school is a grave disciplinary offence, and using a leave slip as a reason for your delay, as I did, should not have been an option for you,” Silence reflected as they thought back to the game Death Notice and the consequences of not abiding by the rules.
“I can't help but wonder if your student file has been altered.”

“What file?”

Silence explained, “Every student has their own file that is kept in the archives.
Every time a student makes a mistake and is criticized, a mark is added to their file.
If a student receives four criticisms, which are typically related to breaking school rules, a 'death notice' is issued by the radio station.”

As they finished speaking, Silence's gaze shifted up and down Shen Jia in amazement, “If your file has not been modified, then there must be a bug or loophole in the system.”

Despite Silence's often immodest language, Shen Jia chose to focus on their words and began to ponder the situation at hand.

“I may attend the same school as the other students, but I am not in the same major or class.
I am not familiar with anyone here, including Xu Qin and Peng Jia Long, whom I only met upon enrolling,” Shen Jia acknowledged.

Who would help him with the task of altering his file? If not a living person, could it be a ghost? But how could that even be possible?

Silence pervaded the room, leaving everyone uncertain.
“Well, I'm not entirely sure,” they shrugged before bursting into laughter.
“But if someone did tamper with your file and allowed you to live, then your fifty school hours today were not for nothing.
All you need is one briefing, and any mistakes in your file will be easily spotted, regardless of whether the person who helped you concealed it or made the changes obvious.”

Hoodie leaned back in his chair, speaking slowly and deliberately, causing the other dormitory members to blush.
“I recall that during the time when you were being questioned in the cafeteria, it was already five minutes past five, which marked the end of the classes at Dark Virtue University.
It is highly likely that the number of ghost students heading towards the cafeteria during that time would have surged, and you mentioned,” Hoodie paused, and Shen Jia felt a creeping sensation running down his spine as if something was staring at him in the gloomy darkness.
“An argument in a crowded cafeteria that continued could have gathered a crowd, attracting a student council member heading for dinner or a teacher.”

With just one mistake, Shen Jia would be condemned to death.

“Ah, I see now,” Shen Jia muttered.

No wonder the cafeteria manager appeared so thrilled during the commotion, beyond the typical reaction of a mere bystander.
The other party probably hoped that Long Xiaohui and Shen Jia would engage in an argument, providing them with an opportunity to exploit the situation.

However, of the three present, it was not Shen Jia who felt the greatest inner turmoil, but rather Peng Jia Long, who suddenly began to pant and wheeze.

“I'm sorry, I didn't know…” he stammered, his mouth hanging open in shock, sadness, and panic, his throat uncomfortably constricted.
“I, I…I just want to help you, I just want you to live…I just want us to live.”

The tall, broad-shouldered teenager huffed and puffed and remembered to speak in a hushed voice.
“Shen Jia, did you know that causing a scene in the cafeteria was strictly forbidden? Is that why you tolerated Long Xiao Hui's behaviour?”

Shen Jia felt helpless.
“There is a reason behind it.
And beyond the watchful eye of the cafeteria manager, it garnered far more attention than a typical incident.
If a continuous quarrel had broken out in the cafeteria, I am afraid the other party would have done something unexpected.”

He paused, lowered his gaze, and whispered, “But I don't want people to get upset over this, or for us to fall apart internally.
I want the rest of us to return home safely.”

The word “home” shattered Peng Jia Long's defences, and he let out a mournful sound, covering his eyes with his large hands.

[The fierce man in tears.GIF]

“I used to think you were afraid of them,” Peng Jia Long gasped between sobs.
“I'm so sorry…I'm sorry, Shen Jia!”

Shen Jia shook his head, feeling a mix of emotions.
“It's alright.
So, what kind of impression do you guys have of me, anyway?”

He pointed at Xu Qin, who giggled in response.
“One thinks I'm too soft.”

Then he gestured toward Peng Jia Long.
“And the other thinks I'm too scared.”

Shen Jia's expression became complicated, reflecting the thoughts swirling in his mind.


As Peng Jia Lang wept, Xu Jin Yi casually snipped a few images that could be used for creating reaction gifs.
It would be a waste not to make the most out of them.

