Midnight Ten Chapter 16

Chapter 16: The Five Major Factions

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As the three of them approached the outskirts of the square, before even stepping onto the stoned ground of the square, they were driven away by small groups of challengers gathered in the vicinity. Most of them were quite rude, waving them off with a “go away,” “get lost,” or, for those who found them unfamiliar, a contemptuous “where did these rookies come from.”

The three of them circled the perimeter of the square, but they couldn’t find an opening to get in. In the end, they climbed onto the roof of a nearby abandoned building, settling for a “high vantage point.” From there, they had a panoramic view of the entire square.

The roof of the dilapidated building was overgrown with weeds. Zheng Luozhu was seething with frustration, sitting there and plucking innocent blades of grass one by one. “Boss, you should have let me handle it earlier…”

While the outcome was uncertain, at least they had shown some determination. Now, they were waved off and verbally dismissed, making them feel helpless.

After plucking the grass nearly bare, before he could get a response, Zheng Luozhu looked up and realized that his boss hadn’t been listening. He was staring at the square, his gaze focused, his thoughts deep.

Zheng Luozhu clutched his chest, his burning enthusiasm wasted.

Tang Lin could see Zheng Luozhu’s bitterness all too clearly. Suddenly, he remembered the early days when the company was just established, and his subordinates were just like this. Every time they had a conversation with Fan Peiyang, they looked as if their hearts had been pierced, exuding an “I’m resigning immediately” aura. He had to put on a smiling face to warm their chilled souls.

Tang Lin understood that Zheng Luozhu, having worked for Fan Peiyang for so long, must have developed some self-regulation skills. But faced with this situation, he reflexively explained, “The situation in the square is still unclear. It’s unnecessary to draw attention to ourselves.”

Zheng Luozhu didn’t expect Tang Lin to explain, and he certainly didn’t expect such a gentle tone and attitude. He immediately felt that he had been too rude earlier and should probably have his bonus deducted.

“Yeah, you’re right, impulsiveness is the devil,” he nodded vigorously, letting go of the grass he had been plucking, and soothingly stroked the few remaining blades of grass.

Tang Lin fell silent and began to observe the bustling square.

Zheng Luozhu watched the side profile of Tang Lin and noticed that the gentleness from earlier had faded. The now quiet Tang Lin had returned to his aloof demeanor. Even in his aloofness, there was only a mild sense of distance, nothing like his boss who could make you want to rebel at any moment.

When he asked for the stationery from Torn T-shirt with such an attitude, Tang Lin was definitely a boss who wasn’t short on cash. Zheng Luozhu rubbed his chin, deep in thought, wondering if Tang Lin was hiring.

As the hot wind blew over the rooftop, it fluttered the heart of an employee who was contemplating changing jobs.

Tang Lin looked at the square for a while and had a good grasp of the situation.

In the center of the square, which was the area surrounding the subway entrance, there were probably five major factions. Judging by their positions, there didn’t seem to be any obvious distinctions in elevation between them; they were all densely packed around the subway entrance.

Between the center of the square and the outer perimeter formed the second faction, with several smaller groups numbering over a dozen in total. Both Lu Jue and the Shark were there, but they hadn’t gathered together. From the number of people and their positions, it was clear that White Team had the upper hand in terms of strength.

It seems that he noticed an unfriendly gaze, and suddenly, Lu Jue looked up.

Tang Lin didn’t avoid it, even intentionally met his gaze.

It was a somewhat subtle stare-down, distant enough not to raise guards, yet close enough to see each other clearly.

Lu Jue was momentarily surprised, though he quickly concealed it, but it couldn’t escape Tang Lin’s eyes.

Who brought the Night Roamer to the Underground Well, Lu Jue or Shark?

The answer became clear.

Tang Lin raised the corners of his mouth and nodded slightly towards the other party.

A courteous and polite smile, but all Lu Jue saw in the depths of the other’s eyes was a chill, like an unmelting layer of frost, with a biting cold.

Tang Lin lowered his gaze first, breaking the eye contact.

Lu Jue realized belatedly that he had actually sighed in relief.

