P.S. I’ve added a TL note below (the words in red) but it’s a little spoilery. The explanation I’ve written points out an extremely important foreshadowing in the novel. It cannot be translated because it involves the use of a homonym, and because I pointed it out, you’ll definitely be able to guess what it means, which will spoil the overall experience of the novel (trust me, the author is a master at foreshadowing and it’s an amazing experience slowly uncovering the truth). So, choose well 😉
Outside the transmission square was Newbie village, which was full of crude, cheap houses. Several people with blank expressions were walking aimlessly on the street. Su Manluo smoked her cigarette as she asked Xiao Tangqiu and Tang Mianmian, “How do you two feel living in Newbie village?”
Xiao Tangqiu didn’t know why Su Manluo suddenly asked them that question. He paused for a moment before answering, “It’s okay. We’ll make do.”
“You’re quite easily contented,” Su Manluo smiled. “Do you know what kind of extravagant life the people in District S and District A lead? All the luxury and delights that you can imagine, even those that you can’t think of can be found there.”
Xiao Tangqiu was very surprised. He thought that the whole city of the abyss was like Newbie Village, a cold and dead city. After all, these people were always on the edge between life and death.
“I know what you’re thinking.” Su Manluo blew a mouthful of smoke, “But the truth is, these people are standing in front of the abyss of death, always shrouded in fear. No one knows when they’ll die, no one knows if the next person who dies will be them, so all the more they indulge themselves and pursue pleasures to the point of depravity because they are people without a tomorrow. This includes me and you… We’re all people without a tomorrow.”
Xiao Tangqiu didn’t speak, allowing Su Manluo to continue, “The first stop for everyone is Newbie village. If newbies can bite the bullet and keep going, then they can eventually enter District D, District C, District B, and even District A and District S. Those who can’t assimilate may die in the instance or they may be lucky enough to pass but suffer from a mental breakdown. They won’t take the initiative to enter the instance but will only wait for the system to force them into the instance and muddle through their mission… until one day they finally can’t muddle through anymore and die in the instance, ending their foggy, fuddled existence.”
“Those who are able to assimilate to this life think that they’ve won. They think that they are more successful than those who died in the instance or suffered a mental breakdown,” Su Manluo said with a self-deprecating smile, her voice filled with sarcasm. “They think that as long as they get stronger, they can get rid of their fear of death and even get rid of all this and return to the original world… However, the truth is just the opposite.”
Xiao Tangqiu frowned slightly, “Then, what is the truth?”
Su Manluo smiled with the cigarette between her lips. “Are you sure you want to know?”
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.
“Of course,” Xiao Tangqiu said immediately, but paused after. “If you need points…
“For me to tell you such an important piece of information, I would really need to collect some points.” Su Manluo blew another mouthful of smoke. “I won’t ask for much so you can each give me 1,000 points. Although you’ll find out this information sooner or later, but knowing earlier means that you’ll be able to avoid a few detours, am I right?”
Xiao Tangqiu and Tang Mianmian looked at each other and obediently gave 1,000 points each. Anyways, they had just completed an S-level mission and had more points now.
After the transaction, Su Manluo unfolded her sleeve and covered her wristwatch. She smiled faintly, “This world is actually a game.”
“A game?” Xiao Tangqiu didn’t quite understand what she meant, but from the labels “instance,” “mission” and “player,” it did sound very much like a game.
Su Manluo puffed out more smoke, “This is the truth that only players in District A and above knows. The structure of this world is different from our real world. It’s a triple plane world.”
“Triple plane world?” Xiao Tangqiu was dumbstruck.
“Yes, this world is made up of three worlds – the city of the abyss, the instance world… and the real world.”
Su Manluo smiled faintly through the misty smoke. “The city of the abyss is the place where we are staying now. It can also be called the player world. The instance world is the one made up of countless small instances where we carry out our missions. As for the real world… it’s the place where the ruler of this world and his people live.”
“The ruler of this world?”
He didn’t know why but his heart skipped a beat at that thought.
“Yes, the ruler of this world,” Su Manluo’s eyes flashed with complex emotions again. There was a mix of fear and uneasiness. “It’s been said that the world was originally a chaotic abyss. He was born from the abyss and is the first and only master of this world – the Abyss Demon.”
