Zi City Bug (End)
In the deserted ruined city, the green moonlight stretched out the shadows of the two people as their footprints in the snow headed deeper into Zi City.
“In addition to the method given by the collapsed system, we can also try to find the safe passage between the city and the main system,” You Yu suggested.
You Yu nodded and looked down at the tips of his snow-soaked shoes. “The main system and the major base cities and instances have a safe passage.”
He smiled helplessly. “However, the specific location of the safe passage isn’t open to the dream makers.”
Chi Nan wondered, “So we can’t find it now?”
You Yu turned around and stared at him in a deep manner. “I can’t find it myself, but perhaps you can find it.”
Chi Nan had no clues. “Why?”
“Brother Nan…” You Yu paused and his lips pursed in a straight line. “I’m just guessing.”
You Yu added, “Perhaps we are heading to the safe passage.”
“……?” Chi Nan looked at You Yu in a puzzled manner. He felt that today’s You Yu wasn’t quite right. “North District 3, Building 57, Room 206?”
You Yu nodded.
Chi Nan opened his mouth. “However, you just asked me and I casually said I wanted to go there.”
“That is enough.”
Why? Chi Nan saw You Yu’s silent side profile and knew that the other person didn’t want to explain at this moment. He could only quietly swallow down the question.
He just felt that the city was so quiet and desolate and this dead silence was unpleasant to him. It made him want to return to the dormitory area that he was familiar with.
“I don’t know if the mint you brought back is dead now.”
Last time, they bought 10 pots of mint from Smile Town. After the instance was cleared, You Yu used the system permissions to directly transfer them to Room 206.
“I just want to go back and water them, if they are still alive,” Chi Nan spoke in a tone that had a rare stubbornness.
You Yu hadn’t expected Chi Nan to remember this and he suddenly smiled. “It doesn’t matter. I will buy new ones for you if they die. If you can’t raise them, I’ll raise them for you.”
Chi Nan raised his eyes and looked at You Yu.
He didn’t know why, but he felt that You Yu’s voice was very distant today. It was as if it came from a distant wilderness. He was always worried that if the wind became stronger, You Yu’s voice would be blown away.
“What’s wrong?” You Yu met Chi Nan’s gaze.
Chi Nan shook his head and didn’t say anything.
After a while, Chi Nan looked at the ruined Zi City and the strange emotion in his heart returned.
“Why did the dream god build this world?” he asked You Yu.
You Yu shook his head. “No one knows except the dream god.”
Chi Nan seemed to feel some regret. “Is that so…”
You Yu stared at him. “Perhaps the dream god himself doesn’t know either.”
The expression on Chi Nan’s face seemed blank for a moment before he said, “I really want to meet this dream god.”
He found that in his subconscious, he had feelings toward this Nightmare World that could fulfill people’s wishes.
After seeing it badly damaged, tears flowed against his will without warning.
It was especially so on such a night when the snow was falling and the moonlight was stained with a different color.
“Nobody has seen him before,” You Yu said, “However, if you say it then it might be possible.”
The entire Third North District had become a ruin and sank in the night of the first snow of Zi City.
From a distance, the green moonlight illuminated the night and was like an aurora dancing over the ruined city.
The falling snow, aurora, and broken city gave people a paradoxical but magnificent sense of desolation.
Along the way, Chi Nan and You Yu encountered no monsters and evil spirits, let alone the pursuit of the hunting team. The perilous apocalyptic world was unusually quiet.
Chi Nan was familiar with the way from the Third North District to Building 57. He could successfully find the apartment building where he once lived even if all the building numbers were covered by mold and moss.
You Yu kept walking behind him without speaking. He penetrated through the increasingly thick snow curtain and quietly watched Chi Nan’s back.
Finally, he seemed unable to suppress some sense of uneasiness. He strode forward and grabbed Chi Nan with his gloved hands.
Chi Nan was suddenly held and instinctively froze. “What’s wrong?”
