In Virtual Reality
Xu Jin Yi sat, lost in thought, as she struggled to remember the sensation of a night without dreams.
Suddenly, she felt a poke from her classmate, Yang An An.
“You did go to bed early last night, right?” she inquired.
“Yeah, but I always go to bed on time, and yet these nightmares continue to plague me,” Xu Jin Yi responded.
Tan Bao, seated in front of her, recalled, “You mentioned to us it was only occasional, but it seems to be happening quite frequently?”
Xu Jin Yi nodded, massaging her temples to ease her frayed nerves.
Lao Xiang, another classmate, interjected, “Do you remember anything from your nightmares? Anything at all?”
Xu Jin Yi sighed, shaking her head, “I can't remember anything after waking up.
All I know is that every time I regain consciousness, my heart is pounding, and I feel like I had been chased by someone.”
“You can't see the face of the person chasing you?” Yang An An probed.
“It's all a blur,” Xu Jin Yi replied.
As someone who frequently browses the internet without any specific goal, Yang An An rubbed her chin and offered, “If it only happened occasionally, it could be stress-related.
However, it's too extreme to occur every day.
Perhaps you should make an appointment with a psychologist?”
“If I have the same nightmare tonight, I will go to the school's counselling centre first thing in the morning,” Xu Jin Yi resolved.
“This is also a solution.”
“By the way,” she rubbed her temples for a while, and her mind became much clearer.
She turned to Yang An An, her classmate sitting next to her and asked, “What were you trying to say just now?”
“Ah? Right! I was just about to tell you guys,” Yang An An took out her phone and swiped down to the news page while talking to her other three roommates, “Do you guys remember the video that the counselor made us watch last night? We thought it had nothing to do with students like us, but I just read on Weibo that something 'Shenanigans' happened!” Yang An An continued.
“Shenanigans?” Lao Xiang asked.
Tan Bao frowned, “Could it be something like the Eaton prophecy*?”
Yang An An widened her eyes, “Let's be serious here! This news is already on Weibo, and you can see the news pop-up on your phone notifications! People are talking about it everywhere online now.”
“Moreover,” she said mysteriously, “It is rumoured that a Shenanigan's event occurred in Jiang city yesterday!”
The four students studying in Jiang city suddenly became interested in this news.
“Where was it? Where did it happen? Is it close to us?”
Yang An An glanced down at her phone and furrowed her brow before speaking, “According to this post, it seems like something's going on in the Prosperity Bay community on Citizen's Road.
Apparently, there's a large police presence and they're evacuating most of the residents.”
“Maybe they're trying to catch a fugitive? Or it could be a fire or someone jumping from a building, anything is possible,” Lao Xiang said with a shrug.
“Don't always try to link things around us to the latest hot topics.
Where would we get so many 'novelistic' incidents from?” Tan Bao nodded in agreement.
“This…” Yang An An trailed off, realizing she had no concrete evidence.
She turned to the local student, Xu Jin Yi, for help.
Citizen's Road's Prosperity Bay community was quite far from the main road, but her apartment, located on a smaller path, could reach the vicinity of the Prosperity Bay community.
However, Xu Jin Yi didn't see any police cars when she left yesterday.
“When did this happen?”
Yang An An rechecked the V-blog post and replied, “It looks like it happened around three or four o'clock yesterday afternoon.”
Xu Jin Yi shook her head, “I was already at school by then.
I didn't see anything.”
“Any follow-up on this?”
“Yes,” Yang An An continued to scroll through the stranger's V-blog, “It looks like the full lockdown of the Prosperity Bay community was lifted around 7 pm last night.”
The other three exchanged looks.
“So, what exactly was this Shenanigans event?” Xu Jin Yi asked, “Has there been an official explanation?”
“The official statement was that it was a 'Spirit Shenanigans Event' that randomly occurs across the country,” Yang An An explained, “The solution to these cases of Shenanigans events has not been found yet.
The authorities have determined that such incidents are too dangerous, so they remind the public to travel cautiously and follow social norms.”
