Cui Zuojing didn’t look behind him. The man approached steadily, propped one hand on the ground, and lowered himself into a cross-legged position next to him.
For a while, neither of them spoke. Cui Zuojing took out a can of beer from the case and threw it to Dong Zheng.
Dong Zheng took it, glanced at the three empty cans on the ground, and pulled the tab with one hand. Tipping his head back, he took a mouthful.
The beer wasn’t particularly good. It tasted ordinary and smelled of fermented wheat. However, for Dong Zheng, the last time he’d tasted alcohol was when he was alive.
The cracks in the moon were getting larger and larger and eventually reached the point where they could be clearly seen. The moon seemed as if it would shatter at any moment. Dong Zheng was silent for a while and then explained, “Just a moment ago, I used the prisoner control method I’d found in the forum to experiment with breaking off the connection.”
Cui Zuijing said with no sincerity, “Congratulations, you succeeded. I can’t feel the situation on your side at all now. Even while in the prisoner’s space, I won’t be able to see the outside world through your eyes and ears anymore, just like I was able to in Hamelin.”
Dong Zheng nodded, put his beer down, and used his right hand to trace a slightly complicated pattern on his left hand. In the next moment, Cui Zuojing regained his perception of Dong Zheng.
To be honest, the connection between them made Cui Zuojing felt somewhat uncomfortable, even though it’d been with him for several days now.
Dong Zheng picked the beer up again “I just tried it, nothing else.”
Cui Zuojing stared at him for a few seconds, turned his head to continue looking at the moon, and said indifferently, “Oh.”
After drinking three cans of beer, Cui Zuojing’s cheeks were flushed. His every movement was casual and unrestrained, but the depths of his slightly intoxicated eyes remained as cold as ever.
Even a young man at his age still exuded a vague sense of masculine beauty. Dong Zheng couldn’t help thinking about when he’d woken up on the fifth floor of that hospital and saw the droplet of water fall from Cui Zuojing’s long eyelashes and turned into a glass bead.
“The situation was urgent at that time, and so there was no time to make things clear. Now, should we discuss the matter of you running around and causing me to become overdrawn?”
The moment the words left his mouth, Dong Zheng realized that trying to hide it only made it more conspicuous.
He didn’t expect this.
“God.” Cui Zuojing helplessly took a deep breath. He thought everything had already been settled in the hospital.
“Alright. I’ll apologize to you again. After I became a prisoner, I was still very rusty in using my power. Fighting would allow my current state to improve as soon as possible so I fought the prisoner, hoping to restore my strength. The result was that I accidentally played too much. I promise, it will never happen again.”
Dong Zheng looked at Cui Zuojing’s face and looked away the moment the youth turned to look at him. “Ok. My ability seemed to have placed a lot of restrictions on your ability to play.”
“Yes, so if you want me to return to my peak state, you need to quickly become stronger.”
The two sat side by side, leaving a polite distance between their bodies. They no longer spoke and only drank in silence.
Soon, Dong Zheng’s attention was attracted by the strange scene in the sky. He’d never seen such a thing…The natural changes in the sky made people feel a kind of reverent fear.
The largest crack on the moon had already crossed the entire length of its surface, meandering and winding in its journey. Under Dong Zheng and Cui Zuojing’s watchful gaze, the moon silently broke apart.
But Dong Zheng seemed to have heard a sound, as if porcelain had fallen to the ground and shattered.
Small, fragmented pieces fell from one half of the giant moon, while the rest seemed to be imprisoned by gravity and was held tightly in place at a distance. Scarlet splashed and quickly filled the dark blue sky, as if…as if the moon had gushed out a lot of blood when it broke.
Dong Zheng couldn’t restrain the horror in his heart. He sucked in a breath and watched as the blood color spread out as far as the eyes could see, shrouding everything into a blood night sky. Only the broken moon exuded a bright, white glow.
As if the ending had came.
“Is this the Blood Night?” he asked in a low voice.
“Yes.” Cui Zuojing opened another bottle of beer. But he didn’t drink it and simply held the can in his hand to feel its heavy weight. He said softly, “The clearing will start soon.”
Or rather, the slaughter.
After a while, Cui Zuojing turned his head to look at Dong Zheng and asked, “You seem to have something to say?”
Dong Zheng didn’t deny this. The question he wanted to ask was extremely important. “You said that the pilgrimage is extremely dangerous. From the very beginning, in order to face the queen, pilgrims will have to go through boxes, and when inside, it would be impossible to merely flee. Currently, no matter how you look at it, without you and Victor, my and Linhai’s ability to survive is still too weak. Is there a way for us to improve our strengths as soon as possible?”
Cui Zuojing hit the nail on the head. “What did you see in the forum? Ability awakening?”
Dong Zheng hummed in agreement and said, “Is the reason why you’re so strong because of your awakened ability?”
Cui Zuojing thought for a moment. “Partly, yes. Don’t worry too much about improving your strength for the time being. The people in the novice area are almost all the same. Wait until we reach the next area, then you and your brother could try to awaken your abilities. If you have a useful ability, Victor and I could train you and you would quickly improve.”
