“It obviously has to do with directions.” Dong Zheng stood in the box where WE was written and said, “If the 26 letters of the American alphabet are arranged according to the dial, they will loop around 2 full circles. The remaining Y and Z will correspond to the position of 12 o’clock and 1 o’clock, respectively.”
“Since the direction of 12 o’clock is already marked with N for north so then the three letters A M Y means head north. DP is east, GS is south, and VJ is west. The number of letters between each two directions should represent the distance moved.”
“If you interpret it like this, the sentence ought to mean 5 north, 7 south, 1 east, 6 south, 31 north, 5 west, 1 north, 1 east, and 3 north. After calculating the total, it means go 27 units north, and 3 units west to reach the suggested location.”
Everyone understands what he meant. Cui Zuojing folded his arms and asked, “Then how do you determine the standard unit for each step?”
Dong Zheng obviously had already thought about it and immediately said, “These are two children. It’s impossible to use professional measuring tools. I’m inclined to think that they probably used their own steps to measure. A girl about ten years old takes about 40 to 50 centimeters per step. Let’s just give it a try.”
Dong Zheng estimated that one step would equate to two units. With this as a guideline, he walked 13 and a half steps north and then 1 and a half step west.
Dong Linhai found a plastic shovel from the cabin and handed it to him.
Dong Zheng dug about twenty centimeters down from where he was standing until the shovel hit a hard object.
Not long after, he unearthed a box, brushed the dirt off of it, and opened the lid.
Inside were some small toys that little girls liked, shiny glass flowers, a few newspaper clippings, and a thin story book.
Dong Zheng directly pulled the newspaper clippings out and read the bolded headline. It read “June 20th, mine north of town collapsed.”
The date of the newspaper was June 21st, coinciding with the information mentioned in the diary. Dong Zheng glanced through it. There was a coal mine north of the town. The coal industry was a mainstay of the town’s economy, and 60% of the residents were engaged in mine-related work.
This water leakage was the most serious accident the town had ever experienced.
Because groundwater had flooded the mine shaft, rescue was too difficult. As a result, it was certain that the coal miners trapped in the mine had no hope of surviving at all.
There was another newspaper clipping dated three days later, which reported a listing of the victims.
The remaining newspaper clippings were all stories, jokes, and riddles that children tended to like.
Cui Zuojing picked up the small notebook at the bottom of the box, which had a copy of Agatha’s adoption certificate.
Lin Hangzhi said, “She was adopted? No wonder. I thought it was strange that almost everyone in this school looked Asian, and only she had blonde hair and blue eyes.”
Allen said, “It was precisely because of this difference that made her stand out and caused the people to ostracize her. People will instinctively and collectively reject those who are different from themselves. Adults will consciously try to control their own behavior, but children never bothered to try to hide their own likes and dislikes.”
There was a page in the middle of the story book with the corner folded, bookmarking a story called The Demon in the Mountain. The story was a long time ago, and it was about an evil and terrifying demon that lived in the mountain. For some reason, it could not leave its lair so it would call children from their sleep and make them walk to the mountain, where it would give them demon blood before allowing them to return.
The children who returned to town became the demon’s servants. They gradually fell to evil and lured their friends and family to the mountains to become the demon’s blood source.
This story was probably written to prevent children from running around the mountains, but Dong Zheng noticed that the first person in the story to be seduced by the demon was a girl with long golden hair.
“Was it because of this? Just because a character in a story has something in common with that little girl, did they really treat her as a demon?”
Dong Zheng shook his head. “I don’t know. We still don’t know whether the demon thing really happened, or if it was just a simple story, but it is certain that Agatha must have suffered due to her distinctive appearance.”
There was no more important information left to be found and so they collected everything they could put away. Dong Zheng picked up the toy teddy bear and held it in his hand with the arm intact.
After that, they lined up inside the cabin and entered the “Eye of Paradise.” The stairs spiraled down with a thick pole as the central axis. The spiraling steps were so narrow that they could only step on the edge.
They descended for about six to seven meters, and as they did so, the temperatures began to rapidly drop. Finally, they passed through a small door and entered the empty underground courtyard.
This underground space was not large. There were five doors on the wall, one of which was opened, revealing the pink-toned decorations inside.
Sure enough, someone had arrived one step ahead of them.
When they first discovered that the door of the cabin and the door to the Eye of Paradise were both open, everyone guessed that there might be other pilgrims besides them in this box. Now, they were more certain.
When he was in the classroom earlier, Dong Zheng had felt an earthquake-like fluctuation. He now thought that it might possibly be caused by those people.
When the task of collecting keys appeared, Dong Zheng had already obtained the key to the security room from the guard so he automatically regarded it as part of the collection set, ignoring the possibility that other people may have already obtained the other keys.
The only key that was not in his hand was the key that corresponded to the equipment room as mentioned in the booklet.
Dong Zheng gave Lin Hangzhi, Dong Linhai, and Allen each a key. Afterward, they stood in front of the door that corresponded to their respective key.
Dong Zheng said, “These doors may take us to different locations. If we end up separating, we must pay attention to safety.”
Dong Zheng took a deep breath, glanced at Cui Zuojing, and entered the door.
The moment he walked through the door, Dong Zheng didn’t feel any discomfort but he knew instinctively that he’d crossed into another space. He looked sideways and saw Dong Linhai walk in through the other door.
