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Four weeks had passed since school started, and Zhang Heng had gradually resumed his previous routine. In addition to attending classes and practicing driving, he allocated the remaining time he had to maintain fitness and master other skills. At the same time, given the increasing frequency of supernatural events around him, he also began a more comprehensive study about myths and legends.
To get things moving, Zhang Heng launched a preliminary investigation into what took place in Greenland 17 years ago. Judging by his father’s reaction, the incident was obviously related to him. The old man in the Tang suit had him worried, and although his father said that he would talk about it one day, Zhang Heng didn’t intend to just sit by and do nothing
Since it was non-governmental scientific research, it should have been left some breadcrumbs behind. Zhang Heng didn’t know the name of the scientific expedition or members of the team, and all he had was a photo taken 17 years ago. It still held important bits of information, such as the name of the sponsors that were printed on the backpacks of the team.
Unfortunately, search results revealed that the travel agency that organized the trip filed for bankruptcy only half a year after the expedition ended. Upon checking its establishment date, he found out that it was registered only one year before the expedition, so there was a high possibility that the agency was a shell company set up specifically for this particular expedition.
This made Zhang Heng even more curious about the purpose of the research done by the old man in the Tang suit after wasting so much effort in it. There were 19 other people in the team, so Zhang Heng decided to employ a nifty little tool called Facesaerch to compare their appearances. It turned out that Google’s facial recognition engine did actually detect a few similar faces. It managed to identify four of them.
One was the guide of the expedition, another one was a doctor, and the final two were retired SEAL operatives.
Zhang Heng then found two of their Facebook profiles and another Twitter account. Unfortunately, a browse through Twitter found no useful information, and Facebook profiles were private. Unable to determine their true identity, Zhang Heng remained cautious. The first phase of the investigation could be temporarily shelved for now.
One thing could be confirmed, however-the scientific research wasn’t as simple as what Grandpa told him. It was no regular archaeological investigation or ruins exploration. The two former SEALs in the team were the best proof of that. What concerned Zhang Heng the most, though, was the doctor.
It was common that a doctor joined a research expedition, especially if the team headed to places that were inaccessible and had harsh environments. Medical personnel was encouraged to tag along to ensure the health and safety of the team. Strangely, the doctor in this research team was a psychiatrist.
So why would a team that had gone all the way to Greenland to research ancient ruins need a psychiatrist with them?
The mouse in Zhang Heng’s hand hovered over the Facebook profile of the psychiatrist named Marshall. He knew he had to travel to Greenland to find out more. Before that, though, a new round of the game would have to be completed before the end of the month.
Zhang Heng arrived at the bar’s lounge at 11:42. He chose single-player mode once again and set the alarm. After gulping down the ice-cold mojito in hand, he put down the glass.
He closed his eyes as he lay on the sofa.
The sharp taste of mint leaves and citrus filled his throat, and at the same time, a familiar dizziness swarmed within his head. A second later, Zhang Heng heard the system notification playing in his ears.
[Verifying player identity…]
(Player verified. The sixth quest will be randomly drawn for player 07958…]
(Extraction completed. Current questWhistleblower.]
“The internet is the foundation of our society. It is a massive global network connected by a set of protocols. Its inception completely changed humanity’s way of life and granted unprecedented convenience to many. Today, mankind cannot live without the internet. Controversy about cybersecurity, however, has never stopped since the very beginning. Which side will you choose?”
(Task Objective: Help Edward escape or help Number Zero capture Edward]
[Mode: Competitive mode single-player]
(Time Flow: 360) (1 hour in the real world is equivalent to 15 days in this game. After 90 days, player will be forced to return to the real world)
[Friendly reminder: the game will officially start in five seconds, please get ready!) Just before the countdown ended, the clicking sounds of slot machines gradually resounded in Zhang Heng’s ears. These were mixed with the sound of footsteps, people talking, and the sound of falling chips.
A casino? Zhang Heng opened his eyes and found himself standing in a colossal casino.
A soft carpet laid beneath his feet, and two rows of slot machines were on his left. The head of a white tiger sat hanging at the upper left corner of the hall, and beneath it, four Chinese characters. The four words were Long Teng Hu Xiao (Ascending Dragon, Roaring Tiger). A large number of what appeared to be tourists were vigorously inserting coins and pulling the levers of the slot machines. The five rows of pictures behind the glass screens would then start to spin, and when a specific combination matched up, the machine would spit out money for the player. Most of the time, the gamblers would waste all their money here.
Zhang Heng moved forward, and his eyes fell on a huge wooden roulette table in front of him. Many believed that roulette was the fairest game in the casino since nobody was there to control the odds. In theory, no matter how the player betted, the chances of winning seemed to be fixed. Supposedly, there should be no distinction between an expert or a rookie when the wheel started turning
Behind the roulette table, six people were playing blackjack, a card game that had French origins. To put it simply, the game’s goal was to reach a total sum of 21 based on the value of the cards in hand. With each additional draw, players attempted to get as close as possible to 21 points without exceeding it. When the round ended, players would display their cards in a showdown to decide who won or lost.
Although the element of luck played a vital role in blackjack, it was also a highly-skilled game, where all professional gamblers were required to first master blackjack. A film called “21” was even made. It told of a group of MIT students who used mathematics to win a massive amount of money from a casino. In the movie, the Asian students used complex calculations to win a total of 5 million US. The unbelievable wins shocked and rattled the entire gaming industry.
The set of algorithms used were also published later, and it no longer became a secret. However, it required a considerable amount of mental arithmetic and continuous training to master the skill. Since casinos continually improved their methods to counter these ‘counters,’ it was somewhat useless for ordinary folk to know about it.
There were two players on the poker table who had already exceeded 21 points after asking for more cards. Frustrated and dejected, one even got up and left. The remaining four quickly got to their toes, hesitating if they should get more cards or not.
Zhang Heng glanced at the people nearby. Since the game started, he had been working hard to observe his surroundings. According to Miss Bartender, the chance of encountering a competitive mode single-player quest wasn’t very high-odds of that being one in six. Zhang Heng also didn’t expect to play two competitive mode single-player quests in a row.
That could only mean one thing—there were also other players in the vicinity, right here, right now.
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