That night was destined to be a sleepless night.
Passing through a box and experiencing a series of thrilling stimuli; a cat with a Russian accent coming to the house; deciding to go on a pilgrimage; and discovering some secrets and realizing there were many more waiting to be explored…
Only those with a big heart would be able to sleep peacefully.
Dong Zheng was sitting on a deck chair by the balcony door, looking at the bright moon outside the window. The dark blue, velvet night sky was crowded with bright stars. This kind of starry sky was difficult to see in the real world. The wind blew in from the half-open window, carrying with it an unknown fragrance of flowers and plants and creating a mysterious breath that was wholly unique to this place.
This world was not what it seemed.
In the wake of their unexpected car accident, the bright and glorious future had shattered like the moon reflected in water, slipping through their fingers.
Dong Zheng closed his eyes. Half of his face was bathed in moonlight while the other half was encased in shadows. The boundary between light and dark silently traced a path along his tall nose bridge.
In the separate bedroom, Dong Linhai slept fitfully on the bed.
Hamelin had exhausted him, and that deep exhaustion, combined with his new awareness of this world, had made him sleepy. But, it didn’t take long for him to suddenly, inexplicably wake up.
Moonlight leaked from the gaps in the curtains, illuminating a long and narrow length beside the bed. He stared blankly at the light, and suddenly smelled something sweet and greasy.
Cold, viscous liquid seemed to drip from the ceiling, hitting him with a loud click before sliding down his cheeks and staining the sheets.
But the smell was more intense and disgusting.
Dong Linhai started shaking. He held his breath and raised his hand to touch his face. The blood was wiped away and was clearly reflected in the moonlight.
Two huge lizards rushed out of the darkness at the bottom of the bed. Their big mouths opened with fangs gleaming, hissing, as they rushed at him. Their eyes flashed viciously as their claws ripped through his skin.
Dong Linhai’s eyes snapped open.
The teen gasped violently, his heart nearly jumping out of his chest. The white cat that had been sleeping on his bed had disappeared. The bedroom was empty, except for the water dispenser hidden in the shadows.
He could still smell the stench of blood and the odor from the lizards mouths. His sleepiness fled, and Dong Linhai laid back on the comforter for a while, feeling keenly that there was something hiding in the darkness. The innocent souls of the two lizards he’d cruelly killed seemed to be lingering around him, crying and screaming.
He became more and more afraid and decided to sit in the living room.
After stepping into his slippers and draping his coat over his shoulders, Dong Linhai pushed out the bedroom door and saw Dong Zheng sitting in a chair by the balcony door.
“Brother?” Dong Linhai called softly after a moment’s pause.
Dong Zheng, who was thinking about things with his eyes closed, opened his eyes and looked at the teenager’s tired face. He asked, “How come you’re up?”
“I can’t sleep,” Dong Linhai answered honestly as he sat on the sofa. He hadn’t told anyone about what he’d experience in Hamelin after being taken away by the worker. The sensation of the knife cutting through flesh, the adrenaline rush during the killing, and the panic and excitement when the blood spurted out, all were held in his heart, making him frightened and uneasy.
“Then, let’s sit for a while.” Dong Zheng changed into a more comfortable position. Linhai looked like their father. He looked ordinary, but masculine and upright. On the other hand, Dong Zheng took after his mother, who’d died due to amniotic fluid embolism and who’d left behind only the image of a woman in a picture.
The two brothers sat silently in the living room. This was the fourth night after they came to the Pure White Realm. This small tube-shaped apartment was silent, with only the sound of eating downstairs, but it was wrapped in warm light. And that man and woman, Dong Zheng’s father and stepmother, how would they collapse after finding out that they’d lost both children at the same time?
They had no idea.
Dong Linhai felt a little cold. He shrunk his neck and said, “Brother, I just had a nightmare. I dreamed that the two lizards killed in the box came to me, wanting to take revenge and eat me.”
Dong Zheng was a little surprised. He raised his head, but soon realized that this wasn’t too unexpected. The story in the box was so muddled. The plot seemed to have fragmented due Cui Zuojing’s intervention. They hadn’t had time to talk about what happened. “Was it in the kitchen?”
Dong Linhai nodded and said, “I was in the kitchen when I woke up. There was a lizard who wanted to throw me into a bucket of boiling water. I was anxious, took a knife… and killed it. Then after, I found that the auntie was going to be killed and eaten. To save her, I hacked the chef to death.”
It wasn’t difficult to speak of these things in person, but Dong Linhai’s mood didn’t lighten up. After all, he still had the shadow of others’ lives hanging over his head. Whether it was the shedding of blood or the deads’ grievances, it made him uneasy.
Dong Zheng took a deep breath. He could understand his brother’s inner struggle. After all, compared with him, Linhai was still too young. The young man at this age hadn’t yet entered society. His eyes couldn’t hold sand and his heart wasn’t hard enough.
But in the Pure White Realm, these things could kill him.
Dong Zheng said in a low voice, “Linhai, this is not the world we’re familiar with. You should be able to understand that here, if you’re soft-hearted, you will only die yourself. What’s more, do you really think that the lizards are human?”
“I know they’re not people. I can guarantee that in critical situations, I’ll let myself live, but …… but my heart still feels uncomfortable,” Dong Linhai said in a small voice. “I also understand that there will definitely be more bloodshed and death on the pilgrimage later. Maybe, one day, I’ll get used to it and take it for granted… But now, I really can’t accept it.”
