Chapter 38 – Tower on the Sea (3)
Outside, the seawater flooded in, crashing against the stone wall with a tremendous roar before receding. The barbershop owner sat beneath the tower, glancing at the rapidly falling water-blue crystals outside the window before lowering his gaze to the situation below.
Apart from three high schoolers, there were several individuals dressed in dark red attire. Both groups continuously traversed between floors, each attempting to eliminate the other without any sign of yielding.
It was evident that the red-clad faction outnumbered their opponents, yet they hadn’t gained much ground. They were marked with injuries, blood staining the ground.
Jiang Yujin’s cheap son was also injured, but like his cheap father, he fought fiercer with each injury. Wiping the blood off his face, he swiftly pivoted and stabbed the person behind him with certainty and rapidity, devoid of hesitation.
Xiao Pang by the side widened his eyes, “Have eyes grown on your back?”
The ground was littered with corpses, blood seeping into the ground tiles of the first floor, turning the once grey fish tail into a patch of red.
Eyes rimmed with blood, sparks dissipating in the air, Zhang Xin exhaled heavily, her chest heaving.
The towering fortress was already significantly destroyed, statues shattered, stairs fragmented, oil lamps overturned, sparking flames on the ground. Scorch marks adorned various parts of the tower.
Glancing at the time, Chen Jing looked towards the entrance they had arrived from, stating, “Let’s get out first.”
With the cigarette burnt out, the barbershop owner stubbed it out and casually pulled down a lever hidden in the pillar. It was something they stumbled upon during their last visit, unexpectedly finding use for it today.
As the lever was pulled down, the tower rumbled, echoing with the sounds of gears in motion, followed by the rush of gushing water.
All exits of the tower sealed shut, concealed by stone bricks. Water streamed into the tower, rapidly rising. The sea water surpassed the statues, subtly altering something in its quiet intrusion.
All statues came to life, their pure white eyes fixed on the three individuals standing in the center of the grand hall.
A sense of despair enveloped them.
Zhang Xin was instantly alert. Xiao Pang, who was still catching his breath, widened his eyes in agony. Chen Jing quickly scanned the tower, not missing even the tiniest detail.
The tower’s rooftop was now devoid of any individuals. These things were enough to keep the three high schoolers engaged for a considerable time.
The barbershop owner left after pulling the lever, lighting up another cigarette.
When he came out again, the entire island had transformed. The land that extended far away had vanished. Upon exiting the tower, there was only raging seawater. The fog that previously enveloped the island had now spread endlessly, the sea beneath it swirling into vortexes, stained red with blood.
As a vortex approached a specific area, it shattered instantly, reverting to normal seawater, ebbing and flowing with the waves.
Jiang Yujin had already ventured into the seawater, willingly stepping into the enemy’s primary battleground.
The mermaid with algae-blue hair and light blue pupils gazed at the approaching figure, wielding their scepter with a solemn and sacred expression that didn’t remotely resemble an attempt to kill someone with all their might.
Instantly, the winds and waves on the sea calmed, not a ripple in sight, as if the water had turned into a lifeless pool. With the absence of the waves’ sound, the surroundings fell abruptly silent, resembling a dead space.
While the sea surface lay tranquil, beneath, hidden currents surged, a tremendous force pulling relentlessly downward, compelling individuals to sink into the ocean.
Jiang Yujin still held the dried branch he had casually picked up earlier. As the branch cleaved through the sea, fishes were swept along. When they departed once more, they had become just another lifeless being in the depths of the ocean.
The water parted, revealing the mermaid at the heart of the sea. The person who had just stepped into the water vanished instantly from his spot, his movements invisible to the naked eye. When he reappeared, one hand was already gripping the mermaid’s throat, the other hand crushing the mermaid’s hand holding the scepter.
The deep blue scepter shattered along with the mermaid’s finger bones.
The individual made the mermaid feel the feeling of the scepter breaking in their own hand, then swiftly pushed down on the mermaid, making them rapidly descend into the depths of the ocean.
As the sight grew dim, the mermaid’s light blue pupils met the gaze of the individual almost directly upon them.
The individual’s slightly longer hair fluttered backward, gradually losing its black hue as the water deepened and the pressure increased, turning his hair into a shade of grey-white.
Standing on the last remaining patch of land by the tower, the barbershop owner heard a distant, thunderous sound emanating from the deep sea. It sounded like something collapsing or breaking, causing a crack in the ocean, allowing a massive influx of water. Yet, it seemed bottomless, never to be filled.
The commotion seemed a bit too excessive altogether.
The other party letting go always led to such a situation, and the barbershop owner wasn’t surprised. Instead of the cracks, he was more concerned about other things and immediately protected the only remaining two small boats.
After a long while, the sea finally ceased its continuous flooding, rippling and gradually calming down, just as it usually did.
