Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 72: The First Shot
Guo Wei’s appearance completely disrupted everyone’s plans.
Last night, Unit 9 searched the entire campus all night, keeping the locations of the buildings firmly in mind. Out of caution, they didn’t immediately attack the locked buildings.
As the sky lit up, the chains on the buildings disappeared one by one.
After a short break, everyone ate breakfast and walked around the campus again—they planned to investigate the interior of the building during the day and find the campus radio station where Guo Wei was located.
The campus wasn’t large, so a day was enough.
Who would have thought that Guo Wei was carrying two steam buns like that and throwing himself into the net?
Guo Wei wasn’t tall and was quite thin; he looked kind of malnourished. He was hunched over, making his already hypertrophic school uniform look even more baggy. There was a faint hint of a cheap toothpaste smell coming from him.
From time to time, the students would pass by him, and several would nod to him. However, Guo Wei firmly kept his head down and clutched the bag holding his steam buns, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.
Yin Ren rushed forward like an arrow and stepped in front of Guo Wei to stop him. “Classmate, wait!”
Guo Wei almost bumped into Yin Ren head-on. Finding someone was blocking him, he stopped in his tracks, and raised his eyes in confusion. “Are you looking for me?”
Seeing Yin Ren’s beautiful face was a bit off-putting that it made Guo Wei freeze for a moment.
Yin Ren took the opportunity to scan the other person from top to bottom.
Guo Wei had large scars on his forehead and chin, and there were typical burns and bruises that were hidden in inconspicuous places. He was used to hanging his head, which made it difficult to detect.
His complexion was dark, and his long hair was mixed with sporadic gray, making him look older than his actual age. With those sunken eyes always looking at the ground, it made Guo Wei look shrunken and sloppy.
However, his school uniform was extremely clean, and there were no traces of stains.
“I’m a family member of the new teacher, and I have something urgent, so I need to leave.” Yin Ren smiled gently. “I forgot where the gate is. Can you help show me the way?”
The remaining three people: “……”
Guo Wei’s expression finally moved. He looked around at the campus as if he heard bullshit, then looked at Yin Ren in shock.
“I have a problem, so I tend to forget things easily.” Yin Ren continued to cajole the young dead person. “Won’t you help me out?”
“No, we can’t leave here.” Guo Wei shook his head firmly. “This is the school’s rule.”
“Then forget it.” Yin Ren quickly pivoted. “Do you know where the campus radio station is? I’ll do a broadcast to find my lover.”
“Our school doesn’t have a campus radio station,” Guo Wei replied honestly as his eyes stared at his feet. “The broadcasts are all recorded and played directly. Usually, we use the loudspeakers to talk about things… If you want to find someone, it’s better to ask a teacher.”
“Is there anything else? If not, I’ll go first. My early self-study is about to begin.” Guo Wei continued staring at his feet, trying not to look at the snack bag Yin Ren was carrying.
“No, thank you.” Yin Ren took out a pack of fish chips and a pack of jerky. “Here, take them.”
“Thank you for telling me this. Just take it and share it with your friends.” Yin Ren’s smile remained motionless.
“Thank you.” Guo Wei’s voice was as tiny as a gnat. He cherishingly took the two bags of snacks and held them in his hand embarrassedly. “Then, uh, goodbye, teacher.”
He raised his head again and looked at Yin Ren carefully with a faint trace of gratitude on his face.
Among the students with blurred faces, this person’s characteristics stood out.
“He’s not a human.” Huang Jin had already developed a certain conditioned reflex. “He’s not the one from the radio station. This person is no different from the other students.”
It was just some kind of “set” that was extremely real and interactive.
“I think so too.” Yin Ren watched Guo Wei’s figure leave. “He has no impression of us and doesn’t look like he’s acting. How should I put this? This kid is too different from the one on the radio station.”
The student Guo Wei looked introverted and didn’t have any resentment or malice like the Guo Wei that was broadcasting.
Ge Tingting bit her lips as the electronic audio sounded. “What should we do now?”
She asked the common question that was in the hearts of the four of them.
The location of the broadcast Guo Wei needed to be found, and the interior buildings had to be checked. The “fresh Guo Wei” under their nose also couldn’t be discarded either. They had limited time, and no one knew what “four chances” meant.
