In Virtual Reality
“Well, you’re doing pretty well,” said Coco as she taught Oliver the art of makeup in Angel’s House’s waiting room and lounge.
Dressed in comfortable cotton trousers and a white shirt, she was showing Oliver the ropes.
“Now that the base cream is on, let’s move on to the next step,” she said, holding out a container with the words [Tone-up Cream] engraved on it.
“What’s that?” Oliver asked.
“It brightens and clarifies your skin.
It makes a small difference, but the value of your skin is determined by its quality,” Coco explained.
“What about the one I just used?”
“That’s just the foundation.
I’m teaching you because you asked me to.
Are you going to keep asking questions or will you learn by doing?” Coco teased.
Oliver quickly apologized and took the cream jar as instructed, applying it to the woman in front of him.
She was an employee at Angel’s House who agreed to be Oliver’s training partner.
“Apply gently, gently.
Haven’t you learned that women should be treated gently?”
“I’ve never heard that before,” Oliver replied sincerely, causing the women around him to giggle.
“Why is everyone looking this way?” he asked.
“Well, this is the staff lounge and waiting room, so there’s nowhere else to go.
Plus, it’s quite entertaining to see a man seriously learning makeup while being scolded by a woman,” Coco explained with a playful grin.
The women around them giggled again.
Oliver continued to carefully apply the tone-up cream as Coco’s playful roar echoed through the room.
He couldn’t quite understand how he ended up in this situation.
When Jane requested Oliver to become her bodyguard, he agreed.
However, he was taken aback when he was suddenly told that he needed to learn security etiquette.
“You need to learn etiquette before entering any place as a bodyguard.
You represent the dignity and status of the employee.
I’ll teach you quickly,” Coco told him.
Initially, Oliver didn’t want to do it, but then Coco made him a deal.
“If you learn this, it’ll be useful in the future.
Let me know if there’s anything else you want.
If I can give it to you, I will.”
Thinking it over, Oliver asked Coco to teach him makeup techniques, specifically camouflage makeup.
In the diary of Puppeteer Glyph, he had read that knowing camouflage makeup was crucial, and he wanted some hands-on experience.
To his surprise, Coco happily agreed, as she considered it her specialty.
As Oliver applied the tone-up cream, Coco praised him, saying,
I may need a makeup technician here.”
But Oliver replied, “I want to learn camouflage, not just makeup.”
“Makeup and camouflage are the same.
You’re deceiving the other person’s eyes.”
Oliver then asked what he should do next, and Coco instructed him to apply the cover, using a pencil and brush to accentuate the eyebrows, eyes, nose, and forehead.
She showed him how to shade the face with strong-colored powder to add vitality and naturalness, and how to define the eye lines.
Finally, Oliver finished the look by curling the eyebrows, applying mascara, and putting lipstick on the lips.
He felt like he was painting on a canvas.
As he finished, the woman in front of him asked,
“Have I become pretty now?”
Oliver remembered what Coco told him to say,
“Yes, you look pretty.”
The women around them giggled once again as Coco continued to teach Oliver the rest of the work.
“Well, that’s great.”
“It’s not just empty words.
I taught you briefly, but I didn’t expect you to learn it so quickly.
Coco’s words were true.
Despite only receiving a brief lesson on makeup art along with bodyguard etiquette, Oliver had surprisingly learned quickly.
This was enough to transform a corpse’s face into a human appearance.
“As promised, I’ll teach you taping techniques and how to make rubber masks later.”
Taping was a technique for pulling the skin of the face with tape to change the appearance, and a rubber mask was a customized mask made with special rubber.
This was a special makeup technique that negotiators and spies in the Sisterhood learned, so even a birth mother wouldn’t recognize them.
“Most women here don’t even know their own birth mothers,” Coco said with a mixture of black humor and self-help.
Oliver nodded contentedly.
“Okay, I’ll come to learn later.
Thanks for the great teaching.”
It was actually fun for me because you learned better than I expected.
By the way, I don’t want you to forget about security etiquette just because you learned makeup.
Can you tell me what I taught you?”
“A bodyguard is not just a security guard, but also an accessory that enhances the dignity of an employer,”
Oliver recited the first thing he had learned.
Contrary to Oliver’s knowledge, bodyguards at social events served to enhance their employer’s dignity, as well as provide security.
They were told to have a neat appearance, maintain close proximity to the target at all times, blend in with the employer and not stand out, and not be intimidated by anyone.
