“Is there…something wrong with this town?” Xiao Xia tentatively asked Wang Wen Ge, and then looked around in bewilderment.
Her words had echoed!
This sort of place shouldn’t have an echo, which should only appear in completely enclosed, empty spaces.
Wang Wen Ge looked dully at Xiao Xia, his gaze containing some despair. Only after a long while did he say, “There’s nothing wrong with this new town. We are all going to move here, how can there be any problems? The problem lies with…the people!”
”The people? Who?” Xiao Xia’s heart clenched.
No wonder! She felt that this wasn’t an unprovoked incident. Although it was possible to mistakenly fall into a trap, they had been schemed against while they were some distance away from the town. It wasn’t a simple accident. The figure darting in front of the car, the cars all dying, the ghost-built wall, the revolving city gates, the black shadow in the rainy night, and their current predicament. Everything contained the feeling of a scheme.
Wang Wen Ge shook his head. He smiled bitterly but didn’t respond.
”This matter is very important!” Xiao Xia walked a couple of steps closer. “You should be very aware of the current situation. If the underlying issues aren’t resolved, we won’t be able to leave. Could you please tell me? Let’s see if we can resolve things.”
Wang Wen Ge still didn’t speak. It was like he wasn’t able to bring up the topic.
Xiao Xia knew that Wang Wen Ge’s knowledge could be the key in unlocking the empty city’s mystery, and hurriedly pressed him. “Can you at least shed a little light on the situation? Aren’t you afraid for your own life? Even if you’ve resigned yourself, won’t you feel wronged?”
”Wronged? Haha, not necessarily. No one can wipe the mud off their own feet!” Wang Wen Ge sneered.
”But what about my life? Besides, don’t tell me everyone here has a guilty conscience!” Xiao Xia was a little angry.
She had been in a constant state of panic and confusion, not understanding why she had encountered misfortune again! She was by herself, without Wan Li or Ruan Zhan to protect her. She could only rely on herself. Based on the current situation, it would probably be harder to escape the longer things dragged on. Now she had finally found a clue, but this man was hemming and hawing, giving her the urge to beat a confession out of him!
”Yes, my life! I’ve never been here before. What does any of this have to do with me? Also, what about Liu Hong and Zuo De?” Xiao Xia forced down her feelings of injustice, and spoke evenly. “If you know something but don’t say it, and innocent people end up dying, isn’t that just adding to your mistakes? So what if you don’t fear death? Don’t you know, death is just the beginning?”
Xiao Xia unknowingly used Ruan Zhan’s words. Unexpectedly, those words really stimulated Wang Wen Ge. He stared blankly at Xia, his mouth repeatedly muttering those five words like a broken recording. He remained like this for several minutes before slowly looking up at Xiao Xia. “I didn’t want for it to happen, but…things somehow ended up that way!”
”Just what on earth happened?”
Wang Wen Ge swallowed a few times, as if the matter was very hard to talk about. “Ten…ten years ago, this place…still had…”
He spoke haltingly, but before he could get to the point, a flurry of chaotic yet cautious footsteps interrupted him.
The sound came from the west side of the plaza, and it sounded like the footsteps of the group who was trying to escape the city! However, they had been walking east but were now coming from the west, as if they had gone in a circle and were now back where they started.
The person in the lead was Zuo De. He was the first to step out of the fog and enter the plaza. The sight before him didn’t surprise him too much. He had long expected this outcome, and was merely a little disappointed. Liu Hong, who was close behind him, froze and then collapsed to the floor and started crying loudly.
”We can’t get out! We can’t get out! We’re going to die here!”
At her cries, those who had yet to come out of the fog all rushed into the plaza. The fog was like a white door and the edge of the plaza was the door frame. As long as the door was opened, they would enter a different world.
Everyone was stunned by the sight in front of them. They had actually returned to where they started! Liu Hong’s crying and despair swiftly spread amongst them. Immediately, the sounds of crying, fear and murmuring could be heard everywhere.
