Candleman Festival (8)
Rui Rui disappeared without warning despite not receiving the “Excellent Volunteer” award.
This surprised everyone.
“In the morning, I thought Rui Rui was lying in bed. After calling her for a long time, she didn’t respond. I saw that she was going to be late so I thought of lifting her quilt… Then…” The young mother trembled and tugged at the doll in her hand, her eyes red with self-blame and sadness. “I found out too late that it wasn’t Rui Rui under the quilt, it was this thing…”
“Rui Rui has always been very obedient. She wouldn’t leave without telling me. Something must be wrong… Something happened…”
Chi Nan stared at the strange and worn-out ragdoll and asked, “Does that belong to Rui Rui?”
The young mother looked confused for a moment as she stared at the doll with strange and complicated eyes. “It seems to be… It doesn’t seem to be… Is it or is it not?”
Old Yu frowned when he heard this while Chi Nan and Ye Chang exchanged glances.
“Is it or is it not?” Old Yu asked. He didn’t believe that there would be a mother who didn’t know anything about her daughter.
The young mother tugged nervously at the doll’s hair. “I forgot…”
Old Yu: “……” It seemed that this woman didn’t have a very clear mind.
Chi Nan wondered, “Can I see this doll?”
Vigilance flashed on the young mother’s face. Then she reacted fiercely and hid the doll behind her while staring at Chi Nan. “No…you can’t touch…”
Chi Nan: “……”
Ye Chang told her, “We can find Rui Rui faster if it is a key clue.”
The young mother looked at them nervously. “I don’t trust you.”
Old Yu gave them a look. “Forget it. Don’t force her for now.”
The number of sleepwalkers in the corridor increased. No one could care about breakfast, so they started to help search for Rui Rui in the dormitory building and yard.
The group searched for half an hour all over the yard the size of a basketball court, but they couldn’t find the whereabouts of Rui Rui.
“Does Rui Rui have any special habits at night?” Xia Wei asked, “For example, sleepwalking or something? Would she accidentally enter a forbidden room?”
“No! Rui Rui has been very well-behaved since she was a child. She rarely even talks in her sleep and she doesn’t sleepwalk,” the young mother answered immediately.
“Apart from the locked room, all the rooms, wardrobes, and under the beds have been searched. We didn’t find Rui Rui.”
“However, Rui Rui is a little girl. She can’t pry the lock open herself, right?”
“Rui Rui also doesn’t look like a child who would break into a forbidden room.”
Old Yu saw that nothing was found and looked anxiously at the time. “It is almost 9 o’clock.”
“Why don’t we go to the factory first? We can’t find her like this,” Wu Ying suggested while looking worriedly at the young mother who was on the verge of collapse. “Don’t scare yourself first. It will be very dangerous once your mental value exceeds 90.”
“How can I not scare myself? Yesterday, the two boys in the next room haven’t been found until now… Will Rui Rui be like this?”
She trembled suddenly and whimpered. Then, she squatted down and cried uncontrollably.
She couldn’t clearly say the word “gone.”
Chi Nan explained, “Probably not. Yesterday, Bai Chuan and Gu Xiao disappeared due to the ‘Excellent Volunteer’ box given by the female foreman. Rui Rui didn’t get it yesterday.”
However, this raised a new question. In addition to the “Excellent Volunteer” title that could cause sleepwalkers to disappear, was there another set of rules for disappearing? Did they accidentally trigger them without noticing?
The young mother held the strange doll in her arms and looked for her daughter in the yard and each room. Everyone just watched her while sighing. At this moment, dissuasion and comfort were the most useless.
“Is our previous speculation that those who receive the ‘Excellent Volunteer’ title will disappear correct? Can this problem be explained with only two samples, Bai Chuan and Gu Xiao? If it is true, why did Rui Rui disappear without triggering the condition? In addition, you two…”
Dyson Sen looked at Chi Nan and Ye Chang, who were standing in the yard. She hesitantly stopped.
