Underworld Playerchapter 91: three little squads

"...Do we have to do this?"

As she watched Bai Zhi toss in not only the bag of dog poop, but used instant noodle bowls, cans of fermented fish left out in the sun for three days, and an assortment of similarly vile substances, Temperance Gentleheart could not help grimacing in revulsion.

"Don't forget our quest objective," said Bai Zhi as he followed up his barrage by dousing everything in gasoline from a large jerrycan. Finally, hurling the empty can deep into the room, he turned to look at Temperance.

"We have to find six sources of strange activity and neutralize them. Since we were lucky enough to stumble across the source of the Man-Eating Rooms, surely we can't just walk away?"

"Uh... I just thought it was kinda hard on her..." said Temperance weakly, as she took in the eye-watering sight of the vile waste products strewn about the room which also emitted a mishmash of foul odors that anyone would gag at a single whiff of.

"Hard on her— The room? And what about the people it's gobbled up all this time, I suppose they had it easy? Man, I'll never understand the minds of girls like you. There's a right time and place for compassion, okay?"

With a smirk of derision, Bai Zhi lit a lighter and chucked it backward into the room without another glance. As the flames quickly tore through the room, it revealed its monstrous form. The concrete floors and walls transformed into a horrifying, meat-like substance that was nauseating to look at.

Strangely, the room did not seem bothered by the fire, and did nothing to fight it. The myriad eyes on the ceiling simply watched coldly as the conflagration consumed its "body". Suddenly, the inhuman gaze was replaced by a flash of what looked like relief.

As the room began to collapse on itself, a faint sigh could be heard.

[ Thank... you... ]

At the same time, a system notification popped up before the Players.

[ One secret source of strange activity neutralized ]

As the supernatural entity which occupied the entire sixth floor of the orphanage was destroyed, things like shirts, trousers, shoes, and so on began falling out of the walls—apparently items that the supernatural entity had yet to digest.

While the fire continued to burn, the air was filled with an indescribable stink, and Temperance Gentleheart struggled to keep it out of her nose and mouth. To her amazement and incredulity, her companion simply retrieved a gas mask from his Inventory and calmly put it on...

He seemed to notice her wide-eyed gaze, and pointed at the black headgear, saying with apparent earnestness, "As a Player, it should be normal to always having a gas mask handy. Besides, you can get this stuff for cheap on Taobao*. Seen 'em go for as low as 19.99… I have a basic sort of gas mask with me, if you need one. Want it?"

The young girl who was nearly suffocating to death nodded fervently.

"Here, put it on yourself."

After stuffing something into her hands, Bai Zhi turned and strode away.

Temperance Gentleheart looked down at the large garbage bag in her hands, and was stunned speechless for a long moment.

Meanwhile, Bai Zhi approached the burnt room. It was in complete disarray and charred in many places. Here and there, there remained several embers that had not completely died out, as well as several unidentified animal bodies.

After sifting through the sea of unusually revolting substances with a rubber-gloved hand but finding nothing of note, Bai Zhi stood up and peeled off the glove, dropping it unceremoniously on the ground.

Turning to see Temperance Gentleheart walking his way with a large plastic bag over her head, he said, "Okay, let's go—"

Before he could finish the sentence, Temperance Gentleheart brushed past him, looking worried as she reached for something. It took several tugs and not a little digging, but she finally freed, from the rubble, a shoe—it was as if this shoe was her most precious possession.

"What's up?"

Bai Zhi raised a curious eyebrow at the sight of the girl who was shocked stiff.

"...Tell me, honestly, am I... dead?" she said as she turned to him slowly, all color drained from her face. Lifting the shoe in her hand, she continued, "You see, this shoe... is mine."

"Impossible!" exclaimed Viridescent as she looked at the dead body before her. Her face was a mask of horror. "Don't you remember hearing his voice over the walkie-talkie when Black&White's squad were trapped at the stairwell? The shadow had already appeared back then."

Viridescent was referring to the time when Bai Zhi had requested help from the squad on the first floor—comprising Iron Blood, Daoloth, and the late Douchey, SoWhat—to find some drawings. At the time, all three members had been heard to speak while they conducted the search.

While that was going on, Traveler and Viridescent had already found themselves trapped on the third-floor corridor with the shadow. It did not make sense, chronologically speaking, for the shadow to have been Douchey, SoWhat.

"Perhaps, but I have a terrifying suspicion..." Traveler had removed his glasses and was forcefully pressing his hands to either side of his head. "Weren't we on the global channel with Black&White earlier, for several minutes? Did you hear a peep out of the first-floor squad the whole time?"

"But think about it chronologically, it's impossible!"

Viridescent was adamant.

"He could not have been on the first floor, helping to look for the cursed drawings, while also being on the third floor, getting tortured to death!"

"We won't get anywhere just talking about it—we'll know as soon as we get them on the walkie-talkie." Traveler got out the device as he continued to massage his temples with one hand. "If it is what I think it is, then..."

[ One secret source of strange activity neutralized ]

He was interrupted by the appearance of a system notification.

Meanwhile, in a room on the second floor...

Iron Blood looked impassive as he crushed the walkie-talkie in his fist and took in the macabre scene before him.

In the dead center of an empty room, a body hung from the ceiling, strangled to death with its own intestines. Judging by the dark, dried blood around it, this was no recent death.

A pair of gold-rimmed glasses lay unassumingly on the floor, just beneath the dangling feet of the hanged man...