A small front yard stood alone on a broken piece in the void. A woman with only one eye smiled eerily and opened her palm. Blood instantly gathered within her hand to slowly form a beating heart.
“Young man, I’m counting on you!” The one-eyed woman turned to walk back into her room. A little more of her front yard seemed to have disappeared.
Meanwhile, Su Jin had fully regained control over his own body. The eye that had turned completely black had also slowly returned to normal, but Su Jin didn’t feel any happier despite being more powerful now.
With the Demon Lord’s Eye inside him, he was now fully entangled with the Demon Lord and he didn’t even get the chance to say no. If he had said no, the Demon Lord would have probably destroyed him.
“Oh, forget it. I’ll just take it one step at a time.” Su Jin was very tired by all this. He saw that Chu Yi and Ning Meng were lying unconscious on the floor, while Gu Ming and Liu Jingjing had already died.
Since the prince had already left, the dead woman wearing the glass slipper was no longer a threat as she lay lifelessly on the floor. Su Jin took the glass slipper off her foot and there was a white flash as all the survivors of this story was sent back to where they started.
Su Jin woke Chu Yi and Ning Meng up. He had to find out from them why Gu Ming and Liu Jingjing had died. Su Jin’s consciousness had already been suppressed at that time and had no idea what happened.
“Personal mission?” Su Jin was surprised to hear this. He knew that such missions did exist after his experience at the Temple of the Origin of Heaven, but this mission was given to the owner at the start of the Challenge, not appear suddenly halfway through the Challenge. Something didn’t sound right here.
By giving out these personal missions at the beginning of the mission, it gave the other owners time to discover who was for them and who was against them. On the contrary, giving out a personal mission like that in the middle of the Challenge was definitely going to incite war between the owners instantly.
The Handbook Challenges were terrifying, but there was always a chance to survive, as long as one could find the right combination of decisions. None of their missions would result in immediate deaths. But this personal mission was clearly getting owners to kill another owner directly.
“I got this personal mission too, but I didn’t expect them to…” Ning Meng still looked distraught.
“I can’t really blame them. The promise of getting all the points the other owner would have received is a very tempting one indeed, and it would be worth going all out to get it,” said Su Jin with a sigh. If one could kill a few other owners, then the total points for this one Challenge would be equivalent to completing several Challenges.
“Ning Meng, could you let me take a look at your Handbook?” Su Jin asked Ning Meng.
Ning Meng immediately opened her Handbook for Su Jin to take a look but the blank pages threw her into confusion. “How…why is it completely blank? I…I was very sure I heard the mission being given out!”
“You heard the mission being given out?” Su Jin looked confused as well. As far as he knew, any mission from the Handbook would be clearly stated inside the book itself. Nobody he knew had ever heard of a mission being announced to the owners.
“But…but I heard the voice of my Personal Hell Domain butler…” Ning Meng didn’t know how to explain any of this. There was nothing in her Handbook pertaining to a personal mission.
“What’s going on?” Chu Yi was also perplexed and Su Jin couldn’t figure it out either.
Su Jin looked towards the portal doors to Snow White and the Ugly Duckling and became extremely worried. He was pretty sure that supposed personal mission must have appeared to the others as well, so he wondered if Kano Mai and Yang Mo had run into similar misfortunes.
His arrangement was such that he and Chu Yi had taken the weakest owners since they were much more powerful veterans, leaving Kano Mai and Yang Mo with less powerful but more experienced owners. If those owners suddenly decided to turn on them, Kano Mai and Yang Mo were in grave danger.
“I really hope nothing bad happens…” Su Jin murmured to himself. Not even his first Challenge had made him feel so nervous.
“Teehee! Teehee!” Just then, a strange laughter came from the darkness and caught their attention.
They turned to look at where the laughter had come from and they slowly saw a young man wearing a top hat slowly walk out as he doubled over in laughter.
“Personal mission? HAHA! That’s…that’s so hilarious!” The young man laughed and shook his head at the same time, as if he had heard the funniest joke in the world.
Su Jin narrowed his eyes and looked carefully at the young man’s face to see that the young man’s nose was much longer than before.
His heart sank. “Damn it!” If he still didn’t know who this young man really was, then Su Jin had failed as the brains of his team.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ve just not seen such a foolish person in a long time…or rather, it’s been a long time since I’ve actually seen a human.” The young man bowed politely at the three owners with the same smile on his face.
“Mr. Pinocchio, I suppose you’re the one behind all of this!” Su Jin addressed the other party directly by his name.
“Pinocchio?!” Chu Yi and Ning Meng were still obviously clueless as to who this young man really was and was surprised to hear what Su Jin just said.
The young man shrugged and grinned. “Don’t you think this is all very interesting? For the sake of self-gain, one can find it in himself to even murder a fellow comrade who fights alongside him! That’s human nature for you!”
“That’s not true! Not everyone would do that! I think…they must have been too pressured by the stresses of the Handbook’s Challenges!” Ning Meng suddenly retorted loudly. She was the only one who did not make any attempt on Chu Yi and Su Jin’s lives, so Pinocchio couldn’t accuse her of such thoughts.
“Tsk, how laughable!” Pinocchio remained disdainful anyway.
Su Jin narrowed his eyes and said to Pinocchio, “If you’re here, then if I walk into Pinocchio’s story…where would the Pinocchio from that story go?”
