Chapter 111: Realm of Mortals (14)
In 30 seconds, Tang Cuo could describe to anyone how terrifying Warden Xiao Tong’s strength was using his own personal experience.
In mere 30 seconds, Tang Cuo’s HP, which he had just replenished using the healing potion, was directly beaten to below 30. And this happened even when he used the ‘Holy Light Shield’.
Only then did Tang Cuo understand that Xiao Tong indeed held himself back earlier, and he didn’t hold back only a little.
From the moment Xiao Tong mentioned that he would make a real move, all his attacks carried with them the impact akin to that of lightning. The attack power was twice as usual, and if the opponent was hit, they would be paralysed.
Regarding these, Jin Cheng had actually told Tang Cuo before they came to Zone G. But to hear was one thing, and to experience it in person was another.
Xiao Tong retracted his stick to its shortest length, and after another swing, the stick didn’t become longer, instead, it threw out an electric whip. Following Xiao Tong’s waves, the whip extended up to five meters long, and its power was impressive.
Tang Cuo’s ‘Holy Light Shield’ was forced back by this whip. Since the shield could exist for 15 seconds, Tang Cuo used it to resist Xiao Tong’s attack. It was fine at first, but after three whips, slight cracks started to form on the shield.
“Crack!” At the 11th second, the shield broke.
Tang Cuo dodged fast, but his arm was still brushed by the whip and a deep bloody cut was left behind. The lightning entered this wound and drilled into his blood vessels, making him suffer a much heavier injury than it seemed to be on the surface.
With more than 30 seconds left and a HP of 29, what should he do?
And since Xiao Tong said he wanted to make a real move, he really didn’t intend to go easy on these words and relentlessly waved the electric whip at Tang Cuo. His movements were also as swift as a ghost; clearly, in this second, he was five meters away, yet in the next second, he was right beside Tang Cuo.
This wasn’t teleportation, because his afterimage was still lingering in the same spot. It was because his speed was so fast that to any naked eye, he seemed to be just walking.
With each step that looked as though he was leisurely walking in a garden, he reached a few meters away, smiled and raised his electric whip. And with every whip, the opponent would be beaten so badly that his soul could jump out of his body.
Tang Cuo was cornered to the extent that he couldn’t even take a breather. He tossed out the [Horror Doll] to shield himself, but after receiving this blow, the item became invalidated.
After the [Horror Doll], he took out the [Gatling Gun], but even by using these two pieces of equipment in succession, he could buy only another six seconds.
“Bam!” Hit by the electric whip, Tang Cuo rammed into the ground. A petrifying whip mark stretched from his shoulder to his waist, and the two sides of the mark were not only welted with blood but also burnt black.
Although Tang Cuo could bear it, the extreme pain still had his shoulders tremble slightly. The paralysis effect of the lightning made him unable to stand up at once, and when he managed to raise his head, entering his eyes was a pair of shiny leather boots that, until now, still hadn’t been stained with any dust.
“I’ll give you another chance, do you want to stay in Zone G?” Xiao Tong’s voice rang with the crisp sound of the bells, making Tang Cuo’s brain almost want to go haywire.
He shook his head and squeezed his palms firmly, all while piercing a stone into his flesh, using the pain to keep himself awake. Once again, he asked back: “Don’t you think that Zone G is a prison for The Warden?”
The Warden was the master of Zone G, but he could never step out of it.
Just like Lin Yandong, who was the uncrowned king and the most experienced veteran of Zone A. Everyone wanted to suck up to him, but he could never leave Zone A.
Tang Cuo didn’t know the reason for this, but for men like him and Jin Cheng, it was better to die than to have no freedom.
Hearing what he said, Xiao Tong laughed, but instead of letting out that elegant laughter of a gentlemanly bastard like before, he was laughing out loud. He stepped on Tang Cuo’s wound, leaned over to look at him and said: “To be honest, I adore you very much. Even Jin Cheng didn’t dare to say this to me the first time we met.”
Tang Cuo He glanced at his HP, which had dropped to 6. He was panting hard, and the pain made him almost unable to speak.
“What do you still have up your sleeve? I’m looking forward to it.” Saying that, Xiao Tong raised his electric whip again. He moved very sluggishly, as though he was really waiting for Tang Cuo’s hidden counterattack, yet it also seemed like he was indulging in some sort of ultra-slow torture.
“Bam —” The whip swung down, but it missed the target. The electric whip hit the ground, smashing the hard granite into powder and tiny pieces, but Tang Cuo was nowhere in sight.
Reaching this point, the delight in Xiao Tong’s eyes was finally ignited to its peak. He looked around, decided on a position and dragged the electric whip that way.
