Chapter 9: On A Snowy Night, He Returns (3)
Ying Jun was dead, then he was alive again. He smiled so honestly, but he was mute.
Everyone stared as the staff greeted him as if nothing was wrong, then watched Li Ying Jun giving them a friendly nod before heading to the backyard to lay out the firewood. They waited until the staff ran into the kitchen to boil some noodles for Li Ying Jun before finally exploding.
Qian Wei expressed his surprise with a series of “holy shit”. Everyone just looked at each other. At this moment, Tang Cuo suddenly said: “The body.”
Peng Mingfan’s face turned completely white.
Zhang Zhiqiu and Zhao Ping also reacted and they ran for the bathroom on the second floor almost as fast as a cannonball. “Thud thud thud.” The footsteps echoed loudly as several people rushed to the locker and opened the door.
The body was gone.
Peng Mingfan immediately went to open the locker next to it and took out a bronze trophy that still had blood stains on it. The body was gone, but the bronze trophy remained here. Just why?
Zhao Ping’s face was filled with worries: “So this Li Ying Jun can be resurrected? He returned from the dead last night to kill Qu Li, then this morning he just comes knocking on the door like nothing happened?”
Zhang Zhiqiu said: “It isn’t simple like that. What did the staff say?”
An Ning came in at this point, heard his question and replied: “I just asked. Xiao Yuan, the staff, totally don’t remember that Li Ying Jun was found dead in the locker yesterday. She said that Li Ying Jun would come to deliver firewood every morning at 6 six o’clock. He came yesterday as per normal, so nothing went wrong.”
“Happy Death Day1.” Peng Mingfan suddenly mumbled something.
“What?” Qian Wei asked.
“It’s a movie about a female college student who was killed and later came back to the morning of her death, trapping her in a time loop.” Peng Mingfan said as he headed downstairs. He remembered that a tear-off calendar was hung on the wall behind the counter.
He ran fast and soon reached downstairs, then he stared at the calendar to find that time was still moving forward.
When they came yesterday, the date on the wall was December 21. Today, it was December 22.
But if it wasn’t a time loop of his death, how would they explain what happened to Li Ying Jun’s resurrection? Even Xiao Yuan also couldn’t remember it. This was a game dungeon of reasoning, so the plot elements shouldn’t be just for creating a horror atmosphere.
Peng Mingfan kept thinking but he couldn’t figure it out, then he glanced at Qian Wei and the others from the corner of his eye to find that Tang Cuo and Jin Cheng were gone. He quickly asked where they were, but everyone shook their heads.
It was Li Shuangshuang who eventually pointed to her behind with a frightened face: “Just now when I was standing behind, I saw them go to the backdoor.”
Tang Cuo and Jin Cheng went to the storage shed again.
Li Ying Jun put all the firewood here. He stacked up the new logs neatly at the top and picked some old ones to put in the basket. Although the weather is cold, his movements were quick, suggesting that he often had to perform labour work.
The sun was rising now.
Li Ying Jun picked up the basket and turned back to see Tang Cuo and Jin Cheng, then nodded and greeted them with a smile. He was obviously a tall, strong man, but his every move showed that he wasn’t very bright.
“Where are you taking the firewood to?” Tang Cuo asked.
“Ah, ah.” Li Ying Jun couldn’t speak and pointed to the direction of the kitchen. It seemed he wanted to tell Tang Cuo that the firewood was to be used for cooking and boiling water, but his gesture might not always be interpreted correctly so he felt a bit anxious.
Tang Cuo waited for him to finish his gesture and asked again: “When did you cut down the firewood?”
Li Ying Jun pointed to the sky and said: “Ah, ah, ah.”
Tang Cuo: “At night?”
Li Ying Jun nodded.
He lay dead during the day and cut down the wood during the night. It was possible that the one who died yesterday was really him.
“Can you take me to see it?” Tang Cuo asked.
This time Li Ying Jun shook his head and waved his hand, his body totally trying to display rejection. He seemed to express that it was freezing and dangerous outside, so he really wanted to convince Tang Cuo against the idea.
Tang Cuo asked him some other questions about the firewood but he only gestured himself cutting the wood again and again as no words could come out.
