Chapter 25: Hint
The players were agitated for a while, but then quickly quieted down.
After all, they were just masks.
Only a few of the experienced, veteran players felt a little unease from the woman's expression.
The servants retreated with the trays as silently as they had appeared.
The woman on the stairs seemed to lose interest in them, and said, “Someone will tell you what to do.
It's not a good thing to be too curious here; if something happens, don't say I didn’t warn you.”
After she finished speaking, she lifted up her skirts and gracefully disappeared up the stairs.
The players looked at each other in dismay, and finally looked at He Wei and Gao Shulin¹, who had seemed interested in taking charge.
Someone asked, “Now what should we do?”
They didn't have any clues except for a mask that they didn't know the function of, and they hadn't even figured out their accommodation problem.
Were they supposed to find rooms by themselves?
That woman hadn’t seemed very cooperative, who knew what she would do if they acted of their own accord.
He Wei was just about to speak when the servants who had just disappeared came out of the side hall with tablecloths, cutlery, and dishes, and soon a dinner that could feed 15 people was set up in the center of the hall.
The dinner was very sumptuous, with cheese, steak, and soup, and the unique aroma of the food wafted straight into the players' noses.
The players, who hadn’t eaten dinner at all, found themselves getting even hungrier due to the delicious smell.
“Rooms will be arranged for you after dinner,” said a little girl, who had come out after the servants.
She looked about six years old, and wore a dress that was clearly more elaborate than that of a servant, with a multicolored feather ornament on her head.
She had the same sharp, shrill voice as the woman, and she tilted her head and examined each player's appearance with dark green eyes, as if she was looking at rare treasures.
When she was done looking, she turned around and beckoned something over.
“Daxiong², Daxiong, hurry up and come out.”
The girl's voice faded.
A man entered the hall with two barbeque grills in his hands.
Just as his name suggested, he looked as strong as a bear.
He was nearly two meters³ tall, and his beard covered most of his face.
A whole roasted suckling pig⁴ looked like a toy next to him.
He put the barbecue grills in the center of the table, and said in a deep voice, “Finish it.”
Shen Qingcheng whispered to Lu Qi, “It turns out that the people in this castle don’t all have the same voice.”
The two sat down alongside the other players.
Only once seated did Shen Qingcheng take a serious look at the dinner on his plate, and he frowned slightly.
The little girl behind him bounced around the long table, singing as she danced:
“The price of pork has risen lately, the price has gone up~ Everyone must eat up all the meat, eat up~ Eat up to have strength, have strength~ Have strength to raise pigs, raise pigs~”
Seeing that he wasn’t moving his fork, Lu Qi asked, “What?”
The food in front of each player was the same: a steak, a bowl of vegetable soup, a piece of cheese, and a roasted suckling pig.
Shen Qingcheng put his fork on the table, leaned on Lu Qi's shoulder with a weak look, and said weakly, “Lu-dage, I'm so uncomfortable.”
Lu Qi: “…” He sighed in his heart; he was doing it again, huh.
Shen Qingcheng had made a large commotion, and the other players began looking at them one after the other.
Even the little girl temporarily stopped her magical brainwashing song to watch them.
Lu Qi knew that Shen Meiren wouldn't stop if he didn't play along enough, so he could only cooperate and say, “Uncomfortable where.”
Shen Qingcheng: “I’m uncomfortable everywhere, I can't eat anything.”
Lu Qi thought for a while, then said, “I’ll feed you?”
Shen Qingcheng: “???” What was going on, Lu-dage was being too way too nice!
“No, I can't do it.” He rested his head on Lu Qi's shoulder and pinched his thigh under the table, “I want to rest.”
Having received his very obvious hint, Lu Qi glanced up at the little girl as if he hadn’t felt the pain.
The entertained expression on the little girl's face changed.
She circled around the two of them, and inspected Shen Qingcheng with her dark green eyes for a long moment.
Shen Qingcheng half-covered his face and pretended to be weak, coughing twice.
“It may be that I was lost in the forest for too long, and I caught a cold.”
The little girl summoned a servant in a black and white dress to take them upstairs.
After the two left, some players hesitated and silently reduced the amount of food they ate, while others dismissed the ruckus and glutted themselves.
The roasted suckling pig was left perfectly intact, for some reason.
The little girl was very angry at this, and shouted in her sharp voice: “It’s shameful to waste! It’s shameful to waste!” She stared at the players with cold eyes until they escaped upstairs.
The players’ rooms were arranged on the second floor of the castle, connected by a seemingly endless corridor.
Once inside their room, Lu Qi closed the door to keep the servants out and let go of Shen Qingcheng.
“Was there a problem with the food?”
Shen Qingcheng shook his head, “I’m not sure, it just didn’t feel like it was meant for human consumption.”
Lu Qi was silent.
Shen Qingcheng asked curiously, “You believe me, just like that? I just had a bad feeling, aren't you hungry?”
Lu Qi’s expression remained indifferent, and he did not answer the question.
Instead, he noted, “If we can’t find any other food in the castle, it’ll be problematic.” The weather was getting colder and colder, and it was unclear whether they could leave the castle.
“It's very problematic.
Did you hear that little girl singing? The last line of her song… she seemed to want us to raise pigs.” He rubbed his chin.
“So is the storyline of this copy a farming love story?”
The more he talked, the more outrageous his words became.
Lu Qi ignored him and picked up Shen Meiren’s mask.
The mask was opaque and bright red, and there was a small white cat's paw at the corner of the eye.
A marking of growth.
He brought it up to his nose and sniffed it.
