Wang Dan looked at the tunnel behind the closet and felt flustered. The impression that the few doctors had left on him earlier was very weird. They had initially been kind and friendly, but their tone had changed conspicuously after they found out that he had skipped class.
Did I say something wrong? Skipping class is not something serious right? Without skipping class, one's university life is not complete. Many seniors have said that.
Wang Dan moved one step deeper into the tunnel. The temperature inside the tunnel was much higher than the temperature outside. After a long moment of hesitation, he retreated backward.
"What's wrong?" Xiao Lee stuck close to Wang Dan from behind. He could not wait to leave that godforsaken place already.
"It's nothing. I just have this feeling that those doctors from before feel so similar to our disciplinary teacher." Wang Dan's feelings were complicated. "This is just impossible. I've imagined the many different scary things that might happen to us here, but I really did not expect to run into a school teacher while skipping class. Could it be that so many students have come to visit Boss Chen's haunted house that the university was worried about its students, so they sent over some of the lecturers to come catch us?"
"You're not making sense. This has to be your first experience skipping class, right? It's normal to feel nervous. You'll get used to it after several more times." Xiao Lee urged Wang Dan to move. "Both of us fainted at the same time, but you were placed on the clean bed with two mattresses placed under you whereas I was directly dumped on a wooden board. From how they treated us, it is clear that those few doctors know you, so they would not lie to you."
"I also sensed a certain familiarity from them, but I could not place it."
The holes in the pool in the middle of the room kept bubbling, and the lights on the wall flickered. The steel doors in the corridors creaked slightly, like people were moving them back and forth. Under the circumstances, Wang Dan did not dare drag things on for too long. He was afraid that the lights might go off and the monsters would start chasing them again.
"Let's go. If you're afraid, I'll walk ahead, and you only need to help me remember the route that we should take." Xiao Lee had been at this job for quite some time. He was smart and sharp. He would be one of the futuristic theme park's most important workers in the future, and he courageously volunteered to take the lead this time.
Wang Dan did not reject Xiao Lee's kindness. He leaned back for Xiao Lee to walk past him. He saw Xiao Lee crouch and enter the tunnel. "Be careful."
"I know." Xiao Lee took out his phone and used the flashlight to guide his way. "Come on, let's get moving. I don't want to open my eyes and see the doctors again."
The two entered the tunnel one after another. The tunnel became narrower as they moved forward. There was something that looked like moss growing on the wall.
"Why haven't we reached the end yet?" The more they moved forward, the more unsettled Wang Dan felt. The tunnel was large enough to only allow one person to pass through at a time. This meant that it was unavoidable for him to brush up against the 'moss' on the wall. His clothes got wet, and his skin became itchy. He followed closely behind Xiao Lee, feeling incredibly nervous.
"This should be the way that will lead us outside." The complete opposite of Wang Dan, Xiao Lee was very confident. "Did you notice we can barely smell the formalin in the air anymore? Instead, there is a nice floral scent in the tunnel."
He sniffed the air, and indeed, Wang Dan did smell a pleasant smell, but he was not as optimistic as Xiao Lee. "Is it because of the moss on the wall?"
He reached out to touch the wall, and the hard walls were covered in the moss, soft under his touch.
"Finally, we don't need to suffer that weird stench anymore. This tunnel should lead us outside. The hidden passage is for the visitors to use. After all, this Haunted House is really not for everyone, and this hidden passage is like a surprise for people like us." Xiao Lee bent lower. The tunnel became smaller, and the ground softened like it was covered with a thick carpet.
"I still think the smell of formalin is more familiar and comforting." The fragrance that curled around his nose gave Wang Dan a nauseous feeling. "This is not a natural fragrance, but it doesn't feel like it's a chemical fragrance either. It smells very weird."
Wang Dan tried to search through his mind, and he finally remembered it. "When I was studying the history of autopsy, it introduced something called cadaver fragrance, and the description is very similar to this smell."
"Cadaver fragrance?" Xiao Lee shivered. This was the first time that he had heard of something like this.
"There are many types. The most famous is to harvest the oil from a beauty's cadaver and then process it through a special method to create a candle-like substance..."
"Stop! Please stop!" Xiao Lee picked up his speed. He started to maintain a distance from Wang Dan. Normal people still had some reservations about things related to human bodies, and they were unable to talk about certain subjects with such insouciance like a medical student would.
Xiao Lee, from the futuristic theme park, continued to move forward, and Wang Dan could only follow. The two walked for several meters before Xiao Lee suddenly stopped.
"What's happening?" Wang Dan used his phone to shine the light in front of him. Xiao Lee stood where he was, and after a long time, he forced out, "There's no way to move forward anymore."
