The corpse thief’s speed as he rushed over, the blood pouring from his chest, the rate at which the wound healed…Everything slowed.
Cui Zuojing adjusted his figure in mid-air. With a backhand toss, he threw the boning knife behind him. The narrow blade pierced the floor at a diagonal angle. Due to the huge force in which he was thrown, his feet slid across the floor as he skidded backward on the soles of his shoes, his movements making a sharp sound. He didn’t stop until the back of his heel touched the handle of the knife.
For a moment, his figure seemed to have frozen. Then in the next instant, he stepped on the handle of the knife and threw himself toward the corpse thief, who was also rushing at him with the iron rod raised for a fatal blow.
With the power of time, Cui Zuojing slowed his opponent’s movements until his speed resembled that of a century-old woman. He rushed past the thief, swung his knife, and landed agily.
Cui Zuojing stood up, his expression relaxed as he shook off the blood on the blade.
He turned his head just in time to see the corpse thief’s head slide off his neck. The headless corpse stood there for a moment, and then crashed to the ground a few seconds later.
Cui Zuojing turned around, but unexpectedly, a cold light flashed in his eyes. He retreated immediately, and the iron rod flew past his cheek, leaving a bloody line behind.
Even after losing his head and falling down, the corpse thief still hadn’t died!
The headless body crawled towards the young man and had just risen on one foot when it suddenly froze.
Rudolf stabbed the knife down harder.
After confirming that the other party wouldn’t get up anymore, Rudolf hurriedly moved away from the terrifying corpse and asked, “Are you okay?!”
“I’m okay.” Cui Zuojing was surprised by Rudolf’s action. He bent down to take out the sharp knife inserted in the thief’s heart and told Rudolf, “Let’s go.”
Rudolf had a complicated look on his face, but he took the proffered bloodied knife.
When the corpse thief threw him through the air, Cui Zuojing had accidentally seen a bloodied handprint on the wall. He walked to where the boning knife was embedded into the ground and found the bloodied mark.
“Here.” Now that the bloodstains had appeared again, they hurried after it. Rudolf turned his head and saw that some mysterious force seemed to be pulling the head of the corpse thief toward the headless body.
So this was how it was resurrected!
Rudolf remembered the confinement room, where Cui Zuojing seemed to have chopped this person into pieces. But the corpse thief still managed to catch up. He shuddered without realizing it and sped up to follow closer behind Cui Zuojing.
God knew what kind of hell this lunatic asylum was!
To think that he’d managed to actually stay here safely for three years!
The bloodstains gradually became more visible, leading them forward. Behind them came the sounds of haunting footsteps. Cui Zuojing and Rudolf ran quickly toward the third floor, where the patients resided in
Some rooms were locked from the outside with various patients living behind each door. The bloodstains disappeared at the end of the hallway, where there was a door.
“How come there’s a door here?!” Rudolf was shocked. This was the path he’d walked through every day when he went in and out of each ward and when he went downstairs. He was very familiar with this path. He was certain that there wasn’t a door on that wall before.
“This is the exit,” Cui Zuojing turned around and said. “Only by getting out of this door can you really escape this insane asylum. Rudolph, are you willing to abandon everything in the past, leave with me, and see the truth of this world?”
“What?” Rudolf didn’t understand his meaning.
Cui Zuojing saw the corpse thief on the other end of the hallway and no longer hesitated. He cut open the lock, pushed the door open, and walked in, urging, “Come with me!”
The scene behind the door was distorted and chaotic, but the moment Cui Zuojing stepped in, the chaotic scene became clear. The door seemed to be separating two vastly different hallways. The hallway in the lunatic asylum was dark and the walls were dirty; in contrast, the hallway on this side was neat and gorgeous, with velvet carpets.
The soft light illuminated the entire hallway, but it couldn’t pass through the door to illuminate the other side, as if the door itself was a barrier.
The moment Cui Zuojing walked through completely and as Rudolf attempted to enter, the door suddenly tried to close without warning. Cui Zuojing flipped the kitchen knife in a backhand grip and wedged it between the door panel and the doorframe, successfully propping the door open.
He abruptly pushed the door wider and stretched out his hand to Rudolf. “Come in!”
Rudolf put his hand in his palm, full of sweat. Cui Zuojing tried to drag him over and pull him out of the lunatic asylum and into the next scene.
But just like how the light couldn’t shine into the lunatic asylum, Rudolf slammed into an invisible barrier. He cried out in horror and realized that he couldn’t enter at all.
He could clearly see the bright corridor with the velvet carpet on the other side of the door and the young man’s slightly anxious face, but he couldn’t take a single step into it!
There was a mysterious force stopping him!
What was this? !
By this time, the corpse thief had arrived behind Rudolf. With a furious roar, he swung the iron rod out, intent on smashing Rudolf’s head!
To let go and directly enter the next scene, or to save Rudolf?
Rudolf was just an ordinary NPC in the box, and if Cui Zuojing returned to the lunatic asylum, he might not be able to pass through the door again!