Lao Xiang glanced at her phone's calendar and said, “It's September now, right? I usually take these notices as April Fool's jokes.”
“But it really was issued by the authorities,” Yang An An retorted,
Lao Xiang sighed, “There's no solution or preventive measures, only a warning to be vigilant while travelling.
What can we do about it?”
Tan Bao chimed in, “And what about the Prosperity Bay residential area incident you mentioned earlier? If there were really Spirit Shenanigans happening there, the danger couldn't have been resolved so quickly, right?”
Everyone had a point.
Yang An An scrolled through Weibo's recent posts.
Indeed, there was a comment saying that it was just the poster's own guess.
With a heavy heart, Yang An An gave up, and Xue Jin Yi leaned over to look at her phone, intrigued by the news.
“Are there any other updates about these Spirit Shenanigans events online?” she asked.
“A netizen's discussion I came across mentioned that several similar incidents occurred over a decade ago.
Some netizens compared those incidents with this one, and I'll try to find it for you.” Yang An An rummaged through her phone and finally found the relevant information.
“Take a look…
Oh?” Her phone emitted a low battery warning, and Yang An An fumbled with her phone in frustration.
“I forgot to charge it!” She exclaimed, “I thought I'd get my books quickly and that this little bit of battery would last.”
However, things don't always go as planned.
The phone's screen went black, leaving Yang An An helpless, but Xu Jin Yi comforted her by patting her shoulder.
“My phone still has some battery left.
I'll look it up myself.”
Xu Jin Yi unlocked her phone and was about to search for something related to 'Shenanigans' when her phone suddenly froze and displayed a message that she had received an email.
The phone remained frozen on the message.
Xu Jin Yi tapped on the empty space a few times and pressed the return button a few times, but nothing worked.
She had no choice but to open the email.
The email contained a picture, and in it was —
Lao Xiang and Tan Bao, chatting in front of her, suddenly saw something fly out from beside them and heard a loud noise.
They instinctively turned around and asked, “What is it?”
However, their roommate had a pallid complexion and stared blankly at the ground, which caught them off guard.
Yang An An, seated next to Xu Jin Yi, was also taken aback and hurriedly supported her.
“What happened? Why did you toss your phone?”
As she searched for a pocket to store her dead phone, she heard a sound and turned around, only to see Xu Jin Yi in that state.
Xu Jin Yi paused momentarily, then spoke slowly as if regaining her composure.
“Someone sent me a terrifying image, but I don't know who it was from.”
Yang An An asked tentatively, “Did it scare you?”
“No,” Xu Jin Yi squatted down and retrieved her phone.
The once pristine black screen now had numerous snowflake-like cracks.
“I can't say I was frightened, it was just instinctive.”
The image she received was familiar, but she couldn't recall where she had seen it.
Xu Jin Yi lit up the screen; fortunately, it still functioned.
Upon unlocking her phone, she discovered that the email had vanished.
Also, her phone interface displayed her desktop instead of the email inbox.
It was as though the email had never been sent to her.
And the picture…
It depicted someone holding a chainsaw while donning a furry rabbit mask, coloured pink and white.
Xu Jin Yi had played numerous horror games and had a strong heart.
Thus, this level of horror wouldn't terrify her.
However, when she instinctively tossed her phone, her heart raced like a drum for a few seconds.
Despite not feeling genuinely scared, the palpitation was more pathological than she'd experienced before.
Just as Xu Jin Yi attempted to recall the photo's details more carefully, her brain suddenly throbbed, and her vision went black while her ears buzzed.
“Jin Yi ?”
“Are you alright?”
The girl pinched her right temple forcefully, leaving deep nail marks on her skin.
Yang An An was taken aback and called out to her, “Jin Yi , dear? Jin Yi ? Xu Jin Yi !”
After a while, the buzzing in her ears finally ceased after a time, and Xu Jin Yi's vision returned to normal.
With a wearied tone, she spoke, “It's alright now.”
Her three roommates cast uncertain glances, unsure of how to proceed.
