Chapter 16 – Widow Yang

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Dugu Zhuo mentally calculated the time.
It was 7 am right now, so there was still one shichen until Ye Zhou would log on.

Lots of players had already lined up before the Tanye Temple to offer incense.
They were all discussing the events of last night, most of them cursing the game company, saying they didn’t care how they treated their players since they were the only VR game on the market.
What kind of a player could always log on during the day or during the night? It was basically a hostile mechanic.
No matter what they said, though, they still didn’t look like they were about to quit the game, so it seemed that the sense of realism that came with VR was hard for other games to measure up to.

There was also a small portion of players who thought the solution was money, and at worst they could hire someone to level up for them during the day.
The game company couldn’t always maintain this division between day and night, so surely there would be a solution at a higher level.

A tiny amount of players thought it was caused by the main storyline, so after they passed the storyline, this day and night setup might change.

Hiding behind the main door, Dugu Zhuo listened to the players’ discussions, studying their modern vocabulary.
From the terms they used, he gradually began to form an image of the world Ye Zhou lived in.

He wanted to spend his life with Ye Zhou someday, so it was necessary for him to learn about the environment Ye Zhou lived in, in order for them to have a mutual understanding.

The martial monk stood guard before the main hall in the daytime, so that people could freely exit but not enter.
The old monk was still tapping the wooden fish.

Seeing that the main hall was empty, Dugu Zhuo decided to meditate and get some rest.

At full strength, he wouldn’t need to rest, but he was injured right now, so he needed it occasionally.
He didn’t have to sleep a full night like an ordinary person, but he still needed to regulate his breathing for a short while.

After about half an hour, Dugu Zhuo opened his eyes, feeling full of energy.
Checking his own status, he found that he could gain experience by cultivating inside Tanye Temple.
He had gained 1500 experience points, but fortunately not enough to level up, his level remaining at 10.

Leaving the temple, Dugu Zhuo saw that the healing booth had been set up again at the temple gates, and the level 16 lingzhi who was number one on the leaderboard yesterday was once again healing people.
At this rate, that lingzhi would probably be the first embodied player in the game.

Yao and spirits were both originally beasts and birds, or vegetation and herbs, but the distinction was that yao were born as mortals.
In a million cats, you might not find even a single cat yao, so though their species were populous, very few of them could become yao.

On the other hand, spirits were beings nurtured by the natural world, like ginseng, lingzhi, snow lotuses, and qilin.
They were filled with spiritual energy from birth, and would be able to embody themselves as long as they lived to a certain age.

The boundary between the two was a bit vague.
Dugu Zhuo had always distinguished them by their yao qi or spiritual qi, but it seemed they were split according to species in the game.
Mundane plants or animals were yao, while legendary beasts and magic herbs were spirits.

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The old monk who was helping the lingzhi accumulate virtue looked exactly like the one inside the temple.
Using Long @ Aotian’s words, they were “copy-pasted from the same template.”

Standing in front of the temple gates, Dugu Zhuo quietly waited for his party members to arrive.

Half an hour later, people started logging on.
Ye Zhou had purposefully arrived ten minutes early, entering the game at 8:50, and with his blood bond, there was a notification the instant he logged on.
He was the first to meet up with Dugu Zhuo, and gave him an energetic clap on the shoulder.

Dugu Zhuo took the chance to grab Ye Zhou’s wrist.
Through the distance and yet closeness of the network, he used the VR game’s simulated pulse to check on the condition of Ye Zhou’s body.

“Your complexion looks good,” Dugu Zhuo said with satisfaction.

“Yeah, my family doctor said this morning that my condition was especially healthy,” Ye Zhou said happily.

If he went to bed too late, he would have trouble sleeping, and have nightmares and cold sweats the whole night, yet last night he had slept especially deeply.

In the past, Ye Zhou had always heard the clanking of a sword in his dreams, as if something was calling to him urgently.
Last night, however, he had dreamed of the bamboo forest where he had met Dugu Zhuo.
The scenery was beautiful, and when he woke up in the morning, he felt carefree.

“I guess always staying indoors really will lead to psychological issues,” Ye Zhou said.
“I can’t go outside, so it’s lucky that I have this VR game.”

Dugu Zhuo maintained propriety at all times, so he didn’t ask about Ye Zhou’s health problems.
They still weren’t that familiar with each other.

He had finally managed to find Ye Zhou, so Dugu Zhuo didn’t want his undue haste to drive Ye Zhou away from him.

This game was his only connection with Ye Zhou.
Dugu Zhuo could only act within the game, so if Ye Zhou stopped playing, they would never be able to meet again.

After they idly chatted for a few minutes, the other players also logged on one by one.
Aotian and Qingyue were still level 11, but the black cat had risen to level 14.

Everyone looked at this cat who had gained several levels in just a night.

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The black cat yawned.
“I can only level up at night, can’t I? I idled while cultivating in the moonlight, slept until 4, then hunted monsters in the Karmic Forest for three hours.
I went back to sleep for two hours at 7, and if I hadn’t set an alarm, I almost wouldn’t have woken up.”

“Last night, Xiaoyao and his friends were also grinding non-stop, and by now they’re level 13,” said Aotian.

Qingyue pulled her lips in distaste.
“The way Xiaoyao levels up is too extreme.
Whenever he sees someone, he tries to steal their vital essence, and he’s even earned the title ‘Ringleader of Yao’.
He’s about to become the Tree Demon from The Maiden’s Spirit[1].”

“How many Sin Points does he have?” Dugu Zhuo asked.

“You get one Sin Point for stealing one person’s essence, so right now he has over a hundred points…” Qingyue said.

“That many?” Ye Zhou said.
“Won’t he be rednamed?”

