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"Haha, punk, such pretty words ... then, would you like to die first in his place?" The head stared at the young man in amusement. He was truly interested to see if there really was someone who would be willing to trade their life to save a completely unrelated stranger.

How could that be possible! Ling Lan knew very well that she herself would never do such a thing. She also didn't believe that there would be someone so saintly that they would willingly give their life for a stranger. However, the youth's reply stunned Ling Lan. For a moment, she even thought that she was experiencing an auditory hallucination.

That young man had actually stated that he was willing to trade his life.

F*ck! Darn learning space, couldn't it present a slightly more normal scenario? Ling Lan scorned it mentally, but it couldn't be denied that her heart had sped up for a beat at the moment she had heard this answer. Perhaps her heart also couldn't understand how an imbecile like this could exist in this dimension?

"Haha, little mouse, looks like you have pretty great luck! Someone's actually willing to die in your place." The head patted Ling Lan's face, and lifted his head to chortle, "Shouldn't you properly thank that big brother?" The young man's unexpected response had thoroughly amused the head, giving him a taste of something new. Of course, he was even gladder to destroy and push these two people before him into the depths of despair.

"Come, as thanks, you'll have to smile and watch as my subordinates slowly peel his skin off ..." The head savagely twisted Ling Lan's head to face the young man. Meanwhile, the young man had already been propped up by two large men, while another, licking the polished knife in his hand, looked as if he was considering which part of the young man he should start cutting from.

When the people being forced to kneel saw this scene, their faces filled with terror. Some of them were even filled with disbelief, unable to comprehend why the young man would try to save a strange child, and even be willing to be subjected to such inhumane torture for the child's sake before his death.

On the side of the killers, all of their attention were now on the young man. They had revelled in this sort of scenario all along — seeing the pain and despair of a person and listening to their wails before they died excited them. Even the head's attention was on the young man, completely forgetting about Ling Lan within his grasp.

This was a chance! With everyone's attention on the young man, Ling Lan knew that the best moment for her to strike had arrived.

Ling Lan's head remained still, but her arms twisted and bent to an extremely bizarre degree, breaking past the physical limits of the human body. The dagger in her hand then swung down mercilessly at the head still holding onto her face.

The head was guffawing as his subordinate slowly neared the young man, staring delightedly at the young man's desperate struggles. He was anticipating the scene when the young man would finally crumble, when he would scream and cry about how much he regretted his choice ... then suddenly, he felt a cold flash at his throat, and then the scene in front of him was spinning.

He saw his subordinates, as they busied themselves making preparations to kill and maim those pitiful ants. He even saw the pitiable little mouse in his hands, who was strangely standing beside a very familiar body. But of course, most surprisingly, that body did not have a head ...

Head? Familiar? Wasn't that his body? He was falling apart in his shock — what the hell had just happened?

Ling Lan had succeeded in one move, and without any hesitation, she broke the grip of the palm still holding onto her, and leapt at the few killers nearest to her. They still hadn't noticed that their head had been killed, and was currently happily watching as their companion threatened and tormented that self-sacrificing young man.

In order not to attract the attention of those at the front, Ling Lan kept a tight control on her speed. She didn't move as fast as she could, but made sure to watch her shadow, and moved with a stealthy silence. Several times she flickered, and another few people had their throats callously slashed by Ling Lan's dagger.

As blood gushed violently from their gaping throats, their mouths were muffled tightly by Ling Lan as they died. They did not have any chance to sound a warning, to tell their companions that a death god was approaching from their backs.

Frankly, Ling Lan's throat-slashing technique was a learning space exclusive method — when she had cut the lifeline in their throats, she had also cut off their ability to speak. However, just to make sure there were no mistakes, Ling Lan still decided to cover their mouths.

The young man who was facing Ling Lan was the only one who could see all this clearly. His eyes bulged, and his expression turned to one of stunned disbelief, and even his initially struggling body abruptly stilled.

This strange reaction caused all the observing killers to pause in astonishment. Subconsciously, they prepared to turn and look, to see what exactly was going on behind them to elicit such a reaction from the young man, to the point that he would forget about his own imminent death ...

What a dumb pig of a teammate!

Ling Lan decisively labelled the young man as 'dumb'. Luckily, he hadn't revealed any joy or excitement on his face, otherwise these killers would certainly have their guards up in a flash. Right now, they were just curious about what the young man had seen.

Ling Lan knew there was no more time. She needed to eliminate all these killers before they figured out what was going on, or else they might become an even bigger problem.

This time, Ling Lan no longer controlled herself; she unleashed every bit of her strength and speed. Like an ephemeral shadow, Ling Lan swept across the scene, the tri-edge trench knife and the dagger in her hands swiping interchangeably in a deadly dance. Everywhere she went, the unprepared killers found a weapon piercing one of their vital spots unerringly, sending countless blossoms of blood blooming into the air.

Ling Lan's path was a straight line — while this wasn't a good path for killing enemies, it was the best path for the rescue. Although the enemies at the fringes of both sides may be able to escape, this would prevent the young man from being used as a hostage.