Tang Cuo was right there, hiding behind a certain tombstone, kneeling on the ground and breathing softly.
The move just now was the skill engraved on the Greenvines Alliance badge, ‘Teleportation’, which allowed the player to instantly move to any place within 100 meters around him without any restriction, with a cooldown time of 24 hours.
At this time, the time limit of three minutes had reached its last nine seconds. Almost all the items, skills and equipment that Tang Cuo could use had been used.
Eight seconds left.
Xiao Tong shattered the tombstone where Tang Cuo was hiding, but Tang Cuo moved ahead of time and avoided the attack.
Seven seconds left.
Xiao Tong’s whip chased closely behind Tang Cuo.
Six seconds left.
Tang Cuo fled with much difficulty as his HP dropped to 4.
Five seconds left.
‘Earthquake’, ‘Ice Shield’, ‘Fireball’, et cetera, whatever small tricks that could be used were all used, and it won Tang Cuo another precious second.
Four seconds left.
Xiao Tong’s whip wrapped around Tang Cuo’s ankle and knocked him to the ground: “Caught you.”
Three seconds left.
A puff of smoke suddenly blew up on Tang Cuo’s body, and in a flash, Xiao Tong lost him again. At first, he thought it was another ‘Teleportation’, but very soon, he realised that it was just a transformation.
Tang Cuo turned into a black cat and escaped from the shackles of the electric whip with his petite body. However, this wasn’t a skill; it was from the reward that Tang Cuo got from [Conquering Demon City] — the [Transformation Potion Recipe].
He had handed the recipe to Wen Xiaoming. After more than half a month, Wen Xiaoming used his not-so-mature potion-making skills to create a single transformation potion, which he gave Tang Cuo as a remuneration for the recipe.
Two seconds left.
Xiao Tong’s electric whip once again blocked the black cat’s path. Under the effect of the transformation potion, Tang Cuo was unable to turn back for a while, and even his [Sword of Judgment] couldn’t be used.
One last second.
The whip struck down.
But it only hit emptiness.
“Congratulations to the player for completing the single-player gate ‘Cemetery of Souls’, Difficulty: Nightmare, Rating: A+, Character points to be earned: 80.”
“This is the first gate that was completely cleared, so you’re rewarded with 20% more of the total points.”
Hearing the announcement, Xiao Tong raised his eyebrows slightly while staring at the huge crack that had been carved into the ground. He turned his head to see the black cat appearing on a tombstone five meters from his right. Blood dripped down the cat’s paw, splattering onto the phone screen that was still on.
What was going on here?
Xiao Tong put away the whip, sniffed the air carefully and finally caught something unusual: “It’s the aura of time… Time manipulation?”
The black cat didn’t answer.
“No.” Xiao Tong shook his head again: “Not only that but also the aura of healing magic.”
Although Tang Cuo won, he was still shaken. Xiao Tong was truly terrifying. He had tried his best, but Xiao Tong could break his plan in just a few seconds.
If Xiao Tong was a little more cautious, Tang Cuo would’ve died here today.
He was correct. The skills Tang Cuo used in the last second were ‘Time Pause’ and ‘Healing’.
[Time Pause: Stop time for one second. During this second, the player can move freely. The cooldown time is one hour, and it can only be used inside a dungeon.]
This skill came from the dungeon [Before Dawn]. Contrasted against The Time Master Rong Yi in the same dungeon, a one-second pause was nowhere noteworthy, but in such a high-intensity battle, one second could overturn the outcome.
But this wasn’t enough, because even if he escaped the final blow, Tang Cuo’s HP was still falling a bit short. So he used the skill at the bottom of his Skills panel — elementary-level ‘Healing’.
Tang Cuo was a versatile wizard. This extreme method of healing only recovered 1 point of his HP at the last second and barely let his life hang by a thread.
This was indeed what they called last-second victory.
“Clap clap.” Xiao Tong couldn’t help clapping his hands Tang Cuo, the admiration in his eyes unconcealed.
Tang Cuo didn’t dare to relax. Although he had won, who could say that Xiao Tong must abide by the rules? Besides, his HP now was only 1. Even if he only fell from this tombstone, he might actually fall to his death.
At this moment, Xiao Tong suddenly threw out a healing potion and said: “Take it.”
Tang Cuo felt more and more puzzled by this man. He almost beat Tang Cuo to death earlier, yet now he was generously giving him a potion. His mood was unpredictable. That said, a potion was already delivered to Tang Cuo’s mouth, so he would be a fool to not take it. Not to mention, Tang Cuo was already in this state, so he had no reason to fear that Xiao Tong would poison him.
After gulping down the potion, Tang Cuo’s HP finally recovered to 100. It seemed that what Xiao Tong gave was indeed a high-quality item.
