Chapter 28 - Difficulties Ahead
Right next to the giant crystal, Li Yiming and his teammates appeared one by one, staring at each other.
“What the hell just happened?” Yu Runkai looked around with a frown and asked.
“It’s the doom bots…” Shao Xian bit her lips and answered.
“Doom bots?” Fang Shui’er had no idea what those were and looked at Li Yiming, seeking an explanation.
“I’ll let her do the explaining.” Li Yiming had heard of the game mode before, but never actually played it.
“Doom bots was a game mode the developers came up with to attract more players, but it didn’t work out too well so they gave up shortly after.” Shao Xian sighed and explained.
“What’s the difference?”
“The rules are still the same, but the enemies are much more powerful.”
“So we’re basically fighting empowered monkeys now?” Yu Runkai put his wine barrel down and sat on top of it.
“Yes. We’re still fighting the same five monkeys, it’s just that they have much stronger techniques now, as you’ve experienced first-hand.”
“How are we supposed to defeat them then? We’re at a complete disadvantage.” Chen Quan asked as he scratched his back with his bamboo pipe, seemingly calm despite the dire situation.
“Well, it’s not an impossible fight. I played this a little while ago. There’s a way you can abuse the system to win.” Shao Xian frowned as she tried to recall the tactics she had employed against the bots.
“Exploits? What? Do you think this is a game?’ Yu Runkai suddenly snorted in discontent.
“Can you just tell us what you did to beat the game?” Li Yiming shook his head, noticing Yu Runkai’s displeasure of having Shao Xian and Chen Quan dragging him down.
“So the first thing we can do is to concentrate on targeting the enemy’s minions. The monkeys might be strong, but we can take care of the wooden dolls with ease, and let our minions do the work for us. In the end, our goal is still the destruction of these towers.”
“I’m not sure that the monkeys will let us have our way with the minions, seeing how intelligent they’ve become.” Fang Shui’er advised against the strategy.
“You’re right, this might not work as well as in-game” Shao Xian was still fairly intimidated her idol.
“What else can we do then?” Li Yiming pressed on.
“We could also just avoid the monkeys for as long as possible and keep killing minions for gold under the protection of our tower.”
“And how’s that gonna help?” Yu Runkai asked.
“The monkeys are only stronger than us by a fixed margin. We can reduce that relative difference by becoming stronger, and we’ll eventually be able to win.”
“So a stalling tactic…” Fang Shui’er squinted and stared at her bow.
“Makes sense.” Chen Quan looked at Li Yiming.
“It seems like it’s the only way we’ll have a chance…” Li Yiming sighed. ‘What is this stupid rule about only having six items? What’s the point of having an infinite amount of gold if I can only use six items at a time?’
It was meaningless for Li Yiming to acquire any more gold, since he had bought the best items he could get, and he doubted that he would be able to be impactful if the game was to progress to a point where everyone became fully equipped.
“The enemy has destroyed a tower.” The robotic voice was heard once again.
“Let’s hurry. Let’s each go to our lanes and defend our towers, get try to get as much gold as possible.” Fang Shui’er ran toward the lower lane with Yu Runkai following her.
Li Yiming, after one last glance at Chen Quan and Shao Xian, ran toward his lane.
Shao Xian kept her attention on Li Yiming and sank into her own thoughts. ‘How did he get the gold to buy all that?’
* * *
“Can someone tell me what the hell is going on? Seven people dead, three entire families exterminated, nineteen traffic accidents and twelve deadly incidents? Three hundred people died today!”
A middle-aged man in a uniform yelled at his subordinates in the conference room. Between every sentence, he would look at his cellphone, afraid of another report to prolong the unfortunate streak that began the previous afternoon.
The entire room was silent. Every police officer had bloodshot eyes, having palpably not rested for the entire night.
“The incidents here have already reached the capital. If we can’t take care of this…” The man fell back into his seat, drained of all of his strength. Yu He was a small prefecture with less than two hundred thousand inhabitants. It was extremely unusual for this many people to die, especially when nearly ten percent of them were government officials in influential positions.
“Sir, according to reliable sources, there are two groups of National Security agents in town, do you think…”
“What? Are you sure?”
“Yes. Just last night, two groups of individuals claiming to be National Security agents visited the police station…”
“And? What did they do there?” The police chief wanted to get as much information as possible.
“They were here for one particular person.”
“Yes. He was called An Xing and was detained for his involvement in prostitution-related activities. I’ve read over his file. Thirty-five-year-old truck driver who was involved in a road accident three years ago…”
“An Xing?” Someone suddenly exclaimed with surprise.
“What is it?” The police chief pressed on.
“Is that him?” The man quickly pulled out a photograph.
“Yes. How did you know?”
“He was the driver responsible for causing the accident around the Meilong Water Reserve.”
“Oh?” The police chief squinted and sank into a deep reflection.
