It was a small village in the mountains, veiled by a shroud of lush and flourishing trees.
There was but a single path leading to said village. Because of the heavy downpour, the trail was particularly muddy; one had to be especially cautious when walking down this road.
As of this moment, Lin Qiushi and a tall young woman were plodding along this path. The lady seemed to be of mixed-race. Her eyebrows were rather thick and broad, quite beautiful, and she was incredibly tall, much taller than Lin Qiushi. Wearing a long, outdated dress and with deep eyes filled with tears, the girl lightly and spasmodically sobbed, then whispered, “Just where exactly is this place?”
Lin Qiushi inquired, “Where were you before?”
The young woman: “I was inside the bathroom of my house.”
Lin Qiushi: “I was in the hallway of my home.”
The young woman: “Hallway…?”
Lin Qiushi raised his head and looked up at the gloomy skies. “Did you happen to open a door?”
The young woman seemed to have recalled something; there was a subtle change in her expression. She said, “Yes.”
Lin Qiushi glanced back at her. “Same here.”
A gust of wind blew, and the heavy leaves at the treetops rustled with the breeze. The atmosphere around grew quieter. Light flurries suddenly floated down from the skies, as if urging them to hasten their pace; they had to reach the village encompassed by groves before dark.
In the course of conversation, Lin Qiushi learned that the girl’s surname was Ruan. She was called Ruan Baijie.
Lin Qiushi was stunned for about three seconds after hearing her name, and then he falsely praised, “A good name.”
Ruan Baijie glared at him with watery eyes and hissed, “Men are all liars.”
Lin Qiushi: “Eh?”
Ruan Baijie: “Don’t think I’ve never seen that little porn book1.”
Lin Qiushi: “…” It appeared as though this girl wasn’t as weak or delicate as he’d imagined. While heading towards the village, the two individuals exchanged information and gathered that the other had also opened a door before suddenly arriving at this remote wilderness.
Ruan Baijie opened the door to the lavatory, while Lin Qiushi opened the door to his own hallway.
“The door was a black, iron door.” Ruan Baijie’s voice was soft. “There weren’t any decorations. At the time, I was a bit puzzled, just how could a door like that suddenly appear at my house? I also didn’t think much of it and casually pulled it open…”
The very next second after pulling the door open, they appeared at this desolate wilderness.
Lin Qiushi: “I also opened a black iron door…” He barely finished saying this, when he caught sight of a shadowy figure on the path ahead. The figure was quite tall, most likely a grown man.
“Big brother up front!!!” Lin Qiushi greeted loudly from afar.
Seemingly having heard Lin Qiushi’s voice, the man paused his steps.
Lin Qiushi hurriedly ran forward, then reached out and tapped his shoulder. “Hello, would you please tell us where this place is?”
The man turned his head around, revealing a bearded face. At first glance, he practically resembled a bear with his hairy face and tall, robust build. “Are you new here?”
Lin Qiushi wondered, “New?”
The man didn’t reply. He stared at Lin Qiushi then glanced behind him at the frightened Ruan Baijie. “Come. Let’s go to the village, then I’ll explain everything to the both of you.”
Lin Qiushi hummed in agreement. Thereafter, the three people set off to the village.
The season seemed to be winter here; dusk descended very early. Before they came here, the setting sun was clearly still hanging in the sky, but in a blink of an eye, only dark clouds and falling snowflakes remained.
Lin Qiushi chatted with the man and observed the situation around. Apart from the village, this place had no other light sources. Surrounded by the sight of vast forests that extended to where the eye couldn’t see, this empty road couldn’t be any more vacant and abandoned.
Lin Qiushi took out a cigarette from his pocket and handed it to the man. The man declined it with the wave of his hand.
“Big brother, where is this place?” Lin Qiushi asked.
The man spoke, “You can call me Xiong Qi2.”
Lin Qiushi thought to himself that this man truly lived up to his name. He wanted to ask another question, but he then saw Xiong Qi make a ‘stop’ gesture. “Don’t ask. You’ll understand what’s going on when we get to the village.”
“Oh.” Lin Qiushi uttered. “Okay.”
The entire trip there, they stayed silent. The three people strived to hasten on with their journey. They finally arrived at the entrance of the village just before darkness completely enveloped the skies above.
Xiong Qi visibly relaxed. He cast a glance at the darkness behind him. “Okay, it’s all good. Let’s go. We’ll meet them first.”
