Chapter 10 – Good night

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Even though this was a beta test and the game company had used invite codes to limit the number of players, the starting village was still packed with people.

Some were working hard at tasks, while others were strolling around and enjoying the scenery.

The tea shack was the most distant sightseeing spot in the starting village, so of course it was overcrowded.
When the group of three arrived, they were given a piece of paper by a waiter, who told them to queue for their place.
There were over a hundred people in front of them.

Dugu Zhuo: “…”

Standing in line behind a hundred-plus people, he listened to the players’ chatter.

“Bleh! When they said ‘rough tea and simple food’, I thought it was just modesty, but this tea is seriously bitter!”

“Don’t remind me! I heard that a VR game could simulate gourmet food, so I raised my taste sensitivity to 120%.
It nearly killed me!”

“This shitty tea costs ten silver taels.
Isn’t the owner scamming us?”

“If he’s scamming people, maybe there’s a hidden quest here?”

Back in the PC game, players could open dialogue boxes with NPCs by clicking on them, but you couldn’t point and tap on NPCs in a VR game.
If you ever touched the wrong spot, the NPC would either aggro you like the warrior monk at Tanye Temple and eliminate you in one shot, or they would be like this owner here—

“Honored guest, this shop only sells tea, not special services.
If you want to harass a good man, there’ll be a fine.”

The moment the owner finished speaking, the player who had poked the NPC started yelling, probably because he had heard a system notification.
“You shitty old man, you’re going to cheat me out of a hundred taels just for a poke? My balance has gone into the negatives! Don’t you think you’re a scammer?”

He was so mad he was about to charge at the owner, and his friend standing by him could no longer hold him back.
“If you have to pay 100 silver taels for just touching him, you’re really going to get punished for attacking him,” the friend reminded.

“Then let me see what exactly the punishment is,” the player said, swinging a fist.

No punishment materialized.
The tea shack owner held his head and pleaded for mercy, while the waiter abandoned his work, running off yelling for the authorities.

The surrounding players didn’t exactly approve, but they also wanted to know what kind of punishment would come of hurting an NPC, so they all stood on the sidelines and spectated.

Dugu Zhuo didn’t like to involve himself in other people’s business in the first place, but after a while, the waiter still hadn’t returned with a bailiff.
He idly glanced over the owner’s cash box and suddenly thought of something.

“Let me borrow your fan,” he said to Long @ Aotian.

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He grabbed Long @ Aotian’s paper fan and leapt into the air, stepping on the heads of the players in line as he arrived at the interior of the tea shack.
He lightly tapped a few of the attacking player’s acupuncture points with the fan, instantly immobilizing him.

“Thank you, young hero!” The owner raised his head and started profusely thanking Dugu Zhuo.

Dugu Zhuo examined the tea shack owner’s face and sighed quietly.

Unimportant NPCs in the game only had a few distinct appearances.
Throw on some different clothes and a new hairstyle and skin tone, and they were a new character.
This tea shack owner’s features looked exactly the same as that of a middle-aged man he’d seen in front of the healing booth, with only his clothes and hair being changed.

It seemed this owner wasn’t the one that he had met at the Canglan Mountains.
A game was just a game, in the end.

“Who do you think you are? This is none of your business!” the player Dugu Zhuo had immobilized with his spiritual essence said furiously.
His friends standing behind him were also glaring at Dugu Zhuo.

Qingyue and Aotian couldn’t stay back anymore and also rushed forward to defend their dashen.

They weren’t very heroic people, but this was just a game anyway, so why not act like it this once?

As both sides were in a tense standoff, the waiter finally returned with the bailiff.
The shop owner pointed at the troublemaking player and said, “Sir, it was him who damaged my shop and attacked me!”

The bailiff glanced at the players and waved a hand.
“Take away the culprit and bring his companions for interrogation too.”

“Huh?” his companions yelled.
“We didn’t do anything, so why are you taking us too?”