“Perhaps it would be best to visit the campus clinic first?” Yang An An suggested, rising from her seat.
“We're still waiting in line, and I'll accompany you.”
“No need,” Xu Jin Yi assured, patting Yang An An's arm.
“I'm perfectly fine, and we'll just have to queue up again later.”
Lao Xiang and Tan Bao exchanged looks before Lao Xiang spoke up, “We'll fetch your books for you.”
“Truly, there is no need,” Xu Jin Yi replied, standing up.
“We don't even know what the campus clinic is like.
Maybe I simply haven't eaten anything this morning, and the shock lowered my blood sugar.”
Yang An An's expression betrayed her concern.
“You look really unwell.”
“Alright then,” Xu Jin Yi suggested, thinking momentarily.
“I'll go back to the dorm to rest and on the way, I'll stop by the cafeteria and grab something to eat.”
The three saw her pale form, and their hearts ached for her.
Finally, Yang An An spoke up, “Very well, you rest, and we'll retrieve your books for you.”
“Thank you~” Xu Jin Yi smiled and winked, picking up her phone and standing up.
“I'll buy everyone bubble tea another day.”
“Get some rest!” Yang An An chuckled, playfully scolding her.
“You're too cheeky.”
Xu Jin Yi left the classroom and stopped by the cafeteria to procure some sustenance before returning to her dormitory to rest.
To her surprise, Xu Jin Yi spotted the auntie from the restaurant.
The auntie was busy working the food counter, selling a plethora of breakfast and lunch options, including a range of small soup dumplings, pork and/or shrimp-filled steamed dumplings, dumplings, fried dough sticks, and soy milk.
Xu Jin Yi approached the counter.
“Excuse me, Auntie.
Could I have a cup of soy milk and two steamed dumplings filled with pork and/or shrimp, please?”
As she reached for her breakfast, she felt a sudden pain in the back of her head.
Was it a lingering effect of the blackout?
After using her phone to pay, Xu Jin Yi took breakfast from the auntie.
“Here you go, my dear…
huh?!” The auntie, wearing a mask, spotted Xu Jin Yi and called out in surprise.
After scrutinizing her momentarily, the auntie frowned and hesitantly asked, “Jin Yi ?”
“Uh yes, Auntie.
The auntie looked shocked.
“Why is your face so pale? Are you feeling unwell?”
Xu Jin Yi gave an awkward smile.
“No, I'm fine.
I just didn't sleep well, I guess…”
In truth, Xu Jin Yi had slept soundly last night, the first time she had slept without a single nightmare in four long years.
The auntie at the restaurant spun around, her gaze softening as she proffered a tea egg.
“Here you are, love.
Don't burn the midnight oil, now.
Grab a bite to eat and hit the hay.
Your complexion's ashen, I thought you'd toppled into a pile of flour!”
Xu Jin Yi struggled to resist but ultimately gave in and paid for the snack.
Without a backward glance, she bolted from the eatery.
“Auntie, I'm going to rest now!”
Amused and exasperated, the auntie watched the young girl go, pondering how hard it must be to manage solo living.
Surely things would improve once Xu Jin Yi began socializing with her peers…
In Murphy Coffee Shop, Zeng Zhi observed the two figures in the distance, chatting and laughing as if they were old friends.
But could the situation really be so innocuous?
“Have you watched the footage? The victim is seated far away not to hear.
Do you have any questions?” Wang Jin Long clasped his hands and smiled at the officer across from him.
Cao Wei Min hastened to finish watching the video in his possession, pursing his lips before raising his gaze to Wang Jin Long.
“Similar, yes?” Wang Jin Long understood immediately from his reaction, even leaning forward for a closer comparison.
“He looks almost identical to me, doesn't he? But I don't know him.” Wang Jin Long leaned back, savouring a sip of his sugar-laden iced coffee as it flowed smoothly down his throat.
He spoke confidently, “You can check my background through your own sources.
There is no blemish, nor have I vanished into thin air.
I am here, and they,” he tapped the table with his slightly bent finger, “is inside Shenanigans.”
