301, 302

301, 302

[Host: justreads.net]
[August 13, 2021]
...

301: Preparing to Leave Sanye Island

The most pig teammate of all was, obviously, Milty. She hadn’t done anything except stare at the sea waiting for her fiancé since they arrived on the island.

That left Leo and Ink with Little Bun and the nanny beast. Someone had to protect Little Bun, so they couldn’t both dive at the same time. The nanny beast was there, but with so many merchants on the island, neither Ink nor Leo felt good about leaving Little Bun alone with only the nanny beast for protection.

So one of them always stayed behind to watch over Little Bun, while the other dove to find the flowers. This was why they hadn’t completed the mission by the time Ming Xi’s group came over.

Leo blamed himself for poor leadership. He was incompetent and had failed to complete the task assigned by his senior. In order to make up for it, he worked extra hard on the dive.

The other three guys also worked hard, but despite this, the group only found two flowers. Two hours had already elapsed.

Ming Xi was still fine, but the other three weren’t doing so good. Jier was fire, so he was bad in water and had to expend a lot more magic than usual. Because of this, even though his magic was stronger than Leo or Ink, he was basically on par with them in the water. He had to go and rest on shore.

No one would actually stay in the water until they exhausted all their magic at the three-hour limit.

The sea was a dangerous place. It was wise to save some magic should the situation arise where fighting was necessary. Not doing so was just courting death. . . 

The four of them came out of the water to find Feng Wu taking care of Little Bun while the nanny beast was cooking on the grill. There was a lot of variety, with different fishes, crabs and lobsters.

“Little White’s abilities keep getting better and better,” declared Jier after taking a bite of fish. He sat beside the fire and had grabbed a deliciously looking fish that was grilled to perfection.

Little White’s eyes crinkled, pleased with the compliment.

“Compared to her owner, this is indeed amazing.” Ink knew how horrific Feng Wu’s cooking was.

Feng Wu walked over holding a bunch of tri-color flowers in her hand.

“What?! Where did those come from?!” Leo was shocked. They had been searching for so long and only came up with two flowers, but here was Feng Wu with, what, seven or eight in her hand like it was nothing at all. It defied logic!

“These are from a friend.”

Just now, while Feng Wu was waiting by the shore with Little Bun in her arms, several small fish monsters showed up. They chatted for a bit and became friends.

The little fishes knew she was looking for the tri-colored flower so each one of them had brought her one.

Feng Wu solved the problem that had been plaguing them for so many days that simply.

Leo felt arrows pierce his knees. He had to bow down to Feng Wu.

After enjoying the wonderful seafood grill, they all agreed to leave the island after resting for a few days.

...

Leo rushed into the caving yelling, “Bad news! Bad news! Milty took our boat!”

“What!? That woman dared?!” Jier was stunned.

Ming Xi had hired and paid for both the crew and the ship for the mission to Sanye island, but out of consideration for the crew’s safety, had taken a different boat to go to Demon Wind island. The original ship was left with Leo for his use.

The ship had everything, including all their provisions. The captain was also knowledgeable and an invaluable resource. They needed him to sail them back.

For her fiancé, Milty had driven away their only boat. It was outrageous of her.

“That damn woman! She’s no good, way too selfish!” Ink was so angry he almost saw red.

“How did you discover the boat was missing?” Ming Xi asked.

Leo shook his head in embarrassment. “I wasn’t the one who discovered it; it was an uncle in the village. He knew we hadn’t left yet. He came and reported it because he was worried someone had stolen it.

Once I found out, I went around and asked a few of the villagers if they had seen anything. That’s how I found out Milty took the boat out by herself.”

Ming Xi nodded. “It’s OK. It’s not a big deal. We’ll find another boat. She can use it if she wants to.”

“Milty and her fiancé are just plain bad news. One will do anything for a woman, even go to Demon Wind island. The other is even crazier, stupidly fearless for a man.” Jier was still amazed by the whole thing.

“Bad people.” Feng Wu nodded her head in agreement with Jier.

“Let’s rest for a bit, then tomorrow we’ll go to the trade islands and buy another ship. There should be a boat on Sanye that will go there.” Ming Xi said.

“That’s the thing, I’m not sure if there is one.” While it was true there were boats that sailed between the islands, they didn’t sail every day.

“We’ll ask the villagers tomorrow. It will be good if there is a boat tomorrow, but if not, then we’ll think about it then. We can play here for a few more days while we think of another way to get to the trade islands.”

Ink’s suggestion was unanimously approved. They all found individual spots to rest while they waited to see what tomorrow would bring.

The next morning, Ink went down to the village to ask about boats leaving for the trade islands. The answer was an unexpected five days. After asking about the schedule, Ink returned to the cave.

The cave was quiet after Ink shared the news.

“What should we do? Wait for five days or find another way off the island?” Ink threw the question to Ming Xi since he was their captain.

“How about this, we try to find a merchant ship that’s passing through that’s willing to take us onboard. If there aren’t any merchant ships, then we’ll wait the five days for the Sanye ship.”

No one disagreed. They had completed their mission, so when they returned wasn’t a big deal, as long as they got back to campus before classes resumed.

Fortunately they did find a passing merchant ship. The ship’s destination wasn’t Zhongyang or the trade islands, but a place called Biluo. It was a large and powerful archipelago composed of twelve islands. This, of course, meant there were twelve lords.

302: Merchant Ship

The island lords lived on their own islands. The main lord lived on the main island while the other lords lived on the smaller surrounding islands.

Of the twelve, three were from the Dabu sect, two were dual sword-magic art users, while the rest were either sword masters or master magicians.

The ship the group found was headed to Biluo, and Biluo happened to have regularly scheduled ships that sailed out to Zhongyang. It was welcome news for the group. Now they wouldn’t have to buy a boat or rent one out, they could just hitch a ride.

After they decided to go to Biluo, Ink and the captain finalized their agreement. The captain decided not to charge them for the ride after finding out they were students at Zhongyang Holy academy. Instead he asked they led a hand if the ship encountered any trouble.

Sailing on the sea was dangerous. There were water monsters and pirates to be careful of.

Large merchant ships were often targeted by pirates. In fact, most paid pirates a large quantity of goods every year to ensure that they wouldn’t be attacked while at sea.

Medium sized and smaller sized ships didn’t have that kind of excess resource, so they had to rely on adventurers to guard their ships while at sea.

The owner of this particular ship was named Hart. Hart was your average business man whose family had been in the business for generations. He was luckier than most. Thanks to his acute business sense and hardworking ethics, he was able to move from being a small fisherman to an owner of a small ship.

Hart was a strong man in his fifties, but based on the low amount of inner power he radiated, he wasn’t a very powerful guy sword user. Considering his age, it was obvious he didn’t have talent for training with the sword to become a sword master.

He had an easy going, open-hearted personality. His staff were all kind people. Aside from Hart and his staff, there was also a hired mercenary group on board. He had hired them to protect the merchandise.

The mercenary group inevitably saw Ming Xi’s group board the ship. They were used to it. It was Hart’s habit to pick up passengers as long as they were headed the same direction.

Other than Ming Xi’s group, there was also a brother sister pair, and three other adventurers traveling on a mission.

Since everyone was going to Biluo and there were plenty of empty rooms on board, Hart did not refuse anyone entrance, nor did he charge a fare. He only asked for everyone’s help should the ship encounter danger on the seas.

It was a fair enough request, so everyone agreed.

In addition to the dozen crew members and about twenty hired mercenaries, there were also the adventurers, extra passengers and Ming Xi’s group. There were quite a few people on board.

Because Feng Wu was a girl and had a child with her, she was given a separate room. Ming Xi and the other guys split up into two rooms. The crew took them to their respective rooms afterwards.

Their rooms were adjacent, so that was convenient.

It didn’t take long after everyone settled in for the ship to leave port.

It wasn’t a long journey to get to Biluo island from Sanye island, just ten days.

That evening, Hart had the cook prepare a meal for everyone in the dining hall. Naturally Hart would be the host.

“Everyone, no need to be polite. Sit, sit. It’s our fate to meet at sea like this so let’s all enjoy a good meal together. Drink and dine.” Hart laughed heartily.

Everyone sat down.

The hired mercenary group’s team leader was a sword master of some repute. He had two assistants; one was a strong sword master as well, while the other was a strong magician. The remaining twenty odd people in the group were also strong in their own right. Only the three leaders of the mercenary group joined in the banquet. The other members of the mercenary group were patrolling outside.

“Thanks to Boss Hart for the invitation.”

“Thank you, Boss Hart.”

“Indeed, I’m so embarrassed to have Boss Hart treat us.”

They all exchanged a few words with Hart before entering the dining cabin. Once inside, they sat down in their arranged seats and a maid poured the wine.

“Boss Hart is too polite. I will toast boss first.” Ming Xi and everyone raised their glasses in a toast.

Boss Hart was a businessman so he was good at conversation. It was a congenial atmosphere as everyone chatted.

The banquet was primarily for the three mercenary leaders, so Hart mostly chatted with them, however that didn’t mean he ignored everyone else.

A clever-looking girl around sixteen or seventeen came up to Feng Wu and whispered. “Are you going to Biluo for the sea emperor’s tomb?”

The girl was the younger of the siblings who had boarded the ship earlier. They were pretty good. The girl was an intermediate magician while the boy, at twenty-five or so, was an advanced swordsman. He was a promising talent.

They introduced themselves as nobilities from the west. The siblings were traveling together for fun when they heard about the tomb. It sounded interesting so they got on Hart's ship and were looking forward to being part of the exploration team.

Feng Wu was sitting next to Jier, eating a piece of chicken thigh. Unexpectedly someone approached her and started chatting. She swallowed the mouthful of meat in her mouth before replying. “What sea emperor’s tomb?”

The girl was surprised and it showed in her wide eyes. She couldn’t believe there was someone who hadn’t heard the news.

“What?! You don’t know? Then what are you doing going to Biluo?”

“To get a boat back to Zhongyang,” replied Feng Wu with her stiff expressionless face.

303, 304

303, 304

[Host: justreads.net]
[August 16, 2021]
...

303: The Sea Emperor’s Tomb

“Don’t you want to go the emperor’s tomb? He was an emperor you know. Won’t you regret not taking a look?” The girl didn’t expect to find someone who wouldn’t be tempted.

“Young Miss, can you tell us what’s going on with the tomb?” Jier asked with a friendly smile.

The girl didn’t expect the handsome boy would take the initative to talk to her.

“You don’t have to be so formal, just call me Margaret.” The girl pointed to herself while blushing a little.

The sip of wine Ink had in his mouth squirted out a little when he heard this. Girl, when did you get so familiar with Jier? I’ve been sitting here this whole time and didn’t notice.

Jier and the girl were oblivious to the slander coming from Ink’s heart. Jier easily called the girl by her given name.

“Well then Margaret, can you tell us a little about the tomb of the sea emperor?” Anyone who knew Jier, knew how short his tempered was, so the fact that he was being so patient meant he was up to something. They just had to wait.

Ink knew Jier was interested in the tomb. He was also interested; he just hadn’t said anything out loud.

“Do you remember the sudden storm, the crazy thunder and lightning, we had a few days ago, the tsunami from the underwater volcano?” asked Margaret.

“Of course. I don’t think anyone who lived through it will ever forget.” Jier smiled charmingly at her.

“The place I’m talking about is the where the sea emperor is buried. It was well hidden and protected by an enchantment circle. We ordinary humans would never have found it, but the crazy underwater activity we had a few days ago broke the enchantment and exposed the tomb.

The masters of Biluo islands were the first to notice it. They had wanted to enter it the moment they found it, but even though the circle enchantment hiding it was destroyed, the entrance itself is still sealed.

The masters had no choice but to advertise the tomb’s existence and hope they’d be able to attract powerful masters who could open the tomb.

My brother and I heard about it, so that’s why we got on the boat with Boss Hart to go to Biluo. If you’re not busy, why not stay and explore the tomb together? Won’t it be interesting?!” Margaret said with a smile.

“Turns out we didn’t know something so big had happened.” Jier touched his chin in thought. Unexpectedly, it had something to do with them.

The tomb appeared because of their fight with the demon lord commander. Being purified by Xiao Chun released the commander’s sealed emotions and things went out of control. The storm happened and the sea went crazy.

Although the storm died for some unknown reason, no one would have expected an emperor’s tomb would be brought to the surface.

Feng Wu continued to eat her meal quietly. She had no interest in the tomb.

The banquet ended a little later after their chat with Margaret and the group met up in Ming Xi’s room.

“How about it Senior Ming Xi, doesn't this tomb sound really interesting?” Ink spoke up excitedly.

A sea emperor’s tomb was the equivalent to a god’s tomb. Exploring one was a rare opportunity, so it would be a shame to miss out on it.

Leo was also super interested in it. They hadn’t encountered anything exciting on their mission (he didn’t get to be a part of the adventure on Demon Wind island), and now an emperor’s tomb was dangling in front of him. It would be a too much of a missed opportunity not to go.

“The emperor of the sea is a natural born god, so his tomb won’t be easy to enter. I’m afraid you won’t survive if you enter.” Ming Xi said after thinking for a moment.

“Senior Ming Xi, you can take us there, then everyone can take care of themselves once we’re inside. No one will blame anyone if they encounter misfortune.” Jier was always interested in excitement, so he tried to persuade Ming Xi.

“Jier is right. Once we go inside, whether it’s life or death, we won’t blame senior.” Leo and Ink both tried to persuade Ming Xi as well.

“No, this is dangerous. We’ve already completed our mission. There’s no reason to do anything extra. No one is allowed to bring this topic up again.” Ming Xi was firm.

Other that Feng Wu, everyone’s face was crestfallen.

Ming Xi didn’t care; he kept a benign expression on his face. Meanwhile changes were happening in the maritime world.

The tomb got a lot of interest as news of it spread all the way to the continent. The flight arrays and docks were a buzz with activity as masters made their way to Biluo. There was a huge boom in the transportation industry because of it.

Ming Xi and the others didn’t know as it took a full ten days to reach Biluo. They didn’t see Hart again after that first day. But that didn’t affect them and they went about their business.

Life on the boat was a bit boring though. Whenever Feng Wu was free, she would bring Little Bun out on the deck so he could practice walking.

Little Bun was getting better at walking. Now that he was no longer just a crawling baby, he loved to explore. Little White[notes] had to run around following him everywhere on the boat.

A shrill shriek erupted out on the fifth day at sea.

A twenty-something year old female mage in a red robe was chasing Little Bun. She had ruddy, blemished skin, probably from all her days spent at sea. Despite this, she was still a mid-tier beauty.

