“Why are you here?” Chen Xiaolian smiled, tucking away the pair of wings behind the armour.
“How did you become so strong? These Electronic Guardians… … did you finish them off? The [Red] warning for this instance dungeon, were you behind it?” Miao Yan didn’t have the time to think about Chen Xiaolian’s question. Instead, she fired out a series of her own questions.
“Ask your questions one by one.” Chen Xiaolian smiled as he placed his palms forward. “We should… … leave this instance dungeon first. Let’s have a good chat. It just so happens I am looking for you.”
After saying that, he turned around to look at the Electronic Guardians covering the sky.
There were only a few participants left on the sandy hill, fighting desperately to hold on. They were simply incapable of seeing anything signifying a reduction in the number of Electronic Guardians above them.
After Chen Xiaolian finished off all the Electronic Guardians besieging Miao Yan, another small group of Electronic Guardians split up from the main swarm to fly towards them.
“You… you have a way to leave this place?” Miao Yan stared at Chen Xiaolian’s back as she uttered in shock, “This instance dungeon is already completely sealed off. I cannot even use the authority of a high-level Player to leave. You… how can you do it?”
Chen Xiaolian extended a palm forward before turning around to smile at Miao Yan. “By using an authority that is even higher than yours.”
When Chen Xiaolian raised his palm up, the hundreds of incoming Electronic Guardians, which were already not too far away from his location, suddenly came to a swooshing halt. Then, they hovered in the middle of the sky.
Even the tens of thousands of Electronic Guardians that were far away had stopped all movements.
It was as though the entire world had grown still.
Miao Yan stared in wonder, incapable of believing what she was witnessing.
This was practically…
No one could control Electronic Guardians. They were the Development Team’s creation, meant specifically for clearing operations. They have no sense of awareness or intelligence. They were killing machines that would obey the simple instructions programmed into them.
At that very moment, however, Chen Xiaolian had stopped their movements with just one palm.
Be it Awakened ones or Players, neither of them could do something like this. No matter how much power they possessed, they could not do something like this.
Unless he is…The Development Team?
After all of the Electronic Guardians had stopped moving, Chen Xiaolian’s outstretched palm slowly closed up, squeezing together to form a fist.
Next, the Electronic Guardians, which had been moving about tirelessly just moments ago, abruptly fell in an orderly fashion to the ground.
Most of the Electronic Guardians were not flying at a high altitude and the sands on the ground were not too hard. Given how high up they were, this fall would not have inflicted much damage to them. And yet, after falling to the ground, the Electronic Guardians went completely still.
It was as though… their souls had been abruptly sucked away.
“Just how did you… … do that?”
Miao Yan stared blankly at Chen Xiaolian, both her hands and feet feeling weak.
“Come, let’s leave this place.”
Chen Xiaolian turned and cast a faint smile at Miao Yan.
Next, the two of them disappeared.
Only three people remained on the sandy hill.
Terraflame, Ghostfox and Aliosha.
The three of them were utterly exhausted and bloody wounds covered their bodies, the handiwork of the tearing tentacles. All three panted and their bodies fell limply upon the ground.
“We… … survived?”
Aliosha screamed sharply, her whole body trembling uncontrollably from excessive excitement.
For some unknown reason, all of the Electronic Guardians had suddenly stopped before falling down from the sky.
Ghostfox panted a few times and struggled to get up. Taking a few steps forward, he kicked one of the Electronic Guardians lying before him.
His kick sent the Electronic Guardian’s body tumbling backwards a few times. In the end, however, it remained deathly still, not making any movements at all.
“It looks like it has suddenly exhausted all of its energy reserves, or maybe its central controlling system – assuming it exists – had suddenly failed. I can’t determine why.’ Ghostfox lowered his head to check the Electronic Guardian in detail. “Someone did this.”
“Someone?” Terraflame’s brows knitted slightly.
Who could do something like this?
There had been no movements from the Divine Temple yet. Earlier, the Electronic Guardians had filled his vision and any negligence on his part would have resulted in his death. Thus, Terraflame had no time to observe the Divine Temple. Only now did he remember, that character who should not have been a BOSS, Osiris, had yet to emerge from the Divine Temple.
