Chapter 30 - Compassion Versus Survival

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“The first white statue at the entrance has come to life!” Kano Mai yelled at Su Jin. They were nearly 300 meters away from the entrance, so Su Jin couldn’t really tell from this distance. But Kano Mai had heightened vision, so if she said those statues had come to life, she was probably right.

“But this is a dead end. Are we supposed to turn around?” thought Su Jin to himself. He looked around him, but there was nothing else but walls on all sides.

Craaaaash! Just then, the statue that Kano Mai talked about had fully come to life. It was about the same size as an average human and a piece of itself had crashed to the floor from its movement as it started plodding towards them unsteadily.

“Mai, block that statue!” Su Jin yelled at Kano Mai.

Kano Mai nodded and quickly retrieved her Soul Whisperer Sniper Gun from her Handbook as if she had magic powers. Both Tan Xin and Shi Teng were shocked to see a rifle suddenly appear in her hands.

This sniper gun looked like it had been made from purple crystals. Even though Su Jin had never seen a real sniper rifle before, he could tell that this thing was definitely extraordinary. The purple crystal-like body was translucent and sturdy, and a purple spark seemed to be running through it at the same time. This wasn’t a weapon that any technology on Earth could create.

After Kano Mai took her Soul Whisperer out, she didn’t even have to get it ready or load it with anything. She could just pull the trigger without even taking aim. But at the same time, all the numerous bullets that were fired hit the target, which made the statue retreat by several steps.

But her attacks had also angered the statue, so once it regained its balance, it started charging even more quickly at them than before. Su Jin immediately yelled at Tan Xin and Shi Teng to snap them out of their shock, “The two of you! Help me find an exit out of here!”

Su Jin then took his Handbook out and retrieved his Demon Lord’s Boning Knife as well. But Kano Mai said to him, “Jin, I’ll deal with the statue, don’t worry about that!”

“All right then!” Su Jin put aside his original plan to help her and focused his attention on searching for an exit. Since the Handbook had blocked off the entrance, that meant the exit had to be in this place. He didn’t think the Handbook would trap them in a dead end with no exit.

Su Jin tried to focus. The walls were completely blank, so that wasn’t it. And if it wasn’t within his line of sight, he had to consider the exit being somewhere else. The floor!

He looked down at the floor and his face lit up. There was something on the floor after all. The entire floor was covered in a layer of wax and there was actually a palm sized dial beneath it. The dial stuck out from the surface of the floor and should have been very obvious, but after the wax had formed a layer over the floor, the dial no longer stuck out and that was why none of them had noticed it earlier.

“Mai, help me stall for time!” Su Jin instructed Kano Mai.

She didn’t reply, but her gun was still firing, so that was her response to Su Jin.

But even after she had shot the statue so many times consecutively, she had only succeeded in slowing it down.

“Ordinary pulsed energy projectiles are pointless, huh?” mumbled Kano Mai to herself. She touched the rifle and the purple rifle instantly turned red instead.

Bang! Bang! Two loud shots resounded in quick succession and the statue suddenly stopped moving forward. Those two shots had hit the head of the statue and caused it to explode. The Red Soul Whisperer was much more powerful.

“These high explosive rounds are clearly better, but this is not a solution either!” Kano Mai started frowning because she noticed that right after she had blasted one statue, another two statues came to life.

Meanwhile, Su Jin was using his Demon Lord Boning Knife to scrape the wax off the floor. This knife had been honed by the Demon Lord himself and could cut through metal like it was tofu, so the wax didn’t stand a chance.

Once he had scraped off all the wax, he could now see the dial in detail. There was a five-digit combination lock on it and one had to turn the dial to get the correct numbers in place.

“A five-digit combination lock?” Su Jin frowned and began to think. He had been observing his surroundings ever since they stepped into the front hall, but he hadn’t come across any numbers or anything that could be related to numbers.

“Could it be the number of statues?” said Tan Xin to Su Jin as she kept turning back anxiously at Kano Mai, who was still shooting at the oncoming statues.

Su Jin looked at the statues on both sides and made a quick calculation to get the correct total number. Both sides had the exact same number of statues. There were 49 statues that were the same size as an ordinary human and one extra-large one in each color, which made it a grand total of 100 statues in the hall.

“No, it’s not right! It’s not right! This one is still not right!” Su Jin broke the numbers down and tried a bunch of five-digit combinations like 49492, 77772, 24949 and more, but none of them worked. The lock wasn’t reacting at all.

“Jin, you’ve got to hurry! I can’t hold them off much longer!” The pressure was growing on Kano Mai because even though she had blasted five statues so far, that was only a small fraction of the total number of statues in the hall. She had attempted to blast the statues that hadn’t come to life yet, but those statues seemed invincible. Even the most explosive shells the Soul Whisperer could fire didn’t even make a dent in those statues.

Su Jin continued to look at his surroundings. A clue to the numbers had to be somewhere in the vicinity. All of a sudden, he realized that the colors of the taijitu on the wall gradually led to and disappeared where the dial was. His eyes lit up as an idea struck him and he immediately started turning the dial. Once he locked in the last digit, a loud creaking sound resounded in the hall.

“Got it!” Su Jin looked up to see where the creaking sound was coming from and saw that the two halves of the taijitu on the wall had become like two halves of a gate as they slid apart to reveal a corridor beyond the wall.

