Outside the ‘Game’
Lu Chu was still in a bit of a trance, and still hadn’t really returned to his senses after that painful sensation of being split apart, when he saw that new words had appeared on the square panel.
“Congratulations on officially passing the test.
Now, you currently have 60 minutes of ‘Free Time’, please return to this place when the time is up.”
After the words on the panel disappeared, the panel returned to its original form, paper-like arms and legs disappearing as it floated back to its original spot.
At the same time, another door appeared in front of Lu Chu again.
Currently, Lu Chu would feel an inexplicable nervousness when he saw a door. There was a sudden sense of restriction around his wrist, and looking down, he realised that something like a wristband appeared on it, and the characters “57’03’” was displayed on the narrow screen.
Thinking about the square screen that said his free time was 60 minutes, but didn’t offer any more explanation, Lu Chu curbed the uncomfortable feeling in his heart, and still went out of that door.
Upon exiting his door, Lu Chu instantly was moved from a quiet space to a noisy street, and this kind of change left him a bit at a loss, as he stood on the spot in a daze for some time.
It was night outside, and Lu Chu seemed to be in a noisy pedestrian street, and all around him were megastores and little stalls, but there weren’t many people walking around. Then, he saw a scene that surprised him – a middle-aged man just walked into the door that he had just came out of.
Was the place he reached the same as the one Lu Chu was just in?
“Hm, are you a new person?!” Just as Lu Chu was thinking, a male voice suddenly came from behind him, after that, Lu Chu’s shoulder was patted.
Startled Lu Chu immediately turned around, only to see a handsome, tall young man with a bright and cheerful smile standing behind him.
Lu Chu reacted, and gave a gentle smile, “hello, you are?”
“Me?” The young man was very enthusiastic, and didn’t even say anything else before he put his arm around Lu Chu’s shoulders and moved forward, speaking as he walked, “at least, I can be counted as your senior!”
Lu Chu asked, “senior?”
“Haha, yeah,” the young man raised the wristband on his right hand, “here, everybody has one, and there aren’t many of us here. You look unfamiliar, so I definitely know that you’re new!”
Looking at the wristband on the young man’s hand that was almost identical to his own, Lu Chu couldn’t help but feel a little excited, could this person be in the same situation as himself?
Soon, the young man answered his question, “well, let me tell you, we’ve been chosen to enter into this kind of place, and do these sort of things, we definitely must have a strong psyche. Maybe we could even return to the real world some time later, anyways, I’m called Song Gui, you?”
Song Gui waved his hand, “a good name! Just look, the both of us are fated, both of our names have two words!”
Lu Chu was a little overwhelmed by his familiar attitude, and couldn’t shake off the arm on his shoulder after struggling twice, so he gave up.
Knowing that this man could answer a part of his questions, Lu Chu politely raised his right hand and asked, “excuse me, what does the time on this wristband mean?”
Song Gui widened his eyes in shock, and asked in astonishment, “what, the ‘rules’ didn’t explain it to you?!”
Lu Chu still had the same gentle look, and his smiling expression didn’t change as he said, “indeed it didn’t.”
Song Gui muttered to himself when he heard that answer, “the ‘rules’ are really becoming more and more irresponsible, misleading newcomers like this, how many people are going to get killed? Luckily he ran into me, this kind-hearted, courageous and heroic, handsome and confident……”
Seeing that Song Gui was caught up in his own world and unable to free himself from it, Lu Chu had to call him twice, before Song Gui returned his senses. He used his strength and patted Lu Chu’s shoulder, then said, “I think you are fated. No worries, I’ll look out for you in the future!”
Lu Chu didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, “thank you.” He said, then paused, and asked again, “what are the ‘rules’?”
“They’re those floating square panels in your room.” Song Gui straightened his expression and said, “everybody that was brought here to go through these ‘games’, all have their independent space. As time passes, everybody called them ‘rooms’, and the ‘rules’ are surveillance, monitoring everybody — an existence to monitor and maintain the law and order here.”
The more Lu Chu listened, he more confused he was.
