Ch84 - Research Lab
(Everything is a Fabrication)
Edited by Silver Wind
No matter what the world was like, having three meals a day was compulsory.
Even though it was close to late night, the stalls that sold supper were still bustling with business.
The boss was propping up his huge belly as he took a huge handful of mutton skewers to roast it on the charcoal fire, and each flip of the skewers would cause a waft of smoke.
The mutton mingled with the smoky charcoal flavour and it was full of the taste unique to the mortal realm.
Shen Dongqing picked up a mutton skewer.
The goat meat and fat were thin and interjoined, neither lean nor greasy, bringing about a hint of gamey taste that was not overpowering in the least and made people want to gasp with admiration upon eating the skewer.
“Tastes super good!”
With regards to this aspect, the hotel’s main kitchen could not compare to the small eateries on the roadside.
Throwing down the wooden skewer, Shen Dongqing poured himself another full mug of beer and guzzled down the beverage which was cool and refreshing, making his entire body feel comfortable and fulfilled.
By this time, none of the players looked anxious or miserable as they drank their beer and ate their skewers in a carefree manner.
Only the Bespectacled Lady sat in the corner silently.
In the end, she was still an ordinary person; after experiencing two to three consecutive shocks, she could not calmly eat and drink at all.
Since she had her head lowered, she did not attract anyone’s attention.
When they were finally done with their supper, it was close to 12 midnight.
The school’s dormitory had already extinguished the lights and shut the doors, which meant that they could only find a small hotel outside to make do for the night.
When the lady at the receptionist counter heard the door being pushed open, she raised her head and saw three men and two women walking in.
Thankfully, the receptionist was experienced and knowledgeable, which allowed her to contain the single lament about how queer the configuration of the line-up was in her heart.
She said smilingly, “How many rooms do you need”
Wu Jia scanned all his teammates once, “Three rooms.”
Shen Dongqing and Zhou Wenyan were definitely staying together, the remaining Bespectacled Lady had already been scared enough and it was more convenient to take care of her if the Short-haired Woman stayed in the same room with her.
He was the only one who was cut off from the others, he was truly pitiful.
However, the Bespectacled Lady seemed to be ignorant of Wu Jia’s goodwill as she stood out to say: “I’ll stay in one room alone.”
The Short-haired Woman raised her eyes to glance at the Bespectacled Lady, not uttering a word.
The receptionist slipped away to deal with the check in procedures before she took out four room cards, placing it on the table as she said sweetly, “Have a nice stay!”
There were a total of three floors in the small hotel which was self-constructed and re-modelled.
It looked like it was built a long time ago with its old-fashioned installations and walls that were tarnished with indistinguishable yellow stains.
They followed the narrow staircase to go upstairs, and they could even hear the unrestrainable voices of lovers along the way.
Upon opening the room door and entering, the simple furnishing could be seen.
There was a small bed and the room was suffused with the smell of air fresheners.
Since Shen Dongqing was burdened with a day’s worth of exhaustion, he was not picky and he kicked his shoes away before he curled up on the bed directly.
In the end, it was Zhou Wenyan who pulled him up, helping him take off his clothes and wash his face, wrangling with his partner for a period of time before he lied down.
The single-person bed was narrow; with two grown men lying on top, they were essentially plastered together.
Fortunately, the air-conditioner was working so they did not find it too hot.
Shen Dongqing flipped his body over, leaning on Zhou Wenyan’s chest and nuzzling it as he yawned.
Zhou Wenyan patted his back, saying: “Sleep.”
Shen Dongqing slipped into deep slumber.
There were no supernatural incidents at night.
He slept very soundly and he only woke up when the shadow cast by the sun was three times longer than the pole.
Meanwhile, Zhou Wenyan had woken up earlier.
He sat on the edge of the bed as he continued to scrutinise the signs that they had previously obtained.
Shen Dongqing pushed away the blankets and sat up.
