Underworld Playerchapter 97: puzzle with a missing piece

The sink, end of the corridor on the sixth floor of the orphanage.

After a long silence, Temperance Gentleheart said curtly, "...I'm getting the feeling that my life is being threatened right now."

"Oh, you have nothing to worry about. The likelihood of you being the traitor is pretty low, since you're not the sharpest tool in the shed. I had thought that your getting attacked multiple times in the Newbie Run was just bad luck, but now it's starting to look like you're really just foolish…"

Noticing the expression on her face, Bai Zhi tried to offer some words of reassurance.

"On the plus side, you may be a fool, but you're blessed with dumb luck—you're pretty good at running into neutral creeps, even if you're bad at everything else!"

"If this is your idea of comforting someone, I'd rather you… not," said Temperance as she pursed her lips. Changing the subject, she said, "Since the second objective has been met, what do we do now? Do we keep looking for possible survivors?"

"No. If I had to say, the first priority is to identify the traitor, then shed light on the truth behind the supernatural incident that happened here..." said Bai Zhi as he walked toward the stairs. "Right now, we could rendezvous with the other teams. Keep your skill ready—I don't know how they'll react but it will certainly be worth..."

Before Bai Zhi could finish his sentence, two notifications, barely a minute apart, popped up before them.

[ One secret source of strange activity neutralized ] x 2

Bai Zhi narrowed his eyes at the two notifications, then brought out his walkie-talkie. Soon, Traveler's breathless panting could be heard coming from it.

"Yeah, we were just attacked by a supernatural entity."

Traveler leaned against the wall, coughing, once again covered in cuts.

"It was something that looked like a cockroach but was the size of a cat, and its insides were filled with concentrated acid. We had no way to tell at first, so even though we took care of the supernatural entity, Viridescent's sword was corroded by the acid. Not to mention, she got pretty banged up herself... Anyway, was the other notification thanks to you guys? Over."

"No, musta been Iron Blood and the rest. Going down now. Over."

As Bai Zhi got to the stairwell, he took another look at the other set of stairs, the one that led straight upward into the ceiling, before turning away and heading down, with Temperance Gentleheart leading the way.

The journey from the sixth floor to the third was uneventful, and passed quickly as Bai Zhi traded information with Traveler.

"…Iron Blood?" Traveler was saying.

"It's not important for now. Tell me, did you see anything noteworthy on your end?"

There was a pause, then in between bouts of coughing brought about by the injuries he had sustained to his chest, Traveler gradually relayed the news about Douchey,SoWhat turning into a supernatural entity.

"A Player turning into one of the monsters? Isn't this just like what happened in the diary..." The color drained from Temperance Gentleheart's face as she hung on Traveler's every word. "I'd rather die a quick death than suffer such cruel and unusual torture."

"...Is that what happened? I see, I think I understand it now."

Bai Zhi stroked his chin and nodded thoughtfully.

"Looks like the situation is more complicated than I thought... Oh, right, I found a diary in one of the rooms on the sixth floor..."

Bai Zhi proceeded to summarize the contents of the diary.

"You mean if we stay in the orphanage long enough, we'll inevitably be turned into supernatural entities?!" Traveler's voice went up an octave as he heard what Bai Zhi said. "That explains the lack of time limit on this quest! So, what we have to do is..."

"No, you've got it all wrong. Whether it's Douchey or the worker in the diary, it's most likely that they turned into supernatural entities because..."

Bai Zhi stopped using the walkie-talkie as he spotted Traveler and walked up to him.

After all they had been through, Bai Zhi and Temperance Gentleheart were basically in good shape, but the same could not be said of Traveler and Viridescent.

Viridescent lay on the ground, heavily injured, and Traveler was no better. His clothes were tattered and torn, and the gold-rimmed glasses he always wore were dented with one lens missing. By contrast, Bai Zhi only had a bandage on his arm from when he had suffered the one bite from the Man-Eating Room.

Now that they stood together, the difference between them was like night and day.

As for Viridescent, her right hand and calf were wrapped heavily in bandages, clearly where the aforementioned acid blood from the monster had eaten away at her. Meanwhile, Temperance Gentleheart was not only unharmed, but there was barely a scratch on her clothing—this clearly demonstrated the importance of picking the right person to piggyback.

Viridescent glared silently at the uninjured Temperance, who was presently applying fresh bandages and some medicine to her wounds, then turned to look at Traveler and Black&White.

As Black&White approached him, Traveler breathed a big sigh of relief and slid down along the wall into a sitting position.

"How can you be so sure that we're not slowly turning into supernatural entities?" he said. "You should know, I tried contacting Iron Blood's squad on their private channels, but nobody responded."

"I'm sure, because we haven't failed the quest objective. The survivor—or survivors—we're supposed to rescue are still in this building somewhere. If, as you say, anyone who's stayed in the orphanage long enough inevitably gets turned into a supernatural entity, then those we're supposed to save should have been turned by now, and we would have failed."

Glancing at the stapler and roll of duct tape that Bai Zhi tossed at him, Traveler watched with baffled eyes as the other Player went over to inspect the charred body of Douchey,SoWhat on the ground.

"I have a few vague ideas about how this incident at the orphanage happened, but I'm missing some crucial evidence..." said Bai Zhi as he pulled a pair of rubber gloves over his hands and squatted next to the grisly body. "In this puzzle I'm piecing together, there's just one important piece missing... namely, the orphanage director, who appeared so often in the diary—what role did he play in all this?"

"Well, I'm dying to know."