In the end, Tang Erda still didn’t pull the trigger.
The factory worker told him that the only way for him to be promoted to factory worker and then perfumer was through the core instrument for the entire Rose Factory.
Tang Erda had reason to believe that this magical heart was related to the main task of the game, ‘becoming the factory manager.’
He felt uncontrollable when he saw the heart, as if he had been induced to kill from the bottom of his heart. This was abnormal. The feeling that something was deliberately making him kill made him a bit uncomfortable.
What if this heart wasn’t a monster as he judged but a contaminated, innocent heart?
It wasn’t like Tang Erda had never encountered this type of thing before. Therefore, he thought about it for a moment before controlling the sudden killing intent in his heart. He calmly put down the gun and decided to find out the source of the pollution in this game before making a decision.
Under the guidance of the factory worker, Tang Erda took a bottle of the rose essence. He walked up the stairs and poured it. The employee in charge of guarding the instrument looked at Tang Erda’s hand nervously. His hand was on the sluice and he was ready to pull it down at any time. The actions previously done by Bai Liu had really left a big shadow on him.
The perfume essence that Tang Erda dropped only glowed with a faint layer of rose red.
The factory worker and instrument caretaker who were waiting for the result were disappointed and relieved at the same time. This was still a good result.
It was just too different from the previous processing worker who was inspected.
“You don’t have much talent but it isn’t entirely hopeless for you to be promoted to a factory worker. It is because the May Rose Festival is coming and we are very short of factory workers.” The factory worker who led Tang Erda into the room looked up at him. “You need to go through the perfume paper test. If it is determined that you have a certain basic talent then you can be turned into a regular.”
Tang Erda frowned. “What type of perfume paper test?”
Meanwhile, the factory’s office on the third floor.
Bai Liu raised his eyes to look at the factory manager behind the desk. “What is the perfume paper test?”
The factory manager replied, “It is in order to further confirm that your talent is special enough to be specially upgraded to a perfumer. We don’t dare risk the instrument to test it again. The accuracy of the perfume paper test isn’t as high as the instrument but it can determine a general range.”
“However, judging from your destructive power on the instrument, you are likely to break the perfume paper when doing the test.”
The factory manager crossed his hands and fingers together on the table. He stared straight at Bai Liu and tapped the application on the table. “The perfume test paper is a non-renewable and precious resource for any perfume, but if your talent is really as good as stated on this application, it is worth losing one perfume test paper person to test it again.”
One perfume test paper person?
This strange quantifier made Bai Liu raise an eyebrow.
Bai Liu had seen the perfume test paper at perfume counters of some shopping malls. The test paper in his impression was a type of cardboard paper similar to the pH test paper. It had good water absorption and could absorb perfume better. It retained the scent on it for a longer time.
Put a piece of perfume-stained test paper around 10 centimeters in front of the nose and fan it. This would allow them to smell the pure perfume, or spices, better. It was a common thing in the perfume industry.
Yet no matter what, the quantifier of this test paper should be ‘pieces’ or ‘sheets’, but it was actually ‘person.’
Bai Liu didn’t ask about it and waited for the factory manager to continue.
“Next, we will continue with the test if you are healthy.” The factory manager nodded to the factory worker who had led Bai Liu to the testing instrument before turning back to Bai Liu. “I will let this person take you down to the next floor. It is the place where the perfume paper and the death row prisoners are tested with the perfume.”
Then the factory manager handed the factory worker a bunch of keys. “Take him down to see.”
Bai Liu heard about the death row prisoners and understood what was going on.
He had heard about the concept of prisoners who received the death penalty for violating the laws related to dry leaf roses from the group of vagrants. If the Rose Factory was willing to accept these prisoners in exchange for some type of labor, the prisoners could be converted to life imprisonment. The Rose Factory would take over their right to life and use the lives of these people.
