As he ran, the sound of wind whistled in his ears. Mo Yi gritted his teeth and continued to move up the stairs.
He t=contemplated deeply while he was running.
Before fake Shen Lei revealed his true face, he was not actually intending to strike them. Instead, he took them to the “safety zone”, then deliberately enabled them into discovering the correlation between time passing in the illusionary world and the outside world. Baiting them into thinking that “passing time inside the illusion” will allow them to successfully escape.
After his true colours were exposed, he still did not immediately attack them, but rather he gave them the opportunity to run.
During the time when Mo Yi was puzzling over the issue again and again, there was suddenly no more noise reaching his ears, only silence.
Mo Yi returned to his senses to only realised that the arms that were surrounding and attacking them from all sides had already disappeared. The images in all the photographs floating beside them had all became the same:
It was the man in that picture.
He saw him staring at him with those deep black eyes and there was a strange smile on his face. Then, a thousand pictures all spoke at the same time, their dark chilling voices resonating throughout the empty space of the illusion:
“You can’t escape.”
Mo Yi’s breathing paused, then he forced himself to not look to the sides and continued to run upwards.
“What’s the point?”
The thousands of voices converged into a flow of sound that was bewitching in nature, and pounded into his eardrums: “Ever since you’ve entered, you could never get out. What’s the point of needlessly struggling?”
Mo Yi forced himself to not be affected by the sound, and mechanically moved his legs to keep climbing up the stairs.
If his deduction was not wrong…...If the areas inside and outside the illusion were also interconnected…...
Then, this staircase was in no way endless, rather it was the same as the outside of the illusion: at most there were four floors.
It was just that the distortion and lengthening of the space made the whole route farther away, which made the stairs appear as if there was no end.
Mo Yi didn't know what was at the end of the stairway, but right now, there was no other option other than walking to the end of the stairs.
That voice carried on saying: “……Why resist? Isn’t it good to stay where you are? I can guarantee that your deaths will be painless, it would be like falling asleep……”
Stay in the same place?
A shock ran through Mo Yi’s whole body, and everything became clear all at once.
The photograph’s goal was clear from the very beginning, it was just that he was too blind and so he ignored it!
It needed Mo Yi and Jiang Yuanbai to pass their time in the illusionary world!
In that case, there was even more of a need to escape from this illusion!
Mo Yi was now more convinced that if he and Jiang Yuanbai really stayed here until the countdown was over, they would only be greeted with a more terrifying sight.
He clenched his teeth, and changed the position of the frame he was holding close to his chest to underneath his left armpit, then continued silently running up the stairs acting as if the man’s words were just wind blowing past his ears.
Suddenly, Jiang Yuanbai, who was following him by his side, shouted out: “Quickly look! In the picture frame!”
Mo Yi lowered his head with some uncertainty and followed Jiang Yuanbai's gaze.
Only to see that the image in the picture frame in his hand had unknowingly and unexpectedly changed…..
There was a part that was pitch-black within the image in the picture frame, it was an impenetrable inky colour in which the thick darkness completely filled up the entire space, resembling a cage. Within that darkness, two shadowy figures could be seen.
Mo Yi leaned in closer and squinted then carefully looked.
He saw one of the figures move, then raised their head, revealing a familiar face.
He looked very clearly exhausted, his clothing was tattered and stained with dried dark blood, appearing to look like he had experienced a great war. There was also a deep gash on the side of his face that was still dripping with blood. It was a ghastly and horrible sight.
Shen Lei stared at him in a daze, as if he hadn’t yet figured out the difference between dreams and reality.
Jiang Yuanbai leaned his face closer, stretched out his hand to slap the photo frame, and yelled: "Shen Lei! Shen Lei! Can you hear me!"
Mo Yi silently moved his face away, expressionlessly rubbing his aching ears.
All of a sudden, Shen Lei was stunned and light came back to his eyes. His facial expression became stern and there was a keen sharpness that re-emerged in his eyes. He propped himself up from the ground with his hands, struggling to stand up, but he seemed to be bound by something as he staggered back a few steps and then used his hand to stop himself from falling back to the ground.
Mo Yi did not say a word as he watched him attentively, his line of sight stayed on the hand that he used to support himself up from the ground for a few seconds. After confirming that his dominant hand was indeed his left hand, he quietly moved his gaze away.
He lowered his eyelids, slightly dispelling the alert in his eyes. After all, during these circumstances, being more vigilant was by no means a bad thing.
He heard Shen Lei shouted anxiously: “You absolutely cannot stay in this place! Do not trust that person!”
“Do you know how to get out?” Jiang Yuanbai leaned forward and asked.
Shen Lei’s eyes expressed bitterness: “……If I knew that, would I still be here?”
Mo Yi's expression was one of cold concentration, and he sped up his pace without saying a word, then asked, "You came in earlier than we did. Please tell me what you know so that we can have a chance of saving you."
——So that we have a chance of surviving.
The remaining words were tacitly understood by the three.
Shen Lei nodded solemnly, then succinctly explained what he had learned and experienced.
After hearing what Shen Lei said, the atmosphere became even heavier for a moment, and Mo Yi fell into deep contemplation.
According to what Shen Lei said, it had appeared in the form of Yu Li right from the beginning. Shen Lei and the others were secretly lured into discovering the correlation between the passage of time inside and outside the illusionary world, and so they made the decision to "wait until the countdown was over".