“He created the real world and the instance world, and lives in the real world with his people. The instance world is a battlefield of endless war with one killing game after another for him and his people to watch and enjoy…”
Xiao Tangqiu froze at once, suddenly falling into deep thought. They had only experienced two instances, but it was indeed as Su Manluo said. The so-called instances and missions were more like a large-scale, endless killing game. NPCs launched attacks at will, players died one after another, and survivors tried to escape… This was a game of survival, but it also a killing game.
“Yes, it’s just a game…” Su Manluo looked up at the Heaven tower in the distance. “Some people say that the Heaven tower reaches the sky, some say that it could lead us home, and others think that it’s the connection point between the city of the abyss and the real world. But who knows what the truth is.”
Tang Mianmian couldn’t help but ask, “Does the city of the abyss, the instance world and the real world coexist in the same space? Is there any connection between them?”
Su Manluo bit her cigarette and grinned, “No one knows where the real world is or what it’s like. We don’t know anything about it. Whatever little we know about the real world was obtained by old players from S-level missions.”
Xiao Tangqiu and Tang Mianmian glanced at each other, feeling more confused than ever. What did S-level missions have to do with the triple plane world?
Su Manluo took the cigarette out of her mouth and slowly blew out a mouthful of smoke, “Simply put, missions are divided according to difficulty, from D to S. D-level missions are the simplest and the difficulty increases level by level. But aside from S-level missions being the most difficult, the most important thing is that they aren’t restricted from getting close to the real world.”
“Due to some special reasons, players in the city of the abyss can’t reach the real world although they can enter the instance world, while demons and people of the real world are even more restricted. They can’t enter the city of the abyss and most parts of the instance world. They are only allowed into a small part of the instance world, and that part of the instance world are the S-level instances that we know.”
Xiao Tangqiu suddenly understood. “So the reason why S-level missions are the most difficult is because… there are demons?”
“You can think of it that way,” Su Manluo smiled. “And the most horrible thing is that the Abyss Demon is also likely to appear in those S-level missions…”
“What is the Abyss Demon? A super powerful demon lord?” Xiao Tangqiu frowned slightly, “Is it equivalent to the final villain in games, the big BOSS?”
“Yes, Abyss Demon is the first demon and the most powerful in the world.” A trace of fear flashed in her eyes as her lips trembled slightly. “If players meet him in an S-level instance, there’s basically no possibility of survival…”
Xiao Tangqiu didn’t understand at all. “Since he’s so powerful and can kill whoever he wants, then why does the city of the abyss still exist? Shouldn’t it have been destroyed by him a long time ago?”
Su Manluo gave Xiao Tangqiu a meaningful look, then shook her head and forced out a complicated smile. “I used to wonder about this too. You’ll understand it someday… if you’re lucky enough to live to that day.”
Xiao Tangqiu wanted to ask something else but when he saw Su Manluo staring into the distance with the cigarette between her fingers, looking lonely, he knew that she didn’t want to continue talking about this and wisely recognized when to stop asking.
On second thought, since the instance world was only a game created by the Abyss Demon, perhaps the big BOSS enjoyed the thrill of killing, perhaps he enjoyed watching the players get tortured to their deaths, one by one, in the killing game even more. Thus, rather than wiping them out at one go, the Abyss Demon preferred to slowly kill them one by one.
This reminded him of the cat that his neighbor kept when he was young. It was kept specifically to catch mice. The cat wouldn’t eat the mouse immediately after catching it. Instead it would loosen its claws and let the mouse run off before rushing forward to catch it again. Then it would let it go and catch it, catch it and let it go… Only when the mouse was exhausted from being tortured like that would it finally enjoy itself, biting off its neck.
To the Abyss Demon, players who survived multiple missions were the same as that mouse. The poor mouse thought that it had escaped but it was only the beginning of the next hunt.
The thought that he was just a small pawn in a killing game and that his life was merely a plaything used to please others made Xiao Tangqiu powerless and at a loss. Was this the so-called truth? Was this the truth that only players in District A and District S were eligible to know?
For a moment, he didn’t know whether to envy those players who knew nothing because they could at least have a little hope and anticipation for the future, or to pity them because they would most likely die without knowing the truth of this world.
But was the so-called truth that Su Manluo spoke of really the truth?
Xiao Tangqiu vaguely felt something was wrong, but he couldn’t tell what it was.
“What then?” Su Manluo suddenly changed the subject, “Are you interested in joining Thorn Team now, after knowing the “truth” of this world?”