“During World War II, the United States conducted an investigation, which indicated that most soldiers’ bullet utilization rate was extremely low. They would rather be killed by an enemy than to kill other humans.”
Dong Zheng looked at the teenager, pursed his lips in the dark, and slowly said, “Later, to change this situation, the US military replaced its ordinary moving targets with humanoid targets during training so that, in wartime, soldiers would easily shoot enemies on instinct. This success allowed the US military to win victories in the following wars. But, at the same time, it also caused tremendous post traumatic stress disorder among the soldiers.”
“Saving Private Ryan?”
Dong Zheng nodded. “Yes. Unwilling to kill creatures similar to us is a normal human instinct. It’s normal to feel uneasy and sad, but here, there’s nothing that can be done about it. If you feel afraid, you can come to me at any time.”
His voice paused, and then softened. “Cui Zuojing is right. You are a little too dependent on me, but it doesn’t matter. No matter who it is, it takes a period of time to adapt.”
No one knew about the dialogue between the brothers that night. Cui Zuojing wasn’t in the prisoner’s space at the time and was instead sitting on the rooftop of the building with Victor.
The evening wind blew across the teen’s forehead, bringing with it a dampness that was unique to the lateness of the night. Victor sat down gracefully, looking into the distance.
Cui Zuojing had just told him what happened in Hamelin.
The emerald green line shimmered in Cui Zuojing’s palm. It was the fragment of “goodwill” displaying the fluctuation of space energy. Victor touched the soul with the tip of his tail and felt the joy it passed through.
“The most important thing now is to find the whereabouts of Fu Zhe, Luo Yan and Nana. After you were summoned away, the clown told me some bad news. Since we left, Luo Yan and Nana were never heard from again. Fortunately, we now have one of Fu Zhe’s soul fragments and can use it to find a clue.”
“I’m very worried about them.” Cui Zuojing held the light in his palm, and the three seals on his wrist flashed. After a moment, he said, “Fortunately, with their current identity as element masters, the queen can’t really kill them directly, which is also a comfort.”
Victor hummed in agreement and said after a moment, “You said you met “Worm of Mystery” in the box? That should be a branch of its consciousness, used to supervise Fu Zhe’s soul fragments.”
“Yes, it was just a very weak branch, but it’s still a bit troublesome. Now the queen’s people have news of my return.” Cui Zuojing said it was troublesome, but he didn’t feel that it was a headache. When he decided to kill Henry to give him relief, he’d already dismissed the idea of temporarily hiding.
Anyway, no matter how he hid, he will always be found sooner or later.
Victor said, “According to “Worm of Mystery’s” character, it wouldn’t tell the queen and the others for the time being. After all, the struggle between the heirs has reached an irreconcilable point. If it can kill us directly without any loss, it’ll definitely gain great merits with the queen. It won’t easily share such good things with others.”
Cui Zuojing sighed softly and hugged Victor in his arms. “I hope so.”
The white cat rubbed his nose comfortably against Cui Zuojing’s side and whispered, “Don’t worry. I will always be with you.”
“Right, how do you feel about the person who signed the prisoner contract with you?” Victor already knew that there was a blood contract between Cui Zuojing and Dong Zheng. In any case, when all was said and done, the only crucial point was regarding Dong Zheng’s character.
“He should be a good helper.” Cui Zuojing gave a fairly good evaluation.
It seemed that it really was good. Victor couldn’t help but smile. “I think so. Not only him, but the boy also has great potential.”
“I’m relieved to hear you say that, Uncle. You’re a good judge of character so I definitely believe in your vision.”
Victor quipped with a smile, “At least, they’re better than when you first entered here. I still remember that you basically needed me and Fu Zhe’s help all time.”
“Hey, I was just sixteen years old. Dong Zheng, he’s an adult. How can he compare with me? And that Dong Linhai is a sports student. Isn’t it normal for him to have better physical fitness than me?” Cui Zuojing hugged Victor, got up, and started to feel a little tired. “Come on. It’s a bit cold here. Let’s go back and take a rest.”
According to Cui Zuojing’s plan, they were supposed to enter the next box after two days of rest. The goal was to earn enough points before the night clearing arrived. But plans often don’t go as expected. When the random box [Labyrinth of Time] entrance suddenly appeared in the nearby news channel and passed into Cui Zuojing’s ears, he immediately decided to change the plan and enter the box.
“What’s that?” Dong Linhai asked.
“You should have read the handbook in the past two days. In addition to buying tickets with points in the trading market, it’s also possible to get them directly in the box. The chance of this may be very small in ordinary boxes, but the Labyrinth of Time is different. It’s the box that produces the tickets.”
Cui Zuojing explained, “If we can get the tickets inside, then we can go directly to the next area and awaken your abilities. Once there, we can also spend more time on novice boxes to accumulate points.”
The news came so suddenly that Dong Zheng didn’t have time to make any special preparations. However, in order to improve their survival rate, Victor signed a contract with Dong Linhai to become his summoning beast. With Cui Zuojing and Victor accompanying them, this random shouldn’t have too many dangerous variables.
Although Victor was just a cat now, and hadn’t shown any fighting power, Dong Linhai’s intuition told him that this was definitely not an ordinary cat.
So on the evening of the third day, Dong Zheng and Dong Linhai left the house and went to the commercial district of the area, opened the door of a coffee shop, put a bag of coffee beans at the front desk as a payment fee, and walked through the unmanned storefront. They drew back the curtain, walked into the back work area, and opened the refrigerator standing in the corner.
Inside the refrigerator was a strange world.
They went in.