Wu Ying beside her was more direct and she looked at them with suspicious eyes. “How did the two of you escape the rule of death last night?”
Ye Chang briefly told everyone what happened last night and Wu Ying gazed at him suspiciously. “Why is it so coincidental? It just so happened that you were right?”
Ye Chang glanced at her before smiling as harmlessly as usual. “My luck is good.”
“This doesn’t sound very convincing,” the girl sneered back.
Ye Chang shrugged. “I can’t prove my luck.”
Old Yu saw that the atmosphere wasn’t right. He bit his cigarette while cautiously saying, “Now isn’t the time to doubt each other. It is almost 9 o’clock. The female foreman said there will be corresponding punishment if we are late. We should still be cautious.”
Everyone was at a loss. The more rational thing to do now was to stop the useless search as Old Yu said, and to go to the workshop according to the instance’s rules.
They were worried about the little girl, but they couldn’t destroy the entire group looking for her.
The facts and choices were clearly in front of them.
“It isn’t a problem for you to keep searching like this, but you should go to the workshop with us. It is dangerous to miss the roll call time…” Wu Ying went over to persuade the young mother who was in a trance. Wu Ying thought that the mother looked like this and her awakening value wouldn’t be able to make it to the Candleman Festival.
The mother opened the cupboard, which was only half a meter high, and nervously looked in. “I won’t go. If Rui Rui comes back and can’t find me, she will be afraid… I have to wait for her here!”
Her eyes were red and the sanity in them faded little by little with the spread of her fear. “I can’t lose Rui Rui again, I can’t do it again…”
“Again?” Wu Ying was puzzled, but the young mother didn’t answer this time.
Old Yu and Chi Nan knew the facts but didn’t speak. It seemed that this mother still had the memory of her daughter’s death in her subconscious.
Everyone was helpless. They all understood the young mother’s behavior and couldn’t force her.
Ye Chang calmly told the young mother, “There is a new missing person and it is different from the rule we speculated about before. As an important NPC, the female foreman might give new clues. Aunt, you might be able to find the answer if you go to the workshop with us.”
The young mother’s nervous movements of looking through the boxes and cabinets paused slightly. Then Ye Chang suggested, “What if Rui Rui has already gone to the workshop first?”
Reason flashed on the mother’s crazy face, and she fell into a quagmire of confusion for a moment. Her lips trembled and she muttered, “Yes, Rui Rui is the most disciplined child. She is never late or absent for class for no reason. Maybe she has already gone to the workshop… Let’s go to the workshop… We will go…”
Everyone was relieved after seeing that the mother was persuaded, but in less than half a minute, she shook her head nervously. “What if Rui Rui returns to the dormitory and can’t find me?”
Ye Chang answered, “You can leave her a note telling her to go to the factory to meet you. I think Rui Rui can do it.”
The young mother listened to him and nodded. She found a sticky note and ballpoint pen in her room. It was just that she couldn’t write normally because she couldn’t control the trembling of her hands.
“I’ll help you.” Ye Chang took the ballpoint pen and wrote a sentence smoothly on the sticky note.
[Rui Rui, your mother is waiting for you at the production workshop.]
Chi Nan looked at Ye Chang’s handwriting, which was so beautiful and powerful that people couldn’t help looking at it twice, and would never forget it.
The time was 8:56 a.m. The group hurried to the workshop and arrived just on time, no more and no less.
The female foreman was already waiting for them with a smile on her face. “Dear volunteers, I wonder how you rested last night.”
Finally, her sharp eyes fell on Ye Chang and Chi Nan and her smile disappeared. “It seems that the two best volunteers didn’t make the right choice yesterday. It is a pity.”
Ye Chang pushed up his glasses apologetically. “However, a little girl among us is missing. Do you know where she went?”
The female foreman moved her eyes stiffly. “What is the name of the little girl?”