After all, they represented the strength of their employer in the rough city.
“That’s why you said there are often times when bodyguards fight each other,”
“Fortunately, that’s not very common, unless you’re in a childish emotional fight.
However, high-ranking individuals can sometimes act petty and childish in strange situations,” Coco explained.
“So you told me to be careful,” Oliver remembered.
“You remembered everything.
Shall we practice again as we did before? Consider me as the security target,” Coco suggested.
As instructed, Oliver took up his position behind Coco on her right side, keeping a moderate distance as taught.
Coco walked, and Oliver followed, staying quiet and maintaining the appropriate distance.
“When walking, keep a moderate pace so that the target of the guard doesn’t feel pressured,” Coco reminded him.
“Don’t initiate conversation.
Speak only when requested,”
“When talking to your employer, use a whisper.
Do you know how?” Coco asked.
Following the teachings, Oliver covered his mouth with one hand and placed the other behind his waist.
He spoke briefly, succinctly, and accurately.
Coco chuckled, satisfied with Oliver’s progress.
“Great,” said Coco.
“Let’s get ready to go.
There’s still some time, but there’s no harm in being prepared early.”
Oliver nodded and started to change out of his work clothes and into his new tailored suit.
Coco had purchased the custom-made suit from a store called “For the Gentleman” and, as she had mentioned, it was quite expensive.
The store specialized in bulletproof suits for wealthy Solvers or mercenary officers who deal with the city’s upper class by using special materials for the lining.
It was a sign that Oliver had finally reached that level.
“Excuse me,” Coco suddenly interjected.
“Don’t change here, change in the dressing room.” She gestured to the room and continued, “Are you trying to show off your muscles?”
As the other women in the store watched, Oliver went into the dressing room.
After a few minutes, he emerged, dressed in a black suit from “For the Gentleman”.
Though the suit was plain, its color, gloss, and texture exuded luxury and made it the perfect security outfit.
The store clerks even praised Oliver’s appearance.
“Everyone, stop clapping,” Coco commanded.
“Back to work.
Dave, come with me.”
Oliver followed Coco and as they left the store, the female employees, now back in their working uniforms, greeted them with bright smiles.
“See you next time, Dave,” they said.
“You did a great job with your makeup,” one complimented.
“You’re so talented.
If you’re looking for a job, come back here.
I’ll put in a good word with Mama,” said another.
As Oliver accepted their compliments, Coco, who was walking with him, spoke.
“Our girls are all so kind, aren’t they?”
“They’re so kind enough to tell such a lie.”
Coco’s words were true.
All the employees working here were friendly and kind to Oliver, but behind the smile were sharp calculative emotions.
“But don’t hate them too much.
These women have to sell their laughter and play tricks just to survive in this tough city without money or connections, and to be able to live like human beings.”
Coco spoke sincerely as if she herself was included in that group of women.
As Oliver settled into the same car as Coco, he asked,
“Is this for the same reason you’re helping Ms.
“What do you mean?” Coco replied, taken aback.
“The reason behind your assistance to Ms.
Coco paused to gather her thoughts.
“Yes, it’s for the same reason.
If Jane succeeds, we will all benefit as well.”
She then explained that the Sisterhood, the organization they were both a part of, had changed over time as it grew in size and power.
It was no longer just a group of powerless women seeking survival, but had become more capitalistic.
“I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” Coco added.
“And why is Ms.
Jane attending the auction?” Oliver asked.
“She’s trying to buy a gift to make a connection with one of the influential members of the Sisterhood,” Coco replied.
“It’s said that this member has led a group of women to become one of Landa’s key capitalists, and those in her group have also gained benefits and influence.
There’s been some internal strife within the group, and if Jane can make a connection, it would be a big help.”
“But wouldn’t it be more profitable to save the cost of hiring me and buy more things?” Oliver questioned.
“Landa is both the best and most violent city in the world, governed by the wealthy and powerful,” Coco explained.
“The upper class often flaunts their power through not only their wealth and influence, but also through their bodyguards.
At the auction house, there can sometimes be threats and intimidation.
That’s why I hired Dave as a precaution, and I hired you because you’re the strongest and most reliable person I know.”
“You’d better change that attitude.”
“I’m giving you advice because I know you’re helping us out of courtesy.
In Landa, humility is not a virtue.”
“I didn’t mean to look humble, but I’ll take your advice.”
Coco changed the subject with a look on her face as if she was seeing a strange person.