After the unsuccessful conversation, Tang Cuo watched Li Ying Jun leaving, then turned around and walked to the kitchen window. In the kitchen, Xiao Yuan was humming a song while cooking. As she saw a handsome face suddenly pop up in the blizzard, she was scared stiff and almost cut her finger.
“Mister, why did you go outside?” Xiao Yuan exclaimed across the glass.
“Just getting some fresh air.” Tang Cuo replied.
Xiao Yuan kindly reminded him to be careful to not get a cold, then smiled and lowered her head at the food casually. She was cutting Chinese cabbage and beef to make noodles, which looked much tastier than the white porridge she made for the guests in the morning.
Not a shady business. This is way better than a shady business.
As they went back to the main hall, everyone was still there.
Zhang Zhiqiu looked over and asked: “Where did you go?”
“We went to see the firewood.” Tang Cuo sat down casually and poured himself a glass of water, then said: “Li Ying Jun said he cut wood at night. The place where he cut down the tree wasn’t far from here. I want to go see it, does anyone else want to go?”
Qian Wei: “Probably we can find Qu Li that way? She may just be missing and waiting for us to save her. It’s freezing cold outside, she might actually die if we don’t find her soon.”
Zhao Ping: “About this…”
Some were eager, some were hesitant.
Li Shuangshuang gripped the corner of her jacket nervously and glanced at the only other female An Ning to see the other person’s eyes brimming with light. She stood up to declare: “I support going outside to take a look. The staff said that the snow has covered the entire mountain, but since Li Ying Jun can still cut wood, there must be a way to go around. Even though we shouldn’t go outside, the place where the wood is cut should still be part of the dungeon. Perhaps we can even find some clues.”
After a short pause, she added: “A person is missing, we can’t just not go look for her.”
At this instant, Jin Cheng interjected abruptly: “Actually, it needs not be so troublesome.”
Peng Mingfan casted a glance at him: “What do you mean?”
“Let’s kill Ying Jun.”
Qian Wei suddenly got his point: “Indeed, isn’t the goal of this game to kill Ying Jun? Now Ying Jun is alive, can we just kill him? When he died previously, we couldn’t clear the game. It’s probably because he wasn’t killed by us, so it didn’t count.”
Zhang Zhiqiu agreed: “The most important thing is to clear the game.”
“Then you kill him, I’ll go out and see.” Tang Cuo was fine with anything.
Qian Wei inexplicably felt a chill from those words. Where did this big brother come from? He could speak of killing a person so lightly, as if it was just killing a pig.
He quietly tugged at Peng Mingfan’s clothes and was about to speak when he heard Zhang Zhiqiu solemnly gave out some arrangements again: “Then we split up. Regardless whether we want to kill him or not, there must be people in the hostel to keep watch over Li Ying Jun and Xiao Yuan. How about each pair sends one person to stay here?”
Zhang Zhiqiu made a good point and the rest didn’t object, but Qian Wei still mumbled something under his breath. Upon seeing this, Peng Mingfan gave him a wink and said: “I stay, Qian Wei will go out with you.”
For Zhao Ping and Li Shuangshuang, it was obvious. Li Shuangshuang was too faint-hearted, and it seemed that her combat skill also wasn’t up there. Of course, this was a dungeon of Zone F so there must be a lot of players who were either too cowardly or too reckless. Li Shuangshuang was just a little timid, which was nothing too serious.
“Then let’s go.” An Ning seemed unafraid and she stared at Zhang Zhiqiu with her sharp, unyielding eyes: “We’re the only ones left. I’ll go, you stay.”
Zhang Zhiqiu had no objection.
Qian Wei couldn’t help but remind her: “The blizzard is strong out there. It’s very dangerous.”
“Yeah.” Jin Cheng inserted himself all of sudden, then raised his eyes at Tang Cuo. Under the mask, his eyes looked as though they were smiling: “Why don’t I go and you stay?”
Tang Cuo sat at the tea table with his arms crossed and glanced over the puzzle pieces that Jin Cheng had poured all over the table. He openly asked back: “Is the jigsaw puzzle not fun?”
Jin Cheng shrugged innocently.
They all settled with this arrangement. Tang Cuo, Qian Wei, Zhao Ping and An Ning went out to scout while the rest stayed in the hostel to watch Li Ying Jun and come up with a plan to kill him.
