The noise coming from the ancestral hall made everyone freeze immediately. Yu Guangde threw Xiang Nan a glance and Xiang Nan immediately started tiptoeing his way back to the ancestral hall. Su Jin and Kano Mai followed behind him.
“Oh my,” Xiang Nan exclaimed softly. He turned back and said, “It’s the three newbies who refused to come along when the Challenge first started.”
Everyone walked back into the hall to see three familiar faces sitting inside and shivering. It was the three handbook owners who had refused to come along with Tian Lili and the village chief. They looked terribly exhausted as they sat down weakly in the middle of the hall.
“Did you guys find a way out?” Yu Guangde asked sarcastically.
The three of them looked rather despondent and one of the shook his head as he replied, “No, we didn’t. There was nothing but ice and snow everywhere. We were about to freeze to death, so we had no choice but to walk along the only path we could see and got here.”
Yu Guangde scoffed. If there was a way to literally walk out of a Challenge, none of them would be risking their lives right now. In fact, he was surprised that these three managed to stay alive till now. Lucky bums, he thought.
“All three of them are still alive. Does that mean we would have been safe if we just never entered the village right from the start?” An idea suddenly struck Yang Mo.
Xiang Nan threw him a glance and said quietly, “If we don’t enter the village, the Challenge won’t be able to start. If the Handbook realizes that we’re not doing anything, it might wreak havoc on us. All of us might end up dead.”
“Then…what if some came in and some stayed outside?” asked Yang Mo again.
This time, Su Jin was the one who threw him a glance. “Firstly, the number of owners in each Challenge are correlated to the difficulty level of the Challenge. In other words, if there are fewer owners facing the Challenge than originally planned, these owners may end up dying a lot faster than if all the owners became part of the Challenge. Take this Challenge for example – we’ve got three dead and two unconscious, of which four are Handbook owners. That’s almost half the number of people that first entered the village.”
“Once all the owners facing the Challenge are dead, anybody still outside will either have to wait to die or to face the Challenge. And without those who died earlier, the probability that this latter group will die is just as high as the previous group. If you split the entire group like this, you’re basically forcing each group to face a Challenge that’s too difficult for this smaller group of people to complete. That will do none of us good.”
“Secondly, unless all of us are one team, I don’t think you would want to face the dangers of a Challenge and allow the others to just watch and wait without contributing, right?”
“Thirdly, have you already forgotten the horrifying ways in which Hell’s Handbook keeps us all in check? The Handbook is not going to allow anyone to get away like this. The ones who stayed outside the Challenge this time were three newbies, so the Handbook let them off. If an old timer had stayed out there…I’m very sure the Handbook would have rained hellfire on him.”
Yang Mo could only nod as Su Jin explained these three points to him. He glanced at the three newbies and grumbled, “These three were really lucky.”
In any case, everyone was a little relieved now that the total number of people had gone up by three. They carried Tian Lili to some tables that served as a makeshift bed and covered her with blankets, but she didn’t look like she was getting better at all. She lay next to the unconscious Zhang Shuhan with her head tilted to one side. The eye with the double pupils kept switching between one pupil and two pupils, so it was clear that a lot was still going on in her mind.
“What we need to do now is to get our hands on the village chronicle that’s with the village chief. That’s the most important thing in this whole Challenge,” Xiang Nan mapped out their next step. The chronicles that Su Jin asked about earlier was definitely going to help answer all their questions.
“Let’s go get it then!” said Yang Mo.
But Su Jin shook his head. “If I were the designer of such a game, I’m not going to let players get to the key that will unlock the game that easily. I don’t think it’s going to be easy to get our hands on the chronicles.”
“Mr. Su is right. I think we’ll need to gather our best fighters of the group to make sure we get the chronicles,” said Xiang Nan resolutely.
Yu Guangde took a step forward and said, “I’m a veteran who has unlocked my own Spirit Power, so I’m definitely part of this group.”
“The ones who can fight right now are myself, Brother Yu, Mai, Mr. Xiang and Mr. Yang. Brother Yu’s got to be part of this group for sure. Mr. Yang has some Spirit Power on hand, but we also need someone to protect the people in the ancestral hall, so please stay behind.”
“Okay,” Yang Mo nodded.
“Mr. Xiang and I are the analyst type, so we have to split up. Both sides would need someone like us.” Su Jin looked at Xiang Nan for his opinion.
“You’re right. I’m not a very good fighter, but I can help to defend. I’ll stay,” Xiang Nan said to Su Jin.
Yu Guangde looked a little surprised, as if he didn’t expect Xiang Nan to want to stay. But he didn’t say anything.
“If Mr. Xiang is going to stay here, then I’ll go with Brother Yu. The last fighter on the list is Mai, so come along with us!” Su Jin decided to bring Kano Mai along as well. Yu Guangde was the most powerful among them since he had his own Spirit Power, Su Jin had taken two doses of body strengthening elixirs, so his physical body was stronger than an average human, while Kano Mai was an excellent sniper with other skills suitable for long range combat. They did make up a fairly formidable team.
After exchanging some words, Su Jin, Yu Guangde and Kano Mai set off. It was night time, so it was actually a good time to go on a thieving mission. Meanwhile, Xiang Nan watched the three of them walk away with a strange look in his eyes.
