Chapter 23: The Mini Speaker
East Cross Street of Zone F at Yong Ye City suddenly became turbulent.
Thirteen people disappeared in their room, leaving only a pool of blood behind, some of which had even turned dry since a while ago. No one knew who the murderer was.
However, when he walked out of East Cross Street, Tang Cuo found out that the atmosphere outside the street hadn’t changed much. There were even more players wandering at the exit of the street.
As soon as Tang Cuo stepped out, he could tell many eyes staring at him. He’d received professional training on counter-surveillance1, so he was particularly sensitive to this.
He walked a few more steps nonchalantly, then immediately headed back to his room.
Jin Cheng was once again occupying Tang Cuo’s room and was reading the information sent to him by Ruby Bar. Seeing Tang Cuo coming back, he raised his eyes as though he was the room master: “Already back?”
Tang Cuo: “Is there no chair in your room next door?”
Jin Cheng: “You’ve guessed it right.”
Tang Cuo: “…”
Jin Cheng explained: “Little brother Chi has used it as his base camp. Now that the death toll has reached 14, he may come crying to you later.”
Tang Cuo poured himself a glass of water: “Aren’t you also investigating it?”
“You mean this?” Jin Cheng raised the paper in his hand and continued: “It isn’t about the murder case, it’s about Chi Yan. Do you want to have a look?”
Tang Cuo was a little surprised, for he didn’t expect Jin Cheng to get to Chi Yan’s origin so quickly. But when he thought about it again ― this was Jin Cheng, his former instructor, and it shouldn’t be strange that he could pull this off.
Chi Yan’s information was concisely put in only one thin piece of paper, which recorded his movement from Zone E to Zone F and was roughly the same as what Chi Yan himself had said previously. The remaining papers contained the information about dungeons of Zone F, some of which were written in great detail while some were mentioned in only a few sentences.
Jin Cheng said: “Yong Ye City has a wide variety of dungeons, and this information here is actually only a small part of it. Given our circumstances, it’s likely that we won’t encounter common dungeons, so let’s be prepared. You should take a look first and get familiar with the standard moves.”
To put it bluntly, this document was dungeon walkthroughs; even if it wasn’t very detailed, it still contained necessary intelligence. However, Tang Cuo didn’t feel much amazed, because from the dungeon of [On A Snowy Night, He Returns], he could see that it wasn’t easy to just randomly land into a dungeon that he already knew the walkthrough.
Moreover, the price of these walkthroughs was definitely not cheap. It was unlikely that ordinary players could afford them.
He roughly scanned through the papers and turned to the last page, where he spotted a familiar name: “An Ning?”
Jin Cheng said with a casual tone: “She’s a young girl who entered a dungeon by herself, her attitude was bold yet careful, and her equipment wasn’t bad. Aren’t you curious?”
I think you’re too free already.
Tang Cuo didn’t have much curiosity about An Ning or Qian Wei or Peng Mingfan. As long as they didn’t make trouble for him, he didn’t care who they were.
But what was written on this document was rather interesting.
“Ge!” At this time, Chi Yan turned up again, entered the room and closed the door behind him. Indeed, he shouted for help at Tang Cuo: “This is wicked. We’ve found another missing person. More than a dozen have died yet there’s no clue who killed them.”
He wouldn’t expect that Tang Cuo simply poured a bucket of cold water onto his head: “It’s likely that there’ve been more than these dozen people. Something doesn’t seem right outside.”
“What do you mean?” Jin Cheng asked.
“Judging from the dryness of the blood, this kind of thing has happened for several days. The reason why it was not discovered until today is because the new and old players had a fight a few days ago, everybody knew about it. Moreover, killing people for revenge and robbing their valuable items should be very common in Yong Ye City, it won’t be surprising even if it happens every day. But, it draws attention today because there is a sudden outbreak of deaths.” Tang Cuo said.
Chi Yan wondered: “Could it be that a group of people are fishing in troubled waters? They took advantage of when we were not paying attention to kill and take away points? Can points be taken away directly like that?”
Jin Cheng: “Of course they can. You’d better remind other people to be careful. Out there, someone is killing indiscriminately and sneaky things are happening, even if you stop your men from causing troubles to others, others might still come to cause troubles to your men. And the murderer has killed so many without getting noticed, this means he’s quite capable.”
Chi Yan took a breath of cold air and felt his jaws ache. As he rushed out of the room in a hurry, Tang Cuo narrowed his eyes, looking at Jin Cheng: “Why do I feel that you know something?”