Could it be…Chen Xiaolian is still alive? He killed Osiris?
“Why think so much about it? The most important thing here is that we survived! Survived! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!” Aliosha’s face was like that of a madman and she kept on laughing with a shrill voice. “We’ll be going back soon!”
“We… … how do we go back?” Ghostfox was slightly more collected and he frowned. “The instance dungeon is already over and the countdown has begun. Earlier, due to some special circumstances, the countdown timer stopped. However, all of the Electronic Guardians have stopped moving, but the countdown timer…”
“What?” Only then did Aliosha slowly snap out from her state of madness. She checked her personal system.
As expected, the countdown timer remained unchanged.
Terraflame suddenly tossed away the shield and war hammer in his hands to roar upwards.
When he lowered his head, his eyes were already bloodshot.
“We… cannot go back anymore!”
“What the hell? What is going on here?”
There was a terribly murderous look on Roddy’s face as he rushed out from his room. He then slammed open the door to Lun Tai’s room. “Lun Tai!”
Lun Tai was standing right in front of the door, his face ashen. “I was just about to go look for you.”
“You received it as well? I thought there was an error in the system!” Roddy gritted his teeth as he stared at Lun Tai. “Just what is going on here?”
“How am I supposed to know?” Lun Tai took a deep breath and suppressed the intense emotions within him. “Let’s call up everyone first.”
Soon enough, the Meteor Rock Guild’s conference room was filled with people.
Roddy was gritting his teeth.
Lun Tai did his best to control himself to maintain a calm demeanour.
Qiao Qiao had an impassive look on her face.
Soo Soo had her head lowered, making it impossible to see her face.
Xia Xiaolei and Qimu Xi had bewildered and lost looks on their faces.
No one within the conference room said a word and silence reigned.
Earlier, everyone had received a prompt from their personal systems.
[Guild prompt: The Guild Leader of Meteor Rock Guild, Chen Xiaolian has died. Meteor Rock Guild’s Guild Leader position is now empty. Now awaiting the application for a new Guild Leader.]
Chen Xiaolian… had died?
Yesterday, Chen Xiaolian had suddenly and inexplicably disappeared from the conference room. They were incapable of contacting him using their guild channel as well.
And today, they had received the prompt regarding his death.
“Everyone… … you’ve already seen the guild prompt, right?”
After a lengthy moment of silence, Lun Tai spoke up, his voice laboured.
“The system prompt… … is there any possibility of it being an error?” Roddy clenched his fist. “Lun Tai, Bei Tai, you two are the most experienced members in our guild. You should have heard about this before, right?”
Lun Tai and Bei Tai exchanged glances. They shook their heads.
“Impossible! How can Xiaolian oppa die just like this?!” Soo Soo raised her head and her gaze swept past everyone present. “I don’t believe it!”
“I… … I don’t believe it either.” Xia Xiaolei raised his head as well. There was a resolute look on his face. “Our Guild Leader is so strong. Additionally, he is also incredibly lucky. It will not be that easy to kill him!”
“But…” Qimu Xi timidly said, “The system has sent out the prompt…”
“I don’t believe it!” Xia Xiaolei shouted at Qimu Xi. “If you say that Guild Leader is dead again, I’ll beat you!”
“Qiao Qiao, you…” Roddy looked at Qiao Qiao and said with a wavering tone, “How… … how can you remain so calm?”
“Why should I get emotional? So what if he is dead? Did you forget? We have the Lifehymn Music Score.” Qiao Qiao cast a smirk at Roddy. “Since Xiaolian could bring me out from World’s End back then, I too, can bring him back. It will just take some effort.”
Lun Tai and Bei Tai slapped their thighs simultaneously. As for Xia Xiaolei and Qimu Xi, their eyes lit up.
Soo Soo, however, had a concerned look. “Qiao Qiao unnie, can you really… … bring him out without a hitch?”
After Chen Xiaolian returned from World’s End, he had described in detail how he saved Qiao Qiao to all of them.
Although he had downplayed most of the crucial events he went through there, all of them understood just how many dangers he’d had to undergo back in World’s End.
Given the current situation, there was no telling when World’s End would be refreshed. It could happen one year later, or one month later, or tomorrow. In fact, it could even happen today.
