definitely the scene from the second panel. Only now, the protagonist from the image was missing, while Ling Lan herself had been added.
Was this a test? Were they looking to see what choice she would make? To become an emissary of justice, or to remain as a cold-hearted observer?
Taking joy in helping others was a good thing — Ling Lan felt that this was the basics of being a good person. However, there was a prerequisite to this. Before helping, she had to consider whether she had the ability to help, and also whether the other was someone worthy of her help.
For instance, these people before her right now, those folks running away — were they worth her help? Also, how strong were those people carrying weapons? Were they good or bad?
Ling Lan, who was standing high up at the top of the slope, looked down at the bloody scene below with a cold expression, as if she could see none of the loss of life going on.
Why? Why did those people just think of running, and did not even try to fight back? Ling Lan's emotions were a little conflicted, somewhat sympathetic and filled with hate for the attackers, yet also a little disappointed with the victims. In fact, those people running away were not much fewer in numbers than those chasing them — if they had really wanted to fight back, the situation wasn't entirely hopeless.
Ling Lan looked at the person right at the front of those escaping, and saw that the person's eyes were filled with a desire to live so intense that it had turned into a fervour which cared nothing for the costs incurred in its pursuit. And abruptly, Ling Lan felt as if she understood.
When faced with a situation where their life hangs in the balance, humans would reflexively choose the path which they feel is the safest and most dependable. Like right now, in this sort of desperate situation, as long as he could run just a little faster than the other people, the man would be able to escape from the range of the slaughter, which meant that he had the hope of surviving ...
This was basic human instinct, a deeply concealed inner ugliness. It was a demon that would be released in this sort of desperate times.
Ling Lan couldn't help but laugh, the sound laced with mockery. Wasn't this just another version of survival of the fittest?
Unfortunately ... Ling Lan's gaze turned to those killers giving chase. The contempt and cruel joy in their eyes were unmistakable. All this just proved that no matter how hard the people tried to run, it was useless. All of those people trying to escape would not be able to outrun the killers' blades. The killers were just whetting their appetite for the kill by first playing a game of cat-and-mouse, enjoying the spectacle of ants displaying the baseness of their humanity.
Ling Lan suddenly thought of the invasion of Japanese troops into China in her previous world. The Kwantung Army of a mere twenty thousand men had actually managed to conquer the entire Northeast China. This result was undoubtedly ludicrous — just the total population within those provinces was enough to flatten the Kwantung Army several times over. So why had they been able to invade and take control so easily? Was there the same baseness of humanity at play then?
Ling Lan shook her head and laughed in spite of herself, and cast off all the stray thoughts in her mind. The current Ling Lan was only the Ling Lan of this life; the previous world did not concern her anymore.
Just then, at the very back of the pack, an older man finally could not evade the swords any longer. He fell to the ground, but at the same time, he gave a strong shove to the young man who had been dragging him along all this time as they ran ...
"Xiaolong, run quickly!" Knowing that he had no hopes of survival, the old man grabbed onto one of the chasing killers as they stepped over him. He held on with a death grip, and his face was filled with a savage sort of release.
The young man who had been shoved forwards did not dare to stop, and could only keep running forwards with all his strength, tears streaming down his face. He could not let this chance gifted by his relative go to waste.
The old man was swiftly killed under the hacking of blades, and one of the killers spat on his corpse as he pulled back his sword, and said scornfully, "Thinking to survive from our blades? In his f*cking dreams."
A dream, was it? Ling Lan's right hand surreptitiously slipped a sharp dagger from the side of her calf. She held the hilt in an inverted grip, with the end of the hilt between her thumb and index finger. Meanwhile, her left hand pulled out an extremely short tri-edge trench knife. She had decided that she would help these escapees — the actions of that old man before his death proved that they were not cowards; it was just that there was no one to spark their rage and courage.
Perhaps Ling Lan's killing intent was too strong, for one of the killers who was in the midst of enjoying his slaughter suddenly turned to look in Ling Lan's direction. Of course, Ling Lan wasn't planning to hide. Just like that, she stood high above and watched them, waiting for them to move.
Those people saw that it was a just a child, and their faces filled with glee. After killing so many adults, they had gotten a little sick of it ... perhaps this pitiful little rabbit would bring them more satisfaction. The first killer pointed Ling Lan out to the men beside him and indicated for them to bring the child over.
One of the men leapt out from the crowd and headed towards Ling Lan. Seeing this, Ling Lan suddenly turned and ran. This reaction was just too normal — when a child saw something or someone that frightened them, this was what they would do.