Seeing this, Song Gui continued to explain, “the so-called free time, is to leave that empty room, and come to these illusionary spaces. Saw the middle-aged man who just went in? He only has five minutes of free time per day left, so he had to return not long after you came out.”
Song Gui’s arm was still around Lu Chu’s shoulder, and he talked as he walked along the street. He talked, and talked, then suddenly, h stopped and said in a clear tone, “ah, we’ve reached.”
Lu Chu followed Song Gui’s line of sight and looked forward, only to see an intersection that he couldn’t see ending of, line with neon lights, so he looked back at Song Gui in confusion.
Song Gui kept away his mischievous smile, and said in a serious manner, “reach out and touch.”
Lu Chu heard his words, stretched his hand out towards the front, and immediately encountered a barrier…… this is – fa, fake?
“It’s fake,” Song Gui confirmed his guess, “this street is nothing but an illusion, the real distance is only so far, and there’s only a background image in front.”
Lu Chu couldn’t hide his surprised, “how…… how?”
This reminded him of the town where he grew up. In the same way, what that he thought was real life, was the same kind of virtual reality field in a separated space.
“Well, it’s an illusion,” Song Gui sighed, and returned to his previous energetic look. He patted Lu Chu’s head, “the ‘rules’ want to give us some motivation to live on. Otherwise, how could we harbour hope, and happily continue with such entertainment?”
They made their way back with Song Gui’s arm still around Lu Chu’s shoulder, and he still was talking as he walked, “I see you only have about half an hour left on your wristband, so I’ll just tell you about the general situation first, lest you unknowingly throw yourself into a pit.”
Lu Chu quickly expressed his thanks.
Song Gui brought him to a barbeque stall, and after the two of them sat down, he shouted in a bold and generous manner, “a hundred lamb meat skewers, two bottles of beer!”
Then, he told Lu Chu, “although these things might be fake, but their taste is real. Finally, there’s something delicious in this time’s illusion, you definitely can’t treat yourself badly.”
Lu Chu focus wasn’t on the food, and he quickly asked in return, “this time’s illusion?”
Song Gui smiled, “I can tell that you’re a smart one, getting the main point instantly. Let’s start with the time on your wristband. The time indicates how long you can stay in this illusion, and everybody who is governed by the same rules, will be able to enter into the same illusion at the same time, only, the time everybody can stay is different. At the start, the time will be sixty minutes, in the future, if you don’t enter into the ‘game’ to do a task, then your time will be reduced by five minutes every day, until the end, when you only can stay in that white world with nothing other than the ‘rules’. On the contrary, after passing through the first two games, you can choose your own tasks, and every time you survive a game, you will have ten minutes more to your time.”
Song Gui said till this point, and Lu Chu unconsciously looked at the time on Song Gui’s wristband – over a 150 minutes.
This showed that after passing the test, he had survived over a dozen games.
At this moment, Lu Chu held a bit of awe for this man who seemed open and light-hearted on the surface.
Seeing him react like this, Song Gui instantly felt wronged. He rested on the table and tried to get close to Lu Chu, and didn’t forget to act and make eyes as he complained, “Chuchu!1Song Gui’s nickname for Lu Chu I love you so much, until it’s basically love at first sight, you mustn’t be scared of me!”
Lu Chu’s smile grew warmer as he saw this, and pushed Song Gui’s head away from himself.
Song Gui went along with Lu Chu’s push and got up from the table, wiping away his non-existent tears.
Lu Chu asked, “‘if we don’t enter to do a task’, the meaning of this sentence, does that mean we can choose to accept or reject the task, and we won’t be killed if we don’t carry it out?”
Song Gui had joked enough, and he ate the served skewers, and continued to answer Lu Chu’s questions, “that’s only the first two games. They aim to prove that you have the ability to enter these games, and also to eliminate some people. Perhaps, in the eyes of the ‘rules’, in this type of killing game, it wouldn’t be fun if there are too many people. But then, the ‘games’ in the future, how could forcing you to enter be as fun as watching you suffer in agony, but still have no choice but to enter?”
Lu Chu said, “no choice but to, enter……”
“Look at this place,” Song Gui pointed at the street, “this place is illusionary, however, as long as you don’t touch the reality at the edge, it is extremely real. There’s many people like us who appear here, and everybody would greet and ask about each other, and return to their respective rooms to face silence and loneliness when the time was up.”
