Lightning shattered the sky and painted the world in glaring white.
Endless waves of thunder rumbled and roared as the rain crashed like waters escaping a broken dam.

It was a dark and stormy night.

”I think…
uh, we ’d better not throw the baby out with the bathwater—well, fire, in this case? ” The petite Late Night Kitty raised her hand and spoke in a small voice.
”We don ’t really know enough to say anything for sure—what if the fire triggers some kind of death flag…? ”

Unlike her three companions, the girl known as Late Night Kitty clearly felt an instinctive fear of the dark.

Bai Zhi shrugged.
the fuel was originally a last resort anyway.
But if we get into a real pinch, we just gotta EXPLOSION—fire should count as magical damage to those creeps—and we ’ll take out any of them that are still in hiding… ”

He reached for a flashlight.
”So, we stick to the plan and start searching the house.
There ’s three floors to cover, so for safety, we should all stay on the first floor for now.
Thank goodness for these flashlights…
What do you all think? ”

”No objections. ” Temperance shook her head and claimed her own flashlight.

”We have eight places to cover on this floor—a main bedroom, guest bedroom, two bathrooms, living room, kitchen, a storeroom, and the stairwell.
We can take two each, and if anyone finds anything, just shout for the rest.

”Shou—shouldn ’t we pair up? ” said Kitty.
Looking around furtively at the surrounding darkness that threatened to swallow them whole, she recalled every classic horror movie she ’d ever watched and hugged herself, quivering.
”Isn ’t that how it usually goes in horror movies? Working alone doesn ’t end well and, and the house isn ’t really that big… ”

”I must agree with Late Night Kitty! ” Mustachio looked slightly worked up as he said this, presumably because his authority had just been thoroughly undermined.
”Since there are four of us, we can have two teams, one guy and one girl to a team. ”

”Yeah sure, whatever. ” said Bai Zhi dismissively as he hauled the gasoline over to a wall in a dry section of the room.

Standing up, he announced, ”I ’m going to the kitchen.
Whoever wants to be on my team, follow me. ” Then, he clicked his flashlight on and headed in that direction with no hesitation.

”W-w-wait for me! ”

As his figure receded, Late Night Kitty scrambled to grab a flashlight off the table and trotted after him.

The pairs were thus decided.
Temperance Gentleheart turned to Mustachio and said, ”Shall we check out the guest bedroom, then? ”

She preferred the more staid and reliable Mustachio to the unpredictable Black&White anyway.

Really, what sane person would think to stuff jerrycans of gasoline into their Inventory?


Meanwhile, Bai Zhi had stepped into the kitchen.

The room seemed to be in much better condition than the mess of a living room, and the windows were tightly shut and boarded, keeping the wind and rain at bay.
It was an oasis of relative peace and quiet.

The trashcan was, however, full—more than full, it was overflowing.
What did not fit inside the trashcan spilled all over the floor, and it was all covered by a carpet of flies.
As the bright beam from the flashlight swept across them, the living carpet rose up to form a dark, buzzing cloud.

Just then, the out-of-breath Late Night Kitty finally caught up to Bai Zhi, panting, but her first reaction was to yelp in terror as she caught sight of the angry mass of bugs in the air.

”Girl, it ’s just flies, ” said Bai Zhi placidly.

”I know! But it just, suddenly— I…
Anyway, what ’s the plan? ”

Late Night Kitty reflexively grabbed hold of the hem of Bai Zhi ’s shirt.
His calm and confident air gave her no small comfort.

Bai Zhi shot her a quick glance before returning his attention to the kitchen.
”You play RPGs? ”

A little, I guess… ”

”Then imagine this is an RPG, and our characters are swaggering into someone else ’s house, opening boxes and checking every conceivable corner for anything of value—cash, food, valuables— ” Bai Zhi picked his way around the trash, making his way to a gas stove, on which rested a pot.
”—and don ’t forget to break, I mean check inside, the pots.
Then we take them all for ourselves while the foolish villagers hail us as blessed saviors of the land… ”

As he reached his destination, he aimed his flashlight directly at the pot.

The gas was off, but the pot was filled with an unrecognizable reddish-black substance.
It may have once been liquid, but it had dried into a cake now and the jelly-like layer that topped it like so much white frosting, upon closer inspection, turned out to be a writhing, oozing throng of maggots.

After contemplating it briefly, Bai Zhi turned to look at the girl who was still hanging on desperately to his shirt while looking nervously all around her.
”Want a bite? ”

”Wh-What? ” She whipped her head around in a panic.

”I asked if you want a bite.
These things are high in protein, ” said Bai Zhi, patiently repeating himself.
”By the way, you seem quite anxious. ”

”Protein… ”

The bewildered Late Night Kitty followed the line of her teammates finger and promptly gagged when she saw the pot.
Everything that she had seen since entering the kitchen was a biological assault that threatened to overload her senses.

She suddenly regretted her choice to team up with the Player known as [ Black&White ].

”How do you feel now? Not so scared, huh? ” Bai Zhi smirked as he watched Kitty, who was doubled over with a hand over her mouth.
”Fear is a natural reaction that everyone has under stress, but too much of it will hinder you from making much progress in this game.
If you wish to conquer your fear, simply replace it with another emotion. ”

A pale-looking Kitty straightened up and said weakly, ”…yeah, I ’m not scared anymore…
Instead, I have this overwhelming urge to beat the crap out of someone…
Next time, use a different approach, I beg you. ”

”As they say, ’the bitter pill of good advice, hard to swallow but exceeding wise ’. ” Bai Zhi shrugged.
”If you can ’t even get over the fear of everyday things, I ’m gonna be real—it won ’t be long before some quest or supernatural entity turns you into a stiff, bereft of life, a ’late ’ Night Kitty… ”

Having satisfied himself that the stove held no further clues, Bai Zhi strode to the refrigerator tucked away in the corner of the kitchen.
Three steps shy of the refrigerator door, his nostrils were assailed by a cloying stench.
And yet, Bai Zhi was unfazed, simply fanning a hand to clear the smell away as he reached for the door handle.

This smells a bit like rotting… ”

”Wait! Hang on a minute! ” A panicked Kitty cut him off before he could finish his sentence.

”Hmm? What is it now? ”

I can ’t look… ”

The girl who had been pulling at the hem of his shirt was now clinging to his arm and shaking like a leaf, and Bai Zhi regarded her with mild disappointment.

”Ah, not so much puss in boots as puss in denial… ”

As he muttered to himself, Bai Zhi gave the door a tug, and it opened with a soft sucking noise as the rubber lining peeled away.

As the door swung open, Bai Zhi found himself staring directly at a human face.
A sticky, red liquid oozed out from within the fridge, dripping down the door and carving a meandering path as it crept toward his foot.

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