Sometimes, it didn’t even take a second to make a decision. Time stagnated as Cui Zuojing strode back to the lunatic asylum. He sized the iron rod that was no more than ten centimeters away from the back of Rudolf’s head and swung the knife in his hand, taking care of the corpse thief once more.
Then he opened the lock to the nursing station next door and pulled Rudolf into the room.
After closing the door, Cui Zuojing allowed time to resume. Rudolf was in a total state of shock. He remembered the words Cui Zuojing had said before:
“If everything in this world is an illusion, what would you do?”
It turned out that everything he had experienced, all his forty years of life, that rich and brilliant past, as well as the three years of suffering in the lunatic asylum, were all false?
This world…was fake?
The moment he hit the unknown barrier in the door, he seemed to have touched the edge of this world. The memory that had been washed away by Kether finally returned in intermittent spurts. He remembered his names: Alden, Luke, Miraden, Ji Haobin, Chen Meng…These were all his names.
These were all “him.”
He had countless identities, countless pasts, countless endings, but never a future.
Rudolf opened his mouth, his throat so choked that he could hardly speak. “…What is this place?”
“We call this a ‘box’. Each box is a small space that exists alone. We shuttle through many boxes to complete our tasks,” Cui Zuojing lightly explained. “And, as an NPC, that is, a non-player character, you were set up by the program to cooperate with those who enter the box to complete their tasks.”
“The things that I’d experienced were all fake, right?” Rudolf’s voice was trembling. “Even the me now is fake? You want to take me away from this place, but because I am different, I can’t leave?”
The night was bleak, and even the night crows had stopped calling.
“Get me out of here.”
After a long moment, Rudolf seemed to have calmed down. Cui Zuojing could only imagine what kind of struggled he had gone through, but Rudolf now looked at him with tears in his eyes and said hoarsely, “After working so hard these three years, this is my only wish.”
“Okay,” Cui Zuojing said. “I’ve said that I will try my best to help you leave.”
“Will it hurt?”
“Trust me. My technique is very good. I hope that next time I see you, you’ll be having a better life.” The young man stood up and gave Rudolf a hug.
The other party also hugged him tightly. Rudolf’s eyes were wide, as if he wanted to take a last look at this world that had made him suffer so much. Was his mother still waiting for him to escape from the insane asylum and return home?
The tip of the knife instantly entered the back of his head.
This knife directly damaged Rudolf’s nervous system. He instantly lost perception of his entire body, and then the knife was pulled out and pierced his heart accurately from behind.
Hot blood gushed out.
As if Rudolph was a real person and was no different from him.
Cui Zuojing stepped back and let go of Rudolph’s body.
Putting the other party flat on the nurse’s bed, Cui Zuojing closed his eyelids, gave him one final look, and turned to leave.
Outside the door, the corpse thief had resurrected again.
Cui Zuojing directly froze time, refusing to waste any more effort with this thing. He pushed open the door at the end of the hallway and found that it was still connected to the other side.
Great. Cui Zuojing let go and walked in.
The door closed behind him, cutting off the connection between the two scenes. From now on, he could never return to that lunatic asylum.
[Mission Update: Find self]
What kind of weird task was this… Cui Zuojing ridiculed, but he was also a little relieved. Now he was finally certain that he hadn’t traveled outside the box.
He didn’t know if he would be able to find Dong Zheng and the others.
In an attempt to lift his gloomy mood, Cui Zuojing took a deep breath and no longer thought about Rudolf, who had been “freed” from this box. He slowly walked through the European-style hotel. The velvet carpet absorbed his footsteps, but the heavy air and quiet atmosphere gave rise to a sense of dread and claustrophobia.
Based on the number of doors in the hallway, there seemed to be only five rooms in total. Soon the hallway came to a dead-end in the form of a large oil painting hung on the wall, displaying the sky and clouds burnt in brilliant red and yellow.
Cui Zuojing went up and looked carefully. He found a small exposed corner on the edge of the picture frame. He squeezed it out and found that it was a piece of paper. The note was light brown, as if it had been written in a hurry with an eyebrow pencil. Although it was panicked, the writing was still quite graceful.
This should be the name of a staff member.
Cui Zuojing put the note away. At this moment, he suddenly felt a heat wave surging up behind him, almost scorching the small hairs on the back of his neck.
He turned around and suddenly realized that at some point, the corridor had changed.
A fire seemed to have engulfed everything in an instant. After it burned, the luxurious carpet turned into scorched rags and soot. The wallpaper had peeled off in large swaths to reveal the dark walls behind. The door was scorched and deformed, and the ceiling was a mess. Even the chandeliers had exploded directly, glass fragments falling and littering the ground, which seemed to have melted under the high temperature and was now condensed into different shapes after cooling down.
Cui Zuojing wasn’t surprised. He stood there and waited for a while to see whether other abnormalities would occur. Then he turned his head to see the painting still hanging on the wall, except that there was only one frame left. With a single touch, the charred half directly disintegrated into ash.