“I’d need both of you to prove it,” a muscular man suddenly spoke up. Everyone was happy to hear that someone among them had Spirit Power, but they preferred to err on the side of caution.
Su Jin and Chu Yi exchanged glances. Su Jin flicked his finger and the man immediately started trembling all over as he clutched his forehead.
“That’s enough!” hissed the man. Su Jin immediately stopped using his Spirit Power to attack the man, since every point of Spirit Power he had was extremely precious within a Challenge. He wasn’t going to waste any if he didn’t have to.
Chu Yi had an even easier time proving himself. He thrust a palm out and sent an invisible wave of air out that instantly pushed the man backwards. Everyone was really assured now.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the World of Fairytales. Please allow me to introduce this world to you,” a voice suddenly resounded from behind everyone.
All of them got a shock, but their reaction times showed which ones had more experience and which ones were still rookies. The woman in a tracksuit and the muscular man reacted the most quickly and were even faster than Yang Mo and Chu Yi, while the remaining three were a lot more jumpy.
A shadow emerged from the darkness. He turned out to be a young man in a suit and top hat. He bowed slightly towards the crowd and smiled gently at them.
Su Jin turned to look at Kano Mai. He had developed a habit of asking Kano Mai questions every time he didn’t understand something about the Handbook’s universe. Kano Mai realised he was looking at her, so she explained, “This does happen sometimes during a Challenge, where a special NPC would give an explanation right at the start of the Challenge.”
Everyone was relieved to hear Kano Mai say that. At the same time, they realised that they were still within the safe time frame of the Challenge, so even if this young man turned out to be some monster, he wouldn’t be able to hurt them for now.
“What are you able to tell us?” Su Jin took a step forward to ask the young man a question.
The young man smiled and said, “I will tell you about the treasures of each fairytale. You will just have to find the items that I will list out for you now.”
So that was what this young man was for, thought everyone. Then again, the mission hadn’t stated exactly what those treasures they were supposed to find were and it was going to be pretty difficult to find anything without any further details. They were pleasantly surprised that the Handbook was actually going to give them a list.
“Please explain the treasures to us,” said Su Jin.
The young man nodded and said, “There are many treasures inside the World of Fairytales. There’s Snow White’s poisoned apple, the Little Red Riding Hood’s red jacket, the Mad Hatter’s hat, the Ugly Duckling’s feathers, Peter Pan’s wings, Jack’s harp, the candy house’s delicious candies, Cinderella’s glass slipper, the Little Mermaid’s fish scales, Apollo’s house, the Sabretooth Tiger’s teeth, Pinocchio’s wooden head, Rumpelstiltskin’s gems, the Tree of Life’s fruit and the Red Shoes themselves.”
The young man rattled off a long list of items without stopping, but thankfully Su Jin’s memory had also improved along with his physique after drinking those strengthening potions, so remembering everything the young man had just said wasn’t an issue. Besides, these were all items from the fairy tales he had heard as a child and most of them were items associated with the main characters of these stories, so they weren’t too hard to remember either.
“Are there any items that are more valuable than the others? Or are there any items that we must find?” asked Su Jin.
The young man shook his head and said, “No, there is no distinction. You just need to find three and you will be able to activate the teleportation door. However, the door only opens once every time three treasures are found and it will remain open for a limited period of time. If one of you finds 13 treasures, then there will be fewer than three treasures left. If anyone is still left behind after the door opens the first time in such a situation, there will be no way out of here.”
This made everyone’s heart thump with worry and they couldn’t help but become more wary of the others. If there was an owner who wanted more in order to gain more points at the end of the challenge and kept most of the treasures for himself, the rest of them were going to die here.
Su Jin felt like cursing the Handbook. It had sent them an NPC that sounded helpful at first, but it only took a couple of sentences from the NPC to instantly make the little trust the owners had in each other disappear completely.
“Alright now, everyone. I am going to open the door to the land of all fairytales. You can choose which ones you want to enter and you can go look for those treasures. Please take note of one more thing: If you did not participate in the search and attainment of the treasure, you will not be eligible to pass through the door even after it opens.” The young man bowed slightly at them again, then waved his hand. A row of portal doors instantly appeared before them and sparkled brightly.
A classic fairytale character could be seen within each door. There was Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ugly Duckling and more of such characters. These were all familiar characters to anyone who was old enough.
But Su Jin was still thinking about what the young man had said earlier. That last bit had clearly eliminated anybody’s plans to just remain here and just wait for the others to come back with treasures, then complete the Challenge without having to do anything. The Handbook was basically forcing every owner to be part of this Challenge and making sure nobody got a free ride.
The rest of the challengers weren’t thinking so hard about all that. They knew that they couldn’t stay here for long, so some of them approached Su Jin and Chu Yi to ask to join their teams, since being in the same team as veterans was clearly the safest option.
