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If Lin Sanjiu had the chance to meet the female ticker seller again, she swore she would grab her by her collar and pull her out from the gla.s.s ticket booth. She wanted to ask what was going on in her mind when she told her this was a "sightseeing attraction."
The moment Geran's voice rang out, Lin Sanjiu did not turn around and launched a barrage of concentrated, focused attacks at him. However, much to her dismay, all of her attacks were neutralized by an unknown force.
She had no idea whether or not any of her attacks had hit her target.
On second thought, even her hypersensory had lapsed in the apartment building; it was no surprise to her that an ordinary attack would fail as well.
"Miss Lin, why do you attack me?" Geran's voice sounded like he was surprised, "It's me, Geran. I've found a path that will lead us to the exit. You don't want to see?"
Lin Sanjiu took a deep breath and held on to her sangfroid so that her nerves would not get the best of her. This was because she had realized that the thing that introduced itself as "Geran" would not attack her.
"Come over here, turn around. The exit is just around the corner. Anyway, turn around, and sneak a peek," the "Geran" said, there was a smile in his voice.
She was very familiar with this scene. If Lin Sanjiu had been given enough time to think about her situation, she would have probably begun to doubt herself and not do what she was going to do next. Geran was extremely close to her; Lin Sanjiu knew that very well. A light, dark-colored shadow crawled onto her shoulder and cast a huge dark patch on the door of unit 108.
With her eyes filled with fear, the shadow turned slowly and bent its head until it almost touched her cheek.
As soon as the corner of her eyes caught that glimpse of darkness, a thought flickered in her mind, and before she knew she was doing it, her hand had already landed on the door of unit 108.
The shadow that loomed over the wooden door trembled, and "Geran" fell silent.
Very soon, the sound of footsteps drifted from within unit 108 into Lin Sanjiu's ears. Then, the bra.s.s handle rattled, and a stubbled, scrawny man came out of the unit.
The man looked like he was in his forties. He smelled like he hadn't taken a bath in ages. Just as he approached Lin Sanjiu in his rumpled plaid shirt, his sour body odor drifted up and hung in her nose. His gaze did not stay long on Lin Sanjiu as he very soon shifted his attention over to the thing behind her. Then, he turned his gaze back to Lin Sanjiu, smiling amiably at her.
Since Lin Sanjiu was oblivious of the thing behind her, she just spread her skeletal wings and prepared herself for any adversaries. Her back was soaked with cold sweat.
She somehow felt that she had been betting all the time since she entered this apartment building.
"Go on," she gave her full attention on the stubbled man with unblinking eyes. She was trembling, very much afraid that she might accidentally see "Geran" if she ever let down her guard, "Speak what you have."
Lin Sanjiu felt G.o.d had a wicked sense of humor and He had played a mean joke on Geran and her. The reason she did not dare to turn her head around was that Geran had mentioned to her before that as players, they were forbidden to "see" the same occupant twice. But now, the rules were being used on "Geran." Taking a deep breath, Lin Sanjiu hoped that she had placed the right bet.
The stubbled man remained quiet as he continued to observe her, and when he moved his eyeb.a.l.l.s, it sent Lin Sanjiu into a panic so severe that she nearly screamed. The movement of his eyeb.a.l.l.s was minute. If one did not pay attention to his eyes, you would never notice that his eyeb.a.l.l.s had moved.
This could only mean one thing: the thing that he was looking at was very, extremely, super close to Lin Sanjiu now.
When Lin Sanjiu began to feel numbness in her body, the stubbled man finally spoke. He laughed, "Well, well, finally. A sharp one."
He fixed his eyes on Lin Sanjiu, and as he opened his mouth, his row of yellow teeth showed behind his beard, "There are two things I can tell you. Which one you wish to listen first?"
"Of course, that goes without saying," Just as Lin Sanjiu heaved a sigh of relief that her conjecture was right, a sense of superiority surfaced in her mind. Perhaps the sense of superiority had escaped her mind and showed on her face. The stubbled man narrowed his eyes, and he smiled.
"I hate all the occupants here. I only met them once. On the day I moved in. Then, I didn't want to see them ever again," he finished his sentence with a hint of zeal in his tone that made him sound a little bit cruel, "Even if it is newcomer."
Lin Sanjiu's heart sank, sinking into the floor and into the earth below.
