Translated by: TaffyGirl13
Chapter 1: Night Train
The rumbling clatter of the metal wheels striking against the rails echoed in a rhythmic pattern.
Yuan Meng Yu sat in a swaying, iron-plated train carriage. She gazed outside the opposite window where the crimson setting sun was slowly bringing down the last of its twilight glow as it sank under the horizon bit by bit.
The curtain of night silently descended.
It was currently 6:30 PM. There would be another twelve whole hours until the train would arrive at its destination.
This was a night train that departed from the bustling S City and headed southbound non-stop without any pauses in the middle. If nothing unexpected occurred, it would arrive at a small and remote mountain village tomorrow morning.
The twelve-hour journey was long and dull. Moreover, this was an extremely isolated path with no scenery to view, especially since it was during the night. All that reflected in the windows on both sides was boundless darkness.
I doubt anyone would enjoy this kind of boring and unbearable train ride. Especially with how many airplane flights there are now. Even a distance that spans over mountains and waters can be covered in just two or three hours. I bet there are very few people that would choose to take a train as their first choice nowadays.
This was an era of rapid substantial change. Everything followed a fast tempo because time was money.
Yuan Meng Yu sat on the hard and stiff bench, her thoughts flying all over the place as she occasionally lifted her eyes to scan the passengers.
Her seat was at the back of the train. For some reason, she had noticed while on the platform earlier to board the train that this particular carriage was especially old-fashioned compared to the rest. It was as though they had detached it from some abandoned train and then stuck it on here last-minute. The exterior was quite tattered, with the paint peeling off in various places to reveal the rusted spots. The interior was not only small, but more importantly, still had the design of the seats on each side facing opposite each other.
This kind of train seat design is something that you’d probably only see in old movies from the 20s or 30s, isn’t it?
Yuan Meng Yu smiled dryly and shook her head.
Aside from her, there were only ten passengers total inside this carriage, with five on each side.
Sitting right across from her was a man in his early thirties. He had a large camera hanging from his neck, and he had been constantly wiping the lens with a cloth since earlier.
Sitting next to the camera person was a young man with a scholarly air. He currently had his eyes closed to sleep. As he slept, the swaying carriage caused his head to fall and bump into the shoulder of the woman next to him.
The woman wore heavy make-up and an out-of-place fur coat. Even from a distance, her strong perfume could be smelled.
Seeing the scholarly man’s head falling over, she did not utter a sound of protest. She merely breathed out lightly on his ear.
The man jolted and lifted his head as he woke up with a start, then blankly looked around. When he realised that he had lost consciousness, he immediately flushed red to his ears.
Amused by the man’s face, Yuan Meng Yu couldn’t keep the light chuckle from escaping her pursed lips.
He glanced at her, then lowered his head in embarrassment.
The woman in the fur coat had a charming smile on. She pulled out a powder compact and began to apply it using the small mirror.
Sitting next to the woman was a pair of twin sisters. There was no knowing who was the elder one of the two. In any case, their extremely similar faces and identical clothing meant they were likely twins.
In the past, Yuan Meng Yu had once thought of “how great it would be to have a sister”. However, now that she had grown older, she had discovered that being alone actually wasn’t bad.
As she mused over this, she turned her had to look at her left.
Sitting on her left was an obedient little girl, likely only twelve or thirteen years old. She wore a red dress, her hair tied in a cute ponytail. She also had a pink cartoon-character bag on her back. Since the girl had boarded the train, Yuan Meng Yu had noticed that this little girl seemed to be taking the night train alone, without any adult accompanying her.
Taking a night train alone at such a young age really takes quite a bit of courage.
However, the woman sitting next to the little girl watched over her closely. She had been pampering the girl the entire journey, even offering her chocolate. The woman seemed very gentle and kind, unlike the person sitting on Yuan Meng Yu’s right. That person wore a wide, almost robe-like black hoodie. They were curled up in the shadows, making it impossible to see their face. There was no way to even discern this person’s gender. Their entire body seemed to be surrounded by a mysterious and eerie aura.
As for the final two passengers at the rightmost end, they were male and female respectively.