The Night Roamer incident had been exposed? No, it didn’t matter anymore, even if it was exposed, could the three of them challenge the entire White Team? Unless they were tired of living.

What truly concerned Lu Jue was Tang Lin’s transformation.

When recruiting new members at the elevator entrance, he had already seen their potential, but at that time, Tang Lin was merely cold, nowhere near as dangerous as he was now.

It had only been seven days, yet they had grown much faster than he had anticipated.

Tang Lin hadn’t paid any attention to Lu Jue’s earlier incident. Revenge could wait; it wasn’t too late even after ten years. Right now, the most important thing was to pass through the challenge levels. If they succeeded, Lu Jue, who was still on this level, wouldn’t be worth his effort.

Turning his head, he saw that Fan Peiyang was looking at the stationery, lost in thought.

Tang Lin didn’t need to think; he knew Fan Peiyang must be considering those five stationery again. Fan Peiyang had briefly explained these stationery to him, and Tang Lin shared the same thoughts. If the effects were as described by the seller, then the money spent on them was undoubtedly worthwhile. However, the current problem was that they didn’t know if these stationery truly worked, they couldn’t casually waste one to test it. It wasn’t like dealing with Night Roamers, where there was a high chance of obtaining items, and using them wasn’t a big deal.

Fan Peiyang closed the tool kit, wanting to clear his mind, but his gaze suddenly fixated on a certain direction and didn’t move.

Tang Lin asked curiously, “What are you looking at?”

Fan Peiyang lifted his chin slightly and said, “Those three over there, they’re Nightwalker.”

Tang Lin became interested and immediately began scanning the crowd in that direction.

Upon hearing the words “Nightwalker,” Zheng Luozhu also approached and joined Tang Lin in searching.

Fan Peiyang briefly explained the encounter with the Night Roamers, including the three members of the Nightwalker. However, his narrative style was quite minimalist, so the mental image Tang Lin and Zheng Luozhu had of the Night Shadows trio was akin to three stick-figure drawings. Now, they finally had a chance to see the real individuals.

“Which three?” Amidst the sea of people, Tang Lin had a hard time pinpointing them.

“Over there,” Fan Peiyang gestured with his eyes and added a brief description, “The Devil Bear, the one in all black, and the honest-looking guy.”

Tang Lin nodded and said, “Oh, those three.”

Zheng Luozhu:“……”

No, seriously? He could match them with such abstract descriptions?

“Oh, there you are!” Tao Wenyu had keen eyes and was the first to spot the familiar face on the rooftop. He waved his arms and maneuvered through the crowd, making his way across half of the small square to reach the area beneath the abandoned building. “I was getting bored waiting here. Thank goodness I spotted you!”

Tang Lin and Zheng Luozhu turned their attention to Fan Peiyang. This person… seemed quite talkative?

Fan Peiyang, the one in question, maintained a composed demeanor, but there was a hint of bewilderment in his eyes in response to this unexpected enthusiasm.

“I was wondering why you hadn’t joined Nightwalker, turns out you have your own team,” Tao Wenyu remarked without any need for formalities. He climbed down from the rooftop and casually took a seat next to Zheng Luozhu, introducing himself to him and Tang Lin. “Just call me Taozi.”

Zheng Luozhu reciprocated with politeness, saying, “You can call me Zhuzi.”

The two “zi” shook hands with genuine sincerity.

After chatting for just a couple of sentences, Tang Lin quickly realized that this person had indeed come over to chat with them. He probably had been squeezed in the square for a while, and his companions hadn’t quite met his conversation standards. That’s why he eagerly approached them. Additionally, as soon as he realized that Fan Peiyang wasn’t very talkative, he promptly switched his attention to Zheng Luozhu.

Tang Lin glanced at the square again.

All black was lying on the ground, hands behind his head, eyes closed, seemingly blocking out all the commotion around him.

The earnest man was observing his surroundings, his furrowed brows showing his deep concentration. He was clearly analyzing the competition from all sides.

Indeed, there wasn’t anyone as sociable as their Zhuzi, engaging in enthusiastic conversations and making everyone feel welcome——

Zhuzi: “Is it for real?”

