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IRNDGL - Chapter 1: Welcome

Lin Jie opened the bookstore's old wooden door as per usual.

A muffled chime sounded from a bronze bell. Streams of water trickled down the door frame from above, leaving vestiges on the dirt-covered transom window.

The sky was murky. It was pouring heavily outside, the pitter-patter of rain and vapor creating a foggy curtain.

Puddles of water had accumulated outside the store.

"Such a heavy downpour," remarked the frowning Lin Jie.

He was a little miffed at his shirt and trousers getting wet.

"This heavy precipitation that began last night will continue for approximately a week. The Meteorological Centre has issued a yellow warning, which could rise to red..."

Audio from the neighboring shop's TV was quickly drowned up by the rain.

It was unlikely that there would be any business for the bookstore under such weather.

"Sigh."

Lin Jie pulled out a triangular supporting frame and wooden board from behind the door to make a simple step at the entrance before flipping the hanging sign to display "Open".

It was unlikely for there to be too many customers under such weather. It looked like it was going to be a quiet day for the bookstore.

Rather than to open for such lacklustre business, why not go back to sleep?’ This was probably what most people would think.

"But what if someone were to get caught in the rain without an umbrella and needs a place to wait it out?"

Lin Jie took a book from the rental shelf before heading toward the counter. He casually flicked on a warm lamp along the way before placing a towel by the side. After that, he brewed two cups of piping hot tea before finally settling down behind the counter.

He flipped the book over to where he last stopped before pushing a cup of hot tea across the counter, as if passing it to a new acquaintance.

A book and a cup of hot tea.

The tools needed to warm a lost person’s body and soul.

Lin Jie took a sip from his own cup and smiled.

Indeed, he was just this sort of kind hearted romantic. Despite being an ordinary man, he was known by his customers as an honest man and a life mentor adept at doling out chicken soup.

Life should always be filled with anticipation, ain't it so?

——

Crack!

With a twist of her hands, Ji Zhixiu snapped the neck of the person caught in her clutches. However, the battle was not over yet. She quickly turned around and drew a long blade to sever the neck of another man.

"Gurk..."

The man’s head fell to the ground, his eyes still wide open.

Ji Zhixiu pushed the two bodies away from her before walking out of the alley.

A heap consisting of more than ten corpses was left in her wake. They gradually burned up and turned to ashes.

This was the aftermath of an alley fight in this downpour.

Blood that had seeped through her black formal dress during the fight dripped onto the ground, evaporating into a wisp of acrid steam that was immediately washed away by the rain.

Her body temperature was rising rapidly. Her blood and muscle started to squirm, painfully alerting her of the number of broken ribs she had.

But this wasn't a problem to her.

As a hunter who had sordid blood injected into her bloodstream, it would only take her an hour to fully recover from such injuries.

"Time, I need time."

She looked ahead of her.

Vaguely concealed amidst a curtain of rain was a bookstore with faint light peeking through its glass windows. Through the window, she could faintly make out rows of bookshelves.

Aside from the bookstore, everything else in the area was dark.

There were many shops in the vicinity, but with such heavy rain, this was the only one in operation.

The hanging sign at the entrance displayed "Open", and there was a crudely made step for easy accessibility at the entrance. It looked strangely incongruous with its surroundings.

What was even more coincidental was that it was located directly opposite to the alley she had come out from.

"Is it a coincidence or a trap?"

Ji Zhixiu didn’t have the luxury to stop and think things through. She believed that her fellow hunters could sniff her out with their acute sense of smell, honing in on her like sharks even in this torrential downpour.

She needed to find somewhere to hide as soon as possible and buy sufficient time for her to recover.

Shing!

The long blade in her hand retracted back into its mechanism, turning into a seemingly ordinary black metal cane in the blink of an eye.

Ji Zhixiu trudged toward the bookstore amidst the rain and pushed its door open.

