Xu Qin: “……”

Shen Jia: “……”

Peng Jia Lang: “……”

The pink hoodie by the window blinked and asked, “This junior student, are you holding a pole to learn how to stab hedgehogs under the moon?”*

Xu Qin was just frightened and picked up the clothes pole placed by the door.
The male student holding the emerald green clothes pole inexplicably resembled a teenager waiting under the moonlight to guard a watermelon, full of a strange adolescent feeling.

Xu Qin wiped the thin layer of cold sweat off his forehead.
He put the pole back down, looked at Shen Jia lying on the bed, nodded, and opened the dormitory door.
He was relieved that Silence hadn't chosen to crawl through the window and mimic a scene from a horror movie.

Silence put their phone away and stepped into the dorm room, happily greeting the two teens who had climbed out of bed with, “Yo, you're still awake!”

Peng Jia Lang: “……” He somewhat incredulously said, “Didn't you wake us up?”

Silence raised an eyebrow and justified, “Did I? How come I don't know?”

Peng Jia Lang wasn't sure if it was because he hadn't slept well, but his guts rarely felt bigger, and when he heard this, anger boiled within him, and he wanted to beat some sense into Silence.

Xu Qin shook his head, walked past the two guys, and intended to switch on the overhead light in the dormitory.

“Don't turn on the lights yet,” Shen Jia's voice stopped him in the darkness.

Xu Qin was stunned and asked in a soft voice, “What's wrong, Shen Jia?”

In the dark, Shen Jia fumbled to his desk, sat down, and said, “The light might attract unwanted attention, so don't turn it on yet.”

He then turned to where Hoodie was, “Senior, may I speak with you about today's incident?”

Peng Jia Lang located his seat and settled down by the faint light filtering through the window slit.
After hearing Shen Jia's words, he nodded and spoke with exasperation, “Something happened in the canteen today-“

Hoodie interjected, “I know.”

Before Peng Jia Long could finish his sentence, he stammered, “……

Xu Qin dimly perceived Hoodie, unimpeded by the darkness, crossing over them with ease, pulling out an extra chair and sitting down without ceremony.
Xu Qin also had to feel his way to his seat and sit down to listen to their conversation.

Everyone was now seated; this was the rhythm of a small meeting.

When they had gone to the cafeteria, Xu Qin had been attending the professional course arranged by Dark Virtue University, and what happened in the cafeteria was later recounted to him by Peng Jia Lang.

Xu Qin couldn't help feeling a bit troubled by the number of hours that Shen Jia had committed to cleaning up the mess caused by Peng Jia Lang, but he understood that it was ultimately for the best, even if Peng Jia Lang's original intentions were good.

But how did Hoodie know about the events that followed in the canteen? Didn't Peng Jia Lang claim they followed the vice-chairman to the headmaster's office?

In the darkness, Hoodie chuckled lightly and spoke with a touch of divinity, “After all, I'm a senior~.”

Before Peng Jia Lang could respond, Hoodie reverted to their usual self and asked, “What? Shen Jia, didn't you tell them?”

What did this have to do with Shen Jia?

Peng Jia Lang was momentarily confused, unable to make out the expressions of the others in the darkness, so he simply listened attentively.

Shen Jia let out a helpless sigh.
“Do you remember what Senior did before he left?”

Peng Jia Lang struggled to recall.
What had the pink hoodie done before leaving?

Peng Jia Long hesitated before speaking up, “Asked Shen Jia to do a live broadcast?”

Shen Jia nodded but kept his voice low so no one else could hear, “Yes, but I can't call it a live broadcast for the other students.
Really, it's just a way for the senior to keep an eye on us.”

At that time, Shen Jia had opened the live stream, but he didn't hold his phone straight up for fear of revealing that only Hoodie was in the chat room.
If the canteen manager found out, it could lead to severe consequences.
He put the phone in his pocket and recorded the audio, confident that Silence would understand what was happening.

Once Shen Jia had finished explaining, he turned to Hoodie and asked, “Did you make any progress with your matter today, senior?”

As soon as he heard the question, Silence's frustration was evident.
“Don't even get me started.
I went to the headmaster's office and filled out the application, but he wasn't even there to sign it.
Now I can't get it recognized by the canteen staff without his seal.
I did try giving it to the student council vice president, though, so maybe they can help.”

