Chapter 6 – Convenience Store Clerk (4)
In the center of the opened space, a huge spider with a human head swiftly rose up, its body a combination of spider and human features. Its six purely black eyes were situated above a strangely shaped mouth that continued to spew out spider silk.
Before it stood a half-dressed figure in black, wrapped in what seemed like an egg-shaped material, evidently an unfinished creation.
Jiang Yujin couldn’t boast of a great memory, but the puppet crafted by the other party was so shockingly hideous that it left an impression.
This creature, part-human-part-spider, with six eyes and six limbs, had a plastic-like layer obscuring its face. Its distinctive traits included remarkable reproductive abilities, speed, mastery in camouflaging nests, and concealing its presence. The recent exposure of its presence was likely due to the criticism of the puppet’s ugliness, causing it to lose its temper and reveal itself.
Each spider egg it produced contained its own consciousness, enabling control of multiple puppets by inserting these eggs into them. This ability was convenient but also had significant limitations. The smaller spiders, possessing only partial consciousness, would freeze when observed by humans and resume movement only when there was no danger until they deemed an opportunity to attack the person’s mind and extract consciousness.
It had been so long that Jiang Yujin had forgotten when or in which dungeon he had last encountered this human-faced spider. He only remembered leaving it behind then, driven by the belief that good things should be shared and seen by others as well.
Little did he expect that circling back would lead to another glance. He regretted not dealing with it earlier.
Clearly, the human-faced spider lacked manners. Not only did it ignore his greeting, but its two elongated limbs in front continued to churn out new puppets incessantly.
Casually pulling a large amount of silk thread and wrapping it around his hand, Jiang Yujin bent down to pick up an abandoned iron pipe lying nearby, making an objective comment, “It’s a waste not to be a textile worker.”
Judging by the speed of its work, it might as well have won the Best Labor Award.
The iron pipe, obviously abandoned for a long time with rust stains all over it, still felt handy in his grip.
In a very short span of time, maybe just a blink of an eye, the freshly formed puppet shattered into pieces scattered across the floor. The sound of the shattering echoed in the space, and all the spider eggs on the ground were destroyed, not a single one surviving.
Walking amidst the scattered spider silk and remnants of spider eggs, the friction between the iron pipe and the ground produced a harsh grinding sound as Jiang Yujin slowly approached.
No longer concerned with achieving the textile factory’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), the human-faced spider crawled away from the room’s center, instantly moving above Jiang Yujin’s head, assuming an aggressive stance.
Jiang Yujin slightly raised his head, his disheveled hair falling backward, revealing eyes and brows that remained utterly calm and undisturbed.
As if realizing something, the human-faced spider clinging to the wall took a half step back.
On the ground floor, Hu Li noticed that the previously incessant production of puppets had ceased.
The floor was now layered with fragments of limbs and strands of silk. Hu Li bore marks on his face and arms, inadvertently cut open by a thin, long gash, silently oozing blood.
After slashing the last puppet, he casually wiped away the blood from his face and sought the passage leading to the basement.
Though he hadn’t encountered it directly, he had heard of the human-faced spider, an A-level boss in the dungeon, skilled in manipulating puppets, feeding on human consciousness. It preferred dwelling underground, and most people who encountered it ended up discarded at the mouth of its nest, consumed by other strange species.
This building was essentially a massive nest, and at its deepest point, most likely, resided the human-faced spider.
The stairs leading to the basement were on the other side of the building, unlocked, granting direct access upon pushing the door open.
As he descended, the stairs led to a corridor, eventually unveiling a significant breach at its end. However, from this distance, the interior of the hole remained indiscernible.
Hu Li approached slowly. Passing by the electrical room, he noticed its partially open door, revealing its deserted interior, devoid of strange species. Some wires were severed by congealed spider silk, hanging limply on one side.
This, presumably, was the cause of the building’s power outage.
Hu Li withdrew his gaze and proceeded toward the gaping hole.
Upon nearing, he could distinctly see violently torn spider silk.
It seemed the human-faced spider had utilized this silk to create a false wall, deceiving all the police and Special Investigation Unit who had previously combed through the building.
Inside the cave, thick layers of silk were stacked, scattered with remnants of limbs and puppet fragments, alongside shattered spider eggs.
In the center of the cave lay a heap of small spheres, smooth to the touch like pearls, yet comprised of extremely fine spider silk intermixed with other special substances.
Hu Li squatted down and picked up one of the spheres, applying a slight force, causing it to shatter.
Despite the thick outer shell cracking, the interior was empty.
Or rather, what was contained inside wasn’t a physical object, but rather the “consciousness” of individuals stored by the human-faced spider.
In the game, even souls could be traded, so storing human consciousness wasn’t particularly surprising.
The human-faced spider wasn’t present. If it had been here, it would have likely initiated an attack the moment he entered.
Thinking back to the puppets’ sudden cessation, Hu Li dropped the shards in his hand, lowered his gaze, and noticed a long, thin trace on the floor. It seemed to be formed by something scraping across the ground, extending from the doorway to this spot.
In the silent space, it sounded like something had dripped onto the night vision goggles, making a faint noise.
