Ling Lan secretly snuck into the village. By now, the inside of the village was a sea of blood, a true hell on earth. Quite a number of the villagers had died on the roads or in their doorways, every one of them with their eyes wide open, staring sightlessly at their ruined village, unable to be at peace. Their facial expressions differed — there was fear, despair, and even some with a sort of speechless grief and indignation ... perhaps they were filled with bitter hate, wondering why this catastrophe would befall them when they had just been peacefully living out their lives ...
Along her way, Ling Lan crouched down, silently closing the eyes of one of the villagers who had died a traumatic death. Right then, there was not a speck of emotion in Ling Lan's gaze. It was as calm as water, and a rush of terrifyingly cold air was emanating from her body.
As she walked, whenever she saw any killers alone or in small groups, Ling Lan would decisively dispose of them before silently leaving. If she saw a large group of thugs together, she would go around them. Perhaps these killers were too engrossed in their killing frenzy, for they did not notice at all that their companions were being slowly picked off little by little.
Then, at one point, when Ling Lan had once again gotten rid of another batch of thugs, she accidentally missed one who had been relieving himself in a hidden corner, out of sight.
Ling Lan noticed her mistake swiftly and sent a dagger flying through the air to pierce through the other's throat, but it was still a step too late. A sharp whistle rent the blood-stenched air of the village.
Ling Lan couldn't help but make a soft sound of regret. Just as she had feared, the thugs really had a way to pass on a message instantly. Without a doubt, the other thugs would now be wary and on the defensive, which would make Ling Lan's hunt a little more difficult.
Still, it was just a little more difficult ... a cold smile appeared on Ling Lan's lips. The hunting game would not end just because of this.
Ling Lan's figure slowly disappeared from her present location. By the time the other killers rushed to the scene, all they could see was their companions' corpses lying on the ground, without any sign of the one who killed them.
This incident was quickly reported to the main leader of this particular massacre, who immediately gave the order for his subordinates to gather, naturally not forgetting to ask them to bring hostages along with them. He highly suspected that this master killer may have ties with the village people.
As they gathered, Ling Lan managed to kill off yet a few more groups of thugs, saving a significant number of villagers in the process. But Ling Lan did not stop to talk to any of them, only continuing on her hurried way after killing the thugs.
The villagers had no idea where Ling Lan came from, but this did not prevent them from being grateful for her help. Moreover, Ling Lan did not know that, some of the rescued villagers didn't just leave — some of the strapping young men found some weapons and made their own rescue teams, silently making their way in different directions, hoping to save even more of their loved ones and other village folk.
Meanwhile, outside the village entrance, the young man — after finding a relatively safe location for the younger kids, the weak and infirm old folk, and the fragile women, as well as some injured men who could not fight — led the remaining villagers who could still put up a fight to pick up the weapons of the killers Ling Lan had killed, and rushed over too.
Along the way, many bloody battles broke out. The villagers went head to head with small groups of killers, and paid a bloody price to overwhelm these killers stained with the blood of their relatives, saving their own relatives who were still alive.
Only when all of the killers had gathered before the main leader did the leader discover that this place which, in his eyes, was a place where they could kill and indulge in their perverse interests, had actually cost him around two-thirds of his men, leaving behind only about a hundred men.
"D*mn it! Who is it? Show yourself!" The main leader was enraged by this drastic loss of men. He signalled for one of his men to bring out one of the hostages, and then bellowed, "If you don't show yourself, I'll kill him."
Since the hidden attacker had come for the sake of this village, then they must certainly care about the lives of these ants. As long as the other showed themselves, the leader believed that he and his men would definitely be able to hack the attacker into a thousand pieces.
After waiting for a minute, the surroundings still remained silent as a tomb. With vehemence, the leader shouted, "Kill him."
The villager was summarily executed by his subordinate, and blood coated the ground, drawing the terrified screams of the other villagers.
"I'm not a saintly matron, or a benevolent hero, all I know is, only keeping calm will give me the chance to accomplish my goals." Ling Lan held on tightly to the weapons in her hands, her eyes coolly observing the bloody scene before her.
Indeed, her goal was to kill every one of these beastly scumbags and save as many villagers as she could. As such, she could not give in to irrational ardour.
The leader saw that his first threat was ineffective, and signalled for a subordinate to bring out three more villagers. This time, one of the villagers was a tiny baby still in its swaddling clothes.
Ling Lan's irises contracted, and she shut her eyes in anguish. Did she have to continue tolerating this? Do I really have to wait until they become tired of killing and become distracted, and a chance presents itself, for me to make a move? Goddammit! My heart tells me — no, I don't want it to be like this.
Instructor Number Five, your so-called insane-level training didn't work after all, otherwise, why can't I become truly cold-blooded? Why can't I turn a blind eye to an innocent child dying before me? Could this be my forbidden ground? Does this count as a human weakness?
According to my instructor's words, I should restrain this tendency towards mercy to become stronger, and not yield to my soft heart and compassion. I should restrain it, but ...
Within Ling Lan's heart, a dilemma occurred for the first time. Her initially steady heart started showing subtle signs of uncertainty ...
Within the learning space, Number Five and Number Nine barged into Number One's space unannounced.
