Ch119 – The Cycle of Karma, What Goes Around Comes Around (33)
After his initial daze, Yuan Benshan gradually grew ecstatic. He turned and pulled his lover into a tight hug. None of his words landed in a normal pitch, “We’re out! It’s finally over!”
At that moment, his eyes were filled with scenes of Song Chunyang’s care and infatuation for him in the task worlds.
In the sixth world, in order to protect him, he’d risked being dragged into the wall, and becoming a ghost in the wall;
In the eight world, he’d been willing to give him his eye;
In the ninth world, he’d told him how to deal with those volatile children;
And just now, he’d even told him the first answer he’d gotten, only hoping that he’d be able to live……
Yuan Benshan had never felt something this strongly: Song Chunyang was the only person who could accompany him to the end of his life.
He buried his face in Song Chunyang’s soft hair and took a deep breath. “Chunyang, you’re my destination.”
Chi Xiaochi stared at the display panel in front of him.
Yuan Benshan’s goodwill towards Song Chunyang had reached 98, close to full.
……For Chi Xiaochi, this was already enough.
Chi Xiaochi pushed himself up onto his tiptoes, reached out his hand, wrapped it around his neck, and rested his chin on his shoulder.
In a flash, between his fingers appeared a needle that shone with a watery gleam.
Chi Xiaochi said, “Yes, it’s all over.”
Then, he unerringly pierced the tip of the needle into Yuan Benshan’s jugular vein.
The needle and drug, had both been bought by Chi Xiaochi from the storehouse using his goodwill points.
Chi Xiaochi pressed his lips to his ear, and said in the gentle tones of one speaking to their lover, “You said it right. After all, everyone’s ultimate destination, is the crematorium.”
Yuan Benshan’s eyes widened slightly.
In the beginning, he thought that the slight p.r.i.c.k of pain in his neck was a misconception. In addition, his lover’s overly warm tone succeeded in lulling him, such that for a moment, he was unable to understand his current situation.
By the time he sensed that something was wrong, Chi Xiaochi had forcefully locked him within his arms, pressing close to his ear, and exhaling a breath of heat that brushed against his soul. “……Shh, shh, don’t fuss, it’ll be all better soon.”
To Yuan Benshan’s nose drifted the slight scent of anesthetic.
The muscles in his neck began to tremble, as numbness moved rapidly through his veins to his entire body. His shoulders, abdomen, and limbs, slowly became weak.
As Chi Xiaochi held him, he swayed them around with small steps, like a pair of lovers dancing the tango.
Only when the medication came into full effect did he bring Yuan Benshan to a sofa in a corner of the room, and place the paralysed man atop it.
He’d used suxamethonium chloride, an anesthetic which was injected through the jugular vein, and could cause short-term full-body paralysis but leave one’s mind clear.
The drug took one minute to take effect, reached its peak effectiveness in two minutes, and lasted for about seven to eight minutes.
……In short, it was a kind of drug where as long as the dose was controlled, it would definitely not be lethal.
An overwhelming sense of suffocation rose up within Yuan Benshan, partly from the drug, and partly from his heart.
He lay paralysed on the sofa, his heart full of questions, and a steadily growing sense of panic.
Yuan Benshan forced a smile and said, “……What are you doing? Don’t fuss……”
After putting him down, Chi Xiaochi took a few steps back, and observed him with a smile.
Gan Tang was unconscious, and Gan Yu was sitting against the wall, his arm around his little sister’s shoulders, letting her lie on his. His expression was very calm, as if he’d antic.i.p.ated this turn from the beginning.
But strangely, upon seeing this sudden twist, Xu Jiayi, who shouldn’t have had any context of the situation, didn’t move. He didn’t even have any questions like “why”, simply sitting on the floor and observing them from afar, his eyebrows slightly furrowed.
Chi Xiaochi asked Xi Lou, “How much longer do we have until the task ends?”
Xi Lou, who had been utterly silent since the task began, gave a precise answer, “Six minutes and twenty seconds.”
Chi Xiaochi nodded.
……To him, that was enough.
Seeing the coldness on Song Chunyang’s face, Yuan Benshan had a bad premonition arise in his heart. However, he didn’t realise that he was feeling an even deeper layer of discomfort from within him, hence guessing that the dose of the drug wasn’t very much, completely within the normal range.
What drug was Song Chunyang peddling from his gourd?