Shen Jia was impressed with the student council vice-president, who had a certain peculiarity about them but seemed to execute their duties exceptionally well.

Silence lounged on the chair, crossing their legs as they spoke in a lazy drawl, “It's a bit of a problem, you need an application to open the dining window.”

Peng Jia Long leaned in and asked in a hushed tone, “I've been wondering for a while now, senior, why do you need to open the dining window?”

Shen Jia chimed in, “I believe it's for school hours.”

Silence snapped their fingers with a dull thud and exclaimed, “Bingo!”

Xu Qin, who had been listening intently for some time now, looked a bit bewildered as they asked, “What do the school hours have to do with the cafeteria's dining windows?”

Shen Jia patiently explained, “When we eat in the canteen we have to use up our hours to pay.
If senior can take ownership of a meal window in the canteen, they may be able to earn extra school hours from other ghost students.
If you can execute it well, you could even earn a significant amount of school hours in a short time,” Shen Jia remarked.

Silence arched their eyebrows and said, “Not bad, you're quite clever.
So, you guessed what I was planning to do.
Is that why you were fine with losing 50 school hours?”

Shen Jia gave a bitter smile and sighed, “I was heartbroken when the 50 hours were cut.
That's equivalent to fifty lessons.”

Peng Jia Long muttered in a low voice, “I see you're quite composed…
Ow! Why did you hit me?”

Xu Qin withdrew his fist, which was as big as a sandbag, and sneered, “You should be mindful of who wiped your ass for you.”

The boy was taken aback, and his lips parted as if he were about to say something.
But, he silently closed his mouth as if he had thought better of it.

Hoodie interjected, “Speaking of which, have you checked how many credit hours are left on your campus cards?”

“I still have 231 credit hours remaining on my card.” Peng Jia Long's expression remained stoic as he added, “So does Shen Jia.”

Shen Jia was taken aback, “What? I only have 70 credit hours left after the 50 deduction.”

“Shen Jia!”

Xu Qin interjected, attempting to calm the anxious Peng Jia Long.
“Aren't you usually more observant? It's clear that Senior Silence is on our team.”

Hoodie feigned ignorance, retorting, “What? Don't involve me if you plan to keep things from me.
I don't take kindly to deception.”

Despite the seemingly childish reaction, Shen Jia understood what Hoodie meant.
Thus, he spoke up and clarified, “I'm different from Xu Qin, Peng Jia Long, and the rest of the group.
In fact, I'm distinct from all the other 36 students.
I only joined this university a month ago.”

The silence in Dorm 412 lingered for a moment before Shen Jia spoke up, breaking the stillness.
“Just like everyone else, I received a message on my phone to report to Dark Virtue University.
However, I was completing my internship off-campus and did not see the message in time.
I assumed it was a prank and did not think about returning to school,” he explained, his voice becoming more resolute.
“Thankfully, a close friend of mine had remarkable intuition.
When I mentioned the message to them, they urged me to return to school without delay, and so I did.”

Xu Qin was surprised, “Why didn't you mention this earlier? Why did you wait a month to return to school after completing your internship?”

Peng Jia Long interjected incredulously, “Your friend has good intuition? If that's the case, why did they allow you to come to this hellish university for freshman enrollment?”

“It's possible that he would have died had he not returned,” Hoodie interjected.

Shen Jia remained quiet.

Hoodie continued, “But it's true that you enrolled a month later than the others, correct?”

“I arrived the next night outside the university after recieving the message, but after entering Dark Virtue University, I realized that I was a month late compared to everyone else.
Therefore, I have only earned 120 hours so far on my card.
Moreover, I now realize that the time outside the university flows differently than the time inside,” Shen Jia explained.

Silence disregarded the production team's technical glitch and pondered over the situation.
“It's impossible to be a month late for enrollment and reporting without a leave slip.
According to my calculations, you should have died by the time you met with the counselor to complete your report,” they asserted.

Shen Jia was taken aback and struggled to speak.
“What?” he uttered.

Xu Qin whispered, “He means you should have been dead, eh.”

Shen Jia sighed inwardly, feeling exasperated.
'Thanks, but that's not what I wanted to hear,' he thought.

