Chapter 31: Flame
As the fourteen individuals continued walking, their pace gradually slowed down, and by the time they reached the middle of the carriage, no one ventured further.
Based on their experience from the previous challenges, they expected an owl or some introduction to inform them of the rules of this carriage. However, after waiting for a while, there was no sign of any activity.
In such situations, the safest choice was often to “wait and see.”
Most people began to look around, hoping to glean some clues.
The furnishings inside the carriage were quite clear.
Aside from the guardian sculpture at the entrance, there were other artworks displayed on both sides of the carriage.
On the left side, there were three large-sized oil paintings, evenly spaced along the left wall of the entire carriage.
On the right side, there was a tree-shaped sculpture, a golden cabinet, and a sculpture of numerous people. These were also evenly spaced, corresponding to the three oil paintings on the opposite side.
Tang Lin pursed his lips in thought. A carriage as ornate and intricate as this, with deliberately arranged artworks, was it meant for them to find the key to open it themselves?
Among the fourteen individuals, there were those who were contemplating like him, others who remained baffled and confused, and some whose thoughts were not on the carriage at all.
For instance, the Sky Lantern’s leader, Zhou Yunhui.
Since stepping into this carriage, he had been preparing to set up his Stationery Tree, and now that he could finally stand still, he turned around. Everyone was moving about, observing their surroundings, but his actions appeared completely natural.
However, Lu Jue, who stood at the rear of the group, immediately caught onto something.
Or rather, he never dared to let his gaze truly leave Zhou Yunhui.
Attacks were not allowed in the dining carriage, but he suspected that the rules in the new carriage might be the complete opposite. Lu Jue was aware of this, which is why he had positioned himself at the back of the group, always on guard.
However, despite all his calculations, he never expected that just at the moment when their eyes met, Zhou Yunhui would suddenly rush toward him.
In a situation where everything was still unclear in the new carriage, this man dared to act recklessly.
In that half-second of astonishment, Lu Jue missed his chance to dodge, and Zhou Yunhui tackled him directly. Shortly after, he saw a flash of cold light in Zhou Yunhui’s hand.
Lu Jue instinctively grabbed Zhou Yunhui’s wrist, shouting, “What are you doing?!”
His shout was meant to alert the others, while he frantically focused his attention on summoning the Stationery Tree.
Zhou Yunhui had a clear advantage in strength, which was why he had chosen close combat. He didn’t pay much attention to Lu Jue’s feeble resistance and continued to press the knife down step by step.
“Hey, hey, don’t fight here——” protested Wheat-skinned young man of the Strawberry Sweet Doughnuts.
Zhou Yunhui, however, paid no heed to the protests. The tip of his knife was about to pierce Lu Jue when he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his calf.
Seizing the opportunity, Lu Jue pushed Zhou Yunhui away and scrambled towards the wall.
Zhou Yunhui, trying to give chase, suddenly found his lower leg numb and collapsed to one knee.
Upon looking down, he noticed two inconspicuous puncture marks on his trousers, a snake rapidly slithering towards Lu Jue.
Zhou Yunhui clenched his teeth as he attempted to move his paralyzed leg, but it refused to respond.
Lu Jue had already reached the oil painting closest to the door to the next carriage. Relieved to have escaped, he no longer held back his words, “I know you can’t let go, but let me tell you, my snakes are all venomous. Only I can cure their poison. Without me, you’ll be left a cripple!”
Zhou Yunhui remained silent, simply sitting down and staring at Lu Jue.
In the next moment, Lu Jue’s trouser leg was set ablaze.
His face turned deathly pale as he quickly bent down, extinguishing the flames with a pat, then he yelled, his voice trembling, “Are you insane? Setting a fire here?!”
Lu Jue had never expected Zhou Yunhui to be so determined, willing to destroy the entire carriage even if it meant losing everything. This realization filled him with terror.
“Hey, that’s enough,” said “Monk” of the Strawberry Sweet Doughnuts, casually patting Zhou Yunhui on the back, “Either use cold weapons or stop altogether. If you dare set this carriage on fire, we won’t let you get away with it.”
Zhou Yunhui lowered his hand, and the fire in his palm went out.
Lu Jue smirked, a sense of victory in his eyes.
He couldn’t defeat Zhou Yunhui on his own, but with everyone in the carriage against him, there was no way Zhou Yunhui could cause trouble. He blamed it all on Zhou Yunhui’s Stationery Tree; fire was such a troublesome thing.