Jin Cheng spread his hands: “I know a lot, which one do you want to ask?”
After that, Jin Cheng got up and walked to the window. Yong Ye City looked too quiet today, which reminded him of a lot of things in the past: “Yong Ye City is a place with no laws, do you know what is the most difficult thing about here?”
Tang Cuo, for a rare moment, responded in cooperation: “What is it?”
Jin Cheng: “It’s to create a new order for this place.”
At this moment, Tang Cuo thought that he saw the former Lieutenant Colonel Jin. Even as he wasn’t wearing a military uniform at this moment, his back was upright. But the next second, he leaned against the window frame again: “When I was talking about the prison, I suddenly thought of one thing. Six months ago, the six zones jointly issued a wanted order. The whole city was turned upside down and hundreds of people were sent to prison. Considering the time, it seems that someone has come out recently. His M.O. is very similar to the suspect this time.”
Tang Cuo: “People here are jailed for 6 months?”
“Of course not.” Jin Cheng smiled. “When he was released from prison, I killed him again and sent him back to prison.”
Tang Cuo suddenly felt that he should make a huge poster and hang it on the wall outside, declaring to others that Jin Cheng lived here with a lot of points and plenty of enemies. Then Tang Cuo would nicely kill him by staring at him, so other people wouldn’t have to suffer this man anymore.
At this moment, a commotion was heard from the cobblestone street below.
Jin Cheng and Chi Yan in the room next door looked out almost at the same time to see someone fighting at the end of the long street. One of them was using magic, making the scene particularly eye-catching.
“Boom—” A magical attack exploded like New Year’s fireworks, sending people around flying like firecrackers. One of them slammed into the street lamp and bounced onto the ground; his body shook up a little before he turned into a white light and disappeared into thin air.
Chi Yan’s eyes widened, then he turned around and quickly rushed downstairs.
Jin Cheng moved faster than him. He lightly pushed the window open with one hand and landed decisively on the ground like an eagle, then he stood up prominently in the middle of the long street. The battle at the end of the street hadn’t stopped, rather, it seemed to escalate even further. The players around the scene were hiding and screaming, everything a chaotic mess.
But before Jin Cheng could make any moves, a giant red net suddenly fell from the sky, entirely covering the most aggressive attackers. With a “Whoosh”, a pretty girl with short hair landed on top of the street lamppost, her hands firmly grasping the rope to keep the net tightened.
Those who were caught in the net instantly tried to break out, one brawny man among the group shouting at her with his eyes bloodshot: “What are you doing?!”
The girl’s expression was icy-cold: “It’s me who wants to ask: What are you doing?”
Brawny Man gritted his teeth: “I am taking revenge for the boss, why are you stopping me? Are you with them?!”
“Bullshit!” The girl jumped down from the lamppost and gave him a hard kick without saying a word. The kick looked fierce but it actually didn’t hurt. She then glanced over, her eyes fixed on Jin Cheng.
“I can explain.” She said.
“Explain what?” Jin Cheng folded his arms and looked at An Ning with a smile. The new players who were beaten to the pulp just got up and hid behind Jin Cheng, each glaring at An Ning.
One of them mocked her amid his gasps: “Just now you all suddenly attacked us for no reason, we obviously didn’t provoke you, and we hadn’t made any troubles out here! You’re just looking down on us!”
“We totally didn’t provoke anyone!”
“Crazy, it’s that man who is crazy!”
“You might as well slash me to death!”
New players who had just arrived in Yong Ye City hadn’t even experienced their first mission and were already driven crazy by these successive dangers. People died, then other people were killed, but what did it have anything to do with them?!
But boss Jin Cheng also couldn’t care much about these sentiments and just sent a cold glance their way: “Shut up.”
An Ning took a deep breath, her expression stern: “Our boss was attacked by someone early this morning. You may have heard about him, Cheng Ke of Zone F.”
Tang Cuo also came over.
An Ning nodded at him and continued: “His death is very strange, there are basically no signs of struggle in the room. Looking at the entire Zone F, there are few who can do that to him. Then right before that, there was news that two very powerful persons just turned up at East Cross Street, so — they got impulsive.”
Tang Cuo had seen mentions of Cheng Ke of Zone F in the document about An Ning. He was roughly one of the more powerful players in Zone F; he had his own team and An Ning was one of them.
By right, their team wasn’t weak and should have leveled up to Zone E a long time ago, but Cheng Ke was a person who wanted stability and tried to prevent level-ups. On the other hand, there were other people under him, such as Blonde Hair’s group of scammers, who would scam new players for points and thus strengthen his team’s power. This was exactly the advantage that he wouldn’t be able to get from other zones.