Placing his arms on Zhou Wenyan’s shoulders, he leaned over, “What are you thinking about”
This was one of the rare instances where Zhou Wenyan’s eyebrows were tightly knit.
“There are no leads.”
Shen Dongqing brought his face closer as he consoled him, “It’s okay, we can take it slow.”
Humming in response, Zhou Wenyan brought Shen Dongqing into his full embrace.
After hugging him for a while, he returned to normal.
After the pair were done washing up, they went downstairs.
Wu Jia and the Short-haired Woman had been waiting for them in the main lobby a long time ago.
The Short-haired Woman’s complexion was slightly ugly.
“Spectacles is gone.”
The Bespectacled Lady did not stay in the room with the Short-haired Woman last night.
Hence, when the Short-haired Woman went over to look for the Bespectacled Lady last night, she found that there was not a single person in the room.
Wu Jia guessed, “Did she encounter a ghost last night”
The Short-haired Woman replied, “Considering the encounters we had last night, the ghosts in this world are very low-tier; even if it was the Bespectacled Lady, she’s still capable of preserving herself for long enough to scream for help.
Wu Jia continued speaking for her, “The ghosts have levelled up.”
If the supernatural beings were capable of levelling up, it would be more in line with the S-level game copy’s difficulty.
At this moment, the receptionist at the counter interrupted: “Are all of you talking about the younger woman who was together with you last night”
The Short-haired Woman: “Yes, the one wearing glasses.”
The receptionist lady replied: “Her She checked out of her room in the morning and left.
She said that she was rushing to attend her classes.
Why didn’t you ask earlier”
“Impossible!” The Short-haired Woman blurted out.
After realising that she was a player, how could she possibly go back and attend her classes
The receptionist lady: “What do you mean by impossible Did all of you get into an argument”
The Short-haired Woman forced herself to say: “It’s nothing, thanks.”
Wu Jia remarked, “I think we should look for her first.”
The Bespectacled Lady’s behaviour was too strange.
Maybe she discovered something.
Thus, the group left the hotel.
* * *
Originally, they thought that they would have to expend some effort to find the Bespectacled Lady, but they did not expect that not long after they walked out, they would catch a glimpse of the Bespectacled Lady’s figure at an accessory store.
She was together with a group of students, chattering and laughing inside the accessory store.
Her appearance from last night, where she was frightened into trembling and shaking because of the ghosts, was nowhere to be seen.
Wu Jia: “Something looks amiss.”
The Short-haired Woman pushed open the store door directly and walked in, making a beeline towards the Bespectacled Lady.
Then, she forcefully pulled her out of the group.
The Bespectacled Lady’s reaction was intense, as if she did not recognise the Short-haired Woman at all.
She exclaimed in shock: “What are you doing!”
Her classmates also stepped forward, surrounding the Short-haired Woman.
The Short-haired Woman gritted her teeth: “What’s wrong with you”
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection.
If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
The Bespectacled Lady’s gaze flickered, “What You are the one who pulled me out without rhyme or reason.
Why are you asking me what’s wrong with me”
Ktf Vtbga-tjlgfv Qbwjc fzfgafv wbgf ragfcuat ecvfg tfg uglq.
“Qtja jgf sbe qgfafcvlcu obg”
Ktf Dfrqfmajmifv Ojvs lrrefv j qjlcfv ujrq, “Pa tegar, ifa ub bo wf!”
Lfg mijrrwjaf rtbeafv: “Po sbe vbc’a ifa tfg ub, kf’gf ublcu ab mjii atf qbilmf!”
Mbg rjxf bo qgfnfcalcu wbgf rlvf lrrefr ogbw jglrlcu, atf Vtbga-tjlgfv Qbwjc mbeiv bcis ifa ub.
The Bespectacled Lady rubbed her wrist.
“I don’t know you at all.
Her classmates glared at the Short-haired Woman, following the Bespectacled Lady to leave.
Before leaving the accessory store, the Bespectacled Lady suddenly turned around and told Shen Dongqing soundlessly, “Thank you.”
