Translated by: TaffyGirl13
Chapter 3: This Place Is Haunted
“What? This place is haunted?”
Ye Xiao stared at Su Mu’s serious expression and automatically felt the urge to laugh. However, then he followed the other’s directions and walked up to the second floor; when he spotted the female corpse in one of the bedrooms, he could not bring himself to laugh.
This place really is haunted.
This was the first thought that flashed through his mind at the time. If not, there was absolutely no explanation for how a perfectly healthy person could have died in such a sinister and terrifying way.
The person lying on the bedroom floor was Yang Wen Jie.
Yang Wen Jie was dead.
The kind woman that had been taking care of the child the entire journey…was dead.
This conclusion was based on the clothes the body wore, not its face.
Her face was so shrivelled that the only thing left was wrinkled skin wrapped around jutting facial bones, making it very difficult to discern the original appearance. The body was dried up and withered. The skin on the arm peeking from the sleeve was exactly like a walnut shell, creased in folds atop each other.
In not-so-nice terms, she looked like a vacuum plastic bag that had gotten all of its air sucked out before being crumpled up.
“Heavens! How-how did this happen?”
Ye Xiao stared in shock at the corpse on the floor. Then, out of habit he pulled out white gloves that he carried around in his pocket and while putting them on, shot Su Mu a look of disbelief.
He had only stepped out for forty minutes, yet such an unimaginable homicide case had occurred – under a criminal investigator’s watch no less.
Su Mu gave him a sideways look, then said in an unruffled tone, “Not long after you left, we heard Duo Duo scream. By the time everyone ran upstairs, Yang Wen Jie was already like this.”
“What exactly happened to her?”
“I don’t know.” Su Mu shrugged and said, “According to the child’s words, she had napped for a bit on the bed with Yang Wen Jie by her side. When she fell asleep, everything was perfectly fine. But once she woke, she saw Yang Wen Jie already dead.”
“Huh? She didn’t hear any disturbance in the middle?” Ye Xiao asked.
“No.” Su Mu shook his head and replied, “That child doesn’t seem to know anything; she was asleep.”
“Then what about you guys? You were all downstairs, yet you didn’t notice anything?”
“Unfortunately, there was nothing.”
“There really is a fucking ghost!” Zhao Fei Peng cursed. Right as he was about to step into the room to search around, he was stopped by Ye Xiao.
“Don’t come over here. This place is the first crime scene of a homicide. Before the police arrives, it must be preserved in its original state.”
“Heh, before the police arrives? Please tell me, when exactly will the police be able to arrive?”
Someone snorted with a mocking tone.
At some point, the people from before had come out from their rooms and gathered around to watch outside the door. The person that had spoken just now was Feng Jing Jing. She was wearing that fur coat again, hugging her arms as though afraid of the cold.
Everyone stared at the two criminal investigators and the corpse inside the bedroom with suspicions and distrust on their faces.
Right at this moment, there was suddenly a series of click, click, click noises, followed by multiple blinding flashes of light.
Yan Kai was crouched low with his camera, fighting to get a photo at the first possible chance with a professional vigour.
Ye Xiao looked at him but did not stop his actions. Then he said, “In order to secure motives, every person should give an oral testimony later.”
“What? An oral testimony?”
“Why do we need to give testimonies?”
“Yeah, we don’t know anything. What’s the point of giving a testimony?”
They all glanced at each other and began to protest.
Zhou Yue said, “Mr. Officer, could you mean that someone among us is the murderer?”
“Before we’ve gotten to the bottom of the case, every person is a suspect.” Ye Xiao focused on Zhou Yue.
“Are you joking?!” Shao Yue Hua’s emotions were a bit out of control. “Just look at how she died. How could that be done by a human?”
“That’s right, there’s no fucking way a human did that!” Zhao Fei Peng spat on the floor.
Zhang Xiao Long timidly interjected, “B-But if it wasn’t done by a human, then-then who did it?”
Everyone instantly went quiet.
Indeed, if Yang Wen Jie was not murdered by a human, then how had she died?
After a moment of silence, Feng Jing Jing let out a nervous yell.
“There’s a ghost! This place is definitely haunted!”
A ghost? Were there really ghosts in this world?
The crowd’s complexions immediately turned poor, especially Yuan Meng Yu standing at the very back.
