Had the password already been given to him?
Dong Zheng glanced back. The multi-legged girl was helping the caterpillar smoke; the braided girl was feeding food into the mouth at the back of her head; the mouthless girl was hiding in the corner with her head down; the dwarfs were standing on the stool; the two-headed man’s heads were both talking to each other in low voices; and the mermaid was staring at him with her cheeks in her hands, her blue eyes filled with affection.
He lowered his head and continued to look at the combination lock. He could gradually feel a rising sense of suffocation, as if it was getting harder to breathe.
Was this what they meant when they said time was running out?
After pondering for a moment, Dong Zheng moved the dial on the combination lock.
7, 8, 1.
He pressed the small button next to the combination lock, and with a soft click, the lock unlatched.
Dong Zheng pushed the door open.
Water flooded in.
“Look! He escaped!”
Water poured into Dong Zheng’s nose. He coughed fiercely and knelt down on one knee. After coughing the water out of his trachea, he wiped his face and felt the dazzling light shine through his eyelids, leaving a spot of light. He squinted and opened his eyes.
He found himself in an auditorium filled with countless people. The colorful lights illuminated their faces flushed with excitement. Their pairs of eyes were staring at him, filled with an enthusiasm that nearly felt like being shot with an arrow.
“After being locked up and imprisoned in the water jail, Contestant No. 1 still escaped within a minute! Let us give the warmest compliment to the escape master!”
Cheers and screams almost overturned the circus ceiling. Dong Zheng looked back and saw a broken, three-meter-high cylindrical transparent jar with a big opening. The chain that was as thick as a thumb and a dozen brass locks had sunk to the bottom. These things had originally locked him inside.
As he was talking to the freak show performers in the mansion, the real him had become a performer, implementing a wonderful escape from the water prison for the circus audience;s pleasure. If he had entered the wrong password or delayed for too long, he would have drowned alive in the water prison.
Dong Zheng was soaked all over, the liquid cloaking his sudden cold sweat. A large puddle was already spreading on the floor under his feet, and when he turned his head to look, he saw that the other escape shows were happening concurrently.
It seemed that all the pilgrims were having the same experiences as him.
He was the first to successfully leave the mansion grounds, and half a minute later, the others also successfully escaped.
Rejecting the support of the masked staff, Dong Zheng walked off the stage alone. He glanced at the auditorium and noticed that there was a gap in the red curtains that covered the last row.
When Dong Zheng’s gaze suddenly crashed into his, Cui Zuojing curled his lips. Then he turned his head, and like a child flaunting his prized possession, he triumphantly told the Clown, “See, I said those tricks will definitely not trap him.”
The Clown nodded. “Very good. Okay, you and Victor go down to the auditorium with them. It’s my turn to perform.”
The Clown stood up and pressed the red fake nose onto his nose. Then he bent down, lifted the curtains, and went out.
His steps gradually shifted from calm and steady to an exaggerated jumping motion, his gestures crazy and silly. At this moment, the purging clown with laugh lines disappeared, replaced by a circus performer.
Cui Zuojing hung the Tang Sword around his waist, placed Victor on the box, and whispered softly, “Uncle, let’s go and find them.”
The performance was popular and all sounds were engulfed by the deafening music. After seeing Cui Zuojing, Dong Zheng calmed down a little; he’d been wary of possible accidents and dangers. Under the staff’s guidance, he changed into clean clothes backstage.
Afterward, he was taken to the VIP booth, where a whole row sat empty. It was the closest position to the stage and had 25 seats clearly reserved for the pilgrims.
By the time he sat down at the VIP booth, all the escape shows were already over. Only one person failed to get out. Wang Que’s hair had nearly burnt by the time she’d managed to get out of the mansion. It was unclear how Xia Qiongyun escaped from the coffin. Meanwhile, poor Kuroko had barely managed to roll to the side before the line of lead reached the oil barrel and detonated it.
Similar to Dong Zheng, they managed to unlock the code and stepped out the mansion’s door, only to find out that they had escaped an altogether different kind of danger.
“It’s a pity that our No. 19 player failed to escape. He dedicated his precious life to the stage. Let us dedicate our applause to this brave challenger!”
No one was sad; everyone was enthusiastic about the sudden passing of a life. Excitement flooded the circus tent. Everything that happened here added to the reputation of the circus performances. In other words, in the Hell’s Circus that had always been burdened with a blood reputation, death was the most delicious spice.
Amid cheers and constant applause, someone sat next to him, the colorful psychedelic lights illuminating the young man’s profile.
Cui Zuojing saw Dong Zheng’s still wet hair and asked, “How are you?”
“I’m fine.” Dong Zheng thought of the one-armed youth who had deliberately pretended to be Cui Zuojing. He frowned imperceptibly and added, “It’s just too disgusting.”
“This is one of the characteristics of the circus. The freak show had been here since the first time I came to the circus. In addition to the clown, the leader also had a confidant who was a strange doctor. For his pleasure in biological experiments, he created many monsters for the circus, whether animals or humans.”
Dong Zheng nodded. The shock of the freak show was too great for him. He stared at the performance on stage, but the scene of the mansion continued to appear in his mind.
When the twisted girl had said “We’ve already given you the password,” he knew that the three numbers he needed were hidden in the previous two things.
The butterfly girl had spoken about the patient’s suicide. If she were to ask a question, her question would most likely be “How many people were sick in the village?”
The mystery raised by the two-headed person was even more obvious: When is the leader’s birthday?
