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LI Zhijun went closer to the woman and flipped her over, revealing the woman’s swallow and emaciated face. She should have already gained the ability to resist high temperatures, but her eyes were sunken, her skin was a waxy yellow, and her lips were chapped. She looked totally dehydrated and malnourished. Even the duoluozhong’s skin was in a better condition than hers. The woman only had average looks originally, now with her current condition, her pitiable state made it difficult to look at her.

Lin Sanjiu gazed at the face, almost lost in her own thoughts.

“What do you plan to do now?” Li Zhijun suddenly edged toward her, whispering into her ear.

“Huh? What do you mean?” Lin Sanjiu was stunned, “We should have successfully passed the challenge within this pocket dimension, right?”

“No.” Li Zhijun fox-like eyes narrowed in a profound manner, “If your opponent doesn’t die, the pocket dimension will not cease… so you better kill her.” The wind came through the broken window and teased the curtains which were originally a baby blue color.

I like the color baby blue, a lot.

On my 9th birthday, my dad suddenly came home. I found out from our relatives’ discussions that he had divorced my mom when I was very young, so that was the first time I actually saw him. The father, who looked so unfamiliar to me, gave me a dress he had brought in the north. The dress was made of a smooth material, and it was baby blue-a color we rarely see in that backward little hometown. It only took one look for someone like me, who only owned hand-me-downs from my cousin, to be instantly mesmerized by that fantasy-like color.

For the following week, I wore it to school every day until I was forced to change out of it. The sky looked exceptionally blue to me during that time, matching my dress perfectly. The dinner we had during those few days were also very scrumptious. My mom’s smile was also exceptionally beautiful when she was with my dad.

Unfortunately, my dad quickly disappeared again. My mom cut up the dress and threw it out. She pulled my hair yelling that I was not allowed to cry because my dad only bought me a present to cheat her out of her money. Just like that, I returned to wearing my cousin’s old sportswear.

But those things were none of my business, I still like the color, baby blue.

That was the reason why my mood instantly lifted when I walked into this apartment decorated with baby blue curtains. He looked at me, holding my hand. His eyes were so beautiful when he said, “I knew you would like this, so I chose this apartment.”

Regardless of how he had changed, he was still so gentle. The wish that I did not even dare to think about in the past was actually happening to me now-just the two of us, accompanying each other day and night. It was just like a dream.

If we were unlucky, nobody would pass by for several days. Each time, when he had no choice but to inject his mouthpart into my arm, he would say these words so regretfully and gently to me: “Xiaoyuan, you are really a good woman. I will definitely cherish you…”

He would never sip too much from me. When I started to feel faint, he would immediately stop. Every time he withdrew his mouthpart from my flesh, blood would spray out and stain my baby blue curtains. Once, I secretly washed them with mineral water, not expecting that he would find out. I had never seen him so angry before. After his explosive rage, he hugged me and sobbed, “I can only stay by your side if we have that water…”

His body trembled, and even his mouthpart started buzzing. After that incident, I did not wash those curtains again.

One could call me childish, but I secretly carved an umbrella at the corner of the wall. Under that umbrella, I wrote “Chen Xiaoyuan and Pei Jun”.

When I leaned on the window sill, waiting to snipe any passers-by, I could touch that carving and trace the words with my fingers. Each time I managed to snipe someone down, he would praise me happily and drag the corpse back. As time went by, Ah Jun commented that the fluid from dead people was not fresh, so he told me to target their legs whenever possible. Even though I felt sympathetic, but it was unavoidable.

There was a wall clock in the apartment. Its outer casing had already melted, but the hands on the clock continued steadily. It was hard to believe that so many images ran through my head in such a short amount of time. I leaned over the window sill and shot a bullet toward the sky. Ah Jun had been outside for more than an hour. In the past, he would never leave for such a long time. Could the situation be as that man described? Was Ah Jun hurt by him?

This was such a critical moment, yet the two of them were not speaking. If one of Ah Jun’s arms was really severed, he should rush back up here, right? What should I do?

“Brother! Come here quick! The duoluozhong is here! I cut off its mouthpart, but it seems to be alive…”

Suddenly, the young woman’s voice rang out again. Momentarily, the wave of emotion that overwhelmed me was neither the relief knowing Ah Jun’s whereabouts, nor my concern over Ah Jun’s loss of his mouthpart. It was anger.

Who was she? How dare she talk about my gentle and kind Ah Jun like he was a bug!

However, that anger only lasted for a short while. In the next second, my mind was occupied with a very realistic problem. I had to rush over to save him. If he did not have his mouthpart, I would hoist the girl’s dead body up, and her blood will drip into his mouth. Albeit a little unfresh, but I don’t think Ah Jun will mind.

I quickly stood up and cleared the traps in the stairways, rushing toward Red Heart Desserts.