New. Them. Lin Qiushi caught these keywords. Although he already had a bad gut feeling ever since he’d arrived here, at this very moment, that unpleasant feeling was becoming stronger, more intense. Ruan Baijie also seemed to have sensed something. She no longer wept. Her attractive face was as pale as death, and her eyes shone with panic.
Xiong Qi continued to advance forward, and he soon brought them to a small three-storey building beside the village head’s house.
He stood still before the doorway and knocked on the door. From inside came the voice of a young girl, “Who?”
“It’s me, Xiong Qi,” responded Xiong Qi.
“Ah, it’s big brother Xiong. Come in.” The girl added, “We were waiting for you.”
Xiong Qi pushed the door with his hand. A slight creak sounded, and afterwards, the scene behind the doorway was fully exposed. The door opened to a spacious living room. At present time, about a dozen people more or less sat in the living room. They encircled a raging fire, and they seemed to be discussing something right now.
“Newcomers?” Someone finally noticed Lin Qiushi and Ruan Baijie standing behind Xiong Qi.
“Newcomers.” Xiong Qi slowly walked into the room and casually found a place to sit down. “Sit down. Xiao Ke, explain to them.”
Xiao Ke was the girl who opened the door for Xiong Qi. She looked about fifteen or sixteen years old, and her facial features were delicate and pretty. “You two can sit down, as well. I’ll briefly describe the circumstances.”
Lin Qiushi and Ruan Baijie glanced at each other. The two people then sat near the door.
“In actuality, there’s nothing much to say.” Xiao Ke’s attitude wasn’t in the least cordial. “We need to stay in this village for a period of time and resolve a few problems. That’s about it.”
Lin Qiushi: “What problems?”
Xiao Ke replied, “We also don’t know that for the time being. We have to visit the head of the village tomorrow…” She then asked, “Are either of you materialists?”
Lin Qiushi raised his hand and declared, “Me.”
Xiao Ke hinted, “Then whatever you believe in ought to change.”
Lin Qiushi: “…what do you mean?”
Xiao Ke explained, “What I mean to say is that supernatural events will take place here.”
Lin Qiushi: “…”
Everyone was completely indifferent to the arrival of the newcomers, Lin Qiushi and Ruan Baijie. Not a single person, aside from Xiao Ke, took the initiative to greet them.
Before he entered the room, Lin Qiushi assumed they were discussing some things, but after sitting here for a while, Lin Qiushi discovered they never said a word. Several people just sat quietly in the living room, gazing at the flames before them in a daze; others were simply holding onto their mobile phones, playing games.
All cell phones had no signal here, so it was impossible to contact the outside world; however, it was still possible to play offline single-player games.
Lin Qiushi simply began to count. He counted a total of thirteen people in this room. Nine men and four women. From the looks of their faces alone, most of them were relatively young, the eldest amongst them shouldn’t have been older than the age of forty.
The firewood for the blaze crackled. Ruan Baijie sat down for a while; she appeared to be getting somewhat sleepy. She looked all around and saw that no one had any intentions of leaving just yet. With a soft voice, she inquired, “That…sorry for the inconvenience, but may I ask if there’s a room to sleep in? I’m a little tired.”
Lin Qiushi wasn’t sure if it was just an illusion, but the moment Ruan Baijie asked this question, the atmosphere within this room seemed to freeze.
“Forget about it. We should also get some rest.” Xiong Qi stood up. “Otherwise, we’ll end up falling asleep in the living room. The rooms will be divided.” He scrutinized Lin Qiushi. “You’ll be together with her. Be careful at night. Don’t go anywhere or roam around…”
Ruan Baijie inserted, “I’ll be sharing with him? But…”
Xiong Qi heaved a sigh, “Are men and women any different? After you’ve spent the first night together, you’ll realize those insignificant details don’t matter here. A lost life, what difference does it make whether you’re male or female?”
Ruan Baijie still wanted to refute, but upon seeing everyone’s mood wasn’t quite right, Ruan Baijie dropped the subject and agreed to share a room with Lin Qiushi.
Lin Qiushi saw her anxious expression and couldn’t help but comfort her, “Don’t worry, I won’t do anything to you.”
Ruan Baijie nodded.
Three floors, a total of nine rooms. But judging from their designs, they never planned for separate, single-occupancy rooms. At least two people lived in one room, and there were even some rooms that housed three people.
“Here you are.” Xiong Qi stated. “See you tomorrow.”
The crowd dispersed, leaving to go elsewhere. Before departing, Xiao Ke suddenly went to Lin Qiushi’s side and softly advised, “Don’t trust others too much; you might be able to live through this first night…”
Lin Qiushi had just opened his mouth, wanting to ask her questions, but she hastily left as if she didn’t intend to stick around and speak any more to Lin Qiushi.
