Chapter 22: A Life Free From Debt!
Translator: ryuxenji Editor: H2dH2mr
A year’s time went by quickly, and Ling Lan was soon about to turn six. Ling Lan who had always complained that time moved too slowly was now singing a different tune, complaining that time was moving too fast instead.
Since she had officially started learning the Ling family martial arts at the age of five, Ling Lan had been able to freely practise the Body Refining Nine Stances. In this one year’s time, she had managed to achieve three times more than what she had managed in the previous three and a half years — before the age of five, she had only barely mastered the fourth stance, but she had mastered the following three stances after that within this past year. It should be noted that the Body Refining Nine Stances only got harder the further you progressed, each stance requiring even more time and effort to master than the stance before it.
Unfortunately, Ling Lan did not have any room to relax despite that. In fact, her stress levels only increased from that point onwards. The deadline for her to master the Body Refining Nine Stances was fast approaching — she only had six months left, and she had yet to master the eighth stance, not to mention the even more challenging ninth stance.
She desperately wished that she could squeeze every second of her day into training, even holding combat poses during meal times and inhaling her food at top speed so she could get back to training sooner. This greatly dismayed her mother Lan Luofeng, who began to tearfully repent before a photo of Ling Lan’s father. She felt that she had failed her husband by not raising their child right — Ling Lan had none of the decorum and grace of an established family clan member.
Amidst this chaos, the final deadline arrived. Although Ling Lan had successfully mastered the eighth stance, the ninth stance was still incomplete despite her best efforts.
Ling Lan really did not want to face Instructor Number One. Unfortunately, the learning space was merciless and would not allow Ling Lan to escape. The moment the timer hit zero, Ling Lan’s consciousness had been dragged into the learning space.
When she entered the learning space for her physical skills course, the first thing she noticed was that the air seemed colder than usual. Instructor Number One was already standing in wait, his posture razor sharp, and he seemed to have been waiting for a long time.
Ling Lan rubbed her arms, trying to get her goose bumps to subside. It was impossible for Ling Lan to hold her composure against the menacing cold air emanating from such a formidable warrior.
Number One’s aura was currently much, much colder compared to the other two times Ling Lan had met him. Even though his eyes maintained their usual calm, not a ripple of emotion in sight, Ling Lan could still clearly read the signs of Number One’s deep displeasure.
Crap, Number One must be very unhappy with her performance this time. Ling Lan’s sense of danger was very healthy — she immediately adopted a serious manner, head bowed and eyes lowered as she said, "Instructor Number One, I’m sorry, I’ve disappointed you."
Number One replied coolly, "There’s no need for that. We are only here to guide and instruct. Whether or not you appreciate it means nothing to us. You are apologizing to the wrong person."
Although Number One said all this with his usual indifference and aloofness, Ling Lan could feel the underlying dissatisfaction running through his response.
Ling Lan felt like crying. Oh Instructor Number One, what do you really mean? What do you want me to do?
Although Ling Lan was complaining internally, her face showed none of this as she kept her head bowed in respectful silence.
Ultimately, Ling Lan was actually feeling somewhat guilty. She had really wasted a lot of time in the first three years of the given timeline. She had not practised seriously back then, although a large part of it could be blamed on her wariness of her watchful guardians in the Ling household. During that time, she would only practise in the depths of the night while her mother was sleeping, thus only managing about five to six hours of training each day. This greatly hobbled the speed of her progress. Although she had been free to train as much as she wanted after she started her training in the Ling family martial arts, she had not been able to make up for the time she had wasted in those first three years.
"Training in the Body Refining Nine Stances. Eight stances mastered, mastery of the ninth stance at 69 percent. Mission incomplete. Punishment options: One, a deduction of 200 honour points, lacking points can be compensated with other options. Two, corporal punishment, 200 jolts of electric shock! Three, exchange honour points for an extension of the deadline, punishment will be doubled if mission is still unable to be completed. Please make your choice!"
The learning space announced all of Ling Lan’s punishment options in its unforgiving flat tone. The options were both a shock and a relief to Ling Lan. What shocked her was the harshness of the punishments — between the large deduction of honour points, and the shocking corporal punishment, she did not want to choose either unless she had no other choice. Honour points had proven to be supremely precious, so she was unwilling to lose them this way, while the corporal punishment was … ahem, ahem, she really had no masochistic tendencies …
On the other hand, Ling Lan was relieved that the system provided a chance for her to fix the situation. The only catch was the possible doubling of the current punishment — just thinking about it made Ling Lan’s little heart shudder in terror, and she could feel a chill creeping up her spine.
Tone icy, Number One asked, "Speak. Which do you choose?"
Ling Lan asked carefully, "Instructor Number One, could you please explain the third option to me?" If she did not have to spend much honour points in exchange, she was willing to try it.
Number One gave her a cool look as he said in clipped tones, "You can use 10 honour points to extend your deadline by 30 days. In those 30 days, you may continue to practise the Body Refining Nine Stances. If you can master it in that time frame, the punishment will be cancelled. If you fail, the punishment will be doubled."
Ling Lan’s heart leapt. 10 honour points were an acceptable loss in her opinion, although it was a little harder to decide whether she could really master the final ninth stance within 30 days. Truthfully, Ling Lan was not at all confident of her chances — she may really only need one more month to master the stance, but she could just as easily require two months or three months, or perhaps even one more year. Ling Lan remembered very well that Instructor Number Nine had told her that mastering the ninth stance required a certain degree of chance and enlightenment; mastery would be impossible without one or the other.
Should she take the risk and try? Ling Lan hesitated, but in the end, she just could not sacrifice the precious honour points she had earned, nor could she convince herself to take the corporal punishment, so she decided to take the plunge and chose the third option.
The moment Ling Lan stated her choice, she felt the temperature of the room rise to a more comfortable degree. Number One decisively processed her choice for her, and before Ling Lan could ask any more questions, she had been summarily kicked out of the physical skills learning area.
All Ling Lan could remember was a final cold stare, full of threat — a clear warning that she had better complete her mission properly this time.
Back at the general learning space, Ling Lan did not even spare the time to greet Little Four before hurrying back out to the real world to train.
Although Ling Lan had no idea what Number One’s final threat-filled gaze was meant to convey, she knew down to her very bones that if she did not manage to master the Body Refining Nine Stances by this new deadline, she would die a very gruesome death …
And so, Ling Lan trained like a demon possessed in the subsequent month. Every day, she would train until she only had enough energy left to keep breathing before she dared to stop. Under this brutal routine, Ling Lan finally succeeded in mastering the ninth stance.
When Ling Lan entered the physical skills learning space and found that there was only ten seconds left till the deadline, she broke out into a cold sweat. Honestly, till the very last moment, she herself was unsure whether she would be able to complete the mission in time. All she could think of was to keep circulating her internal energy, and push her body into the motions of the Body Refining Nine Stances over and over again.
A rather stupid approach perhaps, but this reckless method may have led to the final push that Ling Lan needed. Ling Lan had trained to the point where her consciousness had started to blur, when she felt like a mental wall on the edge of her mind had crumbled. Her body had started going through all the poses of the Body Refining Nine Stances involuntarily, imprinting all the hard work she had put into learning the nine stances firmly into her body.
Just like that, Ling Lan resolved the sword of Damocles  hanging by her neck, and finally returned to a life free from debt.
 Having a sword of Damocles over you means you're facing an imminent threat, usually one involving great peril.