Although the person in the footage and the man before him, Wang Jin Long, appeared nearly identical, a keen observer could detect discrepancies in their mannerisms, habits, and subtle expressions.
Cao Wei Min shut off the camera and placed it back on the table.
“I want to know, how do you know Ye Cheng Jing?”
Wang Jin Long maintained his smile and asked, “Have you noticed the name of this coffee shop? It sounds quite familiar, doesn't it?”
“It's Murphy's Coffee Shop,” Cao Wei Min replied.
The man across from him paused, his brown-black eyes fixated on Cao Wei Min without blinking.
Then he spoke with a hint of derision, “Let's have a candid conversation.
There's no need for any nonsense.
I met Ye Cheng Jing at Murphy Amusement Park, which is now known as Shenanigans,” Wang Jin Long said.
His expression turned grave as he sat up straight, and Cao Wei Min couldn't help but focus on him while his hand moved slightly under the table as he quietly began recording with his phone.
Cao Wei Min listened intently as Wang Jin Long recounted their encounter at Murphy Amusement Park, where they had experienced something inexplicable.
“In 2212, ten years ago, Ye Cheng Jing ventured into Murphy's Amusement Park to participate in a colossal live-action werewolf game.
A total of 200 individuals participated in the game, and among them were 50 “werewolves.”
According to the game's rules, the “werewolves” had to kill all the “civilians” and escape to win.
The “civilians” were required to participate in various bizarre amusement park activities and fill in all ten empty circles on their admission tickets before leaving the park.
As you may guess, the Shenanigans amusement park is fraught with danger.
The carousel severs heads, the pendulum ride shatters bodies, and the roller coaster leaves people petrified…
The “civilians” were wary of traitors in the crowd and were fighting for their lives in the treacherous amusement park.
Few individuals managed to survive.
Ye Cheng Jing saved not only my life but also the lives of many others.
As we neared the end of the last amusement park activity, a woman in a black robe, who had been tailing us, started tripping Ye Cheng Jing up.
She donned a black hooded cloak, shrouding her face in mystery.
Clad in dark attire, she seamlessly blended into the shadows of the amusement park…
Our carelessness had given the 'werewolf' the perfect opportunity to strike.
The final ride proved fatal for the survivors.
Officer Ye stood his ground against the woman in black to protect a child…
When I departed, they remained locked in a standoff.”
Cao Wei Min fell silent for an extended period upon hearing this.
“Did you exit alone? What happened to the child he was safeguarding?”
Wang Jin Long nodded, then shook his head.
“He made it out too, but I have yet to locate him.”
Abruptly, he gazed up at Cao Wei Min.
“How did you become aware of Murphy's Amusement Park? Spare me the objections, your initial reaction was plain to see.
To my knowledge, Murphy's Amusement Park does not exist.
Only Morphy's Amusement Park does.”
Cao Wei Min scrutinized him for a while before cautiously speaking.
“It was relayed to us by personnel at the police station.
They stated that Officer Ye vanished inside 'Murphy's Amusement Park'.”
'Found him,' Wang Jin Long thought.
'It appears Officer Ye's colleagues rescued the child he had saved.'
“Knowing what you do, why did you not choose to inform the authorities?” Cao Wei Min's voice was laced with incredulity.
“The police would go to great lengths to rescue those held captive in the Shenanigans, would they not?”
Wang Jin Long's response was a shake of the head.
“Do you recall when I told you someone was watching us?” His lips quirked, but the smile did not reach his eyes.
“It was not a threat; it was the truth.
There is something eerie keeping an eye on all of us.
Some receive more attention than others.
The police are under its intense scrutiny, but do you know what happens when it chooses to focus on you? Too much attention and you will be dragged into the mysterious place, like Officer Ye.
Too little and you will be like a fool, covering your ears and closing your eyes to the outside world's changes.”
Wang Jin Long's brow furrowed in deep thought.
“I recall several incidents related to the mysterious place that took place years ago.
Despite their size, few paid attention.
Was it due to insufficient publicity? On the internet, where information spreads rapidly, no one questioned it?”
