The ancestral hall had more than enough space for everyone. The village chief was very hospitable as he provided them with blankets and some daily essentials.
“Our village has three water sources, there’s water from the spring, water from the pond and a well. The well is located on the east side of the village and it’s hard to get water all the way from there, but water from the spring flows to the back of the ancestral hall, so you can get water from there,” said the village chief with a merry laugh.
Su Jin asked the village chief, “Sir, your village is named Clear Pond Village?”
“That’s right! We’ve got a large pond on the east side of the village and that’s why we’re called Clear Pond Village,” said the village chief with a nod.
Su Jin nodded slightly, then Xiang Nan piped up, “Sir, it’s snowing so heavily out there. Why does the temperature feel like springtime in the village?”
“Uh…I’m not really sure about that either. It’s something to do with the geography of this place. Just make yourselves comfortable, look for me if you need anything.” The village chief waved at everyone and left.
Everyone settled down inside the ancestral hall, then Yu Guangde asked the four owners who joined the group later, “Is anyone else here also an old timer?”
“Me. I’ve been through five Challenges.” A man in his twenties stood up. He wore a pair of black framed glasses and looked like he was still studying.
“So, the rest are all newbies?” Yu Guangde glanced at the other three, then laughed and said, “Well, it doesn’t matter. I just have one thing to say – if there’s secretly an old timer among the three of you, too bad. Don’t count on us to help you if you run into danger.”
After saying something like that, even if there were an old timer among them, that person wouldn’t dare to own up now.
Meanwhile, Xiang Nan walked over to Su Jin and whispered, “Didn’t the Handbook mention Rubble Village? Why is it…why is it Clear Pond Village now?” Xiang Nan had picked up the village chief’s words too.
“The Handbook can’t be wrong, so it’s the village that changed its name.” Su Jin tapped his nose and said, “But a village wouldn’t change its name for no reason. If they had really changed their name…does that mean that these two names of the same village are related to this Challenge?”
“We don’t have enough information, but I’m sure the names of the village have something to do with this Challenge,” Xiang Nan nodded in agreement.
Yu Guangde and a few others helped to tidy up the place so that they could get to sleep. He made sure that everyone took turns to keep watch while they slept, since letting everyone sleep at the same time was as good as committing suicide. Yu Guangde was certainly a very experienced Handbook owner.
“Nobody knows how long this Challenge will be, so we’ll take turns to rest. Mr. Su, I’ll pair you with Ms. Kano. We’ll take the first six hours, you two will take over after that,” Yu Guangde said to Su Jin and Kano Mai.
Su Jin agreed to the arrangement and waited as time slowly ticked by. Everyone was surprised that absolutely nothing dangerous had happened during this time and the three newbies among them started to suspect whether they had been tricked all along.
“All this talk about some dangerous Challenge is nonsense, isn’t it? So much for thinking they were serious! How silly of me,” muttered one of the newbie girls to her two fellow newbies. They were feeling uneasy at the beginning of the Challenge, yet none of the terrifying things these old timers claimed would happen had occurred.
Su Jin found this very strange too. The Handbook usually sent dangers their way very quickly. But this time, hours had gone by without anything happening at all. This was very unusual.
“Time to change shifts.”
“It’s our turn,” Su Jin said to Kano Mai. They got up and suddenly heard a shriek.
The newbie who complained earlier had let out a shriek as if she had seen something terrifying. Everyone hurried over to see that one of the newbies was curled into a ball and his entire body was stiff.
Yu Guangde walked over and turned the man’s head to the front. A sticky liquid flowed out from his nostrils and he was no longer breathing.
“He’s dead.” Yu Guangde’s expression was rather grim.
“So, this is THAT sort of Challenge?!” Xiang Nan paled and even Kano Mai looked a little distressed.
“Mai, what does he mean by ‘that sort of Challenge’?” Su Jin asked Kano Mai.
“The Challenges of the Handbook are divided into several types, and this is the type that we want to find ourselves in the least. This is the type where owners will die mysteriously and their deaths are caused by supernatural beings. In other words, spirits!” Kano Mai’s breathing grew heavy. She had gone through one Challenge like that. Out of the eight owners that were thrown into the Challenge, only two of them survived. And they had survived only because they had found an item within the Challenge by chance that could ward off the evil spirit.
“Be cautious, everyone! This Challenge…might be really difficult,” said Yu Guangde with a grim look on his face.
The other two newbies who thought they had been tricked started trembling violently. A person they had been talking to just moments ago was suddenly dead for no reason. It was very hard for them to accept this.
Su Jin checked the body of the newbie and was rather puzzled. There was water in the body’s nose and mouth and the body was curled up. It was as if this man had drowned.
“Mr. Su, have you discovered anything?” Xiang Nan walked over to ask when he saw Su Jin inspecting the corpse.
Su Jin was quiet for a while, then said, “Look at the way he died. He looks like…he looks like he has been drowned.”
“Well…in Challenges like these, most of the evil spirits are able to manipulate minds. Even if the person literally died from fright, the way they die might be consistent with the imaginary situation that the evil spirits showed them,” said Xiang Nan.
