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    Chapter 149: Station 24: Lava

    Ming Yiyang didn't notice this small detail. He gazed at the snowflakes descending from the heavens, a faint smile tugging at his lips.

    "Unlike you, I'm not really persistent. As long as things don't come looking for me, whether or not they get done... it doesn't matter to me."

    He looked up at the snowflakes falling from the sky. His silver eyelashes seemed to be melting amidst the vapor.

    "That's why, until now, I've accomplished nothing."

    Right at that moment, the snowflakes that had fallen into the hot spring began to freeze.

    They formed thin ice sheets in the water, fragile like shattered crystals when picked up.

    Yan Qiling's slender fingers plucked up the icy sliver.

    The temperature, similar to his own, seeped into his skin. Attempting to rise, he realized that his legs were somehow frozen in place by the expanding ice!

    Yes, ice—growing like vines within the hot spring, anchoring his feet beneath the surface!

    Not only that, the water temperature began to rise abruptly!

    The scene in the hot spring was astonishing.

    A thin layer of ice was visibly forming on the surface, yet beneath it, the water was heating up at an alarming rate, nearing the boiling point in mere moments!

    The ice spread across the surface at a visible pace!

    The man's face was as cold as frost, and as the crimson runes flashed, the surrounding ice shattered instantly, tumbling into floating chunks amidst the vibrations!

    Ming Yiyang slashed through the ice entangling underwater, his scarlet blood spreading through the hot spring.

    The water temperature seemed like a shark sensing blood, turning into a high-temperature vapor the moment they climbed out. A large amount of steam surged abnormally, resembling a volcano about to erupt, scorching everything around it with intense heat.

    Yan Qiling crouched down to examine the young man's wounded spot – an ice shard had scraped against his calf during its growth. Although the bleeding was severe, it hadn't injured the inner tissues.

    With two fingers, he traced the air, seemingly plucking a string of translucent, sticky crimson from nowhere.

    He gently pressed this cold, semi-gelatinous red substance onto the wound.

    The originally still bleeding wounds healed with each breath, as if they had never been injured in the first place.

    Ming Yiyang surmised that this item must be the same medicine Yan Qiling had used on him before, a miraculous ointment that accelerated wound healing and could potentially revive Si Shuhao from the brink of death, courtesy of Wuling's supernatural powers.

    He was curious to inquire about what this object actually was, but clearly, now was not the appropriate moment.

    For both of them had thoughts drifting toward Oliver, who had claimed he was going to take a bath!

    Donning their yukatas, they entered the corridor, intending to head straight for Guan Zhiyi's room. Even from a distance, they could see that his door was wide open.

    Everyone in the car had gathered in the front, peering toward the bedroom.

    ...Something significant was undoubtedly amiss.

    Their arrival caught Chizuru's attention.

    The woman had let down her hair, which had previously been styled in a very matronly updo; now, her long tresses cascaded softly over her shoulders, exuding a feminine charm.

    At that moment, her slender brows were knitted together, and her lips were pressed tightly together, holding back a silent worry.

    Upon discovering Ming Yiyang's arrival, her first instinct was not to speak but to tug on Tojo Shuang, who was standing beside her.

    Tojo Shuang had also shed his suit and was only clad in a white shirt, revealing that he too had come hurriedly.

    He turned around, his face lighting up when he saw Ming Yiyang. However, noticing that the hair of both newcomers was still dripping with water, he couldn't help but inquire,

    "Did you... also bathe in the hot spring?"

    "There was something amiss with the hot spring. We didn't stay for long," Yan Qiling dismissed the irrelevant question and immediately explained the situation before asking,

    "Why is everyone here?"

    Tojo Shuang's expression became somewhat subtle as he said,

    "Oliver is missing."

    Chi Zhetouyue, upon hearing Tojo Shuang speak, also chimed in, albeit with a hesitant tone:

    "Oliver was taking a hot spring bath while Guan Zhiyi was out fetching clothes. When Guan Zhiyi returned, he found Oliver missing, so he knocked on everyone's doors, asking for help in finding him. We also knocked on your door earlier, but there was no response... The door wouldn't budge."

    Seeing the perplexed looks on both men's faces, Tojo Shuang, for some reason, felt a sigh of relief:

    "You... didn't hear anything?"

    "It's possible that the hot spring itself was a trap, isolating one from the outside world once ensnared. Just now, when we were halfway through our soak, the surface of the pool started to freeze, while the water beneath began to boil."

    Yan Qiling's expression remained calm:

    "We managed to escape in time and weren't injured."

    Tojo Shuang's face darkened with concern:

    "From the looks of it, Oliver is in danger. We've practically turned the inn upside down, but still haven't found him."

    Koichi Tsukikage spoke softly:

    "Didn't Mr. Little Li just say that he believed Oliver hadn't left? His bath slippers are still by the edge of the pool, as if they haven't been moved. Moreover, the toes of the slippers are still facing the direction of the hot spring, scattered there quite casually."

    Hearing the voices, Sanwa Haruka emerged from the inner room, making space for Ming Yiyang and Yan Qiling to enter the bedroom.

    The side of the bedroom facing the hot spring was wide open, revealing Little Li Qinghe and Guan Zhiyi by the water's edge, attempting to scoop something out of the shallow pool with makeshift nets made from spare yukatas. Their efforts were futile.

    Their actions appeared comical as they cautiously fished around in the waist-high, crystal-clear waters – a pointless endeavor.