Apart from that, Cheng Ke was a harmless person.
“I’m really sorry.” An Ning finally looked like the An Ning the saw back in the dungeon. “I could tell it was you when I heard the news from East Cross Street, but it was too late when I learnt that they came here to make trouble. Yesterday evening, Cheng ge already decided to move to Zone E and didn’t want to have any conflicts with you, but who would know that ―”
Jin Cheng interrupted her: “Two choices: 20 points or go to jail.”
An Ning’s expression changed, as if she didn’t expect Jin Cheng to be so merciless. Brawny Man struggled violently: “Don’t listen to him! Why should I pay 20 points? If you dare then send me to jail, at least I can be with my boss!”
“Why would I? This is my rule.” Jin Cheng smiled lightly, but his tone became colder.
“Stop talking!” An Ning was angry. She didn’t believe that Cheng Ke’s murder was related to the East Cross Street. Who was Jin Cheng really? Why would he care about players in Zone F?
The Kitchen Knife gang probably had nothing to do with the two of them at all. And after spending time together in the dungeon, An Ning felt that Jin Cheng and Tang Cuo were not the type who would casually kill someone just to vent their anger.
“I’ll pay.” An Ning gave a final word, ignoring the cries of the other men and resolutely reaching a deal. Her attitude also made the new players feel much better.
She swiped into the air before her and a trading box jumped out, holding exactly 20 points. Jin Cheng didn’t pick it up, and he turned around and glanced at Chi Yan: “You take it.”
Chi Yan: “Me?”
Jin Cheng: “You take it first, and wait for the unlucky man who was killed just now to get out of prison before giving it to him.”
As he said this, Chi Yan didn’t feel anything wrong, but old players like An Ning and her men were all startled. They all thought Jin Cheng wanted to keep it by himself and didn’t expect him to give it away.
Was this his rule?
Perhaps Jin Cheng’s rule was too unexpected, the men stopped struggling and their minds were forced to calm down. They all went silent, their faces a solemn expression.
Tang Cuo said: “Take me to the scene.”
An Ning couldn’t ask for more. “This is very odd. Cheng ge was sent to jail for no apparent reasons, we definitely can’t just leave it like that.”
Chi Yan then told her about the situation at East Cross Street. An Ning was astonished at first, then she started to wonder: “Who would do this? What is his purpose?”
Although she was talking to Chi Yan, An Ning turned to look at Tang Cuo and Jin Cheng, expecting them to give an answer like they always did in the dungeon. But Jin Cheng couldn’t answer, and Tang Cuo certainly couldn’t explain either.
Fifteen minutes later, the four of them, including Brawny Man, arrived at the duplex apartment where Cheng Ke lived. With one glance, it was clear that except for a large pool of blood on the ground, there were very few traces of struggle.
But ‘very few traces’ didn’t mean ‘no traces’.
Jin Cheng reached out one hand to feel the blade mark on the corner of the table and carefully observed along the mark to find some other marks. At this point, he finally formed the final judgment. He jotted down a few lines in a piece of paper and threw something to Chi Yan.
Chi Yan realised it was a red mini speaker, then he looked at the piece of paper, his head tilted in confusion: “Meng —— Yufei? Who is this?”
“The suspect. You just need to announce the content of the paper to the whole zone. If you can lead him out, I would give you this red speaker.”
Chi Yan understood at once: “Announce to the whole zone, isn’t it the same as the public screen in online games? People really can hear me?”
Jin Cheng decisively called the shots: “You can try.”
Chi Yan immediately went ahead, even feeling a little excited about it. He recalled that he was also a prominently loud figure in online games back then — was there any channel that he didn’t appear in?
“Cough.” Chi Yan cleared his throat as he read the content of the paper and almost choked on himself. An Ning leaned over to peek at it with suspicion, but she was equally dumbfounded even after looking at it.
Tang Cuo didn’t know what they saw, but he wouldn’t expect it to be something good. Sure enough, Chi Yan’s subsequent announcement confirmed his thoughts.
“Coming up now: We’re looking for someone.”
As Chi Yan made this announcement, his voice became infinitely louder through the speaker, echoing in every corner of Zone F.
“Meng Yufei, No. H13131, your Survival Assessment Report has been lost. Attention please, your Survival Assessment Report has been lost, please come to Mr. Jin Cheng at East Cross Street to collect it. In order to show our sincerity and credibility, we will announce one article taken from your report every five minutes. Mr. Meng Yufei please confirm it carefully.”