But there was more evil on the other side, and being separated was tantamount to taking a big risk. Since they lost contact with Lu Xiaohe, all their remote communication methods had been invalidated, and they couldn’t even use WeChat to communicate.
Seeing Guo Wei walk further away, Yin Ren crumpled the empty snack bag into a ball and threw it into a trash can.
“Act separately.” He spread out his ponytail and neatly tore off a strand of long hair. “The three of you, put out your hands.”
Ge Tingting, Huang Jin: “?”
“Put this around your wrist. I can sense your location and basic situation from it.” Yin Ren quickly divided the hair into three bunches.
In a sense, this could be regarded as another kind of “traveling together”. He only had to deal with his companions’ memories after that, which wasn’t a big deal because he could just place the blame on Guo Wei’s head, Yin Ren thought deeply.
Huang Jin’s hesitant expression became even more obvious. He suspiciously accepted the hair and gently wrapped it around his wrist.
Perhaps it was an illusion, but Huang Jing felt that the hair had adjusted its position on his wrist.
The strand of hair seemed truncated, but the broken surface was close to a thin silk that connected straight to Yin Ren’s head. It vividly interpreted the fibers that still hold a broken lotus root together*, and on it the mosaic thinking didn’t stop flowing.
*(藕断丝连) Idiom referring to a broken relationship that’s still connected. It refers to the unbreakable love between people from Tang Mengjiao’s poem “Going to Wife”. || In this context, it has a double meaning. The hair is like the strands of a lotus root’s fiber when broken off that are still clinging on, and it also metaphorically represents the connection the four of them still have because of Yin Ren’s hair (fibers of the lotus root).
Huang Jin averted his gaze and decided not to delve further. Ge Tingting didn’t show any doubt as she silently tied the hair around her wrist and nodded.
“Huang Jin and Ge Tingting, you two implement the original plan and try to find the broadcasting room while investigating the inside of the buildings. The authority of ‘faculty’ and ‘student’ isn’t small, so you won’t be stopped like Yin Ren.”
Zhong Chengshuo stuffed the hair into his pocket without tying it to his wrist.
“Yin Ren and I will follow Guo Wei. At four in the afternoon, we’ll meet in front of the classroom that Guo Wei was in before his death. It’s in the main teaching building.”
Huang Jin’s expression froze for a moment. “Isn’t this wrong?”
At a time like this, the two big monsters were still acting together. No matter how he looked at it, the distribution of strength was uneven.
Zhong Chengshuo glanced at him but didn’t lower his voice. “Based on the comprehensive evaluation of strength, occupation category, and campus familiarity, assuming that Miss Ge has metaphysical combat power, it may be more appropriate for me to pair with Miss Ge and you with Yin Ren.”
“But here, Miss Ge has no combat ability, and I don’t have a suitable weapon. Once she’s attacked by the metaphysics, it will be difficult for me to properly rescue her.”
Zhong Chengshuo’s expression was calm and direct. Ge Tingting was silent, and her face turned a little pale.
“Indeed, Huang Jin can see my thoughts, so it’s easier for us to communicate.” After a while, the synthetic voice sounded. “We have limited time. Let’s go, Huang Jin.”
She smiled a little reluctantly.
Yin Ren’s hair gradually lengthened as they left. It was as thin as spider silk, as if it were a thread attached to a hero after he entered a maze. However, Yin Ren looked at Ge Tingting’s back with some worry and held back his consolation.
In Bai Yongji’s case, Ge Tingting used her special ability to fully support them. In this case, her special abilities wouldn’t play much of a role.
She knew this better than anyone else.
At four in the afternoon, outside the sophomore classroom, Zhong Chengshuo and Yin Ren were pasted close to the door together, waiting to meet with their teammates.
The main teaching building was the tallest building on the entire campus. Through the windows of the corridor, the campus outside had already alternated between day and night at least four times. The “monster siege” rotated with the time, which made Yin Ren vigilant.
Yin Ren was responsible for guarding the surroundings, while Zhong Chengshuo was incarnated as a stone gate. He seemed to be stuck in the front of the back door window. Behind the thin lenses, his eyes stared straight into the classroom.
Even though Yin Ren had never studied, he couldn’t help but find this scene weird and creepy.
The good news was that, so far, the environment wasn’t as dangerous as they thought. Most of the day passed, and there was no strange warning that came from Yin Ren’s hair.
The bad news was that the daytime here was quite dull.
