Chapter 42: The Haunted Mansion by the Tarn (IX)
Feng Bujue then gave an abridged version of the short story and also recounted his experience in the vault, not forgetting to mention the Hidden Mission he received therein. Of course, soon after he finished speaking, everyone could see the mission in their mission log, but they could only see it. As mentioned before, if the mission was completed, only Feng Bujue would be rewarded.
Even though halfway through his spiel, the lantern on table dimmed because the repair duration had elapsed, Rain and Sorrowful didn’t interrupt his narrative and listened intently.
After Feng Bujue finished explaining what he knew, he ended with a few summarizing statements. “Then… according to my analysis, the plot for this Scenario should go something like this. This family has had congenital Huntington’s disease for many generations, and this house itself is under the curse of some kind of supernatural power. Roderick, this sis-con, most likely was already neurotic before the main events, and his mind must have been completely shattered when he became cognizant of the fact that Madeleine was entombed alive. The last night of the story tells us about how the supernatural force over the mansion helps his sister return from her tomb. On that night, after scaring her brother to death, she exhausted her remaining strength and succûmbed to death as well.
“We can assume (the ghost of) Roderick must’ve trapped Madeleine’s soul and body somewhere in the mansion. And it’s fair to say, this mansion itself has intensely hostile feeling towards living things like us.
“From the game’s standpoint….
“The Main objective is to discover whatever rules or weaknesses this mansion has and then escape. The Side mission is completely optional; it’s only there as a way to judge how much of the map is explored. If many of the rooms are visited and carefully searched, it’s possible to find all six sections of The Haunted Palace and be rewarded. As for laying the two sibling’s souls to rest, that’s just the Scenario’s crap sequel to the short story to serve as lore for the Hidden mission. It’s fine not to complete it either.”
After everyone finished listening to his recap, Rain was the first to speak, “Might as well, we will cooperate with you.”
Feng Bujue had just clarified the situation: Clearing the Scenario was not difficult, the Side mission was optional, and the Hidden mission was even more so. He just wanted to find out Rain and Sorrowful’s opinions: to ask whether or not they were willing to help him complete the Side and Hidden missions. He didn’t expect the others to answer him before he even raised his question.
“Then, thanks you two,” said Feng Bujue.
This time Rain did not answer him; she really didn’t like speaking much.
Sorrowful politely responded, “No need for thanks. We were originally going to do the Side mission anyway. As for the Hidden mission, it will definitely not be easy; we’ll help you to the best of our abilities.”
Afterward, Feng Bujue stood up and said, “Then going back to that interrupted question… how is it that we all arrived here at the same time?”
Immediately, Lil’ Tan said, “Doesn’t this house warp itself? Naturally, it only needs to shift a few corridors and link a few spaces to guide us here.”
Long Aomin spoke up, “You explained ‘how’ we arrived here, but not ‘why’ we’re here.”
Sorrowful moistened her lips and deliberated, “There’s only a few factors that could trigger this kind of incident… some time limit was reached, an item was obtained, or….”
Feng Bujue continued, “Map exploration reached a critical juncture.”
“What does that mean?” asked Lil’ Tan.
“Do you know Betrayal at House on the Hill?” brought up Feng Bujue.
“That board game?”
“Yep, that’s the one. Now, suppose some layer of the puzzle map was cleared; what would you do?” asked Feng Bujue.
“Then in that floor of the map….” Wang Tanzhi seemed to figure out where the problem was. “You’d be unable to discover new map areas.”
“Based on the current situation at hand, the first floor must have been completely explored given that continued exploration would just return us back to places we’ve already been,” said Feng Bujue. “We all arrived at the same room as a result. This dining room is essentially the last part of the puzzle that remains explored.”
“Then… we’re going to the second floor next?” asked Long Aomin. He somewhat uneasily reminded them, “We don’t know how Unrivaled died there.”
“Three stanzas of ‘The Haunted Palace’ were on the first floor, and there was another in the cellar. Therefore, the last two parts must be on the second floor. If we want to do the side mission we will definitely have to go up,” responded Feng Bujue. “Besides, we’ve already searched through pretty much all of the first floor without any change to the Main Mission. So… no matter if it’s for the Main, Side, or Hidden Missions, if we want to complete any one of these, we can’t avoid going up.”
Sorrowful added, “As it is near the end of the Scenario, the difficulty upstairs…. Rather the curse’s power upstairs will obviously be greater than it is here. The traps on the second floor must be more dangerous; the number of illusions and elements of horror, much greater. That is why Unrivaled died when he went alone.
Having heard this, Lil’ Tan said to Feng Bujue, “Jue Bro, you hear that? Splitting up killed someone.”
“It’s only because he wasn’t strong enough that Unrivaled Bro died….” Feng Bujue shifted his eyes away, showing a “the wind today sure is noisy” expression.
Over ten minutes later, after wandering through multiple corridors, again, the five found a flight of stairs leading to the second floor.
The wooden staircase smelled moldy. It creaked and groaned whenever someone trod on it. Lil’ Tan was so nervous going up that he accidentally applied too much strength and broke off a section of the rotten handrail. He scared himself.
