Midnight Ten Chapter 1

Chapter 1: Death Elevator 1

<Table of Contents>Next Chapter>

The creaking sound of rusted cables turning, the stifling air that doesn’t circulate, the cramped and crowded space where even turning around is difficult, and the persistent sensation of weightlessness.

In an environment encompassing all these unpleasant conditions, there was still someone who wanted to smoke.

Zheng Luozhu raised his hand and tapped the backpack pressed against his chest as a reminder: “In public spaces, please pay attention to your manners.”

The owner of the backpack turned around with some difficulty. He was a middle-aged man, not tall but robust, with dark skin. His cigarette was still unlit, casually hanging from his mouth. He glanced past Zheng Luozhu’s shoulder at the man standing deeper inside the elevator and teased him, “Your boss hasn’t said anything; why are you in such a hurry?”

He was genuinely waiting for his boss to speak; otherwise, he would be crying when he looked at his salary account at the end of the month.

“Zhang Quan,” Zheng Luozhu’s voice deepened slightly, not genuinely angry but carrying a warning. At twenty-eight, he possessed a lean and powerful physique, complemented by a clean, close-cropped haircut, making him look like an enforcer by the boss’s side, full of vitality.

Zhang Quan hadn’t planned on starting a conflict in this elevator, which was on the brink of being overloaded, but passing the time with some amusement wouldn’t hurt.

With one hand, he knocked out another half-cigarette from the pack and extended it directly in front of the tall man: “Boss Fan, care for one?”

Zheng Luozhu hadn’t expected the other party to be this bored, he hesitated for a moment before trying to intervene, but his boss had already accepted the half-cigarette along with the pack: “Thank you.”

Fan Peiyang, towering half a head taller than Zheng Luozhu, possessed a sharply defined face with a commanding presence, albeit with a bit too much severity. Since he entered the elevator three minutes ago, clad in a black overcoat, he stood in the back of the elevator一silent yet carrying an undeniable air of authority. He resembled an impregnable fortress, ready to reveal a concealed weapon at any moment, single-handedly elevating the sense of oppression within the elavator to its peak.

Now, the fortress said thank you and accepted the cigarettes.

Zhang Quan watched in amazement as the other party calmly pocketed the entire pack of cigarettes. What astonished him even more was how natural Fan Peiyang’s actions seemed, giving him the impression that he was also working for Fan Peiyang.

Zheng Luozhu was accustomed to this. Her boss had a natural leadership quality that could create a surreal atmosphere of “everyone in the world works for me” anytime, anywhere.

The elevator suddenly came to an unexpected halt, as if the cable had caught on something. The densely packed passengers were pressed together like a solid block, and the elevator lurched in the same direction.

This sudden turn of events sent shivers down everyone’s spines, leaving them on edge.

But nothing happened.

After a few seconds, the cables overcame the snag and continued creaking along.

The crowd observed for another dozen seconds, waiting until the swaying elevator gradually stabilized before collectively exhaling in relief.

The elevator became noisy, with everyone adjusting, whether straightening their clothes or arranging their backpacks. Only Fan Peiyang, in the first instance, turned to look to his side.

Standing with him in the back of the elevator was another man, similar in height to Zheng Luozhu but much slenderer, possessing a slim and agile figure. Both dressed in overcoats, Fan Peiyang, in his all-black coat, appeared robust and towering, while the other man in a light camel-colored coat seemed even taller and more graceful

He didn’t notice that Fan Peiyang was looking at him, and even the recent sudden jolt hadn’t distracted him. Throughout, he kept his head down, entirely engrossed in studying the owl pattern on his own arm.

Fan Peiyang discreetly withdrew his gaze, his eyes showing only a slight ripple before returning to calm.

The elevator continued its descent but now with a mild tremor, unlike the jolt from earlier. This subtle vibration traveled from the elevator floor to the soles of their feet, coursing through their limbs like an electric current, making everyone increasingly impatient.

“Is this elevator even working?” A burly man in his late thirties, standing shoulder to shoulder with Zheng Luozhu, restlessly flexed his heavily muscled, imposing physique. He seemed like a large, trapped beast in a low cage, agitated and restless.

His movement set off a chain reaction throughout the elevator.

Zheng Luozhu was the first to feel it, as he got bumped and his shoulder twisted, causing his arm to ache as if he’d been hit with a brick for no reason.

Next in line to suffer was the young man standing in front of the burly guy. His backpack was pressed against the burly man’s back, so when the burly man moved, the backpack moved with him, causing the young man to shift sideways.

Unlike Zheng Luozhu’s tolerance, the young man directly retorted, “Old Ge*, what are you twisting for? Don’t you know your own impact when moving?”

Note: Old Ge: the old here only term of addressing, not really mean the person is old.

He was dressed in trendy streetwear, with a mischievous look about him.

Zheng Luozhu wanted to high-five him from a distance.

Ge Shaping was robust and burly, with broad shoulders and a tall stature. He stood in the middle of the elevator like a mountain. When the mountain moved, the elevator, which was already unstable, swayed even more.

