Big Gold Chain decisively shouted out, “Quickly get on the boat!”
At the moment, no one dared to voice any differing opinions. After all, they could tell that if they continued to stay there, they would be swallowed up by the abyss the next second.
Everyone turned to quickly get onto the boat. But very soon, a glaring problem emerged – this fishing boat was old and rickety. Just by looking at it, it could at most accommodate two to three people. But there were thirteen of them. So, if the whole lot of them went on, wouldn’t the boat sink?
It was at this point that the woman among the quiet trio opened her mouth to say, “The game wouldn’t have created an unsolvable situation, especially since the game has just begun. Get onboard!”
As she spoke, she took the lead to first get onto the boat. Her two companions didn’t hesitate to follow after her.
Everyone else quickly followed suit. Eventually, Xiao Tangqiu also pulled the small celebrity onboard.
Under that heavy load, the small fishing boat rocked violently, causing everyone’s expression to turn pale. They were all afraid that the boat would capsize within the next second. But thank goodness, the small fishing boat swayed a few more times before quickly regaining stability. Although it seemed barely up to the task, it held steady and didn’t sink.
Xiao Tangqiu had just breathed a sigh of relief before he noticed that the abyss had spread to envelop the riverbank. He immediately urged, “Quickly, go!”
The old man stared blankly at Xiao Tangqiu while letting out a strange “hehe” laughter at the same time. Xiao Tangqiu couldn’t help but feel as if a draft of cold air had washed over him. The old man grabbed the bamboo pole unhurriedly and began to propel the boat forwards. His actions were painfully slow, as if he hadn’t had enough strength to move the boat.
“Quickly!” The yellow-haired delinquent noticed his darkening surroundings and chased the old man, “Quickly move! Stinky old man! Can you row or not ah?! If you can’t, then let me do it!”
But the old man couldn’t be bothered with Yellow Hair and pretended as if he didn’t hear a word. His actions continued to be tortuously slow. Driven by anxiety, Yellow Hair was just about to snatch the bamboo pole from the old man, when Big Gold Chain beside him suddenly said, “That’s enough! Turn around and look again!”
Yellow Hair turned to look back in fear, only to find that the abyss had spread to the riverbank and not any further. Everyone else turned to look back as well, and was faced with the same strange picture. That terrifying abyss seemed to have swallowed the road which they came from. Only the nearby fishing village and the river which they were traveling on seemed to exist; they were surrounded by the abyss.
Xiao Tangqiu frowned; he wasn’t sure why, but the abyss gave him a feeling of intelligence. It felt as if the abyss had its eyes fixed on him.
He didn’t know if anyone else felt the same way, but he didn’t intend to ask anyways.
The expression on everyone’s faces were extremely ugly. No one spoke until Big Gold Chain took the initiative to break the silence. “This old man moves too slowly. Why not use this time to introduce ourselves? I’ll go first. My name is Luo Mansu. I’m an old player.”
“Of course, I’m no merciful God so I don’t plan on helping for free. I’ll tell you the truth; there’s no way to complete the game alone, unless it’s one of those crazy powerful freaks. But those freaks are one in a million. Normal players like me still require help from my companions, even if I’m an old player.”
Big Gold Chain nonchalantly suggested, “If you’re willing to partner up with me, follow me once we get off the boat. Of course, I won’t force you if you don’t trust me; we’ll just walk our separate paths. You can think about it for now.”
Everyone looked at each other in dismay, then secretly sized up Big Gold Chain, trying to figure out if this Big Gold Chain was to be trusted. It was just that Big Gold Chain looked very aggressive, making it difficult for anyone to trust him just like that. However, he spoke honestly, and made no attempt to dress up his words. Instead, he admitted to a motive from the very start.
The old man continued to dawdle on. Although the fishing village didn’t appear to be far off, God only knows when they would arrive, given the old man’s speed. Upon seeing this, the others started to introduce themselves and at the same time, looked for suitable partners.
Yellow Hair was called Lu Dadong; the guy with the glasses was Zeng Jinping; the uncommunicative guy in the suit was Jiang Zihan; as for the couple, the woman was called Lu Xiaotao and the man was Yang Bing; one of the two girls sitting together was called Ding Tiantian and the other, Ding Mimi. It was only then that they realized the two girls were actually twins.
The quiet team of three looked like they didn’t want to have anything to do with the others and reported three very obviously fake names, “Zhang San, Li Si, Wang Wu.”
Xiao Tangqiu followed the others and gave his name, “I’m Xiao Tangqiu.”
Before this, Luo Mansu didn’t react to the others when they shared their names, but seemed to have some interest when it came to Xiao Tangqiu’s turn. “What is it that you do?”
Xiao Tangqiu replied impassively, “I’m self-employed.”