The stubbled man had given Lin Sanjiu two very distinct clues: players should never see the face of an occupant twice, and the "new occupant" he referred to was probably Geran.
Upon getting his answers, her mind full of fog was getting clearer.
It was useless to check through every apartment units without knocking on the door first. What Lin Sanjiu had to do was to knock on the door, and collect whatever information from the occupant she could. However, the information would vary according to the scenario.
"We have never been able to find the way out after staying here for three years" and "the apartment unit will give you anything you wish" were what the young girl in unit 320 told Lin Sanjiu when she was looking for an exit. She always thought that girl said so was to keep. Never once had she considered the meaning behind the quote "the apartment unit will give you anything you wish." When she was looking for Livia, the old lady told her "all the burglars that break into her house in recent years escaped through the window."
"So, from the information I collected from that girl and that old lady, one of the windows in either of the apartment units is the exit, b ut which units?"
"Oh yeah, before I forget," the stubbled man resumed his talking. He never tore his gaze away from the behind Lin Sanjiu. He talked in a reserved manner, "I'm not the caretaker of this apartment. It's beyond my control as to what the other occupant wants to do."
Startled, the tiny hairs on the back of Lin Sanjiu's neck stood on their ends. Then, before she could verbalize anything in her mind, a soft call tickled her ear, "Miss Lin."
As the thing spoke, a shadow floated from beside Lin Sanjiu's ear. Like a slithering snake, it shimmied into the corner of her sight.
Lin Sanjiu felt she must do something, anything; otherwise, she would be the next one saying goodbye to this world. Forcing a growl out of her throat, Lin Sanjiu made a sharp turn and sprinted in the opposite direction. She closed her eyes, running at her top speed toward the deeper of the corridor as the gap between her and the stairway grew larger with every step she took as she neared the end of the corridor.
She had no time to make a turn now, "Geran" trailed behind her like he was her shadow.
"Move faster!" Mrs. Manas yelled in her psyche. She clucked, "Desperate calls for desperate measure, enter that unit now!"
Lin Sanjiu covered her eyes with her hand so that she would not see "Geran." Then, she curled her body and rammed into unit 119 in the corner of the corridor. As soon as she landed on the floor, she kicked the door and closed it before that thing came inside.
She inhaled a few large gulps of air and stormed further into the unit without turning her head. Behind her was silence. It seemed that "Geran" could not enter this unit.
"If Geran has become the new occupant here, then he can only enter unit 101."
As this thought daunted on Lin Sanjiu, she relaxed. Her skeletal wings slumped.
Before that, she was very sure that Geran was still a healthy living person. He could move within the floors and tell her rules about this apartment building.
"So what had happened and when did it happen to make Geran turn entirely into an "occupant?"
"I guess," Similar to Lin Sanjiu, Mrs. Manas had yet recovered from the nail-biting manhunt. Her voice was shaking as she said, "I have a little insight into how Geran died."
Although Lin Sanjiu had prepared for this, however, when she heard Mrs. Manas mentioned the word "die," she still could not help but let out a sigh, "Go ahead; I'm all ears."
"Have you already forgotten? No matter how strange this attraction is, it is still part of the Starry Carnival Amus.e.m.e.nt Park." Although Mrs. Manas had never shown herself, she could scan Lin Sanjiu's mind for the information about the amus.e.m.e.nt park, "Not only this amus.e.m.e.nt park only trains Growth type posthumans, but in every game, it picks and trains only the strongest or the one with the highest potential. Am I right?"
Lin Sanjiu was dumbfounded. Then, she soon understood what Mrs. Manas's point was. If more than two Growth type posthumans partic.i.p.ated in the same game at the same time, then the default difficulties of the game would be set based on the person with higher overall combat capabilities. Due to this d.a.m.ned setting, she had suffered when she partic.i.p.ated in the same game with Hei Zeji.
"In any way, have you ever thought that," Mrs. Manas paused for a second as she tried to restructure her next sentence more tactfully, "Geran has survived for more than twenty days. And once you joined, he died."
At this moment, color instantly bled from Lin Sanjiu's face. She had indeed never thought about it.
Even though she tried her best to calm herself down, her tone belied her emotion. She stuttered, "My overall combat capabilities are higher than his, so the difficulties raised once I joined the game?" Lin Sanjiu still could not bring herself to believe this as the feeling of Bo "I didn't kill Boren, but Boren died for me" 1 wasn't good for anybody in this world including her, "So, it's my fault that he died?"
