Candleman Festival (10)
Ye Chang’s footsteps paused again. He thought for a moment before nodding. “It is very important.”
His tone at this time was more serious and determined than ever before.
Chi Nan wasn’t very interested in the affairs of others, but today, after hearing Old Yu’s words, he was obsessed like he was bewitched and couldn’t help persistently asking, “Can I ask why?”
Ye Chang rubbed his fingers against the smooth surface of the pocket watch and smiled after a moment of silence. “It was given by a very important person as a souvenir for me.”
“Where did they go?” Chi Nan asked again.
Ye Chang lowered his eyes. Even Chi Nan, who couldn’t perceive the emotions of others, could feel Ye Chang’s loneliness and regret at this moment.
I’m sorry.” Chi Nan knew he couldn’t ask anything else.
Ye Chang shook his head before looking at Chi Nan. “Last time, why didn’t you open it to confirm it?”
Chi Nan frowned. “Last time?”
“Yes, during the Dusk Cruise nightmare, didn’t you help me pick it up and put it on the bedside table?” Ye Chang stared at him.
Chi Nan recalled it before replying naturally, “I can’t look at your private matter without your consent.”
Ye Chang smiled. “Then what if I allow you to see it?”
Chi Nan hesitated for a moment before shaking his head. “Forget it.”
If it was something that was so important to Ye Chang, he didn’t think he was qualified to touch it.
“Yes, let’s see if there is a chance.” Ye Chang pushed up his glasses and hid his smile behind the lenses.
It was as everyone initially expected. They didn’t find Rui Rui in the town.
At around 7 o’clock, the group returned to the dormitory building.
The moment Old Yu stepped into the corridor of the dormitory, he was frightened by a figure moving at the end of the corridor like a wandering spirit. He almost bit off his cigarette butt and swallowed it.
“You’re finally back.” The wandering spirit at the end of the corridor looked up. In the faint candlelight, she brushed back her unkempt hair to reveal her face. “I found an important clue and was waiting for you to take a look.”
It was the young mother. At this moment, she held a doll in her arms as she walked toward the group.
Perhaps it was because her face was bloodless, her hair was dry and messy around her eyes, and she was wearing an unsettling black funeral dress while holding a strange doll in her hand. She moved forward in the lengthy corridor and a creepy feeling of oppression also approached.
Xia Wei shivered and instinctively hid behind Ye Chang. Then he asked the young mother who came up to them, “Wait, are you a human or a ghost now?”
Just now, the young mother had been alone in the dormitory building. Who would know if she encountered something during this time and became something else?
The young mother changed from her fragile appearance of being on the verge of collapse and she calmly replied, “Rest assured, I’m not a ghost.”
Her voice might be a bit hoarse and weak from crying, but her tone was firm and clear. It was completely different from the fragile mother who cried because her daughter was missing.
Her sudden change was hard to believe. Everyone examined her from head to toe several times, but they couldn’t see anything. Only Chi Nan noticed the doll in her hand.
The doll had been cut open using a sharp object from the back of its neck to its tailbone. Yellow cotton wool was faintly visible under the old floral cloth.
“Is the important clue in the doll?” Chi Nan wondered.
The young mother nodded. She directly put her hand into the body of the cut doll and everyone present watched her rough movements in astonishment.
Old Yu was confused. Didn’t this woman treat the doll as a baby this morning and didn’t let people touch it? How could she cut it at this time? Was it a split personality? Or was her sanity partially restored?
“I felt the doll’s belly was very hard and sensed something wrong. Therefore, I cut it open and found this thing.” The young mother pulled out a lockbox that resembled a music box from the pile of messy cotton wool.
Old Yu raised an eyebrow. “It is an eight digit code lock.”
The combination lock was a bit like the safe in the room of the Dusk Cruise Ship’s captain. The bottom of the box contained a hint and the edges of the strokes were rough, as if done with a sharp object. The handwriting also had the unique childishness of a child.
“Please enter the most important day for Rui Rui. I believe that Mother will remember it.”
The two girls naturally gathered around and Wu Ying thought it was obvious after seeing the handwriting. “The most important day generally refers to one’s birthday, right?”
The young mother shook her head, face pale. “I tried it. Her birthday isn’t right.”
As she spoke, she directly changed the code lock to ‘20080102’ and showed it to everyone. The lock didn’t move at all.
“Is there any memorable day for Rui Rui? For example, an important admissions day, confession day, the first time she got her period…” Wu Ying started to brainstorm blindly.