A figure emerged on the surface of the sea, drenched all over. His hair, faded in color, turned grey, and he retied the red string around his hand. Slowly wading through the water, his eyes were colder than the sea itself. Only when he looked up and saw him, did his eyelids droop as they always did.
Jiang Yujin approached, then extended his wet hands, a smile on his face, and said, “Could the boss please dry me off?”
Without mentioning the mermaid, he could already guess the outcome. The barbershop owner didn’t ask either; he simply said, “Shall I burn it for you?”
Eventually, the barbershop owner lit a fire. The flames were intense, illuminating almost half the island.
Jiang Yujin, drenched to the bone, stood nearby, occasionally turning around, trying to dry both sides. As he grilled, he asked, “What about Chen Jing and the others?”
The barbershop owner didn’t elaborate on what he had done; he just said, “They might need to stay inside a while longer.”
Jiang Yujin nodded, then sneezed, saying, “Let’s head back. Who knows, we might catch an extra hour or two of sleep once we’re back.”
The barbershop owner silently brought the skiff over. Sitting back on the small boat, it was still the barbershop owner rowing.
He wasn’t even considered cheap labor; he was merely unpaid labor.
Jiang Yujin returned the skiff to the rental shop owner, not saying a word when returning it. The rental shop owner took the boat back, also without much conversation, just briskly getting it done.
Back in the car, the barbershop owner glanced at the person beside him and said, “Is it okay to just leave him like that?”
The ‘him’ here obviously referred to the rental shop owner.
Jiang Yujin waved his hand, appearing entirely unconcerned, “He knows what to say and what not to say.”
The barbershop owner glanced at him once more, then shifted his focus back to the steering wheel.
If he said it was fine, then it really was fine.
The car returned to A City and once again paid the toll.
Jiang Yujin couldn’t manage to go home and get a good sleep as he had hoped. Instead, he found himself back in the barbershop’s chair, urging the barbershop owner to work overtime to fix his hair which had been soaked and faded by sea water.
The moment he sat in the chair and closed his eyes, he was awakened by the person behind him.
The barbershop owner couldn’t sleep, and so, neither could he. The two tortured each other like this until dawn broke. Only then did Jiang Yujin find peace and doze off, leaning against the chair directly.
At dawn, the first bus from C City to A City departed, carrying only a few middle-aged and elderly passengers and the three minors at the very end.
The three minors had changed their clothes and wore hats to cover the injuries on their faces.
The previous night had drained a lot of their energy, but their minds were preoccupied, and they couldn’t sleep at all.
Xiao Pang was still trying to analyze, “The water in the tower definitely didn’t appear out of nowhere. Besides us, there should have been other people there at that time.”
He furrowed his brow, “Was it the Zero people?”
If it was the Zero people, then they were completely exposed now. But if the other party were the Zero people, by this time, they would have already leaked information, and they wouldn’t have been able to board this bus safely.
“It shouldn’t be the Zero people.”
Zhang Xin lowered her head in thought and said, “There was a fire outside.”
Although the tower’s doors and windows were sealed, the hole they had punctured in the wall before was still open. Through that hole, she saw a fierce blaze.
Similar to what happened in E City before, it was scorching hot, the fire was raging, and the individual characteristics were very distinct.
“It might be Yuan Sanshui,” Zhang Xin said.
But she couldn’t figure out the reason why Yuan Sanshui would confine them in the tower.
Was it for some specific reason, or simply out of malicious amusement?
If he truly wanted to kill them, the other party could have just acted directly instead of opting for a method that wasn’t a hundred percent certain to result in their deaths here.
If it was for amusement, it’s hard to fathom someone going out of their way to kill three completely unrelated individuals.
“Yuan Sanshui?” Xiao Pang suggested, “Did he join Zero?”
Without waiting for others to answer, he immediately refuted the idea himself. If the other party had joined Zero, he wouldn’t stand by while other Zero members were being killed.
Dismissing his own theory, his mind grew more muddled, “Then what’s his motive?”
Chen Jing, who had been silent, spoke up, “He might be stalling us.”
“He might be trying to cover something up,” he said, “Do you remember the ground we saw when we exited the tower?”
When all the statues woke up, he heard sounds from outside, the crashing of waves mixed with other noises, thunderous and continuous. The strange disappearance of the ground on the island was probably caused at that time.
But at that moment, Yuan Sanshui was still in the tower watching them, indicating there were others outside.
The sound of waves was probably caused by the mermaid they had been searching for but couldn’t find for a long time. The other sounds were caused by the people outside. Perhaps Yuan Sanshui didn’t want them to see the people outside.
All bosses have territorial instincts; as long as they are alive, they won’t allow others to roam freely in their territory. When they came out, they didn’t encounter the mermaid; the fate of the mermaid can be guessed.