Among the ten different answers the dwarf had given, it happened that the number of days and months were all singular numbers, corresponding to the password, which only had 0-9 as a numerical choice. If he thought about it, the number of those who were sick and the month and date of the leader’s birthday would form a three-digit number.
Regarding the patient problem, when the patient on the first day discovered that no one else was sick, he would know that he was the only one who was sick and would choose to commit suicide by himself.
Say that there were two patients, set as A and B. When each saw the other patient during the observation period, they would each realize that there were more than one patient in the village and, knowing that they would suffer from the illness, they would both chose to commit suicide. Therefore, if there were two patients in the village, both would commit suicide on the first day of observation.
Say that there were three patients, set as A, B, and C. During the first day of observation, A would notice that there were two patients and assume that he wasn’t a patient since B and C would have commited suicide on the first day. If on the second day, A discovered that B and C were still alive, this meant that the number of patients must be more than 2. If other people weren’t sick, then he must be the sick patient.
B and C thought the same as A, so three people committed suicide the next day.
Say there were four patients, set as A, B, C, and D. On the first day of observation, A saw that there were three patients and assumed that he wasn’t one. Then, based on the situation that there were only three patients in the village, B, C, and D would have commited suicide on the second day. But if, on the third day of observation, A discovered that B, C, and D were still alive, he would realize that the number of patients was more than three. Since no one else was sick, he would assume that he must be the sick patient.
B, C, D thought the same as A, so on the third day, four people committed suicide.
In this way, the recursive reasoning continued, and the final conclusion could be drawn. Let the gunshot sound be the nth day, with n=1 and the number of patients set as 1 or 2. This would create a scenario of n>1 with the number of patients set as n+1.
Based in the butterfly girl’s story, the gunshot rang out on the sixth day, indicating that there were a total of seven people who thought they were sick.
As for the birthday of the group leader, he also thought about it. The male head knew the exact month and the female head knew the day. Because the female head could not determine the birthday of the group leader based on the day alone, this would rule out two dates: July 4th and September 5th.
The male head knew that the female head knew the specific day, but since he was certain that if he didn’t say the month, the female head wouldn’t know the answer. Through the process of elimination, this meant that the month he knew wouldn’t contain the following date: April 7th and September 5th. Therefore, this eliminated the entire months of April and September.
“If I don’t know the leader’s birthday, then you certainly can’t know either.”
The female head had guessed from the male head’s words that the only possible months were January and August. Since she said that she knew it, this indicated that the day was the only one among the remaining options, excluding January 6th and August 6th.
In the end, there were only three choices left: January 3rd, January 9th and August 1st. After hearing the female head’s confirmation, the male head, who only knew the month, now said that he also knew the leader’s birthday. This indicated the only possible month was August 1st. Therefore, the leader’s birthday was August 1st.
Once he got the three numbers, he could combine them into a three-digit code. But there were six permutations.
Dong Zheng determined that there was a high chance the permutation might be based on the order in which they spoke. The butterfly girl was the first to tell the story, so her answer 7 corresponded to the first number. This was followed by the month and the day, in accordance with the order in which the male and female heads spoke. These represented the second and third digits in the password.
That was 7, 8, 1.
These were two slightly awkward logic puzzles, but for Dong Zheng, who had mastered the kernel, it wasn’t too difficult.
The pilgrims who had just yet to recover from their shock sat in the VIP area. Cui Zuojing raised his hand to touch Dong Zheng’s dripping temple, but Dong Zheng grabbed his hand.
“What are you doing?” Cui Zuojing asked, staring at him. His jet-black eyes reflected the various colors of the shining, multi-colored lights.
Dong Zheng didn’t say a word. He raised Cui Zuojing’s hand toward his mouth and gently rubbed the corner of lips against Cui Zuojing’s knuckles.
Once he left the mansion, the prisoner link gradually recovered, and now it was no longer abnormal. Both Dong Zheng and Cui Zuojing could clearly perceive the traces of each other’s presence in their consciousness.
Like two stars illuminating each other in the night sky.
Cui Zuojing curled his fingers a little uncomfortably. They were surrounded by people, and although everyone was staring at the performance on stage and no one was paying attention to them in the shadows, the noisy and crowded environment still made him feel a little self-conscious.
But he didn’t insist on pulling his hand back. Dong Zheng’s warm breath on his fingers made his heart feel a little strange.
Dong Zheng watched the Clown’s performance on stage intently. Every exaggerated gesture and expression could cause a burst of laughter. This was the first time Dong Zheng saw such a circus performance with his own eyes. For a while, he felt that it was quite interesting and couldn’t take his eyes off of it.
They were like this for several minutes, until Cui Zuojing heard a small voice said next to him, “Um…Brother Cui, can I sit here?”
He turned his head and saw that Wang Que had come in from backstage and was standing next to him. Her excited eyes couldn’t help but flicker toward Dong Zheng, whose lips were moving away from the back of Cui Zuojing’s hand. Meanwhile, behind her, Xia Qiongyun had a confused look of “What’s going on?” on her face.
“Yes.” Cui Zuojing patted the empty seat next to him and said, “Why did you even bother asking me?”
Wasn’t it because I was afraid of disturbing you and Brother Dong?…Wang Que sat down in silence. Victor squatted on the armrest and met Xia Qiongyun’s tentatively inquiring eyes. He blinked at her with a smile on his lips.
Xixi: I’m terrible at logic puzzles. If you’re like me and you’re confused about the second logic puzzle, here’s an article that explains the reasoning behind the answer. It’s basically a process of elimination. Honestly, the first puzzle was confusing too, but a quick search came up with no results so I could only give up on understanding it.