In Virtual Reality
He Du's colleague on the 31st floor first noticed the red balloon.
He reported that the elevator display showed that it had stopped on their floor, but the doors did not open.
Shortly after, the red balloon appeared right next to the elevator doors.
Initially, the balloon was within reach, but when he reported the situation to He Du and looked again, the balloon had already drifted up to the ceiling.
The thin white rope wrapped around the red balloon seemed abruptly cut off, leaving only a tiny piece hanging in the air.
He Du, wearing a somewhat heavy protective suit, asked the police officer next to him, “Have you checked with the detector?”
“We just checked near the elevator door, and there were significant fluctuations, but the surveillance from the security office still shows no one around,” the police officer replied.
“Give it to me.” He Du reached out, took the detector, and aimed it at the red balloon.
Sure enough, as soon as he aimed the detector at the red balloon, it emitted a beeping sound.
The red balloon had come out of nowhere…
Feeling a sinking sensation in his heart, He Du instructed the police officer to avoid the area where the red balloon was and to seal off all the doors and windows around the area.
“He Du,” Cao Wei Min's voice came from the stairwell.
A person wearing a protective suit came up.
“What did you find?”
“We've confirmed that this red balloon came from inside the Spirit Shenanigans.
Wait, why did she come up too?!” replied He Du before stopping to refer to Zhang Rou Rou who was following closely behind Cao Wei Min in a protective suit.
He couldn't see her face clearly but noticed that she tightly held onto the tether that restrained her dog, Wheatley.
He Du closed his eyes, feeling a suffocating sensation overwhelming him.
Cao Wei Min realized his rashness and regretted his actions.
“She's useful,” he said dryly.
Useful? What use? What use could she possibly have? She's not a professional, and she's even holding a dog!
He Du suppressed his frustration and ordered Cao Wei Min to take Zhang Rou Rou away from the site.
“Take her downstairs with you, back to the station.
Hurry,” he commanded.
But Zhang Rou Rou protested, “Wait, Officer He, I can be useful–“
balloons ……] Suddenly, her eyes went blank, and she froze as if suspended in mid-air.
“Miss Zhang?” Cao Wei Min turned around when he noticed something was off.
[The face of a suffocating person…
turning blue and purple…]
[The rope of the red balloon was almost cutting into his flesh, threatening to snap his neck.
The suffocating person's head was swallowed by the red balloon, which continued to grow…unbelievably large…]
Was there any way to prevent this?
Zhang Rou Rou quickly adapted to this surreal and nauseating state, her mind searching for a solution.
[Expanding…the red balloon grew bigger and bigger…revealing…]
[Officer He's face.]
“Woof woof woof woof!!”
Wheatley turned around and barked wildly at its owner, whose eyes were blank and unresponsive.
Its throat made a highly aggressive growling sound and even fiercely bumped into Zhang Rou Rou's calf.
Cao Wei Min quickly grabbed Zhang Rou Rou to prevent her from losing balance.
After deep breathing, he looked at Wheatley and asked, “Buddy, are you okay?”
Wheatley lowered its head and whimpered twice, then rubbed against Zhang Rou Rou's leg.
Meanwhile, Zhang Rou Rou pointed to He Du, who was standing in the corridor, and shouted, “He-“
He Du frowned at being pointed at, but Cao Wei Min rushed towards him before he could react.
He looked just like Wheatley from earlier.
Unprepared, He Du was heavily bumped into by Cao Wei Min and combined with the weight of his protective suit, he fell to the ground with a loud thud.
However, although Cao Wei Min had knocked him down, he was not pressing on him.
Wide-eyed, He Du looked up at the Cao officer, who was forced to hold his head high while a red balloon appeared over his head.
What's going on?
He Du quickly got up and tried to help but suddenly stopped.
“Don't! Officer He!”
A panicked female voice came from behind Cao Wei Min's body, which was getting higher and higher.
Zhang Rou Rou stuck her head out and said, “He's hanging there; you can't touch him!”
She 'saw' it.
The silk thread of the red balloon was sharp enough to decapitate someone, and forcibly pulling Cao Wei Min's body would likely result in his head being severed from his body.
But why did Cao get tangled when she had seen Officer He's face?
With no time for further thought, Zhang Rou Rou exclaimed, “We have to burst the red balloon above his head!”
He Du narrowed his eyes, quickly searching for something useful in the surroundings.
He was wearing a protective suit and had no sharp objects at hand.
The sealed windows and the three locked doors indicated that the residents of the 31st floor were not at home.
Breaking the window glass should work…
Wait, what about the other officer?
In just two seconds, He Du realized something was wrong.
There was another officer beside him just a moment ago, wasn't there? He paused for a moment and looked up.
On the smooth surface of the red balloon, faintly revealing a familiar mark…
it was the face of the officer who had just spoken to him a few minutes ago.
Inside the elevator, Xu Jin Yi turned around and, as expected, faced the clown.
Although the balloon was gone, the clown still held up its right hand.
Its eye sockets were heavily smudged with black makeup, and white paint around its eyes cracked open.
The clown grinned at Xu Jin Yi and extended its right hand, passing her a soft, limp string.
Xu Jin Yi looked at it confused as if to say: where did the big red balloon go?