Taozi: “Why would I lie to you? Among the five major forces, no matter which one you join, it’s like having half a pass to the levels.”

Zhuzi: “What about the other half remaining?”

Taozi: “Well, that depends on whether elite players like us are willing to yield.”

Zhuzi: “With just the three of you, are you really that confident?”

Taozi: “It’s not about confidence, it’s about strength.”

Zhuzi: “I admire you, our philosophies align.”

Taozi: “Hey, the three of us and your three, our strengths aren’t the same, alright…”

Zhuzi: “Don’t be modest. Even though my boss can take on six of you, you guys still have more experience.”


Zhuzi: “Hmm?”

Taozi: “Let me tell you about these five major forces…”

Zhuzi: “Alright!”

Tang Lin looked sympathetically at Tao Wenyu and played the role of an attentive listener with a relaxed demeanor, a hint of a smile in his eyes.

Being only somewhat familiar with them had its drawbacks, but no matter how uncomfortable he felt, he had to continue being polite.

Originally, Fei Peiyang had no strong feelings about Nightwalker and Tao Wenyu. However, after seeing Tang Lin’s keen interest, he adjusted his perception of this organization from “potential rivals but worth sparing” to “potential rivals but deserving some consideration.”

Tao Wenyu had no idea that he had elevated the organization’s status in Fei Peiyang’s eyes. He continued to earnestly educate Zheng Luozhu——

“See that group of people closest to the subway entrance, sitting neatly? That’s the ‘Iron Blood Camp’…”

“To the left of them is the ‘Sky Lantern’, and to the right is the ‘Ten Societies’…”

“Next to the Ten Societies, the seemingly inconspicuous group is the ‘Huanxiang Society’. Don’t underestimate them…”

Tang Lin looked at each one in turn, and indeed, every gang had its own distinct characteristics.

The Iron Blood Camp was the most prominent, sitting in an orderly fashion like a military formation. The leader sat upright, arms crossed, eyes fixed forward, with a solemn expression.

In contrast, the Sky Lantern and the Ten Societies seemed much more relaxed. Positioned to the left and right, they reclined and sat casually, as if they were on vacation.

The Huanxiang Society indeed had less distinct characteristics. They lacked the ruggedness of the Iron Blood Camp but showed more seriousness than the Sky Lantern and the Ten Societies. If you didn’t know they were one of the five major forces, they would look just like ordinary challengers on the outskirts.

“Iron Blood Camp, Sky Lantern, Ten Societies, Huanxiang Society…” Zheng Luozhu looked puzzled at Taowen Yu. “Aren’t there supposed to be five major forces? We’re still missing one, right?”

“They have fewer people, so I didn’t spot them with just one glance, and now they’re gone.” Tao Wenyu craned his neck to look, but he still couldn’t find the missing “specimen.”

Zheng Luozhu asked, “At least you know their name, right?”

Five gangs, and one was missing—it was driving him crazy.

“As for their name…” Taowen Yu searched his memory carefully, afraid of making a mistake. “Let me think about the flavor…”

Zheng Luozhu was stunned. “Flavor?”

“Ah, yes,” Tao Wenyu finally remembered. ” Strawberry Sweet Doughnuts.”

Zheng Luozhu:“……”

Tang Lin:“……”

Fan Peiyang:“……”

“I only remembered the donuts,” Tao Wenyu explained earnestly. “There are too many flavors for this stuff.”

Was this really about flavors?

Zheng Luozhu asked, “Don’t you think this style is completely different from the previous four?”

“That, you have to ask them,” Tao Wenyu shrugged. “It’s not like we named ourselves Lemon Strawberry Nightwalker.”

Zheng Luozhu mumbled, “Why do I feel like this name has been on your mind for a long time…”

“Taozi,” Tang Lin suddenly spoke up.

Tao Wenyu looked at his fair and calm face and unconsciously lowered his voice. “Hmm?”

Tang Lin pointed over there, giving him a reminder.

Tao Wenyu  followed his gaze and saw that Wang Zhengming had stood up and was making his way toward the center of the square.

