Her current situation was worse than she had imagined. Lin Sanjiu pursed her lips and stared at the Santa Claus standing at the top of the large monitor screen. She could hear the sound of her blood rushing in her ears, the sound of her staccato pulse.
Honeysuckle was right about this strange man.
For a long time now, she had not met any worthy adversaries. The victories she had time and time again gave Lin Sanjiu blind confidence in herself. Yet, today, she felt an unexplainable anger. She felt, once again, like a newcomer in an apocalyptic world.
The sound of the Mokugyo had been silent for a long time.
A few moments ago, most of the posthumans who had fulfilled the second requirement had already rushed out of the exit like gushing floodwaters. To avoid offending the Grim Reaper behind them, hundreds of people left without making any sound. The only sounds that could be heard were their rustling clothes. In the blink of an eye, all of them had disappeared from the building. After they left, waves of cold wind swept in through the large opened doors of Mokugyo Encyclopedic Forum.
When Lin Sanjiu felt a breeze on her face, she knew that the effect of her [Mask] had ended. The fragile-looking girl suddenly grew into a tall woman. When two pairs of large skeletal wings suddenly appeared, a few people standing around Lin Sanjiu were shocked.
Santa Claus gave her an indifferent glance; his expression remained unchanged.
"Santa, I... I'm a Growth-type…" an average-looking thin man started stammering as if he made a real effort to pluck up his courage, "You mentioned that Growth-types don't have to die… Can I leave, sir?"
Evidently, this was also the same thought that the others around him had.
Out of the hundreds of people, there were only seven people left. Apart from Lin Sanjiu, there were three other people who had the "Puppeteer's smelly stench". Right now, all three of them looked terrible. Their current complexions were like that of a decayed corpse which had been dug out from its grave. The remaining Growth-types stood far away, avoiding them like a plague.
Lin Sanjiu stood in the middle. Honeysuckle and Soulsqn were by her side. They were being watched by two "crickets".
When Lin Sanjiu had been discovered, Honeysuckle tried everything he could to try to escape from the [Female Slave Bondage Rope]. However, the rope just dug deeper into his skin. Before he could loosen them, the "crickets" already spoke, "Are you with her? Alright, go over there."
When she heard the words "with her", Soulsqn naturally walked out and stood beside Lin Sanjiu. Her actions certainly stunned the people around them. On the contrary, Honeysuckle, whose expression had turned ashen in an instant, only trudged begrudgingly toward Lin Sanjiu after Soulsqn shoved him. He stood behind Lin Sanjiu.
After they had gathered beneath Santa Claus, the weird and eccentric fat old man had not spoken a single word.
When the thin man's voice slowly became softer and softer and faded into nothing, Santa Claus stirred.
"Ho ho ho. Good kids don't have to die," he bent his fat, stout body forward. His curly white beard moved, revealing his mouth which was like a black gaping hole. He slowly lifted his beard a little, then his hook-like eyes narrowed into two slits. He seemed to be smiling as he continued, "But, I didn't say that you could leave."
The thin man looked at him blankly as if he had forgotten how to speak.
"Don't worry," the Santa Claus in a green suit jumped down from the monitor screen. He landed with a heavy thump which shook the ground. When he stood straight again, he was about a head taller than Lin Sanjiu. Soulsqn's current petite body couldn't even match the thickness of the old man's thigh.
"I just happen to need you Growth-types now… I think all of you won't reject Santa Claus' little request, right?"
This was followed by a grin showing the man's abyss-like black mouth. All the Growth-types present shuddered.
"According to his words, his first criteria was just a way of filtering the Growth-types in the crowd… The words he specifically chose was also worth noting. The way he said 'you Growth-types' seemed to imply that he himself wasn't a Growth-type. The way he worded 'just happen to need' made it sound as if what he had planned for them was going to be dangerous…" Lin Sanjiu thought to herself and couldn't help looking at Soulsqn. There were too many people right now; If Soulsqn were to use her illusions, her ability's area of effect wasn't large enough. Lin Sanjiu wondered if Soulsqn could still squeeze out some of her pheromones...
"Come, all you disobedient kids," Santa Claus turned to the posthumans who had "Puppeteer's smelly stench" and walked slowly toward them. When he walked past Lin Sanjiu, the smell of new clothes mixed with the stench of rotting flesh hit her.
"If you are honest about the time, place and circumstances involving your interaction with Puppeteer, I might forgive you and still give you your present."
The posthumans' eyes immediately lit up and exchanged glances. A girl took the first step forward. Though she had strange makeup, it did not hide her beauty.