“Being a month late in reporting for school is a grave disciplinary offence, and using a leave slip as a reason for your delay, as I did, should not have been an option for you,” Silence reflected as they thought back to the game Death Notice and the consequences of not abiding by the rules.
“I can't help but wonder if your student file has been altered.”

“What file?”

Silence explained, “Every student has their own file that is kept in the archives.
Every time a student makes a mistake and is criticized, a mark is added to their file.
If a student receives four criticisms, which are typically related to breaking school rules, a 'death notice' is issued by the radio station.”

As they finished speaking, Silence's gaze shifted up and down Shen Jia in amazement, “If your file has not been modified, then there must be a bug or loophole in the system.”

Despite Silence's often immodest language, Shen Jia chose to focus on their words and began to ponder the situation at hand.

“I may attend the same school as the other students, but I am not in the same major or class.
I am not familiar with anyone here, including Xu Qin and Peng Jia Long, whom I only met upon enrolling,” Shen Jia acknowledged.

Who would help him with the task of altering his file? If not a living person, could it be a ghost? But how could that even be possible?

Silence pervaded the room, leaving everyone uncertain.
“Well, I'm not entirely sure,” they shrugged before bursting into laughter.
“But if someone did tamper with your file and allowed you to live, then your fifty school hours today were not for nothing.
All you need is one briefing, and any mistakes in your file will be easily spotted, regardless of whether the person who helped you concealed it or made the changes obvious.”

Hoodie leaned back in his chair, speaking slowly and deliberately, causing the other dormitory members to blush.
“I recall that during the time when you were being questioned in the cafeteria, it was already five minutes past five, which marked the end of the classes at Dark Virtue University.
It is highly likely that the number of ghost students heading towards the cafeteria during that time would have surged, and you mentioned,” Hoodie paused, and Shen Jia felt a creeping sensation running down his spine as if something was staring at him in the gloomy darkness.
“An argument in a crowded cafeteria that continued could have gathered a crowd, attracting a student council member heading for dinner or a teacher.”

With just one mistake, Shen Jia would be condemned to death.

“Ah, I see now,” Shen Jia muttered.

No wonder the cafeteria manager appeared so thrilled during the commotion, beyond the typical reaction of a mere bystander.
The other party probably hoped that Long Xiaohui and Shen Jia would engage in an argument, providing them with an opportunity to exploit the situation.

However, of the three present, it was not Shen Jia who felt the greatest inner turmoil, but rather Peng Jia Long, who suddenly began to pant and wheeze.

“I'm sorry, I didn't know…” he stammered, his mouth hanging open in shock, sadness, and panic, his throat uncomfortably constricted.
“I, I…I just want to help you, I just want you to live…I just want us to live.”

The tall, broad-shouldered teenager huffed and puffed and remembered to speak in a hushed voice.
“Shen Jia, did you know that causing a scene in the cafeteria was strictly forbidden? Is that why you tolerated Long Xiao Hui's behaviour?”

Shen Jia felt helpless.
“There is a reason behind it.
And beyond the watchful eye of the cafeteria manager, it garnered far more attention than a typical incident.
If a continuous quarrel had broken out in the cafeteria, I am afraid the other party would have done something unexpected.”

He paused, lowered his gaze, and whispered, “But I don't want people to get upset over this, or for us to fall apart internally.
I want the rest of us to return home safely.”

The word “home” shattered Peng Jia Long's defences, and he let out a mournful sound, covering his eyes with his large hands.

[The fierce man in tears.GIF]

“I used to think you were afraid of them,” Peng Jia Long gasped between sobs.
“I'm so sorry…I'm sorry, Shen Jia!”

Shen Jia shook his head, feeling a mix of emotions.
“It's alright.
So, what kind of impression do you guys have of me, anyway?”

He pointed at Xu Qin, who giggled in response.
“One thinks I'm too soft.”

Then he gestured toward Peng Jia Long.
“And the other thinks I'm too scared.”

Shen Jia's expression became complicated, reflecting the thoughts swirling in his mind.


As Peng Jia Lang wept, Xu Jin Yi casually snipped a few images that could be used for creating reaction gifs.
It would be a waste not to make the most out of them.