The bailiff didn’t care and shackled a couple of players.
“Don’t you know what guilt by association is?”

Several of the players were level 10, yet they lost all their strength when captured and had no ability to resist as they were dragged away.

Witnessing their punishment, the spectating players now knew for a fact that this game was anti-violence.
You could bully players, but you were absolutely not allowed to bully NPCs.

Now that the players had been taken away, their seats were free and ought to be given to the next people in line.
However, after wiping the table clean, the shop owner gestured Dugu Zhuo’s group to it with a grin.
“Honored guest, please sit.”

“Hey! Isn’t it supposed to be our turns?” some players in line hollered.

“Paying customers must follow the rules, but these are my benefactors,” the owner said, with an attitude of ‘I’m the boss and my word goes’.
“I’m inviting them, and as my guests, their tea is on me.”

The players in line couldn’t argue.
After all, it was their own fault they hadn’t helped when the owner was attacked.

Sitting at the main table of the shabby tea shack, Dugu Zhuo thought back to all that had just happened.

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The bailiffs had shown up after he had apprehended the culprit and not a moment earlier or later, as if they had been in hiding and waiting for someone to intervene before they came out.

And after the troublemaker was captured, he had received another system notification, saying that he had earned another Righteousness Point by upholding the law.

However, the technique he had used to immobilize that player had not led to a prompt for him to create a new jade slip.

Back when he laid down the Misdirection Array, he didn’t receive a prompt either, only when the black cat had been bitten to death.
It seemed that one of the conditions for creating a skill was causing the death of a player with it.

As he was contemplating, the owner brought over a pot of green tea, as well as some delicate desserts.
The other players were having tea in crude bowls, while they were given fine porcelain cups.

“It smells good!” Qingyue said, sniffing her cup, a contented look appearing on her face.

“Mm, this is delicious!” Aotian said, nibbling the teacakes with his eyes glowing.
“It’s sweet but not too much, and you don’t have to worry about your weight while eating it!”

The other players: “…”

They regretted not helping uphold justice so much!

Dugu Zhuo took a sip of the tea.
It was far better than the bowl he’d had at the Canglan Mountains.

He looked into the distance, seeing the boundaries of the town shrouded in fog.
Qingyue had said that she’d tried walking into the fog once, but only returned to her starting point.
She probably wasn’t a high enough level or hadn’t fulfilled some requirements in order to be able to leave the starting village.

“What’s on the other side of the fog?” Dugu Zhuo asked.

“This old man doesn’t know,” the owner said.
“For generations, my family has lived in this village, and no one has gone into the fog.”

It looked like uncovering the mysteries of this world wasn’t going to be so easy.

Dugu Zhuo wasn’t in a rush.
He was only level 9 right now and his injuries hadn’t recovered.
He didn’t have any leads on Ye Zhou’s soul either, so he could investigate slowly.

Cultivators were untouched by time.
Dugu Zhuo had cultivated for several centuries to reach his current level, so he was very patient.

He asked the owner a few more questions, but the owner was oblivious about all of them.
The time was now the second ke of Xushi, or like Aotian would say, 7:30 pm, and the sun was gradually setting.

“Night is falling,” the tea shop owner said suddenly.
“I must close up shop soon.
All the guests in the queue need not worry.
This shop opens every day at Chenshi and everyone’s positions will be retained if they come back tomorrow.”

“He’s closing up at nightfall? What kind of a shop is that?” Some players who had been queuing for a long time were unhappy, but they didn’t dare to harm any NPCs.
It seemed this tea shack didn’t have any useful clues anyway, just a place where you could drink tea and mess with some NPCs.

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Dugu Zhuo also stood to leave along with his group, but the owner called for him to wait.

“Please wait, young heroes,” the tea shack owner said in a low voice.
“Let’s talk in here.”

The group of three came to the kitchen, where the owner took out 100 taels of silver from the money box and gave them to Dugu Zhuo.
“The night is dangerous.
Before the fourth ke of Xushi, you must either log off or find an inn to stay the night.”

