The last scene of this chapter reminded me of the first horror story in Jin Xiao Yi Tan (the author’s other series)…
Translated by: TaffyGirl13
Chapter 4: Mysterious Family
The six girls in the room, aside from Duo Duo, are all the same age and have the same birthday?
And if you add the dead Yang Wen Jie, that would mean there were actually seven people that were born on the same day and same year sitting on the same train in the same carriage. Isn’t that too much of a coincidence?
Ye Xiao was holding a pen and paper he had borrowed from Zhang Xiao Long. As he looked over the last-minute notes he had scribbled, he murmured these words as he pointed a stunned stare at Su Mu.
Su Mu was sitting in a chair drinking a can of coffee. He drank for a while, then looked down to glance at the coffee can and said something else instead of addressing the question. “How bizarre, this place actually sells coffee?”
“Yeah, there’s a 24-hr convenience store that sells it. I knew you liked it, so I specially bought one for you.” Ye Xiao’s lips curved upwards to form a proud smile.
Su Mu turned a blind eye and continued to comment, “You could find a convenience store but not a telephone?”
Yan Kai bitterly chuckled and interjected, “Not only was there no phone to be found, there wasn’t even staff to be found.”
“Oh? What do you mean?”
“It was a deserted convenience store.” Ye Xiao explained, “There was everything there except for people. In the end, we could only take the things and leave money behind. But speaking of which, its circumstances are pretty similar to this house.”
“Heh, now that you mention it, could all the people around this area have been abducted by aliens?” Zhao Fei Peng put on an earnest face to say, “You know, the thing that happens often on TV, with aliens running all the way over to raid Earth.”
“You mean the girl upstairs was also killed by an alien?”
Yuan Meng Yu gave him a deadpan look.
Zhao Fei Peng chuckled and rubbed his head while replying, “It’s possible.”
“Oh, no wonder she died so strangely.” Yan Kai stroked his chin.
Ye Xiao didn’t have the time or energy to talk nonsense with them. He jabbed the silent Su Mu with his elbow and said, “Oi, what do you think of that issue? These girls were all born on the same day, and just happened to board the same train and same carriage. Do such coincidences really exist in this world?”
Su Mu sipped his coffee and responded with a question, “What was their reason for taking that train?”
Ye Xiao glanced down at his notes. “Every person said different things. Firstly, little Duo Duo said it was because her grandma in the countryside fell ill and her parents were busy working. So she got on the train alone to visit her grandma…”
Ye Xiao paused for a moment here before sighing in concern, “Aiya, it’s really hard not to worry. I wonder if her parents know the child ran out alone to board the train.”
“What about the others? Continue,” Su Mu urged.
Ye Xiao read the notes and answered, “The sisters Shao Yue Hua and Shao Yue Ting said they were going to the countryside to attend a friend’s wedding. Zhou Yue said that she had come to S-City several years ago to become a singer, but found herself at a loose end without a way out, so she could only yieldingly return to her hometown for work. Feng Jing Jing was just dumped by her partner; since she’s not very young anymore, she could only abide by her parents’ summons to obediently return home for a blind date. As for Xue Qing, she claimed that…”
Ye Xiao paused for a moment. “It was because she had seen a sign from the tarot cards.”
“A sign from the tarot cards? Pfft….”
Zhao Fei Peng fearlessly laughed out loud, chuckling as he said, “That woman is seriously so fucking amusing. If the tarot cards tell her to jump off a building one day, would she do it?”
Ye Xiao frowned and shot the man a look.
Su Mu wordlessly drank his coffee. After pondering to himself for a while, he indifferently stated, “The Shao sisters said they were attending a wedding, but they only had a small bag on them as luggage that did not have enough space to hold a change of clothes. Typically speaking, since most girls love beauty, wouldn’t they have dressed themselves prettily to attend a friend’s wedding? Or were they planning on attending the wedding dressed in their ordinary casual clothes?”
“That’s…” Ye Xiao was left speechless.
Su Mu went on, “Zhou Yue said she had given up her dreams to become a singer and was planning to return to her hometown and find a job. But she still brought her beloved guitar with her and protected it closely the entire way. She would even record lyrics on her phone whenever she thought of them. That doesn’t seem like someone that’s given up on their dreams.”