Dyson Sen stared at her. “Rui Rui is only 12 years old. What confession? Don’t blindly guide people…”
Wu Ying stuck out her tongue. “Didn’t you have anyone you liked when you were 12? I don’t believe it…”
Old Yu watched the young mother fiddle with the code lock again and again. The lock was still locked without showing any signs of loosening. There was a speculation in his heart, but saying it was equivalent to revealing scars.
He thought about it for a moment, but his instinct to pass the instance and save his life triumphed over kindness. Finally, he said, “Why don’t you try the date of the funeral or…the date of her death?”
He always liked simplicity and directness, but in the face of a mother who lost her child, he endured it to the end and didn’t say the words ‘Rui Rui’s death date.’
The movement of the young mother’s hands obviously stopped. She bit her dry lips nervously, and a strong fishy sweetness filled her mouth without noticing. The calmness on her face that had been difficult to recover was collapsing at a speed visible to the naked eye.
“Funeral? There was no funeral?” Her eyes became hollow and confused again. Her lips were cracked and blood oozed out, giving her pale face a more morbid and eerie feeling.
Old Yu and the mother stared at each other. He couldn’t help sweating. His Adam’s apple moved nervously, and the words in his mouth were swallowed down.
“No one died, there was no funeral, no one died, no funeral…” The mother fiddled with the combination lock of the box again and again. Her nails scraping against the iron made a painful sound.
Xia Wei looked at her like she was strange and frightening. “Then what are you wearing if there was no funeral?”
The young mother’s movements were obviously stiff. She didn’t answer, and the air was eerily quiet.
Wu Ying asked strangely, “What do you mean? Didn’t you say before that…it was the funeral of Rui Rui’s father?”
She asked both Old Yu and the young mother. She was completely confused because she hadn’t seen the photo in the wallet.
Chi Nan suggested, “Try the birthday again, Rui Rui’s second birthday.”
The second birthday naturally referred to the date of Rui Rui’s rebirth in the Nightmare World.
The young mother’s empty eyes finally regained a bit of light. She looked at the doll that had been cut open by her and blinked blankly.
“If you really can’t remember, you can try opening your wallet to confirm it. Maybe the birth certificate is still there?” Ye Chang added another sentence.
The young mother’s body trembled visibly as if her soul had returned to her body. Her facial features and limbs gradually regained consciousness. After a moment, she took out the wallet containing the ‘death certificate’ from her bag.
The wallet was opened and she looked at Rui Rui in the posthumous photo.
At this moment, the trembling of her body stopped. She used the fastest speed to pull the photo out of the transparent compartment of the wallet. She flipped over the photo and noted down the date.
Xia Wei’s eyes widened with shock after she peeked at the wallet. Just before he could make a sound, Old Yu hurriedly covered his mouth and mouthed to him, “I will explain when we go back to the dormitory later.”
Xia Wei was still staring with wide eyes. He trembled and nodded frantically.
The mother quickly put the photo back in the compartment again. Only, this time, she turned it back side up so she couldn’t see Rui Rui’s black and white smile.
She tried entering ‘20201030’ into the code lock and within half a second, it popped up.
A childish crayon drawing was displayed in front of everyone.
The style of the drawing was eerie and childish. Two-thirds of the drawing was occupied by the huge wax figure of a candleman with no wick. Instead, there was a little girl in a black funeral dress. Her neck was solidified in a wax block, and her long black hair was combed into a braid that wound down the outline of the wax figure like a firecracker. There was a cluster of flames waiting at the end of the paper. The flames throbbed and moved toward the twisted braid, waiting for the opportunity…
Under this eerie drawing, there was a sentence in crooked handwriting: Guess what is left of Rui Rui after digging out four hearts in one go?
Everyone ‘appreciated’ this creepy child’s drawing in the faint candlelight of the corridor. Chi Nan’s eyes fell on the sentence and he blurted out, “A candle wick.”
After digging out four hearts, only the core remained i.e. the candle wick.
The content of the drawing and the information that the female foreman told them about how children ran away in search of light only to return on the day of the Candleman Festival also confirmed this.
The young mother’s fingers holding the drawing froze. She stared at the drawing without making a sound.
Old Yu sighed. “It seems that my previous speculation is correct. The reason why a 12 year old girl like Rui Rui appeared in this instance is due to the needs of the setting.”
“It turns out that the giant candle to be lit during the Candleman Festival requires a little girl to be sacrificed as the candle wick to be lit. No wonder why the female foreman always emphasized the importance of the candle wick to us before. it turned out to be a reminder, but it was ignored by us…”
Old Yu’s expression tensed and he crouched down to ask the young mother, “It seems that this time, Rui Rui has a lot to do with the instance. Tell the truth. It is better to have some idea of this. Regarding Rui Rui’s resurrection…how much memory do you have left?”
