In Virtual Reality
In Virtual Reality 11 ☆ Screaming Haunted House (7/12)
The scrambled eggs with the savoury-sweet tomato sauce were delectable.
The soup was well-seasoned and savoury and ideal for pairing with rice.
The pork ribs with garlic were tender, and the meat slipped easily off the bone.
Diner Aunty had given her the biggest and meatiest pieces, even though there were only two.
The spicy stir-fried chicken was intense and scrumptious! The baby veggies were well stir-fried and tasted somewhat sweet to Xu Jin Yi.
She wiped her mouth blissfully after finishing the last piece of grain and relaxed on the sofa.
Really, she wouldn't mind dealing with ten more [Tian Shi De] as long as she had such a feast!
Xu Jin Yi cleaned up after lunch and loaded her last saved file.
Xu Jin Yi returned to the village centre after crossing the lengthy stone route from the outskirts.
She suspected that the NPC [Fang Wen Wen] got tangled up in the Water Well Ghost narrative since she couldn't find them in the plot of the paper folding store.
Even so, [Tian Shi De] was pulled into the well by Water Well Ghost, while [Fang Wen Wen] was abducted by the paper man at the start.
According to this reasoning, [Tian Shi De] should have completed the well's quest while [Fang Wen Wen] should have finished the paper bride's quest.
What went wrong?
Xu Jin Yi's peripheral vision caught a flicker of a white blur as she was thinking this.
She turned her head to see a paper-folded man at the edge of the path.
The footsteps of the paper-folded man froze as soon as 'it' noticed Xu Jin Yi.
He had already exited the dark alleyway.
He couldn't disappear in the darkness since the moonlight didn't flicker like a broken bulb.
As he watched Xu Jin Yi move towards him, the paper-folded man could only resign.
Xu Jin Yi smiled and questioned him in what she believed was a pleasant manner.
“Where did the bride you sent to the Zhang family earlier go?”
The paper folded man: “…”
He couldn't move in front of Xu Jin Yi's gaze without the flicker of the light.
Xu Jin Yi: “…”
She rummaged through her mind for the background lore of the paper-folded guy.
“Eh, fine, I'll blink so you can move.” She blinked, “Now speak.”
After almost five minutes of slowly blinking, Xu Jin Yi obtained her answers.
“Liu Jiao Niang (柳娇娘)…?” Xu Jin Yi frowned, “Do you mean she snatched Fang Wen Wen on the way?”
The Water Well Ghost was Liu Jiao Niang, but why would she kidnap Fang Wen Wen? Hadn't she always been after men?
As she shifted her gaze down the dark alleyway, her ears twitched slightly, and she kicked the paper-folded man.
Paper folded man: “…?!”
“Lure them away from me.”
'They' were the Zhang family's escort servants on patrol around the village.
Tian Si De counted the minutes while sitting on a little wooden pier and noticed that the hooded person had been gone for about half an hour.
Tian Si De was in contemplation, recalling Hoodie's response on the stone-paved path.
'Did the word 'Silence'…
have any meaning? Was it an alias? It couldn't be a genuine name, could it? Who would give their child the name Silence? It was an unusual given name.'
Even though he couldn't see Hoodie's expression as he wasn't wearing his glasses, he observed how long it took them to answer and the soft sigh at the end…
It couldn't be merely a name without a meaning, right?
But what was the meaning of “Silence”?
Tian Si De fell back into a strange circle of thought.
'Ignore it; what's the use of thinking so much? I'm not even sure if we'll get out of here.'
Even though the Hoodie had been quite trustworthy throughout, this location was unsafe and intimidating.
He had no way of knowing if they would return safely.
He exhaled again; this 'simple day' had left Tian Si De physically and psychologically drained.
'…How did they get in and out so many times?'
Tian Si De couldn't help but think about “Silence” again.
“— Si De?”
From behind him came a gentle feminine voice.
The boy's body stiffened, and he spun around.
Behind him, his girlfriend, dressed in a pink and white puffy dress, stared at him with caution.
“Is that you, Si De?” She spoke with caution.
“I'm Wen Wen.”
The long-desired girlfriend emerged unexpectedly!
Tian Si De couldn't help but exclaim, “You're back?! I've been looking for you for ages, and I've been so worried…”
With that, he crossed the wooden pier and attempted to move toward Fang Wen Wen.
Tian Si De suddenly stiffly held his lifted foot in the air.
Without taking a step forward, he set it down and inquired, “Wen Wen, where are your shoes?”
Fang Wen Wen stood barefoot on the muddy ground not far away.
Greyish brown clay stained her dainty white feet.
Seeing him come to a halt, 'Fang Wen Wen' rolled her eyes and smiled crookedly.
She spoke as if pouting, “I just stepped into a water field by accident, and my shoes are stuck in there, and I can't find them.
Can you find them for me, Si De? My bare feet are so uncomfortable.”
Tian Si De clenched his fists and struggled to calm himself.
This was the end of the village.
He couldn't even see the nearest buildings in the town from where he stood.
The village's stone road ran out of the settlement, forming a long dirt walk with paddy fields on each side that needed ploughed.
Tian Si De was familiar with such a path, and not just because he used to visit the elderly in the countryside during the summer vacation.
It was more due to…
“What's the matter, Si De? Come on, it's uncomfortable to be barefoot,” 'Fang Wen Wen' stated.
He was familiar with this track since, according to Hoodie's narrative, the Zhang family's son, Zhang Huai, drowned in the paddy field.
The paper-folded man begrudgingly took out his pocket money and asked a couple of guards for a drink, temporarily distracting them.
