Chapter 99 - Level A Challenge

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“You shall be surrounded by fire and brimstone; rats, toads and snakes shall be your food! You shall boil in hot oil and struggle in the snake pit! Your limbs shall be taken apart, you shall be flung into icy waters and you shall experience the pain of being torn apart!

Through me the way into the suffering city,

through me the way to the eternal pain,

through me the way that runs among the lost.

Justice urged on my high artificer;

my maker was divine authority,

the highest wisdom, and the primal love.

Before me nothing but eternal things

were made, and I endure eternally.

Abandon every hope, who enter here.“1(http://www.worldofdante.org/comedy/dante/inferno.xml/1.3) HOWEVER for this particular Challenge, please note that there is a Chinese poem that makes use of these lines as the front half of the poem, and then the back half is a summary of the second volume, Purgatorio. It is attributed to Dante but this poem does NOT exist in any other language and while it’s a neat summary, it is still missing content from the third volume and shouldn’t be taken as the full thing or something actually written by Dante. The other half is in Chapter 106. It took me waaaaay too long to confirm this and made Clacker VERY angry. VERY.

Shini: It’s okay Clacker-san. BE STRONG (*/ω\*)]

In the darkness, a voice of utter despair rang in Su Jin’s ears. The voice wailed so miserably, it was as though the world was coming to an end. Yet, at the same time, it sounded like it was mocking all foolish humans. A variety of negative emotions were mixed together in that voice, and it was threatening to take over Su Jin’s brain.

Su Jin opened his eyes and was shocked to see that there were a total of 14 people standing in front of him. This was even more people than the number of owners for the Rubble Village Challenge.

He quickly flipped his Handbook open and his eyes grew even wider.

“Challenge: All Have Sinned, Difficulty level: A!”

This was a Level A Challenge. Su Jin could only smile sadly to himself. Out of the four Challenges he had gone through, three of them were B level challenges and one was a C Level Challenge. The last one was actually a Level B Challenge, but the Mad Hatter and Pinocchio had done something to make the owners think that it was a Level C Challenge.

And now, he was faced with a Level A Challenge. He calmed himself back down and continued looking at all the other information available.

“There’s only one mission. Cross the Desert of Crime and Punishment to reach the Temple of Light.”

The mission for this Challenge was simple. They just had to cross the desert in front of them and reach this Temple of Light. But of course, nobody knew what terrifying dangers lurked in this desert.

“Boss! It’s…it’s a Level A Challenge!” Yang Mo looked panicky and Ning Meng didn’t look much better. Chu Yi and Kano Mai were calmer, but their faces were grim as well.

Su Jin nodded and turned to look at the other owners, only to find that the remaining nine owners were split into two groups and were discussing among themselves like his team was.

“They’re teams too!” That was the first thought that popped into Su Jin’s head.

The other two teams had finished their discussion, so a representative walked out from each group. Su Jin also went forward to meet with them.

“Hello, I’m Long Zhenglei from a Level D team, Shadow of Thor!” The man who spoke was muscular, but had a slightly worried look in his eyes.

“Hello, I’m Cai Dexiang from a Level D team, Moon in the Blue Skies!” another man spoke up. He was slightly plump and also had a wry smile on his face. It was clear that these other two men were feeling rather resigned about the Challenge they were about to face.

“Hello, I’m Su Jin, team leader of a Level D team, Team Boning Knife,” Su Jin introduced himself as well.

“Three teams? It’s a Level A Challenge, alright.” Cai Dexiang didn’t look hopeful. This Challenge had gathered two full teams and one four-member team. That was a good indication of how difficult this Challenge was going to be.

Su Jin went straight to the point, “Do the both of you have any thoughts about how we should tackle this Challenge?”

“I hope you don’t mind saying this, but I don’t trust any of you, so Team Shadow of Thor will go their own way,” said Long Zhenglei. Su Jin and Cai Dexiang stared at him in shock.

Long Zhenglei continued, “Both of you have complete teams, which puts my team at a disadvantage. In a difficult Challenge like this one, I think having to interact with you guys is no less dangerous than the Challenge itself.”

He was very direct about it, but Su Jin and Cai Dexiang could understand where he was coming from. The Handbook did give out missions to kill other owners too, so if this four-member team became a target, they would definitely lose to a five-member team. It was little wonder that they wanted to work on their own.

But Su Jin tried to persuade him otherwise, “Mr. Long, this is a Level A Challenge. Going separate ways means that you might run into a problem that your team cannot cope with on your own. And if that happens…”

“I know. My team has its own way of protecting itself. If this were a Level C or even a Level B Challenge, I wouldn’t refuse to work with both of you. But…this is a Level A Challenge and I know how terrifying it can be. If we insist on working as one team, we might run into more horrifying dangers, so…I’m really sorry.” Long Zhenglei was very firm in refusing to work with the two other teams and his words made it sound like this wasn’t his first Level A Challenge.

“Mr. Long, you’ve been through a Level A Challenge before?” Cai Dexiang immediately asked.

Long Zhenglei nodded and replied honestly, “I was part of one before. There were 16 owners and we were all old timers, of which five of them were actually veterans. But in the end…including myself, only three survived and all five veterans perished.”

Su Jin and Cai Dexiang both gasped at this. They knew that the death rate of a Level A Challenge would be high, but it was really terrifying to hear that all five veterans perished.