Ge Shaping had thick skin and was impervious to criticism. He was even pleased that someone had finally started a conversation with him and quickly seized the opportunity, saying, “Xiao Yu*, Xiao Li*, have you noticed anything?”

Note: Xiao Yu/Xiao Li both are just form of address, but only close people call each other this.

Yu Fei, the one in the trendy streetwear, assessed the significant difference in their physical sizes and resisted the urge to violently correct the nickname. He tugged at the corner of his mouth and said, “No.”

Li Zhan, standing to his right, turned back to add, “We tried them one by one, and none of the floor buttons responded.”

Both of them were in their mid-twenties, but unlike the flamboyant Yu Fei, Li Zhan had a clean and scholarly appearance, resembling a college student still in school.

Yu Fei and Li Zhan stood side by side on the right side of the elevator door. From the moment the elevator started moving, they had been examining the rows of floor buttons in front of them. Unfortunately, they didn’t achieve any results.

Ge Shaping felt a bit disappointed, and immediately after, that disappointment was compounded by a growing sense of unease.

An elevator that descended automatically without the need to press floor buttons didn’t inspire a sense of safety. Moreover, when this elevator had been descending for over four minutes with no sign of stopping, the situation became increasingly ominous.

After their brief exchange, silence descended once again inside the elevator. The air seemed even more stifling, and the unease grew in the quiet oppression, like creeping vines, binding the already crowded elevator so tightly that there was hardly any room to breathe.

Ge Shaping couldn’t stand it anymore. He felt as if he were buried alive, restricted from all directions, with only his head and neck able to move slightly.

He made a few movements, and his gaze inadvertently landed on the display screen above the floor buttons. Just like when they had entered the elevator, the cold screen displayed only an owl pattern, in the same style as the one on their arms, a clear continuation of the same motif.

[Yo, there are quite a few people this time!]

Damn it, the owl was speaking.

The sudden and mocking mechanical voice startled the seven people in the elevator. Despite having heard it many times before, this unexpected ambush was still quite unnerving.

Li Zhan, closest to the source of the sound, shuddered all over. Yu Fei cursed aloud, while Ge Shaping and Zheng Luozhu instinctively adopted defensive postures. Fan Peiyang and the slender man beside him simultaneously lifted their heads, focusing on the display screen. The difference was that the former, with a calm demeanor, narrowed his eyes, exuding a dangerous aura, while the latter raised an intrigued eyebrow, displaying an entirely expectant and curious expression.

Zhang Quan’s reaction differed from the six others in the elevator. His response was swift and ruthless, and in the blink of an eye, he had gripped a dagger in his hand.

The cold white light of the elevator illuminated the blade, creating a chilling effect.

The already stagnant air froze completely. The owl also fell silent. The entire elevator became deathly quiet, with only the rough sounds of the cables and the humming vibrations of the car itself.

It was unclear how much time had passed, but it felt long enough for the strange mechanical voice from earlier to be like a collective hallucination.

Yu Fei turned his head slightly, wearing a half-smile as he glanced at Zhang Quan, breaking the silence.

“Tsk, you’re pretty quick on your feet,” Yu Fei praised and then lifted his chin slightly towards the display screen, continuing, “I just wonder if this blade is intended for it or for us.”

Zhang Quan wasn’t afraid, but he felt a bit embarrassed. His body relaxed slightly, and the high-level vigilance he had maintained started to ease with time. However, his posture remained unchanged, with the dagger still in his grip, ready for combat at any moment.

Yu Fei’s brow gradually furrowed, his eyes growing darker.

Ge Shaping didn’t want to be buried alive on one side while there was infighting on the other. He made an effort to raise his arm and delivered a hearty slap to Zhang Quan’s backpack. With a cheerful and booming voice that carried a hint of conciliation, he said, “Old Zhang, you’re too tense. It won’t kill us here. Just treat it as a game and relax.”

“It may not involve real deaths, but getting hurt a bit can still be painful,” Zhang Quan mumbled, as if recalling something, with a lingering sense of dread. However, he realized he might have overreacted a bit. He gradually put away his combat posture, leaving only the knife in his hand. Clearly, he had something that made him feel more at ease.

But not everyone appreciated this.

Yu Fei’s already limited patience had been exhausted, and he didn’t want to engage in further conversation. Just as he was about to take action, a gentle voice emanated from deep within the elevator.

“Put the blade away.”

Fan Peiyang’s voice was calm, his gaze was equally composed. At first listen, it sounded like a reasonable request.

Ge Shaping, like Zheng Luozhu, stood in the middle of the elevator, serving as a natural barrier between Fan Peiyang at the back and Zhang Quan in the front. However, now he decided to squeeze to the side. It might sound like a reasonable request, but anyone with a bit of sense could detect the underlying danger in his tone.

Zhang Quan was taken aback by Fan Peiyang’s unexpected intervention.

Unlike Yu Fei’s youthful provocation, Fan Peiyang brought an invisible pressure. He could handle the former with ease but found himself unconsciously on guard against the latter.

Despite the turmoil in his heart, Zhang Quan didn’t reveal a trace of it on his face. He hadn’t come this far without reason, and the earlier incident with the cigarettes had only fueled his determination.

