Chapter 42: Ankang Ancient Town (21)
After the few people went down the well with the same rope tied to their bodies, they appeared at the same entrance, unseparated.
After their last trip to the well, they were all familiar. Lin Zhen walked at the forefront and used the echo of arrows to explore the path. It didn’t take long before they arrived at a large cave as spacious as the last.
Unfurled skin and bone umbrellas covered the ground.
As soon as the four men stepped into the cave, a prompt identical to last time emerged — it made them find the umbrella made of a girl’s skin and bones hidden in the ordinary umbrellas.
There were five paths for the five entrances. Yan Wei took the phalanges of ordinary umbrellas and the girl’s phalanx on one route. On another path, Yan Mingguang took the girl’s phalanx, but the bones of the ordinary deceased remained. The pile in front of them, with the tower prompt, should belong to one of the three remaining paths, containing the phalanges of the girl and the common deceased.
The mass of skin and bone umbrellas had been hovering slowly.
Yu Feizhou took out his blue bead with a frown and was about to accumulate strength when Yan Wei said, “Before starting, I want to confirm one thing.”
Lin Zhen sneered. “Don’t confirm. I know you must have a trump card. I won’t tell. I also want to see the expressions of those people in Yuemang… Yu Feizhou. It’s a bit difficult to force him to talk nonsense everywhere.”
Yu Feizhou stared blankly. “What?”
Yan Wei chuckled. “Okay, let me arrange it — irritate the umbrellas. After that, Yan Mingguang, Lin Zhen, and Yu Feizhou will surround the outside. If any umbrella escapes, intercept it. Prevent any from slipping through the net1.”
Yu Feizhou said, “Ah?”
Yan Mingguang answered, “Mn.”
Lin Zhen replied, “This time, I want to take a good look at what happened after I left.”
Yan Wei ignored him. His eyes shifted, and he said in a low voice, “Start.”
Yan Mingguang instantly took out some regular darts stored in the information panel, raised his hand, and struck the hovering umbrellas. Simultaneously, Lin Zhen pulled the longbow in his hand, and ten arrows hit the handle of the flying umbrellas accurately. These umbrellas have swarmed around. Although Yu Feizhou didn’t know what the dialogue between Lin Zhen and Yan Wei signified, his quality as a seed player in the tower made him block the nearest umbrella without interruption.
Yan Wei stood behind the three, paying attention to the current strength of the skin and bone umbrellas.
When the umbrellas had been provoked to the point where they could kill Yan Wei with one blow, Yan Wei took a step forward and said quickly, “Good enough. You three, step back.”
With these words, more than a hundred umbrellas, who were already in a state of irritability, rushed forward. They brought a chilly wind into the cave, carrying the ghastly and frosty wind to the forefront of Yan Wei.
Dozens of minutes later.
Lin Zhen, who finally knew what Yan Wei did when he last went down the well: “…”
“So when we met you, it wasn’t the umbrella chasing you, but you chasing the umbrella…” Yu Feizhou said in a somewhat astonished voice, “I think I should apologize — Yan Wei, I looked down on you before. You’re very powerful, and the inner world of the tower… will be your stage like a fish in water2.
Yan Wei merely smiled.
Wearing gloves, he pressed the ordinary skin-bone umbrella to the ground with one hand and disassembled it with a tool. The fallen umbrella cover decayed instantly, and an ordinary deceased’s phalanx dropped into his hand. At the entrance to the cave, Yan Mingguang turned around and kicked one of the last umbrellas, which nearly escaped, towards Yan Wei.
Yan Wei took it with one hand and repeated the action of dismantling the umbrella, saying, “Number 152. With the previous 126, we now have a total of 278 ordinary victims’ phalanges, plus three girls’ phalanges. Go, the next one.”
An hour or so later.
Yan Wei put away the last phalanx on this path. “There’s 191 ordinary victims’ phalanges and a girl’s phalanx here. There are currently 469 ordinary victims’ phalanges and four girls’ phalanges.
Two hours later.
“It’s already afternoon, and it’s only three hours before sunset. Let’s call it a day and go find Ning Yi.” Yan Wei stored the last phalanx in the storage column of the information panel. “A total of… 857 ordinary victims’ phalanges and five girls’ phalanges.”
In addition to this, they also gained physical stats and sensory stats, and they broke all the retrospective illusions. The four items that fell were divided equally by the four people, and each took an appropriate one.
Yan Mingguang withdrew his long whip and said coolly, “Go.”
After You Rui died, the last open projection perspective grayed out.
This time, the seventh-floor instance that triggered the first answer mode entered the spectators’ blind spot3, with no one knowing what was ensuing or who would emerge at the end.
