Chapter 11 – Reencounter

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In Nine Heavens, demons were originally humans.
The game’s setting followed ancient mythology, and the in-game demons were the people of the mythical Chiyou[1].
They looked like humans, with long horns on their heads, clawed hands, and tall and sturdy bodies, possessing exceptional strength.
If a player chose a demon character, they could set their height to a maximum of 150% of their original, so this point alone tempted many players.

At nighttime, the yao didn’t gain completely human forms.
For example, Aotian and Qingyue’s friend, Xiaoyao, still looked like a willow tree, only now with a face on its trunk.
He could uproot himself and move around, using his branches as weapons, his combat strength extremely high.

Yao could cultivate using human essence, but at night, all the NPCs became demons.
Yao couldn’t steal essence from them, so they could only hunt down the human players who hadn’t found shelter at night.

The sound of cussing could be heard all over the village.
The human players had spent a lot of effort reaching level 10 during the day, and now, at night, they had to be trampled over by the yao, demons, and ghosts.
They ran around looking for hiding places while insulting the game company.

A particularly tall demon saw Qingyue and Aotian atop the wall and swung a saber at least two meters long toward them, but found himself blocked by the inn’s barrier array.

“Tch, we can’t invade the residences, or the Tanye Temple monks will come out to banish demons,” the demon player said, shaking his head in disappointment as he walked away.

After escaping disaster, Qingyue and Aotian huddled back behind the wall.
Aotian sighed and said, “This game is way too mean.
We’re all low level, yet some players can kill players of other species to level up.
Isn’t that too much?”

“Let’s ask Dugu-dashen,” Qingyue said.
“It seemed like he noticed way earlier that something would happen at night, so he convinced us to hurry up and find an inn.”

“Makes sense,” Aotian said.
“Maybe he was part of a closed beta.”

They walked to the door, but their way was blocked by a stony-faced waiter.
“Did you finish your work?”

Aotian owed the inn 20 silver and needed to work for two hours to pay it off, so if they both worked together, that time could be halved.

Qingyue stayed to help him finish faster, and after they combined their efforts for an hour, the waiter finally let them go free.

It was 9 pm and Dugu Zhuo had already meditated in the energy gathering array for an hour.
Checking his experience bar, he saw he had gained 1000 experience.

He only needed 100 more EXP to reach level 10.
Dugu Zhuo didn’t want to outlevel Ye Zhou, so he stopped meditating.

Urgent knocking came from outside the door at that point, so he opened the door and saw Aotian and Qingyue standing outside and looking frantic.
“Dashen, all hell is breaking loose outside! Have you looked?”

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Dugu Zhuo replied calmly, “So the races which couldn’t cultivate during the day are allowed to come out now?”

Seeing how he appeared to have already anticipated everything, Long @ Aotian couldn’t be more impressed.
He nodded several times.
“Dashen, you knew from the start, didn’t you?”

“I only had a guess,” Dugu Zhuo said.

The humans and spirits had too much of an advantage during the day, while the yao were pushed to one side and the demons and ghosts weren’t present at all.
This balance was too skewed.

Dugu Zhuo felt that this game world shared some similarities with his former world, so he had made his assumptions based off the common sense of the cultivation world.
Usually, demons, ghosts, and yao would roam the night, while having their powers greatly diminished during the day.
If the game was also set up in this way, then surely, when night fell, there would be a few changes.

“The civilians in the starting village have also become demons,” Qingyue said, her face white from fright.
“They’re humans by day, but demons by night, and they even attack human players.”

“Is that so?” Dugu Zhuo was slightly taken aback.

He had thought that when the yao and demons emerged at night, the villagers would lock their doors and stay inside.
He hadn’t imagined that the town would completely change upon nightfall.

“Was there something like this in the PC game?” Dugu Zhuo asked Aotian.

“Of course not!” Aotian said.
“What kind of a hostile mechanic is this? Not everyone can reliably log on during daytime or nighttime.
Is the company trying to lose players?”

“Not necessarily,” Dugu Zhuo said.
“At higher levels, humans, spirits, yao, and demons alike will all have no problem in sunlight.
Only low-level players will be restricted by sunlight or moonlight.”

“So the company did this in order to increase the difficulty of leveling up?” Aotian said thoughtfully.

“Possibly,” Dugu Zhuo said, furrowing his brow.
He thought back to Tanye Temple.
Logically, something like this shouldn’t occur where Buddhist cultivators were present.
However, he also knew very well that this was a game, not his former world, so differences were natural… right?

Thinking of this, Dugu Zhuo unconsciously touched his bundle, which held the broken Xuansu Swords.

While Dugu Zhuo contemplated, he suddenly heard a notification by his ear.

[Ding! Your master Ye Zhou is online.]

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Normally, you wouldn’t get notified for a friend coming online, but for a blood bond, you would get a system notification.

Dugu Zhuo hadn’t been aware of this when he offered the blood oath.
He had just been trying to forge a strong connection with Ye Zhou so that he could sense Ye Zhou’s location at all times.

By a blind coincidence, though, he could now know Ye Zhou’s online status whenever he wanted.

Ye Zhou had clearly said that he would be on 9 to 12 in the morning and 3 to 6 in the afternoon.
Right now, it was past 9 pm, so why had he suddenly logged on?

Dugu Zhuo abruptly remembered that Ye Zhou had gone offline in the Karmic Forest.
At night, the monsters within it would be empowered, plus there was a cat yao he had trapped in there!

Dugu Zhuo leapt to his feet and rushed out of the room, with Qingyue and Aotian following him.
They saw him kick open the main gate of the inn and vanish into the night filled with monsters.