Yet detaining them with the perfume paper… and the quantifier of ‘people’…
An unpleasant feeling rose in Bai Liu’s heart and he remembered a thought that he didn’t really like. The game designer’s stubborn malice against him from beginning to end made the smile on Bai Liu’s face fade.
The factory worker led Bai Liu down. They walked through the long corridor they had passed through before. Then before reaching the corridor of the dormitory, they turned a very dark corner.
There was a wooden door that smelled completely different from the entire Rose Factory. It wasn’t fragrant at all, but had a particularly foul smell.
The factory worker took out the bunch of keys, picked one and inserted it into the wooden door. The wooden door creaked and slowly opened inward. A stench of sour sweat from meat and clothes rushed out, smelling a bit like gas.
The wooden door was facing a downward staircase covered by bottomless darkness. The stone walls on both sides of the staircase were extremely narrow and a dim yellow light bulb that wasn’t very bright was installed at a distance above it. The lighting effect was lackluster. Bai Liu couldn’t see more than 10 meters in front of him.
The factory worker seemed to have anticipated this long ago and brought a flashlight with him. He led Bai Liu down with the flashlight.
As he walked, the factory worker started to explain to Bai Liu. “This is the underground floor of the factory. Only senior factory workers and perfumers are eligible to enter here.”
Bai Liu estimated that he had walked down around 20 meters before he reached the bottom. He looked up and saw a place that was structured very close to a prison.
There was a narrow path in the middle of the wet underground. There were iron fences similar to cages on the left and right, embedded in the walls one by one and extending inward. Inside them were death row prisoners who weren’t humans or ghosts.
The reason why Bai Liu described them this way was because they were like the vagrants Bai Liu saw in the rose field. Their human form could no longer be seen.
Some of the death row inmates made muffled noises, as if they wanted to reach out and grab Bai Liu and the factory worker moving through the middle corridor. It was just that they were so weak that they couldn’t move at all. They watched helplessly as the factory worker walked by with Bai Liu and struggled weakly on the ground, only to let out mournful, desperate roars.
This roar made Bai Liu feel that they weren’t reaching out to him for help but to ask him to give them what they desired.
Others were dead. They lay on their backs with their eyes and mouths open. They were rotted to the point where only some of the flesh of hatched maggots was left and there was the sound of flies around them. Unsurprisingly, they should’ve hatched from the maggots on the corpse.
The strange thing was that most of the dead bodies here had a structure that allowed him to see their facial features. Most of the corpses had satisfied smiles on their faces.
It seemed that living was a very painful and torturous thing for them. They seemed to have waited for the moment of death for too long and finally received such happiness.
Bai Liu’s gaze slowly skimmed over the death row inmates who had committed crimes against the roses, as if trying to read something from their expressions.
The factory worker seemed to notice Bai Liu’s gaze and couldn’t help turning his head to explain. “The factory doesn’t have the hobby of abusing these death row inmates. We will give them perfume almost every day to keep them alive, which is better than most flower pickers.”
“Oh, is that so?” Bai Liu asked indifferently. “Speaking of which, if you are philanthropists and provide perfume to the criminals for free, why don’t you ask them if they want to die or be saved by you?”
The factory worker was refuted by Bai Liu in such an indifferent manner and couldn’t say a word.
The Rose Factory definitely wasn’t a factory that did good deeds by wasting perfume. They didn’t take all death row inmates, just some. This showed there was a problem here. From the perspective of interests, certain characteristics of the death row prisoners accepted by the Rose Factory should be beneficial for the development of the factory.
At first, Bai Liu didn’t know what this ‘benefit’ was. After all, from any point of view, wasting perfume to raise some people who didn’t have a high labor force wasn’t smart.
Now he finally understood what this ‘benefit’ was.
The factory worker was silent for a while. Then he sighed and opened his mouth with some embarrassment, “…These death row inmates were specially selected by the factory and have a certain resistance to the rose perfume.”