”Why did only nine come back? Where’s the tenth person?” Xiao Xia suddenly realized the number was off and blurted out the question.
Everyone fell silent at once. They all looked at each other. There was indeed someone missing.
”Lil’ Tan is not here!” Someone shouted in terror. “He was in the back the whole time. Old Zhang, did you not notice?”
When the one called Old Zhang heard these words, that long face of his turned green. His lips trembled for a while before managing to speak. “I was holding his hand the hold time and didn’t let go, until…until….”
He screamed as if burned, and swiftly ran towards the artificial lake in the middle of the plaza. The others didn’t know what was going on and thought maybe something murderous had appeared. They ran after him, only stopping once they reached the lake.
“What happened, Old Zhang?” Mao Fu asked.
“I…I recalled that…I only let him go when I heard Miss Liu crying…at the edge of the plaza!” Old Zhang panted.
It was less than a hundred meters from the edge of the plaza to the lake. However, his anxiety and terror exhausted his stamina, leaving him out of breath. The rest were the same way.
His response also made them all come to a realization. There was something hidden within the impenetrable fog that had ambushed Reporter Tan. If it hadn’t been lil’ Tan, it would have been one of them!
Xiao Xia was now extremely alarmed.
Although she had experienced many things, she had never dealt with something like this. She had always been the helpless one in the past. Ruan Zhan took care of everything. Yet now, she was the calmest person in this group. Despite this, she didn’t have much confidence in her ability to escape herself, let alone save this large group of people.
This situation was too weird. That white fog was the same way. It was like a layer of glass had separated the plaza from the rest of the city. Or perhaps, these people were like fish in a barrel, waiting to be picked off by someone. And that “someone” was watching them from somewhere, waiting for an opportunity!
“What should we do?” Zhao Jia Yuan asked, his voice trembling. He wasn’t asking Mao Fu. It wasn’t clear who he was asking. Perhaps he was just talking to himself.
“Let’s calm down a little.” Zuo De’s steady, bright voice rang out. “Chaos begets more chaos. If we…” He had yet to finish speaking when he was interrupted by Liu Hong’s scream.
Xiao Xia was about to give this frightened influencer of the group’s emotions a slap when she noticed everyone looking towards the lake. Their mouths were agape and they all looked stunned!
Xiao Xia’s heart skipped a beat and she knew something else had happened. When she turned to look, there wasn’t anything strange about the lake or the tower. What had changed was that fountain of water suspended in the air.
Originally the pillar of water had been white, but now it had changed colors. It was now the color of blood! Xiao Xia subconsciously walked slowly to the lakeside…
A naked person was floating face down in the rippling water. Based on the body, it seemed to be a man. Or rather, it was a man in the shape of a fish. His legs seemed to have been tied together by something invisible. His feet were rigid, as if they were flippers. His arms were the same way, and were bent slightly below the elbow, making them look like fins. The dense hair on his head billowed in the current like seaweed, making it look alive. However, his skin was the pallor of a corpse. It was as if all his blood had been squeezed out.
What was more horrifying was that his naked body was covered with black handprints of various sizes.
Xiao Xia covered her mouth, swallowing down her scream. She turned her head to the side as if to seek help. The others had also approached. Some were far and some were close, and they happened to form a semicircle. Everyone had turned pale from fear. No one could say anything!
What was this? Reporter Tan? He had disappeared outside the plaza. How did he end up in the lake?! How did he end up in the water when there were so many of them in the plaza? Also, why was he made to look like a mermaid? What did those handprints on his back mean?
“He was grabbed by many people!” Zuo De murmured. “The handprints are all different. There were definitely a lot of “people” who grabbed him!”
No one responded. A gust of wind suddenly blew through the plaza.
The wind had come from the ground. It seemed to appear without any source, sweeping from the edge of the plaza to the lake. It swirled past their feet, as if stroking each of their legs to mark them. It chilled everyone’s hearts as they understood one thing.
