In Virtual Reality
Xu Jin Yi had little time to think as the party clown blew one red balloon after another.
Soon, the number of balloons grew too large to contain and spilled out of the open elevator doors.
Suddenly, the first balloon to exit exploded, setting off a domino effect of explosions.
Xu Jin Yi quickly realized that the explosions were not random.
The red balloons were shrinking and exploding in sequence from the outside to the inside, toward the direction of the party clown.
She swiftly squeezed her hand through the gaps of the constantly exploding red balloons, grabbed the party clown's collar, and forcefully threw it out of the elevator.
When the party clown tumbled out of the elevator, the button for the 13th floor dimmed, and then a large mass of solid and liquid red and white exploded in front of Xu Jin Yi and her two companions.
Like the series of red balloons, the party clown was shattered.
The site was covered in a pink and white sludge, and Xu Jin Yi showed a “disgusted” expression, then wiped her face with her hand, smearing the whitish-red substance on her pink hoodie.
Xu Jin Yi's eyes fixed on the hoodie that now resembled a mixture of pink and white sludge like a spilled strawberry milkshake.
She drew in a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
While she had never been one for obsessing over cleanliness, this level of filth surpassed anything she had ever encountered, causing a sense of both terror and disgust to rise within her.
Her mind drifted to the game, and she wondered if she could somehow remove the hoodie or clear it with a simple button.
“So gross,” she muttered as she wiped her face yet again.
Determined to clear this game, Xu Jin Yi leaned over Huang Yang and Zeng Zhi and pressed the button for the extinguished floor once more.
The elevator still had five floors left where they couldn't exit.
Silence broke the thick hush that had settled in the cramped elevator.
“Disgusting,” they muttered, wiping their eyes and chin with a grimy sleeve.
Even their hoodie was splashed with a strange liquid, giving Silence the appearance of a deranged killer from a horror movie.
But Silence's unflinching gaze was not one of fear or disgust.
In fact, it was their lack of reaction that made the situation even more disturbing.
Zeng Zhi couldn't help but wonder if Silence had encountered something like this before or if they were simply not a normal person – at least, not a sane one.
Silence's eyes flicked to Zeng Zhi and Huang Yang, assessing them silently.
Then, they looked down at their stained clothes and again wiped their face.
“Are you awake?” Silence asked, a strange expression on their face as if they were enjoying the chaos.
“I thought you would sleep through the whole thing.”
Zeng Zhi replied quickly, “I'm not sleeping anymore!” In his mind, he added, 'I will never pass out again! It's obvious from their expression that if I do, they'll just throw me out!'
“Hoo…” Silence heaved a sigh, then crouched down to their level, peering into their eyes.
“Whether we can clear this level depends on our understanding,” Silence said, smirking at the corners of their lips.
The smile they gave Zeng Zhi, and Huang Yang was almost friendly, but it didn't quite reach their eyes.
“I still have many chances.”
In Huang Yang's mind, he added to Silence's words, 'I still have many chances, but you don't.'
He couldn't help but wonder if Silence was trying to help them or scare them to death.
But as Silence stood up and the elevator doors opened with a ding, Huang Yang knew one thing for sure – they were here only to accompany them on a ride.
Xu Jin Yi didn't know what was happening in her companion's mind.
After Huang Yang reiterated their plan to Zeng Zhi, she was consumed with finding a way to extract her teammates from their perilous predicament.
The two NPCs needed to complete the game before her if they hoped to survive.
As Xu Jin Yi deliberated, a question emerged: Who was better equipped to handle the terror they faced, Huang Yang or Zeng Zhi? She mulled over the possibilities, her mind racing with potential outcomes.
With his experience as a delivery boy, Huang Yang would presumably have greater speed than Zeng Zhi, a content creator.
Driven by curiosity, Xu Jin Yi turned to Zeng Zhi and asked, “What type of videos do you make?”
Taken aback by the abrupt query, Zeng Zhi hesitated before responding, “I upload videos of urban legends that I investigate.”
They were currently in the unfinished building to film an urban legend rumored to be a portal to another world.
Zeng Zhi's roommate, Wang Jin Long, had touted it as a means to become an overnight sensation.
Although Zeng Zhi didn't buy into such fame, he recognized the market for supernatural exploration videos.
Xu Jin Yi couldn't help but find it paradoxical that someone who had just fainted from fright would pursue such videos.
Nevertheless, she refocused on the task at hand.
“When the elevator door opens, the darkness outside will be absolute.
Your goal is to locate the exit to the corresponding floor and advance to the next level,” she explained.
“However, as you just witnessed, the shadows are teeming with malevolent entities.” Her companions nodded in agreement, silently acknowledging the danger.
