When he woke up again, Dong Zheng was sitting in a chair. A young doctor sat opposite him, pouring a cup of hot water.
“Don’t be nervous,” the doctor comforted him softly. Dong Zheng saw that there were old wounds on his arms, and the fatal pain seemed to be in every inch of skin, every bone, and every nerve endings, telling him that what he’d experienced before wasn’t an illusion.
“I’m sorry about what happened to you, but fortunately everything is over. Now you can go home.”
The door opened and a woman came in. Her hair was tied up, and the bruises on her face had disappeared. Her complexion had clearly improved a lot.
After thanking the doctor, she took Dong Zheng and left the consultation room.
As soon as Dong Zheng spoke, the woman put her finger to her lips. She stared at the window, and whispered, “Don’t make a sound.”
Dong Zheng followed her line of sight. They were on the eight floor of the hospital. Meanwhile, the man stood downstairs with an axe. He raised his head and pointed up and down one after another with his finger, finally stopping at the eight floor.
Despite the distance, Dong Zheng still seemed to see the mocking smile on his face.
He walked into the hospital lobby.
“We can’t let him catch us. We have to go down quickly!” The woman yelled in horror. Before Dong Zheng could stop her, she pushed open the window and jumped down.
Dong Zheng: ?!?!?!
He grabbed the windowsill and looked down. A pool of blood had exploded in front of the hospital building.
But he seemed to hear the woman’s relieved laughter in his ear.
An unreasonable, senseless fear seemed to grip him at this moment. He thought of the dead cat in the balcony, the bruises covered by the woman’s long hair, the beating that lasted all night, the empty fish tank. Please, no. The pain of begging for death was enough to break a person’s will. And there was still the axe in the man’s hand.
Just like Pavlov’s dog, the sight of that man was associated with brutality and pain, so that even the most rebellious mind couldn’t rise up to fight back.
Run away, run away quickly!
Dong Zheng turned his head abruptly. The elevator light showed that it had reached the sixth floor.
Run away! Run away!
He couldn’t feel his hands on the windowsill. The woman downstairs was waiting for him.
The number jumped to floor 7.
Dong Zheng suddenly let go. He opened the fire box next to him and took out the fire axe. Holding it with both hands, he stood next to the elevator door, his body pressed against the wall.
The number finally reached 8, and the ding sound was like a chuckle of death.
Dong Zheng raised the axe above his head and listened to the sound, counting down silently.
The elevator door slid open, and when the man walked out, the axe chopped down.
There was a crash of glass breaking.
A black fog swept around Dong Zheng, and as it began to dissipate, he heard Mr. Deed’s voice.
“Congratulations on successfully passing Scene 6.”
He was obviously in a small room, but the three mirrors facing each other seemed to extend into infinity. Dong Zheng forcefully closed his eyes. His voice was a little horse and his bamboo pole body was tense. “Why is there such an assessment?”
“Everyone is a brain developer. I believe that, in terms of strategy and wisdom, it would be difficult for you to distinguish between each other. But you cannot survive in the world with just your brain alone. The library also believes in this,” Mr. Deeds explained. “There are still many qualities that are indispensable. For example, you just passed the test—Tenacity.”
“Okay.” Dong Zheng’s tight muscles finally began to slowly relax. Like himself, the others were also wrapped in black fog, trapping in various scenes.
And the mirrors were no longer a mere reflective surface—they were displaying the scenes that each person was individually experiencing.
Fat Otaku shrank down and hid in a corner, watching as a young student with a red armband on his arm rudely turned everything- upside down. The student found a few translations of Chinese literature and strutted over to throw them in his face.
These barely grown children pulled him through the chaotic streets, until he saw his former teacher forced down to kneel in the middle of a crowd. They rudely pointed at him with a wooden stick, forcing him to bow down his head.
Meanwhile, Fake Dong Zheng was walking along an empty street. There was no one else. Even the buildings standing on the sides of the street had no traces of people through the window. Cars parked along the side of the road or waited at a red light on the intersection, but there was no one in sight.
Even the stray cats and dogs that used to hide in the bushes had disappeared, and the silhouettes of birds had also disappeared from the sky and the treetops.
In the whole world, he was the only person alive.
Dong Zheng moved his gaze to the other mirror. Inside, “Chen Jianguo” was squashed in the middle of a crowd. Without exception, these people were all men, young and old, handsome and mediocre and ugly. They were all densely packed together, like a can of sardines.
“Chen Jianguo” was squashed between them, and there was no place for him to stand. He appeared very cramped. It seemed that these physical contacts gave him great discomfort.
Mr. Deeds stood to the side, quietly watching the scenes in the mirror. The dice was placed beside him.
“These scenes are not produced randomly, are they?” Dong Zheng asked.
Mr. Deeds didn’t look at Dong Zheng. He stared at Fat Otaku in the mirror. He was being forced to identify the teacher who was kneeling on the ground. The flesh on his body was trembling constantly, but he couldn’t say a word.
People were sparing no efforts to wave flags and shout battle cries, frantically yelling unbelievable things that children thirteen to fourteen year olds shouldn’t know or say.
“It is based on the fear or guilt in the heart,” the bell butler finally said after a long while. “Only when faced with the things they are most afraid of will people drop away their false pretense and reveal their true essence.”