At this point, he looked at Ye Xiao. “As for Feng Jing Jing, do you think her personality is one that would compliantly go back home to attend a blind date?”
Ye Xiao blinked, then chuckled dryly. “You mean to say that they all lied?”
Su Mu downed his coffee in one gulp and slowly replied, “Whether they’re lies or not is impossible to say for certain right now. That was just my personal conjecture and isn’t sufficient as a basis.”
As he spoke, he turned his head to point an interrogative look at Yuan Meng Yu. “In that case, why did Miss Yuan board this train?”
Yuan Meng Yu shifted her eyes to avoid the somewhat forceful gaze. She considered this with uncertainty for a while before finally answering, “I just wanted to come out and relax. My pressure at work was too much, so I wanted to walk around the countryside and breathe some fresh air.”
“Oh? Is that so.”
Su Mu raised an eyebrow and did not speak further.
Ye Xiao silently stared at the invitation letter from Yang Wen Jie’s bag.
For some reason, he had the feeling that every person in this house had a secret.
Zhao Fei Peng placed his feet on the table and pompously said, “Then what about the three of us? Do we also need to explain the reason we boarded this train? So that you guys don’t suspect us for no reason.”
He smirked, then used his chin to point at Ma Hong Liang, who was still cuffed to the staircase railing. “At this point, it doesn’t matter if I say it anyways. I’m like him; I actually ran onto the train to escape. But instead of being chased by the police, I was being chased by a crime syndicate.”
“Oh, no wonder…” Yuan Meng Yu raised her head to glance at him. “I saw you climb in through the tea room window when the train just started.”
“I was seen by you? Hehe…”
Zhao Fei Peng did not seem to feel like he had done anything wrong. On the contrary, he grinned shamelessly.
“Um, actually…actually I don’t have a train ticket either,” Yan Kai stammered out.
“What, you don’t have a train ticket either?”
Everyone stared at him strangely. Who would have thought that a proper reporter would also sneak onto a train without a ticket?
“Sorry, but I didn’t want to either.” Yan Kei awkwardly shook his head as he gloomily explained, “I was originally planning on taking the train to the countryside to take some photos for an article about environmental protection. But I arrived late; by the time it was my turn to buy tickets, the train was already sold out. If I bought the next one, I’d have to wait another three days. I really didn’t have any time, so I went to buy a scalped ticket near the station. In the end, it turned out that they had sold me a fake copy that couldn’t be used, and I could only…”
“You could only mix into the crowd and secretly sneak on?”
Zhao Fei Peng shot him a sideways look and snickered.
Yan Kai helplessly nodded. “Yes. That’s why I hid in the last carriage out of guilt.”
“So that’s how it is.” Yuan Meng Yu heaved a light sigh as she murmured, “In actuality, you guys weren’t originally supposed to have appeared in that last carriage. Yet in the end, you came on due to an unexpected turn of events…”
As she spoke, she raised her head to glance at Zhang Xiao Long across from her.
Zhang Xiao Long flushed and stuttered, “I-I didn’t sneak on. I bought a ticket. If you don’t believe me, I-I can show you guys the ticket…”
Then he pulled out a wrinkled train ticket from his pocket.
Ye Xiao let slip a chuckle. “Alright, no one suspects you of sneaking on. Now that things have come to this point, it would’ve actually been better if you hadn’t boarded this train from the beginning.”
“That’s right, it’s such fucking bad luck!” Zhao Fei Peng cursed resentfully.
Ye Xiao turned to look at Su Mu, who had remained silent from beginning to end.
Su Mu was sitting off to the side, quietly flipping through the pages of Yang Wen Ji’s notebook.
“What’s wrong, did you see something?” He asked.
Su Mu flipped the notebook to the back cover, then spread it open on the table to the first page. He knocked it with his knuckles and asked, “What do you think this is?”
“Huh, there’s something written on the back side too?”
Ye Xiao hurriedly peered over and discovered that the first page from the back of the notebook actually had a strange yet familiar symbol penciled out. While it was not drawn very neatly, Ye Xiao instantly recognised it.
A pointed head, an olive-shaped middle, and a semicircle on both sides…
It’s that symbol again! Identical to the one one the deserted convenience store’s sign and the one above the mirror in the rooms! But what exactly is it?