By then, the two's bodies were arcs, their faces almost touching the ground. The tunnel was so narrow that it was hard to even turn around. They were surrounded by the red 'moss', and their clothes were drenched. The air was filled with that strange fragrance.
"So... should we go back the way we came?"
"Wait a minute." Xiao Lee was indeed courageous. He lifted his hand to press on the red-colored moss before him. His fingers increased in force, and his palm slowly sunk.
"It's hollow behind this." Xiao Lee cursed silently. He did not expect to come into such a trial so close to the exit. "Thankfully, I gave it a try. If we'd just turned back like that, I would've regreted it forever."
He was proud of himself. He was going to turn around to tell Wang Dan the good news. His body leaned against the wall, and Xiao Lee tried his best to turn his neck around. "The moss is used to trick us. It is a disguise. The exit is just in front of us. We'll be able to..."
When he spoke, Xiao Lee's eyes swept the space behind him. He saw Wang Dan... as well as the person following behind Wang Dan!
Silently, quietly, and its face falling as it moved. Those things had been following them!
"What are you looking at?" Wang Dan used the phone to shine at Xiao Lee's face. Before he could get a clear look, when the light from the phone swept the ceiling, a pale arm dropped down from the moss above them. The swinging arm fell right before Wang Dan's face. His stunned face looked upward, and more arms fell down on him.
In the cramped passage, enveloped by the soft red moss were the passionate and warm 'dead bodies' that Boss Chen had completed the night before.
At the edge of the central hub, Yang Chen, Lee Xue, Ol' Zhou, and Duan Yue stood together, looking at the two editors who were standing two feet away from them.
"Three people have disappeared, but why are the two of you completely fine?" Yang Chen's voice was shaking. He had already seen through the boss' ploy and was familiar with the two editors' real identities.
"How is their disappearance related to us?" Ah Nan thought that Yang Chen was being unreasonable. "When the lights went off and the footsteps started, I even told them to not run away, but they refused to listen to us. Now that they've disappeared, you turn around to pin the blame on us?"
"You're still acting?"
From the depths of the corridor earlier, he had heard Wang Dan scream, "I will never skip class again!"
It had sounded so raw and desperate; it did not sound like it was fake. It was because he had heard Wang Dan's scream that Yang Chen had started to get panicked. He did not plan to wait anymore and decided to expose everything.
"We're acting?" Hu Ya frowned. "Do you have some kind of misunderstanding?"
"Drop the act. I've already seen through your ploy. Actually, I have to admit that you are quite professional." Yang Chen took one step forward to shield Lee Xue, Ol' Zhou, and Duan Yue behind him. "You two are the Haunted House's paid actors, right? This is a setup organized by Boss Chen, isn't it?"
Hu Ya and Ah Nan's lips twitched. In the end, it was Ah Nan who lost his patience and turned to look at Yang Chen. "Have you lost your mind?"
"I'm right, aren't I? You must be surprised it only took me nineteen minutes to expose you." Yang Chen stood together with the rest of the group, and his voice turned cold. "The three of you editors, as well as the chef and his little brother that disappeared earlier, all of you are hired actors belonging to this Haunted House. The pictures on the wall should be the five of you! You are the ghosts that have mixed into the group of visitors. You are the dead victims!"
The place was quiet. Not only Hu Ya and Ah Nan, even Ol' Zhou and Duan Yue took in a deep breath. How were they supposed to continue this conversation? This was a scenario that they had not imagined!
"You suspect there are employees mixed into our ranks? Someone has been acting?" The two editors seemed to realize that something was wrong. The two had read many crime and supernatural novels before, so their logical thinking was much stronger than normal. They had not noticed this problem before because they had not considered this possibility. However, with the reminder from Yang Chen, the two of them seemed to realize something.
"The ghosts are among us!"
Ah Nan and Hu Ya stood together. "Listen to me. I think there are indeed ghosts among us. However, these 'ghosts' aren't the three of us but someone else."
"Yes." Hu Ya tried to think back to the start. "The ghost should be that Bai Qiulin. I also thought he was acting weird when he entered the Haunted House. Why would the man keep his hand inside his pocket and refuse to take it out? At the time, I thought it was his force of habit, but now I realize how weird that is!
"When the accident happened earlier, Bai Qiulin disappeared. The footsteps were messy, and that was probably his doing! If we move further back, when the accident happened to the chef and his brother, Bai Qiulin was standing at the door of the warehouse. He expertly chose the position between the corridor and the warehouse. That way, he would be able to buy the monsters time if they needed it!"
"That person is very problematic! He has to be the ghost, and he has more partners!" Ah Nan's mind was clearer. His way of analysis was different from Yang Chen's. He did not carry any prejudice when he studied all of the visitors-he was only studying them the most rational way.