"Santa," she said. Even though her voice was trembling, it was very pleasant-sounding. It was delicate and sweet. "I come from Heaven Underworld. I have always had a profound respect for you. This time, I really know nothing about Puppeteer! Two days ago, I was looking for a battle-slave—a battle doll. I wanted to exchange that for a visa from a Consular Officer. I asked many people and published many advertisements… Among those people, I think one of them might have been Puppeteer's subordinate… I really don't know anything else, sir."
Her words were quite valueless—she was either telling the truth or was very stupid.
Santa Claus did not make any comments and simply waited for her to finish her story. He nodded but did not smile. Somehow, his reserved temperament toward her seemed to suddenly encourage the two other people. One after the other, they quickly explained how was their involvement with Puppeteer. After Lin Sanjiu heard their explanation, she realized that they had the same experiences as the first beautiful girl. They were unlucky and accidentally came in contact with him or his subordinates.
After the three posthumans finished their accounts, Santa Claus frowned. His pinkish skin looked extremely healthy and well-maintained. When he frowned, only a few wrinkles appeared. He stared at the three people and crooked his head. He suddenly laughed, "Not bad. You guys are not bad. Ho ho."
The beautiful girl gulped.
"Hold on to your present well."
It was impossible to catch the full details of what happened next. Lin Sanjiu's vision blurred for a second. Shortly after, there was a loud boom. There was a blast of hot air. Lin Sanjiu felt countless warm things hitting her skin. As the people beside her started to scream "ahhhh" mindlessly, Lin Sanjiu wiped her face. When she looked up at the spot not far from her, she saw the beautiful girl's pair of legs. It was slowly falling to the ground.
Yes. It was just a pair of legs. Her upper body had disappeared. There was just nothing above her legs. Lin Sanjiu spotted the girl's pelvis bone in the mash of blood and flesh which remained. It took quite some time for Lin Sanjiu to realize that the upper bodies of the three posthumans had been blasted to bits. Globs of flesh and blood sprayed across the hall. They landed on Lin Sanjiu, the floor, the screen and even the walls which were far from them. Everything was covered with their remnants, some of this globs were still bubbling.
Lin Sanjiu didn't even see Santa Claus moving.
Regardless of what he did, if he used that move on her, she would just be a puddle of blood now.
Santa Claus wiped the blood on his chest and looked at his own palm. After he saw that blood spatter on his chest, he suddenly became high-spirited again, "Ho ho ho. It's red."
"His Santa costume is green…" Lin Sanjiu suddenly realized something. Santa Claus' costume should be... red.
When Santa Claus turned around, shreds of flesh were still hanging from his beard. Lin Sanjiu felt all her muscles tightening but she only felt a sense of despair. She didn't know what she could do. But Santa Claus walked passed her as if he didn't notice her. Instead, he walked to the other three Growth-types.
A woman started trembling as she finally called out a Rubik's cube.
"Don't… don't come over," her voice was parched. She could barely hold on to her Rubik's cube. "Who are you? Just let me go!"
From the looks of it, just like Lin Sanjiu, she must have just reached Twelve Worlds Centrum.
"You don't need to be nervous. Hoho," Santa Claus said slowly, he did not even look at the Rubik's cube once, "I already told all of you. Growth-types are good kids. Your presents are your own lives."
The woman's lips trembled as she looked at Santa Claus doubtfully. A Twelve Worlds Centrum resident was standing beside her. He pushed her away and looked at Santa Claus with an almost urgent face, "Santa, I know. Please let me make my wish, sir!"
"Make a wish? What wish?" Lin Sanjiu wanted to ask Honeysuckle about it despite her fear. Even if they couldn't make any sounds, she could at least mouth her question. However, she saw Honeysuckle lying limply on the ground. He wiped the tears off his face every now and then.
But, the next scenario answered her queries.
Santa Claus chuckled. His loud voice instantly echoed through the hall. He strolled over to a chair and sat down casually. He hit his own thigh and his eyes arched again, "So, you know the rules. Come here."
The medium-built young man certainly looked like a child when he sat on Santa Claus' though shivering with fear.
"Tell me, what present would you like?" Santa Claus eyes formed two arches.
"I-I want to keep my life, sir," the young man clenched his teeth, released them and clenched them again. After repeating that a few times, he finally managed to finish his sentence.
"Hoho! Would you listen to Santa Claus and be a good kid?"
"I— will. I will. Really…"
"That's great. Hoho! If that's the case, Santa Claus will make sure that you get your present." After Santa Claus said those words, the young man let out a sigh of relief and slid down from Santa Claus' knee. But, his face immediately turned sour again. A "cricket" came over and brought him to one side.
Seeing that someone finally managed to survive, the remaining two Growth-types finally followed what he did. The other woman who was not from Twelve Worlds Centrum sat on Santa Claus' knee. She looked like she was about to vomit. Despite everything, the woman managed to keep her life and was brought away by the "crickets".
Right now, only Lin Sanjiu's group and Santa Claus remained in the hall.