Mustachio was simply parroting information that was freely available on the Player ’s Forum.
In any case, it was not particularly important knowledge either, since Players who reached Level 2 would quickly learn it for themselves.

It was one of the things that set a Verified Player worlds apart from the newbies.

”Anyway, how did everyone get their Player status? ” asked Bai Zhi, having finished his cup noodles.

Late Night Kitty was the first to raise her hand and answer.
It happened after I had a strange dream.
I don ’t remember what it was about, but when I woke up, dazed and confused, somehow or other, I got the notification informing me I was now a Player. ”

won it, I guess, in a red packet grabfest*, ” said Temperance Gentleheart.
She was looking sadly at the ugly black marks on her calf, and with an exhausted slump of her shoulders, she let out a heavy sigh.

”They were giving out red packets worth a few yuan in my class WeChat group, and when I claimed one, a notification popped up saying I ’d gotten the Player status.
…Now I wish I hadn ’t been so greedy for that measly bit of loose change. ”

Mustachio shook his head.
”Truth be told, nobody has found any rhyme or reason to how people have gotten the Player status.
The Concerning Department once conducted a census on this, but after reviewing the data from hundreds of Players, they found absolutely no common factor that triggered the event.
If they had, you can be sure there would be many more Players everywhere.

”The only known way to make someone a Player on purpose is an item in the Shop, a card that grants the Player status which has an extremely rare chance of appearing during the monthly restock.
It could go for incredible prices on the black market, which means only the extremely wealthy can afford them…
Anyway, I got my Player Status during a game of basketball. ”

Three pairs of eyes turned to look at Bai Zhi.
”Oh, me? I was just surfing the web and got a popup notification. ” He said calmly.

”[ Do you wish to understand the meaning of life? Do you want to feel…
trulyalive? ] , something cryptic like that. ”

Mustachio ’s perked up his ears at what Bai Zhi was saying.
”What, a new way to get the Player status? ”

”Uh-huh, and the two options I was given were ’Yes ’ and ’Oui oui ’**, so there was no way for me to refuse.
I was press-ganged, really. ”

Bai Zhi gave a wry smile and straightened up.

”Players may be the only force that can stand against the supernatural entities, but they ’re also dying like flies, aren ’t they? Player handles are presumably deleted upon death as well, which explains why a name as simple as [ Black&White ] was still available to me.
Am I right? ”

”Well, the unique number that really identifies you as a Player is your Player ID, so the handle is just a nickname…
But you are right, we do lose Players incredibly quickly—well, see, there are also plenty of people eager to become Players, considering they would be getting the power to fight back instead of being lambs to the slaughter… ” Mustachio faltered, but quickly gathered his wits and also stood up.
”So, can we do a more careful search of the house now? ”

It seemed that Bai Zhi, with his unflappable cool and calm confidence, had turned into the de facto leader of the party.

With a careless wave of his hand, he said, ”Sure, but just be prepared—the Sealed Right Arm of the Forbidden One might not be in the villa at all… ” Then, flashlight in hand, Bai Zhi headed for the stairs.

”To make the most efficient use of our effort, you take first and second floor, I ’ll take whatever ’s left. ”

”Umm… ” said Mustachio, but he was gone.

It was just as Bai Zhi had predicted.
After spending about an hour turning over every proverbial stone in the villa in their search for the missing arm, they came back empty-handed.

Every closet was opened, every drawer turned out.
The couches were ripped open and even the contents of the fly- and maggot-infested trashcan in the kitchen were dumped out and sifted through while they fought not to gag…
all to no avail.

In a fit of frustrated rage, Mustachio even ripped the toilet right out and cracked the floor to inspect the underground plumbing.
He braved the rain to check all around the outside of the villa, but he returned as sodden as he was disappointed.

However, that was not the most important development.
What was really concerning was how, as the seconds ticked slowly away, the four of them clearly sensed a steady drop in the temperature of the air around them.
Even the fire they lit in the hearth did little to ease the chill that seemed to seep into their very bones.

Temperance Gentleheart was having the worst time.
She had been attacked by the spirit twice, which had left her with creepy black markings on her body, and despite having the second-highest Constitution in the party, behind only Mustachio, she was looking deathly pale as she curled up next to the fire, too weak to move.

In fact, under the current circumstances, Late Night Kitty was in the best condition out of all of them.
Mustachio may have had the highest Constitution, but the constant exertion and mental strain had sapped him of much of his strength.
Bai Zhi, practically a cripple with his Constitution of 6, would have been wiped out in no time, had he not kept replenishing his energy with various foods from his Inventory.

”…Are you seriously grilling some meat right now? ” croaked Temperance Gentleheart from her place next to the fire as she hugged herself.
Her brows were gathered in a perplexed expression as she watched Bai Zhi retrieve a ton of seasoning ingredients and skewers of meat, preparing himself a feast.

” ’Man is a fire and food is his fuel, missing a meal is needless and cruel ’, you know.
Want one? ” he replied, glancing at Temperance as he brushed the skewers all over with seasoning.

”I got the best beef I could find online, it ’s definitely tender and juicy. ”

”Oh please, aren ’t you the only one out of all of us who still has an appetite? ” said Late Night Kitty, rolling her eyes.
She was seated as far away from the pieces of the corpse they were trying to put together as possible.
”If we can ’t find a way to deal with the spirit, the way things are going, we ’re all going to die here, and you ’re just…
barbequing?! ”

”Dying with a full belly doesn ’t sound half bad. ”

Bai Zhi looked unconcerned as he tended to the skewers over the fire, and Late Night Kitty threw her hands up in despair.

Just then, Mustachio came down the stairs, after yet another fruitless search.
”If we do nothing but stay inside, we ’re going to die.
Let us flee this place, run as far away as our legs can take us! ”

From his damp, matted hair and the puddle of water pooling at his feet, it was obvious he had been searching the rooftop and it had left him in a foul mood.

”It ’s a red herring, a fool ’s errand, there ’s no solution! There ’s no point looking for a missing right arm that doesn ’t exist! ” The repeated futile efforts and the unrelenting wintry feeling creeping into his body were giving him nihilistic thoughts.

”C ’mere, grill something, then eat it, recover your strength.
Running away now is what ’s really going to kill you. ” said Bai Zhi placidly as he continued to baste the skewers.

”You…!! ”

”I ’ve connected the dots, I know where the arm is. ” Bai Zhi looked at Mustachio with half-lidded eyes.
”Put your faith in me, and I will bring us to victory. ”

Daybreak was only ninety minutes away.

*A type of event most commonly seen on WeChat.
The ”red packets ” feature on WeChat allows users to give away money to a group of people in such a way whereby the ”packets ” are put up for grabs and users will claim them as fast as possible.
If there is a more formal name for this phenomenon, let me know.

**Oui = Yes in French.
Pronounced ”wee ”.

Actual note from Ori:

The raw novel sometimes has images tacked to the end, which I am, unfortunately, unable to see.

However, I was inspired to convey some of that flavor here.
I ’ll do it randomly in future, but let me know what you think.


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