The city was not going let a single person off! The next one could be any of them!
The wind blew over the surface of the lake, causing small waves to form. The corpse in the lake started moving along with the waves, and was soon swept to the shore. The surrounding people cried out and scattered.
Regular beating sounds could be heard from the water, as if that mermaid corpse was ramming against a door, trying to get out of the water. Every strike seemed to beat on the people’s hearts, making the despair at being trapped thoroughly spread throughout their bodies. With a splash, that corpse actually shot out of the water, and fell to the floor with a thud. It flapped around like a fish on a hook, spraying water droplets everywhere. It leapt, struggled and slid around on the marble floor. In the midst of the flapping, the corpse rolled over, allowing everyone to see his face!
It was indeed Reporter Tan!
From the back, it was still possible to make out the limps of the corpse. From the front however, only the deathly pale trunk of the body could be seen. It was as if the body was tightly bound in a sack of skin. The front was also covered in black handprints!
However, his face hadn’t changed at all. It was still in its original appearance, and wasn’t even waterlogged. Only the eyes were pitch black, not reflecting any light at all. However, each of them felt as if it was looking behind them!
“Debt! Pay the debt! What you owe, must be repaid in the end!” He suddenly opened his mouth and spoke, before resuming his flapping around!
Everyone screamed and ran without thinking or planning. Only the word “run” was in their minds. No one wanted to be caught by “Reporter Tan”.
A choking laugh rang out behind them. “Run! Run! You’ll end up back here anyway!”
No one apart from Xiao Xia dared to look back. She saw that pillar of blood still suspended in the air. The reporter’s corpse had stopped moving, and lay prone in the middle of the plaza like a dead fish. It wasn’t clear where the laughter had come from!
A second later, she wasn’t able to see anything anymore since she had stepped into the fog.
She forced herself to remain calm and not run aimlessly. Although it wasn’t possible to distinguish which direction was which, she still walked around twenty steps based on her instincts. She put some distance between her and the plaza so when the invisible, laughing thing came out to attack her, she would have some room to maneuver. She would also have some time to think.
This was the worst possible situation! They should have come up with a plan before moving. The sudden appearance of the “dead fish” had scared everyone, including herself and the seemingly calm Zuo De. In just a few seconds, animal instinct had caused everyone to run where they thought was safest, cutting off all means of communication.
Actually, she had known from the start the plaza wasn’t a good hiding spot. She had felt like trapped prey in that place. Anyone could be the next target there! But that had also been the only place where everyone could gather together. It was better to come up with a plan there first.
If that plaza was like a dead end where they could only defend but not escape, the unknown fog was like a trap where danger lurked everywhere. Splitting up could give each individual a higher chance of survival while grouping up gave them more fighting strength!
Grouping up would make them feel safer while also allowing them to cooperate. There was more hope of survival this way. Yet currently, the controller of the fog had clearly caused the first death and successfully made them panic and split up. Each of them could only rely on themselves!
Within the fog, Xiao Xia could only see a meter around her. She took out her phone. There was still no signal and the time was still 2:17. She didn’t think there was something wrong with the phone. It was this strange, empty city where space and time were different from the norm. Or perhaps time had stopped, because the dead had no need to keep time!
She gritted her teeth and reminded herself to be brave. She had been through so much with Ruan Zhan and Wan Li, there was no way she would be so useless! Even if she ultimately failed to escape, she couldn’t give up so easily!
She hesitated for a moment and then walked back based on her previous calculations. She was going back to the plaza to take a look!
One step…two steps…three steps….
She did her best to soften and slow her steps, but they still sounded very loud. They seemed to be amplified, as though she were walking on a drum. This made her start sweating anxiously, but she still forced herself to keep walking. She counted over thirty steps, but she was still within the fog. There was no sign of the plaza.
Had she made a mistake? It wasn’t easy to find ones bearings in this sort of all-encompassing fog! However, it might also be due to the will of this city. It wanted everyone to become lost!