Chapter 34: The Haunted Mansion By The Tarn (I)
“Even the studio’s name was pinned… seems like Dream Corp. doesn’t prohibit specialized teams or professional players from participating.” said Feng Bujue.
“This isn’t good news for us unorganized behind-the-scenes players.” Long Aomin said. “If the game company doesn’t restrict these types of studios, it’s possible that the game’s superstructure could fall under the control of a small group of people. For example… they could pass an agreement to control the market price of the highest rated equipment, monopolize some of the high-level in-game resources or intelligence, and so on.”
“It’s also possible that… Dream Corp. believes Thriller Paradise’s game balance is incorruptible. The studio’s profit margins have already been limited by the System, and those hypothetical situations that you came up with are, technically speaking, impossible.” Feng Bujue paused, then continued, “Of course, we don’t need to blindly worry about these things; we can’t really do anything about them.” He paused for a second, then asked, “Oh, by the way Long Bro, I have a question, though I don’t know whether or not it’s appropriate to ask… are you a professional player?”
“Ah? Ha ha, how could this question be inappropriate; it’s not like being a professional player is an unsightly business.” Long Aomin laughed. “I actually quite admire professional players, but I’m not one.” He answered, “I’m just a really passionate game enthusiast, that’s all.”
Long Aomin had told the truth. In reality, he was a police officer by the name of “Long Liwen”. Even though his name had the “Wen” character in it, he was still said to be strong, fierce, and daring when he carried out his duties, and had a rather self-sacrificing demeanor. (TL: The “Wen” in Long Liwen is “文” which also means gentle.) In the past, he’d only been a single step away from being transferred to the SWAT squad. Unfortunately for him however, the road to happiness is paved with hardships. Once, during an operation to apprehend a criminal, he received a pretty decent wound. Long story short, ever since that happened, his knee had… he could only sit at a desk in the bureau from then on. Although it didn’t affect his daily life, and in some sense, he was still promoted. For him, it was no longer realistic to return to the front lines.
“So it was like that…” Feng Bujue said, “I thought you were one of those professional solo players.”
“Heh heh… actually, I don’t spend that much time online. These past two days my wife has accompanied her mother outside of the province I live in to sweep tombs and to visit relatives. I just happened to be off work, and could thus come online a bit more. Tomorrow I need to go back to…” he hesitated slightly, deciding not say “the bureau” out loud, “work for my shift. I probably won’t be online then.”
“Then we should hurry up and queue for a Scenario. Tonight we’ll strive to complete two to three rounds of Team Survival Mode.” said Wang Tanzhi eagerly.
“Then join the queue.” said Feng Bujue.
“I’m also ready, queue us up.” chimed in Long Aomin.
Lil’ Tan gave a small “oh” as a System Notification immediately sounded.
This time Feng Bujue wasn’t the team leader. He didn’t have the right to select, so the Notification’s contents were somewhat different. It omitted a part from the beginning and directly said:
【Your group is joining Team Survival Mode (Normal). The number of team members has been randomly generated: 6 people.】
【Your group has been queued; searching for other ready individuals or groups.】
【Matching completed. Syncing mind bridge. Generating Scenario…】
【Loading, please wait.】
“Welcome to Thriller Paradise.” The voice that greeted them sounded like the way a patient with multiple personality disorder would speak. Halfway through, the words the voice seem to tear at its throat and changed into a different voice altogether.
【Loading complete. You are currently engaged in Team Survival Mode (Normal).】
【This mode offers a summary for the current Scenario. Additionally, there is a random chance that a Secondary Mission and Special Worldview will be generated.】
【Scenario Clear Rewards: Randomly draw one Skill Card the player is able to currently learn.】
【The Scenario’s summary will play soon. Once it is finished, the game will immediately begin.】
This time the CG opening began in a section of mountain forestry. The first scene was from a first person point of view that was slowly moving forward. The System narrated,【One autumn night, you and a few newly acquainted friends from a tour group have lost your way in the mountains. Starving and freezing, you tread through the dense tall grass and pass through withered thickets. Miraculously, you manage to discover a mansion, still standing and intact】
The opening proceeded to showcase an old mansion. The dark clouds in the sky hung low to the ground and shrouded the dreary looking residence. Next to the residence was a tarn, and on the side of the mansion facing the water were two windows. Like this, the house had gained a pair of empty eyes that stood and overlooked its own distorted reflection.
【An ominous, unimaginable odor wafts from within the house, the withered thicket, the dreary fence, and the motionless pond. But you all have no choice; the biting cold has drilled into your bones, and hunger has made you lower your guard. You all decide to enter the mansion…】
The words cut off here. A light flashed before Feng Bujue’s eyes, and he discovered that he was now inside of the large house.
He immediately labeled the room as the parlor. It was lofty and spacious, had wooden floors, and both the furnishing and decor were 19th-century style. The chandelier that hung from the ceiling, and the wall lamps on the surrounding walls, clearly used electricity, but other than these lights, there were no signs of any other electrical devices.
Opposite the parlor was a flight of steps about two meters wide that likely led to the second floor. Surrounding it were three or four doors, and there was also a corridor behind the stairs, but the lighting back there was bad. The end of the corridor couldn’t be seen, and it was impossible to know where it led.
Feng Bujue took a few seconds to observe his surroundings before his line of sight finally fell on the three unfamiliar players in the parlor.