The male wore only a green camouflage sleeveless shirt, showing his dark and sturdy arms plus his muscular chest. The woman had extremely short hair that was dyed various colours. There was a total of seven silver piercings on her left ear. There was an enormous black bag next to her; judging from the shape, it was probably something like a guitar.
Male and female, education and military backgrounds, simple and garish, ordinary and secretive. These diverse ten people were all gathered into the same carriage, which was quite interesting.
Perhaps due to her professional habits, Yuan Meng Yu loved observing people at close quarters like this. She would look at their manner of dressing, their appearances and bearings, and even guess their professions and personalities.
Because this was one of her jobs on a day-to-day basis.
She was a psychologist-in-training.
Time passed a bit slowly.
At 8 PM, the night finally turned completely black.
The long train continued to rumble as it advanced, following the tracks to cross through the dense night fog.
The windows on both sides only showed the faint flames of light from the stars, as well as the passengers’ reflections.
The carriage was very quiet. No one spoke; they were all drowsy in the uncomfortable silence. Until suddenly, an explosive roar burst out from in front of them, causing everyone to jump in fright.
“Freeze! Don’t run!”
As soon as these words fell on their ears, the automatic door between carriages opened and a young man staggered over. He glanced left and right in panic, then began to run for his life down the narrow path.
Following this, two strong young men arrived, shouting while running after the youth in tight pursuit. Eventually, they blocked the youth in the back corner of the carriage.
“Don’t-don’t come any closer! If you do, I’m going to jump!”
The bald young man shakily leaned against the window with a stance ready to open the window.
The baby-faced male with thick brows and big eyes hurriedly waved his hands and took a step back while placating, “Hey, don’t be rash. Calm down a bit. With the train moving so quickly right now, jumping down would mean dying or becoming crippled.”
“Cut-cut the crap! Rather than letting you guys arrest me and be assigned the death penalty, I might as well just end things myself!”
As he spoke, the bald person pulled open the glass window and raised his leg partially to climb onto the frame.
Alarmed by his dangerous action, the passengers behind him cried out.
At this point, the other young man scoffed and calmly shot the youth a sideways look while indifferently replying, “Sure, go ahead and jump. It’s common for criminals on the run to commit suicide. At most, I would just have to write a report; if anything, it’s less effort overall. Just jump, don’t hesitate anymore. But remember, it’s best if you die directly from the jump. It’s none of my business if you end up half-dead from the fall. You can just wait until the nearby wild animals tear you into pieces.”
With this, the young man coldly crossed his arms and stood off to the side, the long and narrow brows on his handsome face forming a taunting expression directed at the youth. He really did seem to be waiting for the other to jump off the train.
The baby-faced male shot his companion and uncertain look, but did not speak.
The bald person hesitated for a moment. When he found that no one wanted to stop him, he couldn’t help but dejectedly drop his head. His knees went weak, and he collapsed on the ground change tactics last-minute. With a sullen expression, he bitterly pleaded, “Officers, please act charitably and let me go. I still have old ones and young ones at home. I can’t just go and sit in prison. If something unexpected happens to me, what are my wife and kids supposed to do…”
As he spoke, he hunched over and choked with sobs.
The baby-faced male let out a light sigh and sympathetically said, “If you had known that earlier, things wouldn’t have come to this point. But the person you stabbed that day hasn’t died yet. Currently, he’s still being rescued at the hospital. You should just pray he survives. That way, you might not end up being sentenced with the death penalty.”
He pulled out glinting handcuffs from his pocket and strode forth.
“Ma Hong Lian, you are being arrested and brought to justice for an unsuccessful murder attempt. You have the right to remain silent, but from this point onwards, everything you say will become evidence on court.”
With a click, the handcuffs were secured around the bald man’s wrists. Just then, there was a buzzing sound of electricity, and the carriage lights flickered a few times. Then, the two rows of lights immediately went out, causing the entire carriage to sink into a darkness so deep that one could not even see their own hand.
The change was so sudden that the passengers that had been observing the “crime film” did not react.
It took several seconds before they began to talk over each other.
“What’s going on? Did the electricity cut out?”
“Trains can have power outages? That’s impossible!”
“Could there have been a circuit malfunction?”
Amidst the darkness came agitated voices. Everyone was discussing fervently with each other, though none knew who was talking. The low male voices and high female voices interweaved together.
