A few moments later, Kano Mai came back with Tian Lili. Tian Lili was leaning weakly against Kano Mai and had clearly worn her clothes in a hurry.
Kano Mai shook her head at everyone. “I was too late. The other girl died by the time I got there.”
The looks on everyone’s faces grew even grimmer. Earlier on they felt that the Challenge was moving very slowly, but now they realized it was just the calm before the storm. In such a short time, four of them had met with danger. Two had died and one had lost consciousness.
“Lili, what happened just now? Please tell us everything in detail. We really need as much information as we can,” Xiang Nan said to Tian Lili.
But Tian Lili had a perplexed look on her face as she shook her head. “I don’t know what happened either. I felt as though I had fallen asleep. If Mai hadn’t come in to rescue me, I would have died without even realizing it.”
This answer made both Su Jin and Xiang Nan sigh. Tian Lili was the only victim who was still alive and conscious, but she wasn’t able to provide them with any useful information.
Su Jin tapped his nose rapidly and said to Xiang Nan, “The only thing we know right now is that all the victims had something to do with water.”
“That’s right. The first victim had water in his nose and mouth. Zhang Shuhan also looked like he was drowning and Brother Yu also forced water out from his lungs. Then Lili and the other newbie ran into danger when they went to bathe,” Xiang Nan summarized the four victims’ situation clearly for Su Jin.
Su Jin nodded as his finger continued to tap on his nose in a peculiar rhythm. His finger suddenly stopped and he said to Kano Mai, “Mai, could you go back in with Brother Yu? I want the water from the newbie’s lungs.”
Yu Guangde nodded and followed Kano Mai to the back of the hall while everyone else was trying to figure out why Su Jin had asked them to do this. They returned shortly and Yu Guangde had a cup in his hand.
Su Jin took the cup from Yu Guangde, then went to look for the boiled water that Zhang Shuhan had boiled for everyone.
He poured a cup out and compared the water inside with the cup he had taken from Yu Guangde. Then he asked, “Where’s the cup that the newbie used before she went to bathe?”
“It’s here, nobody touched it.” Xiang Nan brought a cup over. There was still some water left inside.
Su Jin poured the water in the cup he took from Yu Guangde into the newbie’s cup. The volume in both cups added up to almost exactly one full cup of water.
Xiang Nan’s eyes lit up while Su Jin sighed heavily. “It’s the water. Regardless of whether it was the previous newbie, this newbie or Mr. Zhang, the one thing they had in common was that they all drank water.”
“But so did the rest of us!” said Kano Mai puzzledly.
“That’s right. So I’m guessing that this evil spirit uses water as a medium to kill its victims, but it can only kill one person in a given timeframe and you must have drunk the water.”
“That doesn’t sound right. If the evil spirit can only kill one person in a given timeframe, why did Zhang Shuhan, the newbie with me and myself, meet with danger at almost the same time?” Tian Lili couldn’t understand.
Xiang Nan explained things to her this time, “Just like you said… you, Zhang Shuhan and the newbie met with danger at almost the same time, but…only the newbie died.”
Tian Lili froze in horror. Xiang Nan was right. Zhang Shuhan had merely fainted and she had come out unscathed. The only one among the three of them who actually died was the newbie.
“Does that mean this evil spirit only targets the Handbook owners? There are so many families in the village after all. You mean we’re the only ones in danger?” Yu Guangde raised a question.
Su Jin shook his head and said, “The village chief said earlier that the village has three sources of water – the spring, the well and the pond. We’re drinking from the spring while the villagers take water from the well.”
“Are you saying that…the village chief set us up?” asked Xiang Nan.
“That’s a possibility. Mr. Xiang, could you get some water from the village chief and ask him more about this village at the same time?” said Su Jin to Xiang Nan.
Su Jin had somehow become the brains of the group, superior even to Xiang Nan. And Xiang Nan didn’t seem the least offended or upset by this.
“No problem,” replied Xiang Nan before heading out of the hall.
But Yu Guangde called him back, then said to Su Jin, “Mr. Su, I’d like to buy some of your chewing gum. Would you be willing to sell it to me?”
“Sure. I should have enough to last the rest of this Challenge.” Su Jin did have quite a few pieces on hand, so it wouldn’t be a problem even if he sold a few.
“Would this item be good enough to exchange for your chewing gum?” Yu Guangde took his Handbook out and retrieved a bottle from inside.
Su Jin was stunned to see this bottle. He knew this bottle very well. “A Low Level Body Strengthening Elixir?”
“You know what this is? Oh…you’ve already consumed this before?” Yu Guangde was rather surprised. This item was hard to come by and he wouldn’t have offered it if he hadn’t already consumed a bottle before.
“Yeah, I got it in my selection the last time and exchanged points for it too. But a bottle of this stuff is a lot more expensive than my chewing gum.”
Yu Guangde sighed. “It’s more important to have items that can help one to survive a Challenge. As long as it’s a useful item, I’m very willing to use something of higher value in exchange for it. But if you don’t want this, I can offer you something else.”
