Chapter 14 – Abandon the blade

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This monk wasn’t Grandmaster Tanji, only a plain and unremarkable NPC. 

Dugu Zhuo sat cross-legged on a prayer mat at the monk’s side.
He pressed his palms together respectfully, then asked, “Where are the human players?”

“The heroes who have offered incense during the day will be able to enter though a small back door,” the monk answered.

“No wonder we didn’t see anybody after hopping the wall,” Aotian said.
“They entered though another path.”

“Even if there’s a door left open, they should get a notification,” Ye Zhou said.
“A normal player wouldn’t realize there was another entrance.
There must be a lot of tasks during the day which can keep a player safe at night.”

“It feels a bit like a survival game,” Qingyue said with excitement.
“A task that seems trivial during the day can actually be your ticket for survival at night! It’s intense!”

As he listened to the players and NPC’s words, Dugu Zhuo quickly assembled the pieces of information and noticed something.
The old monk had only said that players who had offered incense could enter though the back door, but he hadn’t mentioned other players.

“Can players who haven’t offered incense enter?” Dugu Zhuo asked.

The old monk put down his rosary and looked at Dugu Zhuo.
“A Buddhist temple is a sacred place.
At night, the Tanye Temple has the great responsibility of protecting the humans of Zhulong Town.
Aside from the young heroes who have formed a connection with Buddha, none can enter Tanye Temple.”

“Then how’d we get in?” Aotian asked curiously. 

“You have all demonstrated heroism and righteousness in braving danger to cleanse the Karmic Forest.
You are the righteous warriors this old monk has been waiting for.”

As it turned out, the reason they could enter Tanye Temple though the main gate and encounter this obviously important NPC was because they had slain monsters in the Karmic Forest.

The old monk had barely finished speaking when a server announcement rang though the air.
“The righteous team, Yi Ye Pian Zhou, Dugu Zhuo, Qingyue love, Long @ Aotian, and Jet Black, have activated the main storyline in Zhulong Town.
All players are free to search for cookies.

Whether they were yao, ghosts, or demons enjoying the night life, humans struggling to survive, or spirits focusing on absorbing the moonlight, every player stopped what they were doing to listen.

A thousand different voices rang out everywhere, as rows and rows of words scrolled by in Dugu Zhuo’s vision.

[Dugu Zhuo? What a familiar name.
Feels like I’ve heard it not long ago.]

[The player who discovered an array and became an array expert earlier today.]

[What’s the array expert title good for?]

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[How come he ran into all the nice things?]

Dugu Zhuo’s eyes felt overwhelmed and he fumbled with his control jade slip for a bit until he finally found the button that closed the world chat, and shut off the lines of text.
Things got a lot calmer.

Strange, back when there had been a system announcement for him becoming an array expert, he hadn’t been bombarded with text, so what changed?

Dugu Zhuo inspected his control panel and found there was an additional line of text—”Due to 70% or more of current players recognizing ‘Dugu Zhuo’ as a player, the ‘player’ identity has been added.”

In his personal information, Dugu Zhuo’s identity was now listed as: BUG, player.

Following that was a string of numbers, which must’ve been the ID he’d heard people talk about.

As a player, Dugu Zhuo’s messaging screen now had a panel for direct messages from strangers, which Dugu Zhuo closed so that random people couldn’t disturb him. 

He never imagined he would’ve become a player within this game.

According to the system prompt, he had this role because of “70% or more players recognizing him”.
The thoughts of players could actually affect the system’s perception.

“What are you looking at?” Ye Zhou asked, seeing Dugu Zhuo wave the jade slip as if he was controlling a panel.

“Closing the world chat,” Dugu Zhuo said.
“It’s bothersome.”

“It kind of is,” Ye Zhou said.
“But I get a lot of information about trades from it, so it’d also be annoying if I closed it.
I’ve gotten used to it.”

After some pondering, Dugu Zhuo asked, “This game doesn’t differentiate between players and NPCs.
If all of the players were to, say, see this old monk as a player, would the system recognize him as such?”

“How could that happen? It’s not like this is a novel or comic.” Ye Zhou clapped Dugu Zhuo on the shoulder.
“Something must be done about your chuunibyou.”

So a player’s conception could not actually make an NPC into a player.
Only he could change his identity, but why? Dugu Zhuo mulled it over.
Could it be because he was a bug?

After some time, he couldn’t come up with an answer, and in the meantime, Aotian, Qingyue, and the black cat had practically turned the temple’s main hall upside down in their search for clues.
Dugu Zhuo knew that they had too little information at the present time, so he put aside his misgivings and went to stop them.

