Chapter 5 – Ah Xiu
Li Yin looks at the bright moon outside of the window. When the hour hand of his watch passes the 12 o’clock mark, it will mean that they have already been manacled to this village. They can only leave after a month, at midnight on July 8th.
A month… that is truly very rare.
In terms of the instructions the bloody word usually give.
Li Yin can still remember it clearly… what happened the first time that Ye Kexin brought him to see Xia Yuan.
His first impression was– This isn’t right, is it? Is he really the man who has lived in this horrifying place for four years (last year was Xia Yuan’s fourth year)?
Wearing a pair of frameless glasses and a well ironed suit, a tall and lanky figure, a kind and scholarly face, this man looked… No matter how hard he tried, Li Yin was unable to reconcile this appearance with the image of the residential representative he had in mind.
“You are the new resident?” Back then, Xia Yuan accepted him easily as though it was a normal, habitual occurrence.
“Yes, Mr. Xia. I…”
“Don’t say anything.” Xia Yuan immediately gestured for him to sit down in his room and then told Ye Kexin, “Kexin, go inform everyone about the new resident.”
At that time, Kexin was looking at Xia Yuan, her face red like the color of ripened apples. She could not even bring herself to look at him directly. Nodding her head shyly, she left.
Xia Yuan’s room was about the same size as Li Yin’s. However, the interior design was a bit more minimalist in comparison.
“Don’t be too nervous,” Xia Yuan smiled and said, “Everyone who enters this apartment for the first time will feel very lost. And when I tell them the truth, they will all feel as though the world is collapsing around them. They find it hard to accept and believe that this is happening to them.”
“Up… Up to this point, I’m confused about everything here.” Li Yin palmed his forehead and said, “Mr. Xia… I… Do I really need to stay here from now on?”
“Would you like some coffee or tea?” Xia Yuan did not answer directly, but instead took a china cup out of the cupboard. He said, “Here I have the Pre-rain Longjing. As for coffee, all of it is imported from Colombia and Brazil. My parents shipped them to me from other countries.”
“Coffee… I have always felt that type of thing is no different from traditional Chinese medicine,” Li Yin said with a bitter smile, “Yes, tea will be fine. Right, don’t add wolfberries.”
“Alright, do you want some chrysanthemum?”
Xia Yuan looked about 24 or 25 years old, just a little bit older than Li Yin. But the way he does things was with a manner of maturity and experience. After he finished making the tea, he passed it to Li Yin warmly. Then he said, “Please try to believe what I’m about to say next. I can promise you that I will definitely not lie. But I also cannot guarantee how much you are able to accept.”
“I, I understand.”
Following that, Xia Yuan told Li Yin everything.
After Xia Yuan finished speaking, Li Yin’s expression was astonished to the extreme. He simply could not wrap his head around such bizarre sounding words.
But… they were undeniably true. He already tried walking out of the alley before looking back at this place. As expected, this apartment had disappeared completely.
This is indeed an incomprehensibly strange building.
“I understand what you’re feeling at this moment, but… I have to tell you this: you will die if you leave this apartment for more than 48 hours. If you don’t believe my words, I can show you some recordings. In order for people to believe this rule, previously I…”
“I trust you,” Li Yin accepted his words quite easily. “So… when you guys are at the destination appointed by the bloody words, you’ve all met…you’ve met…”
“Yes.” Xia Yuan did not beat around the bush. His face had also turned a bit pale. “I am sorry to say that after I entered this apartment, I am no longer an atheist.”
“The existence of…spirits?” Li Yin’s hands started to shake uncontrollably.
Xia Yuan pushed his glasses up his nose bridge and said, “When I look back at the past, how I’ve been able to stay alive till today is nothing but a nightmare. Just simply remembering it makes me doubt how I endured everything till now.”
At this point, Li Yin asked a question that he had been thinking about for a while.
“You just said that normally, the apartment will not allow the time between two bloody missions to exceed half a year. Then…for one resident, how long might the instructions given to him be separated?”