“How long does your transformation potion last?” Xiao Tong asked again.
“?” Tang Cuo remained on guard.
Xiao Tong smiled, then he walked to Tang Cuo’s side to pick him up without giving him any buffer to react at all. For this cat Tang Cuo, just grab him by the back of his neck and he would naturally become submissive.
Tang Cuo was carried by him and forced to look at him face-to-face.
Xiao Tong let out a laugh so cold that chills ran down Tang Cuo’s spine: “Poor kitten is lost. Let your master lead the way.”
As his voice fell, Xiao Tong vanished from the cemetery with black cat Tang Cuo.
Jin Cheng, who didn’t know about this, was still fighting the Bosses. With the presence of The Great Mage Leng Miao, a master of space-type magic, the range of movement of the two Bosses was severely limited, and their initial advantage was infinitely weakened. 13 minutes were all it took to take them down.
The two didn’t have superb understanding between them, but after all, they were both skilled players, so they worked rather well together with their first-class combat sense. As for the five players guarding the intersection, they simply stood there dumbfounded.
No matter how they tried, they couldn’t figure it out. Those two monsters were obviously the very last level’s Bosses, but how come fighting them seemed even easier than fighting the small-fry monsters earlier?
13 minutes later, one after another, the two Bosses slumped to the ground.
“Congratulations to the players for completing the gate ‘Branches of Life’, Difficulty: Hard, Number of participants: 28, Survivors: 7, Rating: A, Characters points to be earned: 40.”
“This is the second gate that was completely cleared, so you’re rewarded with 10% more of the total points.”
“Please wait for other gates to be cleared.”
The successive announcements shocked the players to the core. Only seven people survived, meaning that all the other players of this gate had perished. This made them feel super lucky to have followed Jin Cheng on this path, but at the same time, a hint of fear crept into their heart.
But what was even more astounding was the ranking of their clearance. Even with the two big bosses leading the way, they only ranked second? Did the players in the other gates turn on some cheat codes?
Compared to these five players’ stupefaction, Jin Cheng and Leng Miao remained much calmer.
Standing on the side of the road with his arms folded, Leng Miao spoke humbly: “Is that your man?”
Jin Cheng liked the way Leng Miao referred to Tang Cuo, so he smiled unusually sincerely: “I’m not sure, but he does have this capability. If it hadn’t been for me to be here three years earlier, looking at the overall ability of clearing missions, I might not be as good as him.”
Leng Miao glared sideways.
He could see that Jin Cheng and Tang Cuo had a great relationship and trusted each other, but in his opinion, a strong, confident and proud person like Jin Cheng would never easily admit defeat.
Love truly made people intoxicated.
Of course, Leng Miao didn’t think Jin Cheng would make jokes about this kind of thing. Recalling the scene before entering the dungeon, he frowned slightly: “Who is the bald girl?”
Jin Cheng smiled without saying a word.
Leng Miao looked at him directly: “I can exchange information with you.”
“Oh? What information?” Jin Cheng grinned mischievously. “Let’s talk clearly first. I don’t like mere general intelligence. I have a good relationship with K, you know.”
Leng Miao: “Lin Yandong.”
Jin Cheng raised an eyebrow: “Lin Yandong tried to team up with you?”
Leng Miao’s expression sank a little, which further affirmed that Jin Cheng guessed correctly. Jin Cheng shrugged and laughed lightly: “This information is useless to me. Lin Yandong wanting to lure you and me seeking your help both had its reason. Miao Miao, let’s see whose side you’ll get on eventually.”
“Lin Yandong and you are not on the same side?”
“Whether we’re on the same side, I can’t tell you yet. I can only tell you that Tang Cuo and I are in an inseparable relationship.”
Leng Miao: “…”
Jin Cheng stroked his nose, seemingly feeling a tiny bit embarrassed: “It’s not that I don’t want to make this deal with you. I don’t know more about that little girl than you. I asked K to check on her, but the information I got is limited. I can only guess that Jiang He and she have jumped on the same side. As for what would be the outcome of this partnership, it remains unclear for the time being.”
Hearing this, Leng Miao creased his brows.
Jin Cheng said again: “The little girl’s affair may also involve The Warden. If Chong Yanzhang’s death is related to her, he shouldn’t be left to die an unjust death.”
As for the details regarding The Warden trying to look for a successor, Jin Cheng didn’t say anything.
After another ten minutes, there were only 21 minutes left before the six-hour limit. All of a sudden, the system announcement came again.
“All the gates have successfully concluded. Congratulations to the players for successfully completing the mission [Realm of Mortals], Difficulty: Hard, Total number of players: 96, Survivors: 17. Rating: A-, Character points to be earned: 50. These points will be given on top of the gate-specific reward points.”