“Let’s go!” yelled Su Jin. Kano Mai fired several shots in quick succession before running into the corridor without even looking back.

Once they were inside the corridor, they all shuddered as the wall behind them slowly slid shut. The path in front of them was pitch black and they couldn’t see anything at all. Su Jin took his phone out to turn on its torchlight function when a strong beam of light suddenly lit up the place. Kano Mai was carrying a heavy-duty torchlight in her hands.

“You exchanged points for this?” asked Su Jin.

Kano Mai shook her head and said, “I doubt an item like this would cost a lot of points, but points are so precious, I wouldn’t waste it on something like this. I bought this myself.” She passed one to Su Jin and asked, “How did you get this corridor to open?”

“I was lucky. When I looked at the taijitu on the wall and saw that a five-digit number code was required, I thought of the five elements of gold, wood, water, fire and earth, since they’re all part of the same philosophy. I put in the numbers according to how many strokes there were in each Chinese character, and it actually worked.”

The other three were all really impressed by Su Jin. It wasn’t really that difficult to think of the number combination, and even an ordinary person would eventually get it even if they just went by trial and error. But what made Su Jin amazing was how he could still think logically and quickly in a life and death situation.

Su Jin kept his phone away since Kano Mai had an extra torchlight, since phones were useless during challenges except for being a torchlight. He shone his torchlight around him and realized that they were on a flagstone path. Or rather, they were really on a bridge that was made from rocks and the two sides of the path in front of them was filled with water. He couldn’t tell how deep the water was.

Meanwhile, all the statues that Kano Mai had destroyed in the front hall had turned into sand and disappeared in the wind. The eyes of the white statue of the general blinked a couple of times and seemed to be smiling, but all of this had happened in a split second, and everything went back to normal again, because another person had appeared in the front hall.

Back on the dark bridge behind the wall, the four of them remained where they were without budging. Su Jin didn’t need a sixth sense to know that the road ahead wasn’t going to be a smooth one. A pitch-black bridge over unknown waters was definitely the perfect place to get someone killed.

“Mai, can you see anything in the waters?” Su Jin asked Kano Mai.

Kano Mai took a step forward and the purple light flashed in her eyes, but a few moments later, she shook her head and said, “I can’t see anything. The water is preventing me from seeing into it, so I don’t know what’s in it.”

“Do you think we could just dash across?” asked Shi Teng.

Su Jin shook his head immediately. “If there’s something in the water, I’m very sure that it will attack you faster than you can run.”

“What are we going to do then?” asked Shi Teng.

“I’ll think of a way to get across first. Mai, cover me,” said Su Jin to Kano Mai after thinking about what to do.

Kano Mai stared back at him in shock and shook her head. “No! In such a situation, you should let the useless newbies do this sort of thing. You shouldn’t be the one doing this.”

“They can’t protect themselves. If they run into any danger, they’ll definitely die,” replied Su Jin.

Kano Mai stood her ground and said, “Newbies are supposed to fight for their own lives in these challenges. They’re already lucky enough that someone like you is willing to protect them. They can’t just be part of the team and do nothing. Besides, the only ones who can fight these things are you and me. If anything happens to you, I doubt they’d survive either.”

Su Jin hesitated. What Kano Mai said sounded heartless, but she wasn’t wrong either. He looked at Tan Xin and Shi Teng and the two of them immediately looked back at him fearfully.

“Oh, forget it,” sighed Su Jin as he decided to just do it himself anyway.

“Look, I don’t mind if you want to be nice to newbies, but I think you have to ensure your own survival before you can extend any compassion to others. The two indispensable members of this team are you and I, not the two of them!” Kano Mai was insistent that Su Jin not put himself in harm’s way. “This is a world that’s controlled by Hell’s Handbook. In short, we’re basically in hell now and compassion is something that doesn’t exist here in the first place. And even if you’re kind to them now and they manage to survive this challenge, what will they do when they go for their next challenge? If you protect them, they’ll never learn and they’ll never grow, so they’ll still be as terrible as newbies!”

“Mr. Su, I’ll… I’ll go!” Tan Xin suddenly spoke up. Fear filled her eyes, and her fingers were trembling slightly, but she still volunteered herself anyway.

Su Jin didn’t know what to do. Kano Mai had been through many more challenges and was a lot more familiar with the world within the Handbook, so it was probably better to listen to her advice.

He was about to agree to let Tan Xin go ahead when Shi Teng suddenly took a step forward and volunteered himself too, “Mr. Su, I’m no coward! I’ll do this! I’m a man, so I ought to be a gentleman and step up to the challenge!”

“Alright then, we’ll be counting on you! We’ll cover your back,” said Su Jin as he patted Shi Teng on the shoulder.

Kano Mai wasn’t going to be so mean that she would really leave a newbie in the lurch, so she retrieved a handgun from her Handbook and passed it to Shi Teng. “I’ve got 1,000 rounds in this gun, so use it to protect yourself. You know how to fire a gun, right?”

“Yeah, I’ve used hunting rifles before, so this shouldn’t be too different.” Shi Teng wet his lips, took the handgun from Kano Mai and took a deep breath before he finally started walking towards the bridge.

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