As predicted, Ling Lan managed to stay one step ahead, killing the two men immobilising the young man before they could react. At the same time, she sent the young man behind her with a kick. There wasn't a single killer left there, so it was the safest place.

By this time, quite a few of the killers had finally gotten a hold of themselves. Ling Lan had originally been afraid that they would scatter and run, depriving her of the chance of killing them all, but unexpectedly, the men just raised up their weapons and charged at her with dreadful bellows.

How nice! So the opponents were also dumb as pigs — this made both sides even then.

Ling Lan did not give these people any chances. Within several blinks of an eye, all of the men had been eliminated. Meanwhile, there wasn't a single speck of blood on Ling Lan's body, other than the dust which had been thrown up into the air during the fight.

On this desolate plain, countless corpses had been added once more, but this time, the bodies were those of the merciless killers.

Ling Lan stood up straight and coolly stowed away her weapons. She looked down at the head's head on the floor, whose frozen features still held that crazed smile with a trace of fear, unimaginably creepy. Ling Lan nodded to herself, and mumbled under her breath, "As expected, after a head leaves the body, it doesn't die straight away. There's a delay of one to two seconds, or perhaps even longer ..."

Ling Lan did not spare a look for those unsettled survivors, but prepared to leave.

Ling Lan had just taken several steps forward when that young man shouted, "Wait!"

Because the young man had been silly enough to try and trade his life for hers, Ling Lan decided to give him a chance. "Hm?"

"Are you alone? If you have nowhere to go, why don't you come back with me to my village?" The young man worked hard to squeeze out a smile — he had just been saved from the brink of death after all; even the calmest of people would be unable to keep their cool, not to mention that he wasn't a calm person to begin with.

Was this the next hint of the mission? Ling Lan thought it over, and decided that she should go take a look at the village. After all, right now, she was completely clueless about this so-called evolution pathway and had no idea what she was supposed to do next anyway.

Seeing Ling Lan nod, the young man was thrilled. And just like that, Ling Lan prepared to follow the young man back to his village.

Before they left, the people recovered some of the possessions they had had to discard while running, so everyone had a large bundle on their back as they prepared to set out. However, a majority of their companions were to remain here forever, never able to return. The survivors were unsure how they were supposed to face the relatives of those people who were eagerly awaiting their return.

On the road, Ling Lan found out that these people were all from the same village. Their excursion this time was to procure some necessities at a small town about 30 li 1 away. They had never expected such a terrible thing to happen.

Ling Lan followed them as they made their way around a small hillside, and the desolation was noticeably clearing up as they progressed, with more and more greenery becoming visible. The young man told Ling Lan that their village was built around a natural heaven-blessed spring, which was the site of the green lung of this wasteland, allowing all the people in their village to survive in this arid land.

After traversing another distance of road, a green abundance of grass came into view. But when the young man turned excitedly to tell Ling Lan that they were about to arrive at the village, Ling Lan's expression changed dramatically.

She signalled for everyone to hide, while she quietly crept ahead. Luckily, this wasn't a boundless expanse of flat grassland, but was a hilly area with plenty of erratic ups and downs.

Soon, Ling Lan had followed the curve of the mountain to arrive at the mouth of the village. However, one look at the scene before her eyes and Ling Lan understood that the young man's village was also facing the tragic outcome of being massacred.

On several large trees by the village gates, a significant number of strapping young men were already bound and hung on the branches, some still alive. Meanwhile, around them, the elderly, the women, and the children were all tied together. They were kneeling on the ground and struggling desperately, crying and screaming as they tried to crawl closer to their loved ones. Laughing uproariously, the killers watching over them used their weapons to knock down anyone who tried to resist, and made them watch on helplessly as their sons, husbands, and fathers had their bowels cut open and their hearts torn out, dying before their very eyes.

"Scumbags!" The rage in Ling Lan's heart flared into a furious flame. This scene had thoroughly crossed over the line of Ling Lan's 'forbidden territory'. If at the start Ling Lan could be said to be hesitant to intervene because she hated troublesome matters, right now, Ling Lan just really wanted to kill every single one of these scumbags that definitely could not be considered human anymore.

However, Ling Lan wasn't someone who would let rage get to her head. She wasn't going to allow a moment of recklessness to cause her to fail to rescue these people and lose her life instead.

Ling Lan still remembered that phrasal hint given by the system. An exclusive mission ... it was likely that she wasn't permitted to die in this mission. The moment she died, the mission would end, never to repeat.

After dealing with the learning space for almost a full six years, Ling Lan was very familiar with the learning space's mission reward mechanism. The stranger and more unique the mission was, the more generous the reward. With regards to the exclusive mission, just based off the word 'exclusive' alone, Ling Lan could confirm that the mission reward would definitely be generous to the point where she would regret it if she didn't manage to get it.

Therefore, from the very beginning, Ling Lan had never even considered giving up. No matter how great the difficulty, she must complete this mission.

Li: Also known as a Chinese mile. It's an old Chinese unit of distance, roughly equivalent to half a kilometre, i.e. 500 metres. 30 li = 15 kilometres.

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