Highway 404 (9)
The driver slowly parked on the side of the road and looked at Chi Nan in the rearview mirror. “Where should I drive next? The choice is up to you.”
Chi Nan replied, “Please take the road to the left, thank you.”
The driver put on the turn signal and drove on the road to the left. The road surface was uneven so the speed dropped to 30 km per hour. They moved forward slowly.
“Chi Nan, are you sure it is safe to take the fork in the road?” Pei Mo’s voice trembled, whether it was due to the bumps or nervousness.
Chi Nan told him, “I’m not sure if it is safe to go either way.”
Pei Mo: “……”
Lu Baizhou questioned it, “Since it is inferred that the end point of Highway 404 is death and we are running out of time, will it really not delay the main mission time to take this forked road?”
Jiang Yu’s body was covered with bruises and she felt pain all over when the car hit a bump. She held onto the front seat and looked straight out the window. “There are no kilometer road signs on both sides of this forked road. It shouldn’t be counted in the total distance. It is an independent mission point and won’t occupy our time.”
She paused before adding, “In addition, the motel lady instructed us that all of us had to be in the car and be neat and tidy to get to the finish line. I suspect that the nightmare requires each ‘murderer’ to complete their redemption in order to collectively clear the level. In the end, no matter who makes a mistake, it will cause us to fail to clear the dream.”
The implication was that even though this fork in the road was a side plot opened up by Chi Nan’s suicide, it was still closely related to the completion of each of their tasks.
Pei Mo opened his mouth. “I suddenly have an idea… Now that time is running out, can we collectively adopt Chi Nan’s suicide method to ‘atone for our sins’ and speed up the progress?”
Jiang Yu and Lu Baizhou frowned when they heard this and remained silent. However, Chi Nan shook his head. “My situation is special. It is better for you to wait for the victim to kill you.”
After all, You Yu said they could be counted as the same person in a sense. Therefore, Chi Nan’s suicide counted as being killed.
“Special? What is special?” Pei Mo looked over in confusion.
Chi Nan thought about it but couldn’t really summarize the appropriate wording. He had to select one of You Yu’s sayings. “I have a physical relationship with the victim.”
The car was eerily quiet for an instant. Then Jiang Yu murmured to break the silence, “I didn’t expect it…”
Pei Mo pondered on it. “It turns out that only this type of relationship can commit suicide? I can’t do that.”
Chi Nan nodded. “Yes.”
By this time, half the sun had been swallowed up, leaving only a fingernail-sized curved tooth shape hanging overhead. The horizon at the end of the wilderness merged with the endless gray.
Two solitary headlights shone on the potholed road. The sense of security of the people in the car was broken.
Around 20 minutes later, the sun was completely blocked by a shadow, as if night had fallen.
Everyone vaguely saw the outline of a tall building ahead. It stood quietly at the end of the road like a monster lurking in the darkness, waiting for its prey to arrive.
The darkness made people instinctively fear things with huge silhouettes. The sleepwalkers in the car consciously breathed lightly and straightened their shoulders the moment they saw the building. They were afraid, but they couldn’t help stretching out their necks and looking forward.
This lasted until the headlights shone on the rusty gate outside the building. The dilapidated door sign above the iron gate read ‘Angel Welfare Home’…
“Angel Welfare Home?” Pei Mo shuddered. His intuition told him that encountering a welfare home in the Nightmare World was definitely bad.
Chi Nan stared at the door. “It should be the place where my character lived.”
Jiang Yu quickly loosened the seat belt. “Let’s go. This might be the location of a very important clue.”
Lu Baizhou had an extra thought and asked the driver, “Can I ask if all of us can go in? Or is it only Chi Nan?”
The driver replied, “Everyone can enter.”
Pei Mo hesitated when he heard this before tentatively saying, “You go. I will wait in the car for you. Come back quickly.”
Jiang Yu pushed open the car door. “You really don’t plan to go with us?”
Pei Mo smiled sarcastically. “Actually, I’m quite afraid of places like welfare homes… Children who are abandoned or born with disabilities are really resentful… I’m really afraid…”
Jiang Yu pursed her lips. “Yes, you can do whatever you want. I just think this new map is a very important point to gain favorability. It is unwise to choose to give up when you can gain favorability.”
Lu Baizhou inserted the knife. “I don’t know if you will encounter anything if you stay in the car for six hours during a total solar eclipse.”
Pei Mo’s expression changed rapidly. After a lot of hesitation, he finally gritted his teeth. “Then I’ll go with you.”
Jiang Yu sneered and closed the car door.
Chi Nan turned his head and asked the driver, “If we don’t come out before the solar eclipse ends, what will be the consequences?”
The driver stared at him before patting the steering wheel. “You will stay in the welfare home forward, accompanying these poor and hospitable children.”
The faces of the three people changed. Only Chi Nan didn’t look different. “Thank you.”
“Wait a minute.” The driver suddenly stopped the four people and stuck his head out the car window. “I have some items to lend you. Maybe they can help.”
As he spoke, he got out of the car and opened the trunk. He took out two flashlights and a half a meter long machete, handing them to everyone. “You know, some children are naughty and difficult. They need to be taught a good lesson.”
Jiang Yu, who was the strongest in the team, took the initiative to take the machete. Lu Baizhou and Pei Mo scrambled to grab the two flashlights and only Chi Nan was empty-handed.
He instinctively touched the pocket of his jacket and found the dagger that had appeared in it at an unknown time.
It was the one he used to cut his neck, the one You Yu sneaked in… The corners of Chi Nan’s lips raised imperceptibly. Even he didn’t notice it.
The driver’s stiff lips cracked open and he waved at them. “Good luck to you.”