It was relatively common in high-difficulty instances in the casino. The most powerful players never cared about the reward feedback brought by the projection opening duration. Instead, to prevent their skills or hidden trump cards from being seen and studied by everyone, they chose to give up the projection — after all, when ascending the tower, the heart and mind need to be controlled to clear instances.
Generally, it meant that the instance had reached its last moments.
The Ankang Ancient Town instance was coming to an end.
“If Yan can successfully leave, even if he isn’t the best player… the other organizations will be excited. The potential is endless.”
“Not necessarily. You’ve been watching here. Don’t you know? There’s a high-level player on Yuemang speaking, and even if Yan comes out of this instance, the people of Yuemang are ready to meet him in the next instance.”
“Why? Although Jiang Xiu is a seed player, he’s still an ordinary tenth-floor player in the final analysis, not a seed player with dozens or even fifty or sixty floors. Now Yan is worth more than Jiang Xiu and Zheng Mao combined. Yuemang can completely give up their hatred and extend an olive branch. If they do this, they won’t have to fight Yan to the last gasp.”
“What Jiang Xiu? It’s an issue of face. If this matter isn’t settled, Yuemang’s fresh blood4 supply will be lost to other organizations. When the time comes, the preemption of resource quota will also be inferior because of the seed quality, which will bring too many subsequent impacts. Where are they for Jiang Xiu and Zheng Mao? It’s for Yuemang themselves.”
“However, I don’t think Yan can get best player this time. Between Lin Zhen, Yu Feizhou, and Ning Yi, who isn’t strong? Maybe someone will break the instance and overtake Yan’s score.”
“I agree. I don’t think a rookie who has only gone through one instance and brought a player on the first floor suspected of being burdensome can win the best player again. It’s too far-fetched.”
The projections were all completely black, but there were more and more discussions before the screens, and a growing number of players who had placed their bets returned to wait for the results.
It was almost over.
Yan Wei was the last to emerge from the well.
Due to the difference in physical stats between them four, Lin Zhen and Yu Feizhou exited first, and Yan Mingguang pulled Yan Wei out behind.
Before Yan Wei came out, he sensed that the atmosphere outside the well was not quite right — his sensory stat made him feel beyond the well. It was not until Yan Mingguang brought him out that he witnessed the situation outside.
Yu Feizhou, Lin Zhen, and Yan Mingguang all made gestures, ready to take action at any moment.
In front of them, Ning Yi stood in the forest with a short knife. Blood dyed her right shoulder. Flesh and blood covered the scapula, and blood kept dripping down.
She held the short knife in her left hand, the blade also bloody.
Yan Wei raised an eyebrow — dusk was imminent, and if there was a conflict between players at that time, they weren’t going to be on good enough terms to discuss.
With an active mind, he dragged Yan Mingguang, intending to go forward to deal with this matter himself. But before he even began, Ning Yi spoke first.
Her face remained unchanged as if the wound on her shoulder had no pain, and her voice was dull and cold. “You Rui died. I killed the witch. I encountered Hu Ayun on the way and was injured.”
Yan Wei’s eyes moved slightly, and the corners of his mouth twitched silently.
Ning Yi’s few words requested the desire for cooperation.
You Rui was dead, so excluding Song Yu, who was seriously injured, only the five of them standing here could clear the instance. Ning Yi also killed the matron, but she wasn’t given any feedback and first answer points, indicating that players couldn’t help the skinless female ghosts take revenge, and the staircase clue was not here. On the way to the well, Ning Yi came across Hu Ayun, showing that Ning Yi might have used some trump card to arrive here speedily. Even so, she was still injured. She alone could not be Hu Ayun’s opponent, and Hu Ayun was about to reach the well.
Yan Wei instantly understood the amount of information and all of the key points Ning Yi brought. Ning Yi slowly raised the short knife in her hand, the tip aiming at Yan Wei from a distance.
Her voice was still frosty. “You can make a decision. I know you got something at the bottom of the well. I have a method, to cooperate or not, one sentence.”
Yan Wei blinked. His eyes were as bright as stars.
He chuckled lightly. “Yu Feizhou seemed to have told me that you never turn on the projection… Then since everyone knows it, I won’t hide it. Ning Yi, you can get a skill gifted from the tower when you ascend three times. Yours is… something like being able to see a player’s basic stats for a limited number of times, right? Coupled with the two points I obtained at the start, you knew my true strength from the very beginning, looked down on Jiang Xiu, and believed that he and Zheng Mao were dead. You didn’t intend to get involved from the beginning to the end, correct?”
Ning Yi’s indifferent eyes flashed a trace of surprise.
