Chapter 9 - Jiang Li

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“The attacker and the victim… could it be that… but there’s still something missing. If I can’t close this loop, then all my assumptions will not be able to stand.” Su Jin felt that he had more or less figured the whole thing out, but he needed some more information to prove that his conjecture was right.

Just then, Chu Yi suddenly pulled Su Jin behind him. Lin Yue had caught up with them and was only a short distance away. When she spotted them, she started running towards them immediately. Her movements resembled a hungry wild beast much more than a human.

Chu Yi was already prepared to fight, and she came within less than ten meters from them in seconds. Suddenly, a green flash shot through the air and went right through Lin Yue’s shoulder.

Both Chu Yi and Su Jin were stunned because they didn’t expect that to happen at all. That green flash had rained down from the sky but had hit Lin Yue very accurately, so Su Jin was certain that it was no coincidental strike of lightning or anything like that.

And just like what he thought, someone walked out from behind the both of them. Su Jin breathed a small sigh of relief when he saw who it was. It was that aloof young man who had been with them when they first arrived here.

“You guys are still alive? Not bad,” complimented the aloof man as he nodded at them before marching towards Lin Yue.

Su Jin turned to look at Lin Yue and realized that the flash that had pierced Lin Yue’s shoulder earlier was actually a spear, but he didn’t recall the aloof man holding onto any weapon like that earlier. Lin Yue had been pinned to the ground by the spear, but she was still struggling nonstop, as if she couldn’t feel any pain at all.

“Are you going to kill her?” Su Jin asked.

The aloof man didn’t answer Su Jin’s question. He bent over, and his face came very close to Lin Yue’s as he snapped, “Yeah, you’ve got that smell. Were you the one who killed my guy?!”

Lin Yue opened her mouth in an attempt to bite him since his face was so close to hers, but he had kept a sufficient distance from her to prevent this from happening.

After Su Jin heard what the aloof man had said to Lin Yue, he belatedly realized that the middle-aged man wasn’t with him, so he guessed that the middle-aged man had probably perished.

“What’s happened? Did the older guy with you die?” asked Su Jin.

This time, the aloof man replied to Su Jin’s question in a frosty voice, “He was asking for it. An idiot will not survive a Handbook challenge for long.”

“I see.” Su Jin shrugged and didn’t probe any further.

“Your shoulder … who did that to you?” The aloof man’s eyes lit up when he finally noticed Su Jin’s missing arm and asked about it.

“Thanks for the concern,” replied Su Jin sarcastically. But he could see that the aloof man was very intrigued by his injury and a thought hit him. He asked, “What’s wrong? Is there something wrong with my wound?”

“My guy … had the same sort of wound on him,” replied the aloof man.

Su Jin realized why the aloof man was staring so intently at his injury and said, “In that case, you’ve gotten the wrong person. The one who did this to my arm wasn’t this woman. It was a strange creature who wore a cloak that covered its entire body and carried a longbow that was completely made from bones. This woman just follows its instructions, that’s all.”

The aloof man didn’t question Su Jin’s words. He glanced at Lin Yue, then said, “Come with me to look for that creature.”

“That’s as good as sending me to my grave!”

“If you stay close to me, you won’t die!”

“That’s ridiculous! What’s going on now? Are you hoping to avenge your friend?!” retorted Su Jin. The atmosphere between them instantly grew tense and awkward, and Chu Yi didn’t know what to say either.

“That… that was just an accident! It happened because he refused to listen to me.” The usually confident man actually started stammering, and Su Jin could even see the awkwardness in his expression.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t bring you to that thing because it’s really too powerful for me. Even if you promise to protect me, it’s still risky. I’m just a newbie around here, so I just want to survive tonight.” Su Jin was apologetic, but at the same time, he was hoping for protection from further harm. Choosing to follow a madman blinded by revenge was definitely a bad idea.

“You still don’t get it. This is a Level B challenge, so nowhere is safe in a challenge like that. Not even someone like me is confident of getting through it. It’s actually safer if the two of you follow me instead,” the aloof man said to the other two.

Su Jin fell silent for a while before asking, “I’m very curious. What does this Level B difficulty refer to? Is there an actual scale of sorts to the Handbook’s missions?”

“The challenges are split into four levels from A to D, with D being the simplest. In general, a trained soldier from the special forces will have more than a 50% chance of getting through it as long as he has enough ammunition on hand.”

“At Level C, someone as powerful as maybe… Batman would have a higher than 50% chance of getting through as long as he’s fully equipped.”

“Level B is not a level that ordinary humans can deal with easily because this level comes with enemies with supernatural powers. Even veterans will not be able to say for sure if they’d get through.”

“As for Level A, you will face a level of destruction that can destroy the whole world or face a threat to your life so great that it is almost impossible to protect yourself against it. You’d have to play dirty and hope that you’re lucky enough to get through it. But to be honest, it’s very rare to get such a high-level challenge. However, if you do get it… just start praying!” The aloof man answered Su Jin’s question in great detail this time.