"You can't say that it's your fault," Mrs. Manas sighed, "After all, rules are rules. If you want to blame something, blame his incapabilities. Anyway, right now, you have to find out specifically what has changed in the attraction so that you can avoid falling into the same trap again."
Standing in a trance, Lin Sanjiu's mind was flooded with all sort of things. It was just that she wasn't sure if she was thinking about Mrs. Manas's suggestion or about that "Geran."
With a bit of sorrow, she unconsciously paced around the unit in a circle and struggled to rummage through her vague memories for everything—even the smallest thing—that happened in the attraction.
The unit she was in was a rather large suite with one bedroom and one living room. As if the suite was built to maximize every single tile, the living room was huge, accompanied by an open kitchen and a dining hall. Lin Sanjiu was not interested in the bedroom, so she did not go look inside. When she rested her hand on the dining room table that was covered in all kinds of delicacies and drinks, her eyes locked on the window.
Similar to every unit in this apartment building, the window in this unit was also a realistic painting: white bricks, green tiles, and red lanterns. It was an alley diffused with the charm of traditional Chinese architecture and color schemes. It was drizzling, tricking one to believe that he or she could easily go into the alley from the window.
"I have no idea," Lin Sanjiu had a headache looking through her memories. She gave up, "If the difficulty raised once I joined the game, then there is no comparison for me to make, so how can I know which part of this game has become more difficult?"
Lin Sanjiu's question muted Mrs. Manas. She lowered her head and played with the foods on the dining table. Suddenly, she realized something that sent a chill down her spine.
"Why is there food here?"
Mrs. Manas heard her question and replied to her. "Have you forgotten again? Didn't the girl say that a unit room has anything you need."
"No, this isn't right."
Lin Sanjiu shook her head. She had checked unit 119 before, so she was confident that this unit was empty. It was desolate and uninhibited. However...
She raised her eyes and studied the unit.
There was food on the dining table, just like in unit 101 where Garan had resided. The lamp was off when she entered the unit, but the lamp beside the couch had been turned on now, and a warm orange light diffused the unit. If somebody walked into this unit, he or she might think she was the owner of this unit—
"Am I becoming an "occupant" as well?"
As this idea dawned on Lin Sanjiu, her blood became cold. Then, a rattling sound drifted into her ears.
She jumped up quickly and glanced in the direction of the sound. The sound came from the door, but she saw nothing. After she studied the door and its proximity for a moment, only then did she see the A4 paper that was slipped in by somebody outside through bottom of the door.
"Dear Miss Lin of unit 119, to celebrate your new relocation into this apartment as well as to offer you permanent residence, we have decided to hold a neighborhood meeting for you."
There was only one line of words printed on the large A4 paper. While immersed in her confusion, she heard two knocks. Someone had knocked on something.
Her first reaction was to look at the door, but she was wrong. With a stiffened body, Lin Sanjiu turned her head around, looking into the painting behind the window.
She saw Livia.
"Hey, come over here," When Livia was speaking, she moved choppily as if she was made of some lousy computer-generated graphics, "Outside the window is the real sightseeing attraction. The exit is here. It'll be too late if you don't come out now!"This saying came from an allusion.
During Emperor Yuen's reign, When w.a.n.g Dao, a chief advisor for Emperor Yien asked Zhou Yi (周顗, courtesy name of Boren), to intercede on his behalf when w.a.n.g Dun, his cousin rebelled. Zhou did and persuaded Emperor Yuan that w.a.n.g Dao was not involved in w.a.n.g Dun's rebellion—but in order to not make w.a.n.g Dao grateful for him, he chose not to respond to w.a.n.g Dao but instead cursed w.a.n.g Dun when w.a.n.g Dao begged him, causing w.a.n.g Dao to believe that he, like Liu Huai (劉隗) and Diao Xie (刁協), wanted to exterminate the w.a.n.g clan. w.a.n.g Dao did not find out what Zhou had done for him. Later, after w.a.n.g Dun successfully captured Jiankang, forcing Emperor Yuan to submit to him, he asked w.a.n.g Dao what he thought of Zhou, and w.a.n.g Dao said nothing—so w.a.n.g Dun executed Zhou. Later, when w.a.n.g found out from imperial archives the pet.i.tions that Zhou had submitted on his behalf, he mourned and gave the famous quote