“…Even if they are corroded by the perfume, they won’t easily show signs of addiction to the perfume. They insisted on themselves and abided by their hearts. They would rather die than easily yield to the Dry Leaf Rose Gas. In fact, most of the reason why they were arrested for a crime is because they tried to develop an antidote to the rose perfume.”
The factory worker was quiet for a moment. “At a time when most people have succumbed to the addiction of the rose perfume, it is difficult for us to specifically detect the concentration and retention of the perfume through the ordinary perfume test paper, apart from the instrument.”
“It is because perfumers are already highly addicted and find it difficult to distinguish the quality of a perfume through their reaction to the perfume. Most perfumers have become numb to the aroma because they use high concentrations of the rose perfume day and night.”
“As you have seen, the instrument is precious and we can’t always use it to detect the perfumes.”
“We need people who can resist the rose perfume and are more sensitive to it as experimental subjects to infer the effectiveness of the perfume through the pain response of these people. We call these people perfume test papers.”
The factory worker continued speaking as he led Bai Liu deeper. “What you just saw are all the perfume test papers that are about to be scrapped. They are almost unable to hold on but can still be used once or twice. I am leading you through a special passage this time. The perfume test paper you will use is one of the oldest test papers.”
The factory worker sighed. “These old perfume test papers are almost gone. Yesterday, it is said that a perfumer tested a special perfume for the May Rose Festival and scrapped another one, who has been transferred to the low level area. This time, the one you will use is the highest quality test paper in our factory. His spirit is good and his rejection reaction to the rose perfume is also very stable.”
The factory worker spoke up to here and couldn’t help sighing. “I have never seen such a stable rejection of the rose perfume. It is already so painful but he never changed his attitude toward rejecting the rose perfume. The firmness of his mind is admirable.”
“Several bottles of premium perfume have been tested on him for the May Rose Festival. His body is showing a certain degree of poisoning, organ failure and weakness but his rejection hasn’t changed for 10 years.”
“I have to doubt if this person is really human. He is too stubborn.”
Bai Liu didn’t say anything. He looked at the death row inmates around him and his eyes became darker. Finally, he said very softly, “I also think he is too stubborn.”
The factory worker didn’t clearly hear Bai Liu’s words and turned around to ask him, “What did you say?”
Bai Liu didn’t answer him this time.
The factory worker continued to lead him in deeper. As the tunnel became darker and darker, the cages on the left and right became larger. The living facilities inside were more complete and more like a room where a person temporarily lived.
Finally, the factory worker stopped next to a separate cage. This cage was larger. A bed was placed in the innermost part and the ‘perfume test paper’ inside was hidden in the darkness. There was only the black silhouette of a hunched figure sitting on the side of the bed.
This cage was much tidier than the other cages. There were two old and yellowed clothes hanging from the railing. Some books, pencils and a few scattered cigarette boxes were placed on the table. The cigarette boxes were empty.
The factory worker looked at the cage that was so clean it didn’t look like a dungeon with a complicated expression. “…He cleaned it himself again. He really doesn’t look like a test subject at all. A person who has been the perfume test paper for so long can actually still maintain a sense of reason.”
“This is the perfume test paper you will be testing today.” The factory worker took out a key and inserted it in the keyhole.
At the same time, in another tunnel separated by a wall, another factory worker was leading Tang Erda inside. He talked and proudly explained the dungeon of the Rose Factory.
Tang Erda looked at the death row inmates in these cages and his brow furrowed to the point where it could catch flies. He instinctively pulled out his gun the moment he saw these prisoners but he soon realized the difference between these death row prisoners and the rose vagrants.
This difference made him frown even more.
These guys might’ve been polluted and eroded by the perfume to this point but they were actually all awake. They were struggling against the rose perfume that corrupted their consciousness.
The factory worker walked in front of Tang Erda, knocked on the iron door of the cage and said enviously, “Your luck is good. This is an old perfume test paper that is about to be scrapped. Yesterday, it was tested by a high level perfumer and is half dead. It is just right to test you.”
Tang Erda turned to look inside this dark and hazy cage.
