Yú Kǎi met Chéng Yáng’s eyes and held his gaze for a long time before helplessly nodding his head.
“Yángzǐ, there should be a bit over ten thousand dollars on this card. It’s the money I’ve saved up since I was a boy so try to leave me a little.”
Compared to Yú Kǎi who had rich parents, the other two had less than a thousand dollars between them. Even so, they gave it to Cheng Yang without hesitation.
Chéng Yáng thanked them then left the dorm.
Niú Bīng smiled bitterly at the remaining two roommates.
“Do you think we should poke around and figure out what’s up?”
“Forget it.” Yú Kǎi said, “Chéng Yáng’s a reliable guy, we should trust him.”
They’d only been friends for a little over a year, but Chéng Yáng’s friends knew him well. He wouldn’t cheat them and if he did lose the money, he was stubborn enough to pay it back at any cost.
Chéng Yáng left the school and took a taxi to a lumber mill he’d found online. After a lengthy negotiation with the owner, he was able to place an order for 130,000 board feet of wood, which came out to about 300 Wood using the system’s measure of one cubic meter per unit.
The funds he had were used as a down payment with the promise that the remaining balance of $33,000 would be paid upon delivery, which Chéng Yáng had scheduled for 4:30 PM the next day at the foot of Phoenix Mountain. Although it was a tight deadline, the owner didn’t mind since the order volume was so large.
Chéng Yáng didn’t have the rest of the money, but that wouldn’t matter after the world ended. It was 1:00 PM, just twenty-eight hours before the apocalypse. Even though he knew it would happen, the calm atmosphere made it seem almost impossible that disaster was looming on the horizon.
That night, at 8:00 PM Chéng Yáng began cultivating. The method was simple, just use the Core Skill that every Class received and eventually you would level up. Despite its simplicity, process was agonizingly slow without Experience Fragments.
Meditation could only be used for four hours each day, but it reset at midnight, allowing Chéng Yáng to cultivate for eight hours straight.
Chéng Yáng’s experience bar was less than one percent full when he finally finished and went to bed. The sleep he got that night was the best he’d ever had.
Chéng Yáng arrived at the foot of Phoenix Mountain early the next morning. Although he’d hidden the statues yesterday, he was still a little worried that someone had discovered them. It wouldn’t be a huge problem, but he would prefer to have the area to himself today. Luckily, the summit was just as deserted as the day before.
With the time he had left, Chéng Yáng decided to continue his search for the Instance Dungeon.
During his search, Chéng Yáng found something odd: a stone disk a quarter meter in diameter and smooth to the touch. That alone would have been interesting since it clearly wasn’t naturally formed, but what got Chéng Yáng’s attention were the faint magical undulations it was emitting.
His Magic Damage Attribute was high enough to let him notice magical energy but far from being able to tell anything about the energy itself, so he had no idea what he’d found. There was nothing in his memories that was similar and it didn’t have a system pane. Even so, Chéng Yáng decided to take it with him since anything that emitted magical energy was bound to be useful.
Despite it weighing almost twenty pounds Chéng Yáng had no problem carrying it around for several hours while hiking. His strength was double that of the average human thanks to his Attack Damage attribute and as a Player his stamina was infinite.
By 3:00 PM he had given up. Although he hadn’t found the Instance Dungeon, Chéng Yáng hoped that the stone disk he’d found would be worth the time he’d spent searching.
While taking a trip to a nearby convenience store to buy some crackers, chocolate, and other calorie dense snacks, Chéng Yáng called Yú Kǎi and told him to bring the others out to Phoenix Mountain.
None of his roommates were from Xiāngyáng and hadn’t even heard of Phoenix Mountain. Even though Yú Kǎi demanded Chéng Yáng tell him what he was doing out in the country, all Chéng Yáng said was that it was important they come as soon as possible.
Now all Chéng Yáng had to do was wait. He savored every moment of that peaceful mountain atmosphere while he still had the chance. In just over an hour it would be gone forever.
A little before 4:00 PM, Yú Kǎi’s car pulled over on the side of the road. Before the car came to a complete stop, Liú Hào jumped out and ran over to Chéng Yáng.
“Yángzǐ, what the hell are you doing? Why do you look so grim?” Liú Hào sat down next to Chéng Yáng on a cliff overlooking the river. “Don’t tell me you called us out here to watch you jump into a river.”