“It’s fine,” Tao Wenyu gave Tang Lin a reassuring smile. “Old Wang has the kind of harmless face that comes with built-in invisibility. He can squeeze in wherever without causing any trouble.”

“Looking for information?” Tang Lin guessed Wang Zhengming’s intention.

“Yeah,” Tao Wenyu confirmed. “I estimate that we’ll know soon how many people are attempting the challenge.”

With this crowd, there are probably close to a thousand, and aside from the challengers, there are likely representatives from various organizations here to show their presence. Knowing the actual number of challengers will at least give us an idea of the competition they’ll be facing.

As they chatted amicably on one side, the atmosphere on the other side grew tense.

Zheng Luozhu was visibly puzzled. Why did he become so fierce when talking to himself, but so gentle and soft-spoken when talking to Tang Lin? What was the meaning of this?

Fan Peiyang, on the other hand, remained calm and simply reset the newly elevated position of Nightwalker in his mind.

“After chatting for so long, I almost forgot to ask, what’s your group called?” Tao Wenyu asked enthusiastically.

Tang Lin was momentarily stumped by the question.

Seeing his hesitation, Tao Wenyu thought he didn’t understand and explained further, “When you have a group, you should have a name. A name gives you a sense of identity and cohesion. If you don’t have one, you should come up with something.”

“We actually do have one,” Zheng Luozhu glanced at Fan Peiyang.

Fan Peiyang nodded.

With the boss’s approval, Zheng Luozhu continued, “We’re called ‘Five Black….'”

“VIP,” Tang Lin interrupted just in time. He really didn’t want to establish an image of gangsters right after clearing the first level. Under the pressure of the moment, he recalled that unique stationery, “We’re called ‘VIP.'”

Tao Wenyu blinked in surprise, “That’s quite an unusual name.”

Tang Lin raised an eyebrow nonchalantly, “Do you want to join our VIP?”

Tao Wenyu:“……”

Fully aware that they weren’t seriously poaching members, he still felt regretful about missing out on potential benefits. The name they chose… was just too scheming!

After spending over an hour on the rooftop with nothing left to discuss, Tao Wenyu bid farewell reluctantly and made his way back to the square to find new company.

The three of them had nothing to do, so they decided to lie down on the rooftop and take a short nap.

The daytime passed peacefully. There were a few minor conflicts in the square, but they didn’t escalate into anything significant.

During this time, Wang Zhengming visited them once and shared the information he had gathered, essentially repaying Fan Peiyang for his earlier favor. According to Wang Zhengming, there were approximately a thousand people in the square, with around six hundred being genuine challengers. Among these six hundred, nearly four hundred belonged to the five major factions, while the remaining two hundred were from various smaller groups. Teams like VIP and Nightwalker, consisting of only three members, were in the minority, and teams with just one or two members were even rarer.

Wang Zhengming’s visit revealed two things: first, the success rate at the challenge level was around one-third, not too brutal, but there was a high likelihood that it was monopolized by groups; second, the name “VIP” seemed to have stuck.

Next to the subway entrance, the clock reached the top of the hour once again.

9:00 PM. Three hours remained until the level would open.

The machinery noises had ceased since the evening, and as fatigue set in, the conversations in the square gradually quieted down.

Suddenly, the atmosphere grew exceptionally still, and there were moments when you could even hear the ticking of the clock’s second hand.

Tang Lin was half-awake, it seemed like he was about to dream of donuts when he was abruptly awakened by a tremendous commotion.

“What the hell, am I seeing things—”

“Oh my god, in my lifetime!”

“Is this for real? I can’t believe I’m seeing a beauty in the Underground City?!”

“Mother of god, this can’t be a new challenger added to the level, can it…?”

“Oh my, if this is a dream, don’t let me wake up, spare a thought for a single dog—”

Tang Lin groggily sat up, bewildered for a while until his vision cleared. He then saw a figure approaching the square.

It was a woman in her late twenties, tall and standing at around 5’7″. She had long, jet-black hair that flowed like a waterfall, and she walked with an air of elegance and confidence.

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