The first was a male player who was unexpected named “Unrivaled Brave One(Yong Zhe Wu Di)”. His username only differed from that Level 20 player “Fearless Brave One(Yong Zhe Wu Ju)” by a single word, but was still far from Level 20; he was currently only level 15. His title was【Reckless Brawler】. From his physical appearance, Unrivaled Brave One was the tall and powerful type like Long Aomin. But compared to Long Aomin’s Arnold Schwarzenegger-like build, he was clearly lacking a little, no matter in height, muscle, or imposing air…
The other two were female players. They appeared to have entered as a group, so their original standing position was quite close. It was possible to gain a few clues—about their level of closeness—from their names. One was called “Like the Rain after Parting”, while the other was called “Soulfully Sorrowful Smiling Skeleton”. Furthermore, the two were both Level 13.
Rain seemed to be in her early twenties, with short hair just long enough to cover her neck. The odd thing was, although her face was very pretty it didn’t feel eye-catching at all. It was reasonable to say that… nowadays, including the usage of the Game Cabin to alter physical appearances, everyone could be a beautiful woman. Making a man’s face more feminine was no problem. If female players entered virtual reality game and didn’t change their physical appearance to max beauty, it was akin to not wearing makeup before leaving the house, and was confusing. Could it be that this lady’s real appearance, in reality, was exotic to the point that their in-game appearance was already considered to be altered to the extreme?
When Feng Bujue looked at her, the other’s line of sight just happened to also land on him. What impression a person leaves on another largely depended on the expression in their eyes. If it was said that the expression in Feng Bujue’s eyes was like tranquility right now, then the expression that Rain’s eyes held should similar to a murderous air. Moreover, an ice-cold murderous air. This wasn’t a wide-eyed glare, and even less a ‘pretending to be cold-hearted’ glare. Rather, it was a completely unconscious sort of display, from someone in a normal state. This was the expression of someone who dealt in the assassination industry in real life.
Moving his line of sight up, Feng Bujue looked at Like the Rain after Parting’s Title,【Ruthless Beheader】. When he saw it, he cursed from the bottom of his heart. “sh*t… what’s with this situation. Did the secret service’s agents come join this game just to practice their courage…”
The pretty Sorrowful appeared much more normal. She appeared to be one or two years younger than Rain, oval faced, delicate with a lovely appearance, had long hair with no bangs, and a faint smile that tugged at the corner of her lips from time to time. But…her eye’s didn’t have the slightest smile in them.
Soulfully Sorrowful Smiling Skeleton’s Title was【Shrewd Gunman】. Bearing nothing unexpected, she should be a player who preferred to specialize in guns, and furthermore, possibly plays very well with them.
“Something wrong?” suddenly asked Rain.
Her gaze was aimed straight at Feng Bujue, her expression ice-cold, and her sentence concise and comprehensive.
Feng Bujue knew she was asking why he’d kept staring at them. He squeezed out a smile and randomly thought of a topic to greet the other with. “Um… the thing is, your nicknames give off quite a bit of a “shocking” feeling, yeah.”
Unexpectedly, Rain chose not to say anything in reply, as if she’d just heard a line of nonsense that was pointless to answer. Feng Bujue instantly felt awkward.
Upon seeing this, Sorrowful couldn’t help but laugh, and replied soon after, “We’re all in the same boat. You guy’s IDs are also very interesting.” She knew that her older cousin didn’t like to speak, and offered a line to give Feng Bujue a way out of the awkward situation.
To roughly explain the two girls’ circûmstances, Rain’s maternal grandfather’s older sister was Sorrowful’s paternal grandmother, thus they basically had this sort of familial relationship. The two of them were actually both twenty-two this year. Rain had disliked talking ever since she was a child, but she was actually very opinionated. She’d never lost a fight before, even under the situation that her opponent was a man. She was just naturally this ruthless.
Meanwhile, Sorrowful was like a child who’d grown up; she was bizarre every day and loved teasing people. Furthermore, she was very intelligent. If it was IQ, hers was even higher than Feng Bujue’s. Only, she didn’t have odd hobbies like reading or deduction, and such.
What? You’re asking why I wrote such a clear explanation? Of course, it’s because these two are main characters! We’re already thirty chapters in, how could it be acceptable if I didn’t have Girl 1 and Girl 2 appear? Could it be that, deep in your heart, you were expecting the System to turn into a lady, and for something to happen between it and the main character? If you actually want to see this kind of thing, go read a frivolous fiction novel, b*stard!
“Ah… I’m more than flattered.” Taking this safe line out, he immediately turned his gaze towards Unrivaled Brave One, “This… Unrivaled Bro, might I venture to ask what relationship you have with ‘Fearless Brave One’?”
“A work one.” Unrivaled adopted an unwilling-to-speak expression, “Don’t bother asking about anything else, I’m about to be annoyed to death by you ‘leisure players’.” When he said this phrase, it clearly carried a tone of mockery and disdain.
“Oh~it turns out you’re a professional god. Such a pleasure, such a pleasure.” Feng Bujue used an even more disdainful manner of speech.
The other gave a sharp, cold snort, and pointed his nose in the air as he turned his face. If it weren’t for the System blocking him from doing so, he probably would’ve already burst out with a curse.
At this moment, a sound from the System broke the somewhat stifling mood. 【Main Mission has been triggered】