This movement of Ling Lan's also drew the attention of the runners, and Ling Lan could then clearly hear several shocked cries, as well as several shrill voices urging her to run faster!
So, even as their humanity was on the brink of crumbling, these people still retained a smidgen of care for the young? Humans, as expected, were extremely complicated. Even though it was obvious that they couldn't even help themselves in this scenario, seeing an even weaker being in peril, they couldn't help but be concerned.
However, the moment did not allow Ling Lan to ponder this any further. The killer who had split off from the group was already close, having run up the slope.
"Little baby rabbit, stop running. Come quietly and follow your gramps back, so we can play together ..." The man's face was filled with excitement, and his tongue actually slipped out to lick at his lower lip. He was thinking of the ways he would torment this poor little wretch that seemed so pitiable, and was truly very pitiable.
Originally, Ling Lan had decided to just kill the other here, because she had already drawn the opponent to a blind spot out of view of the other people, but when she heard this, she changed her mind. She decided not to do anything, and let the other capture her.
Ling Lan wasn't going to let any of them go. She wanted to keep all of them right here. To do this, it wouldn't be easy. Ling Lan didn't know if the opponent had something that could transmit messages instantly. If she made a move, and the person had reflexes quick enough to send out information on her to the rest of his group, it wouldn't be good.
It was true that Ling Lan wanted to help these people, but she also didn't want to bring trouble on herself. To avoid this, she would have to kill all the enemies here instantly. If these people were unprepared, she was confident that she could get them all in one go. But how could she make them lower their guard to let her draw close ... ? That had been Ling Lan's only problem, and now, with this, the problem was no longer a problem.
Ling Lan screamed as she was grabbed by the other. She struggled desperately, but how could her tiny body escape the powerful grip of an adult man? The man cheerfully dragged Ling Lan back to his group. Behind him, the tri-edge knife in Ling Lan's left hand was already positioned over the other's heart — at any strange movement, her knife would be thrust without mercy into the other.
"Chief, here's a cute little mouse." The beast holding onto Ling Lan threw her directly before his leader, where Ling Lan cowered and peered at them fearfully.
Meanwhile, those people running away had also been surrounded by some of the other killers, who were herding them towards Ling Lan's direction. Sure enough, the killers had just been playing around with these poor people, giving them the false impression that they had any chance of survival.
From the corner of her eyes, Ling Lan saw the despair on the ash-pale faces of the people being herded back at sword point. The opponents' sudden burst of speed let them know once and for all that they had never had any hope to begin with, and so, they gave up on themselves.
Why did they have to give up? Were they not willing to even try? Failure and giving up were what Ling Lan hated the most. Your life was your own — even if it had to end, shouldn't it be of your own choice?
"Doesn't look like someone from their village. He really looks so fresh and lovely." The leader immediately noticed how different Ling Lan was compared to the others. His brows drew in slightly, and there was some doubt and suspicion in his eyes.
Ling Lan's expression stayed unchanging — other than fright, there was just more fright — it perfectly encapsulated how a six year old child would react when faced with strangers, when faced with danger ... Yup, thank you very much to Instructor Number Five, for teaching her all these random useless things ... now they were actually useful.
"Perhaps it's a child from a merchant group. Didn't we just rob and kill a merchant group yesterday on the old road?" One of the men didn't think it was a problem. It was quite normal after all for some people to slip through while they were busy robbing.
His subordinate's words cleared up the leader's concerns, though he really wasn't all that concerned to begin with, and had only been a little puzzled. After all, what harm could a five or six year old child do? Even if the child had a kitchen knife, it was a bigger worry whether the child would cut themselves.
"True, true, then let us have some fun." The leader's words made the men around him burst out into raucous laughter. Some of them were even itching to get started, eager to personally torment this pitiable little mouse. Wouldn't extreme terror look interesting on a child's face?
Meanwhile, the other people who had been chased over to observe didn't dare to make a sound, afraid that if they made any noise, they would be the one to be tortured and killed instead.
Of course, some of them even had the guilty thought that perhaps if this child could satisfy the perverse appetites of these demons, maybe they wouldn't be killed ...
Ling Lan had not pinned any hopes on these people to begin with, but unexpectedly, someone within the group actually tried to beg for mercy on her behalf. "I beg you, please let him go. He's just a child ..."
From the corner of her eyes, Ling Lan saw that the one who spoke was the young man who had been pushed by the old man. His face was full of entreaty, though of course, more despair — perhaps he too knew that speaking out was useless, but he had still chosen to open his mouth at a bid for that almost non-existent chance of hope.