translator: baumkuchen (unedited)
That was the last danger they had to face that night.
Like Song Chunyang had thought, after half an hour, the array began to rotate in a counterclockwise direction.
With the increase in difficulty, Miss Guan’s system similarly gave out a piece of key information.
……A book of ancient arrays.
This book could be brought out and freely read. Because he was already well aware of what was going on, Song Chunyang was quickly able to find an evil array that fit his conjectures.
And very quickly, Song Chunyang clearly saw a monkey-skinned man appear at the originally-clean back door of the shop. He was rolling around on the ground, as if wanting to rub off the unremovable monkey skin that had been plastered to his skin after it had been burnt with boiling water.
As Song Chunyang mentally reviewed the approximate shape of the evil array, he pulled Miss Guan by the hand and snuck out of the front door together.
With the rotation of the array, the vase woman on the street outside had had her area of activity shift. The street was currently very safe.
Song Chunyang carefully avoided the areas the array moved to, but from time to time, he would hear screams coming from both nearby and far away.
Taking care of himself and the person by his side already took up a lot of energy. Song Chunyang truly did not have the time nor the energy to care about others, but he couldn’t keep his heart from pounding with nerves. He thought, anxious, is the first task already this hard? Then what should he do in the future, and what about Old Yuan?
That hour, was probably the longest hour of his life.
When he heard the mechanical voice announcing the end of the task, in a flash, Song Chunyang returned to that brightly-lit milk tea shop, completely soaked in sweat.
His down jacket was still stained with the milk tea Miss Guan had splashed on him, and next to him was till that lemon grapefruit tea he’d prepared for Yuan Benshan.
Everything was exactly the same as it had been before he went in. The clock on the wall was still pointing to half past seven, exactly when the fog had risen just now.
There was still half an hour before the movie he and Yuan Benshan wanted to watch would begin.
The nightmare from just now was like it had all just been a hallucination. But, the body of the man which had been caught by the vase woman disappeared bit by bit right before Song Chunyang’s eyes, like a pencil drawing being slowly wiped away by and eraser.
Another one that was disappearing like this, was the young girl who had just made milk tea for Song Chunyang.
……She had also been a task-holder.
Out of eleven people, only five survived.
After all, if not for Song Chunyang’s Yin-Yang Eyes, to realise the rules behind the movements of this would require one to have to be chased by the ghosts. Calculating the linear distance of the ghosts’ movements was equivalent to repeatedly jumping back and forth across the line between life and death.
Even if they had this kind of courage, there weren’t many people who would be able to see that the ghosts’ movement patterns followed the lines of a trigram.
So, other than Miss Guan and Song Chunyang, those people who had survived, had only survived due to luck.
The other three people who had survived just so happened to be a team. The moment they had entered, they had found a place and hid. Who knew that through their fumbling about, they managed to muddle their way through and survive to the end.
They sat there quietly. After lamenting for a while about everyone who had died, they got up and left.
Miss Guan, who had smoothly passed through with Song Chunyang, still stunned, said to Song Chunyang, “You’re so brave.”
Song Chunyang stared blankly ahead of him, silent.
At that moment, the bell at the door jingled. Yuan Benshan walked in, smiling, but seeing the half-soaked Song Chunyang, he couldn’t help but freeze in shock. “What’s wrong?”
The moment Song Chunyang saw Yuan Benshan, he threw himself into his arms like a kitten, and with a loud sob, began to cry.
Miss Guan, “……” Is this still the same person.
In the other world, Song Chunyang had kept himself going solely out of his desire to see Yuan Benshan again. The moment he saw that person who he had been yearning for with all his heart, his legs went weak.
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection. If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
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Yuan Benshan laughed, “Didn’t you just buy a milk tea? Why do you make it sound like you went through an abyss of suffering or something.”
Song Chunyang told Yuan Benshan about everything he had been through.
Yuan Benshan brought Song Chunyang into his dorm, and summed up all of Song Chunyang’s crying in two simple words, “Don’t fuss.”
In his flustered state, Song Chunyang suddenly thought of something. He hurriedly stripped off his clothes.
He said, “Old Yuan, can you help me see if there’s anything on my back?!”
Yuan Benshan’s eyes stiffened. He raised a hand and brushed it over Song Chunyang’s slender back.
Down Song Chunyang’s spine, was a line of nine dark engravings, all of different shapes and sizes. The uppermost marking had already faded. From its shape, it looked like a tiny drawing of the Eight Trigrams.
Yuan Benshan stroked the disappearing Eight Trigrams, and found that the mark faded slightly with his touch, but when he touched the engraving below it, it didn’t change at all. Rather, a dark mist wrapped around his fingertips.