“But if he died simply from believing he was in a deadly situation, how do you explain all the water in his nose and mouth?” Su Jin gently touched some of the water. It was just water and not any of the victim’s bodily fluids.
Xiang Nan was stumped after hearing Su Jin’s question and could only shake his head. He didn’t have any answers either.
Su Jin sighed quietly. Now that the first person among them had died, more were going to follow. It wasn’t going to take long for another victim to surface. But because there was no pattern or logic to follow, anybody could be the next victim. This feeling of helplessness annoyed Su Jin.
Everyone in the ancestral hall were uneasy and jittery. They were allowed to take turns to sleep, but after what just happened, nobody dared to actually sleep. Everyone was afraid because they were worried that if they fell asleep, they might never wake up again.
The flame of the kerosene lamps inside the ancestral hall flickered in the wind. The newbie who had complained earlier said something to Tian Lili, then Tian Lili ran over to say something to Yu Guangde.
“What the hell? At this time? If you’re not afraid to die, go ahead!” Yu Guangde waved her away.
The two women approached Kano Mai, but after they said a few things to her, she shook her head. The two then shrugged and left the hall.
“What did they want?” Su Jin asked curiously.
“They’re going to bathe.”
Su Jin’s eyes widened. The two women were going to bathe at such a time? Hadn’t these two watched horror films before? Someone always died while bathing!
“You guys don’t have to be so nervous. Rest while you can. Otherwise, all of you would be too tired to do anything even before the spirits come for you,” said Yu Guangde to the rest in the hall. But his words didn’t calm anyone down at all.
The air in the hall was very heavy. Zhang Shuhan boiled some water while the other old timers ate the food they had packed for the Challenge. They were in no danger of starving at the moment.
But just when everyone was eating quietly, Zhang Shuhan suddenly froze for a moment. After that his limbs began to struggle uncontrollably but his actions weren’t very violent. If Yu Guangde hadn’t been fairly close to him, his actions might have gone unnoticed.
“Crap! Shuhan, what’s wrong?!” Yu Guangde noticed something wrong with his team mate very quickly, but couldn’t seem to be of any help. He could only grab hold of Zhang Shuhan and call his name repeatedly.
“He’s drowning!” Su Jin immediately recognized the way Zhang Shuhan was moving as a sign of someone drowning.
“If anybody has something to ward off evil spirits, take it out now! I’ll give you something really valuable in return!” Yu Guangde looked at Su Jin, Kano Mai and the other old timer, since the last remaining newbie was definitely of no use here.
But the three of them shook their heads. First of all, anything that could ward off evil was very useful in any Challenge, so you could only get such an item from your Personal Hell Domain or during a Challenge. Such items cost way more points than a standard Spirit Power weapon, and it was almost impossible to find one in a Challenge. Secondly, even if any of them had something like that, they weren’t going to exchange it for anything during this Challenge. That item was vital for their own survival, so nobody would give it up.
Yu Guangde was getting frantic, but there was nothing he could do since nobody in his team owned such an item either. Su Jin tried to think of a solution and walked towards Yu Guangde, which made Yu Guangde give Su Jin a hopeful look.
“Mr. Su, if you’ve got anything to ward off evil, I’m willing to use a valuable item of mine in exchange for it. I’ll make sure you get a good deal.”
Su Jin shook his head and said, “I don’t have anything that can ward off evil, but this item of mine might be useful.”
He pulled out a piece of chewing gum and held it out to Yu Guangde. Yu Guangde stared at him strangely and was about to speak when Su Jin explained, “He looks like he’s going to drown, and victims of drowning die because water gets into the lungs and they eventually suffocate to death. This is Super Oxygenated Chewing Gum. One piece is equivalent to three days of oxygen supply, so it might save him!”
Yu Guangde immediately stuffed the Super Oxygenated Chewing Gum into Zhang Shuhan’s mouth and made him chew it. A few moments later, Zhang Shuhan slowly stopped struggling and his breathing became even again, but he was still unconscious.
But that was enough for Yu Guangde to breathe a sigh of relief. “Thank you so much, Mr. Su.”
“You’re welcome.” Su Jin shook his head. He squatted down in front of Zhang Shuhan and noticed that there was water in Zhang Shuhan’s nose and mouth too, so he said to Yu Guangde, “I suspect there’s water in his lungs as well. You’d better find a way to expel the water from his lungs.”
“Got it!” Yu Guangde nodded, then slammed his palm hard against Zhang Shuhan’s chest. Zhang Shuhan immediately sprayed a mouthful of water out along with the Super Oxygenated Chewing Gum. He started struggling again once the chewing gum left his mouth.
Yu Guangde quickly caught the gum midair and stuffed it back into Zhang Shuhan’s mouth.
Su Jin left Zhang Shuhan to Yu Guangde and focused on the water that Zhang Shuhan had spat out. He started making some guesses when a clattering sound came from behind the ancestral hall.
“It’s the girls!” Kano Mai was the first to respond.
The two ladies were bathing, so it wasn’t convenient for Su Jin to save them.
“Go save them!” Su Jin gave two pieces of chewing gum to Kano Mai and she ran out of the hall immediately.
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