You Yu’s lips slightly curved up as usual. “I’m afraid you will get lost and I won’t be able to find you.”
“No, I’m familiar with this place.” For some reason, Chi Nan heard a hint of loneliness and uneasiness in You Yu’s voice.
He didn’t know how to appease people and he wasn’t good at giving people psychological counseling. Therefore, he just quietly held You Yu’s hand back and interlocked their fingers.
They soon found Building 57, where they once ‘lived together.’
The lights in the stairwell had been broken a long time ago, but in the distance, the two of them saw that there was a room on the second floor that emitted light.
“It is 206,” Chi Nan stated with certainty.
You Yu saw the warm yellow light from the window of 206 and a slightly complicated emotion flashed in his eyes.
On the one hand, there was the joy of getting to the bottom of things and solving all the mysteries and doubts. On the other hand, there was the uneasiness and fear of facing the unknown.
Ironically, he had always been keen to play with human fears and insecurities. He didn’t expect that one day, he would also be deeply involved in them and swayed by them.
Chi Nan pulled him along and walked through the dark and heavy corridor in a firm and calm manner toward the only light in the entire city, 206.
More than 10 pots of mint were neatly placed in the corridor. The green leaves were wet due to the falling snow. You Yu picked a piece of mint leaf and placed it in his mouth. It was fresh and cool.
“It seems that we have found the right place.” You Yu swallowed the chewed mint leaves and felt a refreshing feeling from his throat to his stomach. “As the safe passage between the base city and the main system, even if the system is severely damaged by the bug, the location of the connection port is still here. There is still some energy that can maintain the normal operation of the base.”
The lights from Apartment 206 and the mint leaves growing normally illustrated this.
It was his place, but Chi Nan knocked politely on the door as usual. “Is anyone there?”
The door was locked and no one answered from inside.
Therefore, Chi Nan took out a key and opened the lock, just like he did every time he returned from clearing an instance.
There was a clicking sound and the door opened. Light shone through the crack in the door onto Chi Nan’s face.
Then the expressions of the two people froze when they saw the situation inside.
The inside of the apartment wasn’t the 206 that they were familiar with. It had the appearance of little You Yu’s bedroom.
The curtains in front of the spacious French windows were half-closed and outside the window showed a rainy night at midnight. The floor lamp was lit in the room and the light was a warm yellow.
The quilt on the bed in the corner of the room had a corner lifted and the folds on the sheet made it look like someone had slept there not long ago.
There was no one in the room. There was only a lifeless silence.
The picture frame on the west wall caught Chi Nan’s attention. The picture frame was covered in the shadow of the light and couldn’t be seen clearly from his position.
Chi Nan’s shoulders trembled slightly and his body unknowingly moved closer to the picture frame.
“Brother Nan.” You Yu’s uneasiness became stronger and he took a step forward to grip Chi Nan’s hand more tightly.
At almost the same time, the half open door behind them closed. The two of them froze while the stopped clock on the wall started moving.
“It is 11:20.” Chi Nan took out the pocket watch from his pocket. The originally stationary clock hands had started moving again. “The time of the pocket watch is the same as that on the wall.”
Once they encountered You Yu’s bedroom in the old mansion that was full of death metaphors, it was easy to remember that night 11 years ago.
You Yu died on the night of the fire at 12:20.
You Yu’s expression was solemn. “It seems we have an hour. We must find a way to enter the safe passage before 12:20.”
The pocket watch that was the ‘death token’ had started ticking again. It could be explained as being caused by the system collapse due to the bug, but at this moment, too many coincidences collided together. You Yu had to suspect that this was the countdown to the collapse of the system.
After all, it wasn’t good for the time of a person who had died a long time ago to start flowing again.
12:20 was the end of his life, so it might imply some type of end.