Additionally, World’s End was an extremely vast place. Finding one person within World’s End was like finding a needle in a haystack.
“I have been there before, after all. I am the only one who can do this.” Qiao Qiao deliberately flipped her hair in a casual manner. “Chen Xiaolian is my boyfriend. I’ll say this first, when it comes to who gets to go save him, none of you may compete with me.”
Roddy took a deep breath before speaking, his voice solemn. “I am sorry… … but that probably won’t work…”
“What?!” Qiao Qiao froze and she turned to look at Roddy.
She saw a profound sense of helplessness on Roddy’s face.
“After Xiaolian returned, a change happened to the Lifehymn Music Score.” Roddy spoke slowly, his voice grim. “Right now, the one in my possession has the ‘fragment’ state, similar to when we first obtained it…”
Qiao Qiao’s calm appearance disappeared instantly and she practically flew to stand before Roddy as she thundered, “Take it out!”
Roddy released a faint sigh before retrieving the Lifehymn Music Score, which he placed on the table.
Qiao Qiao snatched up the music score. As expected, within her personal system, the prop was tagged as ‘Lifehymn Music Score (fragment)’.
In other words, the current Lifehymn Music Score only possessed its basic function. It could only revive the ones whose names were written on it beforehand. It could no longer be used to enter World’s End, let alone bring someone else back.
“It ended up like this after Xiaolian returned. I believe that this damaged state is something that would happen to it every time it sends someone to World’s End,” Roddy said in a hushed tone. “After discovering this, I informed Xiaolian, but he told me to not say anything for the time being.”
Slowly, Qiao Qiao put down the Lifehymn Music Score. Glazed eyes swept through the conference room and her body suddenly grew limp, causing her to fall back onto a chair.
She had been forcing herself to put on a strong façade all this while, but now her whole body felt incomparably weak. In just moments, tears poured down her face.
“Xiaolian… … you…”
Suddenly, a cell phone’s ringing sound echoed within the room.
No one answered the phone.
Everyone there turned to look at one another before finally turning their gazes towards Qiao Qiao.
It was her cell phone.
However, Qiao Qiao continued leaning against the chair. It would appear that she had no intentions of answering the phone.
“Qiao Qiao?” Roddy finally could not stand it anymore and he said softly, “Your phone is ringing.”
Qiao Qiao’s gaze was directed upwards and she ignored Roddy.
They all grew silent. Given Qiao Qiao’s current situation, it was only natural that she would be in no mood to answer her phone.
The persistent ringing from the cell phone was the only thing that could be heard within the conference room.
“Who would call up Qiao Qiao unnie?” Soo Soo suddenly wondered aloud. “She… she had already died once. Every normal human would have forgotten about her. It is like… like Uncle Qiao. The only ones who can remember Qiao Qiao unnie are Awakened ones… and us!”
Qiao Qiao’s cell phone stopped ringing.
“That’s right!” Only then did Roddy realize the issue.
Suddenly, his cell phone rang.
Quickly bringing out his cell phone, Roddy then looked at the cell phone screen. Immediately, he flailed about as he shouted.
“It…it… it’s Xiaolian!!!”
Immediately, every one of them got up and their eyes all turned towards Roddy. They watched as he pressed the answer button.
However, before Roddy could say anything, Qiao Qiao’s figure flew over. Snatching the cell phone, she shouted, “Xiaolian? What happened to you? Aren’t you dead?”
“If I am dead, how could I call you?” Chen Xiaolian’s voice could be heard from the cell phone. He sounded happy. “Just now, you did not answer the phone because you thought I died, right? Don’t worry, I am fine. Moreover… … I am in a much better state than before.”
“Why did you suddenly disappear earlier? Where are you now? And why use a cell phone? Why didn’t you use the guild channel?” Qiao Qiao pressed the speakerphone button and placed the cell phone on the centre of the conference table.
She had died once before. However, after her return from World’s End, she was resurrected and restored as a member of Meteor Rock Guild by default.
At that moment, however, why were things different for Chen Xiaolian?
“It’s a long story.” On the other side, Chen Xiaolian smiled wryly and continued, “The me right now… … have become very strong, the type of strong that we could never have imagined in the past. However… this has also created some side effects. For the time being, I will not be able to return to the guild. Firstly, there are some matters that I need to do. Secondly, you fellows would be safer with me leaving Meteor Rock Guild.”