Including the door that was already opened, all five doors lead to the same room. This made Dong Zheng a little speechless. If this was the case, then why give them five different keys with five doors?
Was it possible that there would be a plot point related to the keys later? For example, the more doors they opened, the more side plots they could unlock and the more reward they would gain once they cleared the box?
Seeing that everyone was here again, Dong Zheng couldn’t help but smile. He said, “Well, it seems like what I said a few seconds ago was for nothing.”
“It’s a good thing.” Dong Linhai observed the room. It looked like a toy room decorated in pink tones. The floor was covered with colorful foam boards often used for children. There were many toys and dolls stored in cabinets and opened boxes, with many more scattered on the ground.
Allen picked up a screaming chicken by his foot and squeezed it hard. The yellow, long-necked chicken immediately gave out a sharp scream.
Lin Hangzhi coordinated by fake-beating him. As he did so, Allen squeezed the chicken and pretended to wail, making Cui Zuojing’s brain ache.
“Uncle, is this similar to what you saw when you went in to get that fragment?” Dong Linhai asked.
Although he said he wouldn’t help much, Victor was always a good-natured man and so he still answered, “The style is almost the same, but it’s not the same room. At that time, the place where I entered seemed to be at the center of the location.”
“So, the things that happened at the school, those were just the set ups?” Allen sighed. “It’s worthy of being out of the novice district. The script process is so long.”
Cui Zuojing said, “Wait until later. The boxes will become more difficult. It won’t be uncommon to stay inside for ten days to half a month. Right now, this isn’t a big deal.”
After searching through the room, they couldn’t find any clues or props so they walked into the next area.
The floor of this room had black and white foam checkerboards. The overall style was very different from the previous room. It was simple and cold, and the four walls were painted with the four suits of playing cards: the knight, the queen, the king, and the clown as the small king.
Painted on the ceiling was the Red Queen, who symbolized cruelty and callousness. Wearing a crown, she stared down at them indifferently.
Allen said, “Speaking of which, I feel that the pilgrimage in the Pure White Realm seems a bit like a story.”
Lin Hangzhi said, “What?”
“You see, in Alice in Wonderland, the highest ruler is the queen, who ruthlessly controlled her people. We are like little Alices. After entering here by accident, we experienced all kinds of strange and unheard of thing on our journey to find the way back out.”
Lin Hangzhi was silent for a few seconds. Unable to hold back his smile, he said, “You deserve to be a kindergarten teacher. Your ability to associate isn’t bad.”
“The style of this house is very Alice-like, so I naturally thought of it.”
Dong Zheng looked up at the queen on the ceiling, a slight frown on his face. Cui Zuojing, who was standing next to him, asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Is she the one that we’re going on the pilgrimage to see?”
“Not her,” Cui Zuojing answered in a low voice. “In the original Alice in Wonderland, including the king and queen, there were a total of eight characters. The most famous was the Queen of Hearts. Later, in the subsequent adventures in the mirror, Alice was fortunate enough to encounter the White Queen. Generally, the White Queen was regarded as a just existence who overthrew the Red Queen.”
“In the Pure White Realm, the Red Queen had died a long time ago.”
When Dong Zheng looked over at him in surprise, Cui Zuojing shrugged and said, “Right now, it wouldn’t benefit you guys to speak of these two things. It’s better to focus on what’s in front of you.”
The next few rooms were similar to the toy room. When Dong Zheng opened the door and entered the next room, he couldn’t help but suck in a breath when he saw the contents.
There were thousands upon thousands of dolls stacked on small platforms on both sides of the room. They all wore gorgeous dresses, and they all varied. There were various hair colors and eyes colors. There were big dolls and small dolls. All had different expressions and wore different makeup. Some of them were realistic like delicate SD dolls, while others were common, ordinary dolls that children often played with.
Spherical joints could be seen from places on the bodies that were not covered by clothes, and their lifeless eyes were fixed in a certain direction, motionless.
They were very human-like, but also not like humans at all. Even big-hearted Allen couldn’t help but feel the uncanny valley effect (1). The potential threat made his scalp go numb, and he quickly looked away.
Everyone was eager to leave the doll house. At this moment, Dong Linhai let out a cry and pointed to an obscure corner of the room. He said, “That’s so realistic.”
Cui Zuojing’s gaze followed the direction of his finger. There was a 1.6 meter tall doll sitting in the corner and leaning against the wall. She was wearing a navy blue dress, with her waist and legs covered by other dolls. Her dark eyes stared at the opposite wall. Her long flax-colored hair was slightly curled, and thin strands of hair that were dyed a dark blue rested against her ears, making her skin look extremely pale.
She looked so realistic that Dong Linhai was startled when he saw her. If it weren’t for the doll’s eyes, which remained motionless from beginning to end, he would have thought that there really was a person sitting there.
Cui Zuojing frowned thoughtfully but didn’t say anything. Lin Hangzhi urged, “Let’s go. The more we stay here, the creepier this place feels.”
A group of big men naturally had no interest in the things that girls might like, and they soon walked out of the doll’s room.
No one noticed that, behind them, the doll’s eyelashes trembled slightly.
Xixi: I grabbed a pen and paper and tried to figure out the direction puzzle but couldn’t make sense of it at all! QAQ
(1) Uncanny Valley – A metaphor coined by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori to describe the creeped-out sensation human feel when they see something that looks human but, upon closer inspection, isn’t exactly human or doesn’t behave as a normal human would.