“Come on.” Ruan Baijie voiced. “Let’s go to sleep.”
Lin Qiushi nodded.
Their room was on the far right side of the corridor on the second floor. There was only one bed in the room, and a character poster hung near the bedside.
There was no electricity here, so they had no choice but to light the kerosene lamp. Because the emitted light wasn’t bright enough, the entire room presented a sort of old-fashioned hue. A faint moldy odor permeated the air.
Lin Qiushi had originally thought Ruan Baijie would be averse to the current conditions, but he didn’t expect her to adapt even faster than himself. After quickly washing up, she immediately went for the bed and flopped down on it.
On the contrary, Lin Qiushi sat on the edge of the bed, feeling a bit uncomfortable.
“Sleep.” Ruan Baijie had her head buried in the blankets, her voice was slightly muffled. “Aren’t you tired?”
Lin Qiushi admitted, “A little tired.”
“Yeah, today was honestly too strange.” Ruan Baijie murmured. “I even suspected that you guys were invited to some program to prank people. However, for a prank to go this far and be as detailed as this…”
Lin Qiushi took off his coat and climbed into the bed in order to avoid arousing suspicion. Although he and Ruan Baijie shared one bed, there were two separate blankets for each. “Very strange.”
Ruan Baijie mentioned, “And those people. Did you notice the expression in their eyes?”
Lin Qiushi answered, “They’re afraid.”
“That’s right.” Ruan Baijie agreed. “They’re afraid… But what exactly are they so fearful of?”
Lin Qiushi pondered this for a moment. He was just about to speak, when he heard slight, even breaths coming from his side. He turned his head to the side and saw that Ruan Baijie had fallen into deep sleep.
Reclining on his back, Lin Qiushi rested his head against his pillow and stared at the ceiling above him. In the dim lighting, he sank into a trance, a deep meditative state. He truly admired Ruan Baijie. Suddenly appearing in a strange place, suddenly encountering numerous strange people, but, would you look at that! She merely had to close her eyes to slumber like the dead.
But as Lin Qiushi brooded over this, drowsiness gradually engulfed his thoughts. His eyes fluttered closed, and he eventually succumbed to sleep.
In the middle of the night, Lin Qiushi woke up with a start.
Lying on the bed, he detected a faint thud.
The noise seemed to had been generated from the biting winds blowing against the dilapidated windows. The slight creaking sounds that ensued made it seem as if someone was padding along the floorboards with bare feet; the planks underneath would dip down, unable support the overwhelming pressure.
Lin Qiushi opened his eyes only to see that the entire room had been plunged into a hazy darkness.
He didn’t know when the snowfall outside had stopped. A huge moon hung high in the air. Its cool-colored light caressed the headboard of the bed, delicately spilling on the floor like gauze.
Lin Qiushi’s line of sight steadily moved towards the edge of the bed, then he suddenly held his breath.
Near the head of the bed was the figure of a woman. The woman sat on the bedside, her back was facing Lin Qiushi. Her long, black hair cascaded down past her shoulders, obscuring her form. She seemed to have perceived Lin Qiushi’s awakening, and she slowly cocked her head to one side.
This scene was exactly like one out of a horror film; it caused Lin Qiushi’s entire body to stiffen for a moment. Fortunately, his courage was comparatively large. He clenched his teeth and directly sat up, hurling abuse at the other, “Fuck this shit! Who the hell are you!!! What the hell do you think you’re doing, coming into my room!!!”
The woman moved ever so slightly. Soon after, the sound of her voice was heard, “What’s your name? It’s me.”
It was Ruan Baijie’s voice.
Lin Qiushi was relieved, and he lightened his tone. He said, “It’s late. What are you doing not sleeping but sitting at the bedside instead.”
“Did you see the well in front of the house?” Ruan Baijie questioned. “The one in the courtyard?”
Lin Qiushi repeated, “Well? What well?” He was ready to climb up from the bed, but he inadvertently glanced to his right. This one glimpse made his blood freeze instantly—Ruan Baijie was still sleeping on the right; she had never moved a single muscle since the start.
“That well.” The woman responded with a voice that sounded exactly like Ruan Baijie’s. “Let’s go and check it out.”
Lin Qiushi: “…”
The woman: “Why won’t you reply?”
Lin Qiushi: “I was just awarded ‘Outstanding Party Cadre’ last month.”
The woman: “…”
Lin Qiushi: “I am a staunch materialist.”
