Highway 404 (17)
There was a thin layer of haze over Smile Town. The polluted lights were filling the air and the buildings in the town had lost their outlines. From a distance, they looked like watchtowers melting in the mist.
There was a sense of desolation despite the bright lights. Unlike ZI City, Smile Town wasn’t cold.
The streets and alleys were full of pedestrians and there was an endless flow on the roads.
Chi Nan leaned against the car window and looked out. He found that these pedestrians were walking alone or in groups, but they had the same smiles on their faces as the posters.
Their smiles seemed to have been carved out of a mold.
“This is too horrifying…” Pei Mo, who was sitting in the back row, looked at the smiling group of people and shivered.
Chi Nan had already rolled up the car window to avoid eye contact with these strangely smiling pedestrians.
He also noticed that in addition to the neat smiles of everyone in the town, the walls of the buildings were mostly made with glass. The pedestrians passed by and inadvertently looked in the mirrors, so countless lines of sight overlapped in the glass walls.
The streets were also full of slogans.
[Please keep smiling, be polite to others and build a happy smiling town.]
The slogans were often followed by graffiti done with spray paint and the pictures were eerily uniform.
The figures on the graffiti were very abstract. The eyes, nose, ears and other organs were reduced or even omitted. The only existing mouth was multiplied and the corners of the lips spread to the root of the ear to show an exaggerated smile. It didn’t look like a smile but more like the mouth had been torn or cut.
There were also several graffiti figures with delicate stitches sewn on their lips. It was as if they finished the cheek cutting surgery.
Chi Nan took a few glances before looking away. He always liked scenes that ordinary people thought were terrifying, but the strange scene in front of him made him uncomfortable.
There was a sense of oppression about these propaganda posters and he hated this type of forced unification.
“What are these drawings?” Jiang Yu also frowned uncomfortably.
Lu Baizhou added, “There is an inexplicable sense of ‘black dahlia’.”
The people, “……” It was even more terrifying to say that.
You Yu drove past the town center square. Chi Nan looked at the bronze clock on the square which showed 0:10.
He turned his head to ask Lu Baizhou, the only one who had a watch. “What time is it on your side?”
“0:10.” Lu Baizhou quickly looked at the watch and said truthfully.
Chi Nan nodded. “Smile Town has the normal time flow rate.”
The group also noticed this and was relieved.
They had six hours to find three corpses so the average allocation of time to each corpse was only two hours. It was no different from the welfare home but six hours sounded very secure.
It didn’t take long for Pei Mo to be discouraged. “This town doesn’t look small. How can we find the three corpses and where do we look for them?”
Jiang Yu was very calm. “Previously, I used the method of the corresponding room number to find the room of Chi Nan’s character in the welfare home. I think that without more clues and ideas, we can follow this method.”
Lu Baizhou followed this line of thought. “You mean, find the corresponding building according to the corresponding room number?”
Jiang Yu nodded. “Let’s go to the newsstand to buy a map, Mr Driver.” She looked in the rearview mirror and said to You Yu.
You Yu asked for Chi Nan’s opinion. “What do you think?”
“Just do as Jiang Yu said. There are too few clues now and the complexity of the town’s environment is much larger than that of the welfare home. Chi Nan wasn’t particularly sure of the next step.
You Yu quickly found a newsstand. He had just stopped the car when the fierce Jiang Yu had already unfastened her seat belt and pulled open the car door. She had just stepped out of the car when her action stopped. “Do you have any change on your character? My wallet is missing.”
Hearing this, everyone reached out and searched through their pockets and pants very cooperatively. Finally, they shook their heads helplessly. Their characters were penniless and poor.
“Then what should I do? I don’t know if Smile Town takes credit…” Jiang Yu now regretted it very much. If she knew this, she would’ve taken out the change in her wallet separately.
No one expected that in this wilderness background of Highway 404, there would be a situation that required money.
Chi Nan was silent for a moment before turning to You Yu, “Can I borrow some money?”
You Yu looked at him playfully. “Borrow?”