Ye Xiao studied it in confusion. Suddenly, he noticed that there was a row of small text written below the symbol, like an annotation for the image.
“Mysterious…family…?” He quietly read out each word.
Shao Yue Ting was leaning against the head of the bed with a look of astonishment pointed at her older sister. There was still a trace of deathly paleness on her beautiful face.
“I…don’t understand what you’re talking about.” She smiled.
Shao Yue Hua sighed and pointed at the strange symbol above the mirror. “Didn’t you see it? That thing is identical to the image on the red wax seal from the invitation letter we got.”
Shao Yue Ting glanced at it, then quietly stated, “Yeah, I saw it before.”
“Exactly, that’s the symbol!”
Shao Yue Hua’s emotions were stirred slightly as she said, “I spent a large amount of effort two days ago to finally find out about it. This symbol is originally the crest of an enormous family.”
“Yes, that symbol represents some ancient and mysterious family. However, I couldn’t find any additional information about this family no matter how I searched. There was nothing on the internet or in the library. No one even knows the name of this family.” Shao Yue Hua gestured as she spoke and paced back and forth inside the room.
Shao Yue Ting smiled dimly and quietly sat on the bed, a bit lost in thought.
“Oi, are you listening to what I’m saying?” Shao Yue Hua frowned.
Shao Yue Ting was taken aback for a moment before quietly replying, “Mn, I’m listening.”
“You’re listening? If you’re listening, why aren’t you speaking?” Shao Yue Hua rubbed her forehead and raised her voice. “Don’t you think there’s something very weird about all this? First was that bizarre dream, then it was the invitation letter that was sent from who knows where, and after that, the train carriage suddenly separated. And now we’re staying in a house we unexpectedly found that has a crest on the walls which matches the invitation letter exactly. Isn’t everything just too…too…”
Shao Yue Hua could not find the appropriate adjective for a moment, and only agitatedly gestured.
Shao Yue Ting lowered her head and lightly touched the white envelope in her hands while finishing her sister’s sentence, “Too coincidental?”
“That’s right!” Shao Yue Hua crossed her arms in front of her chest. “It feels like everything was purposely arranged by someone. And we fell straight into the trap.”
“That’s why I told you not to come. But saying anything at this point is too late.”
Shao Yue Ting dropped her eyes, her tone still as unhurried as before while hiding some kind of worry.
Meanwhile, in another room.
The room’s lights were not on. The doors and windows were tightly shut, the white curtains peacefully hanging down in front of the windows.
A dim glow from a cellphone was lit amidst the pitch-black silence.
Xue Qing was sitting upright on the bed, her legs crossed as she quietly concentrated. She was similar to a meditating Buddhist; under the concealment of her black robe, she had basically become one with the dark room.
Tranquil, steady, calm.
A while later, she slowly exhaled and opened her eyes to focus intently on the cross-shaped card array in front of her. Then she reached out and used two fingers to flip over each card.
Every time she turned one over, the expression on her face would just barely change. It was impossible to tell if it was joy or grief, alarm or fright. Regardless, her eyes were fixed onto the cards until she finally reached the last card. With this, her tightly furrowed brows instantly relaxed. However, her mood did not ease up with it. Instead, she shook her head slightly and slowly stated in an empty, apathetic voice, “The Tower, reversed. Meaning plight, internal strife, hard-pressed, and unable to resist; a fight to win or die.”
She sat blankly on her bed for half a beat, then stood and pulled out a thick white envelope from the pockets of her wide robe. She pulled out the exquisite card from inside.
Three bloodred words shockingly came into sight like a sinister demonic curse.
“Invitation letter…um, meaning Yang Wen Jie only took this train because she received this invitation letter?”
It was three in the morning. The sky had yet to brighten, the endless black engulfing everything.
Outside, the night was deep and the fog was chilling.
Ye Xiao and Su Mu were standing on the steps of the house.
Su Mu had both hands in his pockets while leaning against the door.
Ye Xiao lit a cigarette, then sat down and scratched his hair before saying, “Then what about the others?”
“The others might have…”
Su Mu was silent for a moment. Ye Xiao finished, “Might have received this invitation letter too?”
“It’s extremely possible.” Su Mu stated, “If we assume that is true, then everything can be explained: why seven people the same age with the same birthday took the same train at the same time in the same carriage.”