But this made Su Jin frown as he exclaimed, “If even the easiest level is too hard for ordinary people like us, then isn’t it unreasonable to give newbies like us a Level B challenge?”

“I see you’ve finally realized it,” said the aloof man as a strange smile spread across his face.

Su Jin froze for a while before he smacked his own forehead and looked like he had a eureka moment. “I see! The difficulty of the challenge rises as time goes by, which means to say that the actual Level B danger will only arise towards the last part of the challenge. But if it only appears during the last part of the challenge, it won’t be long before the challenge comes to an end. If the remaining time is too short… then the chances of surviving the challenge itself will increase! Besides… this challenge is probably aimed at veterans like you guys and is probably meant to be just an experience for the newbies, right?”

The aloof man was very surprised. He didn’t expect Su Jin to connect the dots so quickly. He nodded slightly and said, “That’s right. So even though this challenge may sound very dangerous for a newbie, it’s not entirely impossible for you guys to get through it.”

“In that case… that’s all the more reason I shouldn’t go with you.” Su Jin glared at the aloof man and said, “If this challenge is for veterans like you, then I should stay as far away from you as possible, shouldn’t I?!”

The aloof man was stunned by Su Jin’s response. He didn’t think Su Jin would come to such a conclusion. He quickly said, “It’s too late to hide now, don’t you think? This woman was coming after the both of you, and your arm has already been injured by that strange creature, so it’s clear that you’re a target now. I’m afraid their current priority is you and not the veterans.”

“You have a point,” said Su Jin with a nod. He asked, “Is the temple safe?”

“At the moment, it is. Liu Yingying is already there making preparations,” the aloof man replied with a slight nod.

“Chu Yi, head over to the temple now!” Su Jin said to Chu Yi.

“What about you? Aren’t you coming with me?”

Su Jin shook his head. “You heard him. I’m their target now, so nowhere is safe for me to hide.”

“But they came after us at the same time. Doesn’t that make me a target as well?”

“Don’t argue with me! If we run separate ways, each of us has only a 50% chance of being discovered. So, let’s promise each other now that whoever gets discovered will help to stall for time, okay?” Su Jin glared hard at Chu Yi, then he whispered, “Besides, if we hang onto a more powerful person each, we’d probably be safer.”

The aloof man was amused by what Su Jin was saying, but he didn’t make any comments. He just wanted one person to help him find that creature. Bringing a second person would only become a burden to him.

Chu Yi didn’t know what else to say, so he nodded and passed the knife in his hands back to Su Jin. “Bro, I think you’d better take this to protect yourself.”

Su Jin took the knife from Chu Yi and nodded before hurrying Chu Yi towards the temple. After Chu Yi had left, Su Jin said to the aloof man, “What’s your name?”

“Jiang Li.”

“My name’s Su Jin. Actually… you aren’t really looking for that monster for the sake of revenge, right?” asked Su Jin.

Jiang Li froze for two seconds before pulling the spear out from Lin Yue’s shoulder, and then, he used the spear to break her four limbs. But even as Lin Yue lay paralyzed on the ground, she was still screaming and growling at them. As Su Jin looked at her writhing on the ground, he found it hard to imagine how this woman had once looked so gentle and approachable when he had first met her.

“Did I ever say it was for revenge?” Jiang Li returned the question with his own question.

Su Jin laughed and started walking away from the mountain as he said, “Let me make it clear that the monster we’re looking for is extremely powerful. The longbow he carries can shoot these sparkly particles, and my left arm became like this because a tiny bit of the particles hit it.”

“Drink this down.” Jiang Li handed a thumb-sized glass bottle that had a purple liquid inside it to Su Jin.

Su Jin shook the glass bottle and poured everything into his mouth without hesitation. Once the purple liquid entered his stomach, he felt a cool sensation spread through his body. The area where it hurt terribly earlier felt instant relief, which energized Su Jin greatly.

“Wow!” Su Jin exhaled deeply before continuing what he was saying earlier, “I’m not too sure about the rest, because I’ll need to prove some of my guesses right first.”

“Well, you seem to be a smart one. Such people have a higher chance of surviving the Handbook’s challenges.”

“Thanks for the compliment. But first, let’s get through tonight.”

“Hoho, you’d better start praying hard now!”

“I trust my own brain more than prayers,” said Su Jin as he pointed at his head. His plans and actions had all been purely reactive ones because he knew too little about Fengxi Town. He strongly believed that if he had enough information about what was going on, his chances of surviving the night would increase dramatically.

Jiang Li didn’t disagree. “It’s good to believe in yourself, but you must understand that while some things require more brainpower, other things require more physical strength. And tonight in Fengxi Town, brawn is more important than brain!”

“That’s not necessarily true. I’m almost there… just let me find a few more clues, and I’ll piece this puzzle together,” murmured Su Jin to himself. He took a deep breath and said to Jiang Li, “Since you’re not doing this for revenge and I don’t think you’re hoping to die either, I suppose the only other reason would be that you’re doing this for some sort of benefit!”

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