“You’re kidding me,” Aotian said.
“Night’s the perfect time for leveling up, so why would we go stay at an inn? At 8 pm, the nightlife has just begun.
Who would stop playing?”

“You can choose an inn that provides an energy gathering array,” the owner said.
“While meditating within the array, you can gain experience even if idling.

“Those inns are rare, though.
In this town, only Youpeng Inn has an energy gathering array and its space is limited.
Fortunately, I’m relatives with the owner of the inn, so if I write you a recommendation, I’m sure he’ll give you three premium rooms.”

He handed three letters to each of the group.
“The sun has almost set.
Young heroes, be quick!”

There was urgency in his voice, and even Aotian noticed something was odd.
“Is this old man telling us that there’ll be some danger in the night?”

Dugu Zhuo accepted the 100 silver taels and said, “According to your guess, when the currency exchange is activated, we’ll be able to purchase spirit stones.
In that case, why are there two sets of currency? What is the silver used for?”

“For casual players to buy food and enjoy themselves, I guess?” Qingyue mused.

“Not necessarily,” Dugu Zhuo said.

Following the shop owner’s instructions, they arrived at Youpeng Inn in five minutes.
After handing in their recommendations, they got themselves three premium rooms.

Each room cost 100 taels of silver, so the shop owner’s reward was only enough to cover Dugu Zhuo’s stay.
Fortunately, Qingyue and Aotian had completed a lot of tasks during the day, so after emptying their wallets, they managed to scrape together 180 taels, only enough for one room.

“You’re 20 taels short,” said the inn’s proprietor.
“If you lend me someone to work in the backyard, I’ll give you 10 taels for an hour.”

Aotian helplessly followed him to wash dishes and feed horses, while Dugu Zhuo went to his room.

The walls of the room were inlaid with spiritual stones, focusing spiritual energy onto the bed, so that one could cultivate just by lying down.

Dugu Zhuo checked the spiritual energy within the stones.
The array would hold for twelve hours, and lose effect by Chenshi the next morning, or 7 to 8 am.

In the yard, Aotian grumbled as he cut straw for the horses.
“What a lame game.
If I have to work off my debt, can’t it just drain some of my stamina? Why do I have to actually work for two hours? I don’t know why I’m paying so much to stay at this shitty inn.”

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As he was complaining, 8 pm arrived.

The sky had gone completely dark, as the moon slowly rose over the trees.
Long @ Aotian suddenly received a paper crane from a friend.
“Mwahahahaha! I can move now! You all have no idea what you’re in for! I’m the strongest willow yao there ever was!”

Aotian stopped in the middle of feeding the horses, dumbfounded, and played the message again.

Qingyue had also rushed to the yard by now.
“Xiao Wen[1] sent me a message just now.
She said yao below level 20 could take human forms at night, and right now yao, demons, and ghosts are running about in the streets.”

Xiao Wen was Qingyue’s friend who, after making a demon character, Qingyue had never seen again.

“No way,” said Aotian.
“In that case, the humans right now…” He glanced at the back courtyard wall.
“Wanna see?”

They climbed to the top of the wall and saw crowds filling the streets.
Groups of human players were knocking on every door they could, wailing, “Save us! Ghosts and monsters are running around everywhere! Open up, let me in!”

A house’s door opened and a thick arm reached out, killing a player in one slap.

The NPCs from the daytime had turned from kind civilians into demons and monsters, and the races who had trouble leveling up during the day, the yao, ghosts, and demons, could now take missions.

As for the humans and spirits, the lucky ones had gotten to Tanye Temple or an inn before 8, while the unlucky ones got killed by NPCs, or simply logged off to play tomorrow.

There was also a system announcement sent out:

[Good night, everyone.
Welcome to the world of ghosts and demons.]

Qingyue and Aotian: “…”

This was also a game mechanic?

spooooky times

thank you all for reading!

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