Seeing his little lover staring at him as if he were staring at an unimportant plaything while the drug muddled Yuan Benshan’s brain and body and caused him to have difficulty breathing, he gradually became angry, directly calling out his real name. “Song Chunyang! What do you mean by this? Talk.”
The man finally spoke.
But his words made Yuan Benshan even more confused.
He asked, “Old Yuan, do you believe in karma.”
Yuan Benshan’s tongue had already gone numb, so the words he spoke were m.u.f.fled, “What…… do you want, to say?”
Chi Xiaochi said, “On her deathbed, my grandmother told me that as a person, I needed to believe in karma. Everything has a cause and effect. In the cycle of karma, what goes around comes around.”
Yuan Benshan suddenly thought of something. Instantly, cold sweat began to roll down his body and his bones began to shiver, even making his voice quiver along with them.
“Weren’t you going to gouge out my eyes.” Chi Xiaochi sat down on the couch, placing one leg over another in a practised move. “Why are you suddenly being so polite?”
……Sure enough, it was about that!
Yuan Benshan was angry, vexed, and regretful all at once, but he couldn’t think of where he’d slipped up.
Clearly Chunyang had been incredibly good to him after Guan Qiaoqiao’s death, so good it was simply outrageous……
Right! Guan Qiaoqiao!
He’d actually forgotten, Chunyang had Yin-Yang eyes.
What did…… that mean?
Yuan Benshan began to convulse uncontrollably, his joints tightening, and his elbows and knees subconsciously curling inwards, trying to form a defensive position.
But this was an exercise of utter futility.
Chi Xiaochi ignored his struggles, turning his head and actually calling out that young man who had been utterly silent since just now by name. “I believe, you should know what happened.”
Xu Jiayi raised his head and looked back at Chi Xiaochi, his expression a little complicated.
Chi Xiaochi went straight to the point, pointing to his own eyes. “You can also see ‘those’, right?”
Even though he’d known that the other party could possibly see through his own ability, having his secret being exposed like this before a crowd, Xu Jiayi was still stunned for a moment before nodding his head. “En.”
The sheer terror Yuan Benshan was feeling was difficult to describe in words.
What did that mean? ……What could he see?
Xu Jiayi was silent for a moment, before pointing to the back of his own neck.
“There’s something on your back,” Xu Jiayi said, “……A woman.”
Like Song Chunyang, Xu Jiayi also had Yin-Yang eyes.
After entering the task world and meeting the clown, Xu Jiayi had noticed that there was a female ghost lying on Yuan Benshan’s back, clinging to him like an octopus.
He’d originally been slightly taken aback, and wanted to bring it up to Yuan Benshan, but after thinking about it, he decided against it.
This kind of situation wasn’t one Xu Jiayi had never seen before.
From the looks of the female ghost, she was clearly a back ghost. Her being so entangled with someone like this, had to be due to a bone-deep hatred.
Having Yin-Yang eyes, he had believed in karma since he was young.
If this woman was the result of Yuan Benshan’s sin, there was no need for him to go out of his way to bring it up to him.
Thus, Xu Jiayi remained silent, simply starting the task.
The time allocated for the task was too tight, so he had no time to pay any attention to Yuan Benshan. Only in the second room did Xu Jiayi get a moment to catch his breath.
At the time, Meng Qian, who’d wanted to watch Yuan Benshan solve the puzzle but ended up being scolded, slunk back over to Xu Jiayi, muttering under his breath.
He’d only managed to hear the two words “evil aura” and subconsciously glanced over at the female ghost and Yuan Benshan.
He thought of how in the first room, after hearing Qian Yun’s reminder, Yuan Benshan had forcefully held Jia Siyuan in place, and sneered internally.
……Could this type of person not have an evil aura around them.
Only after catching Chi Xiaochi observing him out of the corner of his eye did he look away as if nothing had happened, pretending to close his eyes and rest instead, but he vaguely felt as if something wasn’t right.
What he could see, that young man surnamed Lou seemed to be able to see as well.
Xu Jiayi thought back to when the door leading out of the first room opened. As he angrily stepped through the door and looked back, wanting to urge the others to hurry up and leave, he just so happened to see Chi Xiaochi comforting Yuan Benshan.
However, Chi Xiaochi’s eyes fell on what should have been a patch of empty air.
And there, the female ghost was lying on Yuan Benshan’s back, like a cicada sucking tree sap.
After hearing Xu Jiayi’s words, how could Yuan Benshan still not understand what had happened?
