Chapter 4.2 Night of the Ancient Castle
Wen Shi turned around immediately and asked, “What’s the matter?”
His reaction seemed so natural that the approaching female player pondered in secret. Could this be his real name?
The female player introduced herself first, “I’m Luo Xiao. Shall we cooperate?”
She had a shrewd personality and spoke directly to the point, “There’s no harm in exchanging information.”
Of course, there was no harm, provided they tell the truth.
Ahead was the staircase. Seeing that Wen Shi was going upstairs, Luo Xiao suggested, “The higher you go, the more dangerous it becomes. It’s hard for you to come out unscathed if you’re alone.”
Wen Shi didn’t object and simply said, “The study.”
The young man’s slender and upright figure walked confidently in front, as if trusting her.
Exiu’s words, “He has no love,” suddenly popped into her mind, prompting Luo Xiao to ask, “Aren’t you afraid I might stab you in the back?”
“The instance prohibits violent killings between players, doesn’t it?” Stepping over the last flight of stairs, Wen Shi turned back to look at her.
Luo Xiao smiled in agreement.
Excessive probing could arouse suspicion, so she resisted her curiosity and didn’t ask Wen Shi how he survived last night.
Luo Xiao first apologized for the wine incident, “I’m sorry. Exiu promised to give us a prop last night. Though it’s not a high-level one, something is better than nothing. I apologize for the wine.”
While apologizing, there was no hint of remorse in her eyes. But then, Luo Xiao straightforwardly shared a crucial clue, “From my observations, this instance contains many elements from the real world.”
Wen Shi nodded. For example, the beauty and beast was a complete copy of a fairy tale.
Luo Xiao continued, “There’s actually a famous horror story. A girl wanted to become the most perfect girl, so she killed every girl praised by her crush, taking the praised parts from each of them and putting them on herself.”
Wen Shi asked, “Wouldn’t there be adverse reactions?”
Luo Xiao raised an eyebrow. “I said it’s a horror story.”
Wen Shi quickly caught on, furrowing his brow. “Are you suggesting the castle master wants to imitate this method?”
Luo Xiao explained, “That’s why the death rate in this instance is quite high. If they want to piece together the most perfect bride in the castle master’s mind, they must find a way to take a part from the castle monsters. There are many monsters here. I assume you had encounters with some yesterday.”
The study was on the third floor. The number of rooms on the third floor was far fewer than the second floor, with many areas having large empty walls that lacked the solid feeling of regular walls.
Calling it a study was a modest way to put it. The scale here was comparable to that of a library.
Wen Shi said, “I need to find the book ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ which might be a standalone volume or part of a fairy tale collection.”
Luo Xiao helped him search.
Having an experienced player’s assistance made things much easier. Luo Xiao took out a small mechanical figure resembling a white mouse and placed it on the ground. The little mouse darted out, agilely weaving through the bookshelves. In no time, a dusty book fell off the shelf, and the little mouse returned to Luo Xiao’s pocket.
Wen Shi squinted at the book, but Luo Xiao put her hand in front of him with a frown. “There’s something strange about this.”
She took the initiative to step forward and put on a pair of special gloves to flip through the book.
Seeing these gloves, Wen Shi thought about when he could have such well-equipped gear himself.
“Picture frame,” Wen Shi provided a keyword.
“Ah, I see,” Luo Xiao paused for a moment and then said with sudden clarity, “Our progress was slow before because we were stuck on how to take a part from the monsters. If we can turn them into a painting, it’ll be much easier.”
The slender fingers were not hindered by the slightly heavy gloves. Luo Xiao quickly flipped through the book, scanning ten lines at once. Her fingers suddenly stopped, “Found it.”
In the illustration, the color of the wall matched the castle’s deep red, and on the crimson wall, there was only an empty picture frame hanging.
A wooden thorn suddenly pierced into her thumb, but the glove prevented it from causing harm. The picture frame visibly turned three-dimensional, like a venomous snake emerging from hibernation, poking outward. A putrid smell came out of the internal space, but Luo Xiao hesitated and didn’t immediately throw away the dangerous source.
Wen Shi mentioned another clue, “Blood pool, old coffin, trembling soul.”