Number One, who had been standing alone in the virtual space deep in thought, saw the uninvited guests and was rather displeased. Coldly, he said, "What did you two come here for?"
"I would like to know, what Dao Ling Lan will choose in the end." Number Nine's face was full of worry. If Ling Lan selected a Dao unsuited for her in her evolution, she may very well end up doing double the work for half the results.
In contrast, Number Five smirked evilly. "I hope she walks the path of the Heartless Dao, or maybe the Killing Dao." This was a type of shortcut — although the barriers she would face in the later stages with these Daos would be a little more difficult than other Daos, that was after all a consideration for the future. Number Five believed that there would be ways to resolve it then, and it was overall worth it since she would be able to raise herself to the level of a master within a short period of time.
For this purpose, his training in the period preceding this had intentionally been steering Ling Lan's personality and way of handling things towards the direction of these two Dao. If Ling Lan held fast to her memories of this time, it was highly possible that she would end up walking one of these two Dao.
"I disagree!" raged Number Nine. "Ling Lan may look like she has a hard heart, and she may do things with resolution, and have an extraordinarily high tolerance — but I know, Ling Lan's true self is passionate, and gentle ... she is compassionate, so the path suited for her should be the Fellowship Dao or the Benevolence Dao."
"I only know that the test she entered is for the Sovereign Dao," Number One told them about Ling Lan's current situation.
"What?!" yelled Number Five and Number Nine simultaneously in shock. They had never considered that Ling Lan would enter the test for the Sovereign Dao. Ling Lan had no sovereign-like thoughts at all — how could it be possible for her to pass this test?
Seeing the shock-pale faces of the two and their flustered appearance, Number One harrumphed coldly and said, "Entering the test for the Sovereign Dao, doesn't mean that she must definitely walk this Dao."
"But, it is typically very hard for anyone to jump out of the boundaries of the test and forge their own Dao." Number Nine had no confidence at all on this matter. Based off what she knew, there has not been a single child that had managed to make this step.
Number Nine's words caused Number One and Number Five to fall silent. They too knew that this was extremely difficult, and that Number One's words were mostly self-consolation.
"Perhaps, Ling Lan really can walk the path of the Sovereign Dao. It's not like every person who walks it has sovereign-like thoughts to begin with ... hehehe!" Number Five rambled on for a bit before he couldn't continue to lie to himself and the others anymore, and could only use fake laughter to fend off Number One and Number Nine's unimpressed cold stares.
It was true that sovereign thinking wasn't something innate, but a child would still have to have some instinctive greed on this front. For example, liking from young to be stronger by a head, taller by an inch, liking to show off, or even liking to take on leadership roles ... Ling Lan was truly lacking in this respect.
"I believe Ling Lan is not a typical person," said Number One finally after a long moment of silence. He believed that no matter if the Sovereign Dao suited Ling Lan or not, Ling Lan would definitely complete this test and find the Dao that truly belonged to her.
Ling Lan, who was still within the test mission, closed her eyes in silent contemplation. She heard the leader's countdown, and knew that if she didn't show herself, three lives would end right there, one of which was a babe who had not been long in this world.
"Kill them!" The leader's cry woke Ling Lan up, and she subconsciously took a step forward, revealing her silhouette.
"You finally appeared ..." Amidst the leader's wild laughter, his three subordinates who were holding onto the hostages firmly swung their sharp blades down ...
"Impulsiveness is a demon; the results are not nice." Ling Lan's gaze no longer wavered. Her split second falter had shown her the truth, making her realise that being soft-hearted was indeed a mistake. "But, holding back was an even bigger mistake. I might as well have just chosen to battle it out in blood from the start — exchanging a tooth for a tooth, and blood for blood was what I should have done."
Why did she have to control herself? Why did she have to worry so much? If she hadn't shown up, these villagers would still have died at the hands of these killers. In that case, she might as well have killed off all of these killers as soon as possible, and saved as many people as she could that way.
The choice was actually very simple. She didn't have to be a saintly matron or a benevolent hero — under the condition that her life was safe, she only needed to do whatever she could do with resolve. Hesitation would only cause her to sink deeper into more troublesome plights, just like what was happening now.
The main leader saw Ling Lan rushing forwards with an icy expression, and signalled for his subordinates to pull out five or six villagers, shouting, "Don't move, or else I'll kill them!"
"Do it. I will avenge them." Ling Lan's speed became even faster, and she lunged fiercely at the killer closest to her, blades swinging.
Seeing that the attacker wasn't fazed at all by his threats, the leader screamed in crazed anger, "Kill them! Kill them all!"
"Do it. I will also do the same and kill you all." The current Ling Lan had eyes like ice, and everywhere her hands fluttered by, a corpse was left behind amidst a spray of blood. Ling Lan did not dodge these blood splatters, and soon her sweet little face had been stained crimson with blood, which slowly fell from her face drip by drip. She looked just like a ghoul that had crawled out from hell, here to collect all the living souls from the area.
"Who the hell are you?" Finding that the villagers' lives were no deterrent to Ling Lan's slaughter, the leader was a little panicked. Ling Lan's killing method was quick and decisive, extremely efficient. Every swing of her arm took away yet another of his subordinates' lives — in short order, ten or so men had already died by her hand.