It was like an ordinary day on an ordinary campus. White clouds floated over the false blue sky, and the continuous chirping of cicadas was intertwined with sporadic birdsongs. The pomegranates in the flower bed were in full bloom, covering the branches with orange-red flowers.
The sun moved slowly across the small piece of sky, making the shadows of the building slowly rotate.
At 4:50, Unit 9 converged again. Except for the exhaustion in their eyes, everyone’s body was clean, without any traces of fighting.
“We have traversed all the buildings and investigated the clinic and cafeteria,” Huang Jin said with some helplessness. “Some areas of the library, labs, and cafeteria are blurry. The senior teaching building, women’s bathroom, and girls’ dorms can’t be entered.”
Even if Ge Tingting, a “female student”, tried to enter, she would be stopped by the doorman under various excuses.
“How about your side?” After Huang Jin reported the situation, Ge Tingting took the initiative to ask. Her expression was serious, but they couldn’t sense any emotion in her synthetic voice.
Yin Ren covered his chest and sighed.
Guo Wei walked into the classroom at 7:30 and never came out again.
None of the imagined collisions, battles, or rescues with Zhong Chengshuo had happened. Looking from the back door window, Guo Wei was either listening attentively in class or reading during the breaks. At most, he would look out the window.
Guo Wei didn’t even go to lunch during the lunch break. He ate his two steamed buns with hot water; one was for breakfast and the other was his lunch. He didn’t touch any of the snacks Yin Ren had given him, but carefully put them in his backpack.
Ordinary student, ordinary behavior.
…But this was undoubtedly the center of the entire campus.
With Guo Wei as the center, the closer they got to him, the clearer the faces of the surrounding students became. It could be as big as the details of the backpack, or as small as the scratches on the desk and the dust on the windowsill; this place was no different from the real world.
The teacher behind the podium also looked like a living person.
At the moment, he was in math class. The math teacher looked to be in her early forties and had a shrill voice. They could even see the gray in her curly hair, the paleness of her cyan brows, and the black moles on the tip of her nose.
“Guo Wei, I have told you a hundred times.”
She knocked on Guo Wei’s table twice, grabbed his hand, and shook it.
“What the hell is with your writing? Can anyone understand this? It’s not uncommon for people to read papers for college entrance exams. This kind of work deserves a zero.”
There were a few chuckles in the classroom. The girl sitting next to Guo Wei turned her head to look at him. The latter just buried his head deeper; his ears and neck became a little red.
Yin Ren didn’t know how Guo Wei’s math scores were, but he remembered Guo Wei’s math teacher.
Lei Xiurong, 43 years old, taught math at No. 16 High School for 20 years.
“Copy it again. Tomorrow, I’ll check it separately. The next time you write like this, I’ll deduct ten points from your paper.” Lei Xiurong spoke loudly. “I don’t believe I can’t fix this stinky problem of yours.”
Guo Wei responded with an “Nn” in a low voice and quietly glanced at the girl at the next table. Unfortunately, the girl had already retracted her gaze and was seriously reading a wrong question. The male student behind him poked him in the back. “Looking at Li Xiaoya again? Be careful that the old witch doesn’t find out.”
Guo Wei shrank his shoulders and his whole face flushed. “I wasn’t looking.”
The boy smiled and covered his face with a textbook. “I have two copybooks that I’m too lazy to practice. Why don’t you take them? Just lend me your chemistry notes later.”
“…Ah, okay.” Guo Wei rubbed his ears and began to rewrite his homework one stroke at a time.
At this time, Lei Xiurong had just returned to the podium. She exhaled and fiddled with her curly hair. “There’s a small quiz for self-study tonight…”
The class continued as the two groups swapped. This time, Ge Tingting and Huang Jin monitored the class while Zhong Chengshuo and Yin Ren patrolled the campus, looking for any signs of the broadcast Guo Wei.
Soon it was dinner time.
Guo Wei didn’t eat dinner. He took out a washbasin from the dorm and went to the bathhouse alone to shower. Other than that, he didn’t do anything special.
His three clear-faced roommates hooked shoulders as they carried a bag of lo mein and returned to the dorms while talking and laughing.
At the same time, Yin Ren’s hair sneaked into the cracks of the bricks and quickly flowed throughout the campus. Unfortunately, they still didn’t return any suspicious fluctuations in power. Whether it was the “broadcast Guo Wei” or the “cause of Guo Laifu’s illness”, it seemed both had completely evaporated from this campus.