Thank you for saving me last night, but I really can’t persevere any further.
The Bespectacled Lady’s figure gradually disappeared into the crowds.
The Short-haired Woman exploded with a comment, “What on earth is going on”
Before they managed to solve the riddle, their teammates were flying off, each faster than the other.
Shen Dongqing stated, “She gave up.”
The Short-haired Woman looked over.
Shen Dongqing shrugged his shoulders.
“She doesn’t want to play the game anymore.”
When they got to the bottom of the matter, the Bespectacled Lady was a new player; and in the face of death, she would rather assimilate with the game copy and become one of the members.
At the very least, she would no longer be threatened by the ghosts.
Zhou Wenyan remained silent for a moment before he said: “All of the people here are players.”
Perhaps, the reason why no one could leave the S-level copy was because of this.
All of these players persevered through one copy after another, for the sake of returning to their original world, but when they arrived here, they only needed to give up to obtain a normal life.
Even if the “normalcy” was fake—
Giving up was the easiest.
People without firm resolves were the easiest to enthral.
The Short-haired Woman also sank into deep contemplation.
For a change of perspective, one side was the ghosts with repulsive appearance, the other side was a safe and normal life.
When they were compared in such a manner, how long could she persist for
Wu Jia finally understood the terror present in this S-level copy as well.
Yes, there were no terrifying ghosts visible everywhere in this game, but they were slowly exhausting the players’ determination and making them willing test subjects.
Wu Jia lamented, “That’s way too scary.”
If they arrived at such an environment after experiencing all those horrific and terrifying worlds, who could continue holding on
The Short-haired Woman shook her head, suppressing all her emotions.
In a cold voice, she asserted, “We should be thinking about how we can break this riddle right now.”
Zhou Wenyan fiddled with the signs, “There has to be a way to leave this place.”
The Short-haired Woman’s gaze landed on the signs in Zhou Wenyan’s hands.
“Could these signs be a key to open the door”
Zhou Wenyan shook his head.
When he and Shen Dongqing went to the edge of the city previously, they were also carrying these signs, but they did not manage to leave.
There might be some use to these signs, but they were most definitely not keys.
Zhou Wenyan: “Let’s go back to school and have a look.”
Even though they did not manage to find any clues in Teacher Chen’s office last night, they might be able to meet Teacher Chen during the day.
When the group returned to the school, they bumped into several familiar faces on the way.
Those old players had lost their memories and they looked like locally born and bred NPCs from this copy.
Wu Jia sighed with emotion, “Maybe this is a good ending too.”
It was better than dying in the hands of ghosts at least.
They returned to the teaching building again.
The door that had been violently wrenched open was still open and swaying.
It seems like Teacher Chen did not return.
Wu Jia stopped a teacher to ask: “Excuse me, where did Teacher Chen He told me to retrieve some materials.”
The teacher who had been stopped was slightly lost, “Teacher Chen Which Teacher Chen”
Wu Jia pointed at the half-open office, saying, “The one from that office.”
The teacher came to a sudden realisation, “Oh… You must be mistaken.
That office belongs to Teacher Shen, we don’t have a teacher by the surname of Chen in our faculty.”
Wu Jia said a word of thanks before he turned around, pulling out his phone to check.
Sure enough, there was no teacher by the surname of Chen in this faculty.
But he clearly remembered that such a person existed.
The office door was pushed open.
The human skeleton that was originally placed there was gone, and the plaque with the name “Teacher Shen” was placed on the table.
If it were not for the fact that they definitely stepped into the office last night, and picked up a name card, they would have questioned if Teacher Chen existed at all.
Wu Jia: “The traill is broken.”
Teacher Chen had completely disappeared, leaving naught of his trace.
Under the conditions where the trail was broken, they could only think of another method.
Since the four of them did not have any other ideas for the time being, they could only choose to explore the entire school once and act separately, using the method of throwing a net everywhere to see if they could find some clues.
However, while they did not find any clues, they managed to catch quite a few ghosts.