Yuan Benshan expression twisted. He quickly retracted his hand. “What is that?!”
Song Chunyang sobbed, “I already told you……”
Yuan Benshan’s expression turned heavy.
He wrapped the frightened Song Chunyang in his quilt, and kissed his tear-damp blue and amber eyes. He said, “Don’t be afraid.”
After comforting him, Yuan Benshan wanted to get up and leave, but Song Chunyang tearfully grabbed his hand and pleaded in a soft voice, “Old Yuan, don’t go, I’m scared.”
Yuan Benshan stroked his eyebrows. “If I make you go and shower right now, you’ll probably feel even more scared, right? I’ll go get you a damp towel and wipe you down. Your whole body smells like milk.”
Song Chunyang buried his face in the quilt, only showing a pair of gem-like eyes, looking just like a little house kitten. “Then go quickly.”
Yuan Benshan smiled, then turned and left, going into the bathroom. At the same time, he silently brought his phone with him.
As soon as Yuan Benshan left, Song Chunyang wrapped himself tighter in the quilt, wanting to think over and analyse the information Miss Guan had given him again.
Suddenly, a slightly cold male voice sounded in his mind, “……Ahem.”
Song Chunyang abruptly flipped over and sat up, smacking his head against the headboard, making him grimace with pain.
He lowered his voice, “Who are you?”
The man said, “……I’m your system.”
Song Chunyang smacked himself on the head, “Fuck, I forgot that there was still this thing.”
The system, “……”
Song Chunyang asked, “When did you get here?”
The system, “When you were crying like a dog.”
Song Chunyang, “……” Are all you systems this unfriendly ying ying ying.
The system, “It’s not like I’m your boyfriend, don’t ‘ying ying’ me.”
Song Chunyang, “??”
He asked in his mind, “You can hear what I’m thinking?”
The system, “Heh. You tell me.”
As long as one was specifically addressing their system, as well as when saying anything about tasks or systems, without needing to open their mouth, as long as they thought about it in their mind, their system would instantly be able to recognise and receive it.
Song Chunyang quickly accepted this reality. He crossed his legs and asked curiously, “Then…… Xiao Tong Zi, what can you help me with?”
The system, “……” It dimly felt like it was an eunuch.
Even though it already had a premonition that it had been assigned to a rather unreliable host, the system still patiently explained its function, and introduced the main system’s operating mechanism.
It said about the same thing as what Miss Guan had said.
The main system would open up a otherworldly space at a certain time and space, just like what had happened at the milk tea shop at 7:30 that night.
Participants who had been assigned to that task had needed to arrive at the stipulated milk tea shop before 7:30 and wait for the task to begin.
If they didn’t go, they would die.
If they were late, they would die.
If they couldn’t survive past the set time in the space, they would die.
Every task-holders’ back was automatically branded with marks like the ones on Song Chunyang’s back, displaying their identity as a task-holder.
There were ten tasks in total. Every time they completed one, the lingering fog would solidify into a clear seal starting from top to bottom, showing that that task had been completed.
And when they completed their tenth task, all the marks would disappear, announcing the end of their contract.
Song Chunyang raised his hand. “I have a question.”
The system, “Ask.”
Song Chunyang, “When will the time, location and content of the next task be released?”
The system, “There’s still a month to go before your next mission.”
Song Chunyang, “……Isn’t this just having us wait for death.”
The system thought for a moment, then said heartlessly, “Yes.”
Song Chunyang, frightened, tightened his quilt around himself once more.
He found that now, he already didn’t quite remember the faces of those who had died in the task.
By all logic, he shouldn’t be forgetting this quickly, especially the man who had acted fiercely towards him. He’d even specially taken an extra look at him.
The facts proved that those who died in the otherworldly space would indeed be “expunged” in reality.
He trembled. “And what’s these ‘key hints’……”
This system was clearly already very practiced in this business. “After you enter the otherworldly space, as time passes, the survival difficulty will increase. In due course, I will receive hints given out by the main system, and give you some relevant hints.”
Song Chunyang asked, full of hope, “Other than that, what else can you do?”
The system thought for another moment. “Do you need me to play you the Great Compassion Mantra?”
Song Chunyang, “…..”
That was to say, other than releasing the contents of the task, giving out key hints, and reminding task-holder about how much time was left before the task ended, the system could do fuck all.
The system, “En. I can do fuck all.”
Song Chunyang turned into a little groupie in the span of a single second. “Xiao Tong Zi, I didn’t mean that. Great sir has great abilities, XOXO.”
