Lu Jiuchuan also agreed with Xiao Lou’s analysis. During his undercover operation in the Hunter’s League, he always suspected there might be challengers mixed in with these people. In the World Weekly missions, the hunter companions he worked with were very familiar with the way cards were used. Perhaps they were taught by challengers.
Now the emergence of the twin brothers further confirmed Lu Jiuchuan’s speculation.
Lu Jiuchuan thought for a moment before looking back at Yu Hanjiang. “Shall we grab this pair of brothers and interrogate them? So many criminals were arrested and interrogated by you to make them confess. If you interrogate them, I don’t believe they can keep silent.”
Yu Hanjiang didn’t approve of his brother’s simple and rough approach. “The surveillance was easily discovered by Bai Jinyu and he is now on guard. We don’t even know the details behind him. If we try to catch him, we might fall into his trap. I always feel that behind Bai Jinyu is a force that is stronger than we think.”
Xiao Lou added, “Brother Jiu, Hanjiang’s words make sense. At present, Bai Jinyu isn’t directly going against us. It isn’t clear if he is a hunter or on the challenger’s side. It is better to act after knowing it for certain.”
Lu Jiuchuan smiled and glanced at Yu Hanjiang. “Fine. In any case, the two husbands are singing as one. I can’t say anything to you.”
Long Sen paused. “Husbands… what husbands?”
Qu Wanyue poked him in the arm and coughed. “Let’s go back first in case everyone else is worried.”
Long Sen was still wondering if Brother Jiu’s sentence about ‘husbands singing as one’ was a joke. His language skills might not be good enough but wasn’t it more appropriate to describe two men as ‘one voice, one harmony’. Why did he describe them as husbands? It seemed that Brother Jiu’s language skills were worse than his.
Long Sen came to this conclusion. Then he looked back and found that Xiao Lou’s ears were a bit red. It might be too hot so Long Sen considerately helped Professor Xiao lower the window.
Currently, it was summer in the City of the Sun. The time was approaching 6 o’clock in the morning. The first rays of dawn broke through the clouds and sprinkled gently on the sea, dyeing the blue sea water an orange-red color. Lu Jiuchuan drove on the wide seaside road with coconut trees lining the way. The sea breeze blowing onto his face brought the dampness of sea water.
Xiao Lou turned his head. The scenery of the City of the Sun was very different from that of the City of the Moon. It was a typical coastal city but it was more beautiful than any coastal city he had ever visited in reality.
The sea water here was crystal clear and seemed to be dyed by the blue sky. The beach was white and delicate and there were many shells scattered around. The crashing of the water at high tide was like a pleasant note and people’s lives were relaxed and leisurely. There wasn’t as much pressure as in reality.
Along the endless coastline, there were many specially built holiday villas. It was said that the house prices were still very cheap. Shao Qingge now had a lot of savings in his card and it wasn’t a problem for each of them to buy a villa here and settle down…
No wonder there were challengers who were willing to stay in this world.
Xiao Lou thought about it and something flashed in his mind, as if a clue had surfaced. A few words gradually became clear in his mind and he blurted out, “The Eternal Kingdom?”
His teammates heard this and looked at him in confusion.
Yu Hanjiang asked in a low voice, “What did you think of?”
Xiao Lou’s mind returned and he replied, “The Eternal Kingdom. I remember Old Mo once mentioning that the goal of this guild is to stay in the Card World instead of returning to the real world. Most of them buy cars and houses in this world and even marry natives of the Card World!”
Yu Hanjiang pondered on it for a moment. “You mean, the Hunter’s League is likely to be related to this guild?”
Xiao Lou nodded. “The ultimate goal of the Eternal Kingdom is to stay in the Card World. They are attracted by the beauty of the Card World and completely gave up on everything in reality, even their relatives. Therefore, they despise the laws of the human world and there is no psychological barrier for them indiscriminately killing innocent people.”
As early as when they arrived in the City of the Moon, Old Mo had introduced them to the three major challenger associations.
The Eternal Kingdom did gather a group of challengers who wanted to stay in the Card World. Everyone had their own purpose. Xiao Lou couldn’t evaluate whether it was a wrong choice for people to stay here. After all, he wanted to go back to reality because he had concerns there. Then what if some people weren’t living well in the real world?
For example, in reality, they were too poor to afford a house, they didn’t have a decent job, they didn’t have harmonious relatives or a lover or they suffered too much in reality. For these people, wasn’t the Card World like heaven? Sometimes the difference between heaven and hell was just one thought.
For those who were unhappy in reality, the Card World was equivalent to giving them a chance at rebirth. They only needed to go through the secret rooms, get powerful cards and gain some gold at the Clubs rooms to own their own house and car in the Card World. They could even find a boyfriend or girlfriend to fall in love with and get married here. They were much happier here than they were in reality. Why should they go back?
Lu Jiuchuan thought of this possibility. “I’ve heard about the Eternal Kingdom challengers association. They really have staying here as their goal. Most challengers in the Eternal Kingdom remain at the 8th level. After passing the 8th level, they can get enough good cards to deal with the World Weekly.”