Cao Wei Min shook his head.
“They were merely blind and deaf.”
“That kind of power selects its suitable prey for the mysterious place, and we are all potential candidates,” Wang Jin Long added meaningfully.
Cao Wei Min sat silent, unable to process what he had just heard.
“The reason I didn't go to the police,” Wang Jin Long continued, “is because I'm afraid of attracting Its attention and being dragged back into the Shenanigans.
Even if I did tell the police, it would be of no use.
They're under Its constant surveillance.
Even your discovery of the Shenanigans is being manipulated by It.
The timing of when you discovered it, when you find a way to crack it, when you're able to develop rescue instruments…
all of it is under Its control!”
Wang Jin Long's words hung heavily in the air.
“Only in the darkness can I continue to live,” he said, his voice filled with sadness.
“But it's been so many years, and I often dream of Officer Ye.
His departure left me living in pain and guilt.
The time in the Shenanigans is different from the time in the real world,” Wang Jin Long said, his eyes glimmering with hope.
“Perhaps Officer Ye is still alive in the Shenanigans!”
Cao Wei Min's finger trembled as he tried to make sense of everything.
Wang Jin Long looked at him eagerly.
“Officer Ye mentioned you to me.
I think you're his relative.
Don't you want to get him out of the Shenanigans?”
Cao Wei Min felt a lump form in his throat.
He had been investigating the Shenanigans for a while, but the police had only found a small amount of information about it.
It wasn't enough to make any real progress.
And if what Wang Jin Long said was true, that the police had concealed information about Officer Ye's rescue of the child, then it meant that Cao Wei Min had been excluded from the beginning.
“There's nothing you can do,” he said, his voice heavy with defeat.
“And there's nothing I can do either.”
'What is this all about?'
'Does Li know about it too? Isn't he Uncle Ye's friend? Then why…
hasn't he told me anything?'
“Perhaps not until today,” Wang Jin Long reached out and pointed at the camera on the table, “but now, the possibility is high.
I suspect that Silence is the black-robed woman.”
“Isn't Silence male?” Cao Wei Min asked.
Wang Jin Long replied, “Where did you get that idea from? In any case, I don't have much impression of Silence, but they look very similar to me and seem to know a lot about me.”
Zeng Zhi's recorded video mostly had muffled sounds and incomprehensible conversations.
“The other party also participated in that Murphy's amusement park, except for the black-robed woman who has never appeared.
I can't imagine anyone else.
As long as I talk to Jin face-to-face, I will know Uncle Ye's whereabouts.”
“But before you left, they were in a confrontation,” Cao Wei Min interjected.
'If Silence is the black-robed woman and she appears in other mysterious incidents now, can Uncle Ye really survive?'
“Who knows?” Wang Jin Long said, “Anything is possible.
Will you give up on finding out Uncle Ye's whereabouts?”
'Of course not!'
“If I remain at the police station, catching Its attention,” Cao Wei Min pondered, adopting Wang Jin Long's logic, “perhaps I could infiltrate the Shenanigans and encounter Silence?”
Wang Jin Long countered, “In all your years at the police station, have you ever entered the Shenanigans? Since Officer Ye entered, have any officers followed suit?”
“No,” Cao Wei Min conceded.
“And yet, it's the common folk who have braved the Shenanigans this time,” Wang Jin Long pointed out.
“Apparently, It has taken a recent interest in this sort of person.
I've been to 'Murphy's Amusement Park', and after emerging, I became especially attuned to the Shenanigans's happenings,” he elaborated.
“I also picked up on the prior bus incident.”
Cao Wei Min mused, “So that's why you've been frequenting those bus stations…”
Wang Jin Long's brow arched, and he hesitated before knitting his brow and questioning, “Have you investigated me?”
Had he jumped to the wrong conclusion? Could the police have already detected his presence?
“Since June, there have been four Shenanigans incidents, and Silence has featured in each one,” Cao Wei Min shared.
“Based on survivor testimonies, the police have constructed a likeness of Silence and matched it to you in their database.”