These ghosts completely ignored the surrounding students and only chased after the players.
They came one wave after another, not even giving them the chance to breathe.
The talismans in Wu Jia’s possession were on the verge of being exhausted, the Short-haired Woman was also looking incredibly wretched.
Only Zhou Wenyan and Shen Dongqing were leisurely and carefree, looking as though they had not been hemmed in by ghosts at all.
The Short-haired Woman asked: “Didn’t you encounter any ghosts”
Shen Dongqing: “We encountered them ah.” With a face brimming with disdain, he uttered, “None of them are capable of fighting.”
Short-haired Woman: “……”
Truly, comparisons should not be made between individuals.
After stabilising her state of mind, the Short-Haired Woman uttered: “We didn’t manage to find any useful clues.”
They were already struggling with the incoming waves of ghosts; how could they possibly have the time to find clues”
Wu Jia: “Same here.”
There were genuinely too many ghosts.
In the beginning, they would still pick up the signs dropped by the ghosts, but as they were nearing the end, running for their lives was already a struggle, let alone attempting to pick up the spoils of their battles.
Wu Jia wiped away the cold sweat gathered on his face, smiling bitterly as he said: “If they keep coming like this, I’m afraid that I can’t hold on either.”
Only Shen Dongqing and Zhou Wenyan were in a good condition.
Perhaps because a wave of ghosts had just arrived, there was an intermission in between, which allowed the players to communicate the general situation in that brief period of time.
The Short-haired Woman said, “I met a player just now.”
That player had already shed off their old identity and became a character within the copy, and they did not recognise the Short-haired Woman at all.
However, that was not the important point—the important point was that this player was clearly dead prior to this instance, and yet they had appeared alive and well in this place.
The Short-haired Woman paused for a moment, “I’ve tested them.
They are human, not ghosts.”
* * *
The player had died and resurrected.
However, this sort of situation was not rare with the copy, and it could barely count as a clue.
Wu Jia stated, “I found the school’s crest.”
He took out his phone and pulled out a photograph.
There was an image displayed on the phone screen.
It was a circular school crest with strange flower patterns around the borders, crowding around the eye that was at the centre, whose pupil was dark like ink, as if it was observing the people outside of the screen.
The Short-haired Woman guessed: “Could it be that this is a school opened by the Life Science Research Company”
As they were discussing at the side, Shen Dongqing was sitting in his own corner with furrowed brows and a bitter expression.
Upon noticing it, Zhou Wenyan asked: “What’s wrong”
Shen Dongqing pinched his card, saying: “The prop became useless.”
Since the weather was quite hot, he originally wanted to eat ice cream, but the prop would not react no matter what he did.
Zhou Wenyan took the card.
Sure enough, it did not react in the slightest.
Wu Jia said: “That can’t be, our talismans are working…”
Zhou Wenyan did not raise his head, “It’s not the same.”
The function of the Ice Cream Card and the Kitchen Card was analogous to crossing over spaces to retrieve an item from another, and it did not belong to the same category as talismans.
Zhou Wenyan seemed to vaguely snag onto something, but he was not in a rush.
He gave Shen Dongqing some cash first.
“Go and buy milk tea to drink.”
Taking the money, Shen Dongqing ran over to buy his milk tea.
Other players were thinking about how they could solve the riddle, but he was something else with his perpetual thoughtless expression.
And after he was done buying his milk tea, he was even slurping up his boba in a serious manner.
Halfway through with his beverage, a light shadow suddenly cast over Shen Dongqing.
When he raised his head to take a look, he realised that two young ladies were standing there.
The two young ladies were dressed in refreshing clothes with shoulder straps and hot pants, and they were wearing sweet smiles on their face: “Can we add you on WeChat”
This was the first time Shen Dongqing was being hit on, and he did not know how he should react.
Stunned, he blinked his eyes, causing the two young ladies to cover their mouths and giggle.