Before heading out, they searched the hostel again and found military coats, compasses, climbing ropes, flashlights and some emergency supplies. But the most fierce of them all was no other than Tang Cuo. He directly went to grab a small rechargeable chainsaw from the storage shed.
Qian Wei’s eyes widened: “Big brother, what are you doing?”
Tang Cuo charged it up with electricity, and after making sure that the chainsaw was fully charged, he turned the switch on casually to try the feel. Amid the loud noise, he looked back at Qian Wei: “Well, I’m going to cut some wood.”
You go cut wood, but don’t point the chainsaw at me!
Qian Wei couldn’t help but blink frantically at Peng Mingfan ― are you sure I will be fine with him?
Peng Mingfan looked at Zhang Zhiqiu and vaguely made a gun shape with his hands. Qian Wei understood. A gun could kill faster than a chainsaw, so it was uncertain that staying here would be safer.
After all, there was an NPC among them.
“You must come back within two hours and send a signal if there’s an emergency. Qian Wei has something that can send a signal, and I can see it as soon as he sends it.”
With Peng Mingfan’s cautionary words, the scouting group plunged into the blizzard and moved forward quickly. Only Tang Cuo turned his head to look briefly at Peng Mingfan. He could feel it ― Peng Mingfan’s last sentence was meant for him.
Qian Wei had something to send signals, which could save all their lives at a critical moment, so they must at least ensure that he remained unharmed.
The scouting team went out when the blizzard was the weakest, but even so, the piercing wind and the snow level above the knee made their progress unbearably slow.
Tang Cuo walked at the front, with his trench coat outside the military coat and an ushanka on his head, Together with a red chainsaw and a mountaineering bag, he made quite a runway model. An Ning and Qian Wei walked in the middle and Zhao Ping stayed at the back. The three walked and shouted Qu Li’s name, but no one answered.
There was a path that headed down the mountain in front, which Li Ying Jun used to access the hostel. If Qu Li walked out by herself, she should go this way instead of rushing into the gloomy forest at the back of the mountain.
But as they walked forward, the four of them found the path leading into a thick forest. Because it was snowing, the sky was very dark and the forest looked gloomy. The tree crowns seemed to completely blend into the sky, making it even more depressing and stifling.
“This is where Li Ying Jun gets the firewood?” Qian Wei didn’t feel very good. “He cut wood in this kind of place at night?”
Zhao Ping shouted Qu Li’s name again, his echoes so loud they shook off the snow from the trees, but still there was no answer. He spoke slowly while keeping himself from trembling too much: “We shouldn’t be here. There isn’t a single bird, it is cold and the temperature has dropped a lot. I think we’d better not take the risk.”
Before Tang Cuo could say something, An Ning already retorted: “We’re already here, how can we just turn around and go back?”
Qian Wei was so cold he almost froze. He looked at the forest in front and hesitated a bit, but An Ning was right ― they had reached here. These damn missions always love to screw people up. If Qu Li was still alive, she was most likely in the forest.
Whether she was dead or alive, they had to find her, otherwise this uneasiness would always linger around and hinder everyone from clearing the game.
“Tang ge?” Qian Wei had started to use honourific with him, because even though this Tang ge’s face had turned scarily pale from the cold, he was still moving fast and not trembling even one bit.
Tang Cuo didn’t speak and kept walking forward.
Qian Wei and An Ning quickly followed. Zhao Ping of course couldn’t go back alone. Glancing at the young girl An Ning who was boldly running in front of him, he furiously wiped his almost frozen face and swiftly made a move to keep up with them.
The blizzard was getting heavier and heavier.
At the same time, in the youth hostel, the stay-behind group of four was still discussing 101 ways to kill Ying Jun. Actually, strictly speaking, only Zhang Zhiqiu and Peng Mingfan were discussing.
The two men didn’t have their hopes up for Li Shuangshuang. As for Jin Cheng, the words ‘utterly unsociable’ were clearly written on his face.
The object of their discussion, Li Ying Jun, was presently sitting at the table next to the kitchen door eating his noodles. When someone looked at him, he would smile back happily.
This was already his third bowl of noodles.
Because of that, Peng Mingfan came to the conclusion: “Poisoning should be the easiest way.”
