Kaleidoscope of Death, Ch. 131
Kaleidoscope of Death by Xi Zixu
Link to Chinese / Novel Updates
Chapter 131: Ghosts
Behind the elevator door was a dim corridor that looked no different from normal. Yet, dispersed through the air was the faint, identifiably gamy scent of blood. It was reminding Lin Qiushi that things weren't as simple as they seemed.
Lin Qiushi took a step forward, wanting to get out of there as soon as possible. When he got outside of the apartment, however, just as he turned a corner, he saw three identical little girls in dresses standing before him.
They stood around a huge birthday cake, on which was stuck a thicket of white candles. The cake appeared to be on the verge of melting, and the red liquid that kept dripping out of it was precisely the source of the scent that Lin Qiushi smelled. Worse was that on the top of the cake, a woman's severed head had been placed. Her eyes remained open, watching Lin Qiushi and refusing to be resigned to her fate; she even batted her eyes at Lin Qiushi.
The tableau was grotesque and chilling. Seeing them, Lin Qiushi remembered the door he'd passed with the Fitcher's Bird hint. Without question, these were the triplets that Lin Qiushi had once met inside the door…
The triplets stood in the entrance, heads twisting about to face Lin Qiushi. Stiff smiles tugged up their faces, and from their lips poured the little happy birthday ditty. One of the girls slowly lifted a hand and pointed at the top of his head, and she said, "Xiao-gege, won't you eat cake with us?"
Hearing her question, Lin Qiushi didn't dare answer. He turned around and left for another exit.
Good thing that the triplets only watched him go with no intent of pursuing.
Lin Qiushi ran quickly. It was a moment's work to get to the door, but just as he was about to go out, he recalled what one of the triplets had done—she'd pointed to the top of his head. What did this gesture mean? Could there be something on the ceiling?
Honestly, under circumstances such as these, nobody would be happy to look up at the ceiling. Yet Lin Qiushi still got out his cell phone, turned on the flashlight, and slowly looked up, casting the beam of light in his hand toward the ceiling. He kept his motions slow, ready to run at any moment, but what made him breathe out a sigh of relief was that the ceiling was completely clear. There was nothing on it—
When he saw this, Lin Qiushi put his phone away, exhaled, and left the building. But right before he let the foyer, a sense of danger that was difficult to describe suddenly assaulted the top of his head. On instinct, Lin Qiushi's feet stepped back. And it was precisely at this second that a corpse fell straight down from the building rooftop, smashing onto the ground at Lin Qiushi's feet. It was obvious that had he not stayed his feet right here, he'd have been hit by this corpse.
The corpse fell from above and broke into pieces. The skull looked like a watermelon dropped from up high, splattering all over the ground. But judging from its outer apparel and the thing in its hand, this was precisely the man who'd blockaded the door of Lin Qiushi's apartment with an axe. Lin Qiushi didn't know why he'd fallen.
Lin Qiushi skirted around his corpse and quickly entered the residential district. He stepped across the gravel path and cast a glance back at the apartment behind him. There he saw, crouched against the outer wall of the apartment, a human figure crawling slowly downward from above, unheeding of gravity. Through the faint light coming from the hallways, Lin Qiushi could just manage to make out who the person was…it was Wang Xiaoyi, who'd had her skull split clean in half. Wang Xiaoyi clambered slowly down from the wall to where Cheng Wen's corpse had fallen, burying her face in that body and beginning to chew, as if a beast that had spotted a meal.
Lin Qiushi only took one look before turning away. Perhaps it was the hot weather, perhaps it was the sheer intensity of the developments so far, but all up and down his body he was covered in sweat. Perspiration dripped from his chin as Lin Qiushi walked along the district, taking in his surroundings. For a moment he felt struck; he sensed that there was no safe place here, and out of every shadow-wrapped corner a monster could emerge.
Lin Qiushi headed for the exit, and saw to his surprise two people standing at the district entrance. Lin Qiushi saw their faces, and even clearly remembered their names—Xiong Qi, Xiao Ke. They were two of the people Lin Qiushi had met inside his very first door.
Xiong Qi and Xiao Ke seemed to have spotted Lin Qiushi also, waving their arms at him from afar and calling, "hurry up, get over here!"
Lin Qiushi's footsteps were hesitant. He couldn't be sure whether the two people who'd appeared here were ghosts or not.
"Baijie told us to come get you," Xiao Ke called to him. "It's too dangerous where you live. Baijie had us come to take you to her—"
Lin Qiushi began to frown. He looked behind him, but both Wang Xiaoyi and Cheng Wen had disappeared into the night. The inky black apartment complexes, however, still gave off a strong sense of unease. Lin Qiushi approached, but didn't get too close.
"Baijie had you come get me?" Lin Qiushi asked Xiao Ke.