“Don’t you have any money?”
You Yu smiled. “Yes, but Brother, when do you plan to pay me back? As far as I know, you are penniless and it isn’t easy to make money in the Nightmare World.”
“Does the Dawn Base still recruit service personnel?”
You Yu pursed his lips. “There is no need for this for the time being.”
He liked to deliberately tease this little evil spirit to see what type of choices and commitments the other person would make.
Chi Nan thought about it very seriously. “I will work for you.”
You Yu was very interested. “Huh?”
Chi Nan stretched out his hand. “The storage fee for the pocket watch.”
You Yu froze for a moment before smiling. “Okay, deal.”
Then he handed his wallet directly to Chi Nan. He thought that this serious little evil spirit really wasn’t good at being fooled.
Nevertheless, he felt a small sense of accomplishment from Chi Nan’s actions today.
Chi Nan opened the wallet and saw a thick stack of 100 yuan bills. He only took one bill out of the wallet and returned the wallet to You Yu. “Thank you.”
You Yu didn’t answer. “You don’t need to return it to me.”
Chi Nan blinked in confusion. “I don’t need so much.”
You Yu smiled. “Keep it for me.”
Chi Nan was stunned. “Okay.”
He didn’t think too much about it and gave several hundred to Jiang Yu. “Is it enough to buy five maps?”
Jiang Yu was a bit speechless. “…It is definitely enough.”
She took the money and quickly got out of the car toward the newsstand by the road. “Please give me five maps of Smile Town. Thank you, I don’t need the change.”
She placed 100 yuan against the stack of magazines on the newsstand. The book covers were as uncomfortable as the graffiti on the walls.
The town that worshiped standard smiles seemed keen on the lip splitting surgery. It was very perverted.
The old lady at the newsstand had a smile on her face but his eyes were cold and fierce. Jiang Yu was busy pulling up the corners of her lips to smile hard. However, the old lady’s expression didn’t ease after seeing her smile. Instead, the eyes became sharper.
Jiang Yu was very irritated when she saw it and wanted to smash the maps into the old lady’s face.
“What is it? Did I not give enough money? Jiang Yu asked impatiently.
The old lady looked away and turned around to take five maps from the shelf for her.
Two minutes later, the slow-moving old lady handed five maps to Jiang Yu.
At the same time, the old lady took out something similar to an infrared cat stick from somewhere. A rapid red light aimed right at Jiang Yu’s lip and the infrared light in the old lady’s hand made a harsh sound.
Jiang Yu was enraged by her impolite behavior. “What are you doing?”
The smiling old lady said coldly, “This guest, your smile doesn’t meet the standard. I have to give you a violation warning.”
Jiang Yu heard this was part of the rules and hurriedly calmed down, asking vigilantly, “What will happen if you receive a warning?”
The old lady explained, “If you receive a warning then you will be listed as a suspect, but it won’t have a real impact. If you receive two warnings, you will be listed as a restless person. No matter where you go, you will become the object of supervision by the town’s residents. If you receive three warnings, you will become a dangerous person and residents of the town will be forced to clean you up.”
“Forced cleanup?” The wording definitely wasn’t comfortable.
The old lady pointed to the cheek cutting surgery photo on the cover of the magazine. “Just like this.”
Jiang Yu’s expression changed and she took the magazine while holding the maps. “Is the money enough?”
The old lady nodded and Jiang Yu hurriedly walked back to the car with her things. She distributed the map to everyone and conveyed the words of the old lady to everyone.
“It isn’t enough to smile. You have to smile as much as the townspeople.” Jiang Yu summed it up with a heavy expression while pointing to the cover of the magazine. “Otherwise, we will be cleaned up like this.”
The group took one glance and could vividly imagine the pain of tearing lips and cheeks.
Lu Baizhou sneered. “What is the definition of the standard? Does it have to be measured with a ruler or something?”
Silence spread in the car. They looked out the window at the smiling pedestrians coming and going and just felt horror and depression.
