The discussion on the mercenary channel was put on hold as everybody headed toward a tavern to meet up. Besides handing over the money to Sword Demon, the main reason they were meeting was to further research and analyze the diary that Gu Fei had picked up.
Brother Assist said, “There’s really nothing much worth mentioning if that BOSS dropped just a blank diary, but since it’s a diary that has entries, there may be something worth noting within.”
Everybody thought that what he had said made sense, so they requested Gu Fei to bring the diary over for everyone to pore over. Of course, the man had no intention of hiding it either, so he casually tossed the diary on to the table after handing over the money to Sword Demon once they were in the tavern.
“It looks really ordinary!” they commented.
“It’s about the content. CONTENT!” Brother Assist reached over to take the diary even as he asked Gu Fei, “Have you looked through it?”
“I just skimmed through a few random pages,” Gu Fei answered.
Brother Assist took it into his hands and carefully turned it open to the first page, as if the diary would turn to dust the moment he exerted any amount of strength on it. The text was very clearly handwritten, and the content was sparse beyond a few lines. Brother Assist prudently read the content out loud.
“‘I am the Shadowmist Assassin, Andrew Su. Unremarkable and of no repute, which is why I am still alive. This is a rule that an Assassin must adhere to. The day my name become renowned, that will surely also be the day I die...
“‘Oak Forest, a small log cabin.
“‘The newly sprouted oak trees have bright-red leaves, which, according to Gru, resemble blood. Hmph. What does he know? Has he even seen real fresh blood before?
“‘This is the 142th time I met Gru and received my 187th assignment in my Assassin career. It is said that the moment I accomplish my 200th assignment, the League of Assassins will confer me a special reward. Just 13 more to go. This number doesn’t seem to be very auspicious.’”
Everybody was stunned as they listened. Royal God Call was the first to speak up, “Is this a novel?”
Nobody bothered with him. Brother Assist flipped to the second page, and the text was even more sparse.
“‘The air in Linshui City is still as humid as ever, but I like it.
“‘But the quiet days by the harbor are long gone. Plenty of people have suddenly appeared around here, making it extremely crowded, which is such a pity.’”
At the end of the second page, Royal God Call once more piped out, “Many people? Did he mean the players?”
None of them wanted to get to the bottom of this question, and Brother Assist merely flipped to the third page, which held even less text than the second page.
“‘What a heavy fog. In such an environment, it is extremely easy to strike and slip away. Looks like the mission this time will go extremely smoothly.’”
The fourth page had even less text than the page before, totaling up to three words.
“‘CRAP! I’m lost.’”
Everyone could not help but glance at Royal God Call; the boy had a very empathetic expression on his face, sighing deeply as he became emotional. “Poor thing.”
“Is there any mystery within these few pages?” War Without Wounds asked.
“Don’t think so… It seems to be the background information of that BOSS,” Sword Demon said.
“There’s more at the back!” Brother Assist had already flipped over to the fifth page.
“Are we gonna spend a whole afternoon sitting here reading this diary?” War Without Wounds found such an eventuality to be utterly terrifying.
“This diary sure is strange. I feel that there must be something hidden in this. Perhaps, it is a clue to a quest,” Brother Assist conjectured.
MMOs often used items like this as a key to start a quest, but the other MMOs always immediately listed this on the players’ quest logs and never required players to painstakingly read diaries like this. Efficiency was the key to these experts present, and they would only do quests for the rewards that came within. As such, they always looked for the most direct approach to completing quests fast and did not care much to savor the plot at all, which was why they were quite annoyed at the discovery that this matter required them to pay attention to details.
“I’m sure there’s something here.” It just so happened that Brother Assist was someone who enjoyed this sort of endeavors.
“In that case, we’ll have to rely on you for this. Call me if you find a quest in that.” War Without Wounds stood up. “I’m going to take a walk around the city.”
“Hey, wait for me!” Royal God Call leaped to his feet. He needed someone to accompany him from place to place in Xiawu City, so he had no choice at where to go and could only rely on others to guide him around. Seeing that somebody was about to leave, he did not let go of the chance!
Sword Demon got up as well. “I’ll take a look around the city, too!” He now had a buttload of debts to pay off, so he must seize every moment he got to earn money; he just did not have the time to carefully pore over the diary.
“Go on, then!” Brother Assist waved these people off as he continued to flip through the diary, except his speed was much faster than before.
“What else is written in there?” Since he was no longer reading the text aloud, Gu Fei and Young Master Han had to ask; the two of them remained at the tavern.
“It goes on about how he’s trying different ways to find his way back,” Brother Assist answered.
Every page was filled with solutions that the Shadowmist Assassin had come up with.
He tried to repair his compass, but he had no idea how to fit it back after dismantling the compass, and he utterly ended up turning it compass into scraps.
He tried to get his bearings by looking up the sky, but the fog in Xiawu City was ever present, be it night or day, no matter which direction he looked. He could not even see the sun, much less the stars.
He tried distinguishing the poles through the lushness of the tree branches and leaves or density of the annual rings of the trees, but because of the persistent fog pervading the region, the sunlight in Xiawu City seemed not to make a difference across the day, while the annual rings were all evenly proportionate.
He kept leaving marks along the way, and that was how he learned that he had been back at his starting point over and over again.