Qu Wanyue wondered, “In other words, after passing through the 8th level, they stop? After that, they just need to complete the World Weekly every weekend? If the team is strong, the World Weekly isn’t difficult for them, right?”
“Yes, most of the members of the Eternal Kingdom have cards that can save their lives. Their combat effectiveness isn’t high but their ability to escape is absolutely excellent. It shouldn’t be a big problem to pass the World Weekly.”
Lu Jiuchuan looked at Xiao Lou in the rearview mirror. “Professor Xiao, do you suspect that this guild is related to hunters and they have additional conditions to stay in the Card World?”
“I’m just making a bold guess. Assuming that the real world and Card World are two different spaces, there will definitely be conditions for challengers who want to survive in this different space for a long time, right? It is like how we need a green card to live abroad. If there is a ‘green card’ in the Card World, how can people get permanent residency?”
Qu Wanyue’s expression changed. “For example, kill a challenger and get a green card for one year?”
Long Sen’s eyes widened. “If that’s the case, there is a reasonable explanation for some challengers defecting to join the hunters. They want to stay here forever and will kill people in exchange for time.”
Xiao Lou’s face was a bit pale. “This is just my guess. I just think our understanding of the Card World is too one-sided because we are all eager to go back. We will subjectively think this world is cruel and not worthy of nostalgia. Yet for some people, this world might be paradise.”
The car fell silent.
Xiao Lou’s bold speculation did have a certain possibility of being true and could reasonably explain many problems. If so, the number of hunters would only grow.
Lu Jiuchuan knew very well that it took a long time to break through. Facing the secret rooms that kept becoming more difficult, challengers would feel tired and frustrated. If their teammates died in front of them, their willpower to go back would gradually diminish.
Lu Jiuchuan had also wavered when he saw his teammates being killed in J of Clubs. He thought it was better to simply die here. It was just a flashing thought but Lu Jiuchuan, who wasn’t afraid of death, had almost given up. How could someone with less determination persist in breaking through the S-grade secret rooms?
Over time, people would be unable to clear the instances and would naturally become numb. They would have the idea that it was better to stay in this world. Perhaps in the end, those who insisted on clearing the secret rooms were an outlier among challengers.
The group didn’t talk as the car drove back to the hotel.
Tang Ci’s group hadn’t slept yet. After all, their teammates were taking risks, making the rest of them unable to sleep peacefully.
In fact, on the way, Xiao Lou had told Ye Qi the results of the investigation through the Heart has a Tacit Exchange of Romantic Feelings. The two of them had connected in the labyrinth and it lasted for 24 hours, so it hadn’t been broken yet.
Ye Qi also relayed Xiao Lou’s speculation to the others.
So when Xiao Lou’s group of five went upstairs, Tang Ci already knew the result.
Tang Ci told them in a straightforward manner, “My side has collected little information on the Eternal Kingdom. This is the most mysterious challenger organization and no one knows who the president is. Even their own people don’t know it.”
Old Mo added, “I only heard that the leader of the Eternal Kingdom is quite strong and the World Weekly tasks are like an entertainment game to him. The internal audit of their association is very strict and experts provide members with many clearance strategies to pass the World Weekly…”
Gui Yuanzhang frowned. “White Fox or Bai Jinyu, could he be a high ranking person of this Eternal Kingdom?”
Tang Ci opened the challengers’ internal forum and showed all the posts published by White Fox. “He has posted many strategies for secret rooms below A grade in the forum. His identity as a challenger is indeed in line with the style of the Eternal Kingdom. It’s unknown whether or not he’s a high level member of the Eternal Kingdom, and we also don’t know if the Eternal Kingdom has an alliance or cooperation with the Hunter’s League. I will continue to have my informants keep watch. The clues need to be collected slowly.”
Chu Huaying agreed. “There is no hurry. In any case, the soldiers come to block us and water comes to cover us. No matter how abnormal the Hunter’s League, they are human beings. Humans have weaknesses. If they dare to chase us, we can also find ways to fight against them.”
Ye Qi sent her an admiring look. “Sister Ying is right!”
Tang Ci told Xiao Lou, “You are tired from staying up all night. Rest first.”
Xiao Lou nodded. “Then we will now go to sleep and get up at noon to eat and supplement our physical strength. Then we will discuss the next level.”
They spent 4 hours in the labyrinth combined with the night visit to the bar. The group was indeed exhausted.
There were two presidential suites next to Tang Ci’s room that happened to be vacant. Shao Qingge paid for the rooms and everyone stayed in separate bedrooms for several hours. Xiao Lou was confused and had a nightmare.
In his dream, he stood on a wide platform that was much like the personal space, except that the surrounding area was pitch black. There was a beam of light cast in the middle, like the spotlight on a large stage.
A of Spades wore sunglasses and held a gun to Yu Hanjiang’s forehead. He threw another gun to Xiao Lou and ordered coldly, “If you want Yu Hanjiang to live, you must kill Ye Qi.”
Xiao Lou’s entire body was sweating. His fingers were trembling and he couldn’t hold the gun firmly. Xiao Ye’s face was pale as he looked at Xiao Lou with pleading eyes. And beside Ye Qi stood Shao Qingge, aiming a gun at Xiao Lou.