Other than my enhanced vision, I did not develop any other passive skills. During the initial stages of my evolution, I already noticed that there was something wrong with Ah Jun. At that point in time, I quietly told myself that it was alright for me even if I sacrificed some passive skills, as long as I could help him. I hope my prayers were heard so God can let us be together.

If that was the case, God will surely still keep us together, right? The Ah Jun that was lying behind the cake display counter will definitely stand up energetically and smile at me saying, “Xiaoyuan, you are really a good woman…” right?

I could not remember how long I was screaming, but after that blow on the back of my neck, everything in front of me went black.

When I woke up, I found myself tightly bounded, gagged, and blindfolded. I could not see anything, and I could not say a word. I could only hear the sounds around me with my ears. At that moment, the girl who was shouting for her brother was speaking rapidly.

She sounded very furious: “There are many ways to stop her from harming others! But I can’t kill an unarmed and defenseless person! I can’t do it!”

“So, you plan to live in this pocket dimension for your entire life?” her brother dragged his words.

They did not notice that I had already regained consciousness.

The girl was rendered speechless. Even though I could not see, I could feel the stagnant atmosphere. After a while, she quietly said, “I don’t believe that this is the only way! Didn’t you mention that there were other pocket dimensions with other forms of challenges beside such ‘two teams battle’? Since there are all sorts of pocket dimensions in the world… it is possible that there are other ways of ending this. What about Brother Ji? I want to get his opinion on this.”

Even though she did not know what a pocket dimension was, from the way they spoke, she had the inkling that they were not siblings.

The brother said something softly and indistinctly. The girl could not hear him properly, and immediately asked, “What?”

He replied curtly, “Nothing.”

But he was closer to me, so I heard what he said clearly. He said, “You guessed that right quickly.”

Honestly speaking, I wasn’t an intelligent child since young. Right now, they had made me totally confused. It did not matter whether they kill me, there was only one thing that concerned me: “How is Ah Jun, and where is he?”

The “brother” paced around, seemingly frustrated. I did not dare to move, maintaining my original position, fearing that they might find out that I was awake. He finally sighed and said, “Fine. What you said does make sense. I can’t just ignore your feelings about this. We’ll just leave her here and wait for Ah Ji to return, okay?”

The girl seemed relieved, and there was even a hint of gratitude in her voice, “Thank you. Let’s do that!”

“Let’s go. Marcie and the others must be getting impatient…” the “brother” sounded defeated. The girl replied with an “okay”, and both of their footsteps slowly drifted farther and farther away. The door opened and closed, the room fell silent.

Woah… I actually survived?

“Wait for me, Xiao Jiu. I want to check again to see if that woman is tied up properly.” Suddenly, I heard the “brother” speaking from outside the room. I was shocked and quickly held my breath.

“Alright, make it quick…” the girl said standing at the door.

The man walked through the door, I heard some odd sounds of something being cut up. Next, the footsteps stopped in front of me. Suddenly, someone took off my blindfold. Luckily, I was prepared and continued to close my eyes.

A hand gripped my chin and twisted my face upward, roughly. The grasp was so tight that it hurt. Shortly after, the man said softly, “I know you’re awake… open your eyes and look around.”

I shuddered as I opened my eyes. The multiple pieces of Ah Jun’s dismembered body, his bodily fluids and blood, spread out across the room in front of me, and his decapitated head was placed right in front of me. My favorite feature of his, the Korean celebrity-like long eyes, was now staring vacuously back at me. There was his mouthpart, and there were his arms, but they were all thrown to the far side of the room…

I heard myself making an incomprehensible “wuu wuu” noise, I think I was crying.

That smiling man with fox-like eyes placed something into my ear and walked out of the door. I only realized at that point that they had carried Ah Jun and myself back to our apartment. Right beside me was the baby blue curtains that I loved so much.

“Is she still unconscious?” a girl’s voice came faintly from outside the door.

“Yes, she is still unconscious,” the man replied.

I was too occupied to consider what that man was planning because the scene of the terrible state that Ah Jun was in was the only thing that filled my eyes.

I did not expect to hear the man’s voice in my ears at that point in time.

“That person is called Pei Jun, right? He had abandoned you, he went ahead and died first. But his death wasn’t painful. He was able to leave this horrible world and a woman that he did not love. I guess it can be considered somewhat of a relief.

“He doesn’t love you. But because you could help him hunt, he had to be bounded by you. That must be too miserable-I guess dying was his liberation.

“You are so pitiful. Abandoned by your dad when you were young and having nobody who loves you. Even your mother often call you a burden. After all, if you did not exist, your mother would have remarried long ago… you’re such a waste of space.”

His voice seemed to hold a mysterious power, and it merged with the scene of Ah Jun’s dead body creating a hallucination of psychedelic abstract art. I cried so hard that I could not hear what he continuously said, much less considered why he knew so much. The only sentence that struck me was one that seemed to have a life of its own: “I loosened the ropes just now. Why don’t you look into the drawer beside the window?”