"If the ghost is Bai Qiulin, then his partners will not show off any evidence that they are close to him, so Xiao Lee is basically not the ghost. Of the remaining people, removing the ones that have been 'victimized', we are all that's left." Ah Nan's eyes danced between Ol' Zhou and Yang Chen. Both of them had their suspicious points, and he could not tell what was the truth.
Duan Yue grabbed Ol' Zhou's hand and asked softly, "What is happening?"
"I'm not really sure. I believe there is an actor employed by the Haunted House among us." Ol' Zhou lowered his head to answer Duan Yue. The two were close to Yang Chen, so Yang Chen heard their conversation.
"Believe me, those two are the actors. I have the critical evidence." Yang Chen revealed the issue about the disclaimer quietly to Ol' Zhou and Duan Yue. The two were shocked when they heard him.
Ah Nan and Hu Ya had originally thought that Yang Chen was probably not the ghost, but when they saw how convinced he was and the way Ol' Zhou reacted when Yang Chen told him something, their conviction was shaken. They could not hear what Yang Chen said, but they thought that it was very suspicious.
"There are ghosts mixed into the group. Staying together with them is too dangerous. We should split off to find Tails on our own." Hu Ya turned to walk down the corridor. "When I first arrived at the junction, I believe I saw Tails walk this way."
The editors did not stay and left directly.
"They cannot keep up the acting anymore," Lee Xue added on Yang Chen's behalf. No matter what happened, she had absolute faith in Yang Chen.
"It's good that we're getting separated. We need to take this opportunity to go look for the photos to prevent them from doing anything stupid." Yang Chen chose the direction opposite from the two editors and led Ol' Zhou and Duan Yue deeper into the corridor.
Screams echoed through the scenario. The first two screams were from Ol' Zhou and Duan Yue. They sounded pitiful like they happened across something very horrible. The latter two shouts were issued by Yang Chen and Lee Xue. Other than fear in their screams, there was also a thick sense of despair in them. The four screams occurred almost at the same time. Since Hu Ya and Ah Nan had not wandered too far off, so they heard it clearly.
"All four of them have been assaulted?" Ah Nan's heart shook. His earlier speculation seemed to be mistaken. Based on their earlier analysis, the remaining ghost should either be him or Hu Ya, but how was that possible?
"Now, there's only two of us left." Hu Ya's smile was forceful. "A team of twelve, but only two remain, and it took the boss less than twenty minutes to do that. This boss is too familiar with the twists and turns of the human heart."
"Perhaps there wasn't a ghost among us from the very beginning..." Ah Nan shook his head. His mind was a mess. He felt like not only his body but also his mind had fallen into a maze.
"Let's forget about them. We need to find Tails first. I remember that she was heading this way." Hu Ya and Ah Nan leaned against the wall as they moved forward. They reached the end and saw a steel door that was closed. "This door isn't locked."
Somewhat agitated, Ah Nan shook the door heavily. "It feels like it was blocked from the other side."
"Could this be Tails' doing?"
The steel door shook, and the lights in the corridor flickered like they were about to go out again.
Tails was hiding inside the unknown room at the end of the corridor. She hugged the phone and tapped on the number madly.
Why isn't anyone picking up? Please pick up!
The steel door was shaken loudly. The rust fell, creating a loud noise. Tails' heart raced. Her baby face was as pale as paper. Her fingers gripped the phone tightly, and the blood vessels on her neck pulsed. She was truly afraid.
Those things have found me! It must be them!
The door shook even harder. Tears were coming to her eyes. She curled up inside the closet, and her pupils that stared at the door narrowed.
What should I do? What should I do‽
The wooden table that blocked the door was pushed down, and the steel door fell open. Her heart jumped to her throat, causing Tails to almost faint from asphyxiation. She bit on her lips, and her hands squeezed together.
"Tails?" The familiar voice came from the door. Tails was stunned. The happiness came so suddenly that it felt surreal. The lights flickered at the corridor, so she could only see the person's frame. However, from the frame alone, she was sure that it was Hu Ya.
With her hands on the door, Tails' tears were rushing out. She was too excited. This feeling of flying from hell to heaven was hard to describe. However, just as she was about to push the door open, the phone display lit up. The call that she had been unable to make earlier was finally connected, and it was Hu Ya's name on the display.
But isn't she at the door?
Tails' finger went to the accept button, and Hu Ya's urgent voice came through.
"Tails, we've already left the Haunted House. Stay where you are and don't move! The police are going in to get you. This Haunted House is very problematic! Remember to stay where you are, and don't move!"
Already left? Police? Tails listened to the familiar voice on the phone and the familiar frame of the person at the door, and her mind went into shut down.