Su Jin was a little overwhelmed by the other owners asking to form a team with him, so he said, “Everyone, please, the four of us are already one team. But I think that if all of us work together as a team, it’s not going to be too hard to get through this Challenge. It’s only a Level C Challenge after all.”
“You’re a veteran, so that’s easy for you to say. A Level C Challenge might not be dangerous for you, but for the rest of us…even a Level D Challenge might kill us!” said the woman in a tracksuit with a sigh.
Su Jin quickly formed a plan and said, “Tell you what, let’s team up randomly, shall we? There are nine of us, so let’s pair up and search for treasures. How about that? The extra ninth person can come with me.”
All of them accepted Su Jin’s proposal. Su Jin had exactly four in his team, so each one of them would be paired with someone from outside the team. That way, he could ensure that none of them was going to run away with all the treasures and leave the rest here to die.
In the end, Su Jin agreed to go with a girl who had only gone through one Challenge and a bespectacled otaku-looking man who had only gone through two Challenges. Kano Mai was paired with the woman in the tracksuit. She had gone through six Challenges, so even though she wasn’t a veteran, she was pretty formidable.
Yang Mo was paired with the muscular man, who had also survived six Challenges. He was better at fighting, so he was a good pair with Yang Mo, now that Yang Mo was a healer sort of character.
Chu Yi was paired with the last person, a girl who had passed three Challenges. She looked only about 17 or 18 years old and seemed really young, but if a young lady like her could get through three Challenges, it meant that she was probably quite a force to be reckoned with.
Su Jin did not allow himself to look down on anyone just because they were new or young. This was only his fourth Challenge and he knew that some rookies held great potential. If anybody here was suitable to join the team, he was happy to extend an invitation to them.
Once they were all paired off, the next thing they had to do was to decide which group entered which fairytale. All of them agreed that since Su Jin was the team leader of Team Boning Knife and was a veteran as well, he could make the choice for them.
Of course, Kano Mai and Yang Mo didn’t have any objections. Not only was Su Jin their team leader, but he was also the brains of the group. It made sense for him to take charge of this.
After giving it some thought, Su Jin finally settled on the fairytales of Snow White, the Little Mermaid, the Ugly Duckling and Little Red Riding Hood.
Out of the four stories, three of them did not include any supernatural elements. The Little Mermaid was a mermaid, but at least she was a kind mermaid. The biggest problem was probably the witch living at the bottom of the sea.
Su Jin decided that he would enter the world of the Little Mermaid. He had Psychokinetic Spirit Power and the Demon Lord’s Eye, so he could handle any monsters that might come his way.
Yang Mo and the muscular man entered the world of the Ugly Duckling, while Kano Mai and the woman in a tracksuit entered the world of Snow White. The Little Red Riding Hood story was a little more dangerous since it included the Big Bad Wolf, so Chu Yi and his partner were allocated that story.
Nobody had any objections to Su Jin’s arrangement, but all of them felt equally uneasy. These were supposed to be fairytales of horror, so there was no way these fairytales were going to proceed like the fairytales they knew. They would just have to find a way to deal with the dangers as they came.
Shortly after the four groups entered the doors to their respective fairytales, a strange smile crept across the young man’s face. He removed his top hat and stuck his hand in, as if he was looking for something inside. His eyes suddenly lit up like he had found what he wanted, but he ended up getting sucked into the hat instead.
The world within the top hat was dark and was empty except for multiple cracks within the space. The young man swam through the space and quickly arrived at a crack that resembled an island. A middle aged man was talking to another person.
“Are you certain that he has that sort of ability? We’ve pulled so many owners into the Fairytales of Horror over the years, but not a single one has been able to complete that task,” said the middle aged man in a low voice.
“None of them were able to complete the task because firstly, all of you didn’t want to work together, and secondly…you didn’t have the help of someone from outside the Fairytales of Horror and thirdly, not all owners have that sort of potential!” said a voice from across the middle aged man.
“Heh heh, I’ve followed your instructions and pulled that person into the world of fairytales. I hope he’s as capable as you say he is, otherwise…I’ll gobble him up.” The young man seemed to be joking, but also seemed serious at the same time. It was really hard to tell.
“Hoho…trust me, he will not disappoint any of you. But you must do what I told you before,” said the voice of the individual standing across the middle aged man again.
“But he’s quite an interesting one. Or at least, he’s pretty smart,” said the young man with a smile.
The middle aged man bowed slightly at the person across from him and said, “Don’t worry, I will follow our agreement very strictly. But if it doesn’t work out, you shall suffer my wrath! Farewell!”
After that, the middle aged man left the little island with the young man. It was only then that the light fell on the person who was across from the middle aged man just now. There stood…a middle aged woman standing in a small front yard.
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