She was currently staring at Little Bun, her face pale and her eyes spitting fire, as though she was staring at her father’s murderer. She held a black staff as she chased after Little Bun while using a column of water to attack him relentlessly.

Little White grabbed Little Bun and ran away. The little guy was showing off his pearly whites as he laughed, not aware it was a life-or-death situation. He just thought someone was playing with him.

304: Little Bun Gets in Trouble

The crew on deck were frowning as they watched the scene in disgust. How could a woman be so heavy handed with a child?

They were watching out for Little Bun’s safety. It wasn’t like they were unwilling step in, they just never expected someone would hurt such a small guy, so when it did happen and they moved to stop it, it was already too late.

Most on board had killed before and were accustomed to blood and death, but those they killed were all enemies. They were uncomfortable watching a small child die in front of their eyes. How could they turn a blind eye and let it happen?

Just when the little guy looked like he was about to get hit, a white light flashed and surrounded both him and the kangaroo nanny. The water attack hit the shield harmlessly.

Everyone was relieved the little guy had escaped death. They were afraid the woman would physically grab the little guy, so one by one, the surrounding observers stepped up and put Little Bun behind them.

“Hey. What’s the matter with you woman? Are you even human? How can you shoot at a child like that?” yelled out one guard.

“Yeah! I’ve never seen such a vicious woman. Woman are pure poison.”

“Hey! If you want to scold her fine. But don’t lump all of us together.” A female mercenary glared at the man angrily.

“Ah! Sorry girl. I was caught up in the mood.” The man scratched his head in embarrassment.

“Forget it! I’ll forgive you this time, but I won’t be so forgiving next time!” The female mercenary wasn’t an unforgiving kind of person.

The other people weren’t paying attention to their dispute. One by one they pointed fingers at the magician.

“That woman is too cruel!”

“To not let even a child off the hook. She’s just not human!”

“Yeah, I thought she looked like a bad sort when I saw her get on the boat,” said another guy trying to sound like he knew all along.

“Oh please, drop it. As if you knew. Only talking about it after the fact, hmph!” The others didn’t buy it. They quickly booed him.

Meanwhile, the magician’s face went from white, to red to green.

Two of the magician’s friend rushed forward. “Sorry, sorry, everyone. Our friend is a little short-tempered. She didn’t mean it. We apologize on her behalf.”

They had wanted to stop her, but they were too slow. They were only able to breathe a sigh of relief after they saw that the little guy was unharmed. With him unharmed, they were able to step in and quell everyone’s anger.

“What are you apologizing to us for? We weren’t the ones attacked and we're not this child’s relative.”

“In fact if you really want to apologize, I saw the child’s parent playing cards inside the cabin.”

“Is anyone going to call her over? Anyone?”

“Someone already did.”

The crew and mercenaries ignored the magician and her two friends as they talked with each other.

Just then Feng Wu, Ming Xi and friends could be seen rushing out of the cabin. They ran very fast. Feng Wu was even faster with her air steps. She reached Little Bun in an instant.

“Mom! Mom!” Little Bun looked at his mother. He stretched out his arms demanding a hug.

Feng Wu picked up Little Bun and checked to make sure he had no injuries before handing him back to Little White.

“It was her, that woman over there. She was the one chasing after the child. If this magical beast hadn’t blocked it, I’m afraid the child would have suffered ill-fortune.”

The bystanders immediately started complaining about the magician’s black heart.

The magician had quite a reputation on the ship. Her name was Mofei and among the adventurers present, her strength was pretty good. She was only in her twenties so she could be considered a genius by all rights. But because of this, she was narrow minded, arrogant and full of self-importance.

She was rather unpopular as no one on the ship liked her.

And now she did such an outrageous thing in front of everyone, so other than her teammates, no one stepped up to defend her. The others on the ship were happy to see her suffer, so complaints about her came one after the other.

Her reputation was turning as black as soot, but she didn’t think it was her fault. It was just inferior people being jealous and trying to make a fool of her.

“That’s enough from all of you!” yelled Mofei. Then she turned to look at Feng Wu.

“You weren’t watching your child! Do you know what that despicable pervert did, huh?! He went and peeped at me when I was bathing!” Just remembering the scene made Mofei want to kill the kid.

What did Little Bun do to be labelled a pervert? Well, since he graduated from all fours to two legs, he had been busy running around all over the ship, and indeed something finally happened one day.

He broke into the ladies’ bathroom.

It just so happened that Mofei was the only one in the bath. Of course, it would not have been an issue if a small child snuck in, but Mofei had a powerful shortcoming: she had a flat chest. Feng Wu had a little bump, but this girl was as flat as a board.

She usually wore robes that covered her figure in such a way that people couldn’t detect her flat chest. She picked her bath times according to when it wouldn’t be in use by anyone else, but this time Little Bun managed to sneak in.

After seeing her body, Little Bun squatted his little booty down and said, “Flat. . . flat. . . flat. . . ”

It was devastating.

Mofei saw red; she wanted to kill the little guy. She dressed as fast as she could and chased after Little Bun. When she got her hands on him. . . 

Of course she couldn’t actually tell it like that, so she simplified it by saying Little Bun had peeked at her while she was bathing.

305, 306

305, 306

[Host: justreads.net]
[August 21, 2021]
...

305: Humiliate Her

Peeked at her while she was taking a bath? Really?! She wanted to kill the little kid just for that?

The people there had stupefied expressions on their faces. Her reason was too ridiculous.

“You uneducated woman. Who are you calling perverted? Xiao Ye[notes] is just a baby. So what if he saw you bathe? He’s just one. You worried a one-year-old baby is going to molest you?” Ink had been a temporary dad for so many days, of course he would have special feelings for Little Bun. It was hard to stand anyone scolding the little guy.

Both Mofei’s friends couldn’t help but blush for this reason. Neither of them understood Mofei’s reason for going after the child so fiercely, nor did they have the time to investigate properly. But no matter the reason, Mofei’s reaction was overboard.

“Miss Mofei, you went too far. You not only shouted insults at a one year old, you even tried to kill him. No matter your reason, your actions are unforgiveable.” Not to mention the reason itself was nonsense.

Ming Xi looked at Mofei. His expression was mild yet grave at the same time. It was hard to look him in the eye.

“Don’t scold Xiao Ye.” Feng Wu was more to the point as she glared at Mofei.

She hated people who scolded Little Bun the most. Last time she had slapped Shui[notes] twice because she was scolding about Little Bun.

If it hadn’t been for Ming Xi holding her hand, she would have already rushed over and beat Mofei.

“Who wants your forgiveness? That stinking boy peeped at a girl taking a bath. Why can’t I beat and scold him? You should have taught him better if you didn’t want him to get beaten and scolded. I don’t know how you’re even parents. Can’t even control your own child.”

Mofei wasn’t a fool. If she hadn’t gotten so mad at the little boy, she wouldn’t have chased after him so publicly. She would have punished him where others wouldn’t see. It was just a shame she lost her cool and did it in front of so many people.

She was annoyed at her own impulsiveness, but the words had already been spoken and they couldn’t be taken back. So many had already seen her chasing after the little boy.

“It’s bad that Xiao Ye offended you, but he’s only a little kid. Do you really need to be so heavy handed with a one year old? You were even verbally abusive. Doesn’t Miss Mofei feel that is too much?” Leo joined the fray.

“What are you all doing milling around. Get back to work!” yelled Emoke, the head the mercenary group. He was displeased to see the mercenaries just hanging around.

Even though the group wanted to see Mofei get what was coming, they had to leave.

Emoke waited until the group of people watching the show properly dispersed before walking over. He frowned in displeasure as he looked at Feng Wu and Mofei’s group.

“No matter who you are, please do not make trouble while on board. Resolve your personal vendettas after you disembark.” He turned around, giving them the cold shoulder, and promptly left without waiting for a reply.

Emoke’s attitude wasn’t great. It was obvious he considered the group outsiders and didn’t like having them on the boat.

His attitude was to be expected though. Under normal circumstances, merchant ships shouldn’t casually take in unidentified passengers. There was a possibility they were letting wolves into their midst, which would in turn making guarding the ship more difficult.

It was no wonder the head of the mercenary group didn’t like them.

After Emoke's departure, Mofei snorted then turned and left as well. The abruptness caught Jier and Ink off guard. Who would have thought such a powerful woman would just walk away?

Mofei’s two companions naturally followed her, but before leaving, they apologized repeatedly on her behalf. They were much more reasonable.

Jier and Ink found it hard to swallow that Mofei left without any kind of punishment. They wouldn’t feel better until they taught her a lesson. Even if they weren’t allowed to kill anyone on board, teaching someone a little lesson had to be permissible right?

Later that very night, Feng Wu carefully followed behind Jier. Jier and Ink had knocked on her door a little earlier and had invited her to join them in embarrassing Mofei.

Why would they want to embarrass Mofei? What was embarrassing? Feng Wu wasn’t sure. Understanding dawned on her after Ink explained what it was. They were going to teach Mofei a lesson for Xiao Ye!

Her eyes had lit up. “I’ll go,” was her immediate reply. She followed them to do bad things without hesitation. It was very exciting.

The night was a hot bed of criminal intent. The dark would be perfect cover.

The trio wasn’t going to commit anything serious like murder or arson. They were just going to use some illusion magic to teach Mofei a lesson, much like with Jasmine.[notes]

Jier could have done this kind of simple thing alone. He had only called them all out so they could enjoy the show.

Once his illusion worked, they could just watch the woman make a fool of herself in front of everyone.

The more he thought about it, the more excited he got, and the more wicked the plan became.

The three of them divided into two groups. Feng Wu and Ink would guard outside while Jier would enter alone and cast the spell.

“Xiao Wu, just wait and see how unlucky that woman is going to get.” Ink gloated at the upcoming misfortune of another. He giggled twice before catching himself and covering his mouth with one hand. He didn’t want people to find them there.

“Yep.” Her eyes were bright with expectation.

She did not like people who scolded Little Bun, but Ming Xi said they couldn’t fight while on the ship. They had to wait until they docked, but that would take a long time – five whole days. . . 

She couldn’t beat the bad person, but Jier said there was another way. Out of blind trust in Jier, Feng Wu followed him. She wanted to see the bad person be taught a lesson.

They had only waited for five minutes when Jier came back out looking confused.

“What’s the matter? Bad luck? Were you discovered?” Ink asked.

“No, no one was inside.” Jier was disappointed. He had been ready to go with his best illusion magic yet. It was one he got as a successor of the four seasons.

306: Mofei’s Death

“Not there? Where could she have gone off to so late at night.” Ink cursed their bad luck, his face showed his unwillingness to give up. He didn’t want to let her get off scot free.

Feng Wu’s eyes were also filled with disappointment. She wouldn’t get to see Mofei suffer misfortune.

“I don’t know where she went. Let’s leave for now and come back tomorrow night.”

Ink was reluctant to leave, but they couldn’t find her, and they couldn’t very well just stand around her door all night. They had come in high spirits but returned to their respective rooms in disappointment. They went to sleep, unaware the night was destined to be a restless night.

A scream rang out early the next morning.

One by one, people ran toward the sound.

Ming Xi and Jier were eating breakfast when they heard the scream. Jier nearly sprayed fresh milk in Ink’s face.

Chaotic footsteps rang out on deck as many people rushed over. The core mercenary group shouted at everyone to return to their posts. Only a small number of people were sent over to investigate.

“What’s the matter?” Margaret had just sat down with her brother for their meal when the scream rang out.

“I don’t know.” Margaret’s brother stood up and looked outside the door.

Margaret nodded. She was a fan of excitement. Something had to have happened and she wanted to see if it would be interesting. “Xiao Wu, it looks like something is wrong outside. Do you want to take a look together?” There were only a few girls on board the ship, and she and Feng Wu were about the same age, so by default, Feng Wu was her favorite girl passenger.

There was also Mofei of course. They weren’t too far apart in age or grade, but unfortunately the girl had a personality that made it hard to get along with her. Naturally, Margaret wouldn’t look for her as a companion.

Feng Wu shook her head to the invitation. She continued to eat the bread in her hand, obviously uninterested in the events outside.

Margaret was disappointed, but she didn’t force the issue, instead she invited Jier and Ink. This time her luck was better -- both of them were game, so together all three went outside to check things out.

The only ones left in the dining cabin now were Feng Wu, Ming Xi, and Leo. They ignored the noise outside and ate their meal quietly. They didn’t expect their leisurely meal to be interrupted when Jier and the siblings ran back in, not ten minutes later.

“Bad news! Bad news! Mofei is dead!” cried out Margaret while panting.

Ming Xi, Leo, and Feng Wu: . . . 

“Who killed her?” Leo asked after getting over his surprise.

Jier and the siblings all pulled up chairs and sat down around the table before pouring a glass of water.

Jier drank a glass of water then started. “I don’t know. They haven’t found the murderer yet. The whole thing is a mess. Boss Hart has already ordered a full investigation.”

“We don’t know the murderer yet? Then who found the body?” Ming Xi frowned.

“The two guys who were with her. They said they were going to ask her to come to breakfast with them. Her door looked closed when they went over, so they pushed it open, only to find that it wasn't so much closed as just blocked. They pushed it open and there she was. . .  dead."

“She died pretty badly. Her body looked really strange. It was really scary. Good thing Xiao Wu didn’t go. Xiao Wu, if you’d seen it, you would have puked breakfast out.” Margaret drank more water as the pressure sensation in her stomach rolled around. She had vomited her breakfast earlier. She didn’t want to vomit last night’s dinner as well.

“That scary? Is it because you’ve never seen a dead body before and you were scared because it was your first time.” Leo asked suspiciously. He didn’t believe a dead body could be that scary. Only those who’d never seen one before would be so affected that they would vomit.

Ink waved his hand. “No I can vouch. The corpse was definitely scary and way too abnormal.”

“What do you mean?” Even Ming Xi was interested.

“Her body was dried and withered. She didn’t have a single drop of blood left. Her clothes were a mess, all old and crumbly. It broke apart on contact, like it was hundreds of years old. There were large maggots crawling all over her body too. Basically, it didn’t look the body of someone who just died. It really looked like she’d been dead for a long time. You say, don’t you think that's strange?” Ink couldn’t help but feel a chill run up his spine just thinking about it.

“Ergh. Don’t remind me. I get the heebiegeebies whenever anyone talks about bugs. I think I’m gonna puke again. . . ” Margaret couldn’t take it. She covered her mouth and rushed outside.

