TGL Volume 5, Chapter 20 (1)

“Wait, why are you going in?” 

Something hot pressed against my back and head. It was Mrs. Feathers. She was looking over me to stare at my game disc. Whenever I play my game, every adult wants to watch. I don’t know why. Is it that interesting? Mm, if it’s fun to play, then it must be fun to watch too. 

“If you wait a bit, the two groups will weaken each other for you, and you’ll be able to stake your claim on everything if you’re at full health while they’re dying.” Mrs. Feathers’ feathers brushed against me as she took a seat by my side. “Child, if you don’t play a little smarter, you’ll never beat the game.” 

Mrs. Feathers talks like she knows everything, but I know that’s not true. She can’t beat the game either, so why should I listen to her? When I listen to people and play how they want me to play, I don’t win. Um, I might not win on my own either, but Auntie Ilya says if I want to win, I have to trust my gut, not other people. 

“Stop, stop! You and your followers will get injured!” 

The two groups were on the verge of breaking out into a life-or-death battle, but you stepped in before first blood could be drawn. The two leaders turn to look at you. Both of them have suspicion planted in their eyes along with tiny hints of bloodlust. You could’ve chosen to let them fight each other and reap the rewards after their battle, but instead, you’ve made yourself a target. What do you do? 

“I say, ‘Fellow Cultivator Creaky Bones, let’s work together to defeat the villainous Red Lotus. He trapped and killed a group of my fellow sect members earlier! I don’t want any of the treasures in this cave; all I want is vengeance for my sect juniors!’” 

“Wait,” Mrs. Feathers said. “Isn’t this your first time meeting either of these groups? How do you know the names of their leaders?” 

“I bought the dragon-list scroll from an enthusiastic salesperson outside the secret ground before it started. It has a list of everyone strong on it with a short summary of their abilities.” 

Mrs. Feathers tilted her head. “Isn’t that cheating?” 

Why is it cheating? “If I can do it, then it isn’t cheating. Cheating is modifying the game disc’s formation to give myself superpowers.” 

“You have a point,” Mrs. Feathers said and stroked her face with the tips of her feathers. I think she was trying to copy the heavenly doctor. He strokes his beard a lot. Um? Why did I go to the doctor? I went into Big Sis Mirta’s garden to ask her a question about elves, and she was so startled by me that she tripped and fell and had her legs eaten by a plant. So I went to the doctor to get her a bandage, but she got really mad at me when I brought it back to her for some reason. “But you’ve never met the Red Lotus. When did he kill your followers?” 

“He killed them the last time I played.” 

“But this version of him doesn’t know that.” 

“But I do?” I don’t know what Mrs. Feathers is trying to tell me. Auntie Ilya says I’m good at reading the things that aren’t said, but I don’t know what Mrs. Feathers is trying to say by not saying. 

“I’ll trust you this one time,” Cultivator Creaky Bones says. He attacks Red Lotus with a standard flying sword pierce technique. 

“I attack Red Lotus with my bow and use Illusionary Space to shift the positions of the sword, my arrow, and their shadows. Then, I yell for everyone to attack while using my qi to signal who to target. I tell them to aim for the weakest person and use Illusionary Space to make it seem like their attacks are going to Creaky Bones.” 

“You’re using Illusionary Space already?” Mrs. Feathers asked, her eyes widening at the jade disc. “Why would you do that? It’s one of your strongest skills! No one uses their strongest techniques at the beginning of a fight.” 

Red Lotus is fooled for a brief moment, but that moment was enough to draw out a mistake. Seeing an opening, Creaky Bones draws a saber and dashes in, capitalizing on Red Lotus’ mistake. He slashes down, leaving his back completely open to you. Red Lotus chooses to attack rather than block because of his caution towards your Illusionary Space. By attacking Creaky Bones, Red Lotus hopes to force Creaky Bones back to gain some space for himself. At that moment, the illusionary attacks you directed towards Creaky Bones fly over, and he immediately retreats while glaring at you in response. Before he can say anything, someone screams, and your illusion disperses, revealing a mangled corpse on Red Lotus’ side. 

“I tell Creaky Bones I’m sorry. To fool the enemy, I had to fool my ally first. Then, I tell my underlings to slowly retreat while attacking.” 

Creaky Bones stares at you for a bit. Usually, there’s no color on his face, but for a very brief moment, he looks alive. He nods and waves his sword, signaling for his people to attack Red Lotus’ group. 

“I focus on defense and preventing Red Lotus’ group members from escaping. I tell my sect members to coordinate with Creaky Bones’.” 

Your hastily formed alliance works together and devastates Red Lotus’ group. After the fourth member falls in combat, Red Lotus orders a retreat. 

“I have everyone fall back together and open a path for him to leave. Of course, we’re still attacking him as he flees.” 

Red Lotus curses you as he guides his group away. Creaky Bones comes beside you with his weapons stowed. It's clear he's looking to make a friend.

“Oh, good,” Mrs. Feathers said and patted her chest. “I was afraid Ilya corrupted you. It’s nice to see you’re choosing to believe in the good of others.” 

Believing in the good of others? That’s not what I’m doing; it’s just easier to travel in a bigger group. There’re more people I can use as shields.

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