The young mother replied immediately, “Rui Rui. She is my daughter.”
Unexpectedly, the female foreman smiled approvingly. “What a beautiful name.”
She explained, “There has always been a legend in our Candleman Town that the nights before the Candleman Festival are the deepest moments of darkness. Children are the beings most sensitive to light and the soul. In the few days leading up to the festival, at midnight, children are likely to wake up from their sleep, run away from home in the darkness, and find light in the upcoming grand celebration.”
The young mother couldn’t understand her and asked urgently, “Where has my daughter gone? Tell me if you know!”
The female foreman let out a subtle smile. “Rest assured, the children will come back on their own once they find the light they need.”
“What do you mean? Tell me clearly…”
No matter how the young mother asked, the female foreman had already closed her lips and didn’t speak.
Chi Nan quickly grasped the key point of the female foreman’s words. “Then I want to ask you, how long will it take for them to find the light they want?”
The female foreman’s cloudy eyes rolled and the strange smile on her face became stronger. “Under normal circumstances, light will fill the entire town on the day of the Candleman Festival and the missing children will return.”
The expressions of the experienced sleepwalkers changed the moment she said this. In other words, on the day of the Candleman Festival, the missing Rui Rui would appear again. It was just hard to say if she would still be the little girl who was alive and lively.
This seemed to be the second rule for the disappearance. Children would run away at night in search of light…so the necessary condition was to be a child?
Old Yu muttered to himself, “Due to this rule, there was a rare 12 year old girl who appeared in the team of sleepwalkers this time?”
Chi Nan asked again, “Then where will the children go to find the light?”
The female foreman glanced around the group. “Who knows? A secret of children isn’t known to us adults.”
“Everyone, the time has come. Let’s start the volunteer work today.”
“It is a great honor. Two volunteers have selflessly sacrificed themselves to the god of light the night before, so we received the reward of the gods and got the most precious candle material.” The female foreman looked at the group with great excitement. “Today, in addition to making your own candle portraits, you also need to do an extra task. It is to purify the most precious candle people material.”
As she spoke, she lifted the white cloth from the table and revealed a large piece of amber wax inside.
Chi Nan stared at the wax block and his brow furrowed imperceptibly. This wax was exactly the same as the humanoid candle that could alienate the shadows last night… Ye Chang also noticed this and nodded at him.
Maybe they could find a breakthrough in this wax block…
“Purification? What do we need to do?” Old Yu asked.
The female foreman explained, “I need you to melt these wax blocks in the water to pick out the impurities such as small stones and mud blocks. This job requires care and endurance. I hope you can take it seriously.”
The moment she finished speaking, she distributed the wax blocks while looking at the time. “The production of the candle people will be carried out after noon. The morning will be used for the purification.”
This new mission was likely to reveal hidden clues. The group started to bury their heads and do the task. The young mother fell onto the workshop chair and started to sob uncontrollably.
Wu Ying sighed and whispered, “It is a good thing to be able to cry. It is better than holding it back and letting it impact the awakening value.”
Chi Nan saw the young mother’s fierce emotional fluctuations and a trace of confusion flashed in his green eyes. Ye Chang keenly noticed it. “What’s wrong?”
Chi Nan shook her head. “She isn’t the same as a mother I knew before.”
“What do you mean?”
“That mother…used her son as a bargaining chip with evil spirits.” Chi Nan lowered his eyes.
Ye Chang’s hand that was melting the wax block paused. “Are you talking about You Yu?”
Chi Nan’s heart thumped and he quickly glanced at Ye Chang. “How do you…”
Ye Chang smiled. “Brother Cha has recited your experience more than once. I memorized it.”
Chi Nan remembered the lively Hei Cha and didn’t know what this person was doing now.
Ye Chang said, “But maybe…in Rui Rui’s situation, a family of three was able to go to the dangerous Nightmare World to do tasks in exchange for each other’s lives. Is this a normal family?”