Xiang Nan had already found out exactly where the village chief’s house was earlier, so the trio could head there directly instead of having to ask around for directions.
They soon arrived at the village chief’s house in the cover of night. Su Jin got Kano Mai to stay put in a high place outside the village chief’s front yard as a backup, then climbed over the wall with Yu Guangde. Yu Guangde had a look of surprise once he landed in the front yard of the house.
“What’s wrong?” whispered Su Jin when he noticed Yu Guangde’s change in expression.
Yu Guangde furrowed his brows and whispered, “There’s a seal of sorts in this place. My Spirit Power has been sealed off, so I can’t use it. Also…I don’t think that’s the only thing that’s been sealed.”
Su Jin stared at him in shock, then heard Blackie’s familiar voice in his ears, “You have reached an area that has a seal around it. The Handbook’s power has been sealed off so you cannot retrieve any items from inside. Spirit Power cannot be used here either.”
“So, owners can be weakened in this manner too?” Su Jin didn’t expect the Handbook to do something like this. He had been caught off guard, but thankfully the super strong body he was relying on the most was not subject to these issues.
The two of them quietly made their way towards the house itself. After a quick discussion, they decided to split ways to look for the chronicle. The village chief’s house wasn’t very big but it was split into seven rooms. Besides the obvious living room, kitchen and bedroom, the other four rooms were dark, so they couldn’t tell what rooms they were.
Su Jin checked two of them to find that one was a storeroom for food while the other turned out to be a bathroom. The two that Yu Guangde checked out was another storeroom as well as a study.
“A study?” Su Jin and Yu Guangde’s natural choice was to search the study first. After they snuck in, they began searching the place. But the study was a mess and many things were just randomly stacked on top of each other. It wasn’t going to be easy to find the village chronicle, especially when they didn’t even know what it looked like.
Yu Guangde bumped into a high stack of books, causing the entire pile to slide to the floor. The sound of the books sliding to the floor was extremely loud since the village was so quiet at night.
Just as they had thought, the village chief walked out of his bedroom, walked into the study and turned on the lights to see the scattered pile of books on the floor. He looked around suspiciously and even checked behind the shelves and corners of the room, then finally shook his head and closed the room door again.
Su Jin and Yu Guangde didn’t even dare to breathe. Su Jin was standing on the top of the study door frame with all ten fingers stabbed into the roof, while Yu Guangde was just hugging him tightly and hanging on for dear life. They were in a really awkward position.
Just when they both thought it was safe to come down, the door to the study was flung open again. The village chief had suddenly decided to return to the room. Thankfully, Su Jin hadn’t removed all his fingers from the roof yet, so they didn’t end up falling from above.
“Tsk, I’m going to scare myself to death if I’m always so paranoid,” the village chief chuckled to himself, turned the lights off, shut the door again and actually locked it this time.
The two of them remained where they were until Su Jin could hear that the village chief had walked quite a distance away from them. They landed back down on the floor and Yu Guangde breathed a huge sigh of relief.
“So, Mr. Su…you are well versed in the Eagle Claw technique?” 1(http://www.laufatmangeagleclaw.com/eagle-claw-history.html)]
“Oh please. My fingers held on because I’ve taken those body strengthening elixirs.”
“I’m just trying to ease the tension here…”
The two of them continued their search for the chronicle, but after spending more than half an hour searching through everything in the study, they still couldn’t find anything. The study was just filled with some of the village’s ledgers and the village chief’s personal book collection. There was no sign of the chronicle anywhere.
“The chronicle has got to be with the village chief. But where else could it be if it’s not in the study?” Yu Guangde scratched his head puzzledly. He had absolute faith in the answer that Tian Lili got from the young man.
Su Jin’s eyes lit up as he slapped Yu Guangde on the back. “Brother Yu, you’re right! Nobody said that something like a village chronicle had to be kept in a study.”
“Then where could it be?”
“If you had to hide something extremely important, where would you choose to hide it?” Su Jin asked Yu Guangde.
Yu Guangde thought about it and said, “If I had to hide something extremely important…well, if you’re asking about my personal experience, I squirrel away some money into my socks, some is hidden in a container inside my toilet bowl’s water tank, and I’ve also got a custom made triple layer pillow case with a secret pocket.”
“Seriously? You’re a Handbook owner and you still have to hide your money? What on earth?” Su Jin was flabbergasted. The amount of money he could exchange for with just a few points was enough to allow him to live very comfortably.
Yu Guangde looked slightly embarrassed as he said, “Young man, I see that you have no idea what a fantastic detective the organism called ‘a wife’ is. Out of every organism I have come across, only Sherlock Holmes, Detective Conan, you, Xiang Nan, those K-9 unit dogs and Lassie can compare to her.”
“It was a great honor to be compared to the first two, and then after that…Brother Yu, you’re quite the smooth talker!” Su Jin grinned in amusement. Then he stopped laughing and said very seriously, “If we look at this from a middle aged or elderly man’s perspective, I think the first two spots aren’t as likely. The last one sounds about right.”
“Young man, you’re a smooth talker too!” Brother Yu slapped Su Jin’s shoulder with a laugh.
[Eagle Claw History ↩️
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