During the time when Bai Liu was holding the doll and thinking, the teacher called over the remaining five children.
The five children left in this welfare home stood in a row with numb expressions. They didn’t dare look up at Mu Ke and their eyes were fixed on their toes. Some of these children were lame while some had a crooked or hunched back. They were more or less disabled. They were like a group of chicks who hadn’t come out of the nest yet. The five children pushed and shoved together. They were like cheap goods under scrutiny. They were humble and reticent since they knew they weren’t worth a few yuan.
Bai Liu frowned the moment he approached the children. The mushroom smell on these children was even worse than what he had smelled from the corpses in the hospital. Mu Ke couldn’t bear it and waved his hand in front of his nose. “Are you only eating mushrooms here? Why is the mushroom smell so strong?”
The teacher hugged the five children slightly awkwardly. “In fact, they don’t really eat much.”
Bai Liu’s eyes swept past the teacher and the five children. “Did you eat a lot of mushrooms that day?”
The teacher was taken aback. “We ate with these five children and it was quite a lot.”
“Did the poisoned children eat less? For example, they only drank a mouthful of the mushroom soup?”
The teacher looked back before replying to Bai Liu, “Yes. It is because some children like the taste of mushrooms while others don’t like it. Some only ate a very small amount but they were still poisoned.”
Bai Liu retracted his gaze. Some children weren’t poisoned when eating too much and others were poisoned when eating only a little bit. It seemed that the poisoning had nothing to do with the dosage.
Then why mushrooms… why was it mushrooms every time something happened in this welfare home? In addition, what was the condition under which the weird mushrooms poisoned people?
Lu Yizhan saw that the blood drawing and various tests on the surviving children of the welfare home showed nothing abnormal. Like Liu Jiayi, they only had slight anemia. The five surviving children and Liu Jiayi had only one thing in common—it was that they had congenital or genetic defects. Liu Jiayi was blind while these five children also had various disabilities.
Bai Liu was lost in thought.
The teacher continued to take Bai Liu and Mu Ke around the interior of the welfare home. They entered a room full of photos, trophies and children’s drawings. The teacher turned to Bai Liu. “This is the exhibition hall of our welfare home.”
No one had been to the exhibition hall in a long time. Many of the trophies and certificates were gray from the dust. Still, it could be seen that this was a well-developed welfare home in the past. There were still many children’s drawings and some awards hanging on the wall. The photos of the annual Children’s Day performance were also hung on the wall. The color of the photos changed due to distortion. In the last photo, more than 40 children were smiling softly and docilely but only six survived. Five of them were following the teacher with numb expressions.
Many of the things exhibited were from the dead so it gave the exhibition room a lingering feeling of gloom. Bai Liu glanced at the entire room and seemed to find something. He turned to the teacher. “Can I take some of the photos and drawings down?”
Originally, it wasn’t easy to move these things but the children’s welfare home had become like this. Not much attention was paid to this room so the teacher nodded in agreement.
Mu Ke curiously watched as Bai Liu removed some children’s drawings from the wall and placed them on the ground to observe. He leaned in and asked in a low voice, “Bai Liu, have you found anything?”
“Yes,” Bai Liu responded softly. He didn’t give Mu Ke a look as he fiddled with the drawings. Mu Ke’s eyes followed Bai Liu’s hand. The children drew quite well. He felt that they were drawn by children who should have a good background in drawing.
The drawings included character sketches, still lifes, colored drawings done in pencils and crayon and simple black and white sketches. The style of drawing was different. The color of some of the drawings was very strong and saturated to the point where people were uncomfortable seeing it. The subjects of the drawings also seemed illogical.
There was one with a thin girl sitting on a hospital bed with white cloth over her eyes, a beautiful silver-blue scaled fish in a jar and a wooden, broken mirror on a charred and melted toy train. The drawings all seemed to be things that this welfare home had.
Mu Ku stared at it for a while before discovering something. He spoke in a surprised voice, “Are these all drawn by one person? All the signatures are a ‘W’.”
The drawings taken down by Bai Liu were all different but there was a ‘W’ drawn on each one. It was a strange curly writing and it was consistent in each drawing. Bai Liu finally glanced at Mu Ke. His voice was low and soft like he was whispering. “This is my signature.”
Mu Ke was surprised. “Yours? Why is it here?!”
Bai Liu didn’t give a further explanation. Mu Ke was curious but seeing that Bai Liu wasn’t prepared to say anything, he also shut up. The W stood for ‘W’ which was Bai Liu’s name and it was his customary signature. (Bai= white)
Bai Liu saw instantly that these drawings were his. They might be younger and more immature than his current drawings but they were indeed his.