Taking a quick glance at the trio, Xu Jin Yi was intrigued.
Back in the library, she had switched off the sound on her phone while tinkering with it earlier, lest she be caught by Xiao Zhou, sitting nearby.
Thanks to the subtitles on Death Notice, she could still read the NPC conversations on her phone's screen.

Shen Jia seemed oblivious to Peng Jia Long's attempts to speak, which had been thwarted thrice – perhaps by sheer coincidence or design.

Xu Jin Yi pondered the reason behind Xu Qin and Peng Jia Long's odd perception of Shen Jia.
Why did they cover for him when it came to school hours? Could it have something to do with his tardiness? Was it spontaneous, or were they told to do so? This was becoming more intriguing by the minute.

Did the VR version serve as a magical inspiration tool for the production team? Scream Haunted House breathed new life into the once-bland story and now even Death Notice shined in new light, impressing Xu Jin Yi with its innovation.
It set the bar high for all single-player horror games.

While the stammering and stuttering of NPCs like Peng Jia Long may have been intended by the production team to prolong the player's exploration or to further the story, it was frustrating for players like Xu Jin Yi.

The last time Xu Jin Yi experienced such exasperation was while playing the beta version of Murphy's Playground.
The NPCs would have barely avoided total destruction if they had spoken clearly.
Even now, Xu Jin Yi couldn't help but twist her face in annoyance at the memory.

The situation was outrageous yet somehow logical, but as she watched the CG for the episode, her heart was filled with frustration.
What made it worse was that the production team had yet to release the official version, and the original beta version was also scrapped from the internet.
Instead of addressing the issues with their game, the team spent their days reading comments on other official platforms.
It was reminiscent of the team that shelved the second instalment of Death Notice.

To avoid experiencing the same issues as [Murphy's Amusement Park], Xu Jin Yi saved a file and gave [Peng Jia Long] a sharp look.


In the darkness, Hoodie spoke with a lazy drawl, expressing their disbelief.
“It's weird, you.
Whether it's covering up the report for Shen or a preconceived notion that he's good-natured…
There's no reason why not explain yourself, right?”

Shen Jia felt helpless as Silence suddenly turned their head to look at him.
“Yes, speak,” he replied.

Hoodie continued, “Or the strong opinion that it's not your fault for taking 503's food…
What are you hiding, schoolboy?”

Shen Jia had also wondered about the reason behind Peng Jia Long's aggressive treatment of the female dormitory 503.
However, the other party never explained.
Sometimes, Shen Jia felt like he was on the verge of blurting it out, only to swallow it back out of concern.

During the confrontation with Long Xia, Peng Jia Long almost revealed the reason.
Still, Shen Jia was afraid that the canteen manager would catch him in the act and stopped him three times.

Now, with Hoodie on the same page, Shen Jia had the chance to ask Peng Jia Long about it in peace.
“Is there something you're not telling me?”

Peng Jia Long hesitated for a long time before finally speaking up to his remaining housemates, “Shen Jia, Xu Qin, you guys will believe what I say, right?”

Silence, who was previously excited, once again fell in annoyance.


Xu Jin Yi had been persecuted numerous times by the NPCs of “Murphy's Playground” who would say things like “I know you won't believe what I say”; “'I'm not telling you because I already knew this ending' ” and engage in a series of riddling behaviours, leaving her feeling suffocated and in need of resuscitation.


“I don't care if they believe you or not,” sneered Silence, clenching their fists tightly.
“But if you don't tell me, you can bet that I'll knock the truth out of you one hit at a time, my dear schoolmate.”

——— Translator's Notes ———

*This phrase is a cultural reference from the Chinese literary classic “Journey to the West” (《西游记》), which is a fictionalized account of the pilgrimage of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang to India in the Tang dynasty.
In the novel, the Monkey King (Sun Wukong) encounters a hedgehog-like creature called a “Needle-Porker” (刺猬精) who is impervious to his attacks.
Eventually, the Monkey King learns a special technique called “Stabbing the Hedgehog under the Moon” (月下刺猹) which allows him to defeat the creature.

The phrase is often used in modern Chinese to describe someone who appears to be preparing to do something difficult or unconventional without the necessary skills or knowledge to succeed, much like the inexperienced Monkey King before he learned the technique.

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