“That’s hard to say,” Xia Yuan continued. “At first they will be relatively fast. Every few months there will be a new emergence of the bloody words. But then the later it gets, the longer the gap between missions becomes. I have already completed five bloody missions. And from my last bloody mission till now, it has almost been a year…”
“Then… doesn’t that mean that under the circumstances where there are no instructions released, we have to live here forever?”
“Yes. It can’t be helped. The saying that you can only leave after completing ten bloody missions was what I heard from the old residents when I just moved in. And later on, all of those old residents have already died.”
Clearly, it seemed that from today onwards, Li Yin would also have to live in this apartment for a long time.
After that, Xia Yuan introduced Li Yin to every resident in the apartment.
The following people left a profound impression on Li Yin. The couple, Hua Liancheng and Yi Ye who lives in room 706. They seemed very young, maybe freshly graduated from college. They moved into this apartment a year earlier than Li Yin did, and the three of them got along very well. Two other people were also unforgettable to him.
Tang Wenshan who lives in room 502. And Odagiri Sachiko who lives in room 402.
Tang Wenshan is a gloomy, quiet young man with very cold eyes. Whenever he looked at other people, there would always be a cynical expression on his face. On the other hand, Odagiri Sachiko is an international student from Japan who came to China for college. She speaks Chinese very well. But her calm and serene expression always makes her thoughts incomprehensible to other people. Another reason Sachiko left such a deep impression on Li Yin is because he thinks that she is inhumanly beautiful, like a classic gothic lolita.
After Li Yin began to live in the apartment, he would naturally run into his neighbor Odagiri Sachiko quite often. At first, he hoped to establish a good relationship with these experienced residents, but unlike the friendly Ye Kexin, Odagiri Sachiko always gives people an unapproachable impression. Whenever she is free, she can always be seen holding the Japanese edition of [The Tale of Genji].
Li Yin remembers that when he was leaving yesterday, he went with Ye Kexin to Odagiri Sachiko’s room to say goodbye. But she remained icy cold and did not say a single word the whole time.
On the other hand, the Hua Liancheng couple were very compassionate, reminding them again and again to be cautious and making them promise they must come back alive. Li Yin was very touched. After a year, it seems that they truly became very close to each other.
After all, it is because of everyone’s mutual support that they have stayed alive till now!
As he thinks about all this, Li Yin’s feelings are mixed. He glances at Luo Hengyan and Qin Shoutian who are soundly asleep, and Ye Kexin who is struggling to stay awake.
“Kexin, hang in there. Two of us must remain awake.” Li Yin says, “Just persist for a little longer. Here, have a little more tea.”
“I’m fine…” Although she says this, Ye Kexin still yawns widely. “I, I cannot fall asleep.”
Hence Li Yin can only keep talking to her so she can concentrate, “Then, let’s talk. Kexin, you like Xia Yuan, right?”
“Ah, yeah… Eh? Ah, no no no no, I don’t…” Kexin waves her arm frantically and says, “I, I’m not with Xia Yuan…”
The fact that Ye Kexin has stayed alive till this point has to do with Xia Yuan’s existence. For three years now, she has forcefully endured everything. “Xia Yuan…” Ye Kexin’s face turns completely red. “He might not be interested in me. Moreover, right now, the first priority is to stay alive. I don’t even dare to think about those things…”
Li Yin says with a smile, “We will definitely all stay alive and leave that god damn apartment… For sure!”
After hearing these words from Li Yin, Ye Kexin feels a bit more relieved.
“Hengyan, his personality is quite impulsive. I’m a bit worried about him.” Li Yin turns around and looks at the deeply asleep Luo Hengyan. “He’s quite the pitiful one too. After his parents both passed away, he moved to city K alone, but who would expect that these kind of things will happen to him.”