The little girl with the cloth over her eyes was obviously Liu Jiayi. The hospital gown was the same style as the one he saw in the hospital this morning. The beautiful silver-blue fish in the jar should refer to the first game Siren Town while the broken mirror placed on the melting toy train was Bai Liu’s second game Exploding Last Train.
However, these drawings were signed 10 years ago. 10 years ago, Bai Liu wasn’t in this private welfare home at all. The Bai Liu of 10 years ago also couldn’t know this information. There was only one possibility. Bai Liu went back 10 years ago in some form and drew these drawings, leaving them in this private children’s welfare home.
Ordinary people would panic when encountering such a bizarre thing but it just made Bai Liu further confirm that this children’s welfare home was an ‘official’ instance in the real world. The only reasonable explanation for the timeline confusion was the official plot development time of the game instance. Judging from the signature on the drawings he left behind, it wasn’t now but 10 years ago.
Bai Liu’s fingers skimmed over the signatures on these drawings and his eyes sank.
It was likely that he would enter this game in the future and leave some traces in the ‘children’s welfare home game instance 10 years ago’. Then the official version of the game instance was loaded into the real world and it loaded the traces that Bai Liu left in the game.
This wasn’t a good thing.
A player’s traces remaining in a game forever was usually something that only appeared after a failed clearance. For example, Puppet Zhang alienated into a burning monster and stayed in Exploding Last Train forever. These marks of death and failure would become part of the game and were loaded into reality with the instance.
Even so, this doomed ending didn’t scare Bai Liu. He just thought calmly.
Currently, there were two places where Bai Liu was puzzled. His eyes slowly fell on the face of a boy in the corner of a photo of 200X.
The boy had no emotions on his face. When he stared at people, there was a type of ‘you stupid mortals’ feeling. There was a sense of incompatibility with his environment. This was the 14 year old Bai Liu. Bai Liu glanced at the drawings that were sharp and exaggerated in color.
This feeling when taking photos and the style of drawing was indeed the same as when he was 14. It was even his usual posture when taking photos.
Bai Liu had long stopped using this colorful drawing style. It was because he was criticized several times by his boss for mental pollution and the market acceptance wasn’t high. Bai Liu decisively gave up on this style and never drew like this again.
These drawings and the photographed ‘Bai Liu’ were indeed his style when he was 14 years old. The strange thing was that the information in these drawings was only known to the 24 year old Bai Liu. The problem was that if his 24 year old self went into the game, Bai Liu was certain he wouldn’t draw like this.
If the setting of the game caused Bai Liu to regress in all aspects of his memory and his body to 10 years ago, he wouldn’t be able to draw information he knew now.
This was a Bai Liu who had the memories of his 24 year old self but the style and personality of his 14 year old self. Logically speaking, Bai Liu thought it was impossible. It was because memory was an important factor in determining a person’s style and personality. If he had the memories of his 24 year old self then he definitely wouldn’t be the same as he was 10 years ago.
The 14 year old and 24 year old Bai Liu existed separately in the game instance ‘children’s welfare home’ 10 years ago. This was the first question that made Bai Liu puzzled.
The second question was—Bai Liu looked at a black and white character sketch. A girl was sitting on a hospital bed with a doll. She was curled up and hugging her knees with a white cloth covering her eyes. It was a very finely drawn character sketch.
Bai Liu clearly remembered that his 14 year old self hated drawing sketches. It was because this was the period where he liked things with heavy colors and sketching in a strong documentary style repulsed him. He generally practiced drawing by doing still lifes and he basically didn’t draw people.
Why did the 14 year old Bai Liu draw Liu Jiayi when he hated character sketches? At that time, Liu Jiayi shouldn’t have been born and shouldn’t have left any traces. Did it mean that Liu Jiayi would also enter this instance?
However, even if Liu Jiayi entered the game, she was a newcomer and her first instance should be a single player game. This welfare home instance was clearly a multiplayer one. The only possibility was if Liu Jiayi quickly cleared her first game. After that, she entered the multiplayer game that Bai Liu was in and ended up being drawn.
Yet Liu Huai was an experienced player and shouldn’t allow his sister to enter this way. So why was this kid here?
Bai Liu scanned the entire drawing and finally stopped on the doll Liu Jiayi was holding.
The doll in the drawing had a white shirt and black pants. Its face was turned to the outside while smiling and it seemed like nothing was wrong. However, Bai Liu stared at it for a while and soon found what was wrong. The doll’s head was turned too far. It wasn’t like it was turned back. It was like its head had been twisted 180 degrees.
Bai Liu looked at the picture and fiddled with the coin hanging over his heart, eyes narrowed slightly.