In the blink of an eye, it became dark.
At 9:30 p.m., the lights around the campus went out, and the iron chains appeared on all the buildings. A mediocre day had passed. Despite the peaceful atmosphere, it was enough to make them anxious.
Everyone ate a bit and then went back outdoors. There were less than three hours left until midnight.
Ge Tingting’s breathing was a little short. Huang Jin squeezed his spirit weapon until it clicked and would look at Yin Ren and Zhong Chengshuo from time to time.
“Didn’t that bastard tell us to leave the school?” Huang Jin kicked a trashcan nearby irritably. “At least have some weird things come out. Where can we find any clues if everything is so normal?”
“Don’t worry. We haven’t reached the end of the road yet.”
In order to prevent the “failure punishment” from suddenly falling from the sky, Yin Ren’s gaze swept across the playground from time to time. He began to calculate where protective spells would be best placed. There was no power without reason in this world. Even if the other party’s ability was strange, it wasn’t stronger than an Evil Spirit.
He already had some ideas, but unfortunately, if he could understand the nature of his opponent’s abilities…
“Actually, we got a good harvest today,” Zhong Chengshuo suddenly said. Despite holding a bag of spirit bombs, his tone was extremely calm. Huang Jin had to admit that though this person’s tone was sometimes irritating, when the situation was chaotic, it was inexplicably reassuring.
“Would you like to accompany me to do an experiment? I have an idea that needs to be verified,” Comrade Xiao Zhong asked seriously.
Three minutes later, everyone stopped in front of the senior teaching building.
It was an old independent building that was even older than the main teaching building. The gates were chained, and the glass doors were pitch black. It was one of the “inaccessible” areas on the campus.
Yin Ren hugged his arms. “Do you want to force your way in?”
“Not really.” Zhong Chengshuo tilted his head slightly. “I want to blow it up.”
Yin Ren: “……”
Yin Ren: “…What?!”
“It’s too slow for me to set up the bombs by myself. You guys help me put them in designated places.” Zhong Chengshuo pushed up his glasses, not feeling any kind of emotion with what he just said. “It’s getting dark outside the campus. We must hurry. I’ll explain later.”
Although Lord Ghost King was confused, he obediently followed as instructed.
After arranging the spirit bombs, Zhong Chengshuo went straight to the gate of the campus. The scrapped sliding door was still there. Seeing them approach, the old doorman narrowed his eyes, which were full of vigilance.
The barrier was still there.
The night outside the school quickly fell, and the tide of monsters came in, sticking themselves to the barrier again.
With his back to the countless monsters outside the gate, Zhong Chengshuo looked down at his phone screen.
“Three, two, one.”
The moment Zhong Chengshuo said the last number, a corner of the campus lit up with skyrocketing flames…
In a series of loud noises, the outline of a two-story building disappeared. It completely collapsed, and thick black smoke rose around it. The rest of the campus remained treacherously calm, without any response, as if the explosion that had occurred was in another time and space.
The last few wisps of smoke merged into the night, and the earth seemed to tremble.
Not far outside the gate, there was a very slight noise. Everyone immediately glanced around—somewhere near the sky, a tiny foot of a spider passed through the barrier. It moved around suspiciously. Like the last remaining hair on a bald man’s head, it was so conspicuous it was hard to ignore.
Perhaps they picked up on the aura within as the monsters surged in an instant.
“Actually, from the beginning, I was a little curious.”
Before the squirming monsters, Zhong Chengshuo’s voice was steady; there was no joy or anger in his black eyes.
“Ge Tingting was outside school, and there’s no accurate school name on her uniform, which meant Guo Laifu didn’t remember his son’s school name.”
“But here, ‘Guo Wei’ reported the name ‘Qingjiang No. 16 Middle School’ very accurately. This scene inside the campus is also too clear. If it weren’t for living here for a long time, there’s no way the memory would be so clear.”
“The closed senior teaching building, the girls’ dorms, and the women’s bathroom are all places that Guo Wei himself hasn’t touched. The blurred areas are places that students wouldn’t frequent—the closer they are to Guo Wei, whether it be people or scenery, the more realistic the details.”
Ge Tingting looked at the screen with difficulty, while Huang Jin still had a look of confusion.