Taking a quick glance at the trio, Xu Jin Yi was intrigued.
Back in the library, she had switched off the sound on her phone while tinkering with it earlier, lest she be caught by Xiao Zhou, sitting nearby.
Thanks to the subtitles on Death Notice, she could still read the NPC conversations on her phone's screen.

Shen Jia seemed oblivious to Peng Jia Long's attempts to speak, which had been thwarted thrice – perhaps by sheer coincidence or design.

Xu Jin Yi pondered the reason behind Xu Qin and Peng Jia Long's odd perception of Shen Jia.
Why did they cover for him when it came to school hours? Could it have something to do with his tardiness? Was it spontaneous, or were they told to do so? This was becoming more intriguing by the minute.

Did the VR version serve as a magical inspiration tool for the production team? Scream Haunted House breathed new life into the once-bland story and now even Death Notice shined in new light, impressing Xu Jin Yi with its innovation.
It set the bar high for all single-player horror games.

While the stammering and stuttering of NPCs like Peng Jia Long may have been intended by the production team to prolong the player's exploration or to further the story, it was frustrating for players like Xu Jin Yi.

The last time Xu Jin Yi experienced such exasperation was while playing the beta version of Murphy's Playground.
The NPCs would have barely avoided total destruction if they had spoken clearly.
Even now, Xu Jin Yi couldn't help but twist her face in annoyance at the memory.

The situation was outrageous yet somehow logical, but as she watched the CG for the episode, her heart was filled with frustration.
What made it worse was that the production team had yet to release the official version, and the original beta version was also scrapped from the internet.
Instead of addressing the issues with their game, the team spent their days reading comments on other official platforms.
It was reminiscent of the team that shelved the second instalment of Death Notice.

To avoid experiencing the same issues as [Murphy's Amusement Park], Xu Jin Yi saved a file and gave [Peng Jia Long] a sharp look.


In the darkness, Hoodie spoke with a lazy drawl, expressing their disbelief.
“It's weird, you.
Whether it's covering up the report for Shen or a preconceived notion that he's good-natured…
There's no reason why not explain yourself, right?”

Shen Jia felt helpless as Silence suddenly turned their head to look at him.
“Yes, speak,” he replied.

Hoodie continued, “Or the strong opinion that it's not your fault for taking 503's food…
What are you hiding, schoolboy?”

Shen Jia had also wondered about the reason behind Peng Jia Long's aggressive treatment of the female dormitory 503.
However, the other party never explained.
Sometimes, Shen Jia felt like he was on the verge of blurting it out, only to swallow it back out of concern.

During the confrontation with Long Xia, Peng Jia Long almost revealed the reason.
Still, Shen Jia was afraid that the canteen manager would catch him in the act and stopped him three times.

Now, with Hoodie on the same page, Shen Jia had the chance to ask Peng Jia Long about it in peace.
“Is there something you're not telling me?”

Peng Jia Long hesitated for a long time before finally speaking up to his remaining housemates, “Shen Jia, Xu Qin, you guys will believe what I say, right?”

Silence, who was previously excited, once again fell in annoyance.


Xu Jin Yi had been persecuted numerous times by the NPCs of “Murphy's Playground” who would say things like “I know you won't believe what I say”; “'I'm not telling you because I already knew this ending' ” and engage in a series of riddling behaviours, leaving her feeling suffocated and in need of resuscitation.


“I don't care if they believe you or not,” sneered Silence, clenching their fists tightly.
“But if you don't tell me, you can bet that I'll knock the truth out of you one hit at a time, my dear schoolmate.”

——— Translator's Notes ———

*This phrase is a cultural reference from the Chinese literary classic “Journey to the West” (《西游记》), which is a fictionalized account of the pilgrimage of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang to India in the Tang dynasty.
In the novel, the Monkey King (Sun Wukong) encounters a hedgehog-like creature called a “Needle-Porker” (刺猬精) who is impervious to his attacks.
Eventually, the Monkey King learns a special technique called “Stabbing the Hedgehog under the Moon” (月下刺猹) which allows him to defeat the creature.

The phrase is often used in modern Chinese to describe someone who appears to be preparing to do something difficult or unconventional without the necessary skills or knowledge to succeed, much like the inexperienced Monkey King before he learned the technique.

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