Her heart suddenly shuddered as she thought back to the bloodred eyes she had seen on the train, thought back to the fleeting shadow she had seen by the second floor window. Could it be that those weren’t my imagination, but that there really is a ghost?
And this ghost followed us from the train into this house?
Yuan Meng Yu felt her body grow cold at this thought.
It was not long before the people around the door gradually dispersed. The six females and one child went back to hide in their respective rooms. Only the three males – Zhao Fei Peng, Yan Ke, and Zhang Xiao Long – remained.
No matter how one examined this situation, it felt a bit strange. What exactly are these people hiding?
Hiding a ghost? If this place really does have a ghost, then shouldn’t the bedrooms be haunted as well?
The body of Yang Wen Jie lying before him was the best example.
Ye Xiao scratched his head in confusion, then said to the other three, “Could I trouble you guys to distribute the food and water on the living room table to everyone?”
“Ok,” Yan Kai nodded.
The three men went downstairs, leaving behind only Ye Xiao and Su Mu to face the unusual corpse in the scene of the crime.
Ye Xiao circled around the inside to inspect the surroundings.
Actually, he had noticed from the very beginning that each of the eight rooms in this house had identical layouts, identical furniture, identical colour schemes.
The rooms were roughly three ping in size, with a pretty soft and comfortable-looking single bed in the centre of the room. It had clean white sheets, a white comforter, and a white pillow. The curtains were white too, making the entire room feel like a hospital ward.
Across from the bed was a medium-sized glass mirror. There was nothing strange about having a mirror, but the mirror was bizarrely comprised of three small hexagonal mirrors. As a result, everything reflected was split into three identical copies on each of the smaller mirrors.
Tch, this homeowner’s tastes are really another level of weird…
Ye Xiao could not understand. He stood in front of the mirror and stared at the three of himself reflected on it as he shook his head. Then his line of sight shifted upwards and discovered a somewhat familiar-looking mark carved on the wall above the mirror. Or maybe it’s some kind of symbol?
Upon closer look, he saw that it was a picture of something with a pointed head, an olive-shaped middle, and a semicircle on each side…I feel like I’ve seen this somewhere before?
Ye Xiao pondered this for a moment, then realisation dawned on him. Ah, that’s right, the convenience store!
That “deserted” convenience store’s shop sign also had this strange mark. But what exactly is this symbol? And what does it signify?
As he was focused on contemplating this, Su Mu coldly spoke behind him.
“Oi, what are you spacing out for?”
Ye Xiao spun around and scratched his head as he chuckled, “Oh, nothing. Did you discover anything?”
Su Mu cocked a brow. Instead of replying, he simply beckoned at Ye Xiao with a finger.
Ye Xiao rolled his eyes, frowning in exasperation as he walked over and crouched down.
Su Mu put on his gloves and carefully lifted the body’s head, then turned it around. He gently brushed aside the female corpse’s long, dried-up hair by the ear and pointed at the left side of the neck. “Look.”
“Look? Look at what?”
Ye Xiao muttered, completely lost as he scrutinised the section of skin on the neck that was as wrinkled as a walnut. Right as he was about to ask again, he suddenly spotted something.
He bent over without a word and used his finger to smooth the patch of skin out. There was an inconspicuous, small spot on the pale skin, like a tiny red mole.
It was actually a blood spot. If one did not look closely, it would be easily missed.
“Could that possible be a…pinhole?” Ye Xiao lifted his head to knit his brows together in Su Mu’s direction.
Su Mu shook his head and replied, “Not necessarily. It could be a pinhole, but it could also be…caused by a sharp object similar to a needle.”
“A sharp object similar to a needle…”
Ye Xiao suspiciously glanced around again; there were no long and thin sharp objects around. In addition, the blood spot on the corpse had not yet clotted completely. It seemed like it had been pierced by something not long ago.
However, was this blood spot related to Yang Wen Jie’s cause of death?
This was a question that they would not be able to find a conclusive answer to before the forensic investigators arrived.
After inspecting the room again for a while, Ye Xiao and Su Mu went downstairs together. While leaving, Ye Xiao made sure to close the door to preserve the scene.
Naturally, as there was no way to lock the door, they could not prevent people from intentionally damaging it if they desired.
The first floor living room still only had Zhao Fei Peng, Yan Kai, and Zhang Xiao Long. They had already distributed a portion of the food and water on the table to each bedroom.