Yin Ren reacted quickly. “These are all Guo Wei’s memories.”
“Yes,” Zhong Chengshuo responded, slightly raising the corner of his mouth. “That broadcast Guo Wei seems to be able to materialize his memory.”
“Suppose this school and these people are all materialized memories of ‘Guo Wei himself’. On a large scale, according to the law of their own development of the combination of memories, I think this can be considered a ‘consciousness’.”
The excitement in Zhong Chengshuo’s smile became more obvious.
“If the memory item is damaged by more than 50%, this memory will be ‘forgotten’ and memory loss can cause instability in the consciousness. It seems that this rule also applies to Guo Wei himself.”
Yin Ren hummed with interest.
Indeed, this theory could explain many problems.
For example, losing contact with Lu Xiaohe, or their inability to feel the existence of the broadcast Guo Wei, or the strange attack of unknown origin—if they were in Guo Wei’s consciousness, as the master of the consciousness, Guo Wei had a greater home-field advantage.
Huang Jin’s focus was elsewhere. He rubbed his face hard and said, “It’s not too late yet. Let’s make another big explosion here and escape quickly.”
“No,” Zhong Chengshuo withdrew his smile.
“Why? There are less than two hours left!”
“Because there are not enough clues.” This time, it was Yin Ren who answered. He looked at Zhong Chengshuo with a bit of solemnity in his eyes. “Zhong Chengshuo, you blew up the most irrelevant memory to test this point, right?”
Why did Guo Wei die with his consciousness still intact but there was no ghost?
Why did he trap them in his own consciousness and force them to play this ridiculous game?
…Could they really safely escape if they were still inside this consciousness, and it completely collapsed?
Huang Jin: “Or we can just blow things up one by one.”
“I can’t gamble on everyone’s life.” Zhong Chengshuo took out his headset from his pocket and put it back on his ears. “If our judgment is wrong, we’ll all be annihilated.”
Huang Jin was silent.
“Are we going to wait and see how the so-called ‘four chances’ are consumed?” A moment later, Huang Jin spoke again with difficulty.
“This is the optimal choice.” Zhong Chengshuo sat on the blasted iron gate. His back was facing the bloody morning sun outside the campus.
“It’s okay. We can also see through his tricks.” Yin Ren wrapped the tips of his hair around his fingertips and looked at the dark campus. “The other party is just a child. Even if it’s a child corrupted by Evil Force, we have dealt with one in the past.”
“Don’t be afraid.” Yin Ren directed this to Ge Tingting.
However, Ge Tingting didn’t respond to him. She was looking at the receding monster outside the campus, unknown of what she was thinking.
Soon, the class bell rang at midnight—
“Welcome to Qingjiang No. 16 High School.” Guo Wei’s voice was as cold as usual. “Welcome to the last day of my life.”
“All of you did not successfully leave the school. Teachers, family members, faculty, and students, please choose one to exclude from the quota.”
The attack that everyone imagined didn’t come. A gun that was rough in shape fell from the void and quietly lay in front of the four of them.
“Play out your best memories and stay here.” The voice over the loudspeaker repeated. “Stay here.”
“Otherwise, all four of you will have to stay here.”
“Removing the best memories… It seems that it’s still the way to induce instability of the consciousness and cause a mental breakdown.”
Zhong Chengshuo picked up the gun and weighed it in his hand.
“I’ll do it.” Huang Jin sighed and stepped forward. “You said that our memories are just suppressed. As long as we can get out, Shian must have a way.”
“Yes.” A synthetic voice sounded.
Ge Tingting grabbed the gun. Her hands were slightly trembling, but her movements were firm.
“Huang Jin is a spirit smith and can continue to support you guys. If the three of you are still conscious, you’re most likely to escape.”
“In all aspects, this is the most optimal choice.” Ge Tingting didn’t let go of the gun.
“We may not be able to save you,” Zhong Chengshuo replied calmly.
“I’m not that weak.”
The soft synthetic voice echoed in the air. Ge Tingting turned her head sideways and glanced at Yin Ren.
“…I’m not that scared either.”
Before she finished her words, she acted.
Everything happened in an instant. Ge Tingting didn’t give them a chance to speak again. She grabbed Zhong Chengshuo’s hand and put the muzzle to her temple, then directly pulled the trigger.
The sound of a gunshot echoed, shattering the silence.
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