Darkness, endless darkness entangled his limbs, pulling him into the endless abyss.
Everything in colour seemed to be broken into dull colourless pieces that melted into the darkness.
This sensation felt very familiar......
Like……like it was the nightmare that he kept having…...
Mo Yi was in a dazed stupor. He futilely tightened his grip on the picture frame in his hand, letting its cold hard edges dig into his abdomen, which served as a reminder that he wasn’t in a dream.
Suddenly, a burst of bone-chilling coldness assaulted his senses. The billowing waves of malice and resentment practically coalesced into a single entity that had merged itself with the surrounding darkness, and then surged towards Mo Yi.
It was as if the whole world wanted to kill him!
A sense of alarm desperately blared throughout his body! Screaming warnings that danger was approaching!
Mo Yi’s body stiffened up in cold terror, and the sudden fear was like a pair of intangible hands surrounding his throat, strangling the air out of his chest. The feeling of death was so close that one could only tremble and wait for it to come.
But, when that amalgamation of resentment drew closer, it seemed to stop.
The picture frame in his arms abruptly began to rattle violently!
The amalgamation of resentment that paused its advance, resembled a beast that found its prey. As if it was a shark that smelled the scent of blood, it changed its direction, then fiercely and mercilessly pounced on to the picture frame!
Mo Yi only felt a large force colliding with the picture frame that sent him flying. A sweet fishy scent of rust rose from his chest.
He then finally touched the ground.
Mo Yi squeezed out a painful gasp with some difficulty as he laid curled up on the sticky moist ground. His entire body ached so much that felt like it was falling apart but that couldn’t compare to the ripping pain radiating from his leg……it probably broke during the fall.
There was a damp rotten mildew smell that lingered on the tip of his nose, just like when he was in the corridor.
He peeled open his eyelids and blearily looked to his side.
The surrounding darkness that did not let even a little bit of light through had now changed to a dull, murky grey and his vision was barely clear enough for him to look at the thing beside him.
He then saw the silver picture frame, which was completely shattered into pieces at this moment, as if it had been corroded, distorted and charred, as if it had suffered some inhumane torment, as it laid beside him in a desperate posture.
Mo Yi knew clearly that the force that was about to tear him apart was originally rushing at him, but changed its direction when it touched the photo frame. It could even be said that this photo frame blocked the blow for him.
He did not dare to imagine what would have become of him if he hadn't taken this picture frame with him.
Mo Yi couldn't help but squeeze out a hoarse cough from his throat. His lungs were like a pair of broken bellows. Every time he coughed, he would stretch the wounds all over his body, intensifying the pain.
It was at this moment that he caught a glimpse at the corner of his eye of something strange that was right in the middle of that twisted picture frame.
Mo Yi was taken aback.
Instinctively, he felt that this was the answer he was looking for.
Perhaps he was born with a high tolerance for pain as he struggled to stand up and limped over to the thing, then bent down to pick it up.
It was a crumpled piece of paper.
On the paper there was a familiar carefree and sloppy drawing, similar to that of a child’s handwriting. At first glance, it looked like a deformed bird.
Mo Yi stared blankly for a second, and a blurry image flashed through his mind——this was the drawing that was on the blackboard in Zhao Qiulan’s classroom.
The only unexplained hint in the prompt suddenly jumped into his mind clearly: Yan no foot.
Mo Yi's heart was pounding as he reached out to turn the paper over.
The overwhelming bright light coming from the paper caused Mo Yi to feel dizzy. He shut his eyes and turned his head away to avoid that dazzling light.
The sounds of people quarrelling reached his ears.
Mo Yi opened his eyes in surprise, and then was shocked to find that he was standing in a corridor.
He raised up his head at a loss, and after a second, the black “4f” above his head caused a twinge of pain in his eye.
Not far from where he was, the quarrelling voices become increasingly louder and clearer. Mo Yi’s brows furrowed and he dragged his limping legs over to the voices.
Only one of the doors was open, and "Principal's Room" was written in standard bold text on the door. There were two men arguing fiercely about something. One of them was facing Mo Yi, it was an old man in his 50s or 60s with a balding head looking scared out of his wits.
The other was a tall and thin young man with his back facing Mo Yi, his hands opening and closing as he was gesturing at something: "...Please, let me do this, otherwise I would go insane!"
The old man said nothing
The frantic young man continued: “She wanted to kill me! Don’t you understand! She wanted to kill me! This was in self-defence!”
That old man suddenly stood up in agitation and slapped the desk. His puffing face flushed crimson as spittle flew: “Then you shouldn’t have acted on her in the first place!”
The young man choked for a bit, and then roared in a louder voice: "It, it was that b*tch who seduced me first! With those kinds of pictures! How can she be a decent person!"
“Then you can’t…then you can’t……”, the old man pointed at the young man, his whole body was trembling with disappointment and anger.
The young man sat down on the chair, his face buried in the palms of his hands, and he replied numbly: "I didn’t want it to be like this either, who could’ve known, I just pushed her and her head...just hit the stairs..."