“Anyway, if Jane makes contact with her, breadcrumbs will fall for those of us who are close to Jane, so we’re going to roll up our sleeves and help.”
“Is that all?”
Coco hesitated for a moment, looking pained.
“Oh, I hate it.
In Landa, emotional stories like this can only be told until you’re 16.
Ah, we’re here.”
As the car pulled up to the mansion, Oliver saw Jane waiting outside in a black dress.
“Oh, you’re here?” she said as they arrived.
Xu Jin Yi lounged on the small bed in her dorm room, adorned with her virtual reality headset.
After exchanging goodnight wishes with her roommates, she dove into the game.
She found herself in a realm of complete darkness, boundless and daunting.
Hesitantly reaching out her hand, she only discover that she could not perceive anything in this lightless environment – for she had no means to emit light herself.
Following a few more moments of anticipation, the sound of wings flapping became audible from overhead, accompanied by a crystal-clear birdcall, marking the beginning of the game.
The game title flickered across her vision.
Xu Jin Yi examined the English subtitles beneath the Chinese characters, pondering for a moment.
Perhaps the game's developers intended to disseminate the VR version of “Elevator Safety Instructions” to foreign markets, implementing a bilingual mode.
Xu Jin Yi was filled with a profound sense of admiration for the creators of the game.
“Elevator Safety Instructions” had been born from the depths of destitution – its developers lacked the resources to promote their early release on the gaming website.
Yet, despite their humble beginnings, the game's strikingly eerie art style and its evocative urban legend about elevators – which, despite its simple mechanics, could rival the most expensive horror movies – propelled it into the spotlight, ultimately securing the website's second prize of the year.
A white rectangular frame gradually materialized before her, accompanied by a small electronic screen adjacent to it.
The frame represented the elevator, while the screen displayed the floor number, which read “2.”
Without hesitation, Xu Jin Yi reached out and pressed the solitary “up” button.
As the elevator descended, it hurtled straight from the second floor to the unimaginable depths of the -18th floor, mirroring the same spine-tingling experience she had encountered in the PC version.
A chime rang out, and the elevator doors parted slowly, casting a dazzling white light.
Xu Jin Yi lifted her foot to step inside, but an inexplicable force collided with her, causing her entire field of vision to tremble.
She furrowed her brows, attempting to grasp what had just occurred.
Eventually, she resolved to enter the elevator, pushing past her apprehension.
The doors closed slowly behind her, enclosing her in an eerie silence.
Xu Jin Yi spun around to inspect the floor buttons.
The elevator panel glowed with the presence of several occupants, yet Xu Jin Yi's acute observation skills detected something unusual in the reflection on the elevator door.
A dishevelled, barefoot apparition stood in the lower right corner, while the left corner captured a delivery man donning canary-yellow clothes.
In the centre, an individual stood filming the eerie scene with a camera.
Hiss…A realization dawned on Xu Jin Yi in utter silence, for the rules of the game explicitly stated that encountering a ghost was impossible at the beginning of the game, and she had yet to stop on any floor.
To distract herself from the supernatural sighting, she diverted her gaze towards the elevator's right, where the “Elevator Safety Instructions” regulations hung on the wall.
【For your safety, please follow these rules when riding the elevator:】
Overloading, transporting objects too high or too wide, and bringing flammable, explosive or corrosive items into the elevator cabin are strictly prohibited.】
It is strictly forbidden to hit, kick, or pry open the elevator door, parts, buttons, and other devices and to play and fool around in the elevator cabin.】
Use the elevator buttons correctly, enter and exit the cabin in an orderly and efficient manner, check if the elevator is stopped at your floor before entering or exiting, and do not use items or bodies to prevent the elevator door from closing.】
In case of fire, earthquake, and other disasters, using the elevator for escape is strictly prohibited.】
If the elevator breaks down or experiences a power failure and you are trapped, please remain calm, utilize the elevator's emergency alarm device or other communication tools to contact the elevator management or maintenance unit, and await professional rescue.
Do not force the elevator door open to escape for your safety.】
Leaning or prying open the door during elevator operation or malfunction is prohibited.】
Smoking is prohibited in the elevator and the cabin should be kept clean.】
With a smile that curved her almond eyes, Xu Jin Yi lifted her hand in anticipation.
'Let's press all the unlit buttons and descend, shall we?' She thought, with a mischievous glint in her eyes and pressed.
'After all, if we're going to play, we might as well go all out with the excitement.'
Amid pressing, a thought occurred to her.