The gray wall on the right side of the gate was badly damaged and the mottled paint was peeling off. There was a notice posted on the wall that provided the relocation information and contact number of the Angel Welfare Home. It was the familiar 4040404 number.
This welfare home had been abandoned for a long time. The place that Chi Nan had called last time was the new location of the welfare home.
It seemed the story background of the two brothers had a deep connection with the abandoned welfare home. Chi Nan thought it was possible that the younger brother chose the abandoned welfare home where no one would disturb him as the place to imprison his older brother. Then after the younger brother was killed by his older brother, the body of the younger brother was likely to be buried here.
Moreover, the two brothers grew up at the Angel Welfare Home and were familiar with this place.
The door of the welfare home was half open. The four people entered with the machete and two flashlights. They consciously breathed lightly out of fear that they would make a sound to scare themselves.
They had just stepped into the welfare home when the driver behind them turned off the headlights. The surrounding area instantly fell into darkness.
At almost the same time, the bell for 12 o’clock sounded in the direction of the main building of the welfare home. There was the loud bang of an iron object and the door behind them slammed shut, locking tightly.
Everyone was trapped in the darkness of the abandoned welfare home with no way out.
Pei Mo was frightened by the impact of the iron gate and almost jumped up. Lu Baizhou’s expression was very bleak. Chi Nan’s face didn’t change at all, while Jiang Yu tried to make herself look calm.
Jiang Yu couldn’t stand Pei Mo’s grumbling and cowardice. Therefore, she grabbed the flashlight in his hand, turned it on, and scanned the surroundings.
The front yard wasn’t big. It was around the size of a basketball court. The ground was full of books, children’s toys, and all types of miscellaneous things that were too late to be cleaned up when relocating. There was an abandoned angel sculpture fountain in the middle of the yard. The angel was badly damaged and the water in the pool was half dry. It was full of fallen leaves and covered with blood.
There was a dilapidated iron swing on the right side of the yard. It was clear that there was no wind, but the swing was shaking and swinging higher and higher. The ‘creaking’ sound of the chain reverberated in the empty yard, making people shudder.
Everyone knew exactly what was swinging on the swing.
The flashlight in Jiang Yu’s hand fell onto the door of the main building. Unfortunately, the thick iron door was locked.
“It seems we have to find a way to open the lock before we can get in,” Jiang Yu stated.
Lu Baizhou told her, “I happen to know how to pick locks, but I’m not very skilled. Perhaps I can try it.”
Chi Nan felt very lucky that almost every time he entered an instance, he could meet a teammate who knew how to pick locks. It always came in handy at key times.
Jiang Yu nodded. “Then you and I will stay here to study how to open the look. Chi Nan and Pei Mo, look for clues in the courtyard.”
Chi Nan replied, “No problem.”
He had wanted to take the flashlight that Jiang Yu handed him when Pei Mo grabbed it first. “Let me use it.”
He didn’t consider Chi Nan’s opinion at all when he said this. He grabbed the flashlight and walked toward the walls on both sides of the courtyard.
After all, humans were light-oriented creatures and light could bring him a certain degree of security. He couldn’t let this comfort be taken away from his hands.
Chi Nan himself didn’t really mind it. Meanwhile, Jiang Yu saw Pei Mo’s actions and sighed while also empathizing.
Pei Mo’s flashlight shone on the red brick walls on both sides of the main building. After walking around five or six meters, Pei Mo’s footsteps froze and terror quickly spread on his face.
Chi Nan followed his gaze and saw that the red brick walls were covered with chalk drawings. They were childish and were obviously done by the children of the welfare home. It was just that the content of the drawings were so unified that people shuddered.
A murderer carrying a chainsaw to decompose a corpse, a pica patient enjoying a human dinner, a soldier being hanged, a doctor who bound a prisoner to a chair and injected him with intravenous drugs to kill him…
All the chalk drawings depicted the process of killing. The childish style brought about a very powerful visual impact and the eerie horror of the murderous chalk drawings was even higher than the colorful death painting exhibition on the Dusk Cruise Ship.
Chi Nan looked at it with an evaluating gaze. He thought that the imagery use of this dream maker was quite in line with the nightmare theme of ‘murderers.’ This was a great help to sublimate the theme.
Pei Mo was so frightened that he unknowingly took a step back. However, he also knew he couldn’t always go on like this. Thus, he gulped and forcibly suppressed his fear and nausea. Then he raised the flashlight again to the chalk drawings on the wall.
Maybe the clues to his character’s death could be found in these drawings… Maybe…
The light of the flashlight froze again. This time, Pei Mo was stuck in place like a statue. He was staring at the drawing of the pica patient eating human flesh on the wall.
In the drawing, the patient was at a roaring bonfire and skewered the freshly cut female nurse’s calf on the grill. He kept turning the grill with his left hand while using his right hand to brush cumin sauce on the charred and cracked skin. Not far from him, the dying female nurse tearfully watched the desperate scene of her calf being roasted…
Pei Mo seemed to be stunned and became fascinated. His pupils gradually lost their luster. He held up the flashlight as he approached the wall step by step. He even extended his hand to touch it…
On the side, Chi Nan was looking for his own murder chalk drawing in a different direction because his night vision ability was much better than ordinary people. He tried to find clues related to the corpse through the painting and didn’t pay much attention to Pei Mo’s abnormal behavior.
That was, until Pei Mo’s desperate scream broke the silence of the welfare home. Everyone looked over simultaneously and Jiang Yu quickly raised her flashlight to shine it toward Pei Mo’s location.
The group couldn’t help gasping when they saw Pei Mo’s current situation.