Wang Jin Long paused for a moment, deep in thought.
Luckily, the identity reward he received after successfully clearing the amusement park level was thorough enough to withstand scrutiny.
Otherwise, everything would have been exposed just now.
“It seems that It may be dissatisfied with the lack of progress in the police investigation,” Wang Jin Long finally spoke, breaking the silence.
Cao Wei Min didn't believe in Wang Jin Long's “otherworldly forces.” But he suspected that those who entered the “Shenanigans” were selected.
As Zhang Rourou said, only the delivery man could enter the elevator mystery this time.
If he didn't go in, the delivery man would also die.
“So now we have a more precise target: you and me.
Perhaps we can locate a specific Shenanigans and meet Silence inside,” Wang Jin Long suggested.
Cao Wei Min furrowed his brow, “But I'm a police officer, and you don't want to enter the Shenanigans again, so…”
“That's why we need an ordinary person,” Wang Jin Long said, his voice soft.
“Trust me, this will definitely…”
“No,” Cao Wei Min cut him off.
“Why not?” Wang Jin Long asked.
“No reason,” Cao Wei Min replied curtly.
He turned off the recording and rose from his seat.
“As for what you said, I will investigate it thoroughly.”
Wang Jin Long gazed at him, surprised.
After silence, he persisted, “Are you absolutely certain? If you forget him, who else will recall?”
With a sombre expression, Cao Wei Min pushed the video recorder toward him, “I will never forget him.
Now, honour your promise and accompany the survivor to the police station to report this.”
Finally, Wang Jin Long and Zeng Zhi departed the café, leaving Cao Wei Min with a parting phrase, “Think about it again.”
The man sat in the peaceful café, his fingers tracing the coffee cup in his grip.
After a lengthy wait, his phone finally rang.
“Cao Wei Min? The police station has just received another survivor,” Wang Ju spoke rapidly, “And it appears that the Wang Jin Long you saw was the person who delivered the survivor.
However…” She paused, “He was already gone by the time I tried to locate him.
Zeng Zhi, the survivor, claimed that he was friends with Wang Jin Long, but no one answered when he called.
I think this person realized something and ran away directly.
Incidentally, where are you? Why aren't you inside the police station?” the voice on the phone queried.
Cao Wei Min responded, “I had some pressing matters to attend to, that's why I left.”
“Given the current circumstances, you should return as soon as possible–“
Cao Wei Min cut her off, “They don't need me at the police station, do they?” He suddenly hesitated, “I apologize…
I'll be back immediately.”
He hung up the phone and gazed at the recording on his device.
Wang Jin Long, Silence, the lady in the black, Ye Cheng Jing…
The young man sighed deeply, then composed himself and exited the coffeehouse.
Xu Jin Yi's roommates noticed that the class timetable didn't start until the next day, so they suggested she rest.
At that moment, Xu Jin Yi was busy tinkering with her VR glasses, trying to figure out why the screen was pitch black.
She wondered if there was a problem with the loading or if it had crashed.
After reaching out to the official “Elevator Safety Guide” to report the situation, Xu Jin Yi received a response soon after, stating that they were working on it.
Despite their assurance, the VR screen remained black.
Xu Jin Yi attempted to restart the device, but the issue persisted.
Frustrated, she put it aside and checked the official response in a few days.
However, Xu Jin Yi wasn't feeling well that day.
The aftermath of her head injury still lingered, causing her discomfort.
Heeding her roommates' advice, she retired to bed early and drifted off into a peaceful slumber.
In her dream, Xu Jin Yi gradually opened her eyes to a disturbing sight: a monstrous figure wearing a pink and white fluffy rabbit mask and wielding a chainsaw.
A voice echoed in Xu Jin Yi's mind, seemingly coming from the figure opposite her.
【You missed yesterday's appointment, but fear not, we'll make up for it today~!】
Though the mask obscured the figure's face, Xu Jin Yi could see the object in their hand and the glint in their eye.
Then, she heard a resounding laugh.
【My dear, let's keep playing~!】
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