Chapter 107: Realm of Mortals (10)
As Tang Cuo continued to fight with the souls, Xiao Tong was in the monitoring room, smiling and clapping his hands intermittently. He raised his feet clad in military boots and put them on the table, leaned back against the swivel chair and watched the show with gusto.
Xiao Tong specifically put Tang Cuo in the only single-player gate in the entire dungeon and let him face the three strongest Bosses. At present, one Boss was down and the story was only halfway through, but Xiao Tong felt that he could already see the ending.
It would be an ending with no suspense.
Tang Cuo was a newcomer to Yong Ye City, yet he could obtain sacred artifacts like the [Sword of Judgment], dexterously use various equipment and skills, and took up duo classes in magic and martial arts. A player like that was incredibly rare to chance upon. Xiao Tong was sure that Tang Cuo still had a lot of trump cards hidden somewhere, yet he could already ace the game so easily. Naturally, this was attributed to one important reason — he had a brain.
Whether it was his choice on the method to pass the game requirements or his attempt to constrain the battle within a certain area, they all pointed to one thing — he had indeed found the best way to clear this gate.
He tried his best to find the correct three tombs and defeat the Bosses while, as far as possible, not destroying other tombstones. The more tombstones remained, the greater the rewards.
As Xiao Tong expected, Tang Cuo successfully defeated the five souls and absorbed their soul balls. This time, because there were too many light balls, his Soul Instability Index reached 37, so he had to rest longer.
After another half an hour, he opened his eyes again. Although he had recovered, his face was still a little pale.
At this time, two and a half hours had passed since he entered the dungeon.
Tang Cuo got new clues from the five soul balls again. For example, using their ‘omnipotence’, within the shortest time, the netizens studied the videos and screenshots of the incident to pick up the brand of rain boots that the mysterious man was wearing.
That pair of shoes was very pricey, for it was a limited edition of a certain brand, and there was no way to buy it in China. For items like this, there would be a record of who the store sold to.
It was just that normal netizens wouldn’t be able to lay their hands on such records, and Tang Cuo also suspected that these rain boots weren’t the murderer’s own shoes at all. He played the role of an ordinary worker who installed surveillance cameras in various residences, so would he buy himself a pair of such expensive shoes that had to be purchased from abroad?
The purpose of pretending to install the surveillance cameras was to enter the house and kill people rather than to steal, which showed that the murderer’s motive wasn’t money. If the act wasn’t for money or material enjoyment, the probability that these shoes were owned by him would be very small.
If the police investigated further into those rain boots, they might be able to discover another case. Would there be a third victim in this case?
Tang Cuo thought for a moment and boiled down to a direction — he remembered that one of the 99 cell phone screens belonged to a purchasing agent1.
The agent was on his way to the airport, but as expected, he was stuck on the road due to the car rear collision on Xishan Road. Tang Cuo had seen his cell phone interface just now, where he was basically complaining to his friends about the damn rain and wondering if it would delay his flight.
At this point, Tang Cuo looked back again to find that the information had been refreshed.
Xiao Tiantian – Europe Purchasing Agent: “[Picture] Sh*t, what did I just see? ! These are the shoes I sold!!! There’s an inconspicuous stain under the trademark, I remember it clearly!”
Pao Qi: “What’s wrong?”
Pao Qi: “Don’t worry, you just sell shoes, not a murderer. It’ll be fine.”
Xiao Tiantian – Europe Purchasing Agent: “But the shoes are fake, you know it! If they check the records of the authentic shoes, they won’t be able to find this pair. And if they can’t find it, they’ll know that those shoes are fake. If the police trace them back to me, my business would be over!”
Xiao Tiantian – Europe Purchasing Agent: “Maybe a lot of customers will want to return the goods and even ask for compensation. It’s over, it’s over…”
Xiao Tiantian – Europe Purchasing Agent: “Wait!”
Xiao Tiantian – Europe Purchasing Agent: “Don’t tell this to anyone!”
Pao Qi: “Don’t worry, we’re friends, how could I expose you? [Bleh]”
An unscrupulous purchasing agent sold fake shoes and the shoes ended up on a twisted murder’s feet, therefore he became anxious. But this wasn’t where Tang Cuo wanted to focus on. What he cared about was how Pao Qi turned up again.
He immediately returned to check Pao Qi’s cell phone tombstone, clicked on her WeChat address book and quickly swiped to the bottom. With one swipe, he couldn’t reach the bottom; with one more swipe, he still couldn’t reach the bottom.