The two looked at each other, not knowing what was with their dashen, or whether or not they should follow.

“Mom, Dad, Aunt Wu, I’m going to bed.” At 9 pm, Ye Zhou got in bed right on time, and after telling his mom, dad, and the aunt who always took care of him good night, he closed his eyes and acted like he was asleep.

Aunt Wu placed a call button next to his bed, reminding him that if he felt unwell anywhere, he should press it immediately, and she would rush to his side.

Ye Zhou agreed obediently, and after Aunt Wu left him a nightlight and closed the door behind him, his eyes opened.

His family always tried to keep him from overexerting himself, and Ye Zhou also knew that his body wouldn’t be able to take too much activity.

After signing off of Nine Heavens today, though, he felt a lot better.
He had always been sickly and even eating a meal took a lot of effort from him.
Today, however, he felt full of energy, as if he had taken some sort of miracle pill.

In the nightlight’s weak glow, Ye Zhou looked at the VR helmet on his wheelchair.

Inside the game, he could run and jump around to his heart’s content.

Perhaps that was why he was in such high spirits.

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The helmet seemed to be calling out to Ye Zhou.
He couldn’t resist anymore and, pushing himself upright with difficulty, barely managed to reach the helmet on his chair.

Ye Zhou told himself he’d just play for two hours.
He set his game timer for logging off at 11 pm sharp.

He put on his helmet without a sound, input his information, and entered the game.

The Karmic Forest looked beautiful at night, with the moonlight glowing on the leaves.
In a nimble leap, Ye Zhou landed on a tree branch, admiring the moon.

The nightscape of this game was very realistic.
The breeze that blew across Ye Zhou’s skin carried a slight chill, and even though his touch sensitivity was at its lowest setting and he couldn’t feel the faint breeze against his face, the coolness made him feel good.

He hadn’t seen the moon from outside in a long time, only able to sit in his wheelchair and watch through a window.

“Yeoww!” The sharp cry of a cat interrupted Ye Zhou’s peace.

Hearing a gust whistle by his ear, Ye Zhou dodged instinctively without looking back as a black shadow streaked through the area where he had just stood.

“What kind of a monster is this? The boss of this bamboo forest?” Ye Zhou stared carefully and saw a black human figure which seemed to have a tail and pointy ears.
Its eyes glowed an eerie green under the moonlight.

He felt like his vision was weaker than usual, and checking his stats, saw that his speed, agility, strength, stamina, and various other stats had all been lowered by 10%, cutting his abilities significantly.

“Are you a player or NPC?” Ye Zhou asked warily.
“I’m a player, so if you want to fight monsters, you’ve found the wrong target.”

“No, I haven’t,” the other party said, revealing their face in the moonlight.
He was a person with a cat’s face.
“Player or NPC, I can use the vital essence of any human to level up.”

“That’s also a mechanic?” Ye Zhou said, sighing.
“I guess players would lose out if they miss the night in this game.”

Swinging sharp claws, the cat-man charged toward Ye Zhou, who dodged at an unhurried pace.
Even if his speed and vision were decreased by 10%, Ye Zhou still could rely on his superior maneuvering to avoid him.

Unable to hit Ye Zhou, the cat-man leapt up, curling his body up in midair and transforming into a little black cat.

Ye Zhou was stunned for a moment.
“So yao really can turn into humans.
You couldn’t transform during the day, so is the reason you can right now because night has fallen?”

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“Mroww,” the cat said sweetly.
It started to seem cuter to Ye Zhou’s eyes.

He already liked small furry animals and had once wanted a cat or dog, but his health was too poor and too much dust and lint in the air could trigger an asthma attack for him.
His room was always kept clear of dust and he couldn’t keep any pets.

The cat’s fur looked so soft.
Ye Zhou couldn’t help thinking about how much he wanted to rub its ears.

His eyes a bit hazy, he reached out toward the cat, which walked up to him with its tail held high.

After dying a few times in the Karmic Forest, the black cat had gotten mad and logged off, yelling at the game company for not giving yao a break ever since.
Finally, at 8 pm, someone had posted that yao, ghosts, and demons should log on immediately, since their stats would increase at night.
Only then did he log back in to discover that he could become a half-yao under the moonlight.
Not only did his stats go up, but he could cultivate with the moon and gain experience.

His senses were sharper at night, allowing him to see the Misdirection Array’s weak point immediately.
He could also use the array against the karmic beasts instead, and had risen to level 8 in just an hour.

He’d been planning to leave this stupid forest after level 10, when a human player conveniently showed up.

The black cat didn’t care whether his target was a player or NPC.
They would only lose a few levels, after all, so it was about the same as killing them.

The Beguile technique was strengthened under the moonlight.
The black cat leapt onto Ye Zhou’s shoulder, rubbing his cheek with his head, opening his mouth and leaning toward the defenseless Ye Zhou.

Ye Zhou knew he had fallen for a trick.
The jade hanging from his waist, gifted by Dugu Zhuo, was releasing warmth into his body, trying to alert him.

The sword in his hand was also buzzing.
If only Ye Zhou wanted to, he could use the sword aura to dispel the charm.

Yet…

Ye Zhou looked at the cat’s ears.
He told himself that he would squeeze them once, just once, then break free.

As his fingers were about to touch the cat’s ears, a human figure flashed by.

That person threw one arm around Ye Zhou’s waist, grabbing the cat’s scruff with the other.
“Are you alright?” he said with concern.
“Has this yao taken your vital essence? Have you lost any levels?”

Under the moonlight, Ye Zhou saw that it was Dugu Zhuo.

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