Zhou Yunhui hung his head, defeated and exhausted, and let out a sigh of frustration.
Monk wanted to extend a helping hand to help him up, but he noticed Zhou Yunhui reaching into his pocket.
Though he wanted to help, Monk’s actions were still a beat too slow. He watched as Zhou Yunhui pulled out a small glass vial and hurled it toward Lu Jue.
Lu Jue dodged swiftly, and the vial shattered against an oil painting frame with a loud crash, releasing a cloud of alcoholic fumes.
It was high-proof alcohol from the dining carriage!
A single spark was all it took to ignite the alcohol. The entire painting burst into flames, and the fire quickly spread to Lu Jue, who was standing beside it.
“Ahhhhh——” Lu Jue screamed in agony, rolling on the ground desperately trying to extinguish the flames.
But Zhou Yunhui just stood there, watching him. The flames reflected in his eyes, growing more and more intense.
The person was burning, and so were the paintings. As the man screamed and the wooden frame of the painting crackled, the fire continued to rage.
Gradually, Lu Jue fell silent.
Everything had happened too quickly, the others hadn’t even had a chance to react.
As the pale purple light gently lifted Lu Jue, the flames finally extinguished completely.
The painting had turned to ashes, leaving only the charred remains of the frame.
The corpse was slowly engulfed by the ceiling, and Tang Lin and his team looked up, their emotions complicated.
After a while, the group’s gaze returned to Zhou Yunhui.
Zhou Yunhui felt half of his body go numb; he couldn’t stand up. He decided to stay seated and resumed his carefree expression, saying, “A personal grudge.”
“We don’t care about personal grudges,” said Guan Lan, his petite and innocent face pointing over to remind him, “but you burned the painting.”
Zhou Yunhui chuckled: “So what? Do you want to avenge the painting?”
Guan Lan tilted his head, and his gaze at Zhou Yunhui was like looking at a piece of meat ready to be sliced.
Zhou Yunhui suddenly felt a chill and clearly sensed the danger.
Guan Lan’s cute and innocent appearance often made people unconsciously forget that he was the leader of the Strawberry Sweet Doughnuts. To handle such a troublesome group, he definitely relied on more than just sweetness.
“That painting depicts Odin and Freyja,” just before Guan Lan could make a move, Tang Lin calmly spoke up, “I remember most of the details. If the clue to opening the door is on this painting, I should be able to recall it.”
Guan Lan turned his head, his small face wrinkled, “But what if that painting isn’t a clue but a crucial item?”
Tang Lin gestured towards Zhou Yunhui, as if saying “please”.
Guan Lan looked back at Zhou Yunhui, his expression slightly annoyed, “He agrees to let me take care of you.”
Zhou Yunhui said, “…Then we can talk about it when we really need that painting as an item!”
With vengeance settled, his survival instincts kicked in, Zhou Yunhui didn’t want to die for no apparent reason.
Guan Lan ultimately didn’t take action.
Instead, it was Cui Zhan from the Ten Societies who walked over. He casually kicked Zhou Yunhui’s bitten leg twice and asked, “Really crippled?”
Zhou Yunhui hurriedly pulled his leg back, protecting it like a treasure, and looked alert. “What are you doing? Don’t touch my leg! Let me tell you, even if I’m crippled, I still need to maintain my appearance.”
Cui Zhan rolled his eyes and couldn’t be bothered to argue with him. He simply raised his arm and tapped it twice.
Instantly, a warm, pale gold light enveloped Zhou Yunhui.
Zhou Yunhui was taken aback, and the others were surprised too.
Anyone who had used stationery before knew that this was the unique light of a healing artifact.
In the Underground City, this thing was more precious than food. During challenge levels, a healing artifact could mean the difference between life and death.
Had Sky Lantern and the Ten Societies formed such a close relationship?
“Damn, where did you get this stationery from?” Zhou Yunhui finally found his voice.
Cui Zhan crossed his arms and looked at him. “Aren’t you supposed to be bowing down and showing gratitude now?”
Zhou Yunhui forced a smile. “Could you make a non-perverted request?”
Cui Zhan raised an eyebrow, one high and one low. “I saved you, so you should be grateful. That’s a normal development, isn’t it?”
Zhou Yunhui, still partially paralyzed, struggled to stand up. “A normal development for me would be to act like a cripple and let you mock me.”