Tang Cuo had no idea how many swipes he had made, but eventually, he saw the small line at the bottom of the address book — ‘1001 contacts’.
Pao Qi had added 1,001 friends, not counting also those in her group chats.
If it hadn’t been for her to show up too often, Tang Cuo would never have thought about checking how many people were there in her address book. And if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes, he wouldn’t have known that WeChat allowed users to add so many friends.
For people like Tang Cuo who didn’t like crowds, this was too scary.
What role did Pao Qi, who was seemingly friends with everyone, play in this story?
Wait. Among so many of her friends, was there a murderer?
Tang Cuo frowned. The things shown on each person’s cell phone tombstone were very specific, and it wasn’t like every phone had WeChat. Some people only had an ordering interface, some only had a Weibo interface, while the murderer only had a monitoring screen. If he had WeChat, what would he be called?
With 1001 friends, to find one whose name was uncertain was equivalent to finding a needle in a haystack. But as he pondered the idea again, Pao Qi actually appeared in the murderer’s monitoring screen, which meant that she was one of the murderer’s targets.
This proved that the murderer and Pao Qi didn’t know each other.
Tang Cuo narrowed his eyes and suddenly thought of something, then he hurried to the murderer’s cell phone tombstone to study the monitoring time again. The timespan of these surveillance videos was very long, where the earliest could be traced back to one year ago, and the latest was one day ago.
The monitoring videos pointing to Pao Qi stopped on 17th May, while the Xishan Road accident occurred on 25th June. There was a one-month gap between them. At first, Tang Cuo didn’t pay much attention to the timing, but now that he thought about it —
Was the Pao Qi that was captured by the surveillance camera really alive?
Why did the murderer stop monitoring Pao Qi after 17th May? Had he given up, or had he killed her? If the Pao Qi with that pretty face was dead, who was still taking selfies now?
Perhaps, not only her words were untrue, but everything that belonged to Pao Qi’s account might also be false.
She or he stole another person’s pictures.
This ‘another person’ had long been dead and wouldn’t appear near Xishan Road on 25th June, so her tombstone wouldn’t be in the Cemetery of Souls.
Tang Cuo had previously inferred that investigating the rain boots might lead to another case. Would the case of the man in rain boots be connected to the woman on the monitoring screen?
How many people did the murderer actually kill?
Thinking of this, Tang Cuo’s pitch-black eyes couldn’t help getting colder. At this moment, he remembered the takeaway-order call he received when he first entered the dungeon, and an idea suddenly flashed through his mind. If he could communicate with these people via the phone, how about via WeChat?
He immediately returned to Pao Qi’s cell phone tombstone, located the purchasing agent’s account, clicked on the chat box and found that he could really input sentences.
Pao Qi: “Who on earth did you sell your shoes to?”
Pao Qi: “I think you should take the initiative to give these clues to the police. The Internet is so developed these days, all your transaction records and chat history will leave traces on the Internet, so they’ll find you sooner or later. As your friend, I don’t want bad things to happen to you.”
The other person didn’t reply for a long time, but Tang Cuo was very patient. About ten minutes later, a reply finally came.
Xiao Tiantian – Europe Purchasing Agent: “I, I really don’t know what to do. I’m really an honest purchasing agent. I’ve only sold fake products two or three times, but they’re all grade-A products2, and the quality is very good…”
Xiao Tiantian – Europe Purchasing Agent: “The rain boots were bought by a man named ‘Teenager Deeply In Love’. When he bought the shoes and made the payment, he was super happy and didn’t seem like a bad person. In hope of doing business with him again, I also gave him a Fidget Cube, which costs dozens of RMB you know, how would I know that this would happen?!”
Immediately afterwards, the purchasing agent sent a screenshot from Teenager Deeply In Love’s Moments. There were not only his selfie, but also his latest two statuses.
Tang Cuo frowned when he saw that selfie, feeling rather familiar. Two seconds later, he remembered. Wasn’t he the poor guy in that dog-blood love story?
[A guy from XX province rushed to see his online girlfriend thousands of miles away, only to discover that his girlfriend was a man!]
The two statuses that Teenager Deeply In Love shared were also very interesting.
Teenager Deeply In Love: “If you love that person, you must give him or her the best! [Picture of rain boots]”
Teenager Deeply In Love: “I don’t care if you’re a man or a woman, I’ve spent so much time giving you so much affection, my sincere heart can’t be crushed like that! Even if you’re a man, you have to be with me! I want to talk about this love even if I have to bite the bullet!”