Seeing Luo Xiao’s surprised expression, he continued, “I have more clues about the picture frame.”
Luo Xiao turned around and dashed down without looking back. “The blood pool is on the third underground floor.”
Wen Shi followed closely behind her, and the two of them ran for their lives.
“I have a powerful item that would be a waste to use just on this book. Let’s throw the book into the blood pool later and attack from both sides. If they start fighting each other, it will be even better. We can reap the benefits without much effort.” Luo Xiao’s plan was comprehensive, assuming they successfully entered the blood pool before the picture frame detached completely from the book.
The edges of the picture frame were filled with many wooden thorns, and when it was half out, the thorns grew into thistles with bright crimson tips that seemed to be breathing. The top part had a small opening that looked like it could be used for feeding.
Luo Xiao’s gloves had limited protective effect, and the thistles seemed to have eyes, extending towards her wrist.
When running through the hall, Wen Shi suddenly looked up at the picture of Beauty and the Beast on the ceiling. His gaze deepened as he glanced at Luo Xiao’s back.
Luo Xiao’s running speed was on par with that of athletes, if not better. As they reached the underground floor, she easily leaped over a long flight of stairs in just a few steps, a level of agility beyond Wen Shi’s capability.
Every few meters, there was a candlestick on the underground floor, and the candles were already one-third burnt. The pungent smell of blood pervaded the air, and even without Luo Xiao leading the way, he could follow the scent to find the blood pool.
A massive horizontal beam blocked Wen Shi’s path. When he flipped over it, he was stunned by the sight before him.
The blood pool was a rectangular structure, like a boiling pot of soup, constantly bubbling with blood. Directly above hung an old coffin, with rusty iron chains extending from the four directions, holding the swaying coffin.
Luo Xiao approached the blood pool and gave the book a strong toss, sending it in a perfect parabolic trajectory into the pool.
In an instant, the blood surged. Luo Xiao narrowed her beautiful eyes. “The power of this book is far less than that of the blood pool.”
Wen Shi also noticed it.
The thistles struggled upward like drowning victims, but a stronger force kept pulling them down.
Wen Shi stood aside, and he surprisingly heard the sound of chewing coming from the blood pool.
The blood pool seemed only interested in the thistles. After finishing its meal, the withered book flew out along with the blood. Wen Shi quickly dodged. The blood splashed on the ground, rolling like marbles.
The picture frame flew out next.
The thistles disappeared, and the frame’s edges became smooth. The frame stood upright, resembling a waiting stone silently calling out in a certain direction.
At the same moment, a hoarse roar echoed from an unknown source. Wen Shi looked around, finally determining that it came from the walls.
From above, something inside the wall was being dragged by an invisible force until it was forcefully pulled out of the wall.
It was one of the monsters that attacked Wen Shi last night, but which one exactly was uncertain.
It was the first time Wen Shi saw the monster’s entire appearance—its limbs overly elongated, devoid of any moisture, like a withered mummy.
Its non-rolling throat trembled continuously, attempting to say something. However, no matter how it struggled, it couldn’t escape the fate of being bound by the picture frame. In a few blinks, the mummy’s body further shrunk. Wen Shi smelled the familiar scent of paint. The monster that tormented him last night was ultimately unable to escape the fate of becoming a painting.
This painting and the one in the dining hall gave a similar impression: exaggerated and fragmented.
The only distinctive part was that ninety percent of it consisted of chaotic patches of colors, while only the top left side had an exceptionally realistic eye.
Almond-shaped, the lines from the eye to the tail were particularly gentle.
They said eyes are the windows to the soul. Wen Shi had seen many beautiful eyes, but this eye was undoubtedly the most perfect he had ever seen.
Luo Xiao handed him a dagger. “I won’t compete with you for this.”
Wen Shi took the dagger, aimed its sharp tip a few centimeters below the eye in the painting, and with his wrist down, he glanced at Luo Xiao with a smile. “Today’s credit goes to you. So, why don’t you do it?”
Luo Xiao replied, “Aren’t you being a bit dramatic for a man? You have the clue about the picture frame. Let’s cooperate and complete the level as soon as possible.”
Wen Shi, however, was not in a rush.