Cui Zhan stood by idly, watching without offering any help.
Just when Zhou Yunhui thought the conversation was over, he suddenly heard a disdainful snort from Cui Zhan. “Dai Xiaoliang is soft-hearted toward everyone.”
Zhou Yunhui looked at him in surprise.
Cui Zhan turned around and rejoined the rest of the group.
Dai Xiaoliang was soft-hearted toward everyone, so he had shown mercy to….. Cui Zhan’s subordinates as well. Zhou Yunhui realized that he wasn’t the only one seeking revenge.
As the others caught on to the situation, they suddenly understood.
Melancholic center-parted hair of the Strawberry Sweet Doughnuts strawberry looked disappointed, he gazed at Cui Zhan and said, “Boring, I thought you were trying to hit on him.”
Cui Zhan assessed Melancholic center-parted hair from head to toe and said, “He’s not my type.”
Melancholic center-parted hair: “Uh, okay, but can you not scan me like that?”
Cui Zhan obliged and fixed his gaze on Melancholic center-parted hair’s face, staring intently. “What’s your name?”
“……” Melancholic center-parted hair retreated behind his own team leader.
Guan Lan turned around: “Wuwu Fen, you’re too tall, I can’t hold you off.”
“Everyone,” He Lu solemnly reminded, “although there is no sign indicating a time limit for this train car, shouldn’t we start moving as well?”
“This is also from Odin—” a voice came from the end of the car.
He Lu raised his eyes and realized that Tan Hua of the Strawberry Sweet Doughnuts was already by the sculpture guarding the door.
Tan Hua: “The sculpture can’t be moved, and to open the door, we need to solve a mechanism—”
As everyone walked over together, they gathered in front of the next train carriage door and observed this majestic sculpture up close.
Before everyone could ask, Tan Hua had already started explaining: “Odin is the chief god in Norse mythology. In the legends, two ravens perch on his shoulders, and these two ravens fly across the nine worlds and return to report to him. Two fierce wolves also accompany him at his feet, ready to protect him at any time… By the way, the two ravens are named Huginn and Muninn, which mean ‘thought’ and ‘memory,’ and the two wolves are named Geri and Freki, which mean ‘greed’ and ‘gluttony.'”
Cui Zhan: “Is this the password to open the door?”
Tan Hua arrogantly tousled his short hair: “No, it’s mainly to show off my knowledge.”
Cui Zhan: “…”
Monk spoke up for his team: “Team Leader Cui, go ahead and beat him up; we Strawberry Sweet Doughnuts don’t care.”
Zheng Luozhu heard it somewhat dazedly but understood one thing: “It’s Norse mythology again?”
Tang Lin nodded: “Yes, just like the world tree on the platform.” After saying that, he pointed in the direction near the door of the previous train carriage and said, “That should be the world tree.”
Zheng Luozhu and Nan Ge turned around together. It was the first sculpture on the right side after they entered, a large and lush tree with snakes and dragons at its base, deer and squirrels on its branches, and an eagle perched on top. Whether it was the tree or the animals, they were all sculpted lifelike.
Zhou Yunhui came up and pushed the sculpture, confirming what Tang Lin and Tanhua had said – it couldn’t be moved.
“Where’s the mechanism? Do we have a direction now?” He Lu asked.
Tan Hua tapped Odin’s right hand: “Something’s missing here. Once we find it, we should be able to open the door.”
Odin was seated on the throne, with his left hand on his knee and his right hand raised in a fist-like gesture, but not clenched, leaving a gap in the middle.
He Lu: “Shouldn’t he be holding a weapon?”
Tan Hua: “Gungnir, also known as the Spear of Destiny.”
Zheng Luozhu: “It’s just a spear.”
Tan Hua: “…”
The atmosphere was ruined.
Among everyone, Tang Lin was the only one who hadn’t looked at the Odin sculpture. After everyone came over, he turned around and stared at the painting on the left wall that had been burned by Zhou Yunhui.
“Knowing what to look for makes it easier,” Wheat-skinned young man gestured to the height of the sculpture, “With such a long weapon, there aren’t many places it could be hidden.”
Guan Lan didn’t speak, silently watching Tang Lin until he turned around, then asked, “Do you have a different idea?”
With this question, everyone looked at Tang Lin.
Tang Lin looked at the Odin sculpture and pondered: “What’s missing is not one thing, but three things.”
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