Chéng Yáng rolled his eyes.
“Seriously? Why would I drive four to five kilometers to find a river to drown in? There’s a massive river downtown.”
“Fine. Just tell me what you’re doing out here then?”
“Don’t worry about that for now. Where’s Niú Bīng, wasn’t he with you?”
Yú Kǎi heard the question as he got to the cliff and let out a perverted chuckle.
“Turns out that scoundrel’s been hooking up with a pretty girl these last couple days. They’re on a shopping date right now but Niú Bīng promised to get a ride over when they finished. He’ll probably get here in like, half an hour?”
Chéng Yáng bit his lip. Half an hour would cut it close. In order to avoid a tragedy he sent a text to Niú Bīng telling him to get to Phoenix Mountain by 4:50 PM at the very latest.
Niú Bīng responded with confusion but Chéng Yáng didn’t reply. If he didn’t explain things in person there was no way he would be able to convince him.
Chéng Yáng took a deep breath, then turned to face his friends.
“Hàozǐ, do you remember the question I asked you yesterday in class?”
“Sorry I don’t, you said a lot of stuff yesterday. What question?”
“I asked you what you thought would happen if the world became a video game.”
“Yeah, yeah. I remember now. Is that what this is all about?”
“Yep, and it’s not just a hypothetical. In a little under an hour, the world is going to end and an earthquake will destroy civilization. When it does the world’ will become like a video game and all of humanity will have to play it or die.”
A few seconds later Yú Kǎi silently squatted down and put his hand on Chéng Yáng’s forehead.
“Huh, no fever. This is a really lame prank to pull Yángzǐ.”
Chéng Yáng swatted Yú Kǎi’s hand away.
“I knew you wouldn’t believe me which is why I didn’t tell you until now. But, once the world ends, you’ll have no choice but to believe me. The reason I told you now was so you could give your families a chance to get somewhere safe before it happens.”
The icy calm on Chéng Yáng’s face scared his friends. Chéng Yáng clearly believed the world would end and what if he was right?
“Yángzǐ you can’t be serious? There’s no way that could happen.” Liú Hào asked, his question seeming more like a plea.
“I’ve said what I needed to. I won’t blame you if you don’t believe me, I wouldn’t. I just wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I said nothing and let your families die. You don’t have to say anything to them, but I hope you won’t have to live with regrets.”
Yú Kǎi watched as Chéng Yáng went back to enjoying the scenery around them. Since when had Chéng Yáng enjoyed being outside?
“Okay… I believe you.” Yú Kǎi said, “If you’re wrong we’ve wasted our families time, but if its true…”
Yú Kǎi hadn’t said anything but the other two understood the implications perfectly.
Liú Hào was still skeptical, but Yú Kǎi’s reasoning was solid. If Chéng Yáng was right, he would regret not warning his family for the rest of his life.
“Tell them to get as close to the center of their cities as possible. In a park or plaza if there’s one nearby.” Chéng Yáng said. “We’ll go there to save them, someday. I promise.”
Yú Kǎi and Liú Hào pulled out their phones to call their families. Relieved that they had taken his advice Chéng Yáng took out his own phone to warn a few distant relatives. One after another, they hung up, then sat in silence.
“Yángzǐ, I staked my character on this. If you’re joke, my dad’s never gonna let me live down the time I got tricked into believing the world was going to end.”
Yú Kǎi sat next to the other two on the cliff and stared up at the sky.
“I really hope you’re just messing with us Yángzǐ.”
They still didn’t truly believe Chéng Yáng, but it was impossible not to feel anxious when he was taking things so seriously.
“Why are you worrying so much?” Chéng Yáng asked, “There’s only twenty minutes left. Just wait and see.”
Five minutes later a caravan of twenty trucks filled with wood stopped by the side of Phoenix Mountain.
Chéng Yáng checked the time: 4:45 PM. That was a little after the agreed time, but better late than never.
“You guys stay here, I ordered some lumber and need to go pick it up.” Chéng Yáng whispered to his friends
At that moment Yú Kǎi suddenly understood why Chéng Yáng had borrowed so much money. There was enough wood on those trucks to build several houses and while he didn’t know the price of wood, that much of anything would cost tens of thousands of dollars. There was no way this was a prank. The Chéng Yáng he knew would never spend that much on a joke. Either he’d gone completely insane, or the world was really going to end.