With this in mind, Zhang Quan raised his arm, which had previously hung down, and flicked his wrist. The dagger spun playfully in the palm of his hand before he gripped it again. He raised an eyebrow at Fan Peiyang and taunted, “What’s the matter? Do you think you’re my boss now?”

Fan Peiyang calmly looked at him, with no hint of emotion in his eyes. “You’re not qualified to be my employee.”

Zhang Quan clenched his teeth.

It was precisely this attitude that Zhang Quan found most intolerable. He couldn’t stand Fan Peiyang’s contemptuous demeanor, and it seemed to him that this attitude was even more infuriating than Yu Fei’s provocations by a whole solar system.

Whether it was an illusion or not, the cacophony of the cables running seemed to quiet down, and the vibrations were diminishing. The elevator’s stability appeared to have some hidden connection with the atmosphere inside the elevator. The more unstable the situation, the more harmonious it felt, and the smoother it became, the tenser things got.

Standing face to face, it was more like a one-sided confrontation. To say it was a standoff wouldn’t be accurate. It was as if Zhang Quan had bared his fangs and claws unilaterally, while Fan Peiyang remained completely calm.

No one meddled in between, not even Yu Fei, who was now watching the spectacle with a sense of detachment.

Zheng Luozhu wanted to beat Zhang Quan to a pulp. “Put that away quickly! With the crowdedness in this elevator, one wrong move from you could set off a chain reaction.”

His tone carried a natural familiarity, making it sound more like teasing among friends than a warning.

Zhang Quan was feeling somewhat more at ease, and he was considering putting the blade away. However, he also realized that it was not easy to back down now.

If he put the blade away, it would be seen as conceding to Fan Peiyang. If he didn’t, the standoff might continue, and it wouldn’t be a pretty sight.

[If I were you, I’d just listen and behave!] 

The culprit who had been playing dead for a while now chimed in again.

Despite being just a flat graphic, it somehow managed to tilt its head cutely on the screen.

[Zhang Quan: Intelligence D, Stamina B, Attack Power B, Defense Power A, Comprehensive Danger Level B…]

Without anyone asking, it started a data announcement on its own.

[Zheng Luozhu: Intelligence B, Stamina A, Attack Power C, Defense Power A, Comprehensive Danger Level B+…]

[Zhang Quan, you don’t stand a chance against him in a one-on-one fight…]

The amount of information came too quickly, overwhelming everyone. What were these levels? How were they determined? Based on what criteria? And why announce them here? Was it related to the challenge level they were in, or was it some sort of conspiracy…?

One question after another flooded their minds, but the two individuals involved didn’t have time to think about all that.

Zhang Quan had his mouth slightly agape, looking wounded. The fact that he didn’t stand a chance was one thing, but the “Intelligence D” rating was the real blow.

Zheng Luozhu couldn’t be happier either. He needed an explanation for that “Attack Power C.”

The owl, however, continued its explanations in its own way:

[The new challenge level is very dangerous, so it’s essential to have a correct understanding of your combat abilities. I’ll help you assess them one by one… Hoot…]

The elevator was still descending, seemingly never reaching its destination. 

However, the passengers inside had temporarily escaped the stuffy and irritable atmosphere, with even Zhang Quan having put away his knife. Their full attention was now on the screen, as the revelation of combat power data stirred up their emotions.

[Ge Shaping…]

The big brother whose name had been called immediately straightened his posture, appearing very proper, as if doing so would earn him extra points with the referee.

[Intelligence C, Stamina A, Attack power A, Defense Power D, Comprehensive Danger Level B…】

However, it didn’t mean much.

[Li Zhan, Intelligence A, Stamina B, Attack power C, Defense power B, Comprehensive Danger Level B…】

The first intelligence rating of ‘A’ appeared.

Although the overall rating wasn’t outstanding, just comparing it with the previous three intelligence ratings – C B D, you could tell how valuable this ‘A’ was.

Li Zhan touched his nose in embarrassment, showing the modesty and shyness of a studious person.

Yu Fei pulled him closer with one arm and ruffled his hair haphazardly, saying, “Brother, you’re really something.”

[Yu Fei, Intelligence B, Stamina A, Attack power A, Defense power B, Comprehensive Danger Level A-…】

The first overall rating of ‘A’ appeared.

Zheng Luozhu couldn’t help but take a closer look at Yu Fei, but the latter seemed dissatisfied, saying, “Just an A-?”

[Fan Peiyang…]

Now it was his boss’s turn.

Zheng Luozhu perked up his ears, afraid to miss anything, and the others were also somewhat curious.

[Intelligence A, Stamina S, Attack power A, Defense B, Comprehensive Danger Level A…】

Zheng Luozhu, Zhang Quan, Ge Shaping, Yu Fei, Li Zhan: “…”

So, there was an ‘S’ rating in the evaluation.

All ten pairs of eyes fell on President Fan, scrutinizing him from top to bottom and bottom to top, searching again and again. S-level stamina, he must be incredibly robust…


After a moment of silence, Fan Peiyang adjusted his coat, pondered for a few seconds, and then fastened two more buttons.

<Table of Contents>Next Chapter>

Leave a comment