“Earlier, when I mentioned adverse reactions, you emphasized it was a horror story. However, now that we are playing a game, we need to be logical. Taking apart the most beautiful aspects of a person and then assembling them to create a new person, do you find that beautiful yourself?”
Some people had ordinary facial features, but when combined together, they looked beautiful. On the other hand, some individuals, when scrutinized individually, had perfect parts, but as a whole, they appeared quite average.
The pattern on the hall’s dome, though not very clear, could still confirm that the beauty in the beast’s arms wasn’t stunning. Wen Shi believed it was a hint about the rule of death.
Once the assembling method was used, players would be immediately eliminated.
Wen Shi toyed with the dagger, wondering whether the game that misleads players while giving hints was more malicious or the players themselves in the instance.
Faced with him calmly exposing her, Luo Xiao dropped the previous pretense and smiled without refuting a word.
“Pei Wenwei, you are truly the cleverest person I’ve met, but personally, I adhere more to the principle of self-interest.”
Wen Shi raised an eyebrow, “What did Exiu give you to mislead me like this?”
Before Luo Xiao could answer, a slender figure appeared from the dim entrance, clapping lightly in admiration. Originally, Exiu felt a bit uncomfortable about paying a large number of points to kill a newbie. Now he found it incredibly worthwhile.
Luo Xiao shrugged, glanced at Exiu, and said, “I’ve done what I promised. I’ll wait for you in the dining hall.”
After saying that casually, Luo Xiao waved at Wen Shi, “Handsome Little Brother, see you in the next life.”
By the pool, filled with the scent of blood, Wen Shi and Exiu stood face to face.
Exiu grinned, and a bottle appeared out of thin air in his hand.
“Two people encounter a bear, which one will die?”
Wen Shi replied, “The one who runs slower.”
Just as he answered, Exiu threw the bottle into the blood pool. The surging liquid began to flow backward, defying gravity, rushing towards the coffin like a waterfall.
When the bloodwater met the coffin, it disappeared automatically. The blood inside the pool rapidly decreased until the last drop of backflow ended.
Wen Shi ignored the scene and asked curiously, “Does using this thing cost points?”
Facing a dying man, Exiu was surprisingly patient, “Of course.”
He wasn’t in a hurry to escape. With the item in hand and his agility honed through years of gaming, he could leave here before Wen Shi.
The blood whirlwind in the pool disappeared, and in the blink of an eye, only one-third remained.
Something was reviving, desperately pounding the coffin lid. The iron chains were violently shaking in the air, making creaking sounds. Wen Shi had a premonition that these chains wouldn’t hold for much longer.
“What did you awaken?” he asked.
Taking a step forward, he tightly gripped the dagger in his hand.
Exiu didn’t flinch. He provocatively curled his finger. “Want to kill me? Give it a try.”
He was sure that before the dagger got close, the other would disappear first.
Seeing Wen Shi as nothing more than an empty threat, possessing a weapon but unable to attack, Exiu smiled even more, “You know what? I’ve never enjoyed the rule that players can’t harm each other.”
Wen Shi lowered his eyes, the light in his eyes calm as a still lake, seemingly unaware of the tense situation. After a moment, he slowly said, “I like it too.”
He repeated the sentence word by word, especially the subject part.
Unfortunately, his tone was too light and gentle, and Exiu couldn’t hear it clearly. He only saw Wen Shi seemingly giving up, casually tossing away the dagger.
The fear and anger suppressed in this instance for many days found an excellent outlet. Exiu sneered, mocking his cowardly behavior.
“You want to kill me, do you dare? Are you worthy?”
He stared at the coffin about to revive, stepping Wen Shi closer to the edge of the blood pool amidst his wild laughter.
The laughter came to an abrupt halt.
Wen Shi calmly gazed at the other.
Through his clear pupils’ reflection, Exiu couldn’t believe what he saw and lowered his head. A long sword had pierced through his chest.
Exiu trembled, his fingers touching the bloodstained tip of the sword. The pain and chill reminded him that this was not a dream.
As the sword was withdrawn, blood spurted like a spring.
Behind him, a breathtakingly beautiful woman appeared, her sword drawn. She asked calmly, “Why are you barking like a dog?”
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