He went completely crazy, but the anesthetic made it such that he couldn’t do anything. He struggled as hard as he could, but he couldn’t even lift a finger. He could only laboriously swing around his head slightly as saliva trickled out of his open mouth.
He didn’t have Yin Yang eyes, so he couldn’t see anything. And it was precisely this kind of “not being able to see”, that was the true horror.
Hadn’t Guan Qiaoqiao died in the eighth world? How could she have found her way here? What was she going to do to him?!
Chi Xiaochi just sat on the sofa, admiring his deathbed struggle.
Since stepping into the eighth world, Chi Xiaochi had begun to set a grand scheme into motion.
Returning to the first day Chi Xiaochi entered the castle.
He and the Gan siblings were wandering through the corridors, observing every photo on the wall.
On the walls were mostly portraits of people, with the occasional scenic photo, looking at which made a chill run down one’s spine. Most of the task takers just took a cursory look before staying away.
Chi Xiaochi, however, looked at every single picture, even going through every single room. He noticed something. These photos were comprised of too many eras and settings. There were those that were modern, like 《Balloons Pulled Her Away》, as well as those that were medieval, like 《The Young Girl’s Prayer》, the Virgin Mary, and the children of the choir, and there was even the ancient-looking 《Person Returning on a Snowy Night》.
And the original castle didn’t have any of these photos. It was just an ordinary castle.
Before entering, they had also done a brief exploration of the castle.
According to Song Chunyang’s memories, even though the walls of the castle were filled with cobwebs and stained with specks of decay, there was no trace of there ever having been photographs inlaid or hung there.
At the time, Chi Xiaochi had a guess. These photographs had been taken by the female ghost herself. This also explained why she was able to move freely through the photos and borrow the bodies of the people within.
Then the question came.
How had she taken those pictures?
Combining all the clues, Chi Xiaochi came up with a bold guess.
All the different task worlds, despite looking to be independent of each other, were actually all interconnected.
The malicious ghosts all lived in the same other world, which was blocked off by the Lord G.o.d and the systems and forcefully separated from the real world.
From a management standpoint, centralised management was less labour-intensive than decentralised management.
Correspondingly, there were subtle differences between ghosts.
Some ghosts had a limited range of movement. They were earth bound spirits, and weren’t able to move about at will. For example, the vase women in the first task world. However, some ghosts could move about freely, such as the castle ghost who could go anywhere, taking photographs.
Later on, he questioned Xi Lou in detail about how the systems operated, and the various signs revealed matched up with his own reasoning. However, this is a later part of the tale, and thus won’t be mentioned now.
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Even later on, he went to Guan Qiaoqiao’s room, and to his surprise, found that the female ghost in the castle had locked onto Guan Qiaoqiao.
From the beginning to the end, Yuan Benshan was never able to jump out of the palms of his hands.
He didn’t mind Yuan Benshan’s intimate touches, nor did he mind grinding up on Yuan Benshan’s goodwill value, because the higher his goodwill towards Song Chunyang was, the bigger the impact of his finding out would be.
Chi Xiaochi even risked a certain amount of danger, giving Yuan Benshan a hand in the final level.
He wanted him to live, to live filled with hope, and in the end, to understand what true despair was.
Watching as Yuan Benshan’s regret value broke through the fifties in one shot, Chi Xiaochi calmly opened up the warehouse, and bought a high-grade spirit-sealing bottle.
Realising that struggling was useless, Yuan Benshan could only lay paralysed on the sofa, his teeth chattering uncontrollably, “……You, what do you want to do? Song Chunyang?! What do you want to do to me?”
As he spoke, Chi Xiaochi bought another three high-grade cards that were related to the supernatural.
As he bought cards, he asked, in lieu of answering, “Yuan Benshan, let me ask you, when you play games, do you read the game manual beforehand?”
Yuan Benshan no longer had any strength to play this game of riddles with him. He stamped his feet like a rabbit waiting to be slaughtered, hoping to be able to stand up, rush forward, and throttle Chi Xiaochi by the neck.
Chi Xiaochi didn’t expect an answer from him, continuing on, unfazed.
“I do. And from the very first line to the very last line. After all, understanding the rules, is very helpful for playing the game.”
He then bought a gun that could cause harm to undead beings.
“I once did some research on how some ghosts could clearly disguise themselves as physical, breathing people. Just like the ‘Guan Qiaoqiao’ we met in the eighth world. Given that, why didn’t the system register her as a player, and bring her out from the other world.