“Safer? What do you mean?” After finding out that Chen Xiaolian was still alive, Qiao Qiao’s feelings of sadness had been completely washed away. However, hearing Chen Xiaolian’s words, she grew increasingly confused.
“I am currently in Egypt.” Chen Xiaolian thought about it for a while before continuing, “When I disappeared earlier, it was because I was summoned by Zero City. There, I obtained a new power. At the same time, however, it brought with it a new problem. After exiting Zero City, I was thrown into a certain instance dungeon where I… … ‘died’ once. That is why your personal systems would receive the prompt. At present, the system has its eyes on me. Although it cannot monitor my position at all times, anything could happen. Staying in the guild will only cause you fellows trouble.”
“I… I understand. You take care.” Qiao Qiao paused for a moment. Then, she regained her candid demeanour. “Don’t let me find out you died again. It will make me said. Also… … how long will you be gone?”
“For now, I still do not know.” Chen Xiaolian grew silent for a moment. “At the shortest… … maybe one week. At the latest, maybe one year. At any rate, believe me, I will never die again. My point is, you fellows need to stay alive and wait for my return.”
“One year…” Qiao Qiao gave a soft sigh. “All right.”
“Since I am dead, you fellows won’t have a Guild Leader now, right? Lun Tai, can you take care of everyone in my stead?”
“Not a problem,” Lun Tai was quick to reply.
“All right. You are the steadiest amongst them all. I can rest easy by handing over the job to you. The verbal agreement I made with Jiang Long was for us to supply him with 10 kilogrammes of Star Sand for 10,000 points per month. You will be responsible for this transaction in the future. The allocation of points that the guild acquires from instance dungeons in the future will also be up to you. Also, everyone else is here, right?”
“We are all here.”
“Bei Tai, your Air Incarceration skill is a very powerful support skill. However, when the opponent’s strength is high enough to break the skill, the backlash you receive as a result is too big. I would suggest putting it aside as an auxiliary skill and go with a different development route.
“Roddy, although that Gundam mech of yours is very strong, its requirements are too high. Even now, it can only be used as a life-saving killer move. It is not something that can be used normally. Before you can upgrade your skill to the point where you can continuously pilot it, use a Sentinel mech as your main equipment.
“Soo Soo, your two personalities have successfully merged as one. You will no longer have any concerns about your mental state. From now onwards, you will have to work hard to become one of the main powerhouses of the guild. Your Blazing Phoenix skill is very lethal and it will become one of the guild’s main damage dealers. However, you are lacking in defensive type skills. So, you will need to keep a close eye on your own protection.
“Xiao Xiaolei, you have a very high compatibility rate with the Bug Armour. Once the genetic complications are dealt with, you will surely experience a great leap in abilities. Before that, however, you will need to train your combat skills. Thankfully, your regenerative ability is very strong. If necessary, help cover your guild mates.
“Qimu Xi, you haven’t been able to get much combat experience. However, in the coming days, you can no longer consider yourself a newbie anymore. In the next instance dungeon, I hope that you can quickly discover what you are good at and make a decision on which development route you want to take. At present, you are the weakest member of our guild. I will have Lun Tai direct some more resources to you so that you can quickly develop yourself.
“Lastly, Qiao Qiao. In the Changban instance dungeon, you were able to get detailed descriptions of every branch quest within the instance dungeon, including the rewards involved. This will become our Meteor Rock Guild’s greatest advantage. Make the most out of it, but never expose this matter to other guilds. Also…”
Chen Xiaolian then paused for a moment. “Also, err…”
“What is it?”
“I… I love you.”
“I… I love you too,” Qiao Qiao whispered back.
“Well… … I will be hanging up now. Hopefully, when I return and see you fellows, you will all be completely different. A completely different Meteor Rock Guild.”
The call ended.
“All right! Everyone, you can now be at ease!”
Roddy clapped his hands and jumped to his feet. “Xiaolian did not die. He is well and alive. Although I do not know what kind of power he has obtained, we cannot lose to him! Before he returns, we must grow to the point where… … we will not become a hindrance to him!”