The young mother’s shoulders instantly tensed. She put the drawing in the box, sealed it again, and stuffed it into the doll’s stomach. Her lips were pursed in a straight line and she refused to speak.
Old Yu tried to persuade her. “Then do you know who resurrected Rui Rui?”
Everyone waited for the answer without any hope. They didn’t dare make a sound in this atmosphere.
After a long time, the young mother finished packing up the doll and answered softly, “Me.”
Then she stopped talking. She hugged the doll and locked herself back in Room 105.
Several sleepwalkers couldn’t help exclaiming with surprise.
Only Ye Chang spoke to himself, “There is no way to hold the Candleman Festival without a wick. Maybe there is a way to break through.”
Chi Nan asked, “Do you have a way?”
Ye Chang’s lips curved up in a smile. “I’m not completely certain yet, but I’m a bit sure.”
Too many things happened today and the atmosphere among the volunteers was extremely depressing.
“We should go back to our dormitory to sleep first. Don’t forget that a lack of sleep can easily affect your awakening value,” Old Yu suggested before turning to Chi Nan and Ye Chang. “You might’ve acquired experience last night, but we don’t know if the alienation behavior will evolve. You should be careful.”
Chi Nan answered, “Yes, we know.”
Old Yu glanced at Ye Chang, but didn’t say anything else. He waved and returned to his dormitory.
Tonight’s unlucky box was still with Room 101. It was just that the trigger condition for Rui Rui’s disappearance was unknown, so the sleepwalkers were extra cautious.
Old Yu circled around the room, sealed all the windows and vents with sheets and clothes, and tried to keep the strange light from the yard from getting in.
After two days, almost everyone had PTSD toward candlelight and their own shadow. Who would’ve thought that one day, they would have to guard against their shadow like a thief?
“Uncle, is it safe to seal it like this?” Xia Wei asked the busy Old Yu as he lay in the dormitory that was plunged into darkness.
Old Yu smoked a cigarette and said, “It isn’t easy to say that it is safe, but I feel more at ease like this. I feel uncomfortable when I see my own shadow now.”
Xia Wei sighed and used frivolity to cover up his sadness. “Gu Xiao died here. I hope that little brother Ye Chang will be okay.”
“Little brother Ye? A talented student in his third year is younger than you?” Old Yu sneered. He had lived in this dangerous environment for a long time and had grown accustomed to diluting fear with ridicule.
Xia Wei rolled his eyes. “Uncle…do you really think that little brother has the meaning of brother?”
Old Yu raised an eyebrow. “Then what is it?”
Xia Wei sighed and didn’t bother to answer. He yawned for a long time before saying, “I’m sleepy. I’ll go to sleep first.”
Then he added, “I hope I can live until tomorrow. I don’t want to become a candle and burn like an ugly thief.”
“…Don’t set up flags. Go to sleep.”
He was too lazy to talk nonsense any longer. He turned over in the complete darkness and went to sleep. Before falling asleep, he opened his eyes several times to confirm that his shadow wasn’t on the wall before closing his eyes with peace of mind.
In the middle of the night, Old Yu heard the sound of chattering coming from the direction of Xia Wei’s bed. The voice was light and strange, like a person whispering.
If he had to describe it, it was like lovers meeting in the middle of the night and secretly communicating because they were afraid of being caught.
Old Yu’s accumulated instance experience made him more alert, but it was like a ghost was pressing him to the bed. He couldn’t open his eyes or move his limbs to get up from the bed. His body was as heavy as a big rock.
He couldn’t speak or open his eyes. He could only listen quietly.
In the silence, he could clearly hear Xia Wei getting off the bed. He seemed to be at the door and talking to someone through the door. Occasionally, there were a few soft laughs.
Old Yu heard it clearly. Xia Wei called the person outside the door by ‘little brother.’
His heart skipped a beat. Could the person in the corridor be Ye Chang?
Immediately afterward, there was the click of the door unlocking. The door was pulled open and the light coming in from the corridor hit Old Yu’s face.
He couldn’t open his eyes, but he could still feel the harsh discomfort through his eyelids.
There was another bust of footsteps, followed by the sound of the door closing.
The dormitory returned to darkness again, and Old Yu almost instantly opened his eyes.
Xia Wei’s bed was empty, and there were no traces of him in the room. It seemed he really went out.
Yet, what did Ye Chang come to Xia Wei in the middle of the night to do?