The bearish man looked at everyone on the bus but nobody spoke up. Su Jin glanced around at the rest as well and he could tell immediately that a few of them definitely didn’t look like newbies.
“Well, since none of you want to cooperate, good luck to you guys then! Let’s go!” The man walked to the door of the bus, grabbed the handle and forced it open, then three others followed him off the bus.
Su Jin and Kano Mai exchanged glances. The four who just alighted were definitely a small team like theirs and the bearish man who spoke earlier was probably the team leader.
“Er…what’s going on? How did I end up here?”
“Have we been kidnapped?”
“It was night time when I lost consciousness. Why is it daytime already?”
“It’s true that it’s almost wintertime, but this amount of snow doesn’t make any sense!”
It didn’t take long for the rest of the people on the bus to start talking among themselves.
Su Jin flipped his Handbook open to look at what this Challenge was about. After a quick glance, his expression faltered a little. This Challenge was actually a Level B Challenge. A 13 person Level B Challenge meant that a lot of them were probably going to die.
Mission 1: Stay alive until the Challenge ends! Mission type: Must be completed.
Mission 2: Find the truth behind Rubble Village!
There were only two missions, but the only compulsory one was to stay alive until the Challenge ended. But how would he know when the Challenge came to an end? There was no time frame or any other parameters given. It was impossible to define this Challenge.
“Let’s go.” Su Jin glanced at Kano Mai. There were probably other old timers among this group anyway. Su Jin didn’t want to talk to the rest so early on if he didn’t have to. After his previous experience with Chen Jing, the monster in disguise, and Tan Xin, a powerful owner disguising as a newbie in order to kill him, he had learned his lesson. Until he could confirm exactly which ones he could trust, he wasn’t going to interact with them.
After he alighted from the bus, he saw that there was only one road through the snow, so there was no need to worry about taking the wrong path. They walked for a while and soon noticed the four person group that had alighted first. But there was a fifth person driving a tractor as well.
“An NPC in the Challenge?” Su Jin and Kano Mai ran over immediately. They had way too little information this time round, so they hoped to find out more from a character within the Challenge.
“There’s a huge bus that’s broken down over there? You’d better be telling the truth! We’ve sealed off the roads leading up this mountain for several days now, so how could a bus get here?” The tractor driver was a villager in his fifties and he didn’t seem to believe what the bearish man was telling him.
“We’re telling the truth! If you don’t believe us, you can come with me to take a look. The bus is still lying in the middle of the snow! Do you think…do you think you could take us to the village for some warmth and shelter? We can pay you,” said a demure looking girl next to the bearish man. She sounded like she was good with words.
The villager thought about it for a while, then nodded. “Never mind the payment part. Our village doesn’t have a lot of space for any of you to stay the night though. If you need somewhere to stay, you’ll have to stay in the ancestral hall.”1(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancestral_shrine)]
“That’s fine with us! We’re good as long as we have a place to stay! Thank you so much! Don’t worry, we will leave once the snow melts,” said the demure girl with a sweet smile.
The bearish man noticed that Su Jin and Kano Mai had joined them, so he quietly asked, “Are you an old timer?”
“Yes.” Su Jin nodded and stretched his arm out. “My name’s Su Jin, I’ve been through three Challenges.”
“My name’s Yu Guangde, I’ve been through 13 Challenges.” Yu Guangde shook Su Jin’s hand, then looked at Kano Mai. “What about you, pretty girl?”
“My name’s Kano Mai, I’ve been through nine Challenges,” said Kano Mai with a slight nod and no smile on her face.
Yu Guangde looked mildly surprised. He was probably surprised that Kano Mai had survived so many Challenges.
“What do we do with the rest of the people in the bus? Are we going to just leave them there?” asked Su Jin.
Yu Guangde glanced in the direction of where the bus was and said calmly, “Don’t worry about them. They’ll get off sooner or later. They will just have to believe that Hell’s Handbook is real. Of course, if any of them stupidly refuse to believe it and stay inside, then they’re definitely doomed.”
Su Jin wasn’t surprised by what Yu Guangde said. Since Yu Guangde was an old timer with 13 Challenges behind him, he was probably very familiar with the way newbies thought. Su Jin was reminded of Jiang Li and Liu Yingying’s attitude towards himself and the other newbies the first time round. It seemed like newbies were really not welcome around here.
“Are you guys a team?” asked Su Jin.
Yu Guangde nodded. “That’s right. Pretty girl, do you want to join my team?”
The way he skipped Su Jin and asked Kano Mai instead was clearly a sign of disrespect and disdain for Su Jin, but Su Jin wasn’t offended. If he were in Yu Guangde’s shoes, he would definitely prefer someone with nine Challenges in the bag instead of someone with only three Challenges of experience.
“No thanks,” Kano Mai rejected the offer immediately. She pointed at Su Jin and said, “He’s my team leader.”
“What?! You’ve only been through three Challenges and you were able to deduce the concept of parallel universes?” Yu Guangde was really surprised now. He had taken ten Challenges and a few happy coincidences to discover this concept and receive his Mark of a Leader.