'The developers mentioned that I would have NPC teammates this time.
Could it be those three individuals standing behind me?'
Curious, Xu Jin Yi turned her head to get a better look.
The individual donning a pink hoodie pivoted on their heel and, as if only just noticing Zeng Zhi's presence, beamed a welcoming smile.
“Hello~?” they chimed in greeting.
Only now, Zeng Zhi could get a better look at the newcomer, and his mouth gaped, and his voice quivered as he mustered the courage to respond.
Might I ask if you are related to Wang Jin Long?” he inquired, his curiosity piqued.
“I am Zeng Zhi, Wang Jin Long is my roommate, and you two bear a striking resemblance.”
The person before him appeared momentarily taken aback.
“Wang Jin Long?” they repeated incredulously.
'Do they truly know him?' A surge of excitement flooded Zeng Zhi, and he instinctively clutched onto the hem of Hoodie.
Carefully, he stood up, steadying himself against the elevator wall.
“Um, um…” Zeng Zhi whispered, huddling closer to the stranger.
“There's a ghost here!”
The person in the pink hoodie nodded affirmatively, a small smile gracing their lips.
Zeng Zhi stared at them in astonishment.
'Why are you so composed when you know what's going on?!' His expression was tinged with a mixture of bewilderment and anxiety.
But the person in the hoodie didn't seem fazed.
Instead, they extended their left arm in a welcoming gesture, beckoning Zeng Zhi closer.
“Come now, don't be so tense,” they chided gently as if they were old friends meeting after a long time apart.
“As a matter of fact, I believe two of my teammates are here in this elevator with us.
Do you want to be the first one?”
Xu Jin Yi was taken aback by the NPC's direct mention of the “ghost”, but it proved to be a time-saver regarding observation.
Simultaneously, she yearned to examine the NPCs' cognitive abilities and innovation levels.
Her earphones delivered stuttering noises to her, clear as day as if someone was trembling and quivering.
Despite his ashen complexion, Zeng Zhi, who was nearby, did not appear to be the one stuttering.
This left only one possibility: someone else was responsible.
Xu Jin Yi focused on the barefoot apparition in the lower right corner.
PASS — She had seen this ghost on her computer screen many times before, and he was, without a doubt, the ghost.
The only person left was the delivery boy huddled in the corner.
Predictably, the boy's voice quavered as he slowly raised his trembling hand and uttered softly, “I-I'm human…
I was merely delivering food, and then I became trapped in this eerie elevator.”
The NPC informed almost like reacting to a trigger.
Xu Jin Yi couldn't help but laugh at the simplicity and directness of the horror game's premise, precisely what she loved about it.
Back then, “Elevator Safety Instructions” only received the second prize, mainly due to its lack of a compelling main storyline despite its highly effective horror scenes that garnered a large following.
Nevertheless, Xu Jin Yi appreciated the game's unique features, as she preferred games that helped her relax rather than ones that heightened her stress levels.
Games like “Death Notice,” which required extensive note-taking, were not her cup of tea.
With the NPC teammates likely determined, Xu Jin Yi pulled up the huddled delivery boy with a smile on her face.
“My name is Silence,” she introduced herself.
The delivery guy pressed himself against the wall and whispered, “I'm Huang Yang, a delivery man.”
“I'm Zeng Zhi,” Zeng Zhi added cautiously, occasionally glancing at the motionless barefoot ghost.
“I'm a UP, an online content creator.”
Xu Jin Yi blinked and spoke naturally, “I'm Silence, an elevator enthusiast.”
The other two were somewhat perplexed by her words but didn't dare to inquire further.
Although Silence seemed somewhat enigmatic–for example, she appeared entirely unfazed by the current situation–at least one person in the group could speak coherently, and their sense of security increased significantly.
As the elevator continued to ascend, nobody knew which floor this eerie elevator would come to a halt.
Xu Jin Yi lightly patted the shoulders of the two NPCs with a reassuring smile, “Regrettably, the floor where the lift comes to a halt is randomized.
Our exite is limited to the floor we had originally pressed.”
Zeng Zhi furrowed his brow in concern, “But I did not hit any button.”
He had pressed the button for the second floor, and just as he did, the ghost with bare feet had boarded the lift.
Fearful of disturbing the supernatural entity, he dared not press any other buttons.
Huang Yang interjected, “I hit the button for the 32nd floor,” indicating the parcel in his grasp with a hushed tone, “my orderer is on the uppermost level.”