The four people confronted each other in the dark and empty environment… this depressing feeling made Xiao Lou almost breathless. His chest was stuffy like a boulder was pressed against it.
Suddenly, shots rang out. It wasn’t known who pulled the trigger first. Xiao Lou woke up from his nightmare and found that the sky was bright outside the window. It was noon. Yu Hanjiang sat next to the bed and asked him in a low voice, “What is it? Did you have a nightmare?”
Yu Hanjiang slept next door and heard Xiao Lou crying out. He came to check and as a result, he saw Xiao Lou suddenly wake up.
Xiao Lou’s heart was beating ridiculously fast as he looked at the familiar man in front of him. The scenes in his dream were so clear that he couldn’t distinguish between dreams and reality.
Yu Hanjiang noticed that Xiao Lou’s sweat had soaked his clothes. Yu Hanjiang gently touched Xiao Lou’s sweat-drenched hair and spoke softly. “Is it due to what you were thinking earlier that you had a nightmare? Did you dream about a teammate being killed last night?”
Xiao Lou was a bit surprised. “How did you know?”
Yu Hanjiang explained, “If it can make you feel uncomfortable like this then it definitely isn’t a good dream.”
The familiar smell from the man’s body made Xiao Lou feel at ease. It had just been a dream. He was really too nervous.
Xiao Lou took a deep breath and calmed his emotions. He stared at Yu Hanjiang and asked, “If one day, the keepers or hunters capture me and ask you to kill a teammate in exchange for my life, what would you do?”
Yu Hanjiang looked at Xiao Lou’s clear and warm eyes with surprise. Perhaps Xiao Lou faced such a cruel choice in his nightmare. This question was difficult to answer. He was silent for a moment before smiling slightly, “If it was you, what would you do?”
Xiao Lou was startled. “Don’t kick the question back to me. Answer it first.”
“It is the same whoever says it. It is because I believe our answer is the same.” Yu Hanjiang reached out, hugged Xiao Lou tightly in his arms and whispered, “If there is a day when I can’t save you, when they take you as a hostage in order to convince me to kill others, I will choose to kill you myself and then die with you.”
Xiao Lou, “……”
As expected, it was the same idea.
In an instant, the depression and discomfort in Xiao Lou’s heart dissipated and was replaced with ease.
It was just a dream. Yesterday, he speculated on how the challengers would change positions into a hunter so he dreamed of this dilemma. Perhaps some people were forced to become hunters and it wasn’t voluntary. However, if he one day faced this dilemma, Xiao Lou knew that Yu Hanjiang wouldn’t forget their original intentions.
What was the point of living if they relied on killing innocents in exchange for the right to live? Death wasn’t terrible. The terrible thing was losing your soul and becoming a walking demon.
He heard Yu Hanjiang say, “I know… you don’t want to live with such shame and I am the same.”
Xiao Lou smiled, gave a soft hum of agreement and reached out to hug this person back.
Yu Hanjiang pressed a kiss to Xiao Lou’s forehead and tightened his grip, his voice extremely gentle. “Xiao Lou, don’t think too much. The hunters we face have long since lost their humanity but we know what we should do and what we shouldn’t do. I always remembered the words you said a long time ago—this world might be crazy but we aren’t crazy yet.”
Xiao Lou nodded from within his arms.
In fact, there was nothing to worry about. No matter how bad the result, just die together. Even if they failed, they would be together in another world. They would accompany each other on the road to the Underworld and they wouldn’t be alone.
The two people hugged for a while. Once Xiao Lou completely let go of his nightmare, he broke away from Yu Hanjiang’s embrace and suddenly asked, “By the way, is Brother Jiu aware of our matter?”
Yu Hanjiang was very calm. “Yes.”
Xiao Lou couldn’t help his ears turning red. “Did you tell him?”
“Don’t be nervous. He really appreciates you. Rest assured, he has already seen you as one of his own in his heart.”
Xiao Lou paused before asking nervously, “Then once we go back, would you like to meet my parents with me? They are very good people and their personalities are gentle.”
Yu Hanjiang was stunned for a moment and a trace of ecstasy filled his heart. He hugged Xiao Lou tightly again and whispered in his ear, “If you are willing to admit our relationship in front of your elders then I naturally won’t refuse. I also want to get your parents’ approval and let them know that you have a boyfriend whose name is Yu Hanjiang.”
Xiao Lou, “……”
The nightmare originally made Xiao Lou uncomfortable but now he felt sweet in his heart. Yu Hanjiang had told his older brother about their love and Xiao Lou wanted to take Yu Hanjiang to introduce him to his parents. This showed that both of them were serious about their relationship and wanted their beloved to be recognized by their family.
Rather than thinking about bad things, they should be optimistic and think about their plans for the future.
Just then, a notification popped up on the phone. Tang Ci had sent a message in the group chat. “Everyone, go downstairs to eat and take your room card to have the buffet lunch. We will discuss where to go after the meal.”
They had restored their spirits and were about to meet a new challenge.
Proofreader: Fictional Reality & Paranoid Kitten