Squinting, Xu Jin Yi emerged from the dark alley.
There was no other option now.
She chose to go to Liu Jiao Niang's residence at the village's eastern end.
Zhang's Pagoda Tree Village had two branches: a paper folding shop route and a water well ghost route.
Liu Jiao Niang controlled the Water Well Ghost branch route.
The “Weak Willow Liu Jiao Niang from Fú Fēng” (弱柳扶风柳娇娘) was a reference to the Water Well Ghost from when she was still alive.
Her dwelling was on the village's east end—a little wooden home with ripped paper windows.
When the wind sweeps in, it howls like phantom wolves.
Liu Jiao Niang was a beauty in life.
One could still see the powder on the dressing table through the broken paper windows.
Xu Jin Yi proceeded to the narrow courtyard and skillfully spotted the small box under the willow tree in the yard.
It was slightly darkened and coated in copper rust.
After twisting the brass lock and rotating to “June 18,” the box clicked open.
Inside was a copper-coloured, somewhat corroded key and a half-used round lipstick.
Xu Jinyi took the key and lipstick and entered Liu Jiao Niang's hut.
Xu Jin Yi lowered her head nonchalantly as a black shadow brushed over her head and fluttered away with a squeal.
Xu Jin Yi crossed the crumbling wooden threshold and stepped out into the weed-infested ground before proceeding to the dressing table without displaying any emotion.
The hazy mirror reflected a woman's face.
Fox eyes and willow brows.
At the tip of her nose, there was a faint dusting of powder.
She had a delighted grin on her face.
“A man among young men ~ a woman in love ~” (“情～郎～”)
With her hands moving ceaselessly, Xu Jin Yi did not even lift her head.
After arranging the disorganized lipstick and powder boxes in a pattern, the new arrangement revealed an empty gap, and she applied pressure with her palm.
The whole process took no more than five seconds.
Before “Liu Jiao Niang's” voice could finish the word “love,” it was abruptly severed in the air.
Water Well Ghost: “…”
“Hurry up; I'm in a hurry.” Unceremoniously reaching out, Xu Jin Yi removed Liu Jiao Niang's hairpin from the mirror before turning and leaving.
Unsurprisingly, the house door was slammed shut.
With a whimpering cry, a ferocious wind howled and poured through the gaping opening.
Out of the mirror, the water well ghost crept very slowly, oh so slowly.
First, it stretches out its corpse's oil-covered palm, then its pallid, contorted, and somewhat bloated arm, and finally, its head, which is also drenched.
The “Willow Maiden,” half crouching on the tabletop, lifted her head and wept, “Lover~Lover~Ah~Look at me …??”
Where was the lover?
Xu Jin Yi had already kicked open the broken door and left.
Surprisingly, the scene was a little depressing.
The wooden door that Xu Jin Yi broke beyond repair was left alone on the floor.
Water Well Ghost: “…”
The PG-13 rating temporarily restricted her vocabulary.
Xu Jin Yi had long desired to do this while playing Screaming Haunted House on the computer.
How durable may a worn-out door be? What was the point of banging on the door and wailing for those few minutes until the ghost finished the cut scene?
Boot it in the face!
Xu Jin Yi was in a very relaxed mood after she kicked the broken wooden door aside.
She moved swiftly into the courtyard, stopping right in front of the partially hidden gate and pushing it open.
Willow trees grew in a pavilion outside the tiny courtyard, and a stunning woman stood next to the brown wooden door.
She had her back to Xu Jin Yi and appeared to be paying attention to something.
As Xu Jin Yi stood still for a while, she wondered, 'How come I haven't seen this scene before?'
Pushing through Liu Jiao Niang's door allowed her to end the well ghost's drama by simply dropping the flower pin she had removed from its head into the village well she had first seen after entering the Haunted House.
This was as it should have been, but Xu Jin Yi pushed the door open and ended up here.
The sky was bright and clear.
A few birds' chirps could be audible in the air.
There were clusters of women whispering in the background a little further away.
The lady with the silk shirt was most likely listening to them.
Xu Jin Yi approached them with a floral pin in her hand.
“— If you ask me, Liu Jiao Niang is a curse! Look at the Zhang family's only seedling that died in the paddy fields two days ago; perhaps she was the culprit!”
“Alas! Zhang Huai often bothered Liu Jianiang when he was alive; perhaps he missed her too much and perished!”
She could hear women's quiet chuckling from afar.
Xu Jin Yi came to a halt.
“Hush, that fox is peeping! Disperse, disperse, disperse!”
When the women saw the woman in the silk shirt, they pushed and laughed at each other as they scattered.
“Oh, if it isn't Jiao Niang!” One of the women pretended to have just noticed her and waved warmly at her.
“Auntie has some fresh eggplant here; take some!”
The woman in the silk shirt, Liu Jiao Niang, softly tugged the corner of her lips and murmured, “Thank you, auntie, no need.”
She turned slowly around, intending to go home.
Xu Jin Yi finally saw her face.
But that wasn't the face of the earlier “Liu Jiao Niang” in the mirror.
——— Translators Notes ———
Liu Jiao Niang
柳娇娘: liǔ = willow; jiāo = lovable / pampered / tender / delicate / frail; niáng = mother / young lady / (coll.) effeminate; Lovely Willow Lady
弱柳扶风柳娇娘 : I'm not sure what this means.
A reference to a poem? A real person?
“情～郎～: qíng láng = referring to a man among young men and women who are in love.
From Han Xie's “Falling Blossoms”.
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