“Article 1: Meng Yufei, still wetted his bed at 5 years old, deduct 5 points. Wetted his bed yet put the blame on his dog, deduct 3 points.”
Tang Cuo: “…”
He couldn’t help turning his head to look at Jin Cheng, his expression difficult to describe. Jin Cheng raised his eyebrows: “I’m not slandering him. He didn’t protect his report well last time so I took it. It’s not like he wetted his bed until 5 years old, but he did wet his bed.”
As though I care about whether he wetted his bed or not. Tang Cuo felt that something must be wrong with his head to discuss this topic with Jin Cheng, and at the same time, he made up his mind that he would never let Jin Cheng see his Survival Assessment Report.
If Jin Cheng ever saw it, the front page headline of Yong Ye City that day would probably be [A Murder Caused By An Assessment Report].
“Mr. Meng Yufei, if you hear the announcement please come to East Cross Street quickly, and we will announce the second article in five minutes. May we remind you that your QZone and Tieba accounts2 are both in our hands, please be careful.”
After Chi Yan finished the first article, he couldn’t help covering his own face. He didn’t know why as it was clearly not his own business to mind, but a sense of shame overwhelmed him as he read these things out loud. He was made to recall his own embarrassing moments, feeling as though he was also a victim of this defamation.
Of course, Jin Cheng didn’t write down everything in such details, and his sentences were not so blatant. It was Chi Yan, the one that had been in online game guilds and student communities for a long time and was used to make speeches every few days, who autonomously added colours to those announcements.
He even used an accent specially fit for making announcements.
People from all over Zone F heard his words in full and learnt about the heroic deeds of Meng Yufei’s bedwetting and blaming a dog at 5 years old.
An inexplicable sense of embarrassment permeated the streets and alleys of Zone F, occasionally mixed with a few “f**k” and chuckles. Everyone involuntarily stopped what they were doing: Those who were drinking put down their cups, those who were fighting withdrew their fists, and those who were dozing off suddenly sat up.
“Oh my god, who’s that person? So embarrassing.” Even if he let out those words, the person was actually looking forward to the next article, himself all ears.
This Mr. Meng Yufei who suddenly shot to stardom in Zone F: what was in his QZone and Tieba?
Five minutes later.
Chi Yan followed Jin Cheng and Tang Cuo to go to East Cross Street, adjusting the speaker while walking. Next to him, An Ning carried a bottle of water, fearing that he would be thirsty after talking too much.
“Hello? Hello? Can you hear us Mr. Meng Yufei?”
“Please respond if you hear us.”
“Okay, if you don’t respond, we will announce the second article immediately ― Dear friends of Zone F, Meng Yufei’s hair is fake! Remember, his bedwetting is real, his silliness is real, his short legs are real, but only his hair is fake!”
“Meng Yufei has 108 sets of wigs.”
“Each set is different.”
“One day Meng Yufei and his teacher were walking together and there was a sudden gust of wind. The wind is blowing in the southeast direction and has a strength of Level 4. Question: Between Meng Yufei’s wig and his teacher’s wig, which fell down faster? Which flew further?”
With the speaker, Chi Yan announced with such enthusiasm while walking, and the players standing along the street had their jaws dropped one by one. This sort of activity was too shocking, one that was rarely seen in everyday life. People were so shocked that they couldn’t help but follow him to see what else he would say.
In a short while, the four-person team was followed by a large group of people, and the number was increasing.
Tang Cuo was expressionless.
Whatever random deed he did always drew attention.
Jin Cheng, on the other hand, was in a very good mood. He felt that Chi Yan was really a genius. If in the future he couldn’t earn money, he could perform stand-up comedies with Wen Xiaoming on the street and make a giant fortune.
He also asked Tang Cuo: “Why don’t you laugh?”
Tang Cuo: “My face has been frozen since the dungeon, not good.”
You are too funny.
Jin Cheng was about to compliment him when he suddenly caught a glimpse of a cold light flashing from the roof of the house on the right. Just as fleeting as the light was the killing intent in Jin Cheng’s eyes.
“Come.” The moment his words fell, Jin Cheng conjured his long bow and, as fast as lightning, he shot an arrow into the void.
“Dang —” The metal tip of the arrow hit a blade.
Tang Cuo raised his eyes and saw a thin figure appear in the air, slashing the arrow down. Accompanied the sound of metal falling to the ground was the sound of his gritted teeth.
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”.