"Yeah," Xiao Ke said. "She didn't want anything happening to you, so she sent us especially."
"Where is she now?" Lin Qiushi asked.
"Her? She's at her home, waiting for us to head over," Xiao Ke answered. "Get in. We'll explain everything in the car." Then she pulled open the car door, gesturing for Lin Qiushi to quickly get inside.
Lin Qiushi got to the car door and glanced inside.
Xiao Ke was still urging him from behind and seemed to be in quite a rush. Lin Qiushi, however, noticed something, and his foot, halfway lifted to enter the car, suddenly halted.
"What's with you?" Xiao Ke asked. "That thing is coming, stop wasting time."
"If you really came at Baijie's request, then you must know her real name?" Lin Qiushi's foot retracted. With his eyes to the ground, his feet carried him slowly backwards.
Xiao Ke's brows furrowed. "I know her real name, I just can't say it here. Something else will hear it. Hurry up already…" When she saw the unmoving Lin Qiushi however, her voice got more and more angry, and in the end was practically roaring as she said, "I'm telling you to get in! There's not much time left!!"
As soon as he saw this, Lin Qiushi turned and ran, ignoring Xiao Ke and Xiong Qi's yells. Xiao Ke could only watch Lin Qiushi go, a sharp screech leaving her mouth. And just as Lin Qiushi turned the corner back into the micro-district, a large shadow appeared on the other end of the street.
It was a gigantic woman. Her figure was strange, and in her hands she dragged along a long-handled axe. Slowly, she approached Xiao Ke and Xiong Qi.
Both Xiao Ke and Xiong Qi looked to be in terrorized despair. They hurried into the car, trying to start the engine and leave, but at this precise moment the car was turned to paper paste. Seated inside, the two naturally couldn't leave.
The woman approached the two and raised her arms, lifting the axe high up above her head. Then, she brought it down, splitting Xiao Ke right into two.
And Xiong Qi was next. The two of them were bisected at the waist, horrible wails coming out of their mouths. Yet they weren't dying. They continued struggling on the ground.
Lin Qiushi hid in a corner of the micro-district and saw it all. He had a hand up to cover his mouth, scared that the sound of his breathing would be too loud and attract the attention of the giant woman outside. This monster was the one that had formed out of the religious statue in the old temple from Lin Qiushi's first door. After she killed Xiong Qi and Xiao Ke with her axe, she looked all around. But failing to discover Lin Qiushi, she took her axe and left.
Split in halves, Xiong Qi and Xiao Ke did not die. They lied on the asphalt road keening. Xiao Ke was spitting all the most poisonous cuss words, and seemed to be cursing Lin Qiushi.
Lin Qiushi didn't know what happened to Xiong Qi and Xiao Ke inside the door after he'd left, but judging by the experience he'd accumulated, these two weren't some do-gooders either. Rather, they seemed like the sorts of veterans who got close to newbies with ulterior motives in mind. But luckily Lin Qiushi and met Ruan Nanzhu, and so had managed to avoid it all. As for their fates inside the door at the end, Lin Qiushi didn't know…
The reason he'd discovered something was off about Xiao Ke was that just now, under the streetlight, he'd seen only his own shadow being cast. Xiao Ke and Xiong Qi underneath the same light did not make any sort of shadow. This was what had tipped Lin Qiushi off, and so he'd decisively turned, and managed to dodge the entire ordeal.
It was in this moment that Lin Qiushi gained a better understanding of what "No Solution" meant in the hint. There was no solution to this door; the path to live hidden inside could be the tiniest detail, yet that was the way to survive. Of course, whether or not they could discover it was based on their own luck.
Lin Qiushi stood there in the residential block not knowing where to go. He knew he ought to go though, because that happy birthday song was getting louder and clearer, rapidly approaching him.
So Lin Qiushi stood up, trotting carefully out of the neighborhood. He glanced back, and sure enough, saw those triplets pushing the cake and heading in his direction. The skull on the top of the cake pivoted in a slow circle and tossed a hateful glower his way.
But Lin Qiushi was already used to such a glare. He stared impassively back, even eyeing back some contempt of his own.
The triplets began to giggle despite this. They stood at the neighborhood entrance and watched as Lin Qiushi disappeared again into the darkness at the other end of the road. Getting up on tiptoes, they hugged the skull at the top of the cake and gave it each a kiss, happily calling Mama, Mama, Mama.
Lin Qiushi walked along the asphalt with only the fuzzy light of the streetlamps lighting the path beneath his feet.
What had been lively shops all around were closed. This felt like a whole other world, one that knew only death and terror.
Lin Qiushi stared at his phone for a good while. He wanted to give Ruan Nanzhu a call and ask how he was doing, but was also worried about Ruan Nanzhu facing down a critical moment—and this call of his could mean Ruan Nanzhu's life, just like that.
