Jiang Li stopped walking and looked Su Jin up and down with a frown before he said, “You know, I know an asshole who’s just like you. I’ve already punched him a number of times.”
“Oh, he’s not as handsome as me, I assume,” said Su Jin with a laugh.
“You’re a really confident one, aren’t you?”
“Not particularly. But you haven’t punched me yet, so that must be the reason, right?” said Su Jin with a smug smile, which really amused Jiang Li.
As Jiang Li continued walking, he said, “Every challenge that the Handbook poses is extremely dangerous. Possessing some intelligence will help you to survive longer, but I want you to understand one thing. Do not use this good brain of yours to scheme against me. If I find out that you're plotting against me, believe me, I’ll be a bigger threat to you than any of the enemies you’ve faced so far.”
The way Jiang Li spoke was so imposing and so domineering that Su Jin felt as though someone was holding him by the throat.
“Got it. Besides… I’m counting on you to protect me, so I won’t be stupid enough to plot against you,” said Su Jin meekly as cold sweat dripped down his forehead.
Jiang Li was satisfied with Su Jin’s response and gave a pleased nod. The terrifying aura he exuded disappeared as well. “Excellent. Alright then, you may ask me questions about Hell’s Handbook. I’ll try to answer you as best as I can. That’ll be your reward for bringing me to that creature.”
“Hmm, okay. What’s the biggest difference between a newbie like me and a veteran like you?” asked Su Jin with almost no hesitation.
"You are an irritating fellow, after all. Trying to sniff out my weaknesses with your very first question?" After giving it a thought, Jiang Li said, "Veterans here are generally defined as owners of the Handbook who have activated their Spirit Power. So, the difference between them and a newbie would be Spirit Power.”
Su Jin’s first question was actually a really intelligent one. He didn't ask specifically about a particular detail, and while the answer to this question seemed really direct, the answer would also carry a lot of other information along with it.
For example, if you asked your neighbor if there was any difference between buying the onions from the supermarket and buying from the farmer’s market, the other party would go on to list all the differences, like the difference in freshness, the difference in price, taste, etc.
But Jiang Li’s answer was extremely simple. If he had been given the question about onions, this answer would be as good as replying with, “The ones I buy are nicer than yours.” The only new information Jiang Li supplied was the existence of Spirit Power and pretty much nothing else. It sounded like Jiang Li was giving useless answers on purpose, but it wasn’t like there was anything Su Jin could do about that.
“What’s this Spirit Power?” Su Jin didn’t bother thinking about whether Jiang Li was purposely answering him this way or not. Instead, he continued asking because even though Jiang Li’s answer didn’t contain a lot of detail, he mentioned something very important, so Su Jin had to probe further.
“This… is Spirit Power." Jiang Li spread his palm out, and a green gas swirled continuously around the middle of his palm, like a green-colored mist.
“What… what is this?”
“Hey, you’re going too far now. I thought you said you’re going to answer my questions as best as you can,” protested Su Jin. It was fine if Jiang Li gave him stupid answers once or twice, but if Jiang Li’s attitude towards his questions was going to be like this, he wasn’t going to get much information out of Jiang Li.
Jiang Li knew that he had gone a little too far too, so he rubbed his nose and said, “Alright, alright. Spirit Power is a power that Handbook owners possess. If I had to compare it to something… I would say that it’s like the inner qi that those martial arts movies like to talk about? In short, it’s an energy within your body that you can control and can use to increase your capabilities.”
“How do I activate mine?” Su Jin quickly asked. If veterans managed to survive by relying on Spirit Power, then that was definitely something he needed to lay his hands on as soon as possible.
But Jiang Li eyed Su Jin somewhat mockingly and shook his head. “I’m seriously not trying to withhold information from you this time. The truth is, no Handbook owner can tell you exactly how their Spirit Power was activated. But you don’t have to worry about whether you can get it activated or not. As long as you manage to get through ten challenges consecutively without dying, the Handbook will make sure you get Spirit Power.”
“Ten challenges consecutively? What are the chances of that happening?”
“Your chances of getting through ten challenges as you are right now, aren’t really high, but it’s not zero either. Also, every challenge will include some special characters who can help you to activate your Spirit Power. But of course, that totally depends on your luck,” said Jiang Li with a smile.
Su Jin felt like the situation was hopeless. He had seen the sort of dangers a challenge could put him through. He had lost one arm, and out of his other two companions besides Chu Yi, he wasn’t sure if one of them was still alive, while the other one had died very early on. Worst of all, nothing that had happened so far was actually at Level B yet. How was he going to survive ten such challenges?
“Is there a way to get out of this Handbook universe?”
“Yes,” replied Jiang Li very confidently.
“How?” Su Jin asked hurriedly.
"How? It's simple. Survive a hundred challenges, and you can get out of this. Or the other way would be to amass a million points," said Jiang Li calmly.