Dong Zheng was stunned. He didn’t expect that at the age of 27, even after so many years, what he was most afraid of was his family problem.
No longer speaking, Dong Zheng turned to look at the scene of others in the mirror, only to find that the black fog beside Fat Otaku No. 2 had begun to dissipate, and the scene in the mirror became blurred, and then disappeared without a trace. Fat Otaku finally reappeared.
Dong Zheng squinted. Fat Otaku had collapsed on the chair as if he had lost his soul. Dong Zheng missed the ending of his story, but it happened that he didn’t really want to know.
Mr. Deeds said, “Congratulations on successfully passing Scene 2.”
Fat Otaku waved his hand weakly. He rubbed his face, similar to Dong Zheng when he’d just come out of the scene. Dong Zheng cast his elegant and curious eyes to the mirror.
“I once knew a rich man. His most beloved youngest son was murdered. This made him almost crazy, and he did a lot of stupid things.”
The muscle on Fat Otaku’s forehead jumped slightly, and their gazes met in the mirror.
Dong Zheng lowered his head again, as if pondering the wooden lines on the table.
As they waited for the rest of the people to finish. Dong Zheng, Fat Otaku and Mr. Deeds looked at the mirrors. At a certain moment, Dong Zheng suddenly realized that watching others struggling to solve the dilemma in the scenes was more riveting than the most popular variety TV shows and reality TV shows.
This was the most authentic reality show.
Dong Zheng even felt that Kether and the Queen’s people must be quite entertained watching pilgrims struggle in the box, presenting them with the most authentic and exciting “programming.”
In that empty and silent city, when Fake Dong Zheng determined that he was the only living creature, he stopped searching in vain. He casually sat on a bench in the park and stared at the lead-grey sky with empty eyes.
“Chen Jianguo” finally squeezed out from the crowd. He rushed to the man in the suit and leather shoes. He held his hands in front of him and handed the man his crumpled resume soaked in sweat.
The other party took the resume, and without even looking at it, said, “This position is not suitable for you. We already have the right candidate.”
Next to him stood several young men.
“Chen Jianguo” slowly withdrew his hands and clenched them into fists at his sides. He stared at the man in suit and firmly said, “But compared to them, I have the most qualifications and experience.”
By now , Dong Zheng had almost correctly identified everyone.
It didn’t take long for the black fog around the Fake Dong Zheng and “Chen Jianguo” to subside as they successfully broke away from their demons.
Mr. Deeds once again gave them paper and pen. The second round of voting had begun.
Dong Zheng still voted for No. 3. Mr. Deeds collected the papers and announced the result within three minutes.
“Dear ladies and gentlemen, the results of the second round of voting have come out. The person with the most vote is No. 4.”
“Chen Jianguo” sighed helplessly. He stared at Mr. Deeds and then his gaze fell on the mirror behind his body.
The old man looked at the mirror. He seemed to see something, but he didn’t say a word as his figure disappeared in the room.
In the small room, there was only No. 2 Fat Otaku, No. 3 Fake Dong Zheng, No. 5 Bamboo Pole played by Dong Zheng, and Mr. Deeds, the bell butler who was in charge of hosting.
“It’s a pity that the ‘ghost’ is still among us.”
Everyone’s eyes sank. In the upcoming third round, if they still couldn’t identify the ghost, they would cast out another innocent teammate. The next time they vote, there would only be one normal person and one ghost left. According to the rules, the ghost would automatically win.
But the clues they got were very limited.
They didn’t know the difference between them and the ghost. The only information Mr. Deeds had given them was that there was a ghost among them.
“The third round is about to start. Please prepare yourself.”
The bell steward didn’t care about their reaction and was prepared to proceed. Dong Zheng took a deep breath. He and Fat Otaku looked at each other and stood up.
No. 3 Fake Dong Zheng was sitting between them, still frowning as he pondered. He noticed Dong Zheng’s movements in the mirror and was just about to say “What are you doing?” when Ding Zheng greeted him with a punch, directly knocking him out.
Finally, this guy who wasn’t honest in his body was silent. Dong Zheng sat back down on his chair as if nothing had happened and asked, “What about the third round?”
Mr. Deeds was speechless for a moment. With the third participant knocked unconscious, the process could not be carried out.
He could only say, “The third participant has lost consciousness. The scheduled game cannot proceed as planned—“
Dong Zheng said, “Just go directly to the voting session.”
Mr. Deeds was silent for a moment before finally sending out pens and papers. Dong Zheng and Fat Otaku quickly wrote down a number and gave the note to the bell butler
Fake Dong Zheng had lost consciousness and couldn’t vote so the paper was left untouched by his hand on the table. This time, the bell butler read Dong Zheng and Fat Otaku’s notes, sighed, and announced, “The third participant had lost consciousness and cannot vote. This is considered abstaining. The result has been issued and the one with the most vote is No. 3.”
The unconscious Fake Dong Zheng failed to make any comments on being eliminated, and his figure quickly disappeared from the room.
Now there was only Dong Zheng, Fat Otaku, and the bell butler left.
Mr. Deed’s voice rang out in their ears.
“It’s a pity that the ‘ghost’ is still among us.”