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    Translated by boilpoil
    Edited by boilpoil


     

    … A Tower resident.

    The phrase means a bit more to Mu Jiashi now. Beyond an artificial intelligence, Beyond a string of data anymore.

    Before he came to this Nightmare, he also visited Fei and Wu Jian. They agreed to come to this Nightmare together.

    And before they agreed to come together, they had a meeting, during which Fei and Wu Jian told him about their experience in that Nightmare with the burning city and the elevator. The truth behind the Nightmare and the True End they had completely upended Mu Jiashi’s own understanding.

    He had no idea the survivors in that building were acting. That was information he never came to learn. When he challenged the Nightmare, all he did was take the little girl to her mother──the woman on the 16th floor──and then the Server congratulated him for reaching a True End.

    Fei had a bitter smile when she listened to him, and said, “I see. What you achieved, was the ending of the ‘game.’”

    In the Nightmare, the madmen beneath the 9th floor had orchestrated this huge, hyper-realistic, but completely fictitious and plot-driven ‘game world’ with the building as its grounds. Reaching the end of that ‘game,’ i.e., reuniting the little girl with her mother, seemed to have been one way to reach the Ending of the Nightmare.

    Yet, ironically, that True End is fake.

    Is a false truth at all meaningful?

    Mu Jiashi furrowed his brows at the realisation.

    Though it was also meaningless to dwell on the implications of the authenticity of the Endings. What Fei and Wu Jian told him was far more damning.

    “Acting…” murmured Mu Jiashi, “could that mean…”

    Fei stopped him, “don’t. Don’t say it.”

    Mu Jiashi looked at her.

    Fei bit her lips, and her body was trembling when she said, “if NE knew what we were up to…”

    Mu Jiashi knew the duo’s personality very well, and so kept quiet as they wanted. The three of them looked at each other in silence, nonplussed.

    So in the end, Mu Jiashi changed the topic and told them about Su Enya, including the fact that he had already been to this Nightmare once on the higher floor.

    That was when he suddenly realised, regarding the ‘truth,’ he knew the Apocalypse, and Fei and Wu Jian knew about the Tower residents.

    But… was that all?

    So why were they in the Tower? Why were they prisoners of this building in the fog… Nobody knows. They were closer to the truth, they knew a little, but they did not know it all.

    In that meeting, they were stuck with what all the information could have meant. Then they made plans to enter this Nightmare together.

    This… Nightmare, that has been quite popular on the bottom floor lately.

    The rumours circulating about the Missiontakers say that, apparently, this Nightmare is here on the bottom floor for the first time, but what’s weird is the Tower resident – this Nightmare’s owner, claiming to have descended from a higher floor.

    That owner blabbered about how the Apocalypse was coming and they, all of them, were going to die.

    Quite the effectively taunting intimidation that was, and it got the Missiontakers of the bottom floor of the Tower listening.

    Ah, the Apocalypse? The Apocalypse??? Woah, that could be the Nightmare they need!

    Recently, any Nightmare where a theme of ‘Apocalypse’ seem to have the label ‘Ultimate Nightmare’ attached to it.

    The Missiontakers seem to have reached some consensus that the game ‘Escape’ has a background setting where some Apocalypse decimated life and the survivors had to live on in this tall building. While they, the outsiders, the Missiontakers, were the ones here to resolve this Apocalypse situation, or at least to work out what the Apocalypse was.

    The survivors, that is, the Tower residents, had Nightmares based on their own experiences in this Apocalypse; the outsiders learn of the Apocalypse through them and then one way or another free these Tower residents from the clutches of the Apocalypse and the Tower.

    And to them, the ‘Ultimate Nightmare’s existence is the key to resolving this Apocalypse.

    By resolving this Ultimate Nightmare, the Missiontakers will have finished the game, and logically, they will then be booted out of this nightmarish game.

    Many of the Missiontakers now share this sentiment, and so they are chasing incessantly after any Nightmares featuring stuff about the ‘Apocalypse,’ to reach True Ends in there. If the Nightmare happened to be the ‘Ultimate Nightmare,’ then great, they can leave the Tower altogether.

    Well, and there are of course some people who think a layer deeper.

    If this ‘Apocalypse’ exists, then why couldn’t it have been on them, the Missiontakers, instead of the Tower residents?

    It could be that the Earth went through something apocalyptic──whatever that means──that they ended up in the Tower like so. The backstory of the game is actually an analogy for them.

    They were the ones who truly lost their home, their own planet, and were here as refugees, as survivors, in this dark, decrepit Tower.

    Both layers of interpretations have gained converts among the Missiontakers.

    While the third layer of interpretation is probably the most obscure one here, unknown to many of the Missiontakers of the lower floors, even.

    It asks──why can’t the Tower residents also be human? Why couldn’t the Tower residents and them, the outsiders, the Missiontakers, be facing the same dilemma?

    This theory and some more information are more in circulation on the higher floors, completely unbeknownst to the Missiontakers of the bottom floor.

    The source, happens to be the utility cards Fei sent upwards.

    She made three copies of the information as a safety measure in accordance with traditional protocols of her organisation, to ensure the information will be able to reach the hands of the appropriate person in full.

    Yet this time, only two utility cards have been successfully recovered up the floors. One was lost.

    The only way they could move these tampered utility cards is to have subordinate Missiontakers head to Nightmares their organisation were familiar enough about and go up via True Ends. It’s a downright primitive means of communication, but there was no other way to do it.

    Yet, in a Nightmare, one subordinate Missiontaker must have met a Carddealer (or possibly, everyone is Carddealing at this point), and so had the tampered utility card stolen while completely remaining unaware.

    The Carddealer then probably went to some other Nightmare and realised they couldn’t use the card and tore it up in a rage or, somehow or another, discovered the secret hidden within.

    That Carddealer, possibly plus all the other Missiontakers in their vicinity and close acquaintance, would have learnt the news──there is something wrong with the Tower residents.

    Actually, the information Fei wrote down was brief and even terse, but precise enough – “Tower residents/Acting/Human Players?”

    So, starting from then, some Missiontakers started paying renewed attention to Tower residents.

    Those Tower residents who reached the higher floors, while some did go insane after all, but more often than not are capable enough remaining clearheaded.

    For example, the Actor who Xü Beijin knew quite well for some time, named Wu Shen. He almost seized the opportunity and took advantage as soon as he noticed.

    When one Missiontaker asked him directly whether he is a human Acting as some other role with some predetermined plot, he answered, “why would you think I’m not?” Then he says, “you have eyes and so do I; you have a nose and so do I; you have a mouth and so do I; what makes you think I’m different from you?”

    The Missiontaker was astonished, and spread the news out when he was out.

    Soon enough, the news spread through the upper floor like wildfire.

    The upheaval facing Missiontaker society was immense.


    Read only at Travis Translations


     


    boilpoil's notes:

    Ah, so Fei and Wu Jian’s secret little realisation was busted. It’s a mystery why NE didn’t seem to have done anything, but keep reading on for some more strange developments.

    boilpoil

    This should go without saying, but considering the nature of this novel, please think twice before posting a comment on any chapter in order to avoid spoiling any possible future plot points or twists from later chapters.

    Travis Translation

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