He originally thought Luo Mansu would continue to ask him, but Luo Mansu merely smiled and turned his attention onto someone else.
The small celebrity sitting next to Xiao Tangqiu cautiously spoke, “I’m Tang Mianmian.”
Luo Mansu nodded his head perfunctorily; it wasn’t clear if he had remembered their names. This entire time, the old man rowing the boat behaved as if he hadn’t heard anything, staring blankly ahead as he leisurely rowed.
Xiao Tangqiu looked at the bamboo pole in the old man’s hands, then looked at the surface of the water but all he saw was a sheet of darkness. This was no ordinary river, where the water was clear enough to see all the way to the bottom. The dark, murky waters only incited fear.
Once again, everyone fell silent, and the small fishing boat regained deathly stillness. But it was right then that the old man started to sing, his hoarse and unpleasant voice carrying a strange, eerie melody.
Dewy green leaves and branches in her maiden home
Married out, thereafter, wilted, yellow and wan
Time and again the waters submerge
Resurfacing, gleaming with tears
Listening to the song made everyone feel uncomfortable all over. They moved away from the old man, trying to create more of a distance between him and themselves. Xiao Tangqiu frowned slightly, and noticed that Luo Mansu and the quiet group of three seemed to be contemplating something. Their gazes were lowered, keeping their thoughts to themselves.
The old man finished singing his song, bowing his head as he snickered. “We’re here.”
Everyone looked up and saw that the fishing village was indeed close up ahead despite being a distance away just a second ago. Suppressing the horror in their hearts, they carefully got down from the boat.
From a distance, this fishing village didn’t seem to be different from other regular fishing villages but as soon as they got closer, a strange dissonance seemed to be present everywhere they looked. The houses in the fishing village were all low, narrow and dilapidated, completely unlike a regular house that could shield off the wind and rain. There were a few people out on the streets, but they had a dull and lifeless look in their eyes. The wooden expression on their faces were devoid of any emotion. Just by looking at them, it was obvious they weren’t normal. On top of that, they weren’t able to walk very far given their sluggish movements.
A few girls were bunched up together, frightened to the point of shaking, yet, Luo Mansu’s expression remained completely calm, apparently used to this situation.
It was right then, a voice that sounded very old called out.
“Are you the university students who are here to do a study? Welcome to Yunjia Village. I’m the village chief; I’ll take you to your accommodations. Please follow me.”
Out of nowhere, this old man had suddenly materialized in front of them, just like a ghost, scaring everyone out of their wits. But very quickly, they breathed out a sigh of relief. Regardless, this old man looked much more normal compared to the other villagers. At least from appearance alone, he didn’t seem very different from themselves.
“You’re the village chief?” Luo Mansu rubbed his chin, “Alright then, take us to our accommodations.”
Without giving them another glance, the village chief turned to go; his movement was neither fast nor slow, but at least it wasn’t like those other villagers who moved at a zombie-like pace.
“Let’s follow him. Once we get to where we’re staying, we can go separately.” Luo Mansu dismissed their doubts, “This village chief should be an NPC, so he wouldn’t take the initiative to attack us under normal circumstances. Since we’ll be here for three days, we’ll definitely need a place to stay.”
Xiao Tangqiu raised his eyebrow, “Under normal circumstances?”
Luo Mansu flashed Xiao Tangqiu a smile, but didn’t answer his question. Tang Mianmian couldn’t help but ask, “What if we don’t follow him?”
“You can choose to stay on the shore during these three days. It’s up to you.” Luo Mansu shrugged his shoulders, “Or you could look for those villagers and ask if they’ll take you in?” Luo Mansu then turned to follow the village chief who was up ahead.
Tang Mianmian glanced at those villagers who resembled walking corpses and immediately pulled Xiao Tangqiu to keep up with the village chief.
They followed the village chief, walking around for what seemed like half the village, before he stopped in front of a house.
“This is it.”
They looked at the house, sizing it up; although this house was a little run-down, it looked like it could still withstand the wind and rain. A few of them sighed in relief.
The village chief was about to leave after completing his task, but was stopped by Luo Mansu, who pointed towards a building in the center of the village, “Wait a minute, can you tell me what that is?”
Xiao Tangqiu, along with the others, turned to look in that direction. It was an old-fashioned, nostalgically charming building of ancient Chinese design. It stood in the middle of the village, looking thoroughly out of place against the backdrop of this decrepit village.
Almost instantly, the village chief’s expression changed; his lips promptly shut tight, unwilling to say anything else.
“Hey, you……” Luo Mansu pressed on, but the village chief turned and left without answering.
His footsteps were brisk, and although he seemed to be walking, his pace was incredibly unnatural. In the blink of an eye, he disappeared from everyone’s sight.