After momentary consideration, Lin Qiushi sent Ruan Nanzhu a text, asking how he was doing.
It took a while later for the other side to reply: I'm playing hide-and-seek with something weird.
Though the words were flippant, it was easy to read the deadly intent between the lines. Lin Qiushi laughed, pained: Hide-and-seek? Which door of yours is that?
Ruan Nanzhu: Second.
Lin Qiushi: What was the hint?
Ruan Nanzhu: The hint was…hide-and-seek.
Lin Qiushi, "…" A few simple words sent a layer of cold sweat dotting over his back again. He was even growing agitated; he wanted so badly to go to Ruan Nanzhu's side right now and experience everything with him. This sort of intention though was difficult to manifest at a time like this. Lin Qiushi looked at his watch and saw that it was 2AM—there were still three to four hours before daybreak.
She's coming. Gotta go babe, I love you—this was the last text Ruan Nanzhu sent to Lin Qiushi that night.
Reading that message, Lin Qiushi's heart was filled to the brim with anxiety. But he didn't know where Ruan Nanzhu was, nor what Ruan Nanzhu was going through; how utterly helpless he was in this moment. There was nothing he could do.
Lin Qiushi followed the road and kept moving ahead. There didn't seem to be an end, until Lin Qiushi came upon an intersection. From far away, Lin Qiushi could see a person crouching in the center of the intersection. That person had their back to him, their head down as they stuffed a burning furnace before them full of something.
When Lin Qiushi saw this person he didn't dare get too close. Observing from afar, he discovered that the person was burning hell money for the dead.
The joss paper, burned to ashes, spiraled upwards into the inky night sky. As preparation to enter the doors, Lin Qiushi had learned quite a number of folk lore and legends. He knew that hell money, once burned to ashes, had its specific meanings, like that if it made a spiral, then the people in hell had received it…
As Lin Qiushi hesitantly watched the scene before him and debated whether or not to turn back, he heard a chilling set of footsteps coming from behind him.
Lin Qiushi looked back. Through the darkness of night, he saw coming from the other end of the road a giant figure. The figure was backlit, and though it couldn't be clearly seen, judging by its silhouette it was precisely that female ghoul that had split both Xiong Qi and Xiao Ke in half earlier.
The surrounding area was empty, and there was nothing Lin Qiushi could hide behind. With no other option available to him, Lin Qiushi could only move forward, sticking to the wall as he tried to cross the intersection before him.
As he walked, he kept a careful eye on the old man burning joss paper in the middle of the road. He'd likely seen this person before too, but because it had been such a long time, he didn't really remember.
Just as he was about to cross the intersection, he saw the old man stick a hand into the burning cinders. His body began to charcoal immediately after. Lin Qiushi, however, caught the soft words coming out of his mouth. He was saying: "The dead, the dead…only the dead can escape." Right after, his entire upright body became a charred corpse, and the monster behind them seemed to have sniffed out the odd scent around here, and so quickened her footsteps.
The monster was enormous, and as for the axe in her hand, the head sometimes would glance off the ground, and the noise of metal grinding against stone would sound.
Lin Qiushi didn't dare linger here any longer, sprinting full speed ahead. As he ran, he didn't neglect to keep an eye on his surroundings, and so discovered something changing around him.
White lanterns and flower wreathes had appeared on the front door of the shops, just like at a memorial service.
The thing that halted Lin Qiushi's footsteps was a black coffin placed by the roadside. It had suddenly appeared, lying straight and neat right there on the pavement.
The monster behind him seemed to have detected Lin Qiushi's presence as well, and came running for him. If she continued at the same speed, Lin Qiushi would be caught in minutes.
Panting, Lin Qiushi stared at the black coffin in front of him. A crazy idea surfaced in his mind. He knew there was no time to hesitate, so he walked straight over to the coffin and pushed the top open with all his might.
Lin Qiushi thought the coffin would be empty. Only upon opening it did he discover there was a corpse inside. Strangely enough, the corpse seemed a bit familiar, like he'd seen it somewhere before—but Lin Qiushi couldn't care about all that. With a clench of his teeth he crawled right in, and sealed the coffin lid above him.
Through the coffin, Lin Qiushi could hear the monster's footsteps grow closer and closer, finally coming to a stop somewhere in his vicinity. Her nose was twitching as she tried to sniff out of the air which direction her prey had gone off in.
Then it seemed like some smell had interrupted her search. With a low, strange call, the monster left, her sounds slowly fading.
Lin Qiushi lied in the coffin, expression mostly frozen. It seemed that the corpse beside him had just died, for its flesh was still soft, and even carried with it a bit of lingering body heat. Lin Qiushi internally chanted pardon me, pardon me as he waited for the sounds outside to disappear.