“Each floor can only be accessed by the individual who pressed it,” Huang Yang stated, his voice low and serious.
“So if we want to leave, we can only rely on ourselves.”
Xu Jin Yi hesitated; the thought of navigating the game's horrors with just the two of them seemed like an insurmountable challenge.
Perhaps they needed to utilize some sort of supernatural powers to succeed as a team?
As she contemplated the complexities of the VR remake of the game, she couldn't help but wonder what grand spectacle the developers were trying to create.
Her headache began to throb once again just thinking about it.
'Let's give it a try.
If it doesn't work, I'll load my save file,' Xu Jin Yi thought, trying to mask her doubt with determination.
The elevator lurched to a stop once more, causing all three of them to tense up.
They gazed up at the electronic display screen, their eyes scanning the illuminated numbers.
They had reached the 32nd floor.
Huang Yang stuttered, “I, I think it's my turn?”
Xu Jin Yi was caught off guard, still needing to formulate an action plan.
She inwardly sighed, knowing there was no choice but to face the unknown.
“It appears so,” she said, rising to her feet alongside Huang Yang.
She placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
Huang Yang, who seemed to be constantly plagued by misfortune, wore a pained yet resolute expression.
Xu Jin Yi saved the game and observed as Huang Yang cautiously stepped out of the elevator.
Suddenly, her VR glasses flickered, and the screen split into two halves.
The other half revealed the outside of the elevator, displaying Huang Yang's point of view.
Xu Jin Yi was taken aback by this new perspective.
'So players have to control the NPCs to progress through the game as well?' she thought, surprised.
'This is an innovative gameplay mechanic indeed.' She grasped the controller and carefully maneuvered 【Huang Yang】, glancing inside the elevator.
Her pink hoodie figure stood inside the elevator, staring impassively at Huang Yang.
Meanwhile, Zeng Zhi sat on the floor with his head poking out, appearing anxious and hesitant to speak up.
Later, when controlling 【Zeng Zhi】, Xu Jin Yi made a mental note to look closer at Silence's modeled face.
Huang Yang walked into the inky blackness beyond the elevator doors, but as soon as he stepped outside, his body stopped responding.
At first, he attributed it to nerves but soon realized he was being manipulated by an unseen force.
His body turned around of its own accord, facing the wide-open elevator.
Silence stood in the centre of the elevator, a faint smile playing on their lips.
The once-clear eyes now appeared like a sea of ink, fully submerged and beyond recognition.
Such eyes could not belong to an ordinary person.
Huang Yang sensed something was amiss and attempted to yell out a warning, but his body was under the control of an external force directing him toward the murky abyss ahead.
He struggled to perceive his surroundings but could not distinguish anything within the darkness that enveloped him.
Silence had mentioned the presence of hidden monsters, leaving Huang Yang unsure whether to trust their words.
The enigmatic figure appeared to harbour questionable motives, yet despite his doubts, Huang Yang couldn't help but place some faith in them.
His limbs moved without his consent, propelling him forward with an unwavering momentum.
Huang Yang felt a peculiar sensation like he was detached from his body, but it wasn't until he spotted a white-framed door ahead that he regained control.
As he stumbled out of the door, the blinding light behind him revealed a horde of monsters with outstretched claws reaching towards him.
He collapsed outside the elevator on the 32nd floor of Building 3 in the Prosperity Bay residential complex.
The stationed police officer was caught off guard by Huang Yang's sudden intrusion, immediately blocking the door with a baton and detector while shouting at the unknown individual to stay put.
After scanning Huang Yang, the instrument let out rapid beeps, causing the officer's hand to tremble.
It took five seconds before the sound ceased.
The sudden commotion drew the attention of Officer He Du from the 31st floor, who rushed to the scene with his own detector.
Upon scanning Huang Yang, Officer He Du concluded, “It's just an ordinary human,” kneeling to inspect the deliveryman on the ground.
“Is this Huang Yang?” He Du's voice cut through the silence as he peered down at the dishevelled deliveryman.
Huang Yang met his gaze with trepidation, barely able to whisper a response.
“Yes, it's me.”
“Come on, let's get you up,” He Du helped him to his feet.
“But first, we need to check for any injuries downstairs.
It won't take long.”
As they made their way down from the top floor, He Du peppered Huang Yang with questions, trying to piece together what had happened.
“So you're saying there were other people in the elevator with you?”
Huang Yang nodded, “Yes, two others.
Zeng Zhi and Silence.
They're still trapped inside.”
The mention of the enigmatic “Silence” piqued He Du's curiosity, but he remained composed as they reached the black vehicle parked in the community courtyard.
As the car door swung open, a man stepped out.
“Cao Wei Min, are you okay?” He Du asked.