Seeing Dugu Zhuo give him a look of confusion, Ye Zhou remembered that his disciple hadn’t played the PC edition and explained, “Back in the PC version where characters’ names were displayed, people who had killed too many players would have their names turn red, so that’s called getting rednamed.
If someone with a red name dies, they lose more experience and items, and most players don’t like them either, so they’re liable to get attacked.”

“Player names aren’t displayed in Nine Heavens, though,” Dugu Zhuo said.

“So since this mechanic is new, Xiaoyao wanted to test what would happen if your Sin Points were extremely high,” Aotian said.
“After all, players don’t die when you steal their essence, just their health drops to critical, they become weakened, and they lose a portion of experience.
We suspect that later on, there might be different factions in the game based on Righteousness or Sin Points, or what race you are.”

“I had wanted to form a party with Xiaoyao, but now… I guess if we’re different races, we walk different paths,” Qingyue said.

Chatting as they walked, the group quickly came to the tofu stand.

“I just knew Widow Yang would be good-looking.
They say that beauties sell tofu!” Aotian said excitedly as he laid eyes on the woman.

“Stopped in your tracks because you saw a pretty woman?” Qingyue said, slapping Aotian hard on the back of the head.
He narrowly escaped being beaten by her whip.

The game developers had worked hard on Widow Yang’s character model, and within the group, only Dugu Zhuo’s looks were superior to hers.
Everyone else looked plain set alongside this NPC.

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Ye Zhou’s looks weren’t bad, but he was young and not at his full height, so he lost some of his allure.

Since the NPC’s looks were so good, there was naturally a crowd of players gathered around and buying tofu.

Fortunately, Widow Yang didn’t have any missions to give players experience and everyone had done their sightseeing yesterday, so there weren’t many people at the tofu stand today.
After standing in line for a few minutes, Dugu Zhuo’s group reached the front.

The few players that had been before them stood to one side eating their tofu while chatting.
“This tofu tastes pretty good.
It’d be even better if this game had fried chicken and Coke.
I bet lots of people on diets would come here to satisfy their cravings.”

As the party leader, Ye Zhou led the group in buying tofu, but after all the other players had bought their tofu without any trouble, Widow Yang burst into tears upon facing them and said, “You young heroes look like honest and good people, so will you please help this lowly woman? I will surely make the finest tofu as a reward for you, at no cost.”

The black cat said angrily, “Shouldn’t you offer your hand in marriage? What kind of a shameless NPC asks for help and then only gives a piece of tofu?”

Ye Zhou, however, had already foreseen that this task wouldn’t be resolved just by buying some tofu, so asked unruffled, “What’s the problem? Of course we’ll help you, as long as we can.”

“It’s my son.
He’s not well,” Widow Yang said, sobbing.
“He’s already been unconscious for three days, and he’s lost so much weight I can hardly recognize him.
I went to the healing booth at Tanye Temple, but the monk told me that it wasn’t an illness, and instead the work of an evil creature.”

“Look at the state your town is in,” Aotian said.
“I’d be surprised if there weren’t evil creatures.
We won’t have to wait until night to complete this task, will we? Please tell me no!”

Aotian’s concern didn’t come true, as Widow Yang continued, “The monk said that the curse could only be broken with the heart’s blood of a male child born at noon and filled with yang energy.
I don’t know where to find one, but I hear the fortune teller at the booth outside knows the birth dates and times of everyone in town.
Can you ask him for me?”

It was a chain of tasks.
Accepting the task to find the heart’s blood, Ye Zhou led the party to the fortune telling booth.

As they left the tofu stand, Dugu Zhuo noticed that several more players had gotten in line behind them.
A few of them looked odd, wearing bamboo hats that covered their faces completely, with their whole bodies clothed.
All that was visible of them was their eyes.

“Didn’t you say that you had a demon player friend, who told you that he appeared in a different place during the day?” Dugu Zhuo asked.

“Yeah,” Qingyue said.
“He’s called Wen Zhi Binbin, so we all call him Xiao Wen.
Yesterday, he told us that after creating his character, he appeared in a hellish-looking place.
The area was very small and there were ghosts and demons everywhere, which terrified him so much he thought he had transmigrated into a horror movie.”

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“He said he could take some tasks there, but the experience gain was very slow,” Aotian said.
“There was a huge gate blocking them, which only opened at night.”

Dugu Zhuo turned to Ye Zhou.
“Yesterday, didn’t you run into someone you thought was a player, but he was actually a ghost for an exorcism mission?”

“Yeah,” Ye Zhou said, nodding.
“That boss was so good at acting, I really thought he was a player.”

“Maybe he was a player,” Dugu Zhuo said.

“How could that be? He was clearly the mission boss,” Ye Zhou said.

“I’ve been thinking,” Dugu Zhuo said.
“In order to find the main storyline, we needed to move about when the ghosts and demons were active at night.
Then how will the ghosts and demons find the main storyline? Won’t they have to move about within the daytime world, where the humans belong?”

“They couldn’t leave that area, though,” Aotian said.

“You just said that they could accept tasks.
Couldn’t there be a possibility that one of them was the same task that Ye Zhou took, except, Ye Zhou’s mission was exorcising ghosts, while their mission was eliminating the exorcist harming their fellow ghosts?”

“That’s possible!” Ye Zhou cried, thinking back to that boss.
“He was too much like a player, that even after he revealed himself as a ghost, I still thought someone was controlling him.”

Looking at the couple of players lined up before the tofu stand, covered head to toe, Dugu Zhuo said, “Therefore, even during the day, there may be demons and ghosts within this town.”

thank you all for reading!

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the film that was localized as A Chinese Ghost Story.
the villain of it is a tree yao 

文质彬彬 cultured and refined 

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