Hu Li wiped away the liquid from the goggles and looked up.
A massive spider, contorted to an almost eerie extent, was skewered by an iron pipe, violently nailed to the ceiling directly above him.
With its face of six eyes hanging lifelessly downward, some of its legs, unconsciously, continued to move, creating an incredibly bizarre sight.
It was the human-faced spider, its mouth still agape, still alive. The liquid that had dripped onto the night vision goggles was the blood trickling down the iron pipe from the spider.
Without hesitation, Hu Li tightened his grip on the long knife, crouched, and leaped. In a flash of light and shadow, the spider’s head, covered with what seemed like a layer of rubber, crashed heavily onto the ground, followed by its entire body.
As he landed back on the ground, Hu Li held the removed iron pipe in one hand and picked up the communicator in the other, stating briefly:
“The target has been neutralized. Second Unit, proceed to the basement to secure the scene.”
Glancing at the rusty and bloodstained iron pipe in his hand, then at the elongated trace leading from the doorway, he added, “Also, bring in the forensic team. We need to compare some things and fingerprints.”
The second-floor restroom.
After multiple quiet calls to the person in the neighboring cubicle went unanswered, regardless of the commotion downstairs, Xiao Li remained frozen in the restroom, not daring to move a muscle.
At some unknown point, the sounds that used to occasionally drift up from downstairs vanished, leaving the world in complete silence. Occasionally, the restroom would echo with the sound of dripping water, causing a shiver each time it rang out.
This time, accompanying the water droplets, were footsteps—neither light nor heavy.
Hu Li entered the restroom, glanced at the seemingly tightly closed stalls, and then asked, “Are you in here? It’s safe now.”
The entire second floor, apart from this place, offered no hiding spots. Barring any surprises, both individuals should be here.
Perhaps there hadn’t been a moment when Xiao Li was more grateful to hear someone speaking. As soon as the voices outside ceased, the door was flung open.
Although the situation was deemed safe, Xiao Li didn’t seem as pleased. He glanced at the neighboring cubicle and said to Hu Li, “He…”
The flushing of the toilet interrupted the silence of the restroom. The stall door swung open, and the person inside nonchalantly stepped out, their drooping eyelids lifting to meet the gaze of the other two.
Xiao Li widened his eyes, gestured toward the person, then pointed to himself, appearing eager to speak but remained silent for a moment.
Jiang Yujin closed the cubicle door behind him, walked past the two towards the sink, meticulously washed his hands, then explained, “The air in there wasn’t very clean. I preferred not to speak.”
It was bizarre yet somewhat reasonable.
Hu Li, for the moment, had no spare attention for their conversation, holding onto his earpiece, still listening to the updates from the second team in the basement.
The body of the human-faced spider had been dealt with, being carried out. The forensic team had compared the iron pipe with the scratches on the floor, confirming the floor marks were caused by the pipe and found rust traces matching the pipe at the site of the large hole. The iron pipe had been handed over to the forensic team for fingerprint analysis, which would take some time.
As the report concluded, he shifted his gaze, smiling, “Let’s go.”
Outside the building, he received the fingerprint collection results from the forensic team.
Only his fingerprints were found on the iron pipe, and there were no other new discoveries at the scene.
The anticipated yet unsurprising outcome didn’t alter Hu Li’s expression much. He inquired, “What about the surveillance footage?”
“After you entered, we cordoned off the entire building. There was no movement in or out during that time, and we’ve reviewed the surveillance inside the building as well. Nothing unusual was spotted.”
Hu Li: “Is that so?”
Apart from him and the two convenience store clerks, there was undoubtedly a fourth person inside the building.
To evade the sight of everyone outside the building and manage to dodge surveillance cameras precisely, the human-faced spider had no other injuries besides a single large hole in the center, indicating a fatal blow.
Encountering such a person was rare, even in the game.
Maintaining his usual smile, Hu Li absentmindedly tapped his arm with his finger.
From entering the entrance until finally stepping out of the building, walking toward the reassuringly flashing red-and-blue vehicle, the others conversed. Xiao Li glanced back at the distant building, only to realize belatedly. His legs gave way, and he collapsed to the ground, exhaling a long breath.
The concerned citizen, Jiang Yujin, glanced at him before continuing to survey the surroundings, paying no attention to Hu Li and the group standing not far away, focused on finding his parked electric scooter.
Considering the time was no longer early, theoretically, they could leave now. Just asking a few more questions afterward would suffice to conclude. With a firm resolve not to stay any longer than necessary, he had no intention of lingering.
Fortunately, his electric scooter was still waiting for him in place.
He bid a cheerful goodbye and walked briskly toward his scooter.
The night wind stirred, causing the evergreen trees by the roadside to rustle and brushing against clothes and hair, continuously swaying them in one direction. The white streetlights cast sporadic shadows, lending an oddly surreal air to the surroundings.
Xiao Li’s expression froze slightly, finally realizing that this person had been composed throughout.
The composed individual, who had remained unruffled from start to finish, sat on his beloved electric scooter, and then suddenly exploded:
“Who stole my helmet?!”
The tone was one of disbelief and profound sorrow.