“We got all the phalanges under the well. Is there a way to deal with the manipulator behind the scenes in the clues you found? Let’s exchange.”
“Only exchange. The final first answer point depends on skill.”
“Of course, everyone wants the best player — but only if we can survive.” Yan Wei hooked the corner of his mouth. “I’m not afraid to cooperate because even if we fail, you’ll die before me.”
“What, cooperation?” Lin Zhen sighed, “Isn’t it just fighting a boss? Boring.”
Ning Yi decisively said, “I am from Yuemang, and we are enemies. I will keep your secret and provide my clues, and you will provide your teammates and your clues.”
— This was only temporary cooperation.
After the instance was over, it wasn’t clear whether she’ll be an enemy or a friend.
At this moment, a cold wind blew through the surrounding mountains, rustling the clothes of several people. It was clearly only afternoon, but the mountains and forests were dark. The sound of the wind was like whistling from hell.
The singing sounded.
The folk song seemed to be coming from a distance yet surrounding all directions, ostensibly far and near. The girl’s sharp voice was faint and ethereal, threatening people’s nerves little by little.
Yan Mingguang turned around abruptly, threw the dart in his hand, and pinned a skinless ghost that suddenly appeared on the tree!
Hu Ayun’s figure gradually appeared in front of the five people.
She was still the same as when Yan Wei saw her in the morning, dressed in exquisite traditional clothing, with a fair face and a gentle expression.
Her lips moved slightly, and she sang with an eerie and cold voice — sure enough, she was the one who sang the folk song every night!
After singing a song, she stood in front of several people. Yan Mingguang and others were prepared for action. Yan Wei had a slightly focused expression, and his hand in the pocket of the windbreaker lightly fumbled for the edge of the coin. A creepy feeling crept up everyone’s body. Countless pairs of eyes seemed to be watching them from deep in the forest.
Hu Ayun smiled and said gently, “You know everything, right? Someone killed our elderly matron, and someone destroyed all my umbrellas…” She glanced at Yan Wei with a rather regretful expression. I wanted you to live to see the last nightfall, but now I’m so angry that I want you to be a part of my collection now — I’ll take special care of your skin.”
As soon as the voice fell, one after another, skinless ghosts appeared in the surrounding trees.
Yan Wei’s first reaction was that he was going blind.
He suspected the tower held animosity against mysophobia, constantly challenging his lower limit.
The skinless ghosts surrounded them.
Yan Mingguang, Lin Zhen, and the others began temporarily blocking the skinless ghosts beyond a perimeter. Hu Ayun didn’t move. She stood there silently watching them, the skinless ghosts all bypassing her.
At the moment, Yan Wei didn’t care about cleanliness. He turned to the side to avoid a skinless ghost who rushed over and rolled on the ground several times under inertia.
Yu Feizhou threw something to him not far away, and while fighting with a ghost, he shouted, “Put it on! The intercom I just exchanged!”
Yu Feizhou continued throwing intercoms to the others, and Yan Wei immediately stuffed the small earphone-like object into his ear.
Although it was not as good as Yan Wei and Yan Mingguang’s mental communication with a long whip, the miniature intercoms that could be exchanged from the information panel mall still reached the point where they could communicate without shouting.
Once he put it on, another skinless ghost pounced on Yan Wei.
He turned again, and his whole body rolled against the mountain dirt. Yan Mingguang swung his whip and pulled Yan Wei to his side the moment the skinless ghost rushed forward again.
Yan Wei stood behind Yan Mingguang and heard Ning Yi gasping on the intercom. He immediately said, “Ning Yi, what’s the method for dealing with Hu Ayun?”
On the other side, Ning Yi couldn’t feel the pain of the shoulder wound. Holding a short blade in her right hand, she slashed off the outstretched ghost hand, panting slightly. “There are only five words.”
“You reap what you sow.”
After looking back at chapter 28, I decided to make a small change to Yan Mingguang’s permanent skill name, changing it from “Facing Death and Living” to “A Life Facing Death.”
向死而生 actually has multiple possible translations, and another one is being-towards-death. Being-towards-death is Heidegger’s philosophy of death. From my comprehension, it’s when a person reaches another level of understanding of human life after facing death or experiencing the thought of their death. Not sure which translation the author is referring to, but I decided to make the change, because I think makes more sense. The skill more like a power-up and not a guarantee the user will survive. It’s also closer to being-towards-death. Thanks for your understanding へ( ´ д｀へ )
- escaping by chance
- 如鱼得水 can describe a person in an environment that’s very suitable to them. It’s like they were meant to be in the environment
- A bit of a weird translation. Couldn’t find another alternative to translate it
- Newcomers who are young and vigorous