In Virtual Reality 6 ☆ Screaming Haunted House (2/12)
It seemed bottomless when one looked down into the well's dark hole.
Furthermore, this view was enhanced by a moon that was remarkably too bright for this night.
It was like a stage light spotlighting the key point and garnering attention from the audience.
Tossing her flashlight up and down playfully, Xu Jin Yi stood beside the well and looked down.
The sound from the well was becoming increasingly loud as if something was about to crawl out of it.
'Five… Four… Three..'
The sound of fingernails clinging to the stone was already so loud that she thought someone was scratching them next to her ear.
Finally, a weirdly delighted smile came on Xu Jin Yi's face as she caught the flashlight for the last time.
The flashlight's light shone upward from her chin.
At this moment, Xu Jin Yi resembled a ghost more than a real ghost.
When the youngster who had crawled up from the well's mouth saw her like this, he rolled his eyes back, his whole body going limp and set to free fall back down the well.
Xu Jin Yi quickly reacted and grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, hoisting him out.
Was IT a newly added NPC?
It seemed so.
Once you've achieved all of the endings of a single-player game, they remain the same no matter how many times you repeat it.
However, if some little and insignificant characters were added to the original version, the playability would rocket.
However, this new guy doesn't appear like a member of the haunted house staff, does he?
As soon as Tian Si De and his girlfriend entered the haunted house, they knew something was amiss.
Because the inside was a little too large and they were standing on a one-way dirt road, he couldn't convince himself that everything was merely a horror house set-up.
Tian Si De had intended to show off his boyfriendly side in front of his beloved, and now that this had happened, he couldn't help but wince at his own foolishness.
“Where are we now, Si De?”
His girlfriend had a soft and meek voice.
After hearing it, Tian Si De's heart involuntarily wanted to protect her.
“It's just a haunted house…”
He hesitated a little.
After all, there had lately been tales of 'spooky' things floating around the internet.
But it couldn't possibly happen to them, could it?
Fang Wen Wen: “Since that's the case, let's hurry out…
I don't really like the atmosphere here.”
'She actually believed what I said.'
But Wen Wen was true to her name.
Like a colourful cloud, she's quiet and soft.
A typical good girl.
She'd never been to a haunted house before, so she had no idea what to expect.
'Then I'm the only one who can protect Wen Wen here.'
A sense of responsibility arose in Tian Si De's mind.
He asked his girlfriend to hold his arm obediently and then led the soft and frail Fang Wen Wen forward.
The two moved carefully from the muddy ground to the gravel path, then to the flat, yellow soil.
Suddenly, Tian Si De came to a halt and adjusted his square-rimmed spectacles.
From afar, he appeared to see a little folded paper figure facing them.
Tian Si De: “……”
“Wow, Si De, look at that doll; it's so real!”
That's not a doll; that's a folded paper man.”
Tian Si De felt something was wrong as soon as he saw it.
His brows twitched as the little folded paper man giggled at him, and then he turned and ran away, a cheeky grin on his face.
Tian Si De began to sweat profusely.
It was his girlfriend beside him who spoke first.
“How can a man, made out of paper, run? I do know that electric dolls can move.
Si De, you must have seen it wrong!” His girlfriend laughed, “Shall we follow it?”
Tian Si De: “No, don't…”
There had to be something wrong with that moving paper man.
He was aware that his partner was slow in certain ways, but he couldn't allow her to muddle through when faced with such a dire situation!
In a moment of panic, Tian Si De pulled his sweetheart away from the paper person.
“All right, all right, hiss, don't you run too quickly!”
Seeing that he didn't want to go, the girlfriend pouted regretfully, only to suddenly trip when Tian Si De tugged harder.
Only then did Tian Si De regain his composure.
He half-knelt at Fang Wen Wen's feet, guiltily checking her ankle.
“Wen, Wen Wen, I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention just now…”
“What's the matter with you?” Fang Wen Wen was incensed: “You've been behaving strangely.
You aren't afraid, are you?”
“No, no, Wen Wen, I only felt that the paper man was not right…” Tian Si De continued to apologise.
While apologizing, a burst of bubbling water came from someplace, and Tian Si De's thoughts were drawn to it subconsciously.
But his girlfriend's sudden hum pulled his attention back.
Fang Wen Wen noticed him being preoccupied and peered past him into the distance to see what he was looking at.
“I'm a bit thirsty,” she said.
“Tell you what, I'll forgive you if you carry me there and fetch me some water to drink.”
Fang Wen Wen coquettishly opened her arms and glanced at Tian Si De as if to say, 'It's time for you to flex your boyfriend's muscles.'
Wen Wen was rarely that coquettish, but the rarity made her even more desirable.
Her eyes were red at the corners, most likely due to the pain.
Tian Si De's heart melted instantaneously, and he turned his back to allow his beloved to climb up.
The well that Fang Wen Wen pointed to was around fifty or sixty steps away.
Near the well was a very lush, overgrown Chinese scholar tree (Styphnolobium japonicum).