“Yeah…” Ye Kexin nods her head and says, “And Shoutian as well… he got divorced because his wife cheated on him. He was wandering around despondently after getting drunk late at night. As a result, his shadow got…”
Qin Shoutian and Ye Kexin once received the same bloody instructions. That time, there were only three people on that mission and the other person died in the end, leaving only Qin Shoutian and Ye Kexin alive. Thus Ye Kexin strongly considers Qin Shoutian as her partner. She really hopes he can stay alive.
The next day…is finally here.
“So Mr. Li and Miss Ye are still not awake?” When Elder Zhang comes to greet them early in the morning, Luo Hengyan tells him that since Li Yin and Ye Kexin are both very tired, they are still resting.
“That’s fine.” Elder Zhang suddenly glances around furtively. When he realizes there is no one around, he then asks Luo Hengyan in a low voice, “Mr. Luo, since there are no other people here, you can just tell me… when is your boss coming?”
“Ah? Boss?” Luo Hengyan looks at him blankly and asks, “What boss?”
“Haha, you’re still pretending? I know your boss exhorted you to maintain your façade properly. Don’t worry, I already told the people in the village, and they wouldn’t dare to not give me any face. You can look around the village freely. I will certainly not obstruct you.”
“I… I don’t understand…”
“Right right right. You don’t understand. It is right that you don’t understand. Just relax. During the time you stay in this village, I will make sure that I treat you well. Your boss has already contacted me…”
As he stared Elder Zhang’s very attentive manner, Luo Hengyan starts to realize that this elder might have misunderstood something.
However, it seems like because of that “boss”, the elder allows them to stay, treating them very enthusiastically and even beating his dear grandson.
Then… just let him continue to keep this misunderstanding.
Zhang Suyue suddenly runs towards them in a hurry. She says breathlessly, “Grandfather, something huge has happened. Uncle… Uncle Haotian is gone!”
“Haotian?” Elder Zhang immediately furrows his eyebrows and then says to Luo Hengyan, “Mr. Luo… I need to handle something first.”
“Gone?” This is a word that Luo Hengyan, who is very sensitive towards his surroundings, can easily relate to. Li Yin warned him over and over again that he must pay attention to every “unnatural” thing that occurs so he immediately says, “Elder, I will come with you!”
In front of the fiercely flowing waterfall, Ah Xiu takes off her socks and shoes, immerses her feet in the water and swings her legs.
She immediately turns around to see her next door neighbor, Liang Renbin, a childhood friend who grew up with her.
The handsome Liang Renbin has always been very intimate with Ah Xiu. After Ah Xiu’s parents passed away, he even transparently stated his desire that Ah Xiu should marry him but Ah Xiu used the excuse of having to mourn her parents to keep stalling the marriage. After all, people from these rural villages have more conservative beliefs than people who live in the city.
However… after the Li Bing incident, Ah Xiu started to avoid Renbin.
“Today is sister Bing Er’s commemoration day,” Ah Xiu turns around and says, “I will mourn her. No matter how much the people in the village treats her death as taboo, I will never forget this date.”
“Why bother? Ah Xiu, will you keep antagonizing me just because of Li Bing? She is already dead, what else can I do?”
“I don’t ever want to see you again,” Ah Xiu continues speaking coldly. “If you dare come here again, I won’t let you off easily!”
Liang Renbin’s expression turns bitter as he says, “Alright…it seems you won’t listen to anything I say today anyway. But Ah Xiu, you have to remember that my feelings for you will forever remain true!”
After Renbin left, Ah Xiu bends down and scoops up some water to wash her face. At this moment, through the gaps between her fingers, she sees that the reflection on the water is not her face but that of another woman’s.
She moves her hand away slowly. The surface of the water once again reflects her face.
“Sister Bing Er…” Ah Xiu does not show even a trace of fear as she says, “I know, I know you hated so much… Even if you’ve became like this, you are still my sister Bing Er. I won’t be scared of you because I know that you will never harm me. Just do whatever you want to do. Kill everyone who coerced you to die…everyone…”