Chéng Yáng also heard that familiar voice, but he paid it no mind.
Instead he curiously surveyed the now flattened Phoenix Mountain. Nearly a square kilometer of trees had disappeared centered around what used to be the summit. Not even the holes where the roots would have been remained.
Just a little over a hundred meters away the Territory Altar and surrounding statues had been completely unearthed. Seeing that both the altar and statues were exactly the same as his memories, Chéng Yáng smiled.
“Come with me!” Chéng Yáng gleefully shouted as he rushed towards the statues.
It wasn’t until Chéng Yáng was only a few meters from the Territory Altar that Yú Kǎi and Liú Hào followed him, long enough that Lǐ Wànshān had a head start.
Seeing Chéng Yáng’s confidence inspired Lǐ Wànshān, and in turn his workers, to chase after Chéng Yáng.
As soon as Chéng Yáng arrived at the Territory Altar he pulled up the system pane and bought as many Wall Segments as a Low-Grade Village was allowed.
At that moment, several of the transport trucks by the road dissolved along with their cargo. As they did a wall appeared around the Territory Altar section by section, quickly completing a loop. When the wall passed over the river it added a wooden grate underneath allowing the it to flow through the territory.
Seeing this the others were even more shocked than when Phoenix Mountain disappeared. They had never seen something so fantastical before.
“Mr. Chéng, what the hell is going on?”
Lǐ Wànshān was older and more stable than the others so he was the first to recover from his shock.
“Right now I’m short on time and can’t give you a thorough explanation.” Chéng Yáng replied, “For now lets just say the earthquake from before affected the entire world and destroyed human civilization. In addition, it caused our world to become a video game. You can think of it as advanced VR if that helps. Soon monsters will start spawning and unless you use one of these statues to perform a Class Change Ceremony and become a Player, you’ll be helpless to fight back when they attack you and unlike in a game, when you die you won’t respawn.”
Chéng Yáng then fired a Magic Missile into the ground to demonstrate, throwing dirt into the air.
This shocked Lǐ Wànshān who was a veteran gamer. He simply couldn’t believe Chéng Yáng’s words, they were absurd! Even so, there was no scientific explanation for the things he’d seen, so Lǐ Wànshān was forced to accept it as the truth.
“Yángzǐ, does that mean I can become a Player?” Liú Hào excitedly interjected.
“Naturally, but you’ll need to wait a bit. I need to hunt monsters to pay for the Class Change Ceremony but before I can do that, I need to go pick up Niú Bīng.”
Lǐ Wànshān hesitated for a moment before stepping in front of Chéng Yáng’s path. He wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass him by.
“Mr. Chéng,” He said respectfully, “Would it be possible to allow me and my employee’s to become Players as well?”
Chéng Yáng smirked in his heart. As expected, he’d found his first group of followers.
“I’ll allow it,” Chéng Yáng announced to the anxious men, “But understand one thing. This is my Settlement. Those are my Class Statues. If you want to use them you need to pledge your loyalty to me. I won’t ask anything terrible of you but my rules must be obeyed.”
Perhaps it was his calm attitude, but there was something about Chéng Yáng that made those present submit to him. Thus, when they heard this fantastical domain belonged to him, they naturally accepted it.
They didn’t know it yet but even if they tried to sneakily use the Class Statues they wouldn’t be able to since they didn’t have Chéng Yáng’s permission. This was one of the tools given to Lord’s to control others.
“Yángzǐ, what should we do now? Should we follow you to rescue Niú Bīng?” Liú Hào asked, his dark and gloomy face revealing how aimless he felt.
It wasn’t just Liú Hào, the others seemed distressed as well. The day’s events had greatly unsettled them especially after hearing that the event was global.
The world they knew was gone, so what would they do now?