Until Shen Lei had realized that it was abnormal, and he was confined in this space when its true self was revealed.
As his vitality was departing from him, Shen Lei gradually merged with this space, and thus he was able to slowly learn some information that was not his own.
In fact, the entire illusion was under the control of the man in the silver frame.
Although Shen Lei was still unclear about what was its aim, he knew that it required two steps to be completed.
Firstly, the human bodies needed to be swallowed so that it can materialise. Secondly, two people needed to be trapped in order to obtain their souls.
Because, when the countdown ends, this copy of the game will be closed. The souls of the ones that were trapped in the illusion and had not died yet will belong to it.
Originally, it was about to succeed: it had trapped Yu Li and Shen Lei. However, Yu Li was in a weakened state, and her bitten severed arm caused her to lose too much blood, so she died before the countdown ended.
As a result, it had decided to bring in Mo Yi and Jiang Yuanbai here.
Mo Yi frowned, then suddenly remembered something and lifted up his gaze, asking: “So, it could transform into you, because……?”
“Flesh and blood.” Shen Lei replied and turned his cheek, exposing the laceration that was still dripping with blood to Mo Yi's eyes.
Mo Yi was startled, and subconsciously stretched out his hand to gently touch his forehead.
A fiery sting came from the wound on his forehead.
He remembered that when he first entered this illusion, "Shen Lei" was the one who had treated his wounds!
He quickly turned his head, and was about to call out to Jiang Yuanbai, but his voice got stuck in his throat——there was no one beside him.
Unbeknownst to him at the time, the pictures that surrounded him on both sides had returned back into their original state. The haunting bewitching voices had disappeared, and as far as his eyes could see, he seemed to be the only one left, standing alone in the middle of the stairs.
Shen Lei also seemed to realize that something was wrong, then sped up his speech, and said: "It can only attack you when it materialises. After materialising, although it cannot cause real harm to you, it can manipulate the entire illusion. You must be careful."
——That was why it resorted to using words to confuse them and convince them to stay behind instead of using force.
Not because it didn’t want to, but because it couldn’t.
“It’s too late, he has already taken Jiang Yuanbai away.”
Mo Yi’s expression was solemn as he thought about it for some time, then lowered his head to look at Shen Lei again and asked: "After I take off the photo frame, will you still be under its control?"
Shen Lei hesitated a bit, then nodded:
“I should be, because even now, I can still feel that it is constantly absorbing my life force."
Mo Yi's heart sank instantly.
Then——Shen Lei plus Jiang Yuanbai, it finally obtained two living people.
Mo Yi’s fingers slowly tightened their grasp onto the picture frame until they became white due to the force and strength of the grip.
He lowered his head again, wanting to ask something, but found that the image of the picture frame in his hands had become pitch black at some point.
Now, even Shen Lei was also gone
There seemed to be not even the slightest movement in this huge space. Dead silence spread throughout, and the whole illusion was as quiet as a tomb. Except for his slightly rapid heartbeat, Mo Yi couldn't hear anything.
Mo Yi gradually stopped in place and somewhat dazedly looked around, his mind was a complete mess where only broken and scattered thoughts remained.
He subconsciously raised his leg, wanting to continue moving upwards, but he missed a step and fell onto the ground.
The sudden feeling of weightlessness made Mo Yi dizzy, and the hard edge of the picture frame he was holding knocked into his stomach. The sharp pain and shifting of organs caused the feeling of nausea to shoot up throughout his body and left him quivering.
He propped up his upper body with his arms, his palms were pressed against the cold ground, and his vague shadow was reflected on the smooth stairs.
Mo Yi stared blankly at his reflection on the stairs for a moment.
An idea slowly surfaced in his mind.
A small light ignited in the depths of his eyes as he hurriedly got up from his position from the ground, and ran up the stairs.
As he approached closer, the white fog that enveloped the end of the stairs dispersed in front of his eyes.
At the end of the stairs, a wall stood tall before him.
Just like outside the illusion, there was no fourth floor, only a wall that seemed as if it was indestructible.
Mo Yi exhaled slowly, then raised his leg and stood on the last final step.
He slowly turned around, pressing his back up against the wall. The ice-cold sensation penetrated through the thin fabric of his shirt and seeped into the skin of his back.
——Since the stairs inside and outside the illusion were interconnected in the number of layers, structure, and even space, he wondered whether the curse on the stairs was also the same?
He stepped down with one leg.
His voice was steady and calm, as if he didn't have the slightest bit of hesitation or doubt:
Mo Yi counted as he walked.
The picture frame by his side started shaking, and the man's face appeared within the picture frame. It looked shocked and at a loss: "What are you doing? Quickly stop it!"
Mo Yi did not answer and calmly counted: "Six."
At this moment, Jiang Yuanbai's face appeared at the end of the stairs, and he stretched out his hand to Mo Yi: "What are you doing? Stop it! I know the way out!"
Mo Yi continued moving downwards: “Nine.”
This time, it was Shen Lei who appeared. He stretched out his bloody hand and shouted: "I have escaped! Hurry up! Come with me!"
Mo Yi smiled and did not stop: "Twelve."
He raised his leg and walked down the last step: "Thirteen."
The stairs underneath his foot suddenly shook, and the stairs suddenly disappeared. A large force grabbed Mo Yi's legs and pulled him.