The clown also noticed this and looked like asking: where did the big red balloon go?
He suddenly turned around but only saw the closed elevator door.
In the confined space, eerie sounds echoed, and the clown, tightly grasping the white string in its hand, angrily pounded its fists against the closed elevator door.
Bang— 'Let me out!!'
Bang — 'I want my red balloon!!!'
Just as it was about to strike again, someone grabbed its lace-trimmed scarf, forcefully preventing the clown's fists from hitting their target.
“Eh↓↑!” Xu Jin Yi protested, her tone conveying strong disagreement.
“Once or twice is fine, but not three times! You only lost a red balloon, but if you keep hitting the doors, the elevator will lose both doors!”
The clown fell silent.
It stopped pounding on the door and began trying to strangle the person in front of it with the remaining white string.
Xu Jin Yi quickly dodged out of the clown's reach, accidentally kicking the unconscious Zeng Zhi.
“Mmm…” Zeng Zhi groaned and slowly opened his eyes.
In an instant, the clown's terrifying face, reminiscent of childhood nightmares, was etched in his mind.
Before he could even scream, Huang Yang quickly covered his mouth, muffling his cries.
He let out a sound that was a mix of a scream and a groan, his eyes rolling back in his head.
“Hmph!” Xu Jin Yi snorted, pointing upward to signal the clown to look up.
“Now that we're inside the elevator, we must follow its rules.”
The clown slowly looked up at the thin sheet of paper and made an incomprehensible sound after a long pause.
The clown walked to the far corner of the elevator and retrieved a small uninflated balloon from its pocket, blowing it up with a huffing and puffing sound.
The noise filled the elevator as it descended.
Xu Jin Yi watched the clown with a sharp gaze, considering a plan she wasn't sure would work.
After pausing the game again, Xu Jin Yi removed her VR glasses and unlocked her phone to search for the “Elevator Safety Instructions” on the game's official website, which included information on the “32 Monster Characteristics and Behaviors.”
Xu Jin Yi quickly found the target monster, the Party Clown.
“Party Clown, skip facial features, action method…” Xu Jin Yi's eyes brightened.
The Party Clown threatened the player in two ways: by itself or with the hallucinogenic balloon it carried.
The red balloon had a white thread tied to it, which could be used to strangle the game's protagonist, causing intense suffocation and hallucinations.
If the fear level became too high, indicated by a failed quick-time event (QTE), the fine cord would complete the strangulation, and the balloon body would devour the player's head, resulting in a GAME OVER.
Although the balloon body was fragile, the player could not destroy it without harming themselves.
Trying to destroy the balloon body would be like smashing their own head with a hammer.
Xu Jin Yi had rarely encountered the Party Clown on the PC side and had never considered a solution to the problem.
Even if she had encountered it, she would have already reached her floor and cleared the level by walking out.
However, Xu Jin Yi realized that the elevator's rules also applied to the monsters.
She pondered how many rules the Party Clown had broken since entering the elevator and how much of the elevator's tolerance level remained if the limit was 3.
Xu Jin Yi smiled, confident in her ability to come up with a solution.
The oblivious clown labored relentlessly, his cheeks puffed with exertion as he inflated scarlet balloons.
The strings were running out, leaving him with no choice but to twist the ends and tie them off, permitting the balloons to drift within the claustrophobic confines of the elevator.
Deprived of their white threads, the balloons lost their ability to cast illusions on Xu Jin Yi and her companions.
Nevertheless, the glossy orbs were imprinted with the sinister visage of the clown, each balloon producing another horrifying countenance.
As the number of balloons multiplied, so did the grinning faces, overwhelming the cramped space.
Huddled in the corner, the crippled ghost curled inward in a futile attempt to diminish his presence.
Whenever a red balloon with a face came near, he turned his face away, out of sight, out of mind.
Zeng Zhi and Huang Yang pressed their backs against the elevator walls, keeping their distance from the ominous balloons.
“What are we going to do?!” Zeng Zhi's voice cracked with panic.
As the balloons continued to multiply, Zeng Zhi couldn't shake the feeling that the balloons' mouths were beginning to open.
Contrary to her companions' terror, Xu Jin Yi casually brushed away a red balloon.
The balloons posed no significant threat without their strings, and she remained composed.
The situation was less perilous than it had been.
'However…' she mused, her brow furrowing in thought, 'aren't red balloons considered hazardous? Why hasn't the elevator responded…?'
The elevator came to a halt, the sound reverberating through the cramped space.
Without looking at the party clown still busily blowing up balloons, Xu Jin Yi turned her head to look at the floor the elevator had stopped on.
It was on the 13th floor.
It wasn't good or bad.
It was the floor the Barefoot Ghost had pressed before.
Theoretically, no human or monster inside the elevator could get out now.
But if no one or monster got out and took the elevator down, the elevator would be stuck on the 13th floor forever.
In other words, they were “stuck.”
However, she had two NPC monsters she could throw out now.
She hoped the next floor wouldn't be the Barefoot Ghost's again.
She would have to abandon her useless teammates if it were the third time.
Xu Jin Yi narrowed her eyes.
Who was she going to throw out this time?
The [Party Clown], or the [Skinny Figure]?
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