“A hundred challenges,” Su Jin repeated those words to himself as he gasped. He didn’t know the point system that was employed, so he couldn’t speak for that. But this first challenge had already made him nearly break down in despair. It was almost impossible to imagine that anyone would be able to survive a hundred challenges.
"Are you wondering if it's even possible? I think it's almost impossible too. I've already survived 13 challenges, and I'm already one of the best among the other Handbook owners I've met, so I think a hundred times is pretty much impossible." The look in Jiang Li’s eyes dimmed as he spoke. It was clear that even someone as powerful as himself didn’t have any confidence that he would make it either.
Su Jin was a little discouraged, but he wasn’t the type to despair at something he hadn’t even tried doing before. No matter how impossible it seemed, he was going to give it a shot anyway. It had seemed impossible for him to leave his farming village in the mountains back then for the great metropolitan S City too, but he had made it anyway.
“What about those points you mentioned? What do they do? How do I earn them?”
“Every time a challenge is completed, the survivors will get 1,000 points each. If you’ve completed any special missions or if you’ve killed any enemies you were supposed to, you will also get some points for that,” explained Jiang Li.
“OH! So that’s why you want me to help you to track down that monster! But where does one get these missions from?” asked Su Jin curiously.
Jiang Li said, “You can forget about it. Newbies will not get to choose any missions. The first challenge is really just to let you experience what it’s like in here. But if you’re unlucky and you die on your first challenge, then it’s just too bad.”
“Is that considered a sort of protection for newbies? In that case… can I check if your Handbook also has hints like these?” Su Jin opened his copy and showed the additional lines that appeared later to Jiang Li.
Jiang Li glanced at it and shook his head. “Nope, I don’t have that. That’s something extra you got as a newbie. But once this challenge ends, you won’t get hints like these anymore. You’ll have to figure it out on your own.”
“In that case… do we accumulate points purely to get out of this situation?” Su Jin fell into deep thought. If the points were purely put towards ending this situation, then that would overlap with the 100-challenge requirement. The only difference was that someone who could accumulate points quickly would be able to get out of this earlier.
“Of course, that’s not its only use. But it’s pointless for me to tell you all this now. Once you survive this challenge, you’ll understand the importance of the points. Alright, enough! I’ve answered a lot of your questions. Now, bring me to that monster.” Jiang Li was clearly not going to answer any more questions.
Su Jin nodded while still thinking about everything Jiang Li had said. Jiang Li had already given him a lot of information, and he had a rough understanding of this Handbook now. And it was also true that everything else could wait until he actually survived the night.
They weren’t walking very quickly, but Su Jin knew where to go. He led Jiang Li towards Lin Yue’s house because he believed that the monster was most likely to be there.
And just as Su Jin had expected, they ran into the monster as they got closer to Lin Yue's house. It was completely covered in a cloak, and it had the longbow in its hands. It stretched the bowstring as it took aim at Su Jin and Jiang Li. With the release of the bowstring, the sparkly arrow shot out from the longbow and pierced through the air.
Su Jin felt goosebumps cover his back in fear. He had had a taste of what that arrow could do already. He was sure that if that destructive thing hit someone’s body, that person was dead meat.
Jiang Li took a step forward to stand in front of Su Jin. He said in a stern voice, “Don’t stray more than 10 meters from me! I’ll protect you!”
“Roger that! I’m counting on you!” Once Su Jin was safely behind Jiang Li, the despair he felt instantly dissipated. He believed that Jiang Li could really defeat this creature in a fight.
As the arrow flew towards him, Jiang Li's expression turned grim, and he raised his spear. Su Jin couldn’t see what was happening, but he heard a loud roaring sound, followed by a huge cloud of dust. It was hard to see clearly through the dust, but he could see that Jiang Li had dashed out.
“Damn it! What happened to the 10-meter radius we talked about just now?!” grumbled Su Jin as he secretly grabbed hold of his knife as well. Jiang Li had promised to protect him, but Su Jin wasn’t going to really leave his life in Jiang Li’s hands entirely.
Jiang Li charged towards the monster and the spear in his hand shot out green beam after green beam. The glow of the spear made Jiang Li look like a god that had transcended to the earth as he covered more than 50 meters in a second.
The monster didn’t move and let the green beams stab into its body. The only thing it did was to hold up its longbow again.
Once the bowstring had been pulled back, sparkles gathered once more in the shape of an arrow. But this time, the arrow was a lot larger than the previous one. It was so big and bright that Su Jin could make out the contorted face beneath the cloak from afar.
Woong! The bowstring was released, and the arrow flew out just as the spear in Jiang Li’s hand stabbed through the monster. The arrow flew out with a roar and went right through Jiang Li as well.
“Shit! They’re both going to die together?!” Su Jin was flabbergasted. He had been so confident that Jiang Li would win, but now, both parties were going to die at the same time.
“It’s you!” Su Jin’s pupils constricted as he stared at the monster that Jiang Li had just stabbed.
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