On the second floor, Long Aomin once again took upon himself to be the trailblazer–not without reason. His new title,【Squad Defender】, had the passive skill【Squad Protector】as its special ability. For each teammate beside him, his defense increases by 10%. Although Thriller Paradise doesn’t give concrete values for Attack, Defense, and Health, it doesn’t mean that this kind of multiplier doesn’t work. Simply put, Long Aomin’s ability to resist an attack was now a whole forty percent greater than if he were alone. Even if had to take on that powerful blood corpse from before, he wouldn’t be sent flying with just one slap.
Feng Bujue and Wang Tanzhi followed Long Aomin, behind them was Sorrowful. Rain was in charge of the rear.
After a period of walking, Sorrowful suddenly tapped Wang Tanzhi’s shoulder. The latter, due to taut nerves, had gone pale in fright from her action. Fortunately, he didn’t cry out.
“Hey. Hey, Lil’ Tan Bro.”
“Wanted to discuss something with you. Let’s trade items.”
“What did you want to trade?” said Wang Tanzhi.
“Ah… what’d you got?” asked Sorrowful.
Lil’ Tan continued forward while he announced the things in his inventory. “Hm… I have a chef’s knife, a baseball bat, Slowing….”
In front of him, Feng Bujue covered his forehead with a palm and shook his head. A thousand words culminated into one sigh, “This idiot….”
Lil’ Tan made Sorrowful pffft in amused laughter. She hurriedly broke off, “Okay, okay. You’re really telling me everything?”
Wang Tanzhi blanked for a moment. “Eh? Oh right, you wanted to trade items with me, why am I announcing [mine]?”
Even Long Aomin in the front rolled his eyes. He muttered in a low voice, “This guy sure is talented….”
“Don’t bully the kid,” Rain coldly spoke a single sentence from behind.
Sorrowful stuck out her tongue, then said to Lil’ Tan, “Sorry, I was joking with you. But who knew you’d actually say everything out loud.”
For some reason, Wang Tanzhi was still focused on countering what Rain said about him, “Hey, I’m 24 this year!”
Feng Bujue finally couldn’t take it anymore. He turned his head around and stared at Lil’ Tan. “Recently, I’ve found your EQ more and more refreshing.”
“Ah?” Lil’ Tan was quite baffled.
Again, Sorrowful tugged on his sleeve. “Okay, I’ll be serious with you.” She lifted up the miner’s cap in her hand. “I want to trade this for your flashlight.”
Lil’ Tan looked at the attributes. The thing was equipable, but also worked as a flashlight.
【Name: Miner’s Cap】
【Defensive Power: Average】
【Special Effect: Equipped with a lighting function; it requires batteries.】
【Equipment Prerequisite: General Proficiency F or Equipment Proficiency F】
【Remark: A safe and reliable piece of armor; the headlight at the front of the miner’s cap is also very useful.】
“How about it? I see that you’re not wearing any armor for your head. You don’t lose out if you trade this for your flashlight,” said Sorrowful.
Lil’ Tan looked at it. “But aren’t you clearly losing out?”
“Yellow doesn’t suit me. Plus it looks silly for a girl to wear this.” She laughed slyly. “Though, I think this would suit you very well.”
“There’s no need, I have already got some armor for my head already,” replied Lil’ Tan. He took out his other flashlight from his inventory (At the shopping center Feng Bujue had suggested everyone to take two flashlights, and Lil’ Tan has always kept all his things in his inventory), handed it over to Sorrowful, and said, “I have two flashlights, I’ll just give you one.”
Sorrowful blinked her large eyes and stared at Lil’ Tan’s face for three to five seconds. “Hey! If you didn’t tell me, couldn’t you have gotten some equipment for free?”
“You keep that silly looking thing for yourself, alright?” smiled Lil’ Tan in reply.
After hearing these words, Sorrowful suddenly understood the meaning of the words “naturally stupid but black within”.
She didn’t look the even the slightest bit cheerful as she gave a quick “thanks” feeling mixed emotions and took the flashlight while returning the miner’s cap to her inventory.
“Serves you right.” Rain timely added in a jab from behind.
“Something’s not right….” Long Aomin suddenly stopped. He noticed something was off. “Didn’t we pass by here already?”
“When we came up here, we came to a corridor exactly like this one,” Feng Bujue expanded, taking over the conversation. “Afterward we turned left once, right twice. Each time we changed directions the distance we traveled in a straight line before the next turn had been different. Regardless, it’s clear that we’re not going in circles….”
“Are we caught in an illusion, or….” Long Aomin stopped speaking halfway. He wanted to hear Feng Bujue’s opinion.
“It should be an illusion,” cut in Rain from the back of the group. Right now she was already standing and looking at herself in front of a full length mirror. Her whole body, from top to bottom, was quite normal; her clothes and equipment looked unchanged as well. Everything was ordinary, except her abdomen: her intestines were visible.
In a flash, both sides of the corridor were filled with mirrors. The scenery change was completely abrupt, and there were no visible traces of spacial distortions.
Feng Bujue also turned around, randomly picked one of the mirrors closest to himself, and faced it. “Not bad, it’s even clearer than an MRI.” He moved a few steps closer and carefully observed. “Oh, you can even make out the details of the corridors in the cross section of the intestines. How novel….”
This is about the question he posed at the end of Ch. 39 when the lights exploded… “Oh right, I wanted to ask you guys. Isn’t it weird?” Feng Bujue said sternly, “How did we all end up in the dining room? This mansion should be able to change its structure. For us to convene here at the same time, does it mean…”
Kinda like the English equivalent of looking innocent but devilish within.