“We will begin to calculate the rewards now.”
17 out of 96, that made more than 80% fatality rate. The survivors at the branched roads and the asylum involuntarily raised their heads.
The players of Yong Ye City always felt that the announcement came from the sky. Towards that gloomy sky, they felt frightened, disturbed, angry, and sometimes helpless.
At this very moment, fear was drenched in their heartbeat, but they felt lucky that drops of sweat were still oozing from their backs.
But this trace of luck didn’t last long, for the sound of a bell once again shattered the peace. Everyone thought it was the usual “Welcome back to Yong Ye City”, but after hearing the content, one by one, their jaws dropped.
“Congratulations to the players for triggering the Easter egg game — ‘Peekaboo’. There are 17 players in this round of the game, one is hiding and 16 are catching. Both sides in the game can move freely between the four gates. Victory is decided when either side successfully hides or successfully catches. The winner(s) will be immediately released from jail, while the loser(s) will have their original sentence doubled.”
“The time limit is 30 minutes.”
“Survival is not easy, luck is most important, the game starts now!”
The Easter egg that struck like a bolt from the blue made everyone snap out of their daydream. The reward of being released immediately sounded very good, and even if they lost, they wouldn’t die. But was any Easter egg game of Yong Ye City ever so easy to play?
Jin Cheng frowned hard. He keenly noticed the problematic setting of this game.
The system said “Both sides in the game can move freely between the four gates”, indicating that there were four gates total in the dungeon [Realm of Mortals], and that the map of this Easter egg game was directly based on these four gates.
This was a PvP game. 17 players were divided into two teams, 1 versus 16. Who was that unlucky 1?
Tang Cuo or the little girl?
Jin Cheng had no doubt that this candidate must be either Tang Cuo or that little girl. After all, this was Warden Xiao Tong’s home ground. Jin Cheng didn’t think there was any other player who could have such ‘good’ luck.
The game asked them to find someone, but Jin Cheng looked around to only see so many branched roads. The map was too big to cover within half an hour, not to mention that this was just one of the gates.
“Can you sense any teleportation portal?” Jin Cheng asked Leng Miao. Since players can shuttle between gates, there must be portals or the like.
Leng Miao had started looking for it a while ago. He closed his eyes and perceived his surroundings carefully. A moment later, he pointed his staff forward and said: “The road sign.”
Without wasting another word, Jin Cheng ran to the road sign. Seeing him coming over, the other five players who were still at the intersection hurriedly wanted to ask what to do next. But Jin Cheng was rushing to find Tang Cuo, so clearly, his eyes couldn’t see anyone else. The players could only feel their heads going giddy, and Jin Cheng already disappeared in front of the road sign.
Leng Miao followed closely behind.
The two came to the Third Gate, ‘Mortal Realm Message Forwarding Company’.
Looking at the pure white room covered with blood but containing not even a single human, Jin Cheng picked up the earphones that fell on the floor and listened for two seconds, which allowed him to roughly guess the setting of this gate. Then he looked at the only door on the wall, opened it and walked in. Behind the door was a cemetery that was as empty as the previous room.
At this time, the Cemetery of Souls was in tatters, where all the tombstones had collapsed left and right and only a few pieces remained intact. But compared to the message forwarding company, the cell phone tombstone was undoubtedly much more novel. Jin Cheng quickly walked to the screens that were still on and was able to guess that it was another dungeon of reasoning.
Judging from the scattered but almost uniform footprints on the ground, it seemed that there was only one player in this dungeon.
Seeing him suddenly squat down, Leng Miao walked over.
Jin Cheng pointed to the footprints on the ground and said: “This is the mark of military boots. Our great Warden has been here, and there are even whip marks on the ground.”
Saying so, Jin Cheng went around the cemetery again. Following the traces of the battle, he made a few stops here and there, and after a while, he picked up a broken rag doll from the ground.
He remembered that this was a reward item that Tang Cuo got from the dungeon [Before Dawn]. In other words, if this really was a single-player gate, then Tang Cuo was here.
“Cat paw prints.” Leng Miao’s voice came from behind.
Jin Cheng looked back to see the little paw prints and suddenly remembered something, then he slightly narrowed his eyes. Single-player gate, Warden Xiao Tong, Easter egg game, and the 1 versus 16 setting —
“I’ve been wondering what cat he has hidden away. It turns out to be my cat.”
The author has something to say: ‘Time Pause’ originally was called ‘Time Manipulation’, a skill that allows the player to go back in time, which is equivalent to setting up a save point so that the player has a second life. After writing so, I feel that it’s a bit too much of a buff for Tang Cuo; if anything happens, he can just easily save it? So I decided to change this skill.
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”.