“The ‘rules’ will stop forcing us to enter the ‘games’ after the test, and the people who want to live and are afraid of death wouldn’t be able to overcome their own selves. They wouldn’t choose to continue playing – let’s temporarily consider it to be ‘playing’ these purposeless death games – then the time that they would have in illusion would become lesser and lesser, until it disappears. After the time on their wristband vanishes, that person would no longer have the right to play the game. They won’t be erased, and instead, the ‘rules’ would also disappear, leaving them in that empty white room, alone, un-aging and undying.”
Song Gui took a sip of the beer, “what’s scarier than death, is loneliness.”
Indeed, people were social creatures, and although they would occasionally enjoy being alone, but it wouldn’t be forever.
Lu Chu listened to what he said and asked, “for example, the middle-aged man who only had five minutes left?”
Song Gui nodded, “that’s right, after he survived two games, and found out that he could choose not to continue with it, he hadn’t accepted any task for eleven whole days. If today, he doesn’t accept and enter a game, we’ll never see him in this illusion ever again.”
Lu Chu asked in reply, “then, could it be possible that somebody would willing choose to commit suicide…… and not enter the ‘game’, in order not to be lonely?”
After all, loneliness and the unknown, could even be more frightening than death.
Song Gui laughed, “in this place, as long as anybody feels like committing suicide, they’ll enter into a coma. Then, they’ll wake up unharmed in their room. Rinse and repeat. If we want to die, there’s only one method, and that is to die in a ‘game’.”
Lu Chu couldn’t return to his senses for a long time – he didn’t understand, what significance people like them had.
“Okay, your time is also up.” Song Gui pointed at Lu Chu’s wristband, and it showed that he only had ten minutes of free time left, “you should go back. However, even if you don’t go back by yourself, when the time comes, the ‘rules’ will still send you back. It’s just that you would have to suffer a little.”
When he mentioned suffering, Song Gui showed a ‘my heart will definitely hurt for you’ expression, but Lu Chu chose to selectively ignore it.
Although he still had many questions, but Lu Chu didn’t have enough time, and he could only ask tomorrow. Luckily, he knew from what Song Gui had said – that everybody’s free time started from the same point. Since that was the case, he needn’t worry that Song Gui and his timing would be separated.
Just as Lu Chu turned around, he heard Song Gui raise his voice, and said in a somewhat excited tone, “about entering the ‘game’, I have a two-person task, you can consider it. If there’s two people together, the possibility of surviving is higher, Chuchu!”
Turning back, Lu Chu ignored that call ‘Chuchu’, and asked, “why choose me? Just like you said, I’m nothing more than a newcomer who doesn’t know anything.”
Song Gui laughed, “I just think that we have a bond!”
Lu Chu didn’t say anything more, and left after giving his thanks.
After Lu Chu had entered the door and returned to his room, a twelve to thirteen-year-old loli2The word loli (萝莉) is used in the raws. It isn’t her name. appeared behind Song Gui, and snatched away his beer and meat skewers, and said in a vague manner while eating heartily, “I never thought that there’ll be a day where you’ll work with others, what, took a fancy to some part of him?”
Song Gui asked the shop for another set of skewers, and turned to look at the innocent-looking and cute loli, “he’s better, compared to an annoying and wicked little brat with precocious thinking that eats like a pig.”
The little loli grinned and laughed, “you have quite a lot of words for describing me.”
Having said that, the two of them fell silent for a while and stared at each other. Suddenly, Song Gui jumped back, only see a machete with a shining blade appear at the place he was sitting, half a foot deep into the stool.
Song Gui spread his hands, “you still like sneak attacks so much.”
The little loli had eaten her fill, so she walked to the stool, lifted the machete onto her shoulder and gave Song Gui a middle finger, then turned and left.
Song Gui shrugged, and went in the opposite direction.
The translator has this to add:
Info-dump! The bane of every Unlimited Flow kind of novel.
Each arch in this novel varies in length. Some are short, like the teddy bear and the doll, while others are much longer.