“Stop searching.
Especially you, Cat, don’t touch the Buddha statue.
Don’t you see the monk is raising his staff?”

They immediately stopped messing around, turning their heads to look at the old monk.
He had indeed stood up at some point, exchanging the prayer beads in his hand for a monk staff, currently looking up at the black cat who was standing on the Buddha statue’s dais.

The black cat hopped down immediately, hiding behind Dugu Zhuo’s feet with his tail tucked between his legs, poking out half his head to watch the monk.

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The old monk looked at Dugu Zhuo with his expression full of benevolence.
“As a member of the righteous path, why do you consort with yao?”

“Righteous?” Dugu Zhuo said scornfully.
“Where do you get that from? Why do you take me as a member of the righteous path?”

“Your Righteousness Points, of course.
For upholding justice and punishing evil, you have gained five Righteousness Points, so currently you are the most righteous person in Zhulong Town.”

Dugu Zhuo had gained one Righteousness Point for killing the black cat, one for rescuing the tea shop owner, and he’d gotten the remaining three while killing yao who were stealing human player’s essences on his way to save Ye Zhou tonight.

Dugu Zhuo had always been wondering what Righteousness Points were for.
“How about him?” he asked, pointing at the black cat.
“How many Righteousness Points does he have?”

“Since this yao has stolen the vital essence of humans, he cannot be considered righteous.
Unless he cleanses his sins, I cannot tell you how to break the curse of Zhulong Town,” the monk replied.

Immediately, all four human players were gathered around and staring down the black cat.
The cat took a few steps back, planting his claws in the ground and arching his back, his fur standing on end.
“Mrow! What do you want?”

“Let’s try kicking him out of the party first,” Aotian suggested.

It was the opening period of the game, so they had to do some experimentation.
Ye Zhou kicked him out immediately, then asked the monk, “Can you tell us now?”

The old monk lowered his staff and said amiably, “This old monk trusts that you young heroes value camaraderie and would not abandon a friend.”

Everyone: “…”

It looked like since they had first spoken to the monk as a party, they had to complete the mission as a party, bringing the cat along.
Ye Zhou added him back to the party, but the moment he did, the monk raised his staff again, acting like he was about to exorcise a yao.

“This is unreasonable,” the black cat spoke in defense of himself.
“If I can’t do the mission, then all the races active at night would have trouble with it.
There are only six races in the game, and if three of them can’t do the main storyline, they’re practically prevented from playing!”

“The announcement told us that all players could search for clues,” Ye Zhou said.
“We might not need this monk to find information about the curse.”

Dugu Zhuo carefully poured over all that had happened since he had come to this world.
There was black and white, light and darkness, and the races divided into two sides.
He finally came to an answer.

He traced the shape of the Taiji in the air and said to the group, “If we envision the daytime and nighttime as the two sides of the Taiji, our position right now is Tanye Temple within the nighttime town, which can be seen as the spot of white within the black.
And if we consider the white side to be day, during daytime, there should be a location which shelters the nighttime races, as the spot of black within the white.”

Ye Zhou said in realization, “So that’s why we saw nothing relating to the main questline here at daytime, but we could find clues at night.
Humans can be attacked outside at night, so we have to leave shelter and brave the ghosts and demons to enter Tanye Temple’s front gate, in order to activate the main questline.
We also had to slay monsters in the Karmic Forest.
These are strict requirements.”

“It’s the first important questline,” Aotian said.
“If we hadn’t gotten lucky, it might’ve taken half a month to find this.”

“Since the monk won’t give us the clue, will we need to wait until day and find the point of darkness?” Qingyue asked.

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Dugu Zhuo shook his head.
“Since the cat was rejected for having too many Sin Points, I probably wouldn’t be accepted at the other location for having too many Righteousness Points.”

“And we just had to include him in the party when we started the task…” Qingyue turned her head and tried to give the cat a spiteful look, but the first thing she saw was the cat washing his face with a paw and she instantly felt affection for him again.
She turned away and shook a fist.
“Why’d he have to be a cat?”

Jet Black’s personality was so unlikeable, yet his appearance was unreasonably alluring.
Was this a yao’s special trait?

While everyone was stuck, Dugu Zhuo picked up the cat and walked up to the old monk.
“Great master, did not the Buddha once say, ‘Abandon the killer’s knife and become a Buddha on the spot’? He regrets his actions, so will you give him another chance?”

A bit of liveliness shone in the old monk’s eyes.
“Amitabha,” he recited.
“The Buddha is benevolent.
If you abandon the killer’s knife, you may become a Buddha on the spot.
Benefactor Jet Black, will you abandon the knife and hereby walk the righteous path?”

