Chapter 8: Rob
The foul air, scorching wind, eerie underground city, and the strange organization—all of these felt so distant to Yu Fei.
He only knew that Li Zhan was dead.
The brother who had braved all the previous challenge levels with him was gone, just like that. Last night, while having a late-night snack, they were still joking together…
“Li Zhan, I’ll definitely clear all the remaining challenge levels as quickly as possible, so you better keep up with me.”
“Haha, then I’ll make sure to hold onto your wings tightly.”
“On another note, I had no choice but to stay. Why aren’t you leaving?”
“Out of curiosity.”
“Why does this world of challenges exist, and why were we chosen?”
“Yu Fei, believe me, nothing can appear out of thin air. There must be a reason behind all of this.”
“F*ck, you’re nuts! Just being able to pass these challenge levels is a blessing. Are you seriously thinking about researching this?”
“Are you praising me?”
“No, I’m worshiping the God of Learning.”
Li Zhan chuckled at that moment and didn’t say anything more.
He was always like this, not arguing, not debating, just silently working hard, and then teaching people through actions.
“This is the Underground City. Aren’t you going to investigate? You’re all talk…!” Yu Fei’s clenched fist on the ground turned white at the knuckles, trembling with restraint.
Tears fell into the soil, creating tiny splashes of sand.
“Do you want revenge?” Suddenly, a voice from nearby, low but crystal clear, interrupted him.
Yu Fei suddenly turned around, facing a man wearing a black mask with heightened tension in his body. He asked, “Who are you?”
“Someone like you, who lost their partner in the elevator.”
“How did you know…”
“If not, you should be standing with those people ahead, looking forward, instead of turning back to the elevator door,” the man squatted down, meeting his gaze, “But you can’t go back now. Besides accepting it, all you can do is seek revenge.”
“How do I do that?” Yu Fei’s voice grew deeper.
“Figure out this damn place, and then destroy it,” the man revealed only his eyes, but they shone with determination.
Meanwhile, Lu Jue continued to talk, but compared to Shark’s style of drawing vague promises, he was more detailed and practical.
“Basic accommodation, food rations, daily necessities, simple medical care – these are all the guarantees that White Team can provide. Of course, what’s even more important is passing these challenges. The difference between individual challenges and organized team challenges in terms of safety and success rate, I don’t need to explain, right…”
There was no need for further explanation because no one was listening.
Fan Peiyang, Tang Lin, and Zheng Luozhu all turned their heads at the same time, looking at Yu Fei and the peculiar masked man, who were gradually moving away.
Shark also noticed and shouted in annoyance towards their direction, “Always sneaking around. Do you dare to openly abduct people…”
The words were likely heard, but the masked man didn’t seem to care at all. He turned with Yu Fei and disappeared into one of the alleyways.
“Never mind them,” Lu Jue redirected the attention of the three, “A bunch of science geeks, specialists in fooling those whose mental state has collapsed. Let’s continue…”
Before he could finish his sentence, both Fan Peiyang and Tang Lin raised their hands together, making a standard “no need” gesture.
Fan Peiyang: “I’m not used to being led.”
Tang Lin: “I’m not used to being led.”
Their voices were even more in sync than their actions.
Lu Jue: “…”
The conversation was undeniably concluded.
Zheng Luozhu suddenly felt a bit sorry for the two employees trying to recruit new people into their organization.
“Let’s go too.” With these words, Mr. Fan turned around neatly.
Tang Lin didn’t even say a word and walked away even more effortlessly.
Zheng Luozhu quickly followed suit.
Shark stared silently and sincerely said, “I want to beat those two.”
“No need for you,” Lu Jue said, looking in a certain direction, a sly grin on his face. “Someone’s already itching to make a move.”
Following his gaze, Shark looked toward the alley where the three had just walked past. Several shadows were now eyeing them from behind, ready to pounce.
“Sigh, it would have been so much better if they had just chosen our ‘Step by Step Ascension.'” Sighing, Shark said, “We guarantee a smooth journey all the way.”
Lu Jue smiled ambiguously, “People need to taste some bitterness to truly understand their worth.”
As they ventured deeper into the darkness, the lighting grew dimmer, and occasionally, they encountered dispirited challengers on both sides of the road. Their vacant gazes made it difficult to determine if they were watching them or not.
Zheng Luozhu felt extremely uncomfortable, even the air seemed stickier.
