“You all came to this place to be servants and work.” The madam’s tone was unwavering, “I waited for you all for quite some time. Quickly come in, all of you.”
The madam finished before turning her head.
Everyone quickly looked at each other before the lot came into the villa by twos and by threes.
As everyone was finally entering the villa, Li Hao, the gardener, who was walking near the end, closed the door immediately. Upon seeing this, Liu Kui, the chauffeur, who was right behind him, scolded him for it, but to no avail, Li Hao didn’t dare open the door.
The players formed organized lines in front of the madam after entering.
The madam extended her finger to count the individuals and found they were nothing short of eight people. Satisfied, she nodded, “Yes, just eight people. For the next seven days, you all need to work diligently. One more thing that you need to remember besides working is that you should never wander carelessly around the villa, especially the cellar.”
“Prior to you, I have hired many servants, but they couldn’t do the most basic work well. They pilfered, fumbled, and flipped things around, bringing chaos into our family’s life. So, I fired them earlier than expected, and according to the contract, if the person is terminated early, I wouldn’t need to pay them a single penny!” Speaking of this, the madam’s face became very stern.
The madam’s words had some deeper meaning to them, but since everyone was a player, they already knew that this villa was certainly strange. It wasn’t a problem except for the fact that there were ghosts. Everyone didn’t dwell on the madam’s warnings and continued to listen to her reprimand her subordinates.
“Over there is the servant’s quarters. You should assign the rooms by yourselves and unpack your belongings there. Remember, don’t just tell me you all squeezed into one room. Each of you must have a bed. Otherwise, people might think that our family treats the servants harshly—— Oh yes, butler, you stay for a moment.”
After hearing her words, everyone slowly turned to Bai Yan, Bai Yan waved his hands, indicating that they should leave first. He stood at the hall alone, listening to the madam as she instructed him.
“Butler, I want to discuss with you the work needed to be done the next few days. Later, you’ll firmly instruct them on what they need to do.”
“Yes, madam.” Bai Yan replied.
“My husband and I’s lifestyle is like this. Every day we wake up early at 7 AM. 12 noon and 6 PM are our meal times. We want the chef to properly prepare three sets of meals and set them on the dining room table. My older son’s health isn’t the best. He’s unable to leave his room and dine with us, so every day, the maid needs to deliver his three meals to him. Later on, help me call on the maid and I’ll personally instruct her.”
“Furthermore, the cleaning lady is in charge of the entire villa’s cleanliness. She needs to wipe down the windows, sweep the rooms, and wash the clothes. All this work is hers to do. If she can’t finish it alone, then she can ask the maid to help her. I don’t need a maid to follow me all the time, understand?”
“I understand. Is there anything else, madam?” Bai Yan memorized every last bit of the madam’s words while calmly observing her expression. However, the madam appeared to be normal. Besides being a little harsh, there seemed to be nothing amiss with her.
“Right, for the chauffeur. Have him always be on call and prepare the car. My husband might want to go out at any moment. Tomorrow morning, my husband will be leaving. At that time, you and the bodyguard will accompany him and keep him safe. Usually at home, the bodyguard can relax. There’s no need to follow my husband around.” The madam thought about something and added, “Tell the gardener to take care of the garden’s Chinese rose well. My younger son is fond of the flowers in the garden and takes good care of them.”
“Madam, you still haven’t told me the tutor’s tasks. What does she need to do?” Bai Yan mentioned An Qing at an appropriate moment.
“Right, I forgot about her! That tutor… After my younger son finishes his lunch and rests for a bit, call her every afternoon at 1 PM to teach my son all the way until 5 PM, totalling four hours. My younger son’s constitution isn’t also that good, so I don’t really have strict requirements for him to make progress. Just go along as she teaches him what he wants to learn and as long as he is happy, that’s enough. When it’s time for class, let the tutor listen to what my son wants to learn and teach him that. If my son wants the tutor to read to him, that’s also fine.”
After explaining the series of tasks, the madam concluded, “In short, you all should do a good job. When it’s time to be paid, I wouldn’t give you a single penny less. Since you’ve all arrived late in the morning, you won’t need to prepare breakfast. Moreover, you can find the equipment you need for your tasks in the utility room beside the servant’s quarters. That’s all. You should first relay what I instructed.. After you’re done, you can go meet my husband in the study on the third floor.”
Bai Yan went over the madam’s requirements in his head again as he raised his right hand to place it on his chest and bowed when he left.
Following the madam’s direction from earlier, he finally found the servant’s quarters.
As they politely said before, they didn’t wait for him. Everyone discussed the room assignments without waiting for him.
Among them, the three girls would be staying together. As the only third-level veteran, Lu Tianyi along with Zhu Fugui will be sharing one room. That left Bai Yan, Liu Kui, and Li Hao to live in one room. The room’s bedding wasn’t lacking at all. You could directly go and live there.
When Bai Yan arrived, everyone was still talking about something. Seeing Bai Yan return, Lu Tianyi greeted him, “Younger brother, what did the madam talk to you about? What job did she arrange for us?”