There was no light in the dungeon and the visibility was extremely low. He could roughly see a human-shaped black figure leaning against the wall, chest rising and falling slightly with his breathing. A stench that was almost rotten came from the man’s body, causing the factory worker to wave his hand in front of his nose with disgust.
This person, or perfume test paper, had only one arm and half of his face poking out from the shadow. It could probably be seen in the faint light so Tang Erda looked at the other person’s hand and face.
The hand was almost completely cracked and pitch black, bloody lines spread from the web between the fingers to the elbow. The half of the face that was exposed was even more unrecognizable. It was peeling and bloody. The light-colored eye was scattered and there was no focus at all as he stared at Tang Erda on the outside.
For a moment, an unspeakable fear surged in Tang Erda’s heart. This half a face, this face that was bloody and peeled seemed to have been seen in some nightmarish world line. This made Tang Erda’s hand holding the gun tremble uncontrollably.
Tang Erda’s chest rose and fell violently but his breathing had almost stopped. He seemed to be frozen as he stood motionless in place, staring straight at this face.
The gun fell from his palm and turned into dots of light as it touched the ground.
However, the factory worker didn’t notice Tang Erda’s abnormality and just inserted the key into the keyhole.
The doors covered with dust and rust slowly opened in front of Bai Liu and Tang Erda at the same time.
The factory worker got out of the way so that Bai Liu behind him could see the scene inside the cage. He handed Bai Liu the flashlight and tilted his head to signal for Bai Liu to go in. He waited outside and explained, “The smell of roses on our bodies is too strong and will interfere with the test paper. Generally, only one person can enter.”
“Once you enter, this perfume test paper will teach you how to test your talent. He is very skilled and his temper is also very good. He won’t attack you.” The factory worker thought about it and added, “Although this perfume test paper sometimes says some very strange things to the people who come here, he is very cooperative overall.”
Bai Liu nodded to indicate that he understood. He calmly took the flashlight handed to him by the factory worker, adjusted it to the maximum brightness and walked into the cage step by step.
The beam of the flashlight slowly approached the bedside as Bai Liu walked in. The tragic white halo first illuminated an old leather shoe that Bai Liu was somewhat familiar with, then a pair of whitewashed uniform pants. It swept up and revealed a person holding an unlit cigarette, sitting on the side of the bed with his head lowered.
The man’s face and arms were completely deformed. The joints of his fingers were bare and the bones covered with tentacles. His breathing sound was so subtle that it was almost non-existent. His face was miserable and his eyes were prominent. The originally square and handsome sides of his cheeks were sunken down on both sides, as if he hadn’t eaten for decades. He was so thin that he was almost a skeleton.
Bai Liu had never seen him look like this even when they were at their most miserable.
Even though this person had given a lot of food for Bai Liu to eat when in the welfare home, he had never been hungry enough to become so gaunt.
It was only his pair of eyes that were still the same unchanging gentle and firm eyes. Not a single rose grew in them.
Bai Liu finally spoke. His flashlight pointed at the person’s head and his tone didn’t fluctuate at all, “Lu Yizhan, you finally have no money to buy cigarettes?”
The man finally looked up. He was a bit stunned when he saw Liu Jiayi standing in front of him and froze for a while. Then he scratched his head with some embarrassment and spoke to himself in a stupid manner, “Ah, am I seeing a hallucination again?”
“This time it is Bai Liu’s voice and Liu Jiayi’s appearance. Wow, this Liu Jiayi’s expression really resembles Bai Liu.” As he spoke, Lu Yizhan reluctantly moved his hands to the side of the bed and he curiously approached Bai Liu, who had no emotion on his face.
Bai Liu stared at him blankly.
Then Lu Yizhan rolled his eyes and smiled softly. He stretched out a hand that was already full of white bones to Bai Liu. “Yet even if it is a hallucination, I am very happy.”
“It is because even in the world of hallucinations, we haven’t seen each other for a long time, Bai Liu.”