Officer Cao, who was not in uniform, bore deep marks of strangulation around his throat.
Despite his injuries, he chuckled at the sight of He Du.
Thanks to Wheatley, otherwise I'd hang like a dried sausage.”
After a quick exchange, Cao Wei Min's gaze turned to Huang Yang.
“And this is…? The delivery man you mentioned earlier?”
Huang Yang recognized the voice but couldn't place it.
“Good to see you're out,” Cao said flatly.
“Are you injured?”
Huang Yang shook his head, prompting He Du to intervene.
“He still needs to be checked for safety.”
With that, they ushered Huang Yang into the car, where a doctor was already waiting with an unfamiliar instrument.
“Don't worry, just a scan, nothing to worry about,” the doctor assured him.
As they stepped further aside, He Du turned to Cao Wei Min with concern.
“Are you really okay?”
Cao Wei Min nodded, touching the bruises on his throat.
“The scanner cleared me of carrying anything dangerous,” he said stoically.
“May I inquire as to the whereabouts of Wheatley and Ms.
Zhang?” Cao Wei Min asked inquisitively.
“We had initially intended to escort them back to the police station, but Ms.
Zhang insisted on remaining here.
At present, both she and the dog are occupying the guard room,” replied He Du.
Cao Wei Min cleared his throat and lowered his gaze.
“Allow me to accompany her back to the station.”
“What do you mean?”
“I do not believe I will be of much assistance here,” Cao stated, placing his hands at his side.
“You possess a familiarity with these tools, and it is preferable to leave this matter to professionals rather than having a novice like myself make matters worse.”
Frowning, He Du interjected, “You…”
“Is there an issue?” Cao Wei Min lifted his eyebrows and regained his composure.
“Aren't I simply following your plan? I will not cause any inconvenience.”
“Perhaps that would be for the best.” He Du was exasperated by his attitude and averted his gaze.
“I will summon someone to accompany you.”
“Does that not display a lack of trust?” shrugged Cao Wei Min.
“Very well, please do call someone.”
Thus, Cao Wei Min departed with a young police officer to the guard room.
The police officer, whose life was saved by the faithful dog, displayed a friendly and amicable disposition towards Zhang Rou Rou.
He caressed the head of the pastoral dog and suggested, “Why don't you come with us to the police station, Miss Zhang?”
“But what about this place?” inquired Zhang Rou Rou.
“The delivery person has already exited, so there should be no need for concern,” reassured Cao Wei Min as he rubbed the dog's head and stood up.
“Even if there were, it would be pointless to remain here.
The professionals possess more effective and safer equipment to assist them.
I also have some questions regarding your observations earlier.”
The police officer standing before she had only just returned from the brink of death yet appeared unconcerned with his own state, even though the deep and conspicuous wounds on his neck were still evident.
Zhang Rou Rou shifted her gaze from the building and nodded.
The quartet and the dog travelled in Cao Wei Min's vehicle back to the police station.
Zhang Rou Rou and Wheatley rested in the reception room while Cao Wei Min and the young police officer remained in the lobby.
“You should take a moment to rest as well,” Cao Wei Min suggested, glancing at the officer who still trailed him.
“Why do you persist in following me? I am not going anywhere.”
The young police officer remained silent, sitting rigidly in the lobby, but his eyes fixed on Cao Wei Min.
Cao Wei Min: “…”
He let out a deep sigh and reflexively placed his hand over his throat, even though he no longer felt pain.
The throbbing ache was nothing compared to the kick he had received from Wheatley that left him with a painful bruise on his waist.
He vividly remembered how the country dog had jumped on him from behind, sinking its sharp teeth into the thin rubber.
The red balloon exploded, sending fragments of rubber fluttering to the ground.
He Du and Zhang Rou Rou hesitated to touch the thread, fearing it might tighten around his neck again.
Cao Wei Min, however, quickly descended thirty-one floors to the basement of the residential area to seek help from the professional doctor who accompanied them.
While everyone believed that the red balloon and thin thread posed the most significant threat, only Cao Wei Min knew what had happened.
In the throes of suffocation, he had seen his uncle Ye Cheng Jing, and it was then that…
The door to the police station swung open, ushering in a gust of hot air that swirled around the room.
Cao Wei Min, still disoriented, looked up to see who had come in.
He wondered, 'Why does this person look so familiar?'
A young man wearing a black T-shirt walked in, his face youthful and carefree.
Cao Wei Min narrowed his eyes, trying to place the face.
Unexpectedly, the man noticed his stare and turned to look at him, grinning before leaving the lobby without a word.
It took a moment for Cao Wei Min to regain his bearings before he jolted upright, realization dawning on him.
'That was Wang Jin Long!'
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