“That is really strange.” Even if they hadn’t seen the body, it was obvious from Ink’s description that something was wrong with it. They didn’t know how Hart or Emoke was going to handle the matter though.

“Yeah it is really strange. Everyone, be careful. Don’t go anywhere alone. Xiao Wu, make sure you don’t go out by yourself at night. Remember to call us if you have any problems. . . ” Jier was a bit longwinded.

As a result of the murder, security on board was much tighter. Feng Wu and the others were pulled in for questioning by Emoke because of what happened earlier between them and Mofei.

They weren’t convicted of anything, but from the number of patrols around Feng Wu and her group, it was obvious Emoke suspected them.

They were on Hart’s ship and he was in charge. They couldn’t go to him to protest. What could they do other than keep their heads down and stay out of trouble?

They could only hope to reach Biluo soon. Once they got there, they would be able to buy a boat and sail back to Zhongyang themselves.

But things changed the next day. A black tornado appeared on the waters without any warning. It was a huge tornado with powerful winds.

The sea raged with rolling waves while sea creatures were swept up into the chaos. The air was filled with the sounds of distress.

DEATH ISLAND ARC
307, 308

307, 308

[Host: justreads.net]
[August 23, 2021]
...

307: Black Tornado

“The black tornado! What do we do?! It’s a once in a century event! Why did we have to meet it?!”

“I don’t want to die! Oh god, help me!”

“No! No! Don’t come here!”

Panicked shouting erupted on deck. They knew there was no escape from a black tornado. There was only one ending.

The wind made the ship sway and it was difficult to even stand. They had to hold onto something to keep balance when the waves hit. People were toppling all over on deck.

“Everyone in the cabin!” Ming Xi yelled.

Even the siblings, pale faced as they were, went inside. Everyone’s expressions were serious. No one could have predicted something like this would have happened so soon after what happened with Mofei. It had only been one day!

Two more people came in after them. They were Mofei’s companion: Myron and Tang. The waves had hit them hard and they were drenched.

“What do we do?! I knew we shouldn’t go to Biluo; now we’re dead!” One of the guys yelled while clutching his head. It was obvious he was on the verge of a mental breakdown.

“I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die!” said the other.

“Can you two quit it already?! We aren’t ordinary people. Even if we get swept away, we won’t die, so stop your screaming and crying.” Jier did not appreciate their theatrics. He slammed the table, glaring at the two cowardly men.

The wind and waves were already annoyingly loud; having these two be so loud was only making his head hurt worse.

Xiao Wu touched the ring on her finger. Both Little Bun and Little White were inside the dimensional space. The black tornado outside made her frown. Why did she feel anxious, panicked, as though something was about to happen?

The two guys listened to Jier, but they looked over with a sneer. “Don’t you know? That’s a black tornado, a rare once-in-a-century thing. It nullifies internal energy.[notes] Basically, no matter how powerful you are, you’re just an ordinary person in front of a black tornado. Otherwise, why do you think those people outside are so frightened? It’s because they know they’re dead.”

Jier’s pupil’s shrank slightly. He had never heard of a black tornado before. It wasn’t just Jier. Ming Xi and the others had never heard of it either.

They were all citizens from the main continent so their knowledge of maritime phenomenon was limited. Black tornado? They thought it was a black tornado because it was black. They never thought it was a special tornado that blocked inner energy.

“Are you serious?” Margaret tried to use her qi for magic, but found she couldn’t. She was like an ordinary person.

Jier and the others also tried, but found they had no luck either. It was useless, whether they tried qi for magic or martial arts; they were just ordinary people.

“It’s coming! It’s coming!”

“Oh help! I don’t want to die!”

“Please, someone save me! I don’t care who! Just save me!”

The crew and guards hired by Hart wailed in ragged voices filled with fear.

The black tornado was coming. They knew what to do.

“Everyone! Hold hands! Do not let go!” Ming Xi’s yell brought everyone back to their senses. They formed a circle as they held hands, even Myron and Tang joined in, after all no one wanted to die. As long as there was hope, they would hold on.

Soon enough the merchant ship was swept up in the tornado and everything began spinning all topsy turvy.

“Ah!”

Everyone screamed. It felt like they had turned into spinning toy tops. It felt like the ship was being torn apart.

Feng Wu held tight onto Ming Xi and Jier. She couldn’t even open her eyes because the wind was so fierce. A sea creature suddenly smashed into the group. Ming Xi and them were OK, but Byron, Tang, and the siblings were hit hard by the creature. They were hit very hard and involuntarily released their grip.

Ming Xi didn’t have the luxury to worry about them. He was still connected to Feng Wu, Jier, Leo and Ink,m but things were still dangerous.

It wasn’t just one sea creature caught up in the tornado, but thousands. Not to mention there were all the bits and pieces of the broken ship. No matter how these things hit, it would be painful. They would be seriously injured even if they survived the impact.

They would have been fine if they still had their abilities because they could have created a shield, but as ordinary people they couldn’t do anything other than pray not to get hit.

There is a saying: What you most fear is what will come to you. They had, through luck, escaped the first catastrophe, however the second came quickly. This time it wasn’t a sea creature that smacked into them, but rather they were the ones who would hit the sea creature.

A huge fish was struggling in front of them. The wind picked the group up and tossed them in the direction of the fish. Who knew what impact would bring?

“Find a way to get to the middle!” Ming Xi yelled.

A pity the wind was too loud and his voice was lost.

“What did you say?!” The wind blew their voices away as soon as they spoke.

Ming Xi had no choice but to use his eyes to communicate. Fortunately, everyone understood and quickly cooperated.

Moving to the center wasn’t easy. There was also a problem. There was the immediate issue of their oncoming collision with the fish.

It was just an ordinary sea creature and not a magical beast, even still, it wasn’t small. It had really thick skin. They weren’t sure if their thin arms and legs would break upon collision.

No matter how unwilling they were, they still bumped into each other. Luckily it was at the soft underbelly of the fish and not the harder back or head areas. It was painful, but they escaped without internal bleeding.

They weren’t sure what was worse – the fear or the pain.

The faster the wind turned, the more beasts and creatures were ensnared. There was so much marine life enmeshed in the tornado. Several other ships also got caught.

308: The Island

The tornado was still raging but the group couldn’t hold on. Their strength was fading and their grip was weakening. The wind was strong and they couldn’t withstand it for much longer.

Who knew how long it took, but eventually they lost their strength and their grip loosened until their hands eventually parted. The tornado did not relent and more maritime creatures and vegetation, not to mention ships, got pulled into its vortex.

...

Feng Wu staggered up off the sand. She was on an island she had never seen before. The carcasses of different sea beasts and creatures were piled all around the beach, but she didn’t see anyone else.

“Where is this place? Where is Senior Ming Xi? Where is Jier?” Feng Wu patted her still dizzy head.

She was on an island, but it wasn’t any old island. The sand was black and so was the soil and rocks.

Feng Wu decided to look for Ming Xi first. She stepped carefully around the animal carcasses, checking to make sure there wasn’t anyone underneath.

Luckily it didn’t take her long before she found another person. Feng Wu felt under the person’s nose. There was shallow breathing. What a relief.

“Uh. . . ” groaned the girl as she gradually regained consciousness.

The girl was beautiful, with porcelain skin and excellent clothes. From first glance, it looked like she was a pampered eldest young miss.

The girl slowly opened her eyes. “You! Who are you?!” she uttered as she sat up in panic. But because she had been unconscious for so long, her body was stiff and the sudden action made her wobble. She nearly collapsed back onto the sand.

“Feng Wu,” reported Feng Wu when she heard the question.

“What kind of ominous place is this? Why am I here?” The girl was on guard as she looked at Feng Wu. She lowered her guard once she saw that Feng Wu wasn’t a malicious person and she slowly began looking around at her surroundings.

“You were also involved in the black tornado?” asked the girl. She was unaccustomed to conversing with people while sitting as she was. She was a noble after all.

“Yes. Have you seen my friends Ming Xi, Jier, Ink and Leo?” Feng Wu counted out their names on her fingers. She was in a bad mood because she couldn’t find anyone else.

The girl rolled her eyes. “I just woke up; how could I have seen any of your friends?”

“Oh. . . ” A disappointed Feng Wu didn’t bother saying anything else. She patted the sand off her skirt and turned around, intending to continue her search.

The girl became anxious at the sight. Who knew when she would meet another living person in this inauspicious place? No way was she losing the only other living person around.

“Wait. Let’s go together.” The girl ran after Feng Wu, not caring one bit whether Feng Wu agreed or not. They would just work together until they found more people.

Along the way she shared her name and where she came from. Her name was Liana and she was from the maritime country of Water Cloud, where her father was the left prime minister. It could be said his position was rather important.

Liana had gone to sea because of the sea emperor’s tomb. She had wanted to join in the fun, but she never expected to encounter such misfortune before even reaching the tomb.

She had come with several people in her house, but now she wasn’t sure if they were dead or alive. She had lost contact with all her guards.

The two girls walked along the beach for awhile before they came across one of Liana’s bodyguards and two other guards from Hart’s ship. They didn’t find anyone else though.

“This isn’t working. We should go farther inland,” said one of Hart’s crew. “Maybe the others have walked into the island.”

The other guard shook his head. “You sure you want to venture farther inland? Don’t you think this island is strange? Like a monster with a wide-open mouth just waiting for us to throw ourselves into its trap?” He seemed very frightened of the unknown.

Could you blame him? The island was strange and gave off spooky vibes. The beach was black, the air smelled of blood, but none was in sight. Everything was black.

Just standing on the beach and looking inland, you could see how black everything was: the land, the plants, everything was washed in shades of black.

You could feel the bad aura just standing on the beach. Who knew how many had to have died for such an ominous atmosphere to be created?

The island was definitely dangerous.

Liana’s female bodyguard frowned. She slowly looked around. “We’ve been searching the beach for so many hours already, if there was anyone other than us here, we would have found them. If there is anyone else still alive, then they’re probably farther inland.”

The crew member shook his head desperately. “No way. You’ve seen it; this island is definitely bad. If we go in, we may not get back out.” He wasn’t willing to go in.

“Zha, don’t be like this. It’s more important to find other survivors.” The other Hart guard was for exploring farther. “Going in is the only way to find them.”

“I don’t want to go Oli. I really don’t want to go. I have a bad feeling about it. Let’s not go.” Zha shook his head. He didn’t change his mind at all.

“Don’t force him. Maybe he thinks it’s safer to stay on the beach. I don’t think so though. I pray everyone for everyone’s safety. Mia, let’s go.” Liana, this noble girl, was actually really calm. Once she got over her initial panic she’d been very calm through out the entire ordeal.

“Feng Wu, do you want to go and have a look?” Liana asked.

Feng Wu nodded. She had to find Ming Xi and the others.

“OK, let’s go together then. You guys,” Liana addressed the two Hart crew members, “can follow us farther inland, or you can stay here on the beach. No one will make you do anything you don’t want to do.” Liana turned around and stepped forward deeper into the island with Mia and Feng Wu.

Oli considered his options and ultimately decided to follow them and explore the island. Staying on the beach wasn’t an option. Besides, he had the feeling the beach wouldn’t be any safer.

He really wanted Zha to come with him, but Zha was certain there were monsters on the island and continued to refuse.

Oli had no choice to but catch up to Liana and her group on his own.

309, 310

309, 310

[Host: justreads.net]
[August 27, 2021]
...

309: The Old Castle

Once Oli joined the group, the four of them marched carefully forward together.

It was a strange island. There was a large forest, but there wasn’t a single animal sound – no animal roars or insect chirps; the only sounds came from the ocean and waves. It felt dead.

Despite not encountering any danger as they climbed up the mountain path, they remained vigilant. They didn’t dare take the island lightly.

They came upon some human bones after climbing for half an hour.

Oli pointed to a large stone next to the bones. “Look! There are words on this.” A line of text was carved on the bottom part of the stone. It looked like it had been done a long time ago.

“What does it say?”

The girls immediately crowded around the stone.

“The writing is too old. It’s written in Common but only a few of the words are still legible.” Most of the text had been blurred with time, but Oli read the parts he could still recognize. “Look here. . .  here is the enemy. . . kill. . . none will escape. . . ”

The words made everyone anxious. It really wasn’t a good place.

“Well let’s keep going.” Liana said.

“That’s the only thing we can do.” They couldn’t retreat. They had no boat and their powers were sealed. There was no choice but to keep moving forward and hope to find a way out.

They had awoken on the beach to find their powers sealed and were now ordinary people without access to their cultivated abilities.

The discovery of the bones left everyone rattled, but they had to keep going. No one spoke, so the group moved silently onward.

They reached the highest point on the island an hour later. An obviously old, dilapidated castle sat at the top.

They stood outside, not sure if they should enter. Since it was the only building in sight, they ultimately decided to go in.

Besides, they needed a place to rest anyway.

The broken doors opened with a horrendous squeak. They looked around the interior and found a surprise.

There were four other figures in the castle!

“People!” exclaimed Mia. She automatically stepped in front of Liana in a protective pose.

“Senior Ming Xi! Jier! Ink! Leo!” Feng Wu ran over.

“Xiao Wu!” Ming Xi grabbed Feng Wu by the shoulders and hugged her. It was clear he was happy to see her.

Jier let him hug Feng Wu for a while before squeezing Ming Xi out and giving Feng Wu a huge hug. He inspected her from head to toe.

“Good, good, you’re OK. I was so worried when I couldn’t find you after I woke up. I’m so glad you’re OK. I can finally be at ease.” Jier had been worried something had happened to Feng Wu. He really did love the girl like a little numbskull sister.

Having been squeezed out of the picture, Ming Xi could only look on at the two of them interacting. For the first time in his life, Ming Xi felt the discomforting sensation of feeling sour.

“Xiao Wu, I knew you had to be on the island. If we hadn’t been trapped in this castle, we would have gone out looking for you!”

Ink and Leo both stepped forward.

Feng Wu’s teammates weren’t the only ones inside the castle. Two more of Liana’s guards were there as well. Liana had left with more than just three guards, but these three were the only ones to be found so far. The others, who knew if they were alive or dead.

There were others in the castle as well, including Boss Hart, who was the ship’s owner, Emoke, who was the head of his hired mercenary guard, and Meijei, who was Emoke’s second in command. Then there were Mofei’s two companions, Myron and Tang, as well as five more people Feng Wu didn’t recognize.

“What do you mean by that?” The wording had made Liana’s heart beat fast.

“Quite literally, you can enter but you can’t leave.” Ink replied.