He heaved his travel bag onto his shoulder and walked beside Fan Peiyang, asking, “Boss, where are we going next?”
Fan Peiyang: “We need to find a place to stay for now.”
Tang Lin observed the dilapidated houses on either side of the road. Either the doors were tightly shut, displaying an obvious refusal to let anyone in, or there were no doors at all, providing an unconvincing living space. Some of these houses even had walls riddled with holes, offering a clear view of the backstreet as if they lacked walls entirely.
Suddenly, Fan Peiyang’s arm extended, blocking Tang Lin from proceeding further.
Tang Lin stopped in his tracks, and Fan Peiyang turned around and said, “Come out.”
Hidden in the shadows at the alley’s corner were three men: one in a torn T-shirt, one in an old man’s shirt, and one chubby guy with his bare arms exposed.
The three of them had initially intended to ambush, but they hadn’t expected Fan Peiyang to be so perceptive.
“Listen to me later,” the guy in the torn T-shirt instructed his two companions while lowering his head.
The man in the old man’s shirt and the chubby guy both nodded in unison, saying, “Don’t worry, Big Bro.”
After speaking, the guy in the torn T-shirt, along with his two companions, swaggered out of the alley and into the dimly lit area.
“We just want your things, no need for any harm,” the guy in the torn T-shirt took a moral stance as he stood about four or five meters away from the trio. “Put down your travel bags and leave.”
Fan Peiyang, Tang Lin, and Zheng Luozhu each had a travel bag, and they were all stuffed to the brim.
The man in the old man’s shirt and the chubby guy had their eyes fixed on those bags, clearly eager.
“Impossible,” Fan Peiyang’s rejection left no room for negotiation.
The boss was concise in his response, but Zheng Luozhu couldn’t hold back and had to speak his mind, “You three suddenly appear out of nowhere, dressed without proper clothes like this and still attempt to rob us?”
Somehow, one of Zheng Luozhu’s words struck a nerve, and the expressions of the three robbers changed instantly.
The guy in the torn T-shirt sneered, “Since you don’t want to leave, then don’t.” He signaled to the chubby guy, “Old Three, take care of them!”
The chubby guy obeyed and immediately focused his attention, keeping a close eye on them.
Zheng Luozhu’s heart sank; this was an attempt to use stationery!
However, it was too late. Thorns rapidly grew from the ground beneath their feet, firmly ensnaring their ankles. Any slight movement would cause the thorns to prick painfully.
Beside him, Tang Lin immediately crouched down.
Zheng Luozhu initially thought Tang Lin was in pain, but when he turned his head, he realized that President Tang, who was seeing the use of stationery for the second time, was crouching there and attentively examining the situation, fully engrossed in his scholarly research.
Following that, his boss also crouched down, turning their individual research into a two-person team.
“This stationery doesn’t seem as powerful as the one Zhang Quan used in the elevator,” Tang Lin pondered. “Is it easy to solve…”
Fan Peiyang interrupted, pinching one of the thorns, “You can cut it with a blade.”
Tang Lin asked, “Will it grow back if we cut it?”
Fan Peiyang responded, “Yes. To deal with it permanently, we need to handle the stationery user.”
Tang Lin recalled, “You mentioned that we can use attacks to distract the user, making it difficult for them to control the stationery continuously.”
Fan Peiyang added, “Or we can injure them directly. Once their mental strength weakens, they’ll lose control over the stationery.”
Tang Lin: “There are quite a few tricks.”
Fan Peiyang: “You can figure it out slowly.”
Zheng Luozhu: “…”
Old man’s shirt: “…”
“F*uck, are you guys giving an on-site tutorial?” Torn T-shirt was furious. “Old Two, hold their hands too!”
Old man’s shirt was startled, finally snapping out of his stationery tutorial trance. Holding his breath and concentrating, he furrowed his brow.
Suddenly, a black rope flew through the air, binding the wrists of the three tightly together.
Zheng Luozhu felt extremely frustrated. If only their stationery box hadn’t been emptied, they wouldn’t be in this vulnerable situation.
Moreover, during previous challenges, there were prompts when someone used stationery on them, but in the underground city, these prompts disappeared. Zheng Luozhu didn’t even know what stationery had been used on them, let alone how to counterattack.
Seeing that their feet and hands were restrained, the trio robbers finally approached.