If you were to ask Shen Dongqing to confront the ghosts and monsters directly, it would be a cinch for him to fight a group of them alone, but now that he was faced with two young ladies, he became bewildered instead, and he could only ask Zhou Wenyan for help.
Zhou Wenyan draped his long arm over Shen Dongqing, placing it on his shoulder as he rejected their request: “He doesn’t have WeChat.”
The two young ladies seemed to understand something as they exchanged glances and grinned.
After saying “Sorry for disturbing,” they turned around and left.
Out of the blue, Shen Dongqing made a noise of surprise.
Zhou Wenyan followed his gaze to look over, realising that there was a tattoo on the two ladies’ shoulder blade, except the tattoo was only the size of a palm and it was a string of numbers.
They were “0321” and “0343” respectively.
They looked slightly unusual.
Wu Jia came to a tacit understanding.
Without missing a beat, he called them to a stop, asking: “The tattoo on your body is quite unusual, where did you get it done I want to get one too.”
The two young ladies laughed, saying: “Your way of striking up a conversation is a little too stereotypical, no And since when did we have tattoos”
Wu Jia’s gaze glanced past their shoulders.
“The one on your shoulders.”
The young lady twisted her head to look at it.
“Oh, that It’s a mark in our city, every person has one.
You definitely have it too.”
The other young lady chimed in, “Yeah, if you don’t have the mark, you’ll be chased out.”
After saying that, the two young ladies departed.
Symbols, it was the symbols again.
Zhou Wenyan said: “The ghosts and the players are all test subjects.
The ghosts have signs, and the players must have them too.
“The more crucial point here is that, if the ghosts were made to disappear after they lost their signs, what about the players”
The Short-haired Woman drew blood on the first prick.
“Maybe it could lead to death.”
There were two possibilities: one was that the ghosts left these “testing grounds” after they lost their signs, the second being that the ghosts would only drop those signs after they died.
What if it was the latter
Zhou Wenyan: “We’ll know once we try it.”
Ignoring the strange look that the receptionist was giving them, the four players only opened one room.
Wu Jia swiped the card, and after a short beep, the room door opened.
The four then entered the room, filling it to the brim.
The Short-haired Woman was against Zhou Wenyan’s suggestion, and her reason for opposing was: “The risk is too big, who knows if we’ll be directly slaughtered once we lose the mark.”
Zhou Wenyan sat on the sofa, crossing one leg over the other.
With an indifferent tone, he said: “I’ll try mine, you can do as you please.”
The Short-haired Woman’s attempted response was lodged in her throat.
The risk was being undertaken by someone else, she no longer had the grounds to speak.
Zhou Wenyan raised his head: “I’ll be troubling you to turn around.”
The Short-haired Woman was baffled, “Ah”
Wu Jia had tactfully turned around early on.
It was only then that the Short-haired Woman comprehended, and she followed his example by turning around.
In a direct and efficient manner, Zhou Wenyan undid the buttons on his shirt, allowing him to see the horizontal string of numbers on his shoulder blade.
Shen Dongqing stretched his hand out and touched it.
The numeral figures did not seem to be tattooed on; rather, it felt like a tattoo sticker that had been adhered to his skin.
Zhou Wenyan did not hesitate in the slightest as he directly peeled off that tattoo sticker.
Although that tattoo sticker was adhered, it had merged into his flesh, and tearing it down was akin to viscerally pulling off a piece of flesh.
A bead of sweat rolled down Zhou Wenyan’s forehead.
Not prolonging the torture any further, he promptly tore it off.
“0431” landed on the ground.
Zhou Wenyan, who was once on the sofa, disappeared without a trace.
Shen Dongqing’s eyes widened.
Such a big person, and he just, just disappeared like that!
Having heard the movement, Wu Jia turned around hastily, only to become dumbstruck as well.
“Where did Boss go”
Shen Dongqing: “I’m going to look for him.”
Acting on his words, he drew a gourd from the model and tore off the mark on his body.
* * *
In the midst of white light, he remembered a wave of voices in discussion.