Mia turned to look at the other two guards. Their expressions were heavy as they nodded. Ink wasn’t lying.

Liana was unwilling. She walked to the door and tried it, but despite its dilapidated appearance, it would not budge.

“Don’t bother little sister. We’ve all tried. We wouldn’t be trapped here if we could leave,” sneered a middle-aged woman. She looked unattractive and arrogant with a lady’s saber in her hand.

Liana ignored her. She tried a few more times before giving up and returning to her guards.

“Xiao Wu, where were you when you woke up?” Jier guided Feng Wu to a seat on an old sofa. Ming Xi and the others also gathered around and took a seat.

“The beach.” Feng Wu proceeded to retell exactly what happened after she woke up.

Jier shared his story. “We woke up in different places then. I woke up in a tree halfway up the mountain. I wanted to go to the top of the mountain to survey the area but never expected to be trapped inside the castle. No matter what I did, I couldn’t leave. More people kept coming in, but none of them could leave either.”

Feng Wu learned that everyone woke up in different places. The only ones to land near each other were Leo and Ink, so they were relatively lucky.

Ink looked to Ming Xi expectantly. “Senior Ming Xi, can you tell where we are?”

“I can’t tell.” Ming Xi shook his head. The island didn’t fit the description for any place he had read about. He knew more about the island’s surroundings from what Feng Wu shared, but it didn’t make the island any easier to identify.

310: A Mysterious Man Appears

It was the strangest island. You couldn’t see the lay out of the island even when you stood on the highest point. Instead, all you saw was the sea; it obscured everything.

Feng Wu and her group had encountered the same thing. Back when they were on the beach, they hadn’t seen the castle, even though it was situated on the highest part of the mountain. All they had seen were the woods and nothing else.

The old castle appeared once they climbed to the top of the mountain. It appeared so suddenly, but yet looked like it had always been there.

“Everyone, this isn’t getting us anywhere. Maybe we can find a way out if we search for clues around the castle.” Boss Hart said after clapping to get everyone’s attention.

“Yeah, we can’t just sit here. We need to look for a way out.”

What Boss Hart said made sense, so everyone agreed to search for clues.

It was a big castle with dozens of rooms divided amongst three floors. Multiplied by three... there were over a hundred rooms to search.

They needed to split up. The group of twenty separated with a few going to each floor.

Feng Wu opened the door to one of the rooms. It looked like it had was cleaned every day, so it was in surprisingly good condition. There was a sofa, wardrobe, vanity table, and a bed with freshly made sheets.

Feng Wu only frowned a little at the condition of the room before she went about searching for clues.

The first thing they needed to figure out was where they were. They couldn’t allow even the smallest clue to escape.

Feng Wu diligently searched the room, looking in all the drawers, under the sheets, and even the carpet.

She went from one room to the next, occasionally seeing the others in the hallway. They would say hello and ask about each other’s progress before resuming their search.

The first floor had been assigned to Ming Xi’s group and one other male mage. No one knew him so they didn’t chat other than to ask about their progress. Despite spending all that time searching, they failed to find any clues.

“Thirty rooms and still nothing!”

Ming Xi’s group returned to the lobby in disappointment.

The group assigned to the second floor had returned before they did.

“Did you have any luck?” Jier asked the other group.

Liana shook her head. “We went through every room but found nothing.”

They could only pin their hope on the third floor. Maybe that group would have good news.

Hart and the others came down five minutes later. He didn’t seem surprised at finding the other group already there.

“Boss Hart, did you find anything?”

A dozen people looked to Hart’s group expectantly as they hoped for good news.

“No, nothing.”

His words cut off their last strand of hope.

“How can this be?! Are we really trapped here?!” Someone groaned as he clutched his head.

No one talked. Since their abilities were sealed, they were just ordinary people. They would starve to death if they couldn’t leave.

“Everyone is aware there is no escape...”

The group’s expression changed drastically at the sound of the elderly voice. Ming Xi unconsciously moved to protect Feng Wu behind him. The others also shifted into a defensive stance despite being sealed.

“Who are you?! Are you the one keeping us all here?! What are your intentions?!” Emoke, head of the mercenary group, yelled out to the invisible man.

Boss Hart couldn’t help but roar out as well. “Yeah! Who are you and why have you locked us up in here?!”

“Yeah! What do you want! Out with it!”

While many people became excited and were asking questions, a few remained silent.

“OK, be quiet and listen to me.” The old voice resonated again after the noise died down. “Welcome everyone, this is my island. I call it Death island because of all the people who died here after being swept ashore by the black tornado. Those that died on the beach have stained the sand red, so red that it has turned black.”

“You killed them?” Liana clarified.

“No. No. I would never kill anyone. No. They killed themselves. If you’re lucky enough to complete something for me, I’ll let you leave. If you are unlucky, you’ll end up like the person over there still on the beach.”

A vision of a person appeared. It was the guy who refused to enter the island with Feng Wu and the group. Zha was standing on the beach with a dazed look on his face. Suddenly small red bugs burrowed up from the sand and began devouring the things on the beach.

It was impossible to tell where the bugs came from, but they easily devoured everything on the beach – including Zha. He screamed horrifically as he was eaten bit by bit.

The group watched as bugs devoured a live human being, bones and all. The cruel scene left everyone with a sense of pity for the poor guy.

“OK, you have all seen how that fellow ended. You will end up just like him if you fail.”

“What do you want us to do?” asked Jier.

This person, they didn’t know how strong he was, where he came from, or even his name, but they knew one thing with certainty – he was strong. While on the island, he was invincible. What could someone like that want from them? What could he want them to accomplish for him?

311, 312

311, 312

[Host: justreads.net]
[August 30, 2021]
...

311: Zhēn

None of them could figure it out and their current situation didn’t allow them to think about it.

All the mysterious voice said before disappearing was, “It is simple. You will know soon enough.”

They couldn’t hear anything else from the old man nor could they feel his presence. Was he still in the castle somewhere or. . . ? Had he ever been in the castle? Had he projected his voice from somewhere else.?

“Is the person still there?”

“That’s it? He didn’t even say what we were supposed to do!”

Liana asked group in general, “What should we do now?”

Boss Hart thought about it before speaking. “Let’s rest for a while. Didn’t the guy say he wanted us to do something for him? We should be safe, at least until he tells us what it is.”

An old man in a magic robe agreed with Hart. “Yes, that’s true. There’s no use worrying about it for now. Everyone should relax and wait to see what this person is playing at.”

No one knew who the old magician was, but he had the aura of a master, so none of them thought he was a simple person.

The twenty of them sat in the middle of the lobby waiting until night fell, but the owner of the voice didn’t reappear.

“Why don’t we all choose individual rooms to rest in? It’s no use waiting like this.” Boss Hart suggested.

Since their abilities were sealed, their bodies were ordinary again. An entire day of worry and fear had been exhausting. They would have slept already if they weren’t afraid that the voice’s owner would kill them at any time.

A worried looking female magician disagreed. “Go into a room? No, let’s not. It’s better if we stay together. That mysterious person might come back and pick us off one by one. What’ll we do then?”

A lot of people agreed with her. It was too dangerous to rest separately. Better to stick together.

Feng Wu leaned against Ming Xi’s shoulder. Her eyes kept drooping. She wanted to sleep. She had a regularly scheduled naptime. She slept early too, so considering how late it was, she was quite sleepy.

“If you want to sleep, just lean on me for a while. I’ll wake you if anything happens.” Ming Xi saw how tired she looked so he felt her forehead. He was a bit worried about her.

“Hm.” Feng Wu nodded and immediately closed her eyes to sleep.

Ming Xi couldn’t help but silently laugh at how easily she slept, even in such a tense atmosphere. She had a strong, steady heart.

“If the rest of you are tired, go and sleep. I’ll take watch duty.” As their senior, of course Ming Xi would take care of his juniors.

“No, let’s stand on guard together. Jier and Ink can rest.” Leo was a second-year student and the only other senior in the group other than Ming Xi. He felt he should bear some of the burden as well. He didn’t want to leave the responsibility to Ming Xi alone.

There were twenty of them in the lobby, but they were all strangers to each other. Night watch was an important job, so each group assigned their own person. Once that was done everyone was finally at ease resting, but no one went to rest in any of the beds in the rooms.

The old castle was too strange. It was too dangerous to rest separately; no one was fool enough to do so.

...

“Hey Zhēn! Wake up! Wake up!”

Feng Wu opened her eyes to find a cute, freckled, baby-faced girl in front of her. She was probably no older than fifteen. “Who are you?” Feng Wu asked, dazed and confused.

Feng Wu found herself on a bed underneath a quilt in a room with simple but tasteful decorations. She had never seen the room or the girl before.

“Zhēn, are you still asleep? I’m Annai. Now hurry, the teacher just told us to assemble. We’re about to arrive at Songwei island. We have to pack up to leave.” The girl claiming to be Annai wrinkled her nose helplessly at her friend.

“I’m not Zhēn, I’m. . . ” Feng Wu wanted to correct the girl. Her name was Feng Wu. Before that it was Tian Lan. She had never been this Zhēn person before.

Feng Wu heard a voice that was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. It wasn’t the old voice her teammates heard in the castle.

“Little girl, listen to my words. The game is beginning. Remember to stay alive. Stay alive until the end and find the truth.”

What did that mean? Feng Wu didn’t understand. Where was Senior Ming Xi and Jier? Where was everyone? She wanted to think about everything that had happened, but Annai wouldn’t give her time.

Annai lifted the quilt up and pulled Feng Wu out of bed. “Quickly wash. I’ll pack.”

Annai dragged Feng Wu up to the deck after Feng Wu washed and dressed. There were a lot of people on deck.

“We’re finally here. My body is so wobbly after staying on the boat for so long.

“I see it! There it is! Songwei island!”

“That’s great news. I don’t have to kill myself with sleep meds anymore!”

“Why did you need pills?”

“Don’t bother with that guy. He gets seasick every time he gets on a boat. Now he finally gets to get off.”

“Ha! Serves him right!”

“Yeah! Totally deserved it!”

Feng Wu stood to the side watching the group bicker. What was going on and why was she with them? Perhaps because the girl she played was like this normally, so no one thought it was odd.

“Zhēn, look. That’s Songwei island over there. Isn’t it pretty?” Annai asked as she looked at the island off in the distance. Her eyes were full of joy.

Feng Wu saw a pretty island when she followed Annai’s gaze. It was verdant and lush with overflowing green. It looked like a good place to play and vacation.

“Alright, we’ve arrived. Everyone, disembark.” There were two strong teachers, one male swordmaster and one female magician with the group.

They were greeted by a middle-aged, well-dressed man as they disembarked one at a time.

312: Jier is Now a Woman

“Miss, it must have been a hard voyage,” said the well-dressed gentleman.

“Send people to help everyone with their belongings after you greet them properly. Have the rooms been prepared?” The girl’s eyes were full of haughty, pride as she asked her butler the question.

“Please rest assured Miss; it has been arranged.”

“Lead the way then. Everyone is tired after such a long journey. It took over a month. The island Father purchased is too far,” complained the girl quietly.

The butler sent people to help with everyone’s luggage. Feng Wu and Annai trailed behind the group at the end, while everyone else clustered around the girl.

“Yanaimo’s family is so rich. Her father bought her such a beautiful island just so she could use it to celebrate her birthday. It’s a totally different life. When am I gonna have such a good island for my own personal use?” whispered a young girl not too far ahead of Feng Wu.

To that, an envious voice replied, “Keep dreaming. You’re forgetting who Yanaimo’s parents are. They have businesses in a bunch of countries. Plus her mom is the eldest Bohai princess. It’s not just about being rich, her pedigree is amazing too.”

Yanaimo had the most wealth and prestige in her class.

They were only on the island because she had invited them to play there for vacation.

Annai whispered into Feng Wu’s ear. “Zhēn, try not to be alone too often. Yanaimo inviting you here, she must have bad intentions. She’s never liked you, but you’re clever, so make sure you don’t give her the opportunity. OK?”

Did this message mean the enviable Yanaimo had a bad relationship with Zhēn?

“I will be careful.”

“Yanaimo is too much. She targeted you just because Airon said a few words to you. She’s been troubling you again and again. I heard that this vacation trip to Songwei island, the teacher knew you guys didn’t get along and weren’t going to let you come, but Yanaimo asked for you specifically by name, saying that she didn’t have any bad intentions toward you. . .  I don’t believe it though.”

Annai had been whispering to Feng Wu for a while, but the only reaction she got was some eye widening. It made her wonder.

“Zhēn, are you OK? You’ve been really quiet.”

Normally Zhēn would have had a lot to say about it, so it was strange to Annai that Zhēn was so quiet.

“I’m OK. I don’t want to talk.”

Annai decided not to say anything else and just quietly enjoy the beautiful scenery with Feng Wu.

Yanaimo’s family had built the castle on the highest point of the island. It had to have cost a lot of money, considering how big and luxurious it was.

Feng Wu was stunned by the sight of the castle. Wasn’t it the same castle as the ancient castle on the island of death? Except for the appearance in age, both castles were exactly the same.

Once she entered the main lobby, she knew it was the same castle they were trapped in.

Why was this happening?

Feng Wu wasn’t smart enough to figure everything out. Were the two islands the same? What happened? Why did Songwei island turn out the way it did? Feng Wu had a lot of questions, but no one to answer the questions for her.

The butler sent people to help the party to their individual rooms. There were plenty of choices so each person would get their own private room.

The room assigned to Feng Wu was the most out of the way and obscure one, but she didn’t have any opinions about it and didn’t ask any questions.

The maid had been prepared to answer questions, so it threw her off to not be questioned.

Feng Wu entered the room and had planned on sorting out her thoughts when a knock sounded on her door. She opened the door suspiciously. Outside was the maid from earlier.

“Yes?”

“Xiao Wu?” The maid asked tentatively in a pleasant voice.

“Who are you?” Feng Wu was taken aback. How did this maid know her real name?!

“It is you!” The little maid was excited as she tugged Feng Wu into the room by the hands. Then she closed the doors.

Feng Wu wasn’t sure so she asked, “Are you Jier?”

“How can you tell?!” Jier had transformed so much that even he couldn’t recognize himself. His eyes widened in disbelief. Feng Wu still recognized him! That was just incredible!

Feng Wu explained, “You pull my hand the same way. And your eyes widen the same.”

Jier’s appearance had changed, but his mannerisms were still the same. Feng Wu had had a good impression of the maid when the maid first approached her. It was an unconscious sense of affection, so she didn’t doubt the maid’s identity.