Ma Hong Liang was sitting on the step of the stairs. When he saw the two come down, he greeted them with a constipated smile plastered on his face.
“Oh, hello officers. What exactly happened up there? Did someone die?”
“You just shut your mouth and obediently stay there.” Ye Xiao shot him a glare.
“Heh, did someone really die?” Ma Hong Liang grinned as he rejoiced in their misfortune. Then he whistled and commented, “Hey, hey, hurry up and tell me which chick died.”
“Did you not hear me tell you to shut your mouth?” Ye Xiao frowned in annoyance.
“Oi, come on, no need to be so petty. I’m already handcuffed so it’s not like I can do anything. I’m simply curious…”
Ma Hong Liang harassed Ye Xiao by stubbornly gripping onto Ye Xiao’s clothes with his free hand.
“You’re in a helpless situation, yet you have the leisure to gossip? Oi, let go…”
Ye Xiao jerked his sleeve away, but was unable to free himself. At this point, Su Mu passed by from behind and threw a kick at Ma Hong Liang’s knee.
Ma Hong Liao stumbled and nearly fell from the stairs. He clutched his throbbing knee and wailed, “Is there something wrong with you? Abusing a prisoner? Everyone, come quick and look, the police are hitting—”
His shout died midway when he saw Su Mu shoot a frosty glare from the corner of his eyes.
“Ah, so scary…” Ye Xiao shook his head with a horrified expression.
Su Mu silently placed an old-fashioned, grey-coloured purse on the table.
This contained Yang Wen Jie’s belongings which they needed to sort through and see if they could find anything related to her identity. Once communications were restored, they could contact her family as soon as possible.
Ye Xiao pulled the zipper open and used his gloved hands to flip through the purse and search through the contents.
There were not many things inside it. Each item was placed neatly in order, as expected of the deceased.
The first thing that they saw was a flip-phone. While the model was way out-of-date, it was carefully placed inside a flannel case. Afterwards was a black wallet, extremely worn down after being used for many years. Then there was a notebook with a black cover; the notebook was very small, only about the size of a palm. There was also a ballpoint pen clipped inside it.
Ye Xiao flipped through the notebook to take a look. The notes were all related to work or daily life, including anything from the names of students skipping class to teacher meeting times, and from grocery lists to monthly magazine publication dates. Every single note was written carefully and neatly. And on the very last page, the time and her seat number for tonight’s train was recorded.
“Huh, why did she only write the train going there, and not for her return?” Ye Xiao furrowed his brows in confusion. “This route is very remote. Missing a train means having to wait for three days. Based on her steady character and how carefully meticulous her actions are, wouldn’t she have bought return tickets beforehand?”
He glanced at Su Mu as he said this.
Su Mu did not respond, as he was studying the zipped side pocket of the purse instead.
The pocket was bulging out, which clearly indicated something hidden inside. However, if even the wallet and cellphone were in the open, what kind of valuable item could be inside the pocket?
Ye Xiao tilted his head and pulled open the zipper. He stuck two fingers into the narrow opening and pulled out a white letter from inside. There was only a row of large text neatly and tidily written on the thick paper envelope:
East Huanan Street, #401 Yang Wen Jie For your eyes only
There was nothing else aside from this, no sender name or address.
He flipped the envelope over to see that there was a red wax seal on the back.
“Pfft, there are still people in this day and age using wax to seal letters?”
Ye Xiao muttered this as he opened the envelope. With a flutter, an exquisite card slid out from inside. On the card, there were only two shockingly bloodred words: Invitation Letter.
—When the night of the cocoon breaking arrives, the door of thorns will open.
—The triumphant monarch will return with sacrificial blood on their lips as a pledge of allegiance at the mist of dawn.
What exactly is the meaning of those two sentences on the invitation letter?
Yuan Meng Yu sat at the edge of her bed alone, her eyes focused on the white envelope in her hand as she grew lost in thought. Her slim fingers traced the crimson handwritten words one by one. Each line and stroke of the implied words seemed to hold a deadly sharp sting.
Who in the world is the one that sent this invitation letter?
And how does this person know my name and home address?
There were too many suspicious points about this matter for her to spend the effort contemplating closely. However, this was not her first time seeing the strange two words: “invitation letter”.