“Hah. In other words, this isn’t a shocking coincidence at all, but an inevitability.”
Ye Xiao tilted his head incredulously and summarised, “Someone sent them this invitation letter—maybe the invitation letter contained the train tickets as well. As a result, they took this pre-prepared ticket and boarded the same train…Yeah, that’s right! If that’s the case, then everything is explained!”
Ye Xiao excitedly flashed a thumbs-up. But after thinking about it some more, he suddenly felt that something wasn’t quite right. He murmured, “But, even if they received invitation letters, they wouldn’t necessarily have abided…”
“Yes, that’s right. Even with invitation letters and train tickets, they would not have necessarily boarded this train. After all, it’s such a long journey; one way takes three entire days. But what if they had reasons that left them with no other options?” Su Mu glanced down at Ye Xiao.
Ye Xiao blinked, “Reasons that left them with no other options?”
“For example, being spurred by a mutual benefit or possessing a mutual goal.”
“Eh, now that you say that, I feel like the entire matter has become super complicated…”
Ye Xiao couldn’t help but chuckle as he stood and said, “Seven girls with the same age and birthday all received a mysterious invitation letter at the same time. Then, for the sake of a mutual objective, they boarded the same carriage on the same train, which ended up breaking off in the middle of nowhere…Pfft, don’t you think these events have occurred in some kind of detective suspense film?”
Without any restraint, he threw his arm across Su Mu’s shoulder. Su Mu shot him a look and swatted the overly intimate arm away before saying, “The critical question is: who was the one that sent the invitation letters to them?”
Ye Xiao winked and said in a furtive tone, “Based on Yang Wen Jie’s notebook, she seemed to have been investigating the origin of that strange symbol. And the result of her research was those words.”
Su Mu pondered this. “Perhaps that symbol represents that family.”
“You mean, a crest?”
Ye Xiao extinguished the cigarette in his hand and flipped open the notebook. He illuminated it with his cellphone and squinted to inspect it. Then he laughed in spite of himself and commented, “But why do I feel like this picture is more like a child’s scribble?”
“Yeah.” Ye Xiao passed the notebook over to Su Mu and pointed at the symbol. “Don’t you think this picture is very similar to a certain bug with wings? Here, look, the middle and pointed part is the body, and the two circles on the sides are wings. What do you think, doesn’t it look alike?”
Su Mu thoughtfully studied the symbol, then mirthlessly smiled. “I never thought a simple mind would be unexpectedly useful at times too.”
“Huh? What do you mean? Who are you saying has a simple mind?” Ye Xiao glared back. Right as he was about to fire back, he saw Su Mu turn to push open the door and stride into the house.
“Oi, bastard, clarify what you just said!”
He gloomily grumbled to himself, then followed Su Mu inside. However, the moment he stepped into the living room, he was met with a low, reverberating song.
It was the sound of a guitar. Upstairs, Zhou Yue was strumming the guitar while softly singing with her slightly hoarse, neutral voice.
Tonight, no one is asleep,
Is something pulling your heartstrings;
The starless skies are like black wormholes,
And the two of us inside are walking slowly towards our destruction;
The frustrating, the saddening, the questioning, should all be left to fate;
Tonight, no one is asleep,
Is something confusing your eyes;
The path without moonlight is like crimson brambles,
And the two of us within are tasting the blood of each other;
The painful, the worrying, the unforgettable, should all be left to fate;
Tonight, no one is asleep,
Is something illuminating your face;
The night without dawn is like an abyss of despair,
And the two of us below are disintegrating together;
The delightful, the tearful, the thrilling, should all be left to fate;
Tonight, no one is asleep…
Tonight, no one is asleep…
The deep, dispirited song echoed through the empty living room again and again.
While the tune was not very cohesive and the lyrics were a bit strange with unknown meaning, the song had a special feeling on this lonely and stifling night.
Everyone was entranced, not saying a word as they tranquilly immersed themselves into the song. Until finally, Zhao Fei Peng slammed a hand on the table and cursed, “What the fuck is that song? Destruction and despair, how inauspicious can you get!”
Zhang Xiao Long was startled and he shakily replied, “I think…it’s pretty nice…”
“Like hell it’s pretty nice!” Zhao Fei Peng burst out with more coarse language.
