Baal’s gaze immediately turned cold.
Wang Xiaoming walked worriedly around Baal and said, “My cousin is just an ordinary human; he doesn’t know anything, please let him go.”
Baal squinted his eyes and laughed coldly, “An ordinary human would know about the Unseens?”
“Even ordinary humans watch movies. Even I know about the Unseens.” Baal ferociously grabbed Wang Xiaoming’s collar as he finished the sentence.
Up close, Wang Xiaoming discovered that Baal’s pupils were very light-colored, like amber. But the light shining from within those amber eyes was colder than the Antarctic ice.
“You also know about the Unseens?” Every word from Baal’s mouth sounded like a nail being hammered into a coffin.
Wang Xiaoming couldn’t do anything except watch his tiny reflection cower in Baal’s amber eyes. His heart almost thundered out of his chest. “K-know. That movie, I’ve seen it.”
“Movie?” Baal’s eyes darkened.
Wang Xiaoming hurriedly nodded and said, “It’s an American thriller… sci-fi movie.”
“Xiao… Xiaoming, who are you talking to?” Tony asked the question with an obvious quiver to his voice.
Wang Xiaoming didn’t dare turn around and could only stutter out, “Jus-just…”
How could he explain Baal’s existence? His cousin might not believe him even if he told the truth. This whole thing sounded so bizarre that if he hadn’t experienced it himself, he’d never believe that the Boss with antennae from the Dark game would transform himself into a ghostly violent dandy. But if he didn’t tell the truth, how could he explain his collar being yanked upward without an obvious explanation? It couldn’t very well be due to pimples on his neck bursting.
As he struggled with words, he felt Baal slowly let go of his collars and turn his attention back to Tony.
Wang Xiaoming nervously put himself in front of Tony. “My cousin is innocent.”
His back probably shook too hard because Tony started shivering along with him. “Is it an Unseen, a ghost, or an alien?”
Wang Xiaoming looked at Baal and, in that instant, didn’t know which category to put Baal in.
Baal stared at the two of them in silence, as if planning something.
But the quieter it was, the more uneasy Tony felt. He couldn’t help but urge, “Say something.”
“He’s…” Wang Xiaoming finally figured out Baal’s classification. “Boss.”
“Ah?” Tony rarely played games, so his understanding of the term “boss” was its dictionary definition. “Your boss?” Didn’t he say he found a job at a management training company? Why was the boss of such a company so abnormal?
“No, uh, the boss in the game,” Wang Xiaoming struggled to explain.
“…” The expression on Tony’s face went from shock to confusion to perplexion and then back to confusion. “Xiaoming.”
“Do you know, what one plus one is equal to?” Tony stared uncertainly at the back of Wang Xiaoming’s head.
Wang Xiaoming instinctively wanted to answer with “two,” but for his cousin to ask this question at this moment clearly meant that he wasn’t looking for such a simple answer. His cousin must be hinting at something. But what?
One plus one…
Ah, did his cousin mean to join forces and fight against Baal?
Wang Xiaoming looked at Baal, who gave off a murderous aura, and slowly gulped. He had loved watching anime ever since he was young. In anime, humans would always push through limitations during the critical moments and defeat those stronger than them. The Five Bronze Saints were an example1 Five Bronze Saints from the anime Saint Seiya (i.e. Ikki, Shiryu, Hyoga, Seiya, Shun). . But did he have such powers within him?
“Xiaoming?” Tony urged.
Wang Xiaoming’s Adam’s apple bobbed and cold sweat covered his forehead. The angel and devil, each representing courage and cowardice, argued as they perched on his shoulders. When Tony urged for the third time, the power of light in his chest finally radiated its warmth outward and chased the darkness to the corners.
He gathered up the courage and his gentle—but by no means fear-inspiring—face shone with determination. “One plus one equals infinite possibilities! Cousin, don’t worry, victory shall be ours! Baal, today I…”
“Definitely crazy.” Wang Xiaoming’s ears caught Tony’s almost inaudible murmur and that stopped his declaration of war dead in its tracks.
If he wasn’t crazy, how could he not know what one plus one equaled?
Tony struggled and was sure that the binding on his body really existed. His time at Noah’s Ark made him realize that anything was possible in this world. So the bonds on him could truly have come from the superpowers unleashed by Wang Xiaoming’s fantasies?
He felt both worry and fear when he reached this conclusion.
He assumed his employment at Noah’s Ark made him strong enough to face anything. Only now did he realize that it was all wishful thinking.
Dead silence encompassed the tiny space between the ceiling and the floor as the three people stayed quiet.
Wang Xiaoming stared unblinkingly at Baal.
Baal smiled evilly, the sharp corners of his mouth piercing Wang Xiaoming’s heart like needles.
“Wang Xiaoming.” His voice was magnetic and his pronunciation flawless. Without looking at his face, people wouldn’t guess that he wasn’t born and raised in China.
But no matter how pleasant the voice sounded, to Wang Xiaoming it was no different than a curse urging him toward his death. All he wanted to know right now was if Baal, who was a boss in the game, beat him to death in real life, would he get to enjoy the privilege of being regenerated at a respawn point like game protagonists did?