Just as he got ready to lift the coffin lid above him, however, he felt a hand suddenly catch him by the arm.
When he was caught, Lin Qiushi almost yelled, but another hand came up and covered his mouth, keeping the noise contained in his throat.
"It hasn't left yet."
And the corpse behind him was actually speaking. Though it was quiet, Lin Qiushi's eyes still went wide when he heard that voice—he was more than familiar with that cadence, it was Li Dongyuan!
The inside of the coffin was too dark; Lin Qiushi couldn't see anything. He was being held tightly by the corpse that sounded just like Li Dongyuan behind him, and his heart was beating so wildly that it felt like it was going to leap right out of his throat.
"It hasn't left yet," the person behind him said once again. Lin Qiushi kind of understood his meaning this time, that there was no need to keep struggling.
The silence continued for maybe another ten minutes or so, until Lin Qiushi heard a woman's furious roar. Only a thin plank of coffin wood separated them from this roar, so it was obvious that this thing was close—like it was practically right next to him. Had Lin Qiushi climbed out of the coffin earlier, he'd likely have been struck and killed like Xiong Qi and Xiao Ke had been earlier.
Then the woman's voice got further and further away. The corpse holding onto Lin Qiushi from behind also released him, and Lin Qiushi shoved open the coffin lid above his head. Finally, he could see the face of the person lying next to him—it was precisely that Li Dongyuan, who should already be dead.
"It's been a while." The corners of Li Dongyuan's eyes curved up as he showed Lin Qiushi a smile.
Lin Qiushi stared hard at him, like if he stared hard enough, he could force that face to change with sheer willpower.
"What are you looking at me like that for?" Li Dongyuan too sat up in the coffin and tidied his hair. "I saved you just now, you know. Are you not going to thank me?"
Lin Qiushi, "so are you…"
"Dead." Though Lin Qiushi hadn't finished speaking, Li Dongyuan had already guessed what he wanted to say, and was laughing heartily. "I'm dead."
Lin Qiushi watched him doubtfully, but Li Dongyuan just grabbed Lin Qiushi by the hand and pressed it to his chest. Sure enough, it was quiet there, with absolutely no sensation of a beating heart.
"You really are dead?" Lin Qiushi wiped at his face with a hand. "Then why are you here? Where is here, anyways?"
Though he heard Lin Qiushi's questions, Li Dongyuan only smiled without answering. He pointed above his head and said, "there's still a while until daybreak. Would you like to sleep some more?"
Lin Qiushi, "sleep where? In the coffin?"
Li Dongyuan, "the coffin's safer than all that running around you were doing."
Lin Qiushi wanted to say something more, but began to hear the sound of footsteps again. This time, without needing Li Dongyuan to do so, he closed the coffin lid on his own.
In the dark, the two people's gazes met. Lin Qiushi had too many questions he wanted to ask; he wanted to question Li Dongyuan about the situation they were in, but Li Dongyuan didn't seem keen on answering any of those questions.
"I know what you want to ask," Li Dongyuan said as such. "But I can't give you answers, because I don't really understand myself."
"Do you remember your own death?" Lin Qiushi asked.
"Of course I do," Li Dongyuan said. "I even remember jumping out of the building." A touch of loneliness bled into his voice. "Who knows how that girl's doing though."
"Zhuang Rujiao?" Lin Qiushi said. "She's doing great. She took over White Deer for you."
After a moment's silence, Li Dongyuan's laugh was bitter.
"How is that great?"
Seeing the young girl under his care grow up was not actually anything like a happy experience, because growth inevitably came with a painful price to pay.
So the two quieted down again. Lin Qiushi stared at the coffin lid above his head, spacing out. He didn't dare say too much, because that thing was still prowling about around him.
Time ticked on by seconds, by minutes. Then it was nearly five, and daybreak seemed imminent.
Drowsiness coiled around Lin Qiushi. He wanted to stay strong, but had never felt such urge to sleep as this.
"Sleep," came Li Dongyuan's voice. "I'll see you tomorrow night."
Lin Qiushi closed his eyes and fell deeply asleep.
This sleep was spectacularly deep. By the time he woke again, the sky was already bright. He got up and saw that he was lying in his own bed, with Chestnut on the pillow beside him, watching him like a good little pet.
There were no monsters, no blood. The door was also perfectly fine. Everything that occurred the night before was all as if a strange nightmare. Lin Qiushi let out a long breath, picked up his phone, and once again dialed a number.
After a few seconds of waiting, a completely unsurprising voice recording sounded on the other side. The phone number that went through during the night had become unconnected once more. Lin Qiushi flipped through his messages and also couldn't see the text Ruan Nanzhu sent him.
"Fine," Lin Qiushi said to himself. "See you tonight."
[Ch. 130] | [Ch. 132]