“Wow, we must be really good friends, that you can recognize me even in. . .  this,” and with a loud thump, he sat down violently on Feng Wu’s bed. He kept touching his hair and his face, obviously still unused to his new identity.

Feng Wu looked in the mirror. “How did you recognize me?” Her appearance had completely changed. Zhēn was a silver-haired beauty; the two looked nothing alike.

“Your temperament is easy to recognize. I had my suspicions so I came to test it out. And it really is you.” Jier sighed in relief at his good luck at having found Feng Wu so soon.

He didn’t know what identities everyone else was assigned, so he was still searching. It would be fun to see if anyone else had also changed genders. It would be too unfair if he was the only one.

“Why are we here?” Feng Wu knew Jier was smart. Whenever she had a problem, she would ask someone smarter than she was.

Jier shrugged. “I don’t know. Later that night, I just suddenly felt really sleepy and fell asleep. When I woke up, I was like this.” Jier gestured to himself. “It took me half an hour to get used to it.”

313, 314

313, 314

[Host: justreads.net]
[September 4, 2021]
...

313: The Murders Begin

“Xiao Wu, I can’t stay for long. I wanted to ask you, did that mysterious person say anything to you?” Jier was a maid with work to do, so he couldn’t disappear for too long. It would be over if he were to be discovered.

“He said it was my task to live to the end and find out the truth.”

“Yeah, he said the same thing to me, live as long as possible and find out the truth. It seems like something unexpected is going to happen.” Jier touched his chin. “I can’t stay any longer, but I’ll come by again later tonight.”

Feng Wu saw him to the door. He left after confirming the coast was clear.

The remoteness of the room worked out for them. Had it not been so remote, they may have been discovered.

That night, Yanaimo arranged a delicious meal for everyone.

Feng Wu had no resistance to food, so she ate in the dining room with everyone else. The dishes had been carefully prepared by the chef, so they were delicious. Feng Wu received a lot of eyerolls for her enthusiasm toward her food, but unfortunately for the people rolling their eyes, she didn’t notice them at all. She was only interested in eating.

The others knew Yanaimo didn’t like Zhēn, so they ignored Zhēn or mocked her. Had this been the real Zhēn, she would have been saddened by the entire charade, but this was Feng Wu, and Feng Wu wasn’t socially adept enough to understand such subtle hints. She returned to her room after dinner.

Thunder and lightning accompanied heavy rainfall that night. Feng Wu closed her windows and drew the curtains. When Jier returned later that night, they found they had no valuable information to share. He had failed to find anyone else in the group.

A scream sounded out the next morning, followed a few minutes later by a relentless banging on Feng Wu’s door.

When Feng Wu opened it, she found Annai with a horrified look on her face. “It’s not good Zhēn! Alunde is dead!”

“Dead?!” Feng Wu’s eyes widened in surprise. Both she and Jier had guessed something big would happen soon, but neither of them expected it to happen so soon. Someone was already dead and it was only the first day.

Feng Wu and Annai went to Alunde’s room.

It was a horrible death, and from the way his remains were found, it looked like he went unwillingly and with strong grievance in his heart. In fact, his heart lay gouged out along with his severed limbs while his swollen eyeballs protruded from their sockets.

The death was horrific and had happened on her island, so Yanaimo felt her reputation was at stake. She ordered a thorough investigation regarding the matter.

No one could have foreseen that it was just the beginning. From that day onwards, someone died every day, from students to servants. It didn’t matter their status. The shadow of death loomed over the entire island.

Four students and three maids were dead by the seventh day; however, they failed to make any headway into the investigation. Because of this, the teachers decided to leave Songwei island and return to school.

Yanaimo didn’t want to remain on the island either, so on the eight day everyone agreed to leave together.

But would they really be able to leave?

They found their boat destroyed when they returned to the beach. And it wasn’t just their boat either, all the boats on the island were destroyed. That wasn’t the worse of it. From that day onwards, everyone on the island lost their abilities and reverted to being ordinary people. They were about to go crazy.[notes]

Zhēn’s strength, though never strong to begin with, completely vanished. It was just like death island, none of them could keep their abilities.

The death tally increased every day, until eventually, there was only fifty people left alive, then just as suddenly the deaths stopped. Originally, including all the servants, there had been one hundred people.

The remaining fifty were like frightened kittens who were surrounded by death’s shadow.

Jier was finally reunited with Ink, Ming Xi, and Leo, however none of them had had their genders changed. [notes]

Ming Xi was a male guard on the island; Ink was an unremarkable and thin male classmate; while Leo was probably the oldest out of all the them – he was a middle-aged servant.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t find any one else from their boat. Were the others just really good at acting and hadn’t given themselves away?

...

“Zhēn, I want to bathe. Will you come with me?” Annai stood outside Feng Wu’s door with a change of clothes in her hand and a worried expression on her face.

“OK.” Feng Wu nodded easily.

The conditions on the island were very good. Every room had its own washroom with a toilet, so the only time anyone had to leave their rooms would be to bathe in the public bath.

Yanaimo’s family had a large hot spring bathing area built for her because they knew how much she liked to bathe. It was divided into two parts: one private bathing area for Yanaimo and another public area for everyone else.

Feng Wu and Annai held their clothes as they walked into the bathing area at the back of the castle. The girls relaxed as they soaked in the hot spring.

“Zhēn, I have to use the toilet. Wait for me.” Annai climbed out of the water and put her clothes on.

Feng Wu nodded, letting the other girl know she had heard. Her eyelids were getting heavy as she soaked in the water. Eventually they were so heavy, she couldn’t keep them open.

A rope appeared from behind and snaked around her neck.

Feng Wu instantly woke up, but there was no strength in her body, so although she wanted to resist, she was unable. Breathing became more and more difficult, until eventually she lost consciousness.

314: Feng Wu’s Incident

[notes]The person behind Feng Wu took out a knife and used it to cut Feng Wu’s wrists. Then he dropped her wrist down and let the blood flow into the water. The man watched with a sneer as the blood dyed the water red. Soon after, he left through another exit.

Annai returned a few minutes later. Trailing behind her were two other classmates who had also wanted to take a bath. The two girls had agreed to meet and had run into Annai on the way over, so they ended walking together as a group.

Annai was worried about leaving Feng Wu alone for too long, so she had rushed back with the two girls as soon as she could. The three of them walked into the bathing area and saw Feng Wu sitting completely still with her back to them inside the water.

Annai took her clothes off as she talked, not noticing anything was amiss. “Zhēn, I’m back. Sorry I took so long. I ran into Fila and Moqi, so I brought them back with me.”

“Zhēn, you are gutsy. We don’t know where the murderer is and here you are taking a bath by yourself.” Fila took off her skirt as she talked.

Moqi was also undressing. “Yeah, I wouldn’t have dared stay alone.

The three girls wrapped a towel around their bodies after undressing. They were thinking about the enjoyable soak, but as they got closer, they noticed the water was tinted red. Blood!

“Ah!” screams rent through the air. The girls were so scared their faces lost all color. Annai, who had a good relationship with Feng Wu, even collapsed to the ground.

“What’s the matter?”

“What happened?”

“Was there another incident?”

“Has the killing started again? That damn devil!”

People cursed effusively as they rushed from the castle to the public bath.

“Who’s in trouble this time?!”

What the survivors saw were two girls hugging each other in fright and another on the ground looking just as frightened.

“Zhēn! Something happened to Zhēn!” Annai shouted through her tears.

The expression on Ming Xi and Jier’s faces dramatically changed when they heard this. Wanting to ascertain the situation with Feng Wu, they stepped forward and felt for her pulse. They exchanged relieved glances when they found the weak, but still discernible, beat.

“Miss Zhēn, Miss Zhēn is still alive. We can save her.” Jier hadn’t forgotten his identity as a low-ranking maid. He had attracted attention when he stepped forward, so he had to be careful to not stand out too much.

“Quickly! Pull Zhēn up!” Even if Yanaimo didn’t like Zhēn, this was a life and saving one was important. She immediately ordered two maids to pull Feng Wu out of the water.

“The men should go outside first.” Jier didn’t want all these guys staring at Feng Wu naked. She was in a bath, so naturally she would be naked. The water blocked their view of anything below the shoulders, but once out of the water, she would be completely bare. Even if it wasn’t Feng Wu’s actual body, he still didn’t want them to be staring.

The men were aware it was inappropriate for them to be there, so they left the area after Jier finished talking. It would be great if they could ask her who the murderer was. Once they caught the person, they could stop living in fear.

All the men left, including Ming Xi. Jier stayed behind but he shifted his eyes away from Feng Wu, so as not to take advantage of her.

After the maids pulled Feng Wu out of the water and dressed her, the guard, played by Ming Xi, came back to carry her back to her room. The butler then found medicine to treat her wounds. Because she had been discovered so quickly, her blood loss wasn’t serious and they were able to stabilize her, but had they been any later, the outcome could have been bad.

“What happened here?! The three of you, tell me what happened to Zhēn!”

The two teachers who came with the group made their appearance. At times like this it was important to have figures of authority preside over things.

“Teacher Ballard, we don’t know what happened either. Zhēn was already like this by the time we got there!” Fila's face was as white as a ghost and her eyes were puffy red from crying.

“Teacher, we really don’t know anything.” Moqi repeated what Fila said.

Judging from how distressed they were, the girls had to be very frightened, but probably because of all the deaths recently, no one was in the mood to be sympathetic. They were preoccupied with figuring out who the murderer was.

“How can Zhēn go to the spring alone?! You were all warned not to do anything by yourselves!”

“Teacher Del Leo, Zhēn didn’t go by herself. She and I went together, but I had to use the toilet, so I left for a little bit. I was only gone for a few minutes, I swear! I never thought something like this could happen in just a few minutes. It was my fault! If I hadn’t asked Zhēn to come with me to the bath, this would never have happened!”

Annai blamed herself. She and Zhēn had naturally gravitated towards each other because they were both open and honest individuals. How could she forgive herself if something happened to Zhēn?

“Don’t cry Annai. Zhēn wouldn’t blame you, so you shouldn’t be sad.” Teacher Ballard comforted Annai by patting her softly on the shoulders.

“All of you must take care in the future. If you want to bathe, be sure to go in the day. Don’t leave the castle at night and give the culprit opportunities to do you harm.” Del Leo sighed. The murderer’s reappearance put everyone on edge and it felt like they would all collapse soon.

They knew there was a dangerous person out there trying to kill all of them, and yet they dared to bathe in such a remote place in the middle of the night. Their vanity was going to be the death of them.

Annai whispered, “I know I was wrong teacher. I won’t do it again.”

“As long as you know your wrongs.” As long as they knew why they were wrong, Del Leo wasn’t going to embarrass the girls. He turned and asked the butler, “What is the current situation with Zhēn? When will she wake up?”

Everyone was interested in the question, after all more than half of them had been murdered. If they didn’t catch the killer soon, it was possible they would all die.

315, 316

315, 316

[Host: justreads.net]
[September 6, 2021]
...

315: Margaret’s Question

“Miss Zhēn needs rest because of all the blood she lost. I’m afraid we can’t wake her up tonight.”

Everyone was disappointed but they couldn’t forcibly wake an injured person. They returned to the castle to rest.

...

Margaret[notes] opened her eyes to bright sunlight. She was inside a cabin in a large and unfamiliar ship. Her body felt limp and tired so she got up slowly and carefully. She saw Feng Wu lying next to her.

“Xiao Wu! Xiao Wu! Wake up!” Margaret patted Feng Wu’s face, but it was no use. Feng Wu refused to wake up.

“You’re awake! You’re lucky to have woken up!” A tall man in his twenties with blue hair walked in. His eyes were full curiosity.

“Did you save us?” Margaret wasn’t a fool. Considering the current situation, they had to have been rescued.

The last thing she remembered before losing consciousness was being whipped around by the tornado. It was amazing she was still alive.

“Yes, you guys were really lucky! You happened to float by near our ship. I had the crew pull all of you up.” The guy didn’t mind explaining at all.

“Other than me and Feng Wu here, did you see my older brother, Matheson?” Margaret asked nervously.

“Your older brother is also here. He woke up this morning but fell asleep after checking in on you.”

Margaret breathed a sigh of relief.

“We rescued four other males as well. They were youngish men. Don’t know if you know them or not.”

“Can I go and see them?” Margaret wasn’t sure if it was Ming Xi and the others. There had been so many people on the Hart’s ship.

“Of course, as long as you are up to it.” The young man didn’t intend to stop her. It was her body; if she wanted to go check instead of resting, then it was her business.

“I’m fine. Can I see them now?”

“Of course. I’ll lead the way. My name’s Basil by the way. My grandfather is the ship’s owner.”

“My name’s Margaret.”

Basil brought Margaret to the other people he had rescued. It turned out Margaret did know them. There were Ink and Leo and the deceased Moffei’s companion, Myron and Tang. Ming Xi and Jier weren’t there. She didn’t know if they had been rescued by other ships.

“I know them. All of us took the same ship to Biluo. We never expected to encounter a black tornado, ha a rare once-in-a-century event.” Margaret smiled bitterly. Were they lucky or unlucky? Good thing they managed to live through it.

“I know, your brother told us about the tornado when he woke up.” He pointed to the sleeping Matheson, who was lying next to the other four guys.

“Thank you. If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t have survived.” Margaret was genuinely grateful.

“There’s no need to thank me. It was due to your own fortunate luck that you awoke at all. These guys are not so lucky.” His voice held a trace of regret as he glanced at the others sleeping.

“What do you mean? Are Xiao Wu and the others seriously injured?”

Basil looked at the sleeping people as he spoke, “If it was just a normal injury, it wouldn’t be a problem. But these aren’t simple injuries.”

“What do you mean?! Did they suffer some kind of internal injury that’s difficult to heal?” Most injuries could be healed with magic and medicine. Only the most grievous injuries and incurable diseases couldn’t be handled.

“If it was just that, it wouldn’t be a problem. I can’t explain it properly. Go and see my grandfather. He is a great necromancer. He can explain the situation with your friends more clearly.”

Necromancer? What was he talking about? Margaret’s comprehension abilities were limited because she didn’t study. Shouldn’t a wood or light magician treat them if they were injured? Why was there a need for a necromancer?

Did he mean Xiao Wu and the others were dying? Why did Margaret have such a bad premonition about this? She felt like crying.

...

Feng Wu slept all night after being attacked by an unknown assailant. The butler had the kitchen make some healing tonics for Feng Wu and sent Jier to take care of her. Jier’s acting had been really good.