* * *
‘We’re running out of time…’ Eyeglasses rubbed his nose. After working the entire night, even with Eyeglasses’ stamina, he was starting to feel exhausted.
To go through two hundred thousand people in three days was truly a demanding task, but not an impossible one for Eyeglasses. However, he knew that the true difficulty was choosing who deserved the capital punishment, rather than simply filtering out the potential candidates.
Eyeglasses closed his laptop with a bitter smile. He raised his hand, and a small metallic box appeared on his knee. His thoughts wandered as he stared blankly at the landscape outside.
* * *
As his motorcycle came slowly to a halt, Big Beard put his transmitter away with a grim expression. His attention wandered around for a while until he looked up at the thick layers of cloud.
Big Beard spat out his cigar and hopped off his motorcycle, taking out a large bag from the storage compartment beneath the seat. At nine in the morning, most of the sauna centers in the city were still closed, and the one Big Beard chose to visit was no exception. When he entered, the reception was still dozing away at the front desk.
Big Beard dropped his duffle bag on the countertop and looked at the receptionist coldly.
“Huh?” The receptionist was still half-sleep.
“Give me the VIP room.” Big Beard’s patience was being tested.
“Sorry sir, we’re not…” The receptionist answered with a frown.
Big Beard dropped two stacks of cash onto the table.
“Give me ten of the best girls you can find. If I’m satisfied, I’ll give you ten thousand for each for them. If you manage to find someone just like the girls in that picture, I’ll give you another hundred thousand.” Big Beard said as he pointed at a picture on the wall.
Before the receptionist could react, Big Beard picked up his bag and walked toward the stairs lead up.
* * *
“Why are you stopping?” Qing Qiaoqiao looked at her sister.
“We’re resting.” Qing Linglong smiled and looked back.
“Aren’t we short on time?” Qing Qiaoqiao was confused.
“You’ve been a guardian for a while now, what do you think of us?” Qing Linglong asked.
“Yes, us guardians.”
“I think we’re some kind of antivirus software? There to monitor the system for any intruders.” Qing Qiaoqiao was quick to come up with an answer.
“I like that analogy. We’re here to clean up whenever there’s a bug, or a virus of some kind in the system. But have you thought about what would happen if we didn’t do our job properly?”
“What do you mean?
“You said that we’re here to clean up after the viruses and bugs?” Qing Linglong asked again.
“Yes. A virus is an entity who poses a threat to the system...” Qiaoqiao answered.
“The system will treat anything that threatens its existence as a virus. We need to take care of whatever the system throws in our way. That’s because the system makes the rules…” Qing Linglong cut her sister off.
“Sis…” Qing Qiaoqiao realized what her sister was getting at, but she didn’t understand why she brought the subject up.
“There are times when the antivirus doesn’t meet the expectations of the system. Whether it’s caused by imperfections or because it’s been infected is inconsequential as the end-solution always leads to uninstallation.” Qing Linglong held onto her younger sister’s hand tightly.
* * *
By the shore of a serene river, Liu Meng found Stargaze, whose traditional outfit made her fit perfectly into the picturesque scene of the southern country.
“Were you looking for me?” Stargaze turned around.
“I’d like to ask you a few things.” Liu Meng took a deep breath and stared at Stargaze’s long robe.
“Sit.” Stargaze walked to one of the stone benches and sat down.
“You told me that we should help ourselves before helping others and that we can afford to make mistakes, but we don’t have the freedom to choose.” Stargaze abstained from sitting and said in a serious tone.
“Yes? What about it?” Stargaze smiled.
“This domain, it’s not about whether we’re able to take lives…” Liu Meng’s voice showed hints of anger. She had learned from Li Yiming to trust her teammates, but she feared that if she blindly abided by that rule, she would suffer grave consequences.
“Look at the tattoo on your chest, and you’ll understand what I mean by saying that you can afford to make a mistake. However, do you really think that you still have a choice at this point?” Stargaze stared back at Liu Meng.
Liu Meng was speechless. The tattoo of the phoenix on her chest was a secret that not even Li Yiming knew about. ‘How did she…?’
“Some things can only be learned from experience.” Stargaze shook her head.
“You mean dying?”
“You’ll only know how to live after dying once.”
Liu Meng frowned. She knew that Stargaze was referring to the time when she nearly lost her life back in Shangbei.
“Everyone knew about the nature of this domain. That’s why Li Huaibei has been drinking the entire time, and I’ve spent my time sitting here, doing nothing. Your friends are only attempting a last-ditch effort.”
“Don’t tell me that you still don’t know?” Stargaze was impressed.
Liu Meng finally woke up to the fact that she might have understood Stargaze’s hint wrong the entire time.
“It’s not about killing, it’s about choosing…”
“I know, but it’s not that easy to do.”
“You’ve got it wrong. It’s not about choosing those who deserve to die…” Stargaze looked up toward the sky with anger burning in her eyes.