The woman: “…”
Lin Qiushi: “Therefore, you should switch targets and find someone else to scare, alright?”
The woman slowly twisted her head around. Through the moonlight, Lin Qiushi managed to catch sight of her face. It was a face that was difficult to describe with mere words. It was deathly pale and quite bloated. Her eyeballs nearly popped out of her eye sockets. Her appearance was, in simpler terms, freakish. With that familiar voice, she asked, “Are you not afraid of me?”
Lin Qiushi remained silent for three seconds. He then bowed his head and looked down at his bedding. “Don’t be like that. I only brought one pair of pants with me here.”
The woman: “…”
Lin Qiushi wiped his face. “If you scare me again, I’ll seriously piss myself.” After he finished saying this, he began to slap Ruan Baijie who was still sleeping next to him. He cried out loud, “Quick! Get up!”
Ruan Baijie abruptly woke up from Lin Qiushi’s slaps. Completely bewildered, she rubbed her eyes, then wondered, “Why on earth should I?” As soon as she opened her eyes wide, she noticed that a woman was sitting near the bedside. “And who is this, ah? Lin Qiushi, so instead of going to sleep at night, you went god-knows-where to find yourself a woman to bring back, huh? You’re just too shameless! Tell me, where in the world do I not compare to her?!”
Lin Qiushi: “…” That’s what you focus on, huh?
Ruan Baijie cursed lowly a few times before sensing something was amiss. Her lovely eyes grew wider, rounder, those two black pupils dilated. “What’s up with her neck, it’s growing longer and longer…”
Lin Qiushi took another glance back and discovered the woman had already stood up from the bed. Her head was crooked to one side and her neck became longer by the second, practically resembling a mutated snake.
The two individuals regarded this scene with dumbfounded expressions on their faces. At last, Lin Qiushi couldn’t stand it. He shouted, “Run like the fucking wind!” Immediately after, he rose from his spot, grabbed Ruan Baijie’s hand and dashed madly to the door.
In the end, Ruan Baijie, who was feeble and delicate during the day, ran even faster than Lin Qiushi. Quicker than a gust of wind, they disappeared out the door.
Lin Qiushi: “Can’t you fucking run slowly!”
Ruan Baijie: “I’ll be cold if I run any fucking slower—”
Lin Qiushi: “…” Hah, woman.
The two people were like rabbits, fleeing all the way to the first floor. After determining that thing didn’t follow them all the way down here, they sagged their shoulders in relief. Ruan Baijie miserably wailed more than anyone else, and she even ran faster than dogs. By the time Lin Qiushi gasped for breath, her eyes were glistening with tears; she was ready for round two of bawling.
“Don’t cry. Don’t cry.” Lin Qiushi coaxed. “What’d you whisper to provoke that thing?”
Ruan Baijie: “I can’t believe you’re thinking about other people, you don’t even care about me.”
Lin Qiushi: “…”
Perhaps Lin Qiushi’s expression showed that he was all but repulsed, but, in any case, Ruan Baijie somehow stifled her sobs. She weakly sat down on the wooden stool located on the first floor and gently wiped the corners of her moist eyes.
As of this moment, they were situated in the living room on the first floor. The entire room was deserted. Just now, there was such a massive disturbance, yet not a single person came out to enjoy the chaotic scene; as a matter of fact, no other sounds could be heard whatsoever, including the others’ breathing.
Lin Qiushi stood in place for a while and hesitated. “What should we do now?” He and Ruan Baijie had little to no experience with matters like these. They didn’t know what to do, they had absolutely no idea how to deal with this. And so, they just stood in this living room like two wooden posts.
“It snowed outside.” Ruan Baijie suddenly remarked, slowly walking to the door and taking a peek at the courtyard.
“It snowed in the middle of the night.” Lin Qiushi stood in the doorway and gazed at the thin layer of snow that covered the courtyard. He also spotted the well the female ghost mentioned about. Indeed, it was just as she said; there was a well in the middle of the courtyard. The well’s location was somewhat abrupt. Of all places, it was positioned at the very center of the courtyard, and it even happened to obstruct the entrance. In terms of feng shui, this was emphatically neither proper nor a good thing.
“There is a stone at the entrance. I’ve no words to say.” Ruan Baijie suddenly added, “That well is quite wonderfully built, ah.” She chuckled; her appearance as the corners of her eyes curved was exceptionally stunning.
“What?” Lin Qiushi said. “You also understand feng shui?”
Ruan Baijie replied, “I do this at home, learned a bit.” She glanced at him obliquely. “What do you do?”