As a result, Jier was the first person Feng Wu saw when she woke up.

“You’re awake!”

“En, it hurts though.” Feng Wu timidly touched her neck. Her throat felt uncomfortable when she talked. Swallowing hurt too. Her neck had been salved with medicine but a deep mark was still visible.

“Idiot! You know you almost died!” Jier lightly knocked her on the head. She had suffered such a serious injury. It was the first time he had ever seen her so injured. She nearly died!

“It hurts.” The pain in her wrist was the second most pained part of her body. She wanted to be spoiled for a bit.

“If the pain is too much, don’t talk. Just write instead.” Jier knew her throat hurt her. Seeing the healthy and hale her so weak made him uncomfortable.

“But first listen to me. All you have to do is nod or shake your head. First, did you see who attacked you?” This was something everyone wanted to know.

Feng Wu shook her head in the negative.

“Did you smell anything usual?”

Feng Wu remembered. She nodded her head.

“OK, write it down.” Jier gave her a pen and a stack of paper.

316: Can’t Understand It

Feng Wu obediently wrote down what she smelled and how she felt. Sha sha sha, the sound of the pen sounded across the paper. She handed the sheet to Jier after finishing.

“You smelled a floral scent, then you felt sleepy? Then someone strangled you. You tried to struggle but didn’t have any strength. You fainted after that. Correct?”

Feng Wu nodded. It made her uncomfortable that she couldn’t use her abilities to hear the plants and animals.

So in other words, Feng Wu hadn’t seen the person who attacked her. She didn’t even get a glimpse of what they were wearing. Jier left her to rest after getting her answers.

He asked the people who surrounded him the moment he closed the door to meet in the hall. Ming Xi hid in the dark, guarding Feng Wu’s door in case the perpetrator wanted to try anything, in case the culprit tried to kill Feng Wu again.

“How did it go? What did Zhēn say? Did she see the murderer? She must have right?” Yanaimo immediately asked. She was going to go mad; there had been so many recent deaths. They had to get useful information from Zhēn and capture the murderer.

Jier shook his head. “Miss Zhēn didn’t see anything. Because of the wound on her throat, I asked her to write down her replies instead.” Jier was acting as a maid, so he handed Yanaimo the sheet Feng Wu had written her answers on.

Yanaimo’s face looked horrible after reading the sheet.

The paper was passed around to everyone. Their expressions also fell after reading it. They had so hoped there would be some useful clues. They never expected there not to be a single one.

No one asked about Feng Wu’s injuries. The only ones who cared were the two teachers and Yanaimo. The others were focused on staying alive. What did someone else’s life or death matter to them?

Ink was cast as one of Feng Wu’s classmates. He didn’t dare act too concerned because he didn’t want anyone to get suspicious about his disguise. The relationship between the characters they were playing was actually a bad one. It would have been out of character if he suddenly changed his behavior.

The shroud of death hanging over their heads made them keenly aware how quickly the scythe could sever their necks.

...

The sky was clear, the air was calm and the sun sparkled brilliantly off the water. It was very peaceful.

Margaret followed Basil to his grandfather. The old man was a decent and kind-hearted, well-known necromancer named Sheldon. His eyes were kind. Margaret was positively inclined towards him the moment she saw him.

“Sit down child.” Sheldon wasn’t surprised to see Margaret. He welcomed her warmly.

“Hello. Thank you for saving me and my friends.” Margaret was reserved when she spoke.

“You are welcome my child. It was simply fate that we met.”

“Grandfather, can you tell me what happened to my friends? Young Master Basil said they won’t wake up. What did he mean by that? Are my friends seriously ill?” Margaret was really worried about Feng Wu’s injuries.

Although she had only met Feng Wu recently, she had developed a good impression of the cute and simple girl. They had become good friends. She didn’t want anything bad to happen to Feng Wu.

Sheldon sighed upon hearing Margaret’s question. “No child. Come with me.” Sheldon stood up and motioned for Margaret to follow him.

He led her to the bow of the boat. “Do you see that island?” He pointed to a green, lush looking island up ahead.

“I do. It’s beautiful.” Margaret didn’t understand why he asked, but she answered honestly.

“One hundred years ago it was called Songwei island, now it’s called Death island.”

“Death island. . .  That grandpa. . .  I just want to know what’s wrong with my friends. Does this island have anything to do with them?” Margaret didn’t understand.

“Of course. If I’m not mistaken, they should be on that island.”

“Wait?! What? Xiao Wu and the others are right here on the boat. How can you say they’re on that island? That doesn’t make any sense.” What she really wanted to question was the grandpa’s brain. Was he getting silly in old age?

Or course, no matter how stupid she was, Margaret would never say such a thing out loud. She would definitely get kicked off the boat and become food for the sea creatures.

“Their bodies are here, but their souls are on that island.” Sheldon could tell at a glance if a person’s soul was still attached to their bodies.

“Soul?! You mean they can’t wake up because their souls are trapped on that island?” Margaret was shocked. She had finally caught on to what the grandpa was saying. “How can this be? What can we do? We have to go to the island and get them back!”

If it had just been physical injuries, it would have been fine. They could be healed with medicine and magic and a good plan of action. But this. . .  their souls were gone. What could she do?

Sheldon shook his head before sighing. “It is impossible. That island is no longer accessible to any living creature. Entering Death island will only result in death.”

“Then I’m really confused! How are the souls of Xiao Wu and the other guys on the island then?! What does it matter? I don’t understand!” She thought she understood, but now she wasn’t sure.

“The island is related to the tragedy that happened one hundred years ago. Since then, Songwei island has become known to all as Death island. None has been able to enter. None have left alive.” He sighed thinking about it.

Patreon draft at c328; Labor Day extras also up

317, 318

317, 318

[Host: justreads.net]
[September 10, 2021]
...

317: Relying on Oneself

None left alive? Margaret was shocked; it felt like she was involved in something terrible.

“Grandpa, please tell it to me clearly. Can Xiao Wu be saved? I don’t understand everything you’re saying.” She just wanted to know if there was a way to help Xiao Wu and the others, but the grandpa kept talking about so many things she didn’t understand. Margaret was at her wits end.

Sheldon saw her eagerness to save her friends. “There is not. They must rely on themselves for their own salvation.”

“Say Grandpa, can you not speak so esoterically. I haven’t read a book since I was really little and I’ve never passed a cultural course. . . ”

Grandpa Sheldon:. . . 

He coughed lightly. He was getting a headache dealing with this girl. Why was she so lousy?

“To put it plainly, their souls are trapped on the island. They must rely on themselves if they want to leave it. Outsiders can not interfere.” Sheldon spoke bluntly.

Finally. Margaret understood. She knew her cultural knowledge was lousy. She got drowsy every time she had a class on it. But it was her teacher’s fault. The old woman was so longwinded and opinionated when she talked. Maybe it was because she didn’t have a boyfriend, maybe because she’d lived a hermit life for so long, but her mentality was really skewed!

“So our only option is to wait? Is there really nothing we can do?” Margaret was unwilling.

Sheldon shook his head. “There is no other way. The one on the island will not allow the souls to leave so easily.” He seemed to be gazing at something from the past.

“What ‘one on the island’?” Margaret knew intuitively that the guy the old gramps mentioned had to be the same guy responsible for keeping everyone asleep.

“He is a pitiful person, a memory from long ago. Let us not speak of him anymore. Your body is still healing, so you should rest. Do not overexert yourself child.” Sheldon broke out of his reverie and waved his hand in a gesture of dismissal.

Though Margaret was concerned about the safety of her friends, she knew to exercise moderation. It wasn’t the right time to pressure the old gramps. He definitely knew something. She just had to wait for the right time to ask more questions.

Back at the room, Margaret looked at Feng Wu’s sleeping figure. She tried to wake her friend up again, but it was no use. “Xiao Wu, you have to wake up soon. . . ,” sighed a despondent Margaret.

...

A male student disappeared the day after Feng Wu’s incident. His body was found in a flower bed with the jaw arteries scraped open.

The days that followed were horrible. Every day someone was found dead in some novel, horrific way. The murders continued with no signs of stopping. The students, the servants, everyone felt demoralized. From time to time someone would start wailing and crying.

The two teachers organized a search party and looked all over the island; however they couldn’t find the murder or anyone suspicious. They were the only ones on the island, so therefore the murderer had to be one of them.

Whoever it was, hid very well and acted without leaving a single clue.

Feng Wu’s wounds had healed after several days of rest. She could now get up and walk around.

Ming Xi and the others had been studying the way the murderer operated. Their methods weren’t great, but they did come up with some insights.

While Ming Xi and the others were doing that, the teachers organized everyone into patrol parties. Each party consisted of five people who had to always stay together. No one was allowed to act independently. This way the perpetrator wouldn’t be able to make a move without someone witnessing something.

It worked really well. No one was killed for two days afterwards.

The teachers and Yanaimo called a meeting. Everyone, except for a small patrol party, joined.

“Everyone, let’s talk about this. What do you think of the murderer? Has anyone discovered anything new?” Teacher Del Leo asked the assembled group of survivors. Not counting the patrol party outside, there were about twenty of them.

There had been a hundred of them originally, so the dwindled number was shocking.

“I have something to say.” The boy who spoke was named Airon. The ladies were positively inclined towards him because he was handsome and carried himself with confidence.

Airon was something of a teacher’s pet. Teacher Del Leo really like Airon because the boy worked hard, wasn’t arrogant or impetuous. He was an easy student to have in class.

He was the guy Yanaimo had a crush on. In order to suppress the girls around him, she had done a lot of unsavory things, including a few things to Zhēn.

Talking ceased the moment Airon stood up. He was really popular in school, so with the exception of a few students, most were willing to listen to him.

“Just speak what’s on your mind Airon.” Del Leo nodded toward the boy.

Airon watched everyone calmly without a trace of stage fright, despite having all eyes on him.

318: Airon’s Thoughts

Yanaimo looked at Airon with an infatuated gaze. This man that she loved was the only suitable match for her.

“Teachers, fellow students, I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but there was a pattern to how every student died.”

“A pattern? Did you notice something Airon?” Teacher Ballard was interested.

Airon nodded. “Everyone, please take a look at these drawings.” He promptly produced a stack of papers filled with drawings.

Everyone knew Airon enjoyed drawing, so no one was surprised he happened to have a stack of paper on him.

Airon neatly arranged the drawings on the table. Each sheet vividly portrayed how someone died. The details were meticulously drawn and included everything from the decorations in a room if it was indoors, to the natural landscape if it was outdoors.

Ming Xi was on patrol so he did not get to see the drawings, but the maid (Jier) and skinny school boy (Ink) were present and able to see them. The drawings were so good that Ink couldn’t help but admire the talent and skill of the artist.

Leo, who had become a manservant, was standing on the outer perimeter of the group, so he couldn’t move forward to see the drawings. How disappointing. He really wanted to see them too. . . 

“What are you trying to say with these drawings?” asked Teacher Del Leo.

The others were also confused. Were there some kind of major clue in the drawings?

“Everyone, please look. I have notated both the method and time of death. Do you see a pattern?”

What was it? Was there really something in the drawings?

Everyone studied the drawings, desperately trying to find some sort of clue. But try as they might, they couldn’t find anything other than the fact that everyone died a terrible death with their eyes open.

Seeing that no one noticed anything, Airon decided not to keep them in suspense and proceeded to sort the drawings into five categories. “Now do you see anything?”

Was there a difference? Most didn’t get it, but the two teachers did and their eyes widened in surprise at the realization.

Del Leo cried out as he slapped his forehead, “Why didn’t I think of it?!”

“I only now see it as well. How embarrassing that the students had to remind us of it.” Ballard smiled bitterly. To need one of their own students to point something as basic as this out to them, they really had shirked their duties as teachers.

“Teacher, what did you notice?”

Feng Wu was looking at the drawings along with everyone else. The more she looked at them, the stranger they became.

“There are gold, wood, water, fire and earth.” Feng Wu explained with these simple words.

“Gold, wood, water, fire, earth?! No way! So that’s how it is. The people in this stack all died in gold. The ones here all died in earth, and here – water. These are fire and these – wood!”

The others were able to understand after Feng Wu reminded them. It looked like everyone died in one of five surroundings.

“Zhēn! You’re so smart! You were able to tell just by looking.” Annai grabbed Feng Wu’s sleeve as she expressed her admiration.

“Yes, it is as Zhēn said. Everyone here died in either the woods, in water, in fire or in the earth. If the murderer just wanted to kill someone, why go through so much trouble to be this elaborate? I suspect the culprit is trying to perform an evil ritual.”

Yanaimo did not like Zhēn getting Airon’s attention, and it showed in her expression, which was looking rather bad.

“Evil ritual!” Both teachers had also thought of this. It was true, there was no reason to resort to such trickery if the intent was only to kill someone.

“There’s one more thing.” Airon continued after checking that everyone was paying attention. “I found out that the murderer isn’t a physically powerful person.”

“How did you come to that conclusion?” Yanaimo couldn’t help but ask.

“Do you remember the day Zhēn was attacked? She said she was bathing in the spring when she suddenly felt sleepy. She couldn’t fight back when she was attacked. I thought that was odd, so I went back to the scene to search for clues.”

“What did you find?” Everyone was curious.

“I found a sedative on the ground. The liquid would have evaporated had I gone any later.”

“You mean someone drugged Zhēn? That’s why she was so weak?” His classmates weren’t stupid. They caught on quickly.

“Exactly. I extracted the ingredients from the liquid and discovered it was some kind of medicinal liquid made from a specific type of herb. The liquid becomes breathable gas when mixed with oxygen. Anyone who breathes it in will become drowsy and eventually lose consciousness. That person would then be at the mercy of the perpetrator.”

“She really was drugged!” No one expected that. Zhēn had become an ordinary girl, so they had thought she was simply too frightened to fight back. It turned out she had been drugged.

“That’s why I say the murderer isn’t a physically strong person. If the person was strong, then why not use brute strength to overpower their victims? Why resort to using drugs?”

There was sense in Airon’s words. If the murderer was really strong, why go to all the trouble of using drugs?

“Then the murderer isn’t necessarily a man, but could be a woman!” Someone in the crowd whispered.

The words made other people realize this was true. Someone who had to rely on drugs to kill someone couldn’t be very strong. It didn’t have to be a man; it could be a woman.

They eyed each other with this new information in mind. Their faces changed. Any one of them could be the murderer and everyone was a possible suspect.

They created an image of the murderer based on the revelations. The investigation was progressing. . . 