He abruptly lifted his head and faced the old man.
Mo Yi was stunned. He recognized this face: this young man was the man in the silver frame, the monster that tried to trap him in the illusionary world.
Listening to his low hoarse voice was like listening to the hissing of a poisonous snake: "Things have already reached this point and dead people cannot be resurrected. Her vengeful spirit is haunting me, wanting me to share her fate. I can't just sit around and wait for my death.”
The young man stood up and fished out a wrinkled piece of paper from his chest pocket. He placed it on the table and nervously smiled: “The Dashi said that this will definitely work. We just only need her corpse.”
Teh: 大师 (dàshī) basically means great master and it’s how a Buddhist monk is addressed.
The old man was hesitant.
Suddenly, the young man knelt down with a thud and looked at the old man with tears and mucus flowing down his face saying: "Please, I beg you! Just help me this once! Please save me! Dad!"
The old man steeled himself and finally nodded.
The whole scene shone brightly again, so bright that one could hardly open their eyes, and when he opened his eyes again, Mo Yi returned to the grey-white space.
He lowered his gaze and stood still for a long time.
At this moment, all the clues were finally connected, stitching together in his mind to form a complete picture.
This building should be the concrete representation of Zhao Qiulan’s three years in high school. The monsters on each floor corresponded to her experiences each year.
Hanako on the first floor represented her mother who killed her father during her first year in high school and then committed suicide; the moving pictures on the second floor represented the nude photographs of her being taken due to being bullied in her second year of high school; the staircase on the third floor represented her experience with being molested by her teacher and then being pushed to her death on the stairway.
And that teacher...was the man in that picture.
Mo Yi lowered his head and looked at the crumpled paper in his hand, only to see a few scribbled words and some rough sketches on it, which have become blurred out due to time.
He could barely make out what was written on it. It was a certain long-forgotten ritual and its purpose was to seal away a spirit so that it would not be able to go through the cycle of rebirth, reincarnate and cause chaos.
Mo Yi was lost in thought as he stroked the edge of the paper where the deformed bird was.
He finally recognized this totem.
This was Saint Martin’s bird, also known as the Yanyan (crag martin), and it was included in some heraldic books.
It has no feet and so it could only fly forever just like Zhao Qiulan, helpless and despairing, as her trapped soul could never be freed. The difference was that Yanyan will continue to fly until it died but Zhao Qiulan was already dead and so her “forever” was never-ending.
Mo Yi smoothed out the wrinkles on the paper using his fingers but then he felt a fold mark at the edge and he fumbled to find a gap. He then opened up the paper along the crease.
There was a peculiar drawing on the paper and a note written in red beside it: “Fear of fire, be careful.”
Mo Yi was dumbfounded for a moment, then he lifted his head to see that the darkness had further receded back, leaving behind a faded pale grey and expanding his field of vision.
Only then did he realise that he was in a deep pit, a rectangular pit that looked like……the same shape as the entire school building. There were bright red lines running through and criss-crossing in the pit, the red was oozing out as if it was fresh blood. They come together to form the strange drawing that was on the paper, and at every corner of it, there would be a pile of ghastly white human bones.
Mo Yi was standing right in the middle of this pattern.
He breathed in deeply, reached into his pocket and there was something cold pressing against his fingertips, which he then took it out.
It was a silver lighter.
There was a complicated look in Mo Yi’s eyes as he pursed his lips.
He did not smoke. However, on the way home yesterday, not knowing why and through some curious coincidence, he bought a lighter from a roadside stall and put it into his pocket.
But he wasn’t clairvoyant and could not predict the future, and also, he could not have known that it would come in handy today.
Maybe……it really was just that easy and there was nothing more to it?
Mo Yi’s mind was just a tangled mess of thoughts as he held the lighter tightly in his fingers. The metal casing was gradually warming up to match his body temperature as if it might be able to calm him down.
He took in a deep breath and expelled all the chaotic thoughts out from his mind.
——In any case, the most important thing at the moment was to destroy this spell formation.
Mo Yi flicked open the lighter and loosened his fingers, the embers from the fire were dragged down by gravity. When they fell to the ground and onto the blood red line, it instantly ignited and the fire rapidly spread throughout causing everything to burn up in flames.
As the bones started burning, he could hear snapping sounds coming from the air and several cracks started to appear in the space around him. Then, as if the entire space could not continue enduring, everything shattered into solid black fragments.
Immediately afterwards, the scene before his eyes flashed and Mo Yi found himself standing in the middle of a corridor in the school building.
He looked around blankly, recognising that he was currently on the second floor and right at the place where he first entered the photograph.
And outside the window beside him, a row of brightly shining blue numbers flashed in the dark sky: "0:08".
A piercing scream reached his ears, it was a shrill, hoarse and mournful crowing, as if the owner of the scream was suffering from extreme agony:
“Eight minutes! Eight more minutes!! Wait for eight more minutes and I will have two souls!! Then I will be able to escape!! Don’t——!