Yuan Meng Yu remained quiet in her seat without uttering a word.
The scene before her was clearly a train malfunction, and a specialist would come and handle it. Thus, all she could do now was calmly wait.
But she had not expected for the wait to be so long. She could not check her watch in the dark either, so she did not know exactly how many minutes passed. However, the carriage lights did not turn back on.
Everyone began to grow restless. Some people pulled out their cellphones as temporary lighting, though the dim glow from the cellphone screens were like fireflies in the darkness, unable to help.
Yuan Meng Yu stared outside the window.
The thick darkness outside had already blended together with the darkness inside.
With endless black all around, it was impossible to see anything, impossible to touch anything. Only the cold and hard bench underneath them gave a slight sense of reality.
As a result, she merely leaned back against the bench, completely silent.
She wasn’t sure if she was imagining it or not, but she felt as though the train was currently slowing down. Because that clattering noise did not seem as thunderous as before, and the carriage’s swaying was gradually dying too.
After a while, someone suddenly shouted in the dark.
“Ah, the tr-train seems to have stopped?”
What? The train’s stopped?
Everyone looked outside in astonishment.
“What a joke, don’t tell me they’re stopping the train to repair it? I’m rushed on time here!” A rough male voice angrily declared.
Some seconds later, a low and quiet voice floated out. The tone was indifferent and level, as though uninvolved while calmly commenting, “No, it isn’t that the train stopped. It’s that our carriage has broken off from the others.”
“The carriage has broken off?” A bright voice rang out. “Oi, Dead Fish-Eyes, we’re in a bad enough situation as it is. Don’t just randomly curse us even more, alright?”
The low voice coldly chuckled and replied in a flat tone, “Have you not noticed that it’s impossible to see the carriage in front from the pane of the automatic door?”
As soon as he said this, everyone suddenly realised the issue.
No one had noticed that at some point, the glass between their carriage and the others now only showed pure black.
The bright yellow lights from the previous carriage, the swaying figures, the indistinct voices, had all vanished.
After a moment of silence, the bright voice said, “Maybe we can’t see anything because the entire train has lost its power.”
The low voice replied, “There are hundreds of passengers on the entire train. If all the carriages’ electricity went out and left everyone in the dark and a state of chaos, do you think it would be as quiet as it is now?”
The bright voice was unable to respond.
It wasn’t just him; the passengers instantly went still as well.
Indeed, this place was quiet, very quiet, quiet to the point where it was a bit unreasonable. Because aside from the dozen or so of them, there was basically no other sound to be heard. There was only the whistling of the wind blowing in through the cracks between the windows.
In a flash, an inexplicable chill wrapped around each person’s heart.
After a very long time, a female voice timidly asked, “Did the carriage real-really break off? When did that happen?”
The low voice answered, “It was likely the instant the lights went out.”
Following a pause, the bright voice said, “Oh, which also means, the lights suddenly going out was not a train malfunction. Instead, the power cut because of the carriage separating?”
The low voice responded, “I’m afraid so. In addition, the train entered a mountain tunnel two minutes prior to the separation, and never came back out. We should still be inside the tunnel.”
“How-how could that have happened? What do we do now?” Another man spoke up. “There isn’t even cellphone signal in this damned place, so there’s no way of calling for rescue. We were also the last carriage, so who knows if the people in front will even notice that we stopped inside the tunnel?”
Another very neutral-sounding voice stated, “Logically speaking, if the carriage broke off, wouldn’t the conductor have received a notification from the monitoring system?”
“And what if the monitoring system is broken?” Yuan Meng Yu remained in her seat as she slowly chimed in.
“Such-such a coincidence isn’t possible, right?” Another person added, “Even if the monitoring system was broken, the passengers in the carriage in front of us should have noticed that we went missing.”
“Heh, who knows,” a flat voice commented.
“This won’t do, that won’t do…what should we be doing then?” A voice urgently asked.
At this moment, the bright voice declared, “Everyone, please be patient. How about this, why don’t we just wait here for the time being? After all, losing a carriage is a major accident. I think that the train personnel will definitely notice, so it’s best we wait here. Perhaps people will come looking for us soon.”
After he said this, everyone expressed their agreement.