Torn T-shirt didn’t like the look of Fan Peiyang and forcefully snatched the travel bag from his hand. Old man’s shirt targeted Tang Lin, while Chubby went for Zheng Luozhu. In the blink of an eye, the ownership of the three travel bags changed hands.
Torn T-shirt smugly weighed the bag in his hand. “Huh, quite heavy.”
“Remember, don’t act so arrogantly next time.” He casually patted Fan Peiyang’s coat, and Torn T-shirt, holding the travel bag, turned and left triumphantly. His t-shirt swayed as he walked, occasionally revealing a dagger at his waist.
Fan Peiyang remained calm, keeping his eyes fixed on that dagger.
When they were attacked earlier, he noticed that neither the Old man’s shirt nor Chubby made any arm movements when using their stationery. This implied that they could activate their stationery directly with their thoughts.
If they could do it, he was sure he could too.
Torn T-shirt had already walked quite a distance, but the dagger at his waist remained motionless.
Sweat started to bead on Fan Peiyang’s forehead as he decisively changed his target to focus on the zipper of the travel bag.
Soon, the zipper began to move slightly, imperceptibly, and it slowly opened a crack in the travel bag’s zipper.
Fang Peiyang continued his efforts with even more determination, concentrating all his attention on the zipper.
The zipper head started to move, slowly and imperceptibly, as it opened the zipper of the travel bag.
Old man’s shirt and Chubby had to maintain the effects of the thorns and the black rope, which meant they had to face Fan Peiyang and his group directly. Their slow retreat naturally slowed their progress.
Torn T-shirt had walked a considerable distance before he realized he needed to stop and wait for his henchmen. He looked down casually and found the zipper of the travel bag was half open.
He was a bit puzzled, as he didn’t remember the zipper being open when he grabbed the bag earlier.
Just as he was puzzling over it, a green tin can suddenly flew out through the partially opened zipper, heading directly for Torn T-shirt.
Torn T-shirt didn’t have time to dodge, but the can didn’t hit him; instead, it flew past his face.
Two to three seconds later, the can returned, and this time it hit Torn T-shirt right on the forehead.
The heavy can, resembling a small cannonball, flew towards his head with the force of a brick.
Puzzled, Torn T-shirt took a moment to react, covering his forehead and turning back.
Fan Peiyang watched him calmly, his expression composed.
Torn T-shirt gritted his teeth, “I underestimated you; you’re quite proficient in using Stationery Trees…”
As he finished his sentence, countless sharp weapons suddenly appeared in mid-air, including daggers and short swords, all pointing towards Fan Peiyang and his two companions.
Zheng Luozhu’s breath caught, wanting to tap his arm, but his hands were bound. When he felt desperate, a sudden realization struck him – his permanent stationery on the Stationery Tree, the [One Iron Plate].
Zheng Luozhu froze, connecting the dots with Torn T-shirt and his gang not needing to tap their arms. It became clear.
The hovering blades began to tremble slightly.
Zheng Luozhu held his breath, focusing all his attention!
The blades descended like a rain of swords.
But just in time, an iron plate appeared and shielded them from above.
“Pap, pap, pap——”
The blades swarmed down, but only a few hit the iron plate, while most veered off course and struck the ground.
Even so, the iron plate had some dents, and one dagger managed to pierce through it, exposing a sharp point.
Zheng Luozhu looked up at the iron plate with a serious expression. It wasn’t enough; as a defensive stationery, this level of protection fell far short. But it wasn’t just about the stationery; it was also about control. Even if [One Iron Plate] wasn’t a particularly powerful defensive stationery, he couldn’t fully unleash its potential. He could clearly feel the lack of finesse and power in his mental control. This required practice.
Fan Peiyang didn’t give the attackers a chance for a second strike.
While Zheng Luozhu was pondering, his expression darkened. The same tin can flew up again, with increased speed and force this time. It circled around Torn T-shirt, Old shirt, and Chubby, launching another indiscriminate attack. Its accuracy was still low, hitting them only a couple of times out of ten, but it was enough to make their heads buzz.
The three men tried to grab the tin can but couldn’t catch it. They were hit repeatedly, and before long, they were completely bewildered.
In their confusion, they lost control of their stationery like “Thorns,” “Blades,” and “Black Rope,” which disappeared one after another.
The tin can showed no sign of stopping.
The three men were too disoriented to control their stationery as the relentless assault continued. They cried out in agony.