“What does abandon the knife mean?” the black cat said blankly.

The monk didn’t respond, but Dugu Zhuo said, “The killer’s knife would be the weapon with which you harm others.
I assume that you must completely abandon the technique to level up using vital essence in order to be forgiven.”

“How can I do that?” the cat said.
“Wouldn’t I level up slower than the other yao?”

It was a reasonable thing to say.
This was the equivalent of stopping a human player from gaining experience via missions, so no player would be willing.

“Sacrifice is bound to bring gain,” Dugu Zhuo said.
“This game seems to value balance, so if you give up one method of leveling up, surely the game will provide another.
Even if it doesn’t, if I have a way to level up in the future, I’ll share it with you.
I won’t let you fall behind.”

This simple reasoning was actually extremely persuasive.

The black cat stared at Dugu Zhuo for a while, stunned, while muttering, “I don’t even know you outside the game, so why do I trust you?”

Despite those words, the black cat approached the monk, saying while stroking his whiskers, “Then how should I abandon the blade?”

“Amitabha,” the monk said.
“You are wise, benefactor.”

A dialogue box appeared before the cat, asking whether he wanted to accept the old monk’s purification.
After the purification, he would retain his Beguile technique, but lose the ability to steal vital essence.

After hesitating for a long while, the black cat finally hit “Accept”.

The old monk raised his staff and tapped the cat on the head with it.
In a ray of Buddha’s light, the black cat lost one of his abilities.

At the same time, the old monk said, “From now on, you are an unshaven disciple of our Buddhist sect.
I shall provide you with a rosary, which can summon a law-protector of Buddha to help you when your life is in danger.”

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Accepting the rosary, the black cat shared its stats in the party chat.

The technique “Punishing Vajra” was a technique specifically for Jet Black.
When his HP dropped to 3% or below, it could summon a Vajra with infinite attack strength, capable of killing any player in one shot.

“It has infinite attack and can indiscriminately kill anything! What an incredible technique!” Aotian said, so excited he rubbed the cat on the head.
“If you can just keep your HP at 3%, we can bring you along to defeat any boss, and even in PVP you can kill players no matter how strong they are.
That’s not a technique to sneeze at!”

The black cat also looked pleased with himself as he stroked his whiskers.
“The only problem is it’s hard to maintain health at 3%.
It looks like I’ll have to bring more healing items in the future and get some practice with this technique.
Hey, don’t you touch my head.”

“Hehe.” Aotian removed his hand.
“Your fur just looks too sleek.”

Dugu Zhuo handed the black cat a jade slip.
“If you find a good weapon in the future, I can strengthen it for you.”

The jade slip recorded the Misdirection Array.
Their enmity originated from the Misdirection Array, so he might as well use this to solve it.

And while no one was looking, Dugu Zhuo secretly handed a jade slip to Ye Zhou under his wide sleeve.
Ye Zhou inspected it and found it was the Misdirection Array.

Mysteriously, Ye Zhou felt awkward.
With his face reddening slightly, he put it away, thinking that if he found something good in the future, he needed to let his disciple have it first.

After cleansing the black cat’s sins, they remade their party, and Ye Zhou asked about the torch dragon’s curse again.

The old monk didn’t refuse this time, instead opening his eyes with a look of lamentation.
“Ah, instead of the torch dragon’s curse, what’s affecting this town could more be called the workings of fate.

“According to legend, the torch dragon once brought disaster to the human realm, and was punished by the heavenly emperor of old, escaping into the Netherworld.
From then on, day no longer came to the Netherworld, which became a paradise for demons and ghosts.
The torch dragon also turned from a divine beast to a demonic one, and therefore would be lured by the wicked qi of the human realm.
Ten years ago, this town was peaceful, but when that child was born, he drew the torch dragon’s attention, bringing the Netherworld to this town.”

“That child?” Dugu Zhuo asked.

The old monk sighed.
“Yes, the child destined to become the Xuan Sword’s wielder.
He was born filled with impure qi, fated to lose all his familial ties and murder his own father.
Once he leaves this town, the torch dragon will divert its attention.
You must find him and help the Qingtian Sect bring him away, in order to separate this town from the Netherworld.”

“The Xuan Sword!” Aotian cried.
“It really is the Sword Tomb storyline! Nine Heavens has decided to continue it! My time has come!”

Dugu Zhuo, though, was thunderstruck.

He had been ordained to lose his family from the day he was born.
When he was ten years old, his mother had passed away.
After he was all alone in the world, a man arrived claiming to be his father’s shidi[1].
He took him away from the town he had been born in, to Qingtian Sect.


younger martial brother 

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