The interior of the bookstore was very quiet. She stepped in together with her cane, and it didn’t take her long to spot the boss of the bookstore.

It was a young man seated behind the counter, reading a book. His shirt and trousers were entirely black.

In contrast to his dark, slightly messy hair, his skin was fairly pale. His slender fingers were holding up a teacup as he gently flipped the pages of the book.

There was another cup on the counter with steam still swirling from it, but no one was on the high stool in front of the counter.

Ji Zhixiu actually had an uncanny feeling that this cup of tea and seat was prepared for her. Feeling a little weirded out, she quickly scanned the entire bookstore with her gaze.

It was narrow and cramped.

Aside from the brimming bookshelves, there were many books strewed all over the floor. Half of the stairway leading to the second floor was blocked by bookshelves, and the windows were mostly caked with dust, giving off an eerie vibe.

The only source of light in this dark, dank bookstore was the lamp sitting on the counter top, and the young man sitting behind it gave off an air of mystery.

There was even a towel on the counter...

Drip! Drip!

Water was dripping off her thoroughly drenched self. Her wet hair was sticking to her neck, and her low cut dress revealed her fair, supple skin.

”Welcome.“

Lin Jie looked up with warm yellow light reflected in his dark pupils.

With a smile, he pushed the cup of hot tea towards Ji Zhixiu. "It looks like my long wait hasn’t been in vain. The rain has washed a beautiful customer into my humble bookstore."

Complementing a customer's aesthetics was a part of good service.

That being said, the person standing before Lin Jie was undeniable a beauty. Despite being thoroughly drenched, her beautiful features akin to a delicately chiseled sculpture and ivory white skin was still faintly discernible in the dim light.

He felt that his wait had been worthwhile.

It looks like this customer needs a good heart-to-heart chat. Maybe I can make a new friend today… and perhaps a regular too?

This was definitely not the thoughts of an avaricious businessman, but genuine concern and goodwill!

Ji Zhixiu eyed the cup of tea before her with narrowed pupils.

"Long wait"— this meant that the young man knew about it and had been deliberately waiting for her?

Or could there be other motives in play?

Regardless, this bookstore was oozing with weirdness. The coincidental timing and this fellow's unruffled expression clearly relayed that things weren't that simple.

Is it Secret Rite Tower? Or the Truth Union? Maybe one of Walpurgis’ anointed?

Ji Zhixiu became more vigilant than ever. She discreetly moved her finger toward the button that activated the black cane's mechanism. As soon as the young man made a move, the cane would morph into a killing blade that pierces through his skull.

"You were waiting for me?" The hunter probed.

Lin Jie answered with a kind smile, "Yes. I've always thought that fate works in miraculous ways, how it brings two complete strangers together in the least expected way."

He gestured toward the counter and continued, "Feel free to use the towel there to wipe yourself dry. Don't worry, it's unused. Would you like me to turn on the heater?"

Ji Zhixiu picked up the towel hesitantly and shook her head. "It’s fine."

Taking a closer look at his customer, Lin Jie noticed her tightly creased brows. Referencing from past experiences, he surmised that this person might be facing a predicament in his life. Thus, he cleared his throat and asked, "From the look of things, you seem to have encountered some trouble?"

BeetleBarker's Notes:

Hi,Beetlebarker here!
Some of you might know me as the translator of Superstars of Tomorrow on WN!
IRNDGL is a new project that I'm starting and updates will be on Mondays and Fridays for now.

Credits to StarveCleric for helping me edit this chapter!
BeetleBarker is also looking for a volunteer editor to help with this novel and free SlaveCleric from his temporary role!

Join BeetleBarker's Discord to chat with me:  https://discord.gg/bEr3QYN
Also, join this website's Discord: https://discord.gg/gC3RMvd

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Special thanks to Tetra & Aco for editing and pr-ing
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IRNDGL Manhua translation by Zeroscans
Written by Great Calamity Of Fire (万劫火). Translated by BeetleBarker.