“Big bro, you’re the boss—”
“Can’t we just give the bags back—”
“What the hell kind of stationery is this—”
“Boss…” The robbers were moaning miserably, and Zheng Luozhu felt a bit sorry for them.
Fan Peiyang stopped controlling the stationery and let out a sigh of relief.
Tang Lin noticed the sweat on his nose and raised an eyebrow. In a voice only they could hear, he asked, “Is controlling the stationery tree difficult?”
Fan Peiyang replied in a low voice, “It’s harder to control than regular stationery. To achieve 100% effectiveness, you need practice.”
Finally freed from the nightmare of the tin can, the three robbers sat on the ground, catching their breath.
Zheng Luozhu quickly retrieved his own travel bag.
Tang Lin approached Torn T-shirt and asked, “Why are you robbing us?”
Torn T-shirt, rubbing his head, stood up and realized he was shorter. He was extremely frustrated, “Because I’m hungry! It’s been two damn days without food. If it wasn’t for hunger, who would do this!”
Tang Lin: “You seemed quite skilled at it.”
Torn T-shirt: “We, we practiced in advance, so we’re well-prepared!”
Tang Lin: “It was indeed well-prepared, a one-stop shop for robbery and murder.”
Torn T-shirt protested, “Who said we wanted to kill you? Those knives and swords just now were for intimidation, didn’t you see them all fall to the ground?”
Tang Lin: “A few of them got stuck in the iron plate.”
Torn T-shirt was on the verge of tears, “Try using stationery after starving for two days, you’ll be off target too.”
Tang Lin contemplated for a moment and then said, “We can share some food with you.”
“Are you serious?” Torn T-shirt couldn’t believe his ears, staring at Tang Lin in disbelief. For the first time, he took a serious look at Tang Lin and realized that he was the most handsome among the three. Unlike the one who used a can with a stern and intimidating demeanor or the one who used a steel plate with a thuggish attitude, Tang Lin was calm, gentle, and elegant, making him quite attractive.
“Absolutely,” Tang Lin nodded, “Where are you guys staying?”
Torn T-shirt was momentarily taken aback, “Huh?”
Tang Lin didn’t rush to explain but turned back to look at Fan Peiyang.
Fan Peiyang had been watching him the whole time, so their eyes met directly. Tang Lin’s gaze carried a question, and Fan Peiyang understood. He nodded at Tang Lin.
Zheng Luozhu was a bit slow on the uptake, but eventually caught on and nodded vigorously, as if pounding garlic.
Tang Lin was amused by their reactions. Although it wasn’t evident on his face, the hint of a smile was clear in his eyes.
Zheng Luozhu blinked in a daze, suddenly feeling that Tang Lin should smile more, not the gentle and tender smile he had seen in the hospital, but this kind of smile, a bit subdued, a bit cool, but genuinely warm.
“Where are you staying?” Tang Lin asked Torn T-shirt again.
Torn T-shirt hesitated and didn’t speak.
Tang Lin skillfully coaxed, “When it comes to eating, you should find a comfortable place.”
Torn T-shirt quickly shook his head, “No, no, it’s fine here, just give us food.”
Tang Lin felt a bit conflicted, and his voice inexplicably softened, “But there’s nothing to open a canned food here.”
“…”Torn T-shirt swore he was being threatened.
“It’s settled then,” Tang Lin patted his shoulder, “We’ll take care of your meals, and you’ll help us find a place to stay.”
Tang Lin removed his hand from Torn T-shirt’s shoulder and turned to the dumbfounded Chubby and Old man’s shirt, saying, “Lead the way.”
The rumbling of the machinery came to a halt, signaling that it was now evening in the underground city.
The members of the failed White Team and Step by Step Ascend teams remained in their original positions, observing the entire process from a distance. They watched until they saw the six individuals’ figures disappear into the narrow alley.
“Why do I feel like those three robbers were the ones who got robbed?” Shark rubbed his ears, as if he could still hear the lamentations from under the tin can.
Lu Jue gazed in the direction they had left, and the enthusiasm on his face was now replaced with a different expression. “If they insist on going solo, they might become formidable opponents.”
Shark glanced at him skeptically. “You guys aren’t planning to use that approach again, are you? Destroy what you can’t have?”
Lu Jue adjusted his glasses and smiled. “If you don’t uproot the sapling, it’ll grow into a tree, and cutting it down later will be a lot harder.”
Shark shivered and rubbed his sturdy arms. “You White Team members are all a bunch of bastards.”
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