Given that no houses were nearby, it was most likely a public well.
After trekking for approximately a minute or two, Tian Si De arrived at the well with his girlfriend on his back.
“Wen Wen, we're here.
I'll let you down first.
Be slow so you don't hurt yourself.”
Tian Si De knelt and remained still, allowing his sweetheart to get off his back.
However, she remained motionless.
Was she frightened? Her hands were chilly.
He shivered as he stroked his neck, where Fang Wen Wen's delicate arm lay.
She made no sound.
Was she still angry with him?
Tian Si De couldn't help but turn his head to right, wanting to coax his girlfriend again, but after turning around, he froze.
There was no one there.
Where was Wen Wen?
Dumbfounded, he could only stupidly wonder, 'How could she run that quickly with an injured foot?'
Tian Si De was thinking this when he felt a familiar touch on the back of his neck.
“I'm here ……
Si De ……”
The other woman's icy, sticky words rang in his left ear as the woman's arms curled around Tian Si De's neck.
He felt her moist and frigid breaths on his skin, which brought a fishy, earthy stench.
The youth tensed and jerked his head back to the left.
A woman's wrinkled, bloated face was pressed against his earlobe, and her bulging, blood-filled eyes were fixed on him.
Tian Si De's mind immediately went into alarm mode.
“Then the water ghost dragged me to the bottom of the well, and I had difficulty climbing back up.”
The spectacles on the boy's nose bridge had long since vanished in the murky well water.
He had to squint to vaguely distinguish the face of the person in front of him.
But he was too nearsighted.
He could only identify that the other person was wearing a very bright pink hoodie.
This NPC's storyline was quite original.
The hoodie, AKA Xu Jin Yi, stood up and watched as the unlucky NPC sat on the ground and wrung out what clothes he could to make himself less drippy.
He was thoroughly soaked, like a wretched mouse.
“Hm, I want to go find my girlfriend.” Tian Si De paused in his squeezing and spoke tentatively, “Something is wrong here.
Wen Wen is missing.
She must be scared.”
Xu Jin Yi instantly cheered up.
Oh, ho, was that a new subplot?
“I'll go with you.”
The little pink hoodie made a decision and patted the other person on the shoulder before dragging him to his feet.
Tian Si De wasn't sure why, but he had the impression that the other person's hands were too cold.
It may be just my imagination.
After all, he was the one who saved me.'
After standing up, the first thing Tian Si De did was step away from the water well.
Seeing him act all 'Once bitten, twice shy' hoodie hummed a low laugh.
“Don't worry; if you don't seek the Water Well Ghost's secrets, she won't scare you again.”
The other party's determined voice relaxed Tian Si De a lot, but at the same time, he was also a little curious.
He took a couple rapid steps after the hoodie and inquired, “How do you know that? Is this a haunted house or not?”
“Why isn't it a haunted house? Didn't you see it when you walked in?”
The script the new NPC was holding was “The Tourist Who Went Into a Haunted House by Mistake,” and Xu Jin Yi played along with the role.
“As for me? I'm a tourist like you, but I've played it a couple more times and am more acquainted with it.”
…Could this truly be a haunted house? That is far too big!
Tian Si De was sceptical, but that didn't matter right now.
The most important thing at this point was to locate Fang Wen Wen.
“So, where are we going now?” he inquired.
The hoodie did not even slow down: “To find the folded paper man.
Didn't you first meet him? Your girlfriend likely became involved in the Folded Paper Man's storyline.”
This sounds like a haunted house adventure with an interactive narrative.
Tian Si De, who had no prior knowledge of the haunted house concept in amusement parks, believed it.
They soon returned to the vast courtyard.
The spacious courtyard featured four paths that led to different parts of the little village.
One was the yellow ground from whence Tian Si De and Fang Wen Wen had come; two were stone roads identical to the one he was now on, and the third was paved with green stone slabs.
They made their choice and descended further into the darkness.
——— Translators Notes ———
Zhizha (simplified Chinese: 纸扎; traditional Chinese: 紙紮; pinyin: zhǐzā), or Taoist paper art, is a type of traditional craft, mainly used as offerings in Taoist festive celebrations and funerals.
Zhizha is generally perceived as a form of offering in festive celebrations and funerals.
It is believed to be a substitute for living offerings in a sacrifice.
Young women in ancient China were offered as brides every year to a so called “River God” in exchange for less frequent floods.
To facilitate the exchange, the women would be sacrificed.
This practice was later halted by Ximen Bao of Wei due to ethical concerns.
Zhizha is the present form of offerings.
It only appeared after the maturation of papermaking skills in the Han dynasty.
Its common usage came to reality in Northern Song Dynasty, when burning zhǐmǎ (paper dolls in the shape of animals) and zhǐyǒng (paper tomb figures) became popular. Effigies, which were often produced purposefully to resemble humans, took varied forms in different periods of time, from couch grass, terracotta, and eventually paper.
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