Knowing Yuan Sanshui and being able to find and kill the mermaid in such a short time narrowed down the possibilities significantly.
They had heard that 001 and Yuan Sanshui had a decent relationship.
Following this line of thought, Xiao Pang straightened his posture gradually.
It implied that just on the other side of a wall, there was a possibility that 001 had been close to them.
“But Lu Dongcheng previously said that 001 remained in the Game,” Zhang Xin pointed out.
Chen Jing looked at her and said, “That suggests he encountered 001 in reality.”
Unless one actually sees the other person in reality, no one can accurately say who remains in the Game. If they had to say, it should be “unclear whether the person has actually come out.”
—Of course, all this presupposes that the other person is telling the truth.
It sounds pretty plausible.
So much happened in one night, and there were plenty of things they needed to reconsider. In short, Zero didn’t obtain the mermaid’s blood, achieving their original goal.
Exhausted and lacking the strength to continue contemplating, the three of them paused the conversation, quieting down. Chen Jing, weary, closed his eyes.
The car passed through the toll booth, leaving C City and entering A City. After getting off the car, each of them went their separate ways.
Still needing to tend to his wounds at home, Chen Jing hailed a taxi after getting off and headed to his home.
It was the time when most residents were waking up, and when he returned to the street, many shops had already opened. Initially planning to head straight home, he glanced to the side and saw someone sleeping soundly in the barbershop chair.
Indeed, deeply asleep and completely unconcerned about appearance, the thin blanket draped over them was probably the last act of kindness from the barbershop owner.
Considering entering the shop, he remembered the evident wounds on his body that still needed attention. Chen Jing ultimately chose to quietly head upstairs.
As the high schooler ascended, downstairs, the first batch of morning customers had arrived at the shop. The person who had been sleeping peacefully was ruthlessly awakened by the barbershop owner, who also took back the blanket.
With the blanket gone, a sudden chill swept over. Jiang Yujin sniffed and instinctively rubbed his arms, inadvertently touching something smooth. He lowered his head and opened his eyes.
It was a scale, deep blue, with a colorful aura shimmering around its edges, clearly fallen from the mermaid.
Not noticing this on his body before, Jiang Yujin casually took it off and handed it to the barbershop owner for assistance before peacefully heading upstairs.
After taking a shower upstairs, he crashed straight into bed, starting to doze off. Next door, the high schooler silently tended to his wounds, not making a single sound.
It was very quiet here, unlike the bustle along the coast in C City.
At night, residents living by the shore faintly heard distant noises, mistaking it for thunder. Without further sounds, they resumed their sleep. It wasn’t until the following morning that they realized the fog that had lingered over the sea had dissipated.
Hurrying to the shore to see what was happening, they found many people already there. The initial caution tape was still up, but it was merely symbolic.
The Special Investigation Unit, always occupied with missions, finally managed to organize a sea expedition. They went out but returned after a short time.
The residents gathered at a distance couldn’t quite make out what was being said. They only witnessed police cars and ambulances arriving, followed by various other vehicles. A professor with white hair got out of one car and observed the footage transmitted by a drone heading toward the sea.
In just one night, a nameless fissure suddenly appeared in the sea depths, requiring specialized equipment for exploration. Currently, they could only circle the surface with the drone.
Due to the sudden fog, local authorities, fearing accidents, had installed multiple monitors on the shore. However, when they reviewed the footage, they discovered the monitors had been tampered with by unknown individuals. The last image captured was half a body dressed in dark red attire.
People in specialized clothing, an inexplicable towering structure, and a massive fissure formed overnight—a new addition to the unsolved case files.
The news about this incident appeared on television two days later.
Some people have weak constitutions; catching a cold might make them develop a fever after drinking just two bottles of cold beer. Yet, in some ways, they can be quite resilient.
After soaking in the sea despite having a fever, Jiang Yujin returned and slept the whole day, and bounced back energetically afterward.
Having had an overly abundant sleep, Citizen Jiang finally woke up one morning and had breakfast together with the high schooler, enjoying a heartwarming father-son moment.
The warmth referred to him playing Xiaoxiaole while the high schooler prepared breakfast. He turned on the TV, and the high schooler served the meal.
The TV broadcasted the host’s voice, followed by experts analyzing the fissures formed in the sea.
Jiang Yujin sipped his congee and remarked, “Terrifying.”
The TV mentioned the discovery of multiple bodies on the island.
Chen Jing lowered his gaze in response.
With a mouthful of bread, the thoughtful father, Citizen Jiang, suggested, “It’s been a while since we’ve been to the seaside. Since you’re on break, why not go for a visit? You can see lots of little fish.”
Chen Jing replied, “No need.”
He still remembered the revived statues swiftly swimming in the water—a flood of memories he preferred not to revisit.
Jiang Yujin, clad in loose pajamas, his features relaxed, couldn’t help but chuckle.