As he spoke, Ye Chang’s voice lowered until it couldn’t be heard.
Chi Nan didn’t know much about human families either and shook his head. “I don’t know very well…”
He paused before asking again, “What is your family like?”
It was the only time he was interested in someone else’s family.
Ye Chang’s eyes were hidden behind the lenses and the curve of his lips made him seem like he was smiling. “I… My mother, she…”
“Ah—!” Halfway through his words, he was interrupted by Xia Wei’s sudden screams. The group was startled and looked back.
“What’s wrong?” Old Yu looked at his roommate who was pale.
“Wax… In the wax block… “ Xia Wei fell from the chair in a panic, his facial features twisted by fear. “In the wax block…there is…”
Old Yu frowned. Before Xia Wei could finish answering, he picked up the wax block that had fallen to the ground, and his expression abruptly changed.
Chi Nan rarely saw Old Yu’s face look so nervous and ugly.
“There is a…blue skull tattoo…” Xia Wei swallowed hard and finally expressed the creepy discovery.
The two girls were puzzled for a moment and wondered, “Blue skull tattoo? What do you mean?”
Old Yu pointed the wax block at the light so that it could be more clearly displayed in front of everyone. “See? The blue pattern in the wax block is a skull tattoo, right? Do you remember that this pattern was…”
“Gu Xiao’s neck…had the exact same tattoo!” Wu Ying covered her mouth, and her face paled with fright.
The blue skull tattoo on Gu Xiao’s neck was so unique that even Chi Nan had an impression of it despite not paying attention to his teammates, let alone the sleepwalkers who keenly observed their companions.
Old Yu nodded. For a moment, the atmosphere in the workshop froze.
They found the tattoo on Gu Xiao’s neck in the so-called “precious wax block.” In other words…
“After being illuminated by the candlelight, it isn’t just the shadow that will become alienated, but the body will also become a wax block,” Chi Nan told everyone the truth that they had gradually guessed, but didn’t have the courage to express.
Xia Wei put his hands on the ground and almost cried when he saw his friend’s tattoo solidified in the yellow wax. “But…but how can a person turn into wax?”
He added in a low voice, “How can he turn into wax…”
As a sleepwalker who wasn’t a newcomer, he naturally knew that all absurdities were possible in the Nightmare World. It wasn’t impossible for flesh and blood to turn into wax.
Chi Nan looked at Ye Chang and raised his hand to look closely at the light. “However, we were also illuminated by the humanoid candle last night. Apart from the temporary alienation of the shadow, there was no turning into wax phenomenon.”
Ye Chang thought for a moment. “Last night, we stopped the shadow attack in time so we couldn’t test the effect the shadow will have on the body and…the motive of the shadow in attacking the body.”
Chi Nan’s eyelids twitched and he understood. “So the body will turn to wax after being attacked by the shadow?”
Ye Chang nodded. “I think so. Thinking about it, the motive for the shadow to attack the body might also be in this.”
Turn the body into a wax block suitable for making candle people so that the shadow could continuously obtain light. Light and shadow were interdependent, and the special wax block was the energy they used to live.
“So the clue we have is that when we’re illuminated by the candlelight of the humanoid candle, our shadow will alienate and the alienated shadow will do something to us, i.e. the body. The body that is attacked by the shadow will gradually turn to wax, so as to provide the light source upon which the shadows depend for their survival.”
Old Yu summed it up. Then he rubbed his pained temples, looked at his own shadow on the ground, and cursed. “I didn’t f*king expect that I would one day turn against my own shadow.”
He expressed the thoughts of the people present. No one ever thought that the “shadow” accompanying them would one day want to kill them.
Just when everyone was feeling breathless by this strange truth, Wu Ying suddenly exclaimed. She quickly pulled Dyson Sen to the side and retreated backwards, looking at Ye Chang vigilantly and with horror.
She asked in a cold voice, “How come you don’t have a shadow?”