Dong Zheng said, “You and Victor were both pilgrims before, and your ability didn’t disappear after becoming a prisoner. Can I ask you about your ability?”
There was nothing to hide. Cui Zuojing picked up the pull-out can tab on the floor and randomly dug into the ground until he could free out a block of cement. A few seconds later, the can tab turned into powder in his hand.
“My ability is called [Slayer]. In simple terms, it can turn any objects into the sharpest weapon. But, if it acts on something with a very fragile structure, the thing itself would soon be destroyed. Just like this can tab.”
Cui Zuojing clapped the ashes from his hands and continued, “Victor’s ability is called [Purification]. As its name suggests, it could remove negative influences. It’s reasonable to say that this ability to remove negative influences can be targeted to any affect. But, the strength of the ability is contingent upon the user’s strength himself.”
Dong Zheng reacted almost immediately. “So when Linhai said that Victor purified all the ghosts in the illusion, was that why you and Victor reacted that way? Linhai didn’t know about Victor’s ability, but he still saw something similar to it in the illusion.”
“Yes.” It was really easy to talk to people who are clever, but sometimes it also made him feel uncomfortable to be seen through so clearly. At least, Cui Zuojing felt this way now.
Dong Zheng nodded and sincerely sighed. “Both your abilities are very strong. The warrior and the healer. When combined, it makes it easier to deal with many things.”
“In fact, in the previous pilgrimage, there were a total of five people in our team. To understand it better, you can compare it to a game. There’s an assassin, a warrior, a commander, a mage, and a dad. I was the assassin and Victor was the dad. The warrior was another person.” Cui Zuojing shrugged. “If luck holds, you might be able to see the other teammates later.”
“This world is more terrible than you think. Even if a person seems strong, by himself, he could still be considered weak. It’s better to have a good team. From now on, you should pay more attention to others and form your own team as soon as possible.”
Dong Zheng wanted to ask more questions, but the door to the roof behind them was pushed open. Dong Linhai and Victor climbed up. When the teenager saw Dong Zheng and Cui Zuojing sitting side by side, he said, “You’re actually here, and secretly drinking! Why didn’t you call me? Not loyal at all.”
Dong Linhai sat down next to Dong Zheng and impolitely took a can of beer. He stared at the broken moon in the bloody night sky, unable to move his eyes away. The dark red light spilled over everyone’s face and on Victor’s pure white hair, giving everything a vague meaning.
Dong Linhai quietly sighed and asked, “Is this the Blood Night?”
The cheers of the crowd almost overturned the circus roof. The clown, carrying a frightening box, bowed and left the ring. In the boiling applause, he snapped his fingers in front of the lion, provoking the giant beast into letting out a thunderous roar.
Then, he lifted the heavy curtain and entered the back area.
The sound outside was immediately diminished. The back area was empty. On top of the wine cabinet, colorful spots of lights moved slowly in the glass bottle.
However, in the rainbow-like confetti, a touch of blue was missing.
With every step so heavy that the floor shook, the clown put down the frightening box, untied his large and silly costume, and put on a black suit.
His knotted muscles nearly busted the buttons of the white shirt. After putting on cufflinks in the shape of a six-pointed star, the clown sat in front of the mirror, took out the makeup remover, and wiped away the ridiculous smile that stretched all the way to his ears.
Bright red paint was once smeared into a terrifying scar over his mouth and face. But this time, the corners of his painted mouth drooped heavily. Under his eyes, he drew black teardrops, indigo stars, and a white moon.
The clown put down the pen, his lips collapsed into a straight line. But, the makeup on his face made him look as if he was shedding tears of confession.
He stood up and removed the two large knives hanging on the wall. The gorgeous decorations on the blades’ silver surfaces were like deadly grooves of blood. The blades were arc like crescent moons, and were held tightly by him.
He wore a bow tie and walked out through a corner of the circus performance tent where no one was paying any attention.
“Mmn, it has begun.”
Cui Zuojing’s voice gradually dissipated in the wind, and in the city under his feet, a bloody “clearing” was initiated.
With the flash of a blade, a head flew down, while the body turned into a bright silver light that quietly merged with the moonlight. Leather shoes stepped on the specks of blood on the ground, leaving brightly colored imprints in the soil.
The clown carried his knives and walked the deserted streets, looking for his next target.
As the wind tugged at the corners of their clothes, the three people and one cat sat on the rooftop, listening to the abruptly silenced cries that, from time to time, burst from city corners.
Victor said in a low voice, “The people who died during the Blood Night cannot live in other forms like those who died in the box. For them, this is the final ending.”
Cui Zuojing stood up and saw the clown’s figure passing a street corner, his crescent knives mottled with blood stains.
“Unlike what you may think, those with insufficient points are not automatically cleared by the Pure White Realm; they are killed instead. In different areas, the Blood Night executioner will also differ. The executioner in this area is an old friend of mine.”
“But, this clearing method also gives people with insufficient points one final hope. As long as they can avoid the executioner and live through the Blood Night, even if they didn’t have enough points, they could continue to live on until the next Blood Night arrives.”
—- Volume Two: The Labyrinth of Time [Ends] —-