319, 320
Ming Xi’s Reasoning; The Reappearance of the Mysterious Man

319 Ming Xi’s Reasoning, 320 The Reappearance of the Mysterious Man

[Host: justreads.net]
[September 13, 2021]
...

319: Ming Xi’s Reasoning

They met for two hours before everyone finally adjourned to their respective rooms to rest.

Feng Wu returned to her room. Soon after Jier and the other guys rushed over as well. The outside meeting was over, but now they needed their own meeting.

“What that Airon guy said was reasonable.” Jier rexplained Airon’s reasoning to the rest of the group.

Ming Xi thought for a moment before saying, “There is some good logic in it, but it’s not without flaws.”

“What’s wrong with his reasoning?” Leo, who had become a middle-aged manservant, asked.

Ink and Feng Wu sat on the stool waiting for Jier and Ming Xi to speak. They knew who the brains of the group were.

Ming Xi thought deeply while Jier thought in a more straightforward manner. For this kind of insidious, sneaky situation, Ming Xi was undoubtedly the better person for the job. If anyone could see through the subterfuge, it would be Ming Xi.

“Senior, please share. Did you figure something out?” Ink really wanted to know.

“I did.” Ming Xi smiled and nodded. His demeanor was still regal even if his new appearance was plain and unremarkable. “Airon said the culprit wasn’t strong, but I disagree. Everyone must have wondered this at least once. Why, when everyone else died, was Xiao Wu the only one who survived?”

“Yeah, why?” The inquisitive group asked eagerly.

“It’s because the person let Xiao Wu live. I don’t think it was calculation error. The person killed so many people without making a single mistake. Yet despite this, Xiao Wu lived. The only explanation is the culprit wanted Xiao Wu to live.”

“But why? Why would the person spare Xiao Wu after killing so many others?” Jier couldn’t help but guess. “Is there a connection between the body Xiao Wu is in and the culprit, so the person couldn’t bear to kill her?”

Ink and Leo nodded along. It made sense. Feng Wu blinked her big eyes in curiosity at Ming Xi.

Ming Xi shook his head. “It wasn’t for such a basic reason.”

“Then why? What other reason could there be?” Then Ink was inspired. “Could it because the culprit has a crush on the original Zhēn, so couldn’t bear to kill her?!”

Ming Xi gave Ink a look. It seemed to say: you think too much.

“He wanted Xiao Wu to live so there would be someone to give an eye witness account.” Ming Xi stopped stalling and gave it to them straight.

“A testimony!” Jier suddenly understood what Ming Xi was trying to say. “You mean the culprit made such a crude attempt on Xiao Wu’s life just so Xiao Wu would live to give an account of what happened. It would lead us to discover the drug.”

“What?! How scheming! Man!” Ink would never have thought of that. He was amazed at the trickery.

“Truly formidable.” Leo thought out loud.

“No, think about the people outside. That Airon guy has a bit of brains, but the rest, who knows how long it would have taken them to figure the medicine. And if Airon ignored the clues, wouldn’t the culprit’s plan have been wasted?” Ink had been around the people in the group for days. With the exception of the killer, who was hidden deep, he had everyone else figured out.

He didn’t think anyone in the group would have been clever enough to connect the clues together. Even that Airon guy was only clever about small things.

“It wouldn’t have been wasted effort. If Airon hadn’t thought of it on his own, the culprit would have reminded him at the right time.” Jier didn’t believe the murderer would let his efforts go to waste.

“Exactly.” Ming Xi agreed. “If anyone’s discovered anything, please share. We can discuss it together.”

Ink and Leo glanced at each other before shaking their heads no in embarrassment. They had tried their best, but came up with nothing. The castle was so big and they couldn’t use their abilities. You could imagine how difficult it was to find any clues.

They couldn’t risk asking any of the other people for help and inadvertently invite an enemy in.

“I found something.” Unexpectedly, it was Feng Wu who had discovered something. She looked at Ming Xi earnestly.

“Xiao Wu, what did you find?!”

They were all curious. How did she have the time to find any clues? She had been confined to bed for so many days. Even when she had healed, she mostly just stayed in her room. The times she did go out, it was always with a group of people. When did she find the opportunity to look for any clues?

Feng Wu stood up and went to the dresser. She opened one of the drawers and motioned for the others to come over.

They walked over and looked inside. There were some cosmetics for girls, but that was it. What was so unusual about the items?

Feng Wu reached inside and brought out a powder jar.

“Is there something special about that powder?” Jier took the jar from Feng Wu and inspected it. He turned it around a few times in his hand before opening and looking inside. He failed to find anything strange though.

“Look here. This mark.” Feng Wu pointed to a flower and butterfly logo on the bottom of the jar.

“Isn’t this just a normal design for girl cosmetics? Girls like flowers and butterflies.” Ink was indifferent to the logo design.

Even Ming Xi, who was very perceptive, didn’t notice anything strange.

“This flower/butterfly logo was used for a line of cosmetics from one hundred years ago. It hasn’t been around since. The people who make it are no longer around, so this powder hasn’t been made in a long time.” Feng Wu relayed the information with a blank face.

“You mean this brand hasn’t been sold since a hundred years ago?!” Ink was surprised to learn that.

“It’s possible someone from Yanaimo’s family had it specially made.” Leo explained.

There were cases like this before. Once there was a family of wine makers who were massacred. It was a complete bloodbath. No one thought it was possible to buy or taste the wine again since the method to make the wine was lost forever.

Turned out the heir escaped and was still making the wine. However, he didn’t sell it, but was making it exclusively for one person. The flower/butterfly brand may have survived in the same way.

“This belonged to Zhēn. A lot of the other girls have this kind of powder too. I asked them and they said the powder was a business the Yanaimo family owned. Yanaimo gave some to everyone.”

320: The Reappearance of the Mysterious Man

As the girl with most prestige in class, Yanaimo wasn’t just rich and powerful, she was also classy. As long as you didn’t get in her way, she was willing to share some of her wealth with you. The little crumbs she threw out was more than enough for most people.

Take the flower/butterfly line. A single jar cost one hundred gold. It wasn’t something ordinary people could afford, but Yanaimo willing to give it away for free.

“Considering her family’s business, it’s not surprising they were able to find the descendent of the flower/butterfly line.” Jier leaned in closer to sniff the powder. He didn’t like it.

“Yanaimo is from the Gaodon clan. I read it in a book. They were a direct-family line that owned the flower/butterfly brand. One hundred years ago the entire clan was wiped out. No one survived. It was a big tragedy in the maritime world.”

Feng Wu had read a lot of books and one of the books she read was called The Fantastical Stories of the Maritime World. It was a compilation of stories, one of which happened to be about the Gaodun clan.

How the Gaodun clan was completely wiped out was still a mystery even today. No one knew a thing.

“There may be something useful in The Fantastical Stories of the Maritime World. The book said the patriarch of the Gaodun family spent a lot of money to celebrate the birthday of his only child. He especially purchased a beautiful island and gave it to her as a birthday present.

The island was called Songwei. His daughter’s name was Yanaimo Gaodun.”

The others were reeling from the information dump. They understood what she was saying; it was just that it was unbelievable. The disbelief showed in their eyes.

Who could stay calm after hearing such a story? A hundred years ago. They were in the past. Only a god could do something like that – no way could another human do it.

So then, did a god trap them on the island? But that was impossible. They weren’t so stupid as to believe a god would be bored enough to do something like this.

Besides, gods didn’t generally come to the human world. The three realms had created the Three Realms Peace Treaty after the war ten thousand years ago. No god had set foot in human territory since then.

On the other hand, demons, for selfish and sinister reasons, did sneak into the human world. The Star Marshall division of the temple caught many of them.

“We’re really one hundred years in the past?” Ink found it hard to believe.

“Impossible. Only the god in charge of time, the God of Time, can do that. The other gods can’t reverse time.” Leo interjected.

The whole thing was incredible. No sensible person would believe it.

Ming Xi shared his guess. “I suspect we may have entered an illusion. Everything here is a reenactment of what happened one hundred years ago.”

“Illusion?!” Both Ink and Leo were surprised. Why hadn’t they thought of this? If it was an illusion, then everything made sense.

“I’ve known something was wrong with this place for a long time now. I can’t open my seal. Theoretically there isn’t a power in this world that can restrict a god seal, but my connection to the seal completely disappeared when we got here.” Jier knew something was wrong from the first morning they arrived on the island. The inability to connect with his power drove him up the wall.

“The same is true for me. I could not hear the voices of the flowers and plants or the voices of the small animals.” Feng Wu spoke sadly.

“The same is true for me as well. There’s no life in this place. Everything feels artificial – the sun, the moon. Even the people are fake. They should be memories created by someone.”

As the prince and future ruler of the Ancient Silver Moon kingdom, Ming Xi’s strength was beyond doubt. Then there was his god bloodline. Logically speaking, even if his strength was somehow sealed, the power of his blood shouldn’t have disappeared. But on this island, it had. He would be a fool to not realize something was wrong.

Indeed, Ming Xi had known they were in an illusion, in a world shaped by memories, for quite some time. There were few people who had the ability to do something like this. He couldn’t phantom who it was or even what their intentions were.

Ming Xi was only able to figure it out after Feng Wu shared what she knew. Even though he didn’t know who the mysterious person was, he could guess what the other person wanted.

“Fuck! This mysterious person is that good at illusion creation?!” Ink almost bowed in respect to the person for their abilities. It was awesome. Compared to that, their own skills were crap.

“If we want to know what this person wants, we’ll have to ask.” Ming Xi raised his voice. “I know you’ve been watching us. Please show yourself.” A sudden smile appeared on Ming Xi’s face as he spun around.

The others got excited upon hearing his words. What?! The mysterious guy had been watching them the whole time?!

The three boys looked around the room, but they didn’t see anything.

Suddenly the elderly voice sounded out. “Sure enough, I didn’t choose wrong. Looks like I got the right people this time.”

“Who are you? Why did you trap us here? What is your relationship with the people on the island and the events from a hundred years ago?” Ming Xi asked the questions in quick succession.

The voice was strange. They couldn’t figure out where it was coming from because it felt like it was being spoken directly into their ears.

“Such capable youngsters. I don’t believe you will let me down. Go and find the truth. Only then will you be able to leave.”

“Not just us, but all of us.” Ming Xi’s smile was refreshing. Even if he was in a different body, his mannerism still shown through.

The mysterious voice was taken aback. He did not expect this young man to have already figured that part out.

“Indeed, I did not misjudge. Now that you have come to that revelation, I won’t hide it. There is something hidden on this island. If you can find it, all of us[notes]can leave. But if you can’t find it, then you will remain on this island forever. None of you will ever return to the real world again.”

And with that, the mysterious voice disappeared. There was no further response no matter what Jier and the others shouted.

“You can stop shouting. He’s gone.” Ming Xi walked to the table and poured himself a glass of water.

321, 322
We’re All Spirits; Liana and the Others Appear

321, 322

[Host: justreads.net]
[September 17, 2021]
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321: We’re All Spirits

“He just left? He didn’t clear anything up. Are we supposed to find the killer or that other thing he just said?” Ink muttered his complaint.

“Both. If I’m right, then the people outside aren’t hallucinations or illusions. The only way to truly save everyone is to figure out what is keeping all of us imprisoned here.” Ming Xi raised his glass to drink.

“What do you mean, not an illusion? Why did you change your mind?” Jier was puzzled. It went from illusion to not illusion?

Feng Wu interrupted. “They’re not illusions; they’re souls.”

“Souls?! Wait, Xiao Wu, you mean the people outside are souls? They’re the souls of people who are no longer living?!” Then weren’t everyone out there dead? This entire time, they’d been around dead people?! Ink did not feel good.

“Xiao Wu, you can tell they’re souls?” Ming Xi was surprised Feng Wu had figured it out. He’d only confirmed it for himself just a moment ago.

Earlier, he’d only said what he said in order to lure the mysterious man out. The results were good as he had gained some useful information.

Feng Wu hesitated before nodding. She could see what they were even though she was in a different body. Some of her innate abilities were still available, for example her vision. She could distinguish between the physical and spiritual, so she knew the people outside weren’t illusions, but were real entities.

They weren’t ordinary spirits though, but were spirits with deep running, powerful grievances.

Feng Wu didn’t understand why, despite being Zhēn, she was still able to see them.

Was it because she wasn’t possessing Zhēn but had directly become Zhēn, so her eyes could still see other people’s life force?

The flowers and trees outside were all fake, so she couldn’t hear them, but the spirits were real so she could see the difference between them and the surroundings.

“Then you knew about them this whole time?!” Jier was surprised.

Feng Wu shook her head. “No.”

Jier’s eyes widened in surprise. “But can’t you see ghosts?” Feng Wu should have been able to tell from the beginning, so how could she not know?

Even Ink and Leo were surprised.

“There is no malice or evil aura from them. They aren’t like other spirits. I only confirmed it today.” Feng Wu blinked her large eyes at them innocently.

The others were helpless in the face of such cuteness. It was criminal to be so cute!

Feng Wu wasn’t lying. As she said, the people outside weren’t like ordinary ghosts. Their bodies were very solid, unlike any spirit she had known. Because of this Feng Wu had been uncertain.

Her suspicions were only confirmed after their discussion and the chat with the mysterious person.

“I have one more thing to say. We are the same as them.”

“Same? What do you mean?” Ming Xi and the others were puzzled. They didn’t understand what she was trying to say.

Feng Wu bit her lip. “We are also spirits.”

Her words dropped like a brick hammer. What did she mean? They were also spirits? Weren’t they only in the illusion world through their subconsciousness?

“No way! How can we be ghosts too? We have real bodies!”

People from the continent knew there were two ways to enter an illusion: through physical form or through mental form. You had to have a comprehensive understanding of your body in order to enter an illusion physically. It was more dangerous as well. If you died in an illusion in your physical form, you died for real.

Using your subconscious to enter mentally was safer. To use this method, you would separate a strand from your spiritual consciousness, the strength of which would depend on how much you pulled out, and attach it to your spirit in order to experience the illusion.

Should there be any danger, that strand of subconsciousness could be eliminated without any major problems. At worse, some mental damage could occur, but there wouldn’t be any fatal injuries.

For safety reasons, most people would choose to use a sliver of subconsciousness to test out the situation before committing to entering the illusion. You had to be careful.

Most illusions weren’t dangerous, as they were meant to trap people, not kill them. Well that was, unless someone purposefully made an illusion for the sole purpose of killing others.