Everyone bided their time waiting in place.
However, amidst the heavy and suffocating darkness, time seems to pass exceptionally slowly.
Everyone patiently waited for a while, up until nearly an hour or so later. Yet no one ever arrived to their rescue.
At this point, it was already 9:30 PM.
A coarse male voice broke the silence first.
“How long are we supposed to fucking wait until?”
“That’s right, how much longer do we wait?” Someone added.
“Could-could it be that no one noticed we’re missing?” A trembling voice asked.
“I also think this situation is somewhat abnormal.” A woman stated, “We’ve already waited for so long; if someone was coming back to find us, they would have arrived ages ago. Why has no one showed up yet? Unless…”
Midway through her sentence, someone else continued.
“Unless no one noticed at all that the last carriage of the train had broken off.”
“What a joke! How is that possible?!” Someone shouted.
That person retorted, “How else would you explain why we’re still trapped here after all this time?”
“How-how would I know! If you ask me, who am I supposed to ask!” The other person seemed angry.
Yuan Meng Yu was getting a headache from their yelling. She couldn’t help but sigh and frown as she said, “Stop arguing. Let’s just think about what to do next.”
Once she said this, they fell quiet.
The low voice slowly stated, “If no one is coming to rescue us, we can only save ourselves.”
“Oh, that’s right.” The bright voice paused briefly and added, “This route is very remote and only has one train going down it every three days. There usually aren’t any people passing by either. I’m afraid waiting on like this isn’t a solution.”
“Then…what do we do?” Someone asked.
“Go out,” the bright voice answered.
“Go out? Out where?”
“Out to search for help. At the very least, we need to find a place where we can make a call.”
“But this place is a mountain tunnel. After going out, should we be heading forwards or going backwards?”
The bright voice hesitated for a moment, but another male voice sounded out. “We should go backwards. When the train was passing through earlier, I caught a glimpse of a few houses nearby. We can go there and ask them to call for help.”
“Alright, it’s decided then!” The neutral voice only declared, “We can’t just stay here like sitting ducks. Let’s head out now. Any oppositions?”
No one protested at these words. It appeared to be a mutual consensus.
A few seconds later, a woman gently said, “Everyone should be more cautious after leaving the train. There’s still a child here too.”
“A child?” The bright voice seemed taken aback for a moment. “How many people are there in this carriage?”
“Eleven people,” Yuan Meng Yu answered. “If you add on the two officers and criminal that charged in afterwards, then there are fourteen.”
“Oh, fourteen people.” The bright voice commented, “This place is too dark to see anything clearly. It’s best if you guys use your cellphones to shine at your feet. To make sure we don’t leave anyone behind, let’s each call out a number once we’re off.”
Thus, they began to start heading off. There was no disorder when they left the train; everyone moved in single file one after another in perfect order. As they did, they reported a number.
One, two, three, four…ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen…
Yuan Meng Yu waited until the very end. Then she used her dim phone light to carefully walk out the train doors, announcing “fourteen” as she went down the step.
In the weak flickering beam of light, she absentmindedly seemed to spot another pair of feet behind her.
It was a pair of woman’s feet, narrow and slim. They did not wear shoes nor even socks, the bare feet simply standing on the ice-cold step in tight pursuit behind her.
What’s going on? There was another person in the carriage?
However, each person had stated a number, and she was clearly the last one. There should not have been anyone else left. Why was there another pair of feet?
Yuan Meng Yu instinctively looked back. In the darkness, she saw a pair of glowing pupils staring straight at her, nearly right in her face. They were bloodred, and the sight made her hairs rise on end.
She couldn’t help but cry out loud. Her foot slipped, and she tumbled down the step.
“What’s wrong, did something happen?”
The man closest to her grabbed her and pulled her up from the ground.
She pressed a hand against her chest and gasped for breath. Then she fearfully glanced backwards again, shining her cellphone light at the step of the carriage door. However, there was nothing there – no feet, no eyes.
There was no one in the train. She was undoubtedly the last one, the fourteenth person.
Don’t tell me that what I saw was just my own imagination?
Yuan Meng Yu closed her eyes, but those crimson pupils had left too strong of an impression in her mind. The lingering trepidation refused to die down.