“Oh, no, no, I’ll take this. Why don’t I give you three pieces of chewing gum in return?” Su Jin agreed to the deal and held out three pieces of Super Oxygenated Chewing Gum to Yu Guangde.
“No problem.” Yu Guangde breathed a sigh of relief. He thought that Su Jin might only offer him one piece, since Su Jin clearly had the more useful item for this Challenge and called the shots. He was surprised that Su Jin was so generous.
Su Jin passed the Low Level Body Strengthening Elixir to Kano Mai and said, “You can have this. But it’s better to consume it after you return to your Personal Hell Domain. You can’t restore your body while you’re here.”
Kano Mai didn’t expect Su Jin to give this to her. After all, Su Jin could have kept it as a high value item for exchange like Yu Guangde did. There would always be other owners willing to exchange their items for this elixir.
“You’re giving it to me?”
“What does it look like to you?”
Kano Mai took the bottle from him and swallowed its contents with one gulp. Su Jin got a shock and said, “Why did you do that?! You’ll be in a lot of pain after drinking this!”
But she wiped her mouth and laughed. “Did you think I learned nothing after going through so many Challenges? If your body is strong enough before you consume this elixir, you won’t go through much pain.”
Su Jin breathed a long sigh of relief and shook his head. Yu Guangde passed one piece of gum to Xiang Nan and said, “Hold onto this. If you meet any danger, come back immediately.”
Xiang Nan nodded and left the hall.
After Xiang Nan left, the hall was left with seven of them. Two out of the four who had joined them later were dead. Out of the remaining two, one was an old timer while the other one was supposedly a newbie as well.
The two of them were feeling rather uneasy and the old timer approached Su Jin first. “Mr. Su, I’d like to form an alliance with you.”
“With me? I think you’re a little confused. I’ve formed an alliance with Mr. Yu’s team, so if you want to join me, that’s the same as joining us all.”
The old timer nodded and said, “It doesn’t matter either way. My name’s Yang Mo and I…I can use Spirit Power for a short period of time.”
Su Jin was surprised to hear this. Yu Guangde had clearly heard these words as well and turned with a start to look at Yang Mo.
But the way Yang Mo described his Spirit Power sounded a little strange, so Su Jin asked, “You have a Spirit Power battery of sorts?”
“How did you know?” Yang Mo was surprised. His Spirit Power battery was his trump card and he had relied on it to survive most of his previous Challenges. He had never run into anybody who knew that such an item existed.
“That doesn’t matter. How much Spirit Power does your battery have left?”
“800 points. I can use my Spirit Power to activate an energy barrier for defense purposes. I believe this will be useful to all of us,” said Yang Mo without withholding any information.
“A defensive skill?” Su Jin considered Yang Mo’s offer for a while, then nodded in agreement. “Don’t worry! Since you’ve got Spirit Power on hand, we will definitely make sure you stay alive. But when we need you to activate your skill, you must activate it without hesitation. Are you able to do that?”
“Of course. As long as all of you can protect me, I will not stinge on using my Spirit Power.”
Yang Mo was relieved to be accepted as an ally. They were all stuck in the hall together, so if anything happened, Su Jin and the rest would definitely be able to put up a fight. But if the situation reached a point where saving another person might put their own lives in danger, they might choose to abandon him. That was why Yang Mo decided to tell them about his Spirit Power battery. That way, they would agree to protect him as well.
“Brother Yu, what do you think?” Su Jin turned to Yu Guangde for his opinion. Yu Guangde was the boss of this alliance after all.
“I’m good. Anyone with Spirit Power would be able to fend off evil spirits to a certain extent, so he’d definitely be useful to us.” Yu Guangde was agreeable as well.
Everyone sat around the hall and continued to wait. The last newbie kept shifting about uneasily and Su Jin felt that even if an evil spirit didn’t kill this guy, he was going to scare himself to death. Then again, nobody knew if this guy was really a newbie like he said he was. After two Challenges, Su Jin didn’t take anything at face value anymore.
Nobody dared to drink water anymore and an hour slowly passed by. Footsteps approached the hall from the outside and everyone thought that Xiang Nan had returned. But when the footsteps reached the hall, they realized it was a villager. It was that young man who stopped the village chief earlier on.
“All of you need to leave immediately! If you continue staying here, all of you will die!” The young man was very kind and kept telling them to leave as soon as possible.
“Two of our companions have already died,” snapped Yu Guangde in response.
The young man’s expression faltered and he sighed. “I’m really sorry to hear that. I should have told you right from the start to leave immediately. Perhaps you would have a greater chance of surviving.”
“No way. Our friends died here, so we’re going to find the murderer!” Su Jin purposely tried to agitate the young man.
“You won’t find any murderer. The one who killed them isn’t human…it’s an evil spirit! It’s an evil spirit that has cursed this village!” said the young man anxiously.
“Is this village called Clear Pond Village or Rubble Village?” asked Su Jin calmly.
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