Underworld Playerchapter 11: players

It was some time before noon, and the searing rays of the sun warmed everything it touched.

"Ah... These books don't contain anything useful at all..."

Deep inside the mostly empty library, a girl was sitting on the floor with a book between her knees. She was a petite, young-looking girl—a loli, some might say—with white hair and crimson eyes, and at the moment, she was looking quite irritated.

The book was titled "Analysis and Research into Human Psychology" and was one that few students ever checked out.

"By all accounts, seeing a young girl suddenly step out of a bamboo thicket, alone and giving a death stare, should cause humans to react with some degree of fear! What kind of human reacts by simply greeting her?! That guy has got to be the most oblivious clod in the world!"

As she recalled the embarrassing encounter, the girl grit her teeth in anger.

Despite being new to the job, she felt herself to be one of the more talented of her peers. Given that her unique powers made it nearly impossible to detect her presence, she had felt sure she would be far more successful than them.

But so far, she had been thwarted on her first hunt, and on her next two attempts with the new target, the first had ended with her having to wait hand and foot on her prey, while her second appearance—which she had so carefully prepared for—had been met with total indifference...

The thought of her associate, who had made a killing in the past two days, made her green with envy!

Speak of the devil. As she brooded alone in her quiet corner, who should show up but a cute little boy with a schoolbag slung over one shoulder. The bag was stuffed with four marionettes with faces strangely contorted into expressions of horror, while the boy carried another one in his arms.

"So, two days and nothing to show for it, huh."

He showed off the doll in his hands proudly and sounded almost gloating as he said, "See, I've got five, myself. What do you think, need me to share one with you, sweaty?"

At the sight of the doll, a spark of loathing flashed across the girl's eyes.

"Hmph, if I were you, I'd be busy lying low or running far away. Sticking around after making such a huge splash is asking to get caught! It won't be long before the Players come sniffing. Take all the suicidal risks you like, but don't drag me into it."

"Hah, Players? Indeed, they're a more worthy challenge than the usual hapless victims. Hunting Players nets us much bigger rewards, too."

With a cold sneer, the young boy began roughly stuffing the fifth marionette into his backpack.

"Relax, I'm not an idiot. Do I look like I would do something so reckless? The high-level Players have been distracted by another matter for the time being, so the only ones who would even be around this university are newbies. Think I'd be afraid of a couple greenhorns?"

"Sure, well good luck, and good day, bye-bye." The girl gave a perfunctory response, her head already bowed as she resumed leafing through the thick book before her. "When those players destroy you, I'll be sure to pay my respects at your grave next year."

"What, doesn't the thought excite you? You haven't had much luck recently, right? These are just newbie Players—you can't be that scared of them!" the little boy said passionately as he threw his arms out to either side.

"Come, let's work together and take down those noobs! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. With our powers combined, we're invincible! "

"Hard pass. I don't see myself working with the likes of you."

The girl shot a particularly venomous look at the boy's bulging backpack and humphed coldly. "You don't fool me—you just want to use me as cannon fodder! Do you think I was born yesterday? Get real."

"Tsk, forget it then."

The loli was clearly not budging, no matter what he said. His earlier passion quickly fading, the boy gave her a long, hard stare before clicking his tongue and turning away nonchalantly.

"Don't envy me when I make it, fool. You haven't even bagged one mark. I'll show you..."

Without warning, the little boy spun around with an uncanny speed that belied his young frame and swiftly slammed one foot down. He was aiming at a shadow cast by the sunlight streaming through the nearby window—the loli's shadow.

"...Become my puppet!"

With a muffled thud, the boy's foot landed on... nothing.

The loli had already positioned herself within the shadow belonging to a tall shelf of books next to her.

"Well, there you go. See you. Bye-bye." She yawned as she shooed the little boy away.

He stared back indignantly as an awkward atmosphere settled around them.

"Dumbass, I know all about your powers, do you think I'd leave myself open? You're more stupid than I thought."

The girl stood on tiptoe to put the copy of "Analysis and Research into Human Psychology" back on the shelf, then her figure slowly melted into the floor.

"Word to the wise—after all, I don't wish to see my former partner die a stupid death—do not underestimate the Players. Even the newbies at level 1. Remember, for them to even earn the right to become a Player means that these people are no pushovers. Pick your battles—it's the best way to stay alive."

"Bah... of course I know that. All Players are a threat, even newbies..."

When he was sure she was gone, the boy looked down at his palm as his mouth widened into an inhumanly wide smile.

"...but nothing ventured, nothing gained, my friend. Without risk, there can be no reward! I know what I'm doing... After all, they're just low-level newbie Players..."