    However, both Ming Yiyang and Yan Qiling, who had just experienced the freezing and subsequent heating of the hot spring, knew the terrifying trap lurking beneath.

    The arrival of the two brought joyful expressions to Little Li Qinghe and Guan Zhiyi's faces.

    To them, the "big shot" Ming Yiyang would surely provide constructive suggestions.

    But it was not the young man from ten worlds who spoke first; instead, it was the handsome man with his hands in his yukata, his expression indifferent:

    "Have you heard of Yellowstone National Park?"

    Guan Zhiyi nodded:

    "Of course. It boasts over 10,000 hot springs and more than 300 geysers. These thermal features collectively create its many wonders."

    Yan Qiling was content with the explanation and turned his gaze toward the clear hot spring. His peach blossom eyes held a merciless indifference as he said,

    "In Yellowstone National Park, those high-temperature pools often appear harmless. But springs containing concentrated sulfuric acid at such temperatures can dissolve human muscle tissue completely within a single night."

    "Not just muscle tissue—sometimes, not even bones can be retrieved from those who fall in."

    Everyone's expressions turned grave.

    Guan Zhiyi, in particular, understood the implications all too well:

    "You mean… Oliver is already…?"

    "Just now, we encountered something strange in the hot spring as well. The surface froze over, and so did the ground beneath our feet. We were almost immobilized after being frozen."

    Ming Yiyang crossed his arms, adopting an open-minded stance:

    "However, despite the freezing of the hot spring, the temperature beneath the ice was rising rapidly."

    Tojo Shuang wore an expression of disbelief.

    "How is that possible?"

    "In the Realm of Chaos, anything can occur. In short, if we hadn't run fast enough, we would've vanished in that hot spring too."

    At this point, Little Li Qinghe also gave up on the retrieval attempt.

    He looked at the silver-haired, dark-eyed young man and said with a subtle tone,

    "Are you suggesting... that Oliver was frozen by an ice cube in the hot spring, and then as the water temperature rose, he melted away?"

    His wife, Hanakaze Sanraku, quickly sensed the oddity in the situation:

    "So he should have let out a scream, right? No one could remain silent in that kind of scenario."

    Yan Qiling maintained his composure:

    "After falling into the pond in Yellowstone National Park, how many seconds do you think the victim had to speak?"

    Guan Zhiyi paused and replied softly:

    "Approximately three seconds."

    What can one say or call out in three seconds?

    Unable to do anything.

    Ming Yiyang proceeded to finish what he had previously left unsaid:

    "As the temperature of our hot spring rose, I distinctly sensed the bottom of the pool collapsing. Had we not emerged promptly, we would likely have been sucked into its depths, with no chance of survival."

    This description made Haruka Sanrin couldn't resist running her hand over her arm, which was now covered in a dense layer of goosebumps.

    After a moment of contemplation, she proposed,

    "Everyone, shall we stay together tonight? It's too risky to be scattered like this."

    "In horror movies, it's always when people split up that they get picked off one by one by the monsters. If we stay together, if monsters do come, we'll at least have each other to face them as a group."

    Ichizoku Tsukuyomi, however, was not particularly keen on the idea.

    "Isn't there also a risk of being wiped out altogether? After all, in this current world... who can truly understand its rules? For now, we only know to avoid the hot springs. What if the next rule is that those who don't sleep in their own rooms will die? What then?"

    Sanrin Haruka turned to look at her with a piercing gaze. Little Li Qinghe, noticing her expressionless face, quickly stepped in to smooth things over.

    "Haruka just feels that it's safer for everyone to sleep together, nothing more. If you find it inconvenient, we can still sleep separately."

    Guan Zhiyi took a sip of tea to compose himself before speaking.

    "I agree with Haruka. I wouldn't feel at ease if I were the only one staying in a room tonight."

    Ikko Tojo glanced at Tojo Shuang.

    Shuang seemed hesitant about the matter. He looked at Ikko Tojo and then at Yan Qiling, asking,

    "Mr. Yan, what about you two?"

    Ming Yiyang intercepted the question directly.

    "We'll most likely return to our own room to sleep, as long as we can do so without breaking any rules. The room numbers have been assigned, so following the original arrangement should be fine. After all, in the Realm of No Escape, life is precious and we only have one chance."

    Tojo Shuang's uncertainty was clearly etched on his face, even causing the proposer, Sanwa Haruka, to doubt the correctness of their decision.

    Promptly, Little Li Qinghe spoke up,

    "Alright then, everyone should still try to live as they prefer. If anything unexpected happens at night, you can knock on our door, and if we hear it, we'll definitely open up."

    "Mr. Guan, if you need to stay with us, feel free to find us anytime later."

    Upon hearing this, Tojo Shuang was deeply moved, bowing to Little Li Qinghe,

    "Mr. Little Li, thank you so much. Everyone's sense of security is all thanks to your understanding."

    "There's no need to say that. Actually, I haven't done much."

    With Little Li Qinghe's reasonable mediation, everyone returned to their own rooms.

    Ming Yiyang closed the door behind them, and the two sat on the tatami mats, both wide awake in front of the seemingly tranquil hot spring.

    Pulling the blanket closer, Ming Yiyang thought back to the man's calm demeanor and that crimson magical potion, an impulse of curiosity suddenly struck him:

    "We come into this world, perhaps by chance to others, but not to you."

    "Why are you able to seal this world?"

    "What is your exact connection with the Realm of Endless Torment?"

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