After I had freed myself, I went to open the drawer. “You have no lover, and no one loves you. How should you continue living all by yourself?” this sentence continued echoing through my mind.

I saw the familiar metal bullet floating within the drawer.

“I’m sorry,” I don’t know who I was saying this to… perhaps to myself. This world is too scary for me, I can’t take it any longer. “Bang!” With the sound of a gunshot, the last thing that I saw was the curtains covered by my blood. They were no longer their original baby blue.

“Oh gosh…”

Li Zhijun, who had just walked down the building, paused. His eyes brimmed with tears as he said to Lin Sanjiu, “I think that sound came from the 15th floor.” The pocket dimension finally ended. Lin Sanjiu gave a sigh ladened with her complex emotions.

Because they had restarted three times in the pocket dimension, it felt like quite some time had passed. However, the rays of the eastern sun on the horizon lit up their surrounding only after they had driven for an hour. Since they woke up at 10 pm at night and the sun usually rises around 5 – 6 am, it meant that Lin Sanjiu’s group had only spent about six hours in the pocket dimension.

In the end, she still could not understand why that woman would commit suicide… Lin Sanjiu was perplexed by this.

After they had heard the gunshot, she went back to Chen Xiaoyun’s apartment with Li Zhijun and was shocked by the gory scene. Even though she had a vague hunch that Li Zhijun had something to do with it, it was undeniable that they only heard that lethal gunshot after they both reached downstairs. Likewise, it was a fact that the woman killed herself using her own ability.

Li Zhijun acted very naturally, even with Lin Sanjiu looking, he took out a tiny light bulb and held it above the corpse. Suddenly, as if the corpse reacted, it emitted yellow lights at intervals which were all absorbed into the tiny light bulb. Lin Sanjiu had her suspicions and tried to pry a couple of times, but he skilfully avoided her questions.

[Anyway, what has happened has happened. It’s best not to know too much about dangerous people. The most important thing is to deal with the present…] With that, she managed to stop thinking about the matter.

The truck slowed down. With Lin Sanjiu leading the way, they drove their fleet of vehicles into the factory district. The area they were in was a new industrial park which had been well planned. Ash gray five-story buildings were neatly arranged in rows within their allocated plot. Despite over a month of erosion caused by the elevated temperatures, the factory buildings appeared way more durable than the building in the city.

As Lin Sanjiu looked absent-mindedly at the sign at the entrance of the factory district, she recalled what Li Zhijun said before he left last night.

"We are leaving now. After all, Tian Minbo is still somewhere out there…" Li Zhijun flashed a pleasant grin showing his white teeth, "Take care."

"Didn’t you say that you wanted us to do something in return?" Lin Sanjiu kept that in mind.

"Well, I haven’t decided. Let’s take it that you all owe me a favor…" Li Zhijun said softly, "Just don’t forget about it."

"We won’t, of course! Brother Jun, Brother Ji, we got out of this jam thanks to the both of you. If you need help, just let me know!" Luther leaped forward, thanking them both sincerely. Marcie stood beside him nodding gratefully.

Lin Sanjiu was the only one who sighed inwardly. Owing someone a favor is one thing, but for that someone to be Li Zhijun… However, something puzzled her: After 14 months, they will be randomly transported into any of the thousands of existing parallel universes. If they don’t even meet again in their lifetimes, wouldn’t Li Zhijun’s intentions be in vain?

Almost as if he had read her mind, Li Zhijun narrowed his eyes and said unexpectedly, "Right, there is another thing I want to tell all of you. Do you know that there is something called a visa? If you find a consular officer, you can get a visa each and head to the next world together. This way, you won’t get separated."

Luther immediately sought for advice, "That’s our plan, Brother Jun, do you have any clues to go about that?"

"I don’t have anything concrete, all I can say is that your best chances are where people gather," Li Zhijun replied as his gaze rippled across Lin Sanjiu. He continued, smiling, "It is really odd, but once a person gets a visa for the first time, they will be registered under the shared database of all consular officers; it works like a network operating system. If you amass enough items to make an exchange, you could even find another person through a consular officer."

[Fine. So, this is a debt we must repay…] Lin Sanjiu thought to herself before she suddenly asked, "Who manages these consular officers anyway? Is it possible that organizations still exist within these apocalyptic worlds?"

"No. ‘Consular Officer’ is a type of evolved ability. Usually, a person will not gain other new abilities after they had developed the ‘consular officer’ ability. However, a consular officer cannot issue a visa to themselves, so they have to get other consular officers to issue one. You can say that this ability only benefits others and not the user. Therefore, generally speaking, people who possess this ability will use their issued visas to exchange for necessary supplies and safety."