Chi Nan found that the white carpet retained the residue from when little You Yu deliberately knocked over the medicine. Meanwhile, the Crying Boy painting on the wall showed only a wet rainy night with no end in sight. His ‘self’ in the painting had disappeared without a trace.
There was only the complete frame and incomplete painting.
What was the connection between the system and the base city hidden in You Yu’s childhood bedroom with his apartment number written on it? Why did this painting, which had long since been deleted from human memory, appear here?
What exactly did this apartment and this bedroom have to do with the Nightmare World’s master system?
What about himself and the dream god? What was the connection?
He inexplicably thought about You Yu’s previous words.
Perhaps the dream god himself didn’t know why he created this world.
Chi Nan suppressed all his doubts and quickly searched the bedroom with You Yu. However, they didn’t find a mechanism to open the safe passage.
The glass of the window was sealed. You Yu raised a chair without hesitation and smashed it at the window glass. No matter how hard he tried or what items he used, the thin layer of glass was as indifferent as steel and not a single crack appeared.
Outside the window, there was only endless night and rain, just like the Crying Boy.
For a moment, he had the illusion of being trapped in a painting.
On the other side, Chi Nan pulled open the door that had closed automatically. There was the sound of the iron lock twisting and the door opened in response. It was much easier than expected.
The outside was the same as when they had come. The cleaned balcony was filled with the fresh green mint, but the snow that had fallen had turned into cold rain and the moon had disappeared.
The two of them returned to the corridor and found that all the doors on the second floor had the number 206 hanging from them. The doors were painted a cold white like the works of a patient with obsessive-compulsive disorder and they were neatly arranged. There was no difference between them.
Chi Nan tried to insert the key into the keyhole of the next apartment. There was a click and the door with the same 206 number opened again.
The interior was the same as the door they first opened. It looked like You Yu’s bedroom when he was a child.
The angle at which the curtains were drawn, the ‘boy’ that had disappeared from the frame, the clock that kept ticking on the wall, and the time displayed on the clock were exactly the same.
Chi Nan opened five doors with ‘206’ in a row and You Yu’s expression became darker and darker.
“Go to the stairwell.” Chi Nan quickly climbed the stairs to a higher floor of the apartment building. However, no matter whether he went up or down, all floors repeated the same number, 206.
“What is going on?”
“It is true that this is the safe passage between the main system and the base city, but the entrance is blocked by the bug and replaced with an endless loop mode.”
In order to maintain the collapsed state of Zi City to the greatest extent, the bug automatically entered a self-defense system correction and set the entrance of the safe passage as an infinite loop.
The infinite loop meant they had to stay in place forever and there was no way to enter the safe passage.
The pocket watch in his hand kept moving and the time pointed to 11:50.
Chi Nan’s hand holding the pocket watch suddenly had many uneven wounds. It was as if they had been burned by a fire and dehydrated. It was curled up and slightly charred skin.
You Yu keenly noticed the changes in Chi Nan’s body and his expression was colder than before. “We have to hurry.”
He had a hunch that if they didn’t succeed in leaving the 206 loop before 12:20, Chi Nan would probably be killed by the invisible fire.
The still time had started to flow, and the consequence of the countdown should be returning to the fire of the past and the complete destruction of You Yu’s body.
Chi Nan looked at the burn marks that quickly covered his arms and was stunned. Then he spoke in a very apologetic manner to You Yu, “I’m sorry.”
He thought that it was because he didn’t take good care of this body that made You Yu have such a worried and sad expression on his face. After all, this body belonged to You Yu.
‘I don’t know if the burns on the body can be healed after going out,’ Chi Nan thought seriously. ‘That is, if we can successfully go out.’
“Does it hurt?”
“It doesn’t hurt at all,” Chi Nan answered truthfully. His pain nerves had been cut off, as if this body no longer belonged to him.
You Yu frowned and tried to connect to the main system again, but only received silence as an answer.
Just as he became so anxious that his breathing was shaky, Chi Nan’s system suddenly made a static sound.
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