… Of course, it probably wasn’t going to happen.
“I, I was just…” Wang Xiaoming racked his brain for an explanation.
“Hmm?” In a rare bout of patience, Baal waited for Wang Xiaoming to explain.
If Wang Xiaoming had seen Tom and Jerry, he would have known that after the cat caught the mouse, the cat wouldn’t eat the mouse immediately. Instead, it’d find a pot, light a fire, add in some seasoning, and then it’d cook the mouse slowly so that it enjoyed the thrill of watching the mouse struggle to stay alive in the pot.
Wang Xiaoming had seen Tom and Jerry but because there was a galaxy’s worth of difference between Tom’s and Baal’s looks, he didn’t think that far in this short—but critical—moment. All he could think about was—
“Don’t hit my head.” He protected his head and squatted on the ground.
Baal hadn’t planned on hitting him but his fists inexplicably itched when he saw Wang Xiaoming being spineless.
Just as he was about to strike out with his fast, Tony opened his mouth. He worked hard at being saintly and said in a compassionate tone, “Xiaoming, you have to be calm and be strong. Even if everything looks desperate now, hope is always among us. Please don’t let a temporary setback make you give up on life.”
Was that true?
Wang Xiaoming slowly lowered his hands.
Tony continued, “Insanity is just temporary. If there is light in your heart, you can definitely recover!”
Wang Xiaoming hugged his head again; this time, it was to cover up his ears.
“Your cousin seems to think that you’ve gone insane.” Baal put his hand down.
And whose fault was that?!
Wang Xiaoming accused him with tear-filled eyes.
“In the human world, you’d have to go to a mental institution if someone thinks you’re crazy, right?” Baal seemed to have discovered something interesting since the corners of his lips kept twitching upward.
“What are you planning?”
“Nothing. I just think that if you can’t finish what I’m telling you to do, then a mental institution doesn’t seem too bad.”
Wang Xiaoming said quietly, “But, you can’t be more than five meters away from me, right? If I land in a mental institution, don’t you also have to go too?”
Baal’s smile disappeared like shadows vanished when night fell.
“Wang Xiaoming.” He looked down at Wang Xiaoming. “Let’s make a deal.”
Wang Xiaoming looked up at him like a naive youth being tempted by the devil.
“If you can accomplish two tasks, I’ll fulfill three of your wishes.”
His wish was for Baal to stop appearing. Wang Xiaoming asked with a low voice, “What two tasks?”
“One, I want to know where Shi Feixia is,” Baal said. “For this, you can start by asking your cousin.”
Wang Xiaoming stated, “But cousin said he doesn’t know.”
“Believe me, he knows.” Baal’s eyes glinted with the determination to be victorious.
“The second thing: I need you to fall completely in love with someone.”
Wang Xiaoming explained resignedly, “But love is not something I can command at will.”
“Then how did you fall in love with Chang Haitao before?”
“I don’t know.” Wang Xiaoming didn’t know how to describe his feelings when he thought back to those days he spent living with Chang Haitao. “I don’t know when I started feeling like I couldn’t be without him.”
Baal looked at him in silence for a long time and finally said, “So, you’re pleading for more time?”
“I just think love-at-first-sight is not likely,” Wang Xiaoming answered carefully.
“Maybe you just haven’t found someone you could fall in love with at first sight.” Baal stroked his chin. Though he didn’t have any experience with romance, he did feel like the humans were lacking when he compared them to all those angels in Heaven and Hell.
Tony felt really uncomfortable dangling in midair. “Xiaoming, put me down first. We can talk it out. And we can talk again about you coming to work at the hotel.”
Wang Xiaoming looked back at Tony’s fear-filled eyes and said helplessly to Baal, “But my cousin…”
“Relax, I’ll take care of it.” Baal smiled confidently.
“You know magic to erase memories?” Wang Xiaoming asked in pleasant surprise.
“… You’re not going to murder him, are you?” He stared at Baal with wild eyes.
“He’s worth more alive. I’m just going to tell him the truth.”
“But he doesn’t believe it.” Wang Xiaoming’s mood crashed down. If his cousin told his mother that Wang Xiaoming was crazy, then he’d really be driven insane.
Baal confidently said, “Tell him that I’m from the Unseen.”
Wang Xiaoming slowly stood up and passed along the message hesitantly, “Uh, the boss I’m talking about is an Unseen.”
“Because of an accident, I’ve been stuck in the mortal realm.” Calculation shone in Baal’s eyes. “I need to find Noah’s Ark and go back to the Unseen.”
Wang Xiaoming conveyed the message word-for-word.
Tony’s expression turned from suspicion to disbelief. Even if Wang Xiaoming was imaginative and could come up with something like the Unseen, he had no way of knowing the secret of Noah’s Ark.
Wang Xiaoming continued listening to Baal and then repeated the words, “He wants to find Hughes.2 Hughes, an Unseen that first appeared in Spirit Hotel. Do you know if Hughes has any friends in the mortal realm?”
- 1Five Bronze Saints from the anime Saint Seiya (i.e. Ikki, Shiryu, Hyoga, Seiya, Shun).
- 2Hughes, an Unseen that first appeared in Spirit Hotel.