Su Jin followed Tang Ning up to the second floor and couldn’t help but marvel silently at the house. It was luxuriously furnished but attention was paid to every detail to ensure that the house still looked elegant and classy, so it didn’t look like the owners were just desperately trying to show their wealth off. Everything was just opulent enough without going too overboard.
“Wait outside first, I’ll go in and take a look,” Tang Ning stopped Su Jin outside the door and stepped into the room first.
Su Jin leaned lazily against the wall beside the door, and he realized that he could hear the conversation inside even though they weren’t speaking loudly. After taking that body strengthening elixir, not only had his bodily strength increased, but his hearing and sense of smell had also been heightened. Once he leaned against the door itself, he could hear every single word the two girls inside were saying very clearly.
“Ye Yun, are you sure you don’t need to get your head checked? Can you stop this nonsense? Your parents are almost going mad! Why do you make them worry so much for you?” said Tang Ning in a vexed voice.
“Sis, there are some things that you don’t understand. I really find life very meaningless. If I weren’t afraid that my parents would be heartbroken, I would have decided to die a long time ago.” The other voice in the room was very sweet and pleasant, so Su Jin immediately concluded that this voice must belong to a pretty and demure girl. Otherwise, that would be such a waste of this voice.
Tang Ning retorted, “What are you talking about?! What do you mean by you would have decided to die a long time ago?! Look, if you dare to kill yourself again, I’ll kill myself too!”
“Ningggg…” Ye Yun dragged Tang Ning’s name out and sounded equally vexed by Tang Ning’s response, but she also sounded comforted by the fact that Tang Ning cared for her so much.
“There’s no point in trying to act cutesy around me, I’m not buying it. We’ve got a guest in the house today, so don’t be rude to him,” said Tang Ning before opening the door to see Su Jin leaning against the doorframe. She tugged at him and said, “Come on in.”
Su Jin walked into the room and looked around. This was a stereotypical girl’s room that had been painted mostly pink with some white and other pastel colors to give it a soft and adorable look.
“Xiaoyun, this is your, uh… cousin, Su Jin,” said Tang Ning to Ye Yun.
When Ye Yun walked over, Su Jin instantly went into a daze. His judgment earlier was about how that sweet voice definitely belonged to a pretty girl, but Ye Yun was way prettier than he had imagined. Her complexion was a little pale and her eyes were slightly reddened, which was a sign that she had been staying up very late. Her dark hair cascaded down her shoulders like a waterfall, but the ends were a little dry. However, none of these affected her beauty. Instead, they made her look a little frail and in great need of protection.
“Hello, Su… wait, if he’s a cousin, shouldn’t he be a Ye or a Tang? Why is his surname, Su?” Ye Yun glared at Tang Ning with those large and bright eyes of hers. Su Jin felt like if Ye Yun stared at him that way, he wouldn’t be able to lie to her.
But Tang Ning was clearly immune to these pair of eyes. She rapped her knuckles on Ye Yun’s head and said, “He’s a distant relative. Some things happened at home and so he’s changed his surname to Su.”
“Oh!” Ye Yun clutched the part of her head that had been knocked with a pitiful expression on her face before greeting Su Jin, “Hello cousin Su Jin!”
“H-h-he… llo, c-cou…sin Y-Ye…Yun!” Su Jin snapped out of his daze but stammered over his words. After saying that, Su Jin felt like slapping himself for being such an embarrassment.1
“Oh dear, Su Jin, do you have a stuttering problem?” asked Ye Yun curiously.
Tang Ning nearly burst out laughing at Su Jin’s reaction, so she cleared her throat and said, “That’s nonsense. He’s meeting you for the first time, so he’s just a little awkward. He’ll be fine once you two get to know each other better. Su Jin, come with me for a while.”
She walked out of the room and motioned to Su Jin to follow her. Su Jin threw Ye Yun a smile before quickly walking out of the room as well. After they had walked away, Tang Ning had a huge grin on her face as she just stared at Su Jin without saying anything.
Su Jin felt a little awkward from her staring and rubbed his nose embarrassedly. “Was I… did I look a bit dumb just now?”
Tang Ning nodded without hesitation. “Not just a bit. Very dumb. HAHA! My cousin’s really pretty, isn’t she?”
“Yeah… she is,” said Su Jin with a laugh. But the only thing he could do now was to just admire her beauty. He was in no position to go after anybody, and if he managed to win her heart, that would bring her misfortune more than happiness.
“Look, my uncle doesn’t really care about family background and all that jazz. As long as you’re a nice boy and my cousin likes you, he’ll accept you. So, work hard and you might get a chance in the future!” said Tang Ning with a smile as she patted his shoulders.
“Oh, so I should really go for it, huh?” Su Jin laughed along. But his heart sighed resignedly. Ever since he had been chosen to become a Handbook owner, he was destined to never lead the life of a normal human being ever again.
“Enough of this useless chatter. I’ve already introduced the two of you, so help me to look after her, okay? I’m counting on you,” said Tang Ning earnestly to Su Jin as her expression became serious.
“Don’t worry, you’re paying me, so I’ll definitely do a good job,” said Su Jin as he saluted Tang Ning.
She rolled her eyes at him, then walked back to the room and said, “Xiaoyun, I need to go, the company’s calling me to go back to handle some urgent matters and I can’t stay here to chat with you. Su Jin’s just arrived in S City and your parents are also busy, so help to bring him around, okay?”
“Su Jin, if you’ve got any questions, you can just ask Xiaoyun. We’re all family, so don’t be shy.” Tang Ning turned and winked at Su Jin.