Those were the two main ways people from the continent knew to enter an illusion. Ming Xi and the others took it for granted that they must have entered the illusion using a strand of their subconsciousness tethered to their soul, but of course there were other ways to enter.

Only a fool would enter an illusion with their entire mind. No one would take the initiative to do so. If a subconsciousness was eliminated, the body left behind would be an empty husk without consciousness. It was the same as dying.

So for them, it was bad enough that they were forced into the illusion with their complete mind, but what Feng Wu said was even worse. It turned out they weren’t just using their mind, but were in the illusion physically with their spiritual form – their souls.

Were they already dead? Was that why they were in spirit form? Their complexions paled at this.

No! They couldn’t be dead! Ink sincerely hoped they weren’t dead!

Forcing a soul into an illusion had never been done before. It was an amazing feat no doubt.[notes] But if the soul was somehow eliminated, everything would end. There would be no chance at reincarnation.

It wouldn’t be as devastating if it had only been their full subconscious. They would die yes, but they would have had a chance to reincarnate.

Thinking of the seriousness of losing their souls made everyone sad.

322: Liana and the Others Appear

“We’ll disappear forever if we die here!” It was painful news.

Even the normally calm Ming Xi had to take a deep steadying breath. The Ancient Silver Moon kingdom had ways to reunite a destroyed consciousness to a body, but the soul. . .  there was no away to reform a soul, no one in any of the four major kingdoms knew how.

Even a true god couldn’t reform a soul once it was destroyed, never mind mere mortals.

While Feng Wu and her group were having her discussion, seven other people were also meeting for their own discussion.

The group was made up of Liana and Hart’s people.

Hart had been lucky and was doing well. His commander and deputy commander were well too. Oli[notes] was still alive as well.

Liana only had Mia.[notes] The other two guards, who had reached the castle before them, were nowhere to be found. They had most likely met with misfortune.

The last member had no affiliation with either Hart or Liana. He was an old magician and could have been considered a master in his own right. If his magic wasn’t suppressed, he wouldn’t have bothered joining forces with a bunch of young people.

“Miss Liana, what did you find?” Hart was now a gardener who specialized in trimming flowers.

“Nothing.” Liana replied bitterly.

The seven of them had gradually found each other. They were trying to find the murderer, but the culprit was hidden too well for them to discover. It was difficult to investigate with their abilities sealed.

Liana was now a pretty school girl who was one of Yanaimo’s cronies. She felt like her morals were compromised from what she had to do to play the role well.

“We must find Miss Feng Wu and her group soon. There are many people in their group. Maybe they found some useful clues.” Oli was optimistic.

The others agreed. There were only seven of them in the group currently. The others were either dead or couldn’t be found. They had to find other people to see if they could gather more clues.

“Miss, what if Miss Feng Wu is already dead?” Mia asked hesitantly.

The others sighed. So many people had died recently. There was no way to know if any of the dead were one of their own.

“We keep looking. I hope Feng Wu is OK.” Liana’s eyes dimmed. She didn’t want anything bad to happen to Feng Wu.

“We should keep looking for clues while we are a looking for Miss Feng Wu and her group,” said the mercenary’s deputy commander.

“Yes, people wouldn’t murder without reason. There must be a motive. It must have something to do with Yanaimo’s family,” hypothesized the old magician.

The most important thing was the motive. It wasn’t easy to kill so many people. Whether it was a single culprit or a group, they had to investigate every lead.

Both Liana’s group and Ming Xi’s group finished their meeting at the same time. They came to the same conclusion: find the motive, then the culprit.

There were lots of motives: killing out of anger or feeling slighted, killing out of revenge, even killing to promote self-interest.

Feng Wu’s group decided to try and find out of Yanaimo’s family had any enemies.

There were plenty of classmates who could talk about how wealthy and powerful her family was, but none who knew about her family’s enemies.

They couldn’t ask her directly, so they had to find a way to get her to reveal it herself.

The survivors arranged night patrol. There were so few of them that even the girls were recruited to patrol. Feng Wu’s team was one of the two on patrol that night.

The castle was too big, and with so many already dead, the building felt incredibly empty. The teachers got permission from Yanaimo to move everyone, including the servants, to the first floor. Scattering everyone around the castle was too dangerous.

Decreasing their living space meant less to patrol, so patrolling was easier. They also locked up large parts of the castle in order to prevent the murderer from entering any of the empty rooms.

There were two teams of five on patrol. One team was responsible for patrolling inside the castle, while the other was responsible for patrolling the outside grounds.

Ink was among the people patrolling. Through some finessing, he was able to assign Feng Wu to his group. Aside from them, there was also Annai, another boy and girl. They were all classmates.

Though night patrol was boring it was also scary. There was a constant fear that the murderer would appear and try to kill them.

They inevitably started chatting. The other boy, Chamai, was talkative so having him around made things less boring and scary.

“The murderer is really amongst us?” Cassie, the other girl in the group, asked.

“It shouldn’t be the case. We’re all classmates. If the person had the intention to kill, shouldn’t they have done it a long time ago? Why wait so long?” Annai asked.

“Maybe they didn’t have the opportunity. Think about it. If it weren’t for this isolated island and the fact that we’ve all lost our abilities, do you think the person would dare? Who knows what method they used to seal our powers? I don’t believe it isn’t one of us,” said Chamai, the talkative boy.

“That’s true, but who is trying to kill us? It’s hard to believe one of our classmates is trying to kill us. We’ve been together for over a year. We’ve had our quarrels, but for the most part we get along well enough. How can someone just think of killing us and then act on it?”

Annai's heart felt heavy as she thought about the classmates who had died. They had all been on the boat playing together.

323, 324
Ink’s Trick; Chamai, A Murderer?

TITLE

[Host: justreads.net]
[September 20, 2021]
...

323: Ink’s Trick

“Do you guys think the person who’s trying to kill us is an enemy of Yanaimo’s family?” Ink was currently Pui, a boy who had no presence. He was in the middle to lower range of class and wasn’t tall, handsome, or even strong.

Chamai was surprised at Ink’s words.

The thought had crossed their minds, it was just that no one dared speak it out loud. He looked to the timid and useless Pui.

Cassie hadn’t thought much on the matter and hadn’t connected it to Yanaimo’s family. She only knew someone was killing them, so she was stunned upon hearing Pui’s words. She immediately started with questions.

After looking about to make sure there weren’t any servants around, she whispered, “Pui, why do you say this? Did you find out something?”

Ink shook his head. “No, it was just a guess. Think about it. We were fine until we came to this island, but after we arrived, things started happening, one after another. This island belongs to Yanaimo’s family. No matter how you look at it, it’s impossible for there to be no connection.”

“No, that’s not possible. Think about it. If this was because of Yanaimo’s family, why didn’t the murderer kill Yanaimo directly, but instead killed so many unrelated people instead?” Annai wasn’t buying it.

Feng Wu listened quietly without interrupting.

“Don’t talk nonsense if you don’t now. Like Annai said, if the murderer was after Yanaimo’s family, why wouldn’t she be murdered already? Instead so many of us are involved?” Chamai nodded his head.

Yanaimo was so beautiful; her beauty alone attracted a lot of suitors who vied for her attention. Chamai was one of Yanaimo’s admirers and he only said good things about her in public. It stood to reason he would stand up for her if anyone spoke poorly about her.

Although he had his own suspicions, he wouldn’t risk offending his goddess by speaking them out loud in front of other people.

“Think about it. Weren’t the people who were first killed, weren’t they the ones who had the best relationship with her? After that the victims were ordinary classmates and servants.” Ink spoke in a low voice.

His words reminded everyone about the people who were first killed. It was true. The ones who admired her most ardently were the ones who died first. Her close friends had also died. Following their deaths, other people began dying as well.

They hadn’t thought of it this way, but with Ink’s reminder, they realized it was true.

Annai was still on the fence. “Maybe it was a coincidence? You can’t assume the killer is associated with Yanaimo just because of this.”

“I think the person is toying with us. Whoever it is, wants Yanaimo experience the fear of being next, to watch as the people she cares about die one after another in front of her.

Sometimes it’s not about killing a person directly, but more about forcing them to feel as though they are living under death’s shadow. In fact, I think Airon is the most likely victim to be targeted next.” Ink wasn’t being an alarmist. This was a genuine hypothesis Ming Xi and Jier had come up with during their discussion.

They all felt the same way – that the murderer was there for Yanaimo. Ming Xi had already gone to protect Airon, while Ink’s job was to provoke everyone. Airon wasn’t dead yet, but if he did die, then people would start asking Yanaimo questions. This would make it easier for them to ask questions as well.

Even if Yanaimo was a beauty with money and power, it was meaningless in the face of death.

What Ink said was reasonable and was hard to argue against. But what made him think the next victim would be Airon? Who could really know what the murder’s thoughts were? Who knew? Maybe Airon would be the last to die?

Looking at the order of deaths, it was clear the murderer alternated victims, first killing those closest to Yanaimo and making her suffer the loss, before switching to ordinary classmates or servants who had nothing to do with her. The murderer repeated this pattern over and over again, leaving a few days space between each murder.

At this point, most of Yanaimo’s friends were dead. Of course she was sad to see her friends die, but the constant repetition had blunted her pain. A new type ain needed to be injected into her, such as the pain of losing a love. Losing a love would be a new unbearable pain for her.

Ink smoothly planted the seed in their hearts. It would slowly sprout and grow, and once ripe, would be quite a show to watch.

Setting people up like this wasn’t good, but it was beyond his control. If he wanted to leave alive, he had to fight with everything he had.

Dawn the next day brought good news. Feng Wu’s group had made contact with Liana’s group. Things would be easier with seven more people to share the work load. They wouldn’t be so afraid to go out now.

Liana had wondered about Feng Wu’s identity for a while, but she hadn’t had the chance to test her suspicions until dinner that night when she called Feng Wu out by her real name.

There were only ten people on each side. Once you subtracted outsiders like them, there were less than twenty.

324: Chamai, A Murderer?

The two groups exchanged information and designed a plan to catch the murderer. They were still planning when the rumor about the murderer being connected to Yanaimo’s family began spreading. Rumor was Yanaimo’s friends were all on the murderer’s hit list.

The rumor had some validity so it spread like wildfire. There were already people who thought along the same lines, but had been too afraid to offend her and her supporters, but things were different now.

Now Yanaimo wasn’t on her pedestal anymore.

Even if she was a goddess who could give them benefits, those benefits didn’t mean a thing in the face of life and death. They knew what was more important.

“This is all your fault! If you hadn’t brought us to this island, we wouldn’t have lost so many classmates.”

“We wouldn’t be in this situation if you weren’t so pretentious!”

“It’s just a birthday celebration. What was the big deal?! You called all of us out here to show off your island! What was so great about it huh?! Now so many people are dead because of you!”

“Who did she offend?! Why are we suffering because of her! I’ve never done anything excessively bad!”

Some of the female students were already crying as they talked. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it was just a crazed murderer. But if the murderer was targeting Yanaimo, if they were just tools to punish her, then that was different. The feeling of being used was unbearable. It was only natural they would feel resentful and thoroughly wronged.

“How can you say that! My lady was so kind! Weren’t you all happy to be invited?!” Yanaimo’s personal maid defended her.

“If I had known she offended a crazy murderer, I wouldn’t have come even if she gave me more favors!”

“That’s right! I would regret dying more! Those classmates who already died, they’d regret it too!”

The hall was full of students arguing. Yanaimo came from a noble lineage; she was above arguing with those below her status. Though she didn’t want to quarrel with them, she hated the person responsible for the rumors. She would make their life a living hell if she ever caught them.

Even if the murderer didn’t get the person responsible for the rumors, Yanaimo would get rid of them. How dare they malign her reputation!

It didn’t matter what Yanaimo thought or felt, her classmates hated her. They didn’t look like they were interested in fawning over her anymore, instead they looked like they wanted to kill her.

Luckily the teachers came and shooed everyone back to their respective rooms. The teachers had originally wanted to speak to Yanaimo in private. If the whole thing was related to Yanaimo’s family, then it would be easier to figure out who the murderer was if they knew more about her family’s enemies.

Unfortunately, the young miss refused to cooperate. She immediately said this after everyone left, “I know what Teachers want to ask. I only have this to say. My family is upstanding and decent with no enemies. So it’s impossible for the murderer to be an enemy of my family.”

She didn’t wait for them to reply, but immediately turned around and left in a huff. Her maid called out to her, but Yanaimo refused to turn around.

Teachers Del Leo and Ballard smiled bitterly. What was this? She was throwing a temper tantrum? They wanted to find the murderer, but they couldn’t force or compel her to answer. All they could do was stare after her.

Yanaimo wasn’t the only having a hard time, Airon was also having a hard time. He was afraid of being the next victim and had holed up in his room ever since. He kept himself locked inside and wouldn’t open the door for anyone. He stepped outside for food, but that was it. He was completely isolated.

Another night arrived. This one was accompanied with windy seas, dark clouds, and rolling waves. A storm was coming.

That night, a shadowy figure entered a room and looked at the person in bed. The intruder held a knife and was about to stab the slumbering person but an unexpected figure appeared.

It was Jier!

Jier blocked the knife and the two began to fight. His hand-to-hand combat skills were good, despite being a fire magician.

The intruder was losing ground but he was clever. He tried to escape through the window once he saw he couldn’t win. But unfortunately for him, Ming Xi arrived and blocked his escape exit. His odds of winning were even worse now.

Soon enough he lay sprawled on the ground in defeat.

“Let’s see who you are!” Jier sliced away the mask covering the intruder’s face.

It was Chamai! Chamai was the murderer?! How shocking.

Chamai was such a big Yanaimo admirer. Who would have guessed such a garrulous person was the murderer?

Outside, the wind continued to rage as thunder boomed across the sky. Chamai was calm though.

“Why did you kill all those people?” Ming Xi asked.

“They deserved to die.” Chamai’s expression was different; gone was his usual cheerful smile. He looked at Jier and Ming Xi coldly.

“That’s not why you killed them. Tell me the real reason.” Jier, now a maid, demanded an answer.

“Humph!” snorted Chamai. He was on the ground, but he still managed to turn his head away from them.

“You’re still fronting!” Jier kicked Chamai a few times in the stomach. This guy had killed so many people, kicking him was nowhere near enough, but no matter how much Jier abused him, Chamai refused to answer. He refused to explain his motive.

They found the murderer but the mysterious person hadn’t reappeared. This meant they hadn’t completed their mission. So it looked like they wouldn’t get anywhere until they unearthed the truth.

[ Patreon draft @ c335 ]





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