Now in their eyes, these NPCs who were supposed to be human were much more difficult than evil spirits. After all, Chi Nan had the ability to deal with evil spirits but he could do nothing against humans.
Moreover, the walking dead were far more ferocious and terrifying than real ghosts. They were more likely to kill each other.
As they remained silent, the people in the car started to look at the magazine. They smiled hard and practiced their smiles.
The habit of following the rules was contagious, even if the rules were ridiculous and absurd.
You Yu turned to Chi Nan. “You really don’t need me to teach you?”
He learned the way that Chi Nan had looked just now and pushed up the corners of his lips with two fingers. “Brother, this might not reach the standard.”
You Yu was like a mischievous little brother who deliberately imitated his brother’s expression and played with his brother.
“I can’t learn.” Chi Nan shook his head. “I have thought of a way. I will try not to make eye contact with them.”
He was very self-aware of his expression management.
Chi Nan remembered the original words of the toll booth staff member. If he made eye contact with a stranger then he had to be polite and smile. If there was no eye contact then it was no big problem.
You Yu lowered his finger and sighed very lightly. “It is a pity.”
Chi Nan’s appearance of pulling up the corners of his lips with his fingers was cute enough to be a foul, but he was also interested in Chi Nan’s heartfelt smile without any external force. He was also looking forward to it.
“Yes! We will try to avoid eye contact!”
“However, there are dense crowds and we have the task of finding the corpse. It isn’t easy to avoid eye contact, right? This will also affect the progress of the search.”
“It might be okay to wear sunglasses!” Lu Baizhou suggested. “The light in the town is very bright so we can see even with sunglasses. Even if we have to carefully search for the corpses, we can take them off when the time comes.”
Jiang Yu’s expression became bright. She pointed to the sign for the glasses store on the map and urgently said to You Yu, “Can I trouble you to take us to a glasses store first? It is probably here, thank you.”
The map showed that there was a glasses store on the corner of the street. You Yu was a conscientious driver. He immediately turned the car after receiving the passenger’s request. Chi Nan carefully counted the banknotes in You Yu’s wallet. From his impression, sunglasses weren’t cheap and they had to buy five pairs.
No, there was no need to buy one for You Yu. After all, this guy’s smile was good and there was no need to use an external force.
Pei Mo hesitated. “That… if we want to buy sunglasses later, someone will have to get out of the car right? In the process… if they accidentally make eye contact with the store employee… it needs to be someone who is sure they can successfully avoid it or have the confidence not to be warned.”
The expressions of the group became complicated and no one spoke. Pei Mo added in a low voice, “In any case, I’m not certain. The muscles on my face are relaxed when I am older and don’t listen obediently to me…”
Chi Nan said, “Jiang Yu has already gone. The three of us can draw lots to decide.”
Lu Baizhou immediately agreed. “Okay, this is the fairest way now.”
Pei Mo was obviously reluctant but he didn’t dare to reject Chi Nan’s proposal. Lu Baizhou looked at him and sneered. “Even if it is your turn, you will just receive a warning and won’t be cleaned up. Why panic?”
Pei Mo muttered, “if you aren’t panicked then why don’t you go down?”
Here, Chi Nan took out sticky notes and a pen from the armrest box. He tore off three pieces, drew a circle on one piece and folded the other two blank pieces into small squares in turn. He held them in his hands and was about to shake them.
Pei Mo interrupted. “Wait a minute, let’s be more thorough in order to make it fair. Let Jiang Yu shake it for us three times.”
“No problem.” Chi Nan was about to hand over the piece of paper to Jiang Yu but You Yu had already reached out his hand.
“Let me do it. I’m an outsider and it is the fairest way.” You Yu raised his eyes and looked at Pei Mo. “Am I right?”
Pei Mo shivered in fright the moment he received You Yu’s gaze, “Yes, it is very right.”
You Yu put on his gloves. Then he smiled, took the pieces of paper from Chi Nan and shook them in his hand.
“Yes, let’s draw lots.” He held out his hands toward the three of them.