His eyes moved slightly, and after comparing it with his own mask, which had a red feather on a white background, he said, “Yours has a smell.”
“Huh?” Shen Qingcheng snatched the two masks and tried to smell them, “Why can't I smell it? What does it smell like?”
Lu Qi: “A little coquettish.”
Shen Qingcheng: “Eh, I suspect you are secretly insulting me.”
Lu Qi didn't understand at first, and when he figured it out he was struck speechless.
Who would say such things about themselves? He rubbed his temples, “You're not.”
The sound of knocking on the door interrupted them.
The wavering voice of what was probably a servant sounded outside the door, “Guests, please go back to your room as soon as possible.
After nine o'clock in the evening, do not leave or walk around.”
Shen Qingcheng glanced at the two-meter-wide bed in the center of the room.
“It's big enough for two.”
Lu Qi picked up the suitcase and ordered, “Turn on your terminal and send me a message if something happens.” He paused.
Shen Qingcheng waved him off and said, “I’ll call you if I have any questions.”
Lu Qi nodded and left with the suitcase.
“Could it be that Lu Qi has some strange habits when he sleeps?” Shen Qingcheng said to himself after Lu Qi left.
Two meters was really wide, definitely wide enough.
He glanced around the room.
It was very spacious, decorated in dark colors, and there was a brightly colored oil painting hanging on the wall–very conspicuous in the drab room.
Shen Qingcheng’s attention was naturally pulled to it.
He approached to take a closer look: the painting was of a forest in spring, the sun was shining down upon it, and a pregnant doe was drinking water by a stream.
A very vibrant oil painting.
Before he turned away from the painting, he rummaged around the nearby parts of the room.
The wardrobe was empty, and there were few amenities in the bathroom, so he was probably in a guest room.
Shen Qingcheng, who hadn’t gained any knowledge, cleaned up a little, then washed up and had a good night's sleep.
The next day, Shen Qingcheng was woken up by the servant's knock, knock.
“Guests, please wash up and go downstairs within 20 minutes.
Breakfast will start in half an hour.”
Shen Qingcheng glanced out the window; the sky was gloomy, and he murmured hoarsely, “I choose not to eat.”
No one answered, and after a while, there was another knock, knock.
He pulled the quilt up to cover his head, “I’m not eating, stop knocking.”
After a moment of silence, Lu Qi pushed the door open and strode to the bed.
Shen Qingcheng pulled down the quilt suddenly.
He looked at the handsome man, and then at the open door behind the man, and asked with a shocked face, “The doors can be opened from the outside?”
Lu Qi: “En.”
The two of them went downstairs late.
When they got there, there were already several people sitting at the long table in the hall.
At a quick count, there were exactly ten.
It seemed that the previous night had been quite peaceful.
The ten people were discussing what they had seen and found out.
A girl who looked fifteen or sixteen years old had nestled in Gao Shulin's arms in panic, eyes filled with unhidden fear.
“You came? Sit,” He Wei greeted them familiarly.
Just after he finished speaking, Gao Shulin also greeted Lu Qi.
Lu Qi nodded at her and sat next to Shen Qingcheng.
Gao Shulin didn't care, she was just expressing her attitude so that He Wei’s group of players wouldn't have the final word.
He Wei smiled, didn't say anything further to Gao Shulin's target, and explained to them, “We are discussing the new clues and questions we gathered from last night.”
Another player picked up the thread of conversation–it was the male player who had first grabbed a mask.
He said, “I left my mask downstairs on purpose last night, but when I woke up this morning, I found it was beside my pillow.
I don't know if someone put it there purposefully or not.”
It seems that all of the players’ rooms were the same, and the doors could be opened from the outside.
However, what Shen Qingcheng was more curious about was whether his decision to leave the mask was spontaneous, or whether someone asked him to do so.
If he had just listened to someone else, then wasn’t He Wei’s brainwashing ability a bit too strong?
Following the male player, Gao Shulin said, “Let me speak for Xiao Liu.” Xiao Liu was the terrified girl huddled in her arms.
Gao Shulin: “Xiao Liu's room probably used to be the mistress of the castle’s bedroom.
She found half a diary left by the mistress in the bedroom, and it was written in the diary that the mistress’s husband was the owner of the castle.
He was a horror author, and in order to elevate his work, he chose to live in remote and eerie places to create immersively.”
Gao Shulin: “One time, the author came back from writing and told his wife that he often heard the sound of knocking on the window at night, and he would also see figures drifting past the window, but the places he chose were often deserted except for the author himself.
There shouldn’t have been a second person there.”
Xiao Liu trembled in her arms, as if remembering something frightening.
Gao Shulin patted her on the shoulder.
Xiao Liu bit her lip, “Gao-jie, I'm fine.”
She took a breath and summoned up her courage, saying, “Last night, I was very scared after reading the mistress’s diary.
I fell asleep very late, but I sleep lightly, and I was woken up by a creaking sound.
“It was the window.
Someone was picking the lock of the window.
There was someone outside the window.
When they saw I was awake, they smiled at me through the window.”
“It was red! It was all red!”
Finished speaking, she screamed and threw herself into Gao Shulin's arms, trembling.
¹ I guess she’s the lady who spoke earlier?
² Literally “Big Bear” (大熊).
Not the same xiong as xiongdi (兄弟) or daxiongdi (大兄弟), but it is the same as in “Big Bear Ridge” (大熊岭).
³ Around 6 ½ feet.
⁵ Literally “saw a ghost” (见鬼了), but functions as an expletive.
Yes, she really did say “window” that many times.
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