Over a month ago, she had started to intermittently fall into the same dream. In this dream, there was a faint buzzing voice murmuring into her ear. At first, she had not been able to discern what the voice said, but as time passed, the voice had become louder and clearer.
…Night of the cocoon breaking…door of thorns…triumphant monarch…sacrificial blood on their lips…
That voice would constantly repeat the words into her ears, forever unending, overlapping over each other, until she nearly lost her mind. This would continue until she woke with a start in the middle of the night. Only then would the aged, deep, curse-like voice gradually fade away.
At the time, she had assumed this condition had been caused by overworking. Since she spent every day dealing with various mental illness patients, she had started to show abnormal mental behaviour over time as well. Thus, she had decided to give herself a short vacation to readjust her mood. Yet unexpectedly, on the midnight of her third vacation day, she had received this mysterious invitation letter out of nowhere.
There had only been two sentences on this invitation letter, yet these sentences were the cursed words that had been assailing her in her dreams the entire time.
What in the world is all this?
On that freezing midnight, she had stood before her vacant front door, trembling while clutching the invitation letter in her hands. In order to figure out the truth, she had taken the train ticket in the envelope and gone on the last train carriage. Then the carriage had disconnected midway…
Blessings truly never came in pairs; when it rained, it poured.
Yuan Meng Yu heaved a long sigh and laid down on the bed in exhaustion. She covered her forehead with one hand as she blankly stared at the clean, snow-white ceiling. The excessively bright light on the ceiling hurt her eyes.
She closed her eyes. As she spaced out, she seemed to hear some kind of noise next to her, like a breeze brushing past yet also like someone quietly muttering in a low voice nearby.
Her eyes shot open, and she instantly jumped out of the bed to alertly scan her surroundings.
The room was completely empty. She was the only person there.
Is it…my imagination…again?
She weakly dropped her head in her hands and sighed again. Then she turned her head and caught a glimpse at the mirror across the bed.
The three small hexagonal mirrors each reflected her image: three faces and six eyes stared back at her at the same time. It gave her chills, and she immediately shifted her eyes away. However, the moment she moved, she barely spotted a faint shadow float past the mirror.
She rubbed her eyes, then took a step closer towards the mirror to take a closer look. However, she suddenly heard a bzzt noise that seemed to come from electricity, and the light above her flickered.
What’s going on, is the voltage unstable?
In that instant between light and dark, another three blurry figures and three pairs of eyes appeared in the mirror.
Three pairs of bloodred eyes.
She immediately felt her body stiffen and grow cold. Her gaze locked onto the mirror as she went completely still.
What is this? A hallucination? Am I hallucinating right now?
She tried her best to persuade herself. Yet that “person” was clearly standing behind her, quietly staring at her through the mirror.
She shuddered as she stared back at that “person” in the reflection.
The light died once more before turning back on the following second.
The person in the mirror was now one step closer to her.
Overwhelmed by shock, she whipped her head around. However, there was nothing behind her – no figure, no eyes.
When she shifted her attention back to the mirror, the person in the mirror was a bit nearer than before.
“Are you a human or a ghost? Don’t come here! Don’t come here!” Yuan Meng Yu began to shout in terrified panic.
The light continued to flicker. Each time it darkened, the “person” in the mirror would close in a bit. Darken, close in…
Those bloodred pupils in the mirror grew larger, larger, and larger…
Until finally, with a bzzt, the light did not turn back on after blacking out. The entire room sank into an impenetrable darkness.
Like a small animal facing a predator, Yuan Meng Yu stumbled as she spun around, her eyes widening as she attempted to capture any trace of the enemy in the dark. She could clearly sense another person in this room…Ah, no, maybe it’s not a person at all. Its breathing was right next to her ear, moving further and then closer, lingering around her…
It’s a ghost! This place is haunted!
She felt like crying as she weakly retreated backwards step by step.
Suddenly a pair of hands unexpectedly caught her arm.
She sucked in a sharp breath and immediately screamed hysterically, flailing her limbs around to resist with everything she had. However, the hands had a tight grip on her, even firmly hugging her from behind.
She shrieked wildly, and in her panic, forcefully bit down [at the person].
The person let out a pained groan, though they did not loosen their arms around her.
“What’s the matter? Calm down, calm down. Don’t be scared.”
The person repeated this into her ear again and again, their voice intimate and warm.
Yuan Meng Yu suddenly regained her senses. It’s a human? The one holding me is a human?