He even tried calling out for help loudly, but he got no response in the end.
There were many more attempts after...
“Why isn’t he dead yet, then?” Young Master Han could no longer stand it.
“It’s written over here. ‘Finding ways to survive in the wilds is a basic skill every Assassin possesses. I must persist. I’m sure I will find a way out of this heavy fog and complete my assignment. I, the Shadowmist Assassin, Andrew Su will not die in this fog!’” Brother Assist read out.
Brother Assist knitted his eyebrows after reading this. He reread this passage two more times before lifting his head to regard the two men. “What do you guys think?”
“Think about what?” the two questioned.
“Do you think this might be a clue?” Brother Assist reiterated.
“You’re saying that the assignment this Assassin hasn’t accomplished is now handed over to the players?” Gu Fei asked.
Brother Assist nodded.
“You should take it if that’s the case, then!” Young Master Han turned to Brother Assist. “Does your quest log show anything?”
Brother Assist shook his head.
“Who knows what the content of this quest could be if there are no prompts,” Young Master Han said.
“Brother Assist shook the diary in his hands. “There’s still more.”
“Continue reading, then,” Young Master Han took a swig of his liquor.
“Hey, it’s tiring!” Brother Assist complained. While he read aloud the first two paragraphs in his enthusiasm, why should he continue doing so for the rest of its content?! It was not his hobby, after all.
“Let’s read it together, then.” Gu Fei went over to Brother Assist’s side and squeezed in with him. The two lifted their heads over to Young Master Han, the questioning gazes they shot him were clearly asking if he wanted to join them.
“Just tell me your findings after you guys are done!” Young Master Han said evenly as he continued to imbibe his liquor. He felt that the two of them crouching over a little book like that was foolish enough as it stood. Adding himself would just make it beyond childish.
Thus, the two men proceeded to ignore Young Master Han. Brother Assist sucked in a deep breath and flipped over to the next page.
‘Day 47, or should be! I’ve been lost in this fog for 47 days. Birds and beasts, even the insects, have all become my source of sustenance. The water from the fog that condensed on the leaves is far more abundant than I first thought – possibly the only good thing about this heavy fog. I won’t give up. If I keep at a certain direction and walk straight ahead, I’m sure to get myself out of this quandary.’
“47 days…” Brother Assist quickly checked the page number. “This diary doesn’t appear to have daily entries.”
“Only a child in grade school will write a daily recount,” Gu Fei said.
“That’s true.” Brother Assist nodded in agreement.
“Let’s continue.” Gu Fei himself flipped over to the next page.
‘I thought that following along in a single direction will finally get me out of this place, but it appears that I am mistaken. This day, the place I went by seems to be very familiar. I don’t wish to admit it, but I know deep down that I’ve once rested at this place several days ago. The adjustments I’ve made to mask my trail are like a sign to me. Perhaps, deep in my heart, I have subconsciously made my markings. I wonder how many of such markings have I made along the way?’
“This right here!” Brother Assist was excited. “Markings! Could this be a sort of hint?”
“Is that considered as a hint for us to head over and find the trail that will ultimately lead us round and round?” Gu Fei asked in return.
“He should have left markings where he passed,” Brother Assist said, “and there might be further messages for us in those places he went by.”
“Don’t be in such a hurry!” Gu Fei pacified Brother Assist. “Even if we know that that’s a hint, how are we gonna know what sort of hint it is? We can’t possibly blindly search the entire city for it, what will we be looking for?”
“You’re right!” Brother Assist nodded repeatedly. “Quick; let's carry on!”
Thus, Gu Fei flipped another page.
‘I have no idea how many days it’s been. Really. The last time I made a record was on the 47th day, but so many days have gone by since then… I suddenly feel absent-minded. This is truly a terrifying thing; an Assassin that actually can’t recall what date it is. Forgetting a minute or even a second is already enough to result in death. This fog is slowly eroding me of my will; I can feel it.’
“Hmm… Why does it sound as if things have gotten serious?” Gu Fei asked.
“Next.” Brother Assist felt that there was nothing worth noting when the Shadowmist Assassin talked about his feelings; he did not really care either and could not wait to get to the next page.
‘I haven’t moved. I haven’t moved for the whole day. This is not the first time this has happened to me. Several times when I woke up before, I would find myself having forgotten which direction I originally came from, or which direction I should be heading next. That’s right. I know where I should be going; it’s where my feet are pointing toward. However, when I fall asleep, I still continue to shift my posture. Just like today, when I woke up, I could not immediately grasp my dagger when I reached out for it, and I found it at least two yards away from where I lay… Has my body begun to dull?’
“Why is it more of this?!” Brother Assist was a little annoyed as he anxiously flipped to the next page.
‘I see a tree. An oak tree with reddish orange leaves. I’ve seen this sort of leaves several times before when I was at Gru’s, and it’d always be in September… September… Have I been wandering in this fog for half a year? Is Gru still waiting for me to hand in my assignment? Can I still succeed? Perhaps, he should find someone new to do this assignment. instead.’
“AHHH! I got it!” Brother Assist shouted. “We should be looking for that NPC called Gru in a little log cabin in an oak forest. I’m sure we’ll get the quest once we show him this diary!”