Su Jin smiled and said, “I was lucky. Mr. Yu, what are your thoughts on this Challenge? The details are very vague and I can’t glean much from the description.”
“Well…why don’t you talk to my other team mate? He’s the brains of the group. Xiang Nan, come over for a while.” Another man in his thirties walked over when Yu Guangde called out to him.
“This is Xiang Nan, the brainy one of our group. He’s a very intelligent guy. This is Su Jin, he’s also an old timer. You two can discuss more about this Challenge.” Yu Guangde’s way of managing his team was very simple – he just left the best person for the job in charge of that job and wouldn’t interfere if he didn’t have to. That was also why his four member team could work so well together.
The demure girl had already led the villager to the bus to take a look, so Su Jin started chatting with Xiang Nan about the Challenge.
“Mr. Su, what are your thoughts on this Challenge?” Xiang Nan asked first.
“It’s a dangerous one. 13 owners is a lot of people and it’s a Level B Challenge, so I think the Handbook already assumed that the death rate this time will be very high. But…even if we manage to define the parameters clearly, we might not get through it easily either,” said Su Jin.
Xiang Nan agreed with the front bit, but didn’t understand the last part. “Why do you say that?”
“The description of the Challenge is way too simple. It’s so minimal, it looks as though the Handbook is purposely hiding every useful piece of information from us. And if that’s the case…why do you think the Handbook is doing that?” Su Jin smiled.
Xiang Nan pondered this question for a moment, then nodded with a frown. “You’re right. If the Handbook is hiding information from us, the only explanation would be that the Handbook revealing these pieces of information would lower the difficulty level of the Challenge.”
“That’s right. Therefore, I think gathering information would be our most important task right now.” Su Jin nodded in agreement. Xiang Nan was clearly a smart man, so if they could work together, they would have a higher chance of getting through this Challenge.
Xiang Nan said a few things to Yu Guangde and Yu Guangde nodded. Then Yu Guangde walked over and asked Su Jin, “Mr. Su, would your team like to work together with mine for this Challenge?”
“That would be great.” Su Jin wasn’t going to turn this offer down. The other team had four experienced owners after all. If the two teams worked together, they’d at least be able to put up a good fight if necessary.
“Excellent! I like your decisiveness. Zhang Shuhan, come over here too!” Yu Guangde called the last member of his team over and introduced Su Jin and Kano Mai to him as well. “There are four members in my team. Xiang Nan is the brains of the group and he also has an edge in speed.”
“Zhang Shuhan is our expert in close combat and very good at hand-to-hand fighting. The girl who left with the villager just now is Tian Lili. She’s a real nerd. Sometimes we come across strange languages in the Challenge and she’s been able to decipher them at a basic level. She’s a really useful talent to have sometimes.”
“As for myself, I’m also an expert at close combat and I’ve got an ability to destroy everything within a pretty large area, but I need to fulfil several conditions before I can activate that skill.”
Yu Guangde’s introduction of his team was a fairly detailed one, which showed how much he valued this partnership. It was probably because he realized how dangerous this Challenge was going to be after Su Jin and Xiang Nan had discussed the few clues they had earlier.
“My team member, Kano Mai, is an expert sniper and not very good at close combat. You can consider me an expert at close combat too.” Su Jin’s introduction was a lot simpler since there were only two of them and they didn’t have too many skills to offer.
But Yu Guangde wasn’t bothered by that. While they were speaking, Tian Lili and the villager had already returned and four other owners had followed them out.
“So, we’ve got some stubborn ones on the bus?” Yu Guangde scoffed.
“The last three didn’t seem to believe me and said they’d find their own way out. I didn’t stop them,” Tian Lili whispered to Yu Guangde.
“Well, nobody can stop them if they’d rather die. Let’s go.” Yu Guangde nodded.
The ten of them squeezed onto the villager’s tractor and the villager drove the tractor back to the village. The large group quickly caught the attention of the other villagers when they arrived. The villagers stared at them with very curious looks on their faces.
“Village Chief, who are these people?” someone shouted out at the tractor driver. That villager on a tractor had actually turned out to be the village chief of Rubble Village.
“They’ve run into a snowstorm and want to stay here for a few days. They’ll leave once the snow clears up. Go back to whatever you were doing, don’t block the way!” The village chief waved his arms about to chase the villagers away.
But a few young men approached him and one of them said in a low voice, “Village Chief, I don’t think it’s a good idea to let them stay. I think you should chase them away.”
“Psh! You don’t know anything! Didn’t I teach you boys to be helpful when others are in trouble? Shoo!” The village chief stretched his leg out of the tractor to kick them and they quickly ran off. But the one who spoke up earlier still looked like he had more to say.
Xiang Nan and Su Jin exchanged glances. They felt like something was amiss, but they decided not to ask now.
The village chief continued driving the tractor towards the middle of the village. The ancestral hall of the village was located here, and it was where the village chief was willing to let them stay.
“There are very few houses in Clear Pond Village, so this is the only place where all of you can stay. Just make yourselves comfortable!” said the village chief to everyone.
But Su Jin raised an eyebrow as he murmured to himself, “Clear Pond Village?”
[Ancestral Shrine ↩️
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