“Afterwards, I asked my system, and found out that ghosts only have pure supernatural energy, and cannot emit fear energy.
“So the rule of the system is that as long as the target in the detected field does not emit fear energy, then either the player is dead, or it’s a ghost. In both cases, the system will turn off transmission for that individual.
“And fear energy, is one of the countless types of negative energy.
“So how about you try and guess, what Guan Qiaoqiao is doing to you on your back?”
Yuan Benshan still didn’t know.
Or rather, he was doing everything he could to avoid thinking about the worst possibility.
His hands curled nervously into chicken feet, and fear stuck his throat together like sticky glue, only allowing him to utter meaningless roars and moans.
Guan Qiaoqiao, on his back, was much more silent. She was curled up on his back, single-mindedly devouring the fear energy he was emitting. Even as her face turned bruise green and purple, her veins bursting under her skin, she didn’t stop even once.
At that moment, the clown’s crazed laughter sounded from a teddy bear, startling everyone present.
Chi Xiaochi’s hands also shook.
Fortunately, he quickly regained his composure, and chose to buy all the commodities that could only be purchased with regret value, so as to ensure that Yuan Benshan’s regret value wouldn’t overflow.
He asked, “Enjoying the show?”
“Enjoying! I’m enjoying this way too much!” The clown laughed wildly. “Setting up a new game in my game, using my levels to set up your own level, you’re truly a very interesting person!! How about you stay behind and accompany me? ……How about it?”
Chi Xiaochi smiled blandly as he stared at that teddy bear.
“It’s good that you’re enjoying the show,” he said, “But, maybe you don’t know this, but I’m an actor. My performance fee is very high.”
The teddy bear c.o.c.ked its head to the side, seeming to not understand what he was saying.
“You have your rules, and I have my own.” Chi Xiaochi turned and glanced at the pale-faced Gan Yu and the unconscious Gan Tang. His tone turned cold. “Sorry, when you were playing your game, you violated my rules.”
Before his words could fall, he suddenly swung his hand.
The high-grade spirit-sealing bottle he’d just bought left his hand, going straight into the teddy bear’s body.
The clown was stunned for a moment. By the time he sensed something was wrong, it was already too late.
He suddenly let out a shrill screech from where he was broadcasting his voice.
Then, all the lights in the room shut off, all the gifts disappeared, the balloons turned into withered skulls, falling to the floor and turning to dust, and the sofas became mottled and stinky. Sitting on them, you could clearly feel their greasy odor and their sharp springs.
The high-grade spirit-sealing bottle was unlike the low-grade ones. It could contain incredibly powerful ghosts, and was filled with strong spiritual influence, which would hurt the ghost at all times. Other than the person who had sealed the ghost, no one else could let it out.
……No one else would ever have to come to this terrible escape room.
Chi Xiaochi rose from the dirty sofa.
From the time that they were to leave this world, there were still 20 seconds left.
Following his memories from before the lights went out, Chi Xiaochi felt his way over to Gan Tang in the dark and took her hand. At the very last moment, he spoke to Yuan Benshan once more.
“Old Yuan,” he said, “you still haven’t answered me, what is karma.“
He then said, “Nevermind. You’ll have enough time to slowly think it over.”
Yuan Benshan would eventually understand.
He killed Guan Qiaoqiao, and Guan Qiaoqiao took her revenge. This was the two’s karma.
From beginning to end, Song Chunyang remained utterly spotless, his hands completely clean.
The time was up. Chi Xiaochi and the rest disappeared from this final safehouse.
Yuan Benshan, still grasping a glimmer of hope, waited for a long time, but his body remained in the darkness.
Everyone had left, leaving him alone in this other world.
He wasn’t transmitted out. Neither was he dead, nor did the light he was waiting for ever come.
He was left in the final room of the final tenth task, excluded by the system, becoming a true “superfluous person” amongst the ghosts.
And in the real world, his ident.i.ty would also be erased, like a pencil mark under an eraser, disappearing without a trace, no longer existing in anyone’s mind.
The effects of the anesthetic had worn off. He struggled to climb off the couch, knelt on the floor, and wailed at the top of his lungs.
He cried and begged Song Chunyang, who had already left, for mercy, begging him to let him off.
But no one could hear his words any longer. Only Guan Qiaoqiao stretched out her cold fingers and gently stroked his face. With a sinister smile, she said, “Yuan Benshan, don’t be afraid, you still have me.”
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