Zhang Xiao Long’s lips pursed together, and he did not speak again.
Ye Xiao lifted his head to gaze up the staircase to the second floor.
The song continued to repeat.
Zhou Yue was sitting on the bed in her room with her guitar. She gently strummed the strings, singing along indifferently with her eyes closed. Fortunately, her guitar-playing was more pleasant to the ear than her singing.
She played and sang, sang and played. Ding ding ding—a melodious ring suddenly mixed together with the singing and the guitar melody.
The song came to a sharp halt, and the fingertips between the strings stopped as well.
If I didn’t mishear just now, that was…my cellphone’s text ringtone?
Isn’t there no signal in this place? How did I suddenly receive a text?
After pausing for a second, she slowly placed her guitar down and fished out her phone from her jeans pocket. When she doubtfully checked it, she saw that the blue notification light was indeed flashing nonstop. The screen indicated that there was an unread message.
The sending of the message was unknown.
Unknown? It’s already past 3 AM, who would send me a text at this time?
Without any further thoughts, Zhou Yu pressed the read button. A photo immediately jumped onto the screen. However, the photo was pitch-black without anything in it.
What’s going on? Is there a problem with the phone screen? Or is this some prank?
She suspiciously furrowed her brows and exited out from the photo. When she checked the upper left corner of her screen, the signal strength was zero. As expected, there wasn’t any signal here at all. Exactly how had she been able to receive a text?
A string of doubts circled around her mind. Zhou Yue pondered them for a moment, but could not come up with any explanation. Thus, she gave up and put her phone down. Then she picked her guitar up and continued to play.
However, less than two minutes of playing later, she heard another melodious ring.
The blue notification light at the bottom of the phone flashed once more.
A new text message.
Bewildered, she checked her phone. She had again received only a pitch-black photo with nothing in it.
She let out a low curse and furiously closed her phone before tossing it to the side.
Zhou Yue picked up her guitar and continued intermittently plucking the strings. However, her thoughts were drawn towards the cellphone in the corner. For some reason, she had an extremely uneasy feeling.
As though something was about to happen.
Her eyes were closely fixed to the powered off cellphone.
One second, two seconds, three seconds…
Suddenly, she heard a ding ding ding.
The ear-piercing ring shocked her so much that her hands shook, and she immediately leapt up from the bed.
Thud, the guitar in her arms fell onto the floor.
What-what the hell is going on? How can my phone ring even when it’s off?
She stared blankly next to the bed, the disturbing shadow in her heart instantly expanding.
The blue light at the bottom of the phone was still flashing nonstop. This meant she had received another new text.
Who? Who’s pulling this prank?
Terrified, she swallowed hard and haltingly walked over. Then she slowly picked up the phone and turned it on.
The message was still a photo. However, this time it wasn’t pitch-black. Instead, it had a hazy glow; there was a layer of dim light surrounding the grey image.
There were no people, no objects. What exactly were these photos of?
She pointed a puzzled stare at the photo on the screen, unable to understand it at all. Eventually, she gritted her teeth and closed the phone. But the moment she threw it onto the bed, it let out a ding ding ding.
Her movements froze, halting in midair.
When she opened her phone, it was still a photo showing on the screen.
This time, there was a tiny grid-like thing in the upper left corner. The light was being faintly emitted from this grid, barely illuminating the remaining darkness.
Her brows tightly knit together. Before she could think about it more closely, she immediately received another text.
The image appeared square by square. What appeared before her eyes was an orderly grid with a warm glow passing through it.
“What the hell is this?”
Upon closer examination, there seemed to be a dark object below the grid.
She enlarged the photo bit by bit. As the image continued to change, the thing under the grid gradually grew clearer. It’s…it’s a pitch-black head?
Oh, no, that’s a person. Because it’s overlooking down at an angle, the first thing visible is the top of the head. That person stood there with a grey and blue checkered shirt and dark jeans. Seven glinting earrings peeked out from beneath their short, ear-length hair that was dyed various colours.
The person under the grid currently had their head lowered to…to focus intently on the cellphone in their hand…
A wave of terror struck Zhou Yue and she jerked her head upwards.
Only to faintly see a pair of sinister eyes staring down at her from above.