Zhang Zhiqiu nodded, but said: “He can come back from the dead later, can poison really kill him?”
“We can only know if we try.”
“You bring poison?”
Peng Mingfan wanted to refute this sentence, but he indeed had some poison with him, so he only nodded without elaborating. All sorts of small items could be found in Yongye City, and for poison alone, there could be thousands to pick from ― from Chinese to Western types, from ancient to modern kinds.
It was considered unethical and usually discouraged to inquire about other people’s equipment. Zhang Zhiqiu was wise enough to not delve too much into the details, but he proposed: “Let’s have Li Shuangshuang give the poison to him. She’s a girl so she can get close to the staff and put the poison in the food. And this is just poisoning anyway, so she should be able to do it.”
Peng Mingfan didn’t say anything.
Li Shuangshuang heard this proposal, her expression hesitant and she subconsciously looked at the door, but Zhao Ping hadn’t yet returned. She truly didn’t want to do this, because she had seen too many people die in the games due to their rash actions. But what Zhang Zhiqiu said wasn’t unreasonable; after all, she couldn’t just sit still and wait for others to do the job.
After a moment of silence, she gritted her teeth and was about to speak, but was interrupted by Peng Mingfan.
“Let’s not rush through this first.” Peng Mingfan pushed his glasses up: “What if she fails? Li Ying Jun is the Boss of this dungeon. There are only four of us here, what if he goes berserk?”
Zhang Zhiqiu’s expression remained unchanged as he said: “I just think that poisoning is much simpler than going for a head-on battle. I didn’t mean to harm Li Shuangshuang by letting her do this.”
Peng Mingfan declined to comment.
Li Shuangshuang remained terribly anxious.
Jin Cheng still focused on solving the jigsaw puzzle, after which he came to the conclusion that the puzzle was more interesting than the discussion. Sometimes he looked out of the window and wondered when Tang Cuo would come back ― he was getting bored.
Meanwhile, Tang Cuo was cutting down a tree.
The chainsaw was at its maximum power, sawdust and snow floating amid its blaring noise. Qian Wei never thought that a person could look that handsome cutting down a tree. He moved in perfect tandem with the chainsaw before giving the tree one last kick, then with a “crash”, the trunk collapsed heavily into the white snow.
Tang Cuo’s face didn’t even flinch.
Deep within himself, Qian Wei thought, it would have been great if this game was just a game of cutting down trees.
“Did you guys hear anything?” An Ning said suddenly.
“What is it?” Qian Wei and Zhao Ping both looked up at the same time while Tang Cuo was still inspecting the tree he had cut down. The trees in this forest were all like this: black and twisted into a strange shape. The cut surface was very smooth because it was cut with a chainsaw, but it felt slippery to the touch. It emitted a faint scent after being exposed to the air.
Tang Cuo sniffed at his finger but still couldn’t tell what this smell was. It was however undoubted that Li Ying Jun must have gotten the firewood from here.
“There really is something!” Zhao Ping finally heard it, and soon Qian Wei also figured what that sound was. Three of them turned completely white.
An Ning shouted: “It’s a bear, quickly climb up the tree!”
Fortunately, there were trees everywhere, and because of their strange shapes, it wasn’t too difficult to climb them. They ran in three directions and climbed up, then as they turned around, their hearts almost jumped out.
Two giant black bears standing up to 5 or 6 meters were running directly towards them, knocking off any tree that stood in their way. The path they ran on looked as though it was swept through by a whirlwind, all its grasses plucked off clean.
“Boom boom”. The ground shook as the black bears roared into the air with its huge jaw wide open, scaring everyone out of their skin.
Without the need for another word, the three immediately abandoned the tree and ran away. With two bears that big, it was useless to climb up a tree because the bears could just push it down with a few hits. However, as the three tried to escape, they discovered that the fierce man who cut down the tree had run away a long time ago.
Why do you run so fast?!
It’s all because you cut down the tree!
Big Bear and Bigger Bear are all here!
Qian Wei screamed in his heart, the wind blowing at his face like a knife and the bears’ roars coming closer and closer from behind. He quickly put on a piece of equipment ― Powerful Feet Running Shoes.
Actually, these shoes were nothing extremely special apart from helping their user run faster. With every stride, the sole would shine and play some music. There were hundreds of nostalgic songs to choose from.