“Teeheehee! Did you see Cinderella after walking into her story? Besides, this is me after I became a boy, so my wooden self is still inside the fairytale!” said Pinocchio gleefully.
“What on earth are you trying to do? You’re part of the Challenge itself…no wait! You…you’re an Elder God!” Su Jin suddenly realized what was going on. When Ning Meng mentioned the Handbook, Pinocchio looked like he knew exactly what she was talking about and he also had the power to affect owners. In that case, there was only one possibility – Pinocchio was an Elder God just like the Demon Lord was!
Pinocchio burst out laughing. “Did you finally realize that! I thought you wouldn’t notice!”
“Why are you doing this? Are you just making a fool out of us?” Su Jin gritted his teeth angrily. He never thought that the entire group would have been a target of an Elder God right from the start.
Pinocchio shook his head and looked so offended as he said, “How could that be? I’m a god, so I wouldn’t do something as pointless as that…then again, this was actually really fun too!”
Su Jin was furious but there was nothing much he could do to a god. Chu Yi and Ning Meng were equally furious. If Su Jin didn’t hold them back, they would have tried to attack Pinocchio even though he was way more powerful than both of them combined.
“As for what I’m trying to do, you’re going to find out real soon!” Pinocchio smiled mysteriously, then pointed a finger at the portal doors.
Just then, the door to Snow White’s story flashed and Kano Mai appeared. Her entire body was covered with blood, and there was a wound on her waist was so deep, it nearly sliced her in half. Her beautiful face had a gaping hole in it, as if someone had stabbed a spear right through it. She was also holding onto a bloodied red apple.
“Mai!” Su Jin got a shock but before he could recover from it, the portal door to the Ugly Duckling story flashed as well and Yang Mo came tumbling out.
He was in even worser shape. His lower half was nowhere to be seen and his entrails were just hanging out of his upper half. His face was distorted in pain but he was holding onto a feather in his hand.
Su Jin grabbed the feather and the red apple and yelled loudly, “End the Challenge! End the Challenge right now! We’ve gathered enough treasures to end the Challenge, so end it right now!!” The only way the two of them would survive was to send them to their Personal Hell Domains right now.
Pinocchio nodded as he slowly took the feather, the glass slipper, the scale, the jacket and the apple from Su Jin. But at the same time, Su Jin noticed a sneer on Pinocchio’s face.
Su Jin quickly pulled his hands back but was only able to hold onto the glass slipper and the apple. Pinocchio was holding tightly to the other three items.
“Oh, did you notice something?” Pinocchio looked a little displeased.
“You…you don’t intend to end this Challenge at all! Or perhaps…perhaps the requirements to end this Challenge weren’t the correct ones to begin with! You lied to us right from the start!” Su Jin shook his head in horror. He felt that his hypothesis was probably right.
“That’s right. Everything was a lie right from the start. But I’m not the one who lied to you. Otherwise, my nose would have grown much longer than this.” Pinocchio laughed and pointed at Kano Mai and Yang Mo. “Oh look! Your companions are about to die!”
Su Jin turned to look at Kano Mai and Yang Mo to see that Chu Yi and Ning Meng were trying their best to attend to their injuries, but the two of them were too severely wounded. Only their Hell Domains would be able to heal them. Su Jin did still have one All Purpose Healing Pill, but that wasn’t helpful for such severe injuries.
“What on earth do you want?!” Su Jin roared angrily.
“You’re going to know very soon!” Pinocchio floated into the air and seemed to sit down on an invisible chair and crossed his legs, as if he was waiting to watch a good show.
Su Jin rushed over to Kano Mai and Yang Mo’s side as he blamed himself for being too careless. If he had been more careful, this wouldn’t have happened.
“Jin…I’m…I’m sorry, I don’t think…I don’t think I can continue this journey…with you…I…I’ll have to…leave the team in advance…” She was still beautiful despite the gaping wound on her face, but this beautiful flower was about to wilt.1
“No!! You’re my very first team mate! I will not let you die like this! I will not!” Su Jin held onto her hand tightly, wishing that if he held onto her tightly enough, she wouldn’t leave him.
Kano Mai smiled faintly and shook her head at Su Jin as her voice grew weaker, “I’m really sorry…but I think…you’ve always been prepared for a day…like this…so from today onwards…you know what you need to do…farewell, my team leader!”
Kano Mai’s hand fell limply from Su Jin’s and the smile on her face slowly faded. He could no longer hear her heartbeat nor her breathing. She was already gone.
“No…no…NO!!!” Su Jin yelled hysterically. Owners were constantly dying throughout Handbook Challenges, but these owners had been strangers to Su Jin. But Kano Mai was different. They had been through a few Challenges together now and were also very good friends in the real world.
“You’re biased towards pretty girls after all…Su Jin…thank you for taking care of me, I’ll go accompany Sister Mai now…” Yang Mo was afraid of dying, but it had come to a point where he was now resigned to it. He had no choice but to face his fears.2
Su Jin let go of Kano Mai’s hand and tried to hang onto Yang Mo’s but it was no use. Yang Mo had already breathed his last, so there was no way to turn back time.
“Looks like it’s time!” Pinocchio took his top hat off and shook it slightly. A man came walking out of the hat.
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