Underworld Playerchapter 14: the scientific way to fight

-Marina City University-

"Talk to me, Xuans. Can you detect any SE*?" asked the youth with a tattoo on his wrist that resembled the Bluetooth symbol. He was chewing a piece of gum as he surveyed the school building before him, and had aimed the question at someone behind him without looking back.

"Yes, but it's weak," came the reply. "Unable to pinpoint location of anomaly, but all five missing persons should still be alive."

The youth called Xuans—Wang Xuan—had a thin, frail physique but his eyes had a lively, intelligent look about them. He pocketed the device he had been using and turned to the tattooed youth with some excitement.

"What's our next move, Leader? Split up to search for clues?"

"Rookies are all the same. This isn't a game, you know," scoffed the third member of the squad, a young man who had his arms crossed, looking bored as he leaned against the car. "No matter what kind of anomaly you're up against, splitting up is the absolute dumbest move there is. Do what you like but don't drag me into your suicide mission."

The leader, Wu Hua, turned back with a frown and barked a reprimand. "Enough, Qiang. Everyone starts somewhere. We're a team, no good tearing each other down."


Realizing that he had asked for it this time, Xu Qiang turned aside sullenly, suddenly seeming interested in the weeds growing by the roadside.

These three were clearly in a squad together, but their relationship was not as close as one might expect.

"Keep your wits about you, or it'll mean our downfall," said the squad leader. "Don't underestimate the enemy, even if they look weak. Have you all read the brief?" He paused to spit out the well-chewed piece of gum, and it flew perfectly into a nearby trash can.

In a serious tone, he continued, "Even if this is a small training mission, anyone who lets their guard down is in for a gruesome end. Alright, listen up! Here's what we're doing. Xuans—"

Before the leader could finish, Wang Xuan said in a fierce whisper, "Leader, anomaly detected on the upper floors!"

Wu Hua whipped his head around, just in time to see a young boy with a schoolbag running up the stairs toward the roof. In his hands were a collection of strings connected to about ten marionettes that clattered on the stairs in his wake.

At the same time, Wu Hua noticed that the ten students who had been loitering in the corridor had, unbeknownst to him, disappeared without a trace.

"Xuans, you stay here to coordinate, and have the police cordon off the area. Qiang, you're with me!"

With a grim look on his face, the squad leader quickly gave his orders and dashed toward the stairwell, followed closely by Xu Qiang.


Wang Xuan had his hand up, seemingly about to say something, but the other two had rushed off before he could get a word out, and he lowered his hand awkwardly.

It was about ten in the morning, and the bright sun was steadily rising in the sky.

The roof of the building Wu Hua and Xu Qiang were ascending was basically a flat and empty floor surrounded by walls that did not even come up to calf-height. As it was incredibly dangerous, the door that allowed roof access was usually kept locked shut.

However, when they got to the end of the stairs, they found the door wide open, the locking bar tampered with and tossed aside.

Wu Hua made a gesture to Xu Qiang, signaling that he should tread lightly, then retrieved a ring from somewhere, which he put on a finger.

As he took a step toward the door, a ghastly face contorted into a scream flashed before his eyes as a marionette suddenly dropped from the ceiling. It was fortunate that he realized what it was in time or he might have punched it, with a force that would certainly have smashed the puppet to bits.

"Hee hee hee! A Level 2 and a Level 3! It must be my lucky day~"

The speaker hopped off their perch above the door and landed with uncanny agility on the other side of the doorway—it was the young boy with the schoolbag.

"That's gotta be the one responsible for the five missing students.," Wu Hua hissed.

He shot a sidelong glance at his partner and said, "Qiang, you know the drill. I'll rush, you support. Lock it down as soon as we can, but don't damage the puppets—we might be able to bring them back."

Xu Qiang nodded wordlessly, clearly signaling his readiness with his posture.

"Oh? You two seem confident."

The boy narrowed his eyes and backed up a few steps toward the edge of the rooftop.

"but today's not your—"

"Get him! " Wu Hua interrupted the boy with a fierce growl and pounced with all the fury of a tiger at the figure now standing at the edge.

In a flash, he landed right in front of the boy. His right hand was raised and the ring on it glinted in the sun. Without wasting any time, he aimed a vicious swipe directly at the boys head.

Behind him, Xu Qiang flitted across the field like some ghostly wraith. Unlike Wu Hua, who engaged in direct combat, his fighting style was better suited to assassination, and favored executing a well-timed, fatal strike.

"Aiyaiyai, as expected, people who turn into Players can get some massive boosts to their physical capabilities, under the right circumstances~"

Even though his opponents seemed inches away from landing their attacks, the grin on the little boy's face widened with glee.

"Bullying low-level Players is just so much fun! Gotcha, both of ya~"

"My... body...!"

Wu Hua's fist was a centimeter away from making contact with the boy, but inexplicably frozen in place, just like the rest of his body. Wu Hua could only glare in despair and disbelief.

"I've got them, I've got them, you see! I've got your shadows, now you have nowhere to flee!"

With a sinister sneer, the boy pointed downward at his foot, which was raised for some reason.

As they were on the rooftop, Wu Hua and Xu Qiang were at an angle to the sun that made them cast large, long shadows. Since they were near the edge of the rooftop, their shadows were projected as far as the ground level, and the little boy's raised foot was perfectly positioned to pin their shadows down.

"It's simple math. If we were on the ground, you might have been able to get free by force, but up here, I've got you under tons of pressure! Not even Players like yourselves can do a thing about it!" the little boy gloated.

"Do you understand Physics? 'Give me a lever and I can move the world'! Just you wait, noobs, once I absorb you two and the runt downstairs, I'm gonna work my way through this whole school. And when I've absorbed all the souls..."


The boy's speech was interrupted by a piece of wood—the leg of a chair, in fact—landing squarely in the middle of his head.

*Spiritual Energy. Abbreviated to suit the character.