Mo Yi was stunned, then limped as quick as he could towards the stairs.
He saw that the silver picture frame had vanished and the man in the photograph had also disappeared without a trace. What was left was a thick foul black liquid slipping down the wall and leaving behind a burning corrosive trail.
He also seemed to have caught a glimpse of a girl’s silhouette.
Mo Yi turned his head to look at that place again but there was already nothing there.
He then heard a familiar pleasant female voice:
“Congratulations player Mo Yi, you have completed the side quest: Sweet Revenge. The quest reward has been sent to your account. Please collect it after the game has concluded."
Mo Yi’s tense body loosened almost instantaneously, and at that point, the pain and aches from his entire body rushed through his senses like the tide. He was barely able to stretch out a hand in time and support himself against the wall, preventing him from falling to the ground.
The wall under his palm suddenly shook and Mo Yi lifted his head up in surprise only to find that the end of the corridor had started to collapse. The entire school building was beginning to break down into pieces! The whole building was shaking vigorously and violently
Mo Yi was alarmed but he immediately understood.
The entire building was about Zhao Qiulan’s experiences, or rather it was a representation of her resentment, and since her “sweet revenge” was achieved, then there was no need for this building to exist anymore……
Therefore, it will fall apart.
The wall collapsed in of itself, compressing the window bars into strange shapes, then it fractured out and dropped into the empty void, exposing the endless abyss.
Mo Yi then realised that……the darkness outside of the window wasn’t actually empty, there was the dense thick fog!
As the wall broke down, the silent fog poured into the collapsing corridor, then rushed towards where Mo Yi was!
There was no escape.
There was no way to run.
He was struck with the feeling of danger, which was a hundred times more oppressive than what he felt in the illusionary world! This feeling clutched at his throat, squeezing out every bit of air from his lungs and forcing him to tremble uncontrollably.
The fog slowly engulfed him.
During his struggle, the wound on his forehead split open again, and the warm viscous blood stuck to his eyelashes and dyed Mo Yi's entire field of vision a bright red.
Within this bright red view, he saw the fog gathering in one spot.
The surrounding fog was diluted into a pale transparency, but in the centre, it was slowly condensing to a tall human form!
The numbers shining in the air behind him gave off a faint blue light. Mo Yi’s entire body was stiff as the fog seemed as if it was wrapping around his limbs and ensnaring him in place. He could only look on helplessly as the person walked towards him one step at a time.
The frigidly cold breath of death lingered at the tip of his nose.
That man stood right in front of him, he extended his cold iron-like hand and firmly grasped Mo Yi’s chin then lowered his head to lick at the blood that was still running from his forehead wound.
The cold and coarse fur of the tongue roughly rubbed against the flesh and the blood. The healing wound was torn apart again and following that, he felt a pain that was beyond comprehension.
It hurts! Why does it hurt so much!
It was as if he was suddenly feeling all the pain he had experienced in his life but multiplied by hundreds of times! All the painful sensations were like a nail that was wedged strongly into his brain and a torrential attack on his nerves.
Mo Yi’s eyes darkened and he could hardly gasp for breath.
Without knowing why, feelings of wild irrationality came along with the pain. His blood bubbled and boiled in his veins as if a sleeping beast had awoken inside of him and had taken the opportunity to attack the cage of reasoning hidden at the bottom of his heart.
Roaring and howling, venting out its alarming desire for domination.
The sudden violent frenzy dominated Mo Yi’s body and his rationality. He spared no effort and shook off the misty shackles that were keeping him in place!
The body under his hand was cold and strong, as if it contained a boundless amount of strength and terribly explosive power.
The desire for destruction soared within his heart.
Mo Yi couldn’t help from smiling anxiously, then he buried his face in the crook of the man’s neck and bit down ruthlessly!
Sharp canine teeth punctured the skin and he was surprised to know that the man’s blood was scalding hot. The blood spewed out from the wound and the salty bitter liquid slipped down Mo Yi’s throat then into his body, flooding it with warmth. His rationality was practically paralysed as the rich smell of blood permeated his senses. The addiction to the strong scent was poisoning his mind and making him bite down even harder.
In the haze, Mo Yi noticed that——
After he had thrown off his bindings, that man had not done anything else, instead, he turned his head indulgently and exposed more of his neck to his teeth.
He even chuckled in a low voice.
Finally, when Mo Yi has somewhat sobered up from his blood-frenzied impulses, he looked over the man’s shoulder and caught sight of the weak flashing blue light. In the air, the numbers read:
Out-of-place electronic music played by Mo Yi’s ears: “Congratulations on your successful escape!”
The sounds and the scenery were zooming out and Mo Yi’s vision turned black as he began to pass out.
Before he completely lost consciousness, the last image that was imprinted into his retinas……was of that man, leaning his head over then dropping a cold bloody kiss on his blood-soaked lashes.