The system was a little enraged by this XOXO. “…..My name is Xi Lou, no. 3397.”
Song Chunyang was shocked. “You’re a person?”
Xi Lou, “……” If I were really an AI would I be this annoyed right now.
Song Chunyang rubbed his head. He found there being a human hidden inside there rather mystical. “Do you work for the main system too?”
“After I died, my soul was captured by the main system,” Xi Lou said, “I signed an agreement with the main system. If one of the hosts I follow is able to survive through and complete ten tasks, the main system will use its energy to reshape my original body and identity for me.”
Song Chunyang, “Then the host who lasted the longest time lasted……”
Xi Lou, “Seven worlds.”
Song Chunyang instantly felt a sense of responsibility flare to life in his heart. He patted his chest, “Loulou, I promise, I’ll definitely get you your body back!”
Xi Lou didn’t express any opinion.
He felt like Song Chunyang was a fool.
He clearly couldn’t even take care of himself, but still wanted to make promises to others.
Song Chunyang was indeed a fool.
He was completely sincere in his promise, because he was already striving for this, and he didn’t mind pulling Xi Lou along with him.
Yuan Benshan was what he was striving for.
He still hadn’t lived a lifetime together with Yuan Benshan yet. He had to live on, and he had the confidence to do it.
Who knew, that after a few days, everything would change.
For these past few days, Song Chunyang had taken a sick leave from school, and stayed here at the dorms with Yuan Benshan. However, Yuan Benshan tended to spend a lot of time outside, not coming back very often. It was unknown what he was so busy with.
Until three days later, he hurried back to the dorms, an joy Song Chunyang couldn’t understand on his face. “Chunyang, I found it! I finally found it!”
Song Chunyang had just been chatting with Xi Lou, wanting to learn a little more about the rules of the system. Hearing this, he was unconsciously stunned.
Without waiting for Song Chunyang to speak, Yuan Benshan quickly pulled off his shirt and showed his back to Song Chunyang.
To his shock, Song Chunyang found that on Yuan Benshan’s back was nine black imprints just like his!
……At the very top, he could vaguely see the shape of a book.
Yuan Benshan pulled the stunned Song Chunyang into a hug. “Chunyang, I went online, asked my friends, and looked all over, and finally found information that sounded like what had happened to you on a forum. I privately chatted with a lot of people who claimed to have participated in the tasks. Some were just joining in on the ruckus, but some were real. I spent a lot of money to find information about a task, and went to go check it out at the specified time and place. Sure enough, you weren’t lying, I also have this on my body now——”
He grabbed Song Chunyang’s hand, and guided it to his back, letting him touch it. “……I asked my system, it said, according to the regulations, two people who know each other in a task can sign an alliance agreement and share the same task. ……I can accompany you from now on. Chunyang, don’t be afraid……”
Only then did Song Chunyang snap out of his daze.
He almost went mad, punching Yuan Benshan on the shoulder, like a little cat who was mad at his master. “Who asked you to go?! Who asked you to accompany me—— Don’t you know how dangerous it is?! I don’t care, I don’t want it!!”
With red eyes, he lunged over to Yuan Benshan’s back and scrubbed at the remaining nine imprints with his sleeve. Tears began to fall from his face. “I can’t rub it off…… Why can’t I rub it off?”
The bristing little kitten, Song Chunyang, was pulled into Yuan Benshan’s embrace. A gentle kiss that didn’t allow him to speak pressed against his lips, kissing him until he almost ran out of oxygen.
Only when his bristling fur finally settled down and the little guy was curled up in his arms, crying angry tears, did Yuan Benshan hold him tight and tenderly look into his beautiful eyes. “Don’t be angry, okay? I’ll protect myself, and protect you as well.”
With a teary voice, Song Chunyang said softly, “I don’t want you to.”
“Don’t fuss.” Yuan Benshan kissed his amber eye once more. “Trust me.”
Gradually, Song Chunyang’s boiling blood cooled down.
He leaned into Yuan Benshan’s chest, and raised a hand to his eyes, thinking, it should be me who’ll protect you.
The author has something to say:
I don’t know if there are any readers who’ve realised the scum’s tricks……
baum: re: the people asking if the vase women were actually a thing, yes and no. Mostly no. I’ve definitely at least seen it, or similar concepts before in other horror stories. Same with the monkey-skinned guy. I’ve seen a lot of variations on that one. I think the vase women might at least be partially inspired by Consort Xiao, who had her limbs chopped off and then was tossed into a wine jar filled with alcohol. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if the vase thing really did happen for people trying to run “freakshows” in the past. But it really wouldn’t be that practical, so I can’t imagine that it would be common practice.