Their voices seemed to be partitioned off by a layer of protective screen, making it hazy and obscure.
“I’ve never seen such strength.”
“Alter the research object.”
“Move ‘0432’ to the testing lab.”
* * *
Inside the pure white and cold room, there were constant beeping noises sounding out.
If you were to look through the translucent window, you will discover countless nutrition cabins, the number so great you could not see the end at a glance.
There was a person lying in each nutrition cabin, with the old, young, male, and female all accounted for.
All of them had their eyes shut, like they were immersed in a sweet dream, making them look exceedingly peaceful.
After going through a series of inspection and verification procedures, a person wearing a white lab coat and face mask walked in, choosing one of the nutrition cabins and pressing the button.
After the responding beep, the nutrition cabin was opened.
Various kinds of mechanical arms stretched out from the ceiling, thereby dragging a woman out.
Perhaps owing to the prolonged lack of exposure to sunlight, the woman’s face was as white as paper, her four limbs had atrophied, which made it easy for the mechanical arms to drag her out.
Towards this, the woman was completely oblivious since she was still immersed in that fabricated dreamscape.
The white coats left as quickly as they had arrived, only bringing away a single test subject.
The testing lab plunged back to silence again.
Only the surveillance cameras on the ceiling were constantly rotating, monitoring the batch of test subjects in an assiduous and dutiful manner.
Everything was normal.
The surveillance cameras’ red light flickered once.
However, what it did not know was that a wisp of black fog had slowly creeped up, covering the camera head, and obstructing all the irregularities.
One of the nutrition cabins issued a muffled noise, followed by the entire lid turning open.
Zhou Wenyan sat up from the cabin, wiping away the faint green nutrient fluid before he observed his surroundings.
He stood up from the nutrition cabin and his first reaction was to find Shen Dongqing.
It was just that despite looking through the entire testing lab, he did not find Shen Dongqing’s figure.
Hewas not here.
Zhou Wenyan could only settle for the second best option, opening Wu Jia’s and the Short-haired Woman’s nutrition cabins first, thus pulling the two of them out and saving them.
Wu Jia conveyed: Many thanks to the Boss for remembering me still.
After the Short-haired Woman stepped out of the nutrition cabin, she lowered her head to look towards the Bespectacled Lady, who was lying there with a smile on her face, appearing as though she was genuinely enjoying her current life.
The Short-haired Woman hesitated for a moment, but she still pressed the button, opening the Bespectacled Lady’s nutrition cabin.
The Bespectacled Lady did not show any reaction.
After trying two times without any results, the Short-haired Woman could only give up and cover the nutrition cabin again.
“So the previous world was fake,” the Short-haired Woman mumbled.
Back when she was struggling with the ghosts, she had considered giving up too, but she did not expect that everything was a fabrication.
If those players knew the truth, would they still make the same choice
Perhaps they would.
The Short-haired Woman asked, “Right now, we…”
Before she could finish her words, Zhou Wenyan had already opened the large doors and walked out.
Wu Jia shrugged his shoulders, “Let’s find Boss’ partner first.”
Outside the testing lab was a long, long corridor.
It was extremely modernised, such that there would be a 360° surveillance camera that had no dead angles every few steps.
When Zhou Wenyan appeared in the surveillance cameras’ range, red lights appeared.
【 Warning, Warn— 】
The voice abruptly halted.
The strands of black fog wrapping around Zhou Wenyan’s fingertips had directly twisted off the surveillance camera.
Following that, the surveillance cameras in the corridors fell down like rain, crackling and rattling as they smashed into the ground, broken into pieces.
Zhou Wenyan stepped on the wreckage left behind by one of the surveillance cameras, causing it to issue a teeth-grating noise as he continued to forge ahead.
The white incandescent lights shone down from the ceiling, landing on one side of Zhou Wenyan’s face, making him appear more sunken, cold, and harsh.
Wu Jia shrank his head.
“The Boss is starting to become serious.”