Dong Zheng was walking down the street when he suddenly felt that something was off.
Two months had passed since they cleared [Bald Soprano]. Xia Qiongyun had joined the Wonton Insurgency and quickly got acquainted with everyone. After her injured leg recovered, they cleared four more boxes.
By this time, they had re-earned the points used to pay for manufacturing a weapon for Dong Zheng. He had also been going back to Heimdall every week for regular meetings. At the meetings, he met some new friends, both of whom were in the same organization and were very good-natured.
It was especially worth mentioning that he became better acquainted with Xia Qiongyun’s former teammate, the Korean Park Yisheng. He was a gentle young man, and such a person as him was indispensable in every stable team. It allowed him to mediate when the other pilgrims became carried away and created contradictions. He also helped foster good relationships in the team, and everyone would listen to what he says.
If anyone was like him in the Wonton Insurgency, it was probably Lin Hangzhi.
Even though she was no longer with her former team, the relationship between Xia Qiongyun and Park Yisheng was still quite good. After meeting a few times, Dong Zheng became familiar with him.
There was also a woman from Spain named Elena García. She was in her twenties, slightly plump, with a kind smile on her face. She was the captain of another strong team.
It may seem like a form of sexism, but it must be said that female captains were rarely seen in the Pure White Realm. In the face of primitive survival, men’s physical attributes allowed them to occupy more space at the table. Even if both genders had the same level of ability, physical strength would tip the balance. The reason Elena could become the captain was not only because of her tyrannical body but also her special ability.
“When I specialized in explosive engineering, I didn’t expect it to become my ability.” Elena smiled and talked about herself in Spanish. “My brother really wanted to learn this. No matter how I scolded him, he thought it was a really cool job.”
“A child is like this in many cases. The more you tell him not to do something, the more he wants to try it.” Dong Zheng could relate. “Is your brother doing good?”
“When the shooting broke out, he wanted to go with me, but I ordered the old man at home to take the car and hide from the catastrophe.” Elena said with emotion, “Speaking of which, I haven’t seen him for ten whole years. I don’t know if he misses me, my dear Domingo.”
Dong Zheng froze and looked at Elena. “Sorry, can you repeat your brother’s name again?”
“Domingo, Domingo García.” Elena knew all too well why Dong Zheng had such a reaction, and smiled. “My parents weren’t too creative with names. Both Elena and Domingo are the most common Spanish names. Is there a problem with it?”
“No, I might just be thinking too much.” Dong Zheng smiled politely. “I also know a Spaniard named Domingo.”
After the week’s regular meeting ended, Dong Zheng walked back. Cui Zuojing didn’t come with him. Ever since it sewed a new leg for Xia Qiongyun, the little bear had been sluggish. Victor said that it took out too many pieces of cloth and that it would need to rest for a while.
The stitched-heart bear was a very important prop, and they couldn’t allow anything to go wrong with it. Therefore, Cui Zuojing stayed in the castle to brainstorm with Victor about how to help the bear recover.
Dong Zheng decided that he might as well buy some daily necessities, so that Lillian wouldn’t have to make a special trip. He was walking to the supermarket when he felt that strange sensation.
He stopped for a moment. The always sensitive and vigilant kernel didn’t give him any warning, but Dong Zheng was very sure that something strange must have happened. The sounds of the drifting leaves, the conversations of pedestrians around him, and the faint chattering from inside the shops on the street, all of them disappeared.
It was as if a pause button had been pressed on the world.
He slowly turned and saw that a grand library had suddenly appeared behind him.
The Baroque-style building that loomed behind him was so massive that it was hard to describe in words. It even covered the sky behind him. Countless eaves and towers streamed along its surface like running water, engulfed between lights and shadows. It gave people a fantastical sense of dislocation─One could hardly tell whether the front arch was horizontal or vertical and whether the protruding corners were acute or obtuse.
When Dong Zheng looked back at the supermarket in the distance, he noticed that it had disappeared. There was nothing on both sides of the street anymore, and that emptiness extended out into the depths.