Gradually, she calmed down and slowly breathed out. Just then, she spotted the arm around her sporting a ring of deep, bleeding teeth marks. When she lifted her head, what leapt into her vision was a bright, handsome, and gentle smiling face.
So it was that young police officer.
Yuan Meng Yu relaxed and her knees went soft. She weakly collapsed on the ground, her body still shivering nonstop.
“What’s wrong? Did something happen just now?”
Ye Xiao looked at her as he held onto her slightly trembling shoulders.
“I-I don’t know…”
Yuan Meng Yu held her chest, her voice coming out choked. Although she tried her best to keep herself from showing weakness and crying in front of a stranger, the shakiness in her voice betrayed her.
“There seemed to be someone…in the r-room…a pair of…bloodred eyes…”
Her words were broken, and she herself had no idea what she was saying.
Ye Xiao glanced around in suspiciously and replied, “Nope, there isn’t anyone else here.”
Yuan Meng Yu lifted her eyes to survey the surroundings with lingering trepidation.
Indeed, there was no one in the room. The lights were shining bright as well. Everything was perfectly fine, as though nothing had ever occurred.
What’s going on? I clearly just saw…
She dropped her head down to stare at the floor beneath her hands, feeling baffled and lost.
“I only ran over here to take a look after hearing shouts from your room. When I arrived, you were alone with no one around you,” Ye Xiao explained.
Really? Was there really no one else?
Yuan Meng Yu closed her eyes and stayed silent, unsure of what she should say.
Ye Xiao helped her up from the floor. Her body was still trembling fiercely, having clearly suffered a great shock to the point where she could not even stand properly. As a result, he could only support her over to the living room so that she could sit at the long table. Then he passed her a bottle of water.
The other few in the living room stared at her in confusion.
“What’s the matter with her?” Yan Kai shot a questioning look at Ye Xiao.
Ye Xiao shook his head without a word.
When Zhao Fei Peng saw Yuan Meng Yu’s dazed appearance, he mocked, “Oi, you didn’t run into a ghost, did you? Better be careful; one moment of carelessness and you might become dried-up like the one upstairs. Hehehe~”
Ye Xiao glared at him and yelled, “Don’t spout nonsense and shut your trap.”
“How is it nonsense?” Zhao Fei Peng side-eyed Ye Xiao and replied, “If that’s not the case, then let me ask you: how did that female teacher upstairs die, Mr. Officer?”
Ye Xiao stared back at him and did not respond as he took a seat next to the long table.
It was 2:15 AM. The sky outside the window was pitch-black, still far from daylight.
Yuan Meng Yu hugged her knees and curled up on the chair with the bottle of spring water Ye Xiao had given her. She slowly sipped it as she continued to space out.
The phantom-like figure, the bloodred eyes, and the terrifying images in the mirror continued to spin around in her mind as shadows that could not be chased away.
Hah…usually I’m curing others’ mental illnesses, but now I suspect that I have a mental issue too.
Yuan Meng Yu bitterly smiled as she mockingly thought this and shook her head.
Yang Wen Jie’s old-fashioned purse was still on the table. Ye Xiao and Su Mu were currently inspecting every item with gloved hands. At this point, they had mostly confirmed the deceased’s name, age, address, and job. As for why she had boarded this train and where she was heading and if she going to meet someone—
These answers remained unknown.
Yuan Meng Yu glanced at the ID card in front of her. Ye Xiao had pulled it out from Yang Wen Jie’s wallet earlier and had not yet placed it back.
“March 24th,” she quietly stated.
“Ah? What?” Ye Xiao glanced at her.
Yuan Meng Yu pointed at the birth date on the ID and said, “Her birthday is March 24th.”
“Oh, yeah.” Ye Xiao tilted his head in thought, then lifted his wrist to check his watch. “Huh, isn’t that today? Since it’s already past twelve, that means today should be her twenty-fifth birthday. Sigh, what a pity to have passed way on her birthday…”
As he spoke, he saw Yuan Meng Yu shudder and tightly hug her own arms.
“What’s the matter?” Ye Xiao asked.
Yuan Meng Yu curled into herself without replying.
“Do you…feel unwell?”
Yuan Meng Yu stayed silent for half a beat, then shook her head and quietly murmured, “Today is also my twenty-fifth birthday…”