Facing everyone’s inquiries, Bai Yan immediately relayed the madam’s arrangements at once. Everyone carefully took note of their corresponding tasks while simultaneously pondering on what hidden danger these jobs entailed.
“The madam told me to find her alone. I think that there’s something odd there.” The maid, Su Xiaoqian said, “Both her sons are unwell and she wants me to deliver food to him alone. Could he possibly be a ghost in this game?”
“There’s a possibility.” Bai Yan replied, “But don’t you think that the madam and her husband are both suspicious as well? Although I haven’t met her husband, judging the instructions that she gave, she and her husband seem to be healthy and normal. So, it is possible that her sons are human, and the couple are the ghosts.”
“Yes, there is a saying that ‘Those who look more normal are in fact the abnormal ones.’ We’re in this ghost’s den now, there is no way that they are ordinary people.” Gardener Li Hao agreed.
“Not necessarily. There’s still one possibility. The four people living in this villa are all humans, I’m afraid terror has another way.” Lu Tianyi said, “The game’s NPCs… they sometimes die before we do, providing us clues on how to avoid death. It is probable that the terror is the villa’s curse itself.”
“Do you think there is the possibility that the four residents of this villa had already died before, and now, their ghosts are haunting the place….” The cleaning woman, Yang Qi, couldn’t let herself be outdone and raised her theory.
Each person had a different thought and discussed it for a long while. Everyone realized that if what they were thinking was right, anything could be possible.
There were still no definite clues, so these so-called guesses could only be considered as letting their imaginations go wild. Knowing that the discussion wasn’t going to conclude, the lot simply shut up and didn’t debate on ‘who the ghost was.’ Instead, they talked about a more meaningful topic.
“To summarize, we need more information. No information means that their guesses were merely flowers in a mirror and the moon reflected in the lake (1).” Having encountered difficulty in finding a place to rest. An Qing set her crutches down to the side and sat on the bed, “Sorry. My leg is inconvenient. It could even possibly hold everyone back.”
- Flowers in a mirror and the moon reflected in the lake: speculations without substance.
An Qing knitted her long and slender eyebrows and apologetically said, “I’m unable to gather outside information but can only search in nearby rooms. These next few days, I’ll do my best to look through the servant’s quarters to see if there were letters left by the previous servants or even hidden objects.”
“Don’t worry about it, sister. Leave the outside to us.” Zhu Fugui took pity on An Qing, who had sustained a leg injury, and patted his chest in comfort, “How about you take a good rest in the room.”
“My profession is a driver. Inside this villa, I don’t really have much to do until tomorrow morning. Li Hao and I will be taking a stroll by the gardens and looking around if there’s anything suspicious.” Liu Kui said, “Yang Qi, when you’re cleaning the rooms, could you be a bit more attentive and take advantage when there’s no one around to quietly search through the drawers? It’d be best if you found a diary, or a letter, or something like those.”
“…This wouldn’t be too good.” Yang Qi answered in dissent, “The game said, ‘The players must accomplish the master’s orders, otherwise, there will be consequences.’ The madam firmly explained to us that besides our work, we must not wander aimlessly inside the villa and also not rummage through her things. If she were to find out, she will surely kick me out.”
“Anway, whoever wants it, should do it himself. I won’t take any risks in doing this.”
“But how could you do nothing. How are we going to find clues?” Su Xiaoqian angrily retorted. “We won’t force you to search through the drawers when the master is present. If you won’t do it, then you also won’t get any information from us. You’ll just end up emerging and perishing on your own(2)!”
- To emerge and perish on its own: Sabotage oneself
What Su Xiaoqian said was cruel, but none of them spoke up for Yang Qi’s defense.
Lu Tianyi couldn’t bear to watch any longer and thought to save Yang Qi from embarrassment, but thinking that everyone was fearful as she was, how could they hope to undertake risks and let someone else enjoy the fruits of their labor without doing any work. If so, then this game wouldn’t need to be played.
Seeing that no one spoke up, Yang Qi opened her mouth and reluctantly said, “Fine. I get it. I’ll do it when others aren’t looking and try my best to search through the drawers. But if the madam is watching me at the sidelines, I absolutely won’t do anything dangerous.”
With Yang Qi’s embarrassed reply, Su Xiaoqian couldn’t put up with her cowardly behavior any longer and harrumphed, saying, “You guys should continue chatting. I’ll first go find the madam. She doesn’t seem to want anyone else coming into contact with her precious eldest son. I’ll go ask and see if I could get something out of her.”
After saying her piece, Su Xiaoqian fixed her skirt and energetically marched out the door.
Lu Tianyi followed Su Xiaoqian as she went out. Although the madam said that he didn’t need to follow the husband the whole time, Lu Tianyi felt that bodyguards who didn’t show his face for a day were inexcusable. So, he went to report to the husband.
After the two left, Liu Kui and Li Hao thought that there was nothing to discuss left. Together, they said their goodbyes and roamed around the garden to see the roses.
As for Zhu Fugui, he was a countryman to his core, always cooking in the countryside, and was unable to understand the high society’s taste for food in the urban cities, and so, he couldn’t help but worriedly walk to the kitchen. Inside the kitchen, he was deep in thought on what dishes to prepare for lunch to please this family of four.