Despite having expectations early on, everyone’s moods couldn’t help but dampen when they heard this dreadful new information.
After a short discussion among themselves, an hour had finally gone by and the hungry and still unsatisfied people wolfed down their compressed biscuits, drank a few sips of water, and left the room in a hurry to continue their work.
Their afternoon in the villa was quiet and uneventful. After attending to the master, the madam, and the young master, the day had finally concluded.
In the evening, Su Xiaoqian prepared the master’s bed in advance and was told that she could go rest for the night since they didn’t need her to be on night duty.
Upon hearing this command, Su Xiaoqian felt a weight off of her shoulders. Although there were no dead people today plus the villa’s owners seemed pretty happy, she still didn’t feel comfortable staying the night with the masters. In every horror movie, the first person to leave the group is most likely the first one to be in an accident. In her point of view, sticking together with the other players of the game made her feel the most reassured.
As it reached noon, she finally finished her work and hurried into the servant’s quarters without even having time to drink a glass of water to refresh herself.
There, everybody was already gathered earlier, leaving her to go back all alone.
Seeing her enter the door, An Qing greeted her with a charming smile. Su Xiaoqian was relieved that there was no one else in the room and picked up a compressed biscuit, listening to what everyone had discussed during the afternoon while eating her biscuit.
“Xiaoqian, when you weren’t here earlier, we talked for a while. Brother Lu and the others didn’t find anything out of the ordinary.” An Qing continued, “When I was teaching the younger master this afternoon, I found something strange.”
“What is it?” Su Xiaoqian said, “I worked all afternoon and didn’t find anything useful. The eldest son that was locked inside the cellar this afternoon was still crazy as ever, and he didn’t say anything useful, just bouts of crazy nonsense.”
“It was like this. At 1 PM, Brother Zhu accompanied me to the second floor and took me to the young master’s room to teach him. When I entered the room, the young master didn’t utter a single word to me but just gave me a book and silently gestured to it. So, I followed his orders and read the whole book for the entire afternoon.”
“He didn’t say anything the entire afternoon? Just listening to you read the book out loud?” Upon hearing this, Bai Yan respectfully raised his hand and asked, “I saw him eat only a small amount at noon and asked him if he was not satisfied with lunch, but he only looked at me and also did not say anything. Is it possible for the second son of this family to be mute or be stupid enough to be unable to talk?”
As An Qing heard Bai Yan’s theory, she stopped talking and thought about it more seriously. After a whole afternoon, the young master really did not say a single word to her. Even when she asked him if she could take a small break to drink some water to quench her dry throat, he didn’t answer. She was allowed to do so from just a look.
“No, he didn’t speak to me at all. Maybe your guess is correct.” An Qing continued, “He hasn’t spoken to me nor has he made any requests, but I still can’t let myself become lazy. When my throat felt better, I continued to read. There was nothing unusual with the young master himself but what was unusual was the story he made me tell.”
“When I finished reading the book, I later realized that it was a suspense-filled ghost story.”
“A ghost story?” Upon hearing this, Yang Qi was startled, almost letting out a loud scream again.
“Yes, it’s a ghost story and it wasn’t the only one in his room. When I took a small break while drinking water, I glanced around and found that the other books’ titles were far more disturbing than the one I was reading. If I guessed correctly, these books were all horror novels, and each one was a ghost story.”
After reading all afternoon, An Qing’s voice became hoarse. She took a sip of water and continued, “This story is quite long, so I won’t go into detail. I’ll probably summarize the story, so it goes like this. One day, in a certain village, there were numerous cases of missing people. Every victim disappeared during the night. After undergoing these terrible events, the two village children discovered the reason behind the mysterious deaths. There was a ghost in the village——a terrible ghost that knocks on doors!”
“Every midnight, this door-knocking ghost will select one person, knocking on this family’s door, standing quietly at the head of this person’s bed, and waking him up using various ways. Once the door-knocking ghost realizes that the person is awake, it will instantly kill this person. This was the reason behind the murders.”
“Door-knocking ghost…Why did he make you read this tale?” Bai Yan suspiciously narrowed his eyes and pondered if there was a deeper meaning to the story, “Is this the story’s ending? What happened to the two children’s fates by the end of the book?”
“Unfortunately, this was a tragedy and both children ended up dead.” An Qing sighed, “After coming back, I was thinking that this might be a hint that the game gave us. The bloodstains on the headboard indicate that there was an accident with the previous servants. Isn’t it similar to the way the door-knocking ghost in the story killed people?”
“Then… what should we do?” Yang Qi, the least courageous of all, was terror-stricken and wept loudly, “The story didn’t say how we could avoid getting killed by the door-knocking ghost?”
“As long as the door-knocking ghost thinks you are still asleep, you can save yourself. That was the suggestion from the book.” An Qing said, “Sadly, the two children were awakened by the door-knocking ghost and died at the end.”
“Interestingly, if this is all true, then the young master wasn’t as simple as we first thought.” Bai Yan touched his chin, a slight smile appearing on his lips, “In the forum, I read about some experiences of the older players regarding games that lasted several days. The most dangerous times in the game were at night. If this book really gave us a way to survive, then we may have to protect the second son that gave us the clue. Maybe he and the older son are the same, both knowing crucial information for us to use.”