“Stay here for now, the walls will keep you safe.” Chéng Yáng shot down his friend, “I’ve already become a Player so I have the power to escort Niú Bīng here but until you get become one you’ll only be a burden. In another seven or eight minutes monsters will start to spawn and I need to get to Niú Bīng before they do. He should have been close when the earthquake hit, so I’ll be able to get to him in time.”
Chéng Yáng moved to leave the Settlement, going to the northern gate and using his authority as the Lord to open it as he sprinted past. Once he left the gate automatically shut again. As the Lord of Phoenix Village Chéng Yáng was in complete control of every building within the Settlement.
Chéng Yáng followed the road north praying that Niú Bīng would be alright.
He ran more than twice as fast as a normal person in a dead sprint, but unlike humans, Players could maintain their top speed indefinitely. In just three minutes he had traveled over two kilometers, completely blowing away every previous speed record from before the apocalypse.
At this point he saw a group of three people next to an overturned taxi, and one of them was Niú Bīng!
“Yángzǐ! What are you doing here? Are you okay?What about the others? Where were you during the earthquake?”
Niú Bīng rattled off concerns when he saw that Chéng Yáng was running towards him.
“Come with me if you want to live. I don’t have time to explain but its dangerous to be out in the open like this.” Chéng Yáng said, grabbed Niú Bīng ‘s hand, dragging him away.
“Wait! I can’t leave Páng Shān!” Niú Bīng shouted, struggling to break Chéng Yáng’s grip.
Chéng Yáng looked over at the other two people and saw a pretty girl about his age. Maybe this was the girlfriend that Yú Kǎi had mentioned?
“She can come but she needs to keep up.” Chéng Yáng didn’t particularly care if she lived or died, but he wouldn’t intentionally abandon someone his friend cared about.
“Let’s go with him Páng Shān,” Niú Bīng said, seeing that his girlfriend was about to argue with Chéng Yáng, “My friend wouldn’t lie about a life or death matter.”
For a while now Niú Bīng had had an ominous feeling that the earthquake hadn’t been so simple, so when Chéng Yáng said there was danger, he wholeheartedly believed him.
At this point Chéng Yáng rushed towards Phoenix Village followed by Niú Bīng and Páng Shān. Of course, Chéng Yáng had significantly reduced his speed so they could keep up.
The taxi driver didn’t know any of them but hearing the urgency in Chéng Yáng’s voice he couldn’t help but fear for his life. People are social creatures and in the absence of certainty they would follow the crowd. Seeing that everyone else was running the taxi driver followed after them without thinking. Even if it wasn’t a conscious choice, it was a wise decision.
A chilly breeze whistled through the ruins of Xiāngyáng.
With the immediate danger of the earthquake gone, those that had survived began to search for their loved ones.
At this point even those with only half a brain had realized that it hadn’t been a normal earthquake since only a cosmic event like a solar flare would be able to disable so many electronics at once. Even so no one knew what to do next.
Moreover, there was a lot of tension after the announcement made by the Gods’ messenger. No one knew what it meant but since everyone had heard it, there must have been something to it.
The messenger had said humanity was being given a chance to evolve, but what did that mean? Would they have to fight each other? If so wouldn’t martial artists rule the world?
Since no one knew what the message had meant they focused more on the immediate future. Until the government had stabilized enough to help them, they would be on their own.
As most people suspected, the Xiāngyáng municipal government was currently struggling to muster a response. Without electronics their ability to gather and control others was extremely limited. Luckily the paramilitary police had assembled for a training drill earlier that day and were ready to deploy. Starting with the area surrounding the city hall, the paramilitary police did their best to stabilize the city.
The local People’s Liberation Army branch was also hard at work scouting the city. Military personnel were quite paranoid and would never consider an event like this to be so simple and benign. To them only one part of the Gods’ message mattered: Evolution!
Evolution meant fighting and killing, but what did they need to fight? What would this evolution look like? Why even evolve at all? The government desperately wanted the answers to these questions, and it wasn’t just them! Ambitious groups around the world were searching for the key to evolution.