Cai Dexiang sighed and said, “I did hear from other owners before that Level A Challenges are basically too difficult for any owner to overcome with whatever they have. If you want to get through a Level A Challenge, you basically have to rely on pure luck.”

Su Jin nodded. He had heard Jiang Li mention something like this during his first Challenge. So, it seemed like it was true after all.

“Well, if we’re all still alive at the end of the Challenge, we can talk then!” Long Zhenglei didn’t trust anybody else at all, so he quickly returned to his team and the four of them left immediately.

After Team Shadow of Thor left, Su Jin and Cai Dexiang were left in an awkward position. Long Zhenglei had chosen to leave because he was afraid that there might be a mission to kill off other owners or teams, so even after leaving, this possibility still existed. If the remaining two teams were constantly paranoid about each other, then even if they joined forces now, they wouldn’t work together very well. They would fall apart at the slightest thing.

“I still think that it’s better that we combine forces for the time being. This is the first time both our teams are facing an A Level Challenge, so I think it’s better to have more people to look out for one another.” Su Jin still preferred to work as one team.

Cai Dexiang wasn’t against it, so he nodded gravely and said, “I think the same way.”

Now that the two team leaders had made a decision, the rest of the members huddled together as well. They didn’t know what this Challenge was about, so they decided to come together to brainstorm some ideas.

Moon in the Blue Skies was made up of four males and one female. Cai Dexiang introduced himself as their team leader, and the only female in the group was the brains of the team and her name was Chen Xin’er. Every member had their own part to play and was considered a pretty perfect team. Su Jin proceeded to introduce his team members as well.

The two teams were still a little wary of each other, so they didn’t introduce themselves with too much detail. They understood each other’s concerns and wasn’t too hung up about this.

“The introduction to this Challenge is really strange and you could even say it sounds nonsensical. Also, the first part is in a different style from the second part,” said Chen Xin’er with a frown. As the brains of the group, it was obvious that the rest of the team was very reliant on her and trusted her judgement.

Su Jin nodded slightly. After pondering for a while more, he said, “The front part seems to be a list of punishments, while the back part sounds like a poem from Europe or something. Also, I think this has something to do with religion.”

Both Su Jin and Chen Xin’er’s eyes lit up at this. They had both realized what this introduction was about.

“Seven punishments and something related to religion? If I’m not wrong, this…this is referring to the seven deadly sins,” said Su Jin in a grim voice. It didn’t take a genius to link these things together.

Chen Xin’er nodded in agreement. “That’s pretty much it. So, I suppose this Temple of Light refers to the final safe zone we need to reach?”

“I’m not too sure about that. But that’s the only place we’ve got to aim for, and we’ll find out when we get there,” said Su Jin.

Ning Meng looked like she was thinking very hard and Su Jin noticed her expression, but didn’t ask her anything. He said to Cai Dexiang, “Mr. Cai, if your side is ready, I think we ought to get going right now.”

“Are you in a very big hurry?” Cai Dexiang was a little surprised.

Chen Xin’er piped up, “Mr. Su is right. We’d better start on our journey as soon as possible. Otherwise…if Team Shadow of Thor is the one who got a mission to kill us and we give them too much time to set up traps for us, we’ll be at a disadvantage instead.”

Cai Dexiang suddenly realized that she was right. Team Shadow of Thor looked like he was afraid that the other two teams had such a mission on hand, but the reverse was also true. They might have left in such a hurry because they were the ones who got that mission.

The two teams quickly left where they were and headed for the desert.

Su Jin found a chance to get close to Ning Meng and whispered, “Ning Meng…did you have something to say earlier?”

Ning Meng nodded slightly and whispered back, “I’m not sure about the front part of the introduction, but the back part is familiar, because it’s from Dante’s Divine Comedy. But there’s another section later on about the punishments for these seven deadly sins.”

“Punishments? Didn’t the first part talk about them already?” Su Jin had heard of Dante’s Divine Comedy before too. It was a long poem written by an Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, and it was about hell, purgatory and heaven. There were a number of translations and adaptations over the years, but he didn’t know the exact content, since he had very little interest in Western poetry in the first place.

Ning Meng shook her head firmly and said, “No, the front part is not from Divine Comedy. Besides, I remember that these weren’t the punishments in the poem. Why…why is it different?”

She was still struggling to understand what was going on, so he assured her, “Don’t worry, take your time to think about it.”

She nodded slightly in response as Chu Yi and Yang Mo came over. Yang Mo asked curiously, “Boss, did Sister Mai…confess to you?”

“What the…” Su Jin glared back at Yang Mo and nearly cursed out loud. He hissed quietly, “What on earth are you talking about?”

“Oh, then that means YOU were the one who confessed to her. There’s something funny about the way she looks at you now,” said Yang Mo confidently, while Chu Yi and Ning Meng continued watching this show unfold excitedly.

Su Jin glared at Yang Mo again. How was Yang Mo able to detect something like that? He was about to try and explain things when he suddenly noticed something and ran to the front of the group.

“Be careful, everyone! Something’s coming…something really terrifying!” Su Jin’s psychokinesis was very sensitive now, and he could sense something very powerful coming towards them.

  1. Lines are taken from Dante’s Divine Comedy, the first volume, Inferno, Canto 3, translation from here: [Inferno ↩️

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