He really deserved to be a ‘teenager deeply in love’.
Since he sent the rain boots out and came to meet a netizen from another province, the probability of him being the murderer is very low. But was the murderer his online ‘boyfriend’?
Or was the murderer related to that boyfriend?
At the same time, Jin Cheng and others in the First Gate had arrived at the ‘Child Bearing’ stage. From ‘Birth’ to ‘Child Bearing’, they walked for nearly three hours.
28 players, one death.
[Ruleless] was like a relay baton. When a monster died, another would continue to hold onto it. The ceaseless coercion suppressed the players’ spirits, making their already exhausted bodies even less able to exert their full strength.
Jin Cheng did think about snatching [Ruleless], but the system still defaulted [Ruleless] to be Xiao Tong’s possession at this point. This was a bug. No matter how many times Jin Cheng seized it, as long as Mr. Crow was there, [Ruleless] would return to the monster’s hands.
Reaching this point, Jin Cheng sneered coldly. In any case, he didn’t waste much effort.
After passing the ‘Child Bearing’ stage, they came to ‘Postpartum Confinement’, ‘Baby Upbringing’ and ‘Return to The Workplace’. They worked hard to kill all sorts of monsters and ghosts, then they arrived at yet another fork in the road. Everyone looked at the two big words ‘Second Child’ written on the road sign on the left and almost vomited blood.
“F**k, this again, just let me die…” Someone fell on his knees, panted desperately and propped his hands on the ground. He was so tired that he wanted to cough out his lungs.
More than one player began to doubt whether they were correct to choose the ‘Female’ path after the boss, but if they parted ways at this juncture, no one felt they could survive till the end.
Although the road ahead was difficult and dangerous, they definitely must hug the boss’ thigh.
At this point, Leng Miao finally came to a realisation. He stared at Jin Cheng with his icy eyes and asked: “You want to go for the ‘Second Child’ path, don’t you? Why must we step on this burdensome path?”
There were obviously easier paths, but Jin Cheng had to choose the hardest. Just why?
When playing a dungeon, just thinking in the simplest manner would allow one to figure that the hardest path only meant one thing — the best rewards.
“You aren’t an idiot, Miao Miao.” Jin Cheng smiled.
“What really is your purpose of entering Zone G?” Leng Miao asked.
“I can’t tell you that. But since you’ve agreed to help, you can’t change your mind at such a last minute. Only a puppy changes their mind so late, Miao Miao.” Jin Cheng said, relaxing his muscles a bit, then he firmly headed towards the ‘Second Child’ path.
A second before he set foot on the fork in the road, he turned back and said: “People should stand on their own two feet at the age of 303. Everyone, you should have your own ideas. To follow me or to go by yourself after this, please make your own choice.”
As his voice fell, half of the players tailed behind him without a second thought, but the others were hesitant and gazed at Leng Miao. Leng Miao pondered for a moment. He actually wanted to go the other way to see whether Jin Cheng or he would reach the end first.
Jin Cheng was right in saying that in Yong Ye City’s dungeons, the hardest thing might turn out to be the simplest. As to whose hands the great rewards would fall into, it remained unknown.
That said, Leng Miao still had no idea what the rewards would be.
But just when he was about to take that step, Mr. Crow stood atop the road sign and mumbled: “Hey, wherever 79081 is, [Ruleless] will be there, and the more people there are, the more monsters you’ll encounter. You shouldn’t follow him, aren’t you rushing to die?! All of you will be grilled into roast lamb!”
Hearing this, Leng Miao withdrew his stretched foot and decisively followed Jin Cheng.
“Why?!” Mr. Crow was very angry, so angry that his feathers started falling off.
Leng Miao was a cold man, so of course he wouldn’t answer — He simply hated other people making a fuss in front of him, which only made him want to do the exact opposite. This was especially true when he faced the great and benevolent Mr. Crow.
Go to hell.
While Jin Cheng and Leng Miao were walking on the ‘Second Child’ path, the diligent storyteller Qian Wei was still telling Zheng Yingying the tale of [Two Big Bosses and I: A Story of Fate That Has To Be Told], part two.
Meng Yufei leaned his arms against the window, his face as black as the bottom of a pot.
“And then he died.” This was the conclusion, or more specifically, Qian Wei’s conclusion to Meng Yufei.
Many people in Yong Ye City knew that Jin Cheng chased Meng Yufei into the dungeon to completely annihilate this disaster, so Qian Wei didn’t bother hiding it. He openly recounted this detail, with so much zeal that his saliva was flying everywhere.