Xu Jin Yi hesitated before speaking, “I pressed…”
Turning her gaze towards the panel of buttons, she fell silent for a moment, then chuckled, “Hahaha, I suppose I pressed them all.”
Zeng Zhi could only stare at her incredulously, at a loss for words.
Xu Jin Yi chortled as she clutched Zeng Zhi's shoulder, “Fret not, my dear.
If the worst comes to pass, you can press a vacant button later.
Zeng Zhi sighed in relief, “Thank you.”
Truly, there was nothing he could do in this situation.
Had he been privy to the knowledge that the lift was haunted, he would have thought twice before coming here!
He glanced towards the immobile ghost with bare feet and whispered to Xu Jin Yi, “Psst, do you really know Wang Jin Long? Are you related to him in some way?”
His flatmate, Wang Jin Long, would depart early in the morning and not return until late at night.
If he did not pay his share of the rent on time, Zeng Zhi would have assumed he lived with a ghost.
Being a host for the adventure zone UP, he could not help but feel anxious about his roommate's constant disappearances.
Xu Jin Yi pondered momentarily, “I do know him, but why do you assume that I'm his kin?”
“You two share a striking resemblance,” Zeng Zhi cowered between Xu Jin Yi and Huang Yang, seeking refuge, “It's uncanny!”
Xu Jin Yi retorted, “Perhaps you need your eyesight checked.”
Her countenance was that of a model's! Even her unenhanced complexion surpassed the level of refinement.
But did the “Elevator Safety Instructions” organization collaborate with the “Murphy Amusement Park” officials? Does that imply the amusement park is on the verge of being launched?!
Contemplating this, Xu Jin Yi's spirits lifted slightly.
While the three of them chattered away in the corner of the elevator, oblivious to the barefoot ghost, the elevator halted again.
Xu Jin Yi swivelled around.
This time, it halted on the 4th floor.
“Who pressed 4?” she inquired, and the two against the wall rapidly shook their heads, signalling that it wasn't them.
Xu Jin Yi pondered.
She knew the button she pressed moments ago wasn't the 4th floor.
Four individuals were in the elevator, so not her, Huang Yang, or Zeng Zhi.
Xu Jin Yi's gaze shifted to the barefoot ghost standing across from her.
The barefoot ghost stood motionless as if it didn't hear Xu Jin Yi's words.
“Miss or Mr.,” Xu Jin Yi stepped forward, and without her as support, Huang Yang and Zeng Zhi clung to each other and quivered.
“You've arrived at your desired floor; please disembark?”
The elevator doors creaked open, revealing an abyss of darkness beyond.
The feeble illumination of the elevator light failed to penetrate the blackness outside.
The barefoot ghost finally stirred, but not its feet.
It raised its head, baring bloodshot crimson eyes, and twisted its lips in a grotesque smile.
One had to admit that the game's designers had done a splendid job creating a terrifying presence.
The ghost's pupils were pinpricks, and the whites of its eyes were laced with thread-like red veins.
Torn flesh surrounded its eyes, and its toothless mouth hung open, displaying a cavity as dark as the void outside the elevator.
Facing such a visage and witnessing the ghost's unnatural behaviour, even if it was not a spectre, it was, at the very least, someone with an unsound mind.
“Hehehe…” The barefoot ghost continued to stare at Xu Jin Yi, chuckling in a sinister tone.
Xu Jin Yi waited patiently, barely able to keep her eyes open.
Eventually, she interrupted its laughter, “If you've had enough fun, would you kindly leave?”
There were only two possible outcomes when the elevator doors opened – someone entered or left.
Since no one had entered, it followed that someone had to go.
However, something unpleasant would occur if the person who didn't press the button for the current floor alighted from the elevator.
So Xu Jin Yi silently hoped that the barefoot ghost could comprehend her silent plea.
The ghost's smile faltered, and for the first time, confusion flitted across its eerie features.
Was this not what it had expected? Shouldn't this person be quaking with fear and fleeing for their life?
——— Translator's Notes ———
“赤脚鬼” (chì jiǎo guǐ) literally means “barefoot ghost” and is a type of ghost in Chinese folklore.
It is said that this ghost walks barefoot and leaves bloody footprints wherever it goes.
UP主 (UP主 – UP host) – a term used to refer to creators or hosts of online video content on platforms such as Bilibili.
探灵 (tan ling) – a term used to refer to the act of exploring supernatural phenomena or spirits, often used in the context of videos or TV shows.
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