Dong Zheng took a deep breath, realizing that he was now separated from the Pure White Realm by this chaotic space. He walked step by step towards the building in front of him and didn’t know when the street under his feet suddenly shifted into a thick, red carpet.
He walked up a total of 365 steps and finally reached the open door.
Decadent music came from within. Was it sacred? No, it’s musical notes were simply incomprehensible.
Dong Zheng had heard this kind of sound before when he was in the multi-player box [Labyrinth of Time]. Administrator Karl had used an incomprehensible nonhuman method, among others, as a form of communication.
This was Chaos Library.
After waiting several months, he was finally selected by the library.
Dong Zheng looked up at the tall statue at the door. His eyes told him that this sculpture couldn’t even be called a living thing, but his brain said that this existence was something he couldn’t even begin to comprehend.
Just like ants would always be incapable of comprehending humans thousands of times larger than them.
“A’Zuo,” Dong Zheng called Cui Zuojing in his heart.
Cui Zuojing, who was far away in the castle, felt the call through the blood contract. He handed the little bear to Victor and said, “Dong Zheng said that he saw the library.”
“The library?” Victor was surprised. He didn’t expect it to happen so suddenly. “Then you go quickly. You must pay attention to safety.”
“Mmn, you needn’t wait for Dong Zheng and I. I don’t know when we’ll be back.” Cui Zuojing hurried upstairs to tell Fu Zhe. Finally, he gulped down a cup of water, and his figure disappeared in front of Victor.
There was a bright flash of light in front of Cui Zuojing, and when his vision cleared, all he could see were rows upon rows of bookshelves all around him. Each shelf was more than ten meters high, nearly reaching all the way up to the dome ceiling layered with oil paintings. There were no light fixtures; instead, the light seemed to be everywhere, illuminating every corner and forcing the darkness to hide.
“Welcome to Chaos Library,” a deep, low voice sounded like a bellow from behind him.
Cui Zuojing turned around and saw a humanoid creature with an octopus head wearing a robe with a red book in his hand. Cui Zuojing immediately recognized that the person was one of Chaos Library’s administrators, Karls.
Cui Zuojing wasn’t the least bit afraid, as if this wasn’t the first time he had personal contacts with the creatures of the library. “Do you know where the other side of my blood contract is?”
“Of course.” The tentacles around Karls jaw stretched out to an unknown length, pulled a chair from where Cui Zuojing could barely see, and placed it behind him. “This is his test, not yours. Please don’t worry. Sit down and take a break.”
Cui Zuojing sat down obediently, and Karls went back to sorting the books on the shelf.
“Has the library suffered anymore invasions?”
Karls said, “No, we have strengthened our security work. It’s a pity that we failed to catch the last intruder, but with the help of pilgrims from various regions, the damage was minor.”
Cui Zuojing nodded. He looked up at the mural on the upper dome. The gorgeous colors outlined many vivid figures, none of which he knew.
The history of the Pure White Realm wasn’t something that he could imagine, so how could he fully comprehend it?
Cui Zuojing thought of Dong Zheng and guessed that the test given by the library would definitely be very difficult. The young man sighed. Since he couldn’t help him, he could only hope that everything goes well for Dong Zheng.
What would top level brain domain developers be tested on?
Dong Zheng awoke to coldness.
Water splashed on his face, causing him to jerk up in an agitated manner. The man with a scar stretching across his left eye smiled and moved the flask of water away from Dong Zheng’s face. He said, “Finally, you’re willing to wake up.”
The man’s hair was tied with a long red strip of cloth. He was wearing black clothes in the Jinyiwei¹ style with a xiuchun sword² hanging at his waist. He looked to be about 30 to 40 years old. Two horses were tied near the river to graze and drink water. Dong Zheng pushed himself up and discovered that he was also wearing a Jinyiwei uniform called a Flying Fish garment. There were wounds on his arms that had not yet fully healed.
Dong Zheng didn’t know what was going on. He’d called Cui Zuojing, but before the young man could appear next to him, the door in front of him suddenly burst with a flash of light. An unyielding gravitational force sucked him into the dazzling light, nearly blinding him. As a result, he could only close his eyes. When he opened them again, the scene in front of him had completely changed.