“And then he died.” How mundane did this ending sound? It was as if Jin Cheng just trampled on an ant on the roadside.
Meng Yufei almost couldn’t restrain himself, but as soon as he gripped the hilt of his blade, Zheng Yingying’s words poured over him like a basin of cold water: “He really deserves to die. He has killed many people.”
Zheng Yingying was also a part of these ‘many people’.
Zheng Yingying originally squatted on the ground and hugged her knees to listen to Qian Wei’s story, but at this moment, she suddenly lifted her head to look at Meng Yufei. The exposed lower half of her face showed a broad grin, where her spotless white teeth could be seen. Seeing this, a chill ran down Meng Yufei’s spine.
Meng Yufei didn’t have the nerve to move.
Zheng Yingying retracted her gaze and asked Qian Wei: “Were they the only two? Didn’t they bring anyone else?”
Qian Wei was sitting cross-legged on the ground. Since Zheng Yingying had a friendly attitude, he slightly let down his vigilance and waved his hand dismissively: “Wasn’t boss Jin Cheng punished back to Zone F? Except for Tang ge, in Zone F, who else has the strength to come to the same dungeon as him?”
Zheng Yingying nodded thoughtfully and didn’t ask any further.
Qian Wei was a little curious. After hesitating for a moment, he finally couldn’t help asking: “Do you know them?”
Zheng Yingying shook his head: “They’re good people, I admire them.”
Meng Yufei: “…”
I, Meng Huanhuan, really thought that you were evil.
At this moment, the pregnant woman suddenly cried out excruciatingly while holding her belly. She was sitting on the ground, but right now, she couldn’t even sit still. She slumped to the ground, screaming again and again.
“What’s wrong? Is she going to give birth?” Qian Wei jumped up from the ground in horror. It was the first time for a little boy like him to witness the ‘reproduction process’ with his own eyes.
It’s all blood, it’s scary!
One after another, the other people also gathered around her. Seeing that she was in such pain, the laughing man was reminded of himself earlier, and his eyes couldn’t hide a trace of despair and helplessness.
Qian Wei was busy comforting her over and over: “I still have healing potions here. Bear with it, ah, no, you need to use force to let the baby out. Don’t be afraid —”
“Baby, what f**king baby?!” The woman suddenly exploded, grabbed Qian Wei by the collar and stared at him with bloodshot eyes: “I’m not pregnant! What will I give birth to?! A monster!”
When the woman entered the ward, Qian Wei had been knocked out by electricity, so he didn’t know that her belly only bulged up after she was injected with the medicine. As soon as the woman said so, other people started putting on a strange expression as they looked at her belly, especially after seeing that there seemed to be something moving.
“What, what do we do? If there’s really something in her belly, we can’t do anything!” The laughing man sweat nervously.
“No, I can’t give birth to it, I don’t want to, I don’t want to…” The woman clenched her teeth and her tears immediately rolled down the moment she lost control of her emotions. It wasn’t that she hated children, but she just hoped she could make that decision on her own. Even if having her own child was a mistake, she was willing to bear with that mistake till the very end.
“Even if I die, I don’t want to give birth to a monster!” Her gaze wandered around for a long while, and she grabbed the only other girl at the scene: “You help me, you help me…”
This time, Zheng Yingying responded very firmly. She raised the [Nameless Dagger] above the woman’s belly and said: “I’ll kill it with a single stab, but you may also die.”
The woman wept and wept, unable to answer her.
Shaking like a leaf, Qian Wei quickly took out a flask of healing potion and brought it to the woman’s mouth while glancing at Zheng Yingying: “You, just stab very lightly, and I will pour the potion immediately. Maybe it’ll work.”
“I still have some here.” The laughing man also gritted his teeth and pulled out a flask with his hands still shaking. No one knew how determined he actually was.
Meng Yufei let out a cold snort, turned the other way and said nothing.
The woman cried harder, but finally she nodded. She clutched her clothes tightly with both hands and closed her eyes: “Do it.”
Everyone’s heart jumped to their throat, and their eyes were all intently fixed on the woman’s belly.
Zheng Yingying raised the dagger and thrust it down.
Translator and reviewer at Strictly Bromance blog. In essence, she lives to indulge in plot-driven stories sprinkled with camaraderie and slow-burn drama-free romance, especially more so if they belong to adventure, mystery or supernatural genre. A trope that she always thirsts after: “Comrades who go through life and death together”.