The three greenhorns listened in awe.

"Okay, good luck to all of you! Try to look in crowded places!" Li Zhijun turned and walked away as he said this, waving one arm in the hand as a farewell gesture. Before Hei Zeji took a step forward, he suddenly stopped and looked at the three of them. His ramrod-stiff posture seemed to mellow a little, "You’re all so weak. No one will come to your rescue next time."

After he said that coldly, he caught up with his companion. With a few leaps and bounds, they both disappeared into blocks of buildings. With an array of complicated emotions, the three of them who remained, made preparations to continue on their journey.

With that said, finding a consular officer was the most pressing issue right now. As they walked past another factory, Lin Sanjiu ruminated over what Li Zhijun said. [Crowded places? In this hyperthermic hell, most humans are already dead. How can there still be crowded places?]

Just a second after this thought surfaced in her mind, Lin Sanjiu was startled by the sudden sound of music. A lively, upbeat dance music quickly filled the rundown street in front of them. If was as if God had overheard her thoughts.

Shortly after, someone shouted out happily, over the loud music, "New people have arrived!"

A cacophony of noise suddenly erupted from the factory building in front of them. The door belonging to a factory called "Reunion Food Processing Plant" was pulled open, and a group of people rushed out onto the road, clattering. Lin Sanjiu was shocked and quickly stepped on her brakes. At the same time, she heard Luther’s confused voice over the walkie-talkie, "What going on?"

"I have no idea… Let’s see what they’re up to!" she replied hurriedly.

Unlike Lin Sanjiu and the others who were clad in filthy clothes covered with dirt, sweat, and blood, the group of men and women that came out, blocking the road in front of them, wore fresh and clean clothes. They waved incessantly at them, as if welcoming the return of their families. Each of them seemed to be genuinely happy. Within the crowd, there was even a girl who jumped and waved continuously, even though she was wearing high heels.

Lin Sanjiu hesitated and did not dare to get down from her vehicle. She didn’t mind being called a coward, but the first thought that came to her mind when she saw so many people was that they were all posthumans. The elevated temperatures within Hyperthermal Hell had already reached an unknown level. Anyone who could survive and maintain the normalcy of their appearance and mannerism must undoubtedly be a posthuman. From her rough estimate, there were at least twenty people in the group. After all, their vehicles were filled with supplies, if these people harbored any ill intent…

Lin Sanjiu cautiously winded her window halfway down and shouted out, "Who are you guys? Why are you blocking the way?"

The group of people started discussing softly among themselves. Finally, a middle-aged woman was elected out of the group by popularity. She appeared slightly embarrassed and even said to the group, "You are all putting me on the spot." Thereafter, she smiled and approached Lin Sanjiu’s truck.

Lin Sanjiu quickly sized her up. The woman was about forty-years-old, had a medium built, and her hair was tied up in a bun. She had an honest and kind countenance. The thing that bothered Lin Sanjiu the most was the fact that the woman was wearing clean, elegant, and well-coordinated clothes, and a pair of mid-heels. Her outfit was seemingly fitting, even for a time before the insane heat descended upon their world.

Not only this woman but also the group of people behind her, all appeared relaxed as if their lives had been comfortable and peaceful. In contrast, a drop of Chen Xiaoyuan’s blood was still on Lin Sanjiu’s face. She tried to casually wipe it away, but instead, it was smeared into a line. Her originally beautiful long hair was now tied up in a messy ponytail; when she looked at her reflection in the rearview mirror, she saw that her brows were tightly knitted, her guard was up, and her face was covered with dirt.

"Hi, young lady. This place is called ‘Oasis’. My surname is Li, you can call me Sister Li," the middle-aged woman sounded very enthusiastic. She was like… the type of representative that the management will choose to speak in general meetings. "You don’t have to be worried or afraid anymore. Once you are here in Oasis, your suffering and difficulties will end!"

She ended her sentence with a zealous fervor, and the group behind her cheered.

Lin Sanjiu did not say a word-honestly speaking, she did not know what to say in such a situation either. She looked at Sister Li quietly and waited for her to continue.

"Young lady, what’s your name? Why don’t you come down? You can have a proper meal and take a bath… You poor child. You must not have rested well these few days." Sister Li looked at Lin Sanjiu sympathetically.

Lin Sanjiu did not move, she only asked, "What kind of place is this Oasis?"

She heard a few crackling static sound from the walkie-talkie beside her. Apparently, Marcie and Luther were listening in without a word.

Sister Li smiled confidently as if she had anticipated her doubts. "You must know what has happened outside. Many people have died… Not only humans, even trees! There isn’t even any water out there! But under the protection of Oasis, our living conditions are just as before. We don’t ever have to be worried or fearful because our camp is able to support a population of more than ten thousand people. Everyone here has enough to eat and drink. If we fall sick, we can also see the doctor…"

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