Was this the library’s test? Dong Zheng had listened to Fu Zhe’s experiences with the library several times. There were still so many things to understand, and so he didn’t expect that it would come so soon. He hadn’t even had time to enter the library yet and was still hovering at the door. How did he suddenly enter the test?
But since he was already here, thinking more would be superfluous. Whatever he wanted to do in the library, he would first need to pass this test. Dong Zheng stood up holding onto the trunk of a tree. He pretended to be confused and asked, “How did we get here?”
The scarred man said, “You fainted from dehydration on the way. Fortunately, we left the desert fairly quickly and found this water source. Time is short. The longer those evil spirits are on the loose, the more people may be injured. Now that you’ve rested, let’s hurry up and go.”
After talking to the man, Dong Zheng quickly found out the situation. The man in front of him was called Ren Heming, and Dong Zheng’s character’s name was “Lao Qi³.” Both of them studied under the Maoshan School. Ren Heming was his senior brother, and he himself was just a junior disciple who’d entered the school not too long ago. Afterward, they went down the mountain to practice and were recruited by the imperial court to serve as Jinyiwei. Their current task was to hunt down the evil spirits that fled from the capital. They chased after the evil spirits all the way to the desert, but they got lost. Lao Qi fainted due to dehydration, and Ren Heming finally left the desert with him and entered a dense, unknown forest.
The talisman showed that this was also the direction in which the evil spirits had fled. Dong Zheng accepted this setting of the imperial courts mixed with spirits and devils. As a Maoshan School disciple and a Jinyiwei, they had been ordered by the court to hunt down evil spirits—though every word was full of shit, but it fit the style of the Pure White Realm.
Ren Heming gave Dong Zheng a stack of talisman paper, pointed at the distinct cinnabar patterns, and explained, “This can help us find the directions of the evil spirits and help us hunt them down. This mark can also help us track each other down, and if you need to create fire, just throw it at the target.”
Dong Zheng silently remembered the instructions. He put the stack of talisman papers in his pocket. Ren Heming’s style of talking wasn’t like that of the bald soprano but was more like a genteel palace maid. He and Dong Zheng communicated comfortably and without pressure. After a short break, they led their horses away in the direction of the evil spirits as directed by the talisman.
Even though that forest was particularly lush, the horses were still able to move forward. They used their xiuchun sword to clear out the bushes and low branches along the road. Dong Zheng spoke to Ren Heming intentionally, wanting to get additional information and clues from him. Ren Heming was also very dedicated to playing the role of an NPC. Every question that Dong Zheng asked, he would answer. Their exchanges flowed naturally. Or perhaps…after a long time of talking, it became difficult to find someone who can talk so much.
Dong Zheng also didn’t know why he felt this way about Ren Heming.
After walking for an hour, the scenery in front of them slightly opened up. Dong Zheng’s vision was sharp, and he knew with a glance that something unusual was up ahead.
“What is that?” he asked.
Ren Heming said, “Let’s go and see.”
They walked closer and saw a stone brick entrance. The stairs slanted down one step at a time. The sunlight in the forest only illuminated a short section of the road, and they had no idea what was down below. Dong Zheng looked at the dark hole, and an unknown, inexplicable chill rose up in his heart.
Xixi: So for this arc, the author decided to experiment with a Choose Your Adventure style. It does fit very well with the nature of this box. Lucky for me, the upcoming chapters are fairly short so I should be able to get all three chapters done as if it were one full chapter. You can play along and make the decisions for Dong Zheng once the chapters are linked or you can click the next button when the next chapter is posted and read all the choices as I post them.
(1) Jinyiwei — (literal translation: brocade-cloth guard) Imperial secret police that served the emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). See pictures below for some handsome Jinyiwei and their smart uniforms:
(2) Xiuchun sword — Sword used exclusively by the Jinyiwei. See image above or below:
(3) Lao Qi — Old Seven.