Su Jin suddenly felt like he had walked into a trap. He never realized that this usually well organized and efficient boss of his also could also come up with crazy ideas like this.
Once Tang Ning had walked away, only Su Jin and Ye Yun were left in the room. Ye Yun peeked her head out to make sure that Tang Ning had left before turning to Su Jin. “You’re not my cousin!”
“That’s right, I’m not your cousin,” said Su Jin with a nod. He had felt that Tang Ning and Ye Yun’s parents had been too idealistic right from the beginning. As long as Ye Yun wasn’t dumb, she would be able to tell that Su Jin wasn’t really her cousin. And from the looks of it, Ye Yun was actually very intelligent.
“My parents hired you to come here?” Ye Yun lay on her stomach on the bed and used her hands to prop her face up while she stared at Su Jin like there was nothing he could hide from her.
Since she was being so direct, he decided to be honest with her. “That’s right. Your cousin was afraid that you might do something silly, so she wanted me to look after you.”
“Sometimes, I can’t believe my folks! If I really wanted to die, they wouldn’t be able to stop me, and neither would you.” She glanced at him and sighed. “Oh forget it, you can stay here since it makes all of them feel more assured.”
“Seriously though, what’s the real problem here? Are you just going through a rebellious stage? Trying to be a goth? Or… you’ve got dreams of becoming a rockstar?” Now that Su Jin had already decided that he was not going to try to woo Ye Yun, he stopped being so reserved around her and spoke his mind. As he spoke, he picked up a photo frame on the table.
Ye Yun snatched the photo frame away from him and rolled her eyes at him. “What do you take me as? A stupid teeny bopper? I’ve got my own reasons. It’s just… living is too tiring.”
“You’re a rich man’s daughter, so your life couldn’t be more tiring than ordinary folks like me, struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis. But we’re all still alive and well, so why are you trying so hard to end your life?” Su Jin sighed. Before becoming a Handbook owner, his life had really been draining. The only thing that occupied his mind was how to make enough money to support his family and he always ate the plainest and cheapest food he could find. But even so, ending his life never crossed his mind.
“It’s different. That’s different. There are many things about you which nobody else besides yourself would understand, so I’m the only one who would understand why I want to die,” said Ye Yun with an equally heavy sigh.
Su Jin chuckled. “You’ve got to think carefully before you really decide to die. We’re not in some online video game where you can just delete that account and start a new one in a new domain. If you end your life, you’d really be gone forever.”
“Do you think… do you think death is really the end? Could it also be a new beginning for you?” Ye Yun asked Su Jin excitedly.
“Are you sure you’re not just going through some teenage angst phase? Your outlook on life sounds pretty delusionary,” said Su Jin with a laugh.
“Hey! I’m sure you’re some gaming addict, so you’re no better than me! Besides, even if you delete an account in an MMORPG, you don’t have to start a new one in a different server. If you want to continue to play with the players you used to play with, you can just restart by creating a new character in the same server,” said Ye Yun as she grumbled about Su Jin with a smile.
Su Jin was about to laugh in response when an idea suddenly hit him. He seemed to have understood something. He asked Ye Yun, “What… what did you just say? Can you repeat that?”
“About you being a gaming addict?”
“Not that part! The last bit!”
“Just create a new character?”
“That’s it! So that’s what it is! I can’t believe I couldn’t get it for so long. If that’s how it works, then everything makes sense,” mumbled Su Jin to himself.
Back when they were in Fengxi Town, Liu Yingying said that it was pointless for Chu Yi to leave his number behind and when Su Jin tried Chu Yi’s number after he completed the challenge, Chu Yi’s number turned out to belong to someone else. Liu Yingying and Jiang Li didn’t leave any contact information behind, and the Demon Lord had also mentioned that he had been very unsure if Su Jin would still be able to come back to look for him and that waiting for Su Jin had been very risky.
Su Jin had been thinking about these things all this time and couldn’t figure it out, but now, everything seemed as clear as day. If humans could create MMOPRGs, then someone else could have created the world that humans lived in, like an MMORPG universe. If that was the case, the existence of the Handbook’s world would make more sense now.
And if all those hypotheses held true, then would that mean that the world also had servers like MMORPGs? If Chu Yi, Jiang Li, Liu Yingying and himself belonged to different servers and were only put together in the same place when a challenge began, then every time they completed a challenge, they would return to their original servers and would have no way of contacting one another.
“Is that how it works? Is my guess right?” Su Jin felt his heart palpitate. He seemed to have understood the truth of the matter, but this truth only made his hair stand on end and was quite difficult to accept even for him.
“Hey, what’s wrong with you?” Ye Yun noticed that Su Jin had gone into a daze, so she waved her hand in front of his face.
He snapped out of his daze immediately and took a deep breath.
Just then, a familiar voice rang in his ears, “You have understood the existence of parallel universes, so you get the Mark of a Leader!” That was a voice that he expected to hear only when he was in his Personal Hell Domain, because that was Blackie’s voice. At the same time, he felt like one of the pockets in his jacket was very warm. That was where he had kept his Handbook.
“Sorry, I need to go to the washroom!” Su Jin smiled apologetically at Ye Yun.
“Oh, sure! It’s the third door on your left,” said Ye Yun as she pointed to one of the doors along the corridor.
Su Jin immediately walked out in that direction. After he had walked out, Ye Yun looked up at the ceiling, then yanked at one of her pillows. She pulled a black book out from under one of them.2
“Once one is under its control, is there still any meaning in being alive or dying?” Ye Yun sighed.
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