“Love has too many rights and wrongs, he came at the time I was beaming with joy~2.”
Zhao Ping almost slipped.
Fortunately, An Ning ran by to pull him up just in time and the two dangerously escaped from the grasp of the bear. An Ning shot a fierce look at Qian Wei and continued to sprint forward. An Ning seemed to be using some special skills as she jumped from one tree to another, her movement light yet extremely brisk.
Zhao Ping only had to struggle for a bit. He didn’t have these escape skills, but he had special ability.
A blue light gathered in Zhao Ping’s palm and the blizzard around him swirled into a big snowball, which rapidly became bigger and bigger. Zhao Ping tried hard to exert more power as he ran, his motion much faster his usual manner. He suddenly came to a brake to stabilise himself, then raised both hands above his head and threw the snowball to the back.
“Bang!” The snowball hit one of the black bears and momentarily stopped it, but the other black bear was still rushing forward. It looked even angrier and roared aggressively at the sky, making Zhao Ping almost slip again.
By this time, Tang Cuo had fallen behind all of them. This was exactly why he had to run first.
He was a newcomer, an actual newcomer.
Luckily, he was good at fighting.
Only when the black bear jumped over did Qian Wei and the others realise that Tang Cuo had actually fallen behind. They were all taken aback and couldn’t react in time. At this grave moment, Tang Cuo didn’t try to escape, rather, he recklessly ran to the front without even a single sign of slowing down. He stretched his hands to grab a tree trunk, then quickly turned around the tree and slid through the black bear’s legs.
“Grrr ―” The black bear threw itself forward so strongly that the tree collapsed upon impact, but Tang Cuo had already gotten behind it.
“Cough, cough…” A cold wind came over and Tang Cuo couldn’t hold his cough, his face turning paler. But he didn’t delay for a moment and swiftly got up from the ground. He continued running while taking out a rope from his mountaineering bag, then made a loop with an incredible speed and flicked his hand.
The loop made one perfect circle around a tree root 5 meters away from him.
The other three’s jaws dropped as they watched him throw the rope. At this moment, the black bear attacked again. As the black bear jumped at him as fast as lightning, he turned around and rolled to the side without a care, then he pulled hard at the rope.
“Argh ―” The rope stretched tightly at the bear’s right thigh, all in the blink of an eye.
Although the black bear was huge and fast, its body wasn’t very flexible. Judging from the fact that they only jumped madly at whatever was in front, their IQ shouldn’t be very high.
A small climbing rope was only able to briefly block it, but that was enough.
The stumbling black bear crashed to the ground, showing its fangs fumingly at Tang Cuo and hurling its paws furiously as though wanting to scratch Tang Cuo’s face. Less than a few seconds later, it stood up again from the ground, ready to tear these abominable humans into pieces.
Right then, a ‘brick’ suddenly appeared in Tang Cuo’s hand, no wait, to be precise, it was a book. Catching the perfect moment that the bear threw itself at him with its jaw wide open, Tang Cuo slammed the ‘brick’ into its mouth.
“Argh ―” The hard book stuck firmly at the inside of the bear’s mouth, instantly wounding it and blocking its throat. The black bear’s eyes turned blood red, its paws dancing wildly in the air. Because Tang Cuo was too close, he was hit on the back and thrown into the snow 5 meters away.
“Cough, cough cough…” His body shook up as he choked on his own blood, all the bones on his body about to fall apart.
The other black bear was coming.
“Tang ge!” Fortunately, the other three were finally caught up and used their magical powers to stop it together. The black bear whose throat was stuck with the survival report fanatically pulled at its mouth with its two paws, trying to take out the thick book.
Tang Cuo raised one hand and snapped his fingers.
The black bear blew up, a deafening explosion entirely drowning out its screams. Its flesh and blood flew apart like snowflakes. The impact of the explosion was so large that everyone was sent flying back.
A ‘Fireball’ attack with a wizard’s Skill card.
The card that Tang Cuo ransacked from Zhang Xing was kept inside the report. Hundreds of small fireballs exploded quickly as they were compressed inside a small space. Truly perfect.
The only thing that wasn’t perfect was Tang Cuo’s HP ― of 5.
[We suggest that you kill yourself right away.]
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”.