“But if this kid is also an accomplice of the game, wouldn’t we die faster if the events followed the book?” After the deaths of the previous players, Lu Tianyi was skeptical of any clues they gathered, “In my opinion, I think it’s enough for us to know about this clue. If we encounter the same situation, we can’t follow it blindly. We still need to judge the actual decision and think critically.”
Seeing that everyone listened to what he said, Lu Tianyi added, “In short, according to my experience from my last few games, tonight, we will surely encounter an unforeseen event, maybe someone will be found by the ghost. No matter what happens, I hope everyone can stay calm, and only if need be, cry out for help. Only when we stay calm can we find a way out of the crisis.”
After Lu Tianyi finished speaking, several people looked anxious.
Everyone was worried sick after listening to Lu Tianyi’s story. If everyone were situated in one room, they would feel more courageous.
However, the hostess did not allow them to squeeze into one room for the next few days, and they did not dare go against the direct orders of the mistress, fearing that they would be kicked out as a consequence.
So, around eight o’clock, the boys ended up leaving the three girls’ room.
Liu Kui and Li Hao planned to continue their stroll around the garden to see if they can find any clues in the garden at night. Bai Yan and Lu Tianyi accompanied Zhu Fugui and waited by the gate for the delivery truck to arrive at eight o’clock to investigate the source of the ingredients.
At eight o’clock, a delivery truck was punctually parked in front of the villa.
When the delivery truck driver got off the truck and unloaded the cargo, the three stepped forward and received the new ingredients. But of course, like the ones in the freezer, the ingredients delivered were all dead cats and dogs. Furthermore, they were rotten and spoiled too. They had the kind of smell that could be detected from far away.
“Mister, why were all of the things you delivered rotten?”
Lu Tianyi volunteered to help move the goods. As he and Zhu Fugui walked in the villa with the ingredients on hand, Bai Yan gathered his courage and approached the driver, greeting him politely.
The driver’s skin was dark, making him look like a well-built black man. Under the darkness of the night, Bai Yan could only see a faint human figure amid the darkness. At the same time, the driver’s clothes are also pitch-black. If he didn’t look for the driver attentively, during any evening, the driver could walk past him without him even noticing.
“All the ingredients that our company sells are like this. If you don’t like it then don’t buy it.” The driver frankly replied when he heard what Bai Yan said as he bared his bright white teeth. Bai Yan could finally see where the old man’s head was.
“Oh, I don’t really have any objections to the food you deliver us, having food with such bold and strong flavors is quite unique.” Suspecting that the driver was someone who loved his company dearly, Bai Yan immediately smoothed his whiskers and patted the horse’s bottom(1), “I am the new butler of this house. If I may ask, when did my master start ordering ingredients from your company?”
- To use flattery to get what one wants.
“Half a year ago.”
“Then, apart from selling and distributing ingredients, does your company offer any other service or products?”
“Young man, I advise you to not ask too many questions. Sometimes, the more people know, the faster they die.” After saying his piece, the driver did not put up with Bai Yan, no matter how much flattery he said.
Probably being annoyed by Bai Yan, the driver entered his truck, stepped on the gas pedal, and after a short rumbling sound, speedily drove away to a distance, leaving Bai Yan’s face shoved with the car’s gas emissions.
“…” So, what did this mean?
The driver’s unrestrained tongue left Bai Yan in a gloomy mood. But because of the driver’s few short sentences, he at least knew that this abnormal activity started happening six months ago.
And with the driver’s warning for him, it was surely implying something. Was he saying to not investigate further on where the ingredients came from?
With his mind buzzing with unanswered questions, Bai Yan returned to the kitchen. By the time he arrived, Zhu Fugui and Lu Tianyi had already finished packing all the ingredients into the refrigerator.
Although both husband and wife could happily eat the smelly rotten food, they could not be fooled too much if the ingredients were more rotten.
Seeing that the two were done with moving the ingredients, Bai Yan told them what the driver had said to him and then turned their directions back to their respective rooms, ready to wash up and rest.
When Bai Yan returned to his room, Liu Kui and Li Hao had not returned yet from their walk.
While they were still away, Bai Yan rushed to finish his shower, applied some foundation on his face, took off his glasses, and laid dead flat on the bed, beginning to feel drowsy after a long day of work.
The clock in the room made a ‘tik tok’ sound.
Unintentionally, he lost his consciousness and slept like this…
In the middle of the night, Bai Yan was awakened by a loud sound.
Due to his muddle-headedness from just waking up, he instinctively wanted to open his eyes, but he immediately remembered that he was still in the game. So, he pretended to be uncomfortable in his current sleeping position, adjusted his body accordingly, and naturally put his hand in front of his eyes, opening his eyes slightly as he peeked through the gaps of his fingers.
“Boom boom boom.”
“Boom boom boom.”
He had barely opened his eyes when a loud banging sound could be heard from outside the door.
The author has something to say:
I solemnly promise that this book does not contain any Cthulhu (2) background, so this black man is not Nia Ya and will not help the protagonist cheat the game.
- A fictional cosmic entity created by writer H. P. Lovecraft.