“What happened just now?”
“Nothing, it’s no big deal.” She shook her head and replied, “I just accidentally slipped.”
As she spoke, she shot a look at the dark interior of the carriage once again.
Several people were waving their cellphone lights back and forth around the train.
Amidst the dim illumination, they discovered that the situation really was as the low-voiced person had said. The last carriage that they had been in had broken off and was currently stopped on the tracks on its lonesome. It was as though the fourteen of them had been abandoned by the rest of the world, trapped in a deserted tunnel.
“Sigh, what a disaster.”
Someone let out a grieved sigh and voiced the thought that was running through all of their minds.
Yuan Meng Yu took a step back, sticking close to the uneven stone walls behind her as she stared at the flickering, pale blue glows before her eyes. These were coming from the screens of the cellphones in each person’s hands.
Aside from her, every other person had their phone turned on. But…But why…
Why are there fourteen silhouettes moving in front of me?
Am I seeing things?
No, that can’t be. I’ve already counted so many times, but no matter what, I keep getting fourteen lights.
What’s going on, was there really a fifteenth person inside the carriage?
No, impossible. I clearly observed each person before. There was definitely fourteen people, without a doubt.
Why has no one else noticed the extra person?
She kept her back against the wall as she stood in the endless darkness. Her heart raced wildly as she suddenly thought: Ah, right, they don’t know that I’ve already turned off my phone. So to the others, they would just see the correct number of fourteen people. In other words, aside from me, no one else has noticed an extra person.
With this realisation, the cold fear in her heart suddenly intensified.
She silently stood still, her gaze warily sweeping across each unfamiliar silhouette.
Who is it?
Who exactly is the additional person?
However, before she could find the answer, the crowd already began to move towards the exit.
This tunnel was deep and narrow. As far as the eye could see, there was just infinite black. There was a thin layer of moisture on the uneven walls of both sides. Mixed together with the whistling winds that blew onto their bodies and permeated through their pores, it left an exceptionally bone-penetrating chill.
Yuan Meng Yu shuddered in the freezing air as she glanced at the crowd currently moving in the direction they had come from. In the end, she silently followed them. At the moment, it was still better not to stray too far from the crowd. If she ended up being left behind alone in the tunnel, the situation would just end up being more disastrous.
Along the way, they remained silent as they moved. Each person unconsciously felt the walls while closely following the person in front of them. They steadily walked along the broken stone path, cautiously advancing step by step like a line of ants crossing a river.
They continued on like this for an indeterminate among of time and distance. In the end, right as everyone was on the brink of exhaustion, a faint light finally appeared before them.
“It’s the exit! We’ve reached the exit!”
Everyone received a burst of energy and quickened their pace so that they were practically running out of the pitch-black tunnel. But the moment they crossed through the opening, they were dumbstruck.
Because what lay before them was a desolate cemetery.
What filled their vision was the scene of the heaven and earth blended together in a formless mass, with no light from either the moon or the stars. There was only the wind blowing hungrily past their ears. All was tranquil in the vast night, tranquil to the point where it felt unreal.
There were no humans, no animals. Just the striking tombstones around them where souls were buried.
The tombstones did not have any names carved on them, nor any years. They were simply bare, erected upright at the tunnel opening as though connected to form a waist-high stone wall. It looked extremely eerie.
“Huh, did the train pass through this kind of place before?”
The man that had dashed out first turned around to glance at the others behind him in astonishment.
At the moment, the light made it less dark than before. It was enough to faintly make out each person’s silhouettes and blurrily distinguish facial features.
They stepped out from the tunnel and exchanged looks with each other.
No one had paid attention to the situation outside the window. How could they know if the train had passed a cemetery?
Yuan Meng Yu wordlessly walked out last behind the crowd. In the weak light, her eyes swept across each person’s faces once more. One, two, three, four…eleven, twelve, thirteen…
Finally, she counted herself. It was a perfect fourteen.
Fourteen people, just as when they had been on the train. The number had returned to fourteen.
What’s going on, where did the additional person go?
She dazedly rubbed her eyes and couldn’t help but furrow her brows in suspicion.
At this moment, someone let out a holler.
“Guys, look, there’s a house in front with its lights on!”