Lin Qiushi: “I design…”
Ruan Baijie: “Oh, you’re not bald yet. You haven’t done this for long, have you?”
Lin Qiushi: “…” You really know how to talk.
“What do you suppose I do?” Ruan Baijie flipped her hair.
Lin Qiushi: “Modeling?” He seldom saw such a tall girl as Ruan Baijie. Tall and straight in stature, good temperament; except for her nonexistent chest, it seemed that she had no other shortcomings.
“Not at all.” Ruan Baijie beamed brightly and continued, “I am a fortune teller.”
Lin Qiushi stared blankly.
“Allow me to calculate.” Ruan Baijie instantly reckoned on the spot, “Today’s moon is particularly round and full. I sense that a death shall take place.”
Lin Qiushi didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “What kind of logic is that, ah? How is a very round full moon supposed to predict a death?”
Ruan Baijie paid no heed to Lin Qiushi. She strolled towards the courtyard and beckoned Lin Qiushi. Lin Qiushi’s heart jumped out of his chest at her actions. “Why on earth are you going there? It’s so late…”
Ruan Baijie answered, “I wanted to take a look at this well.”
“Take a look at it tomorrow during the day. It’s too dangerous to check it out right now.” Although Lin Qiushi said this, he was so worried about Ruan Baijie being outside that he followed her to the courtyard.
Dressed in a long, white gown and taking lithe steps forward, Ruan Baijie resembled a graceful snow fairy. She leisurely approached the top of the well, but she never reached it. Rather, she waited until Lin Qiushi also came over.
Lin Qiushi asked, “What’s wrong?”
Ruan Baijie said, “Nothing. I suddenly feel like I don’t want to see it anymore. Let’s head back.”
Lin Qiushi was utterly baffled. “Why do we have to go back?”
“It’s too cold.” Ruan Baijie complained. “I’m going to freeze.” Upon saying this, Ruan Baijie naturally took ahold of Lin Qiushi’s arm then forcefully hauled him back into the room.
Lin Qiushi was dragged back by Ruan Baijie. He found that her strength was more than extraordinary, and he temporarily couldn’t break free.
“Ruan Baijie?” Lin Qiushi was frightened by Ruan Baijie’s mighty strength.
Ruan Baijie loosened her tight grip. “Go on. Too cold, ah. Must hurry back, also can sleep for a while…” She finished what she wanted to say, and with that, she once again didn’t bother with Lin Qiushi. Minding her own business, she went upstairs and returned to the room.
Without any better options, Lin Qiushi followed behind her and also returned to their room on the second floor. Fortunately, that previously-seen creepy woman had disappeared. However, the windows were left ajar, and the shuddering, wintry winds poured into the room.
Ruan Baijie went directly to bed. She closed her eyes and fell asleep.
Lin Qiushi, on the other hand, couldn’t fall asleep, so he rekindled the kerosene lamp and stayed up the entire night. The night here was endless and dreadful, the winds outside howled non-stop, and located inside this room was sleeping beauty. Ruan Baijie and a man she’d just met were sleeping on the same bed, yet she wasn’t in the least guarded against him. Her breaths were soft and even, and a faint blush painted her fair cheeks pink; this scene looked undeniably tempting.
Lin Qiushi gazed at her for a long time before removing his eyes. Although he wasn’t a gentleman, he certainly wasn’t a vile scoundrel who took advantage of someone in a precarious position.
The next day, at approximately 8 o’clock, hints of dawn emerged, the shadows of the sun peeked over the sky’s horizon.
The skies resumed snowing overnight, and the grounds outside were already blanketed in pure white snow.
Ruan Baijie groaned then opened her eyes. She first extended her arms, but immediately afterwards, she retracted them. “It’s so cold, ah…”
Lin Qiushi saw her like this and thought in his mind, you certainly didn’t seem to say so last night.
“Qiushi.” Ruan Baijie started. “You go and help me find two pieces of clothes. I’m only wearing this dress…it’s too cold.”
Lin Qiushi agreed and said ‘fine’. But, in reality, he planned to find two more clothes that he could wear, thickening and warming only himself. After all, in his own, original world, it was still a blistering, hot summer.
1There is a Chinese porn novel that goes by the name, “Bai Jie” or “White and Pure”. In other words, Baijie’s given name is the name of a porn novel, hence Lin Qiushi’s shock and false praise and all.
2His name is literally BEHR (Paint)—as in, the corporation. If you didn’t know, there is a bear on the front of their products, and Xiong Qi also resembles a bear.