Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
After Lu Rong took a shower and laid down on the bed, he thought it would take him a long time to fall asleep, but he didn’t expect to fall into a deep sleep after closing his eyes.
On the contrary, Shen Jize, his heart was sweet for a while and then disappointed, as if he was in the two worlds of ice and fire, lying in bed and tossing and turning, not being able to fall asleep.
If others saw this side of him, they would say he was a typical love-struck brat. He didn’t know how long he tossed and turned before he drifted off to sleep, and before he could sleep for a while, he was awakened by a strange sensation.
Shen Jize was already familiar with this feeling, so when he opened his eyes, they were clear and he didn’t feel any sleepiness. It was already midnight, but the scene in front of him was clearly still daytime; the room was brightly lit by natural light, and the white-painted ceiling was very close, obviously not the roof of his new bedroom.
He then tilted his head to check and found himself lying on the top bunk of a single bed.
There were four bunk beds in the room, a poster of a rock singer on the wall next to it, and a basketball net hanging next to it.
The scene was so familiar that Shen Jize immediately realized that this was his high school dormitory. He sat up and looked out the window, and saw a cloudy sky, but he didn’t know what time it was.
He was used to entering all kinds of illusions over the years, and after realizing it was another one, he unhurriedly lifted the covers and prepared to get out of bed to look under the bed.
——If his memory served correctly, that’s where his baseball bat was.
Still wearing the black T-shirt and sweatpants he had fallen asleep in, he grabbed the wooden frame next to the bed and tried to leap off. But when he looked across the bed, he suddenly stopped moving.
There was a person sitting up in the opposite bunk, with a loose T-shirt showing half of his porcelain white shoulders and his hair tangled on top of his head, staring at him with an incredulous expression.
Lu Rong just woke up and sat up, noticed the scene wasn’t right, and realized that he was in an illusionary world. But he was quite shocked at the sight of Shen Jize in the opposite bed.
Shen Jize looked at him with the same shocked expression.
Lu Rong’s mind was spinning. He entered the illusionary world, but how did Shen Jize get dragged in again? He was probably shocked, right?
But before he could say anything to comfort him, he heard Shen Jize say, “Rong Rong, don’t be afraid. It’s just a dream, don’t be afraid.”
Lu Rong hesitated and swallowed his own words of comfort.
Shen Jize quickly jumped down from the top bunk, walked to Lu Rong’s bedside and raised his hands to him, “Come down.”
Lu Rong was going to roll out of bed, but when he saw that he was in a hugging position, he hesitated for only half a second before he just jumped down and was caught in Shen Jize’s arms.
Both of them were only wearing the clothes they had before going to sleep, but their feet were bare, as they weren’t wearing shoes. Shen Jize carried him to sit down on a chair and walked to the closet beside the bed, opened the door and took out two pairs of sneakers from inside. He handed one of them to Lu Rong, “This is what my cousin left here when he visited me last time, try it on.”
Lu Rong took the shoes, but didn’t put them on immediately, just looked at the room suspiciously.
The room was indeed unfamiliar, and he was sure he had never seen it before, which was strange. He always entered the illusion a few times a year, entering scenes he had seen before, and this was the first time he had entered an unknown place.
“This is my dormitory in high school.” Shen Jize squatted down to put on his shoes and explained to Lu Rong, “This is an illusion, it’s okay, I’ll take you out.”
Lu Rong, of course, knew it was an illusion, and he wasn’t surprised by it. But Shen Jize reacted with such calmness and composure that it was amazing.
Shen Jize put on his own shoes, but Lu Rong still didn’t move, so he took the shoes in his hands, picked up one of his feet and began to put the shoes on.
Lu Rong looked down at the black hair swirl in front of him and asked, “Brother, you still remember when we were kids and entered the illusionary world, right?”
Shen Jize patiently put on his left foot, tied the laces, and began to put on his right foot, answering, “Yes, I remember.” He tilted his head to Lu Rong and said, “We met outside the village by the cemetery, and at my uncle’s construction site.”
Lu Rong said, “Not only that, but also the time you were scared of me and ran around the woods crying.”
Shen Jize put his shoes on and was just about to get up when he heard a loud flushing sound from the bathroom on his left, like someone had just finished using the toilet inside. His face changed slightly, then returned to normal. Seeing Lu Rong staring at the bathroom, he stood up and said, “I’ll go to the bathroom first. Wait for me here.”
Lu Rong hesitated, “Brother, I’m in a bit of a hurry too. Why don’t you let me go first?”
He was afraid that there might be something scary in the bathroom like a ghost or a monster that would scare Shen Jize again.
Shen Jize said, “The toilet in my dormitory has been having problems, the valve is loose, and sometimes it would automatically release water. I’ll go first to clean up a little, it’s just flipping a small switch.”
So that was it.
Lu Rong was relieved and said, “Then go ahead.”
Shen Jize pushed open the bathroom door, entered and closed and locked it very quickly. After a click, he turned around to look inside. The bathroom only had a very small window, the light couldn’t penetrate much, only a square bright block fell on the opposite wall, the rest was very dim.
He snapped the switch and the miserable white light came on, illuminating the small space without a single person in it. Only the toilet in the corner was still spinning downward water flow, it was obvious that it had just been used.
Shen Jize surveyed the surrounding area, his eyes skimmed over the sink and bathtub, and stopped at the stainless steel hanging rod on the side.
The rod was embedded in the wall with concrete nails, and he tried to break it to remove it, but without success. The overhead lights suddenly began to flicker, emitting a prickly electrical noise. In the flickering light, he saw a black mass slowly floating up from the toilet hole.
It was a thick mass of hair, floating in the only water left in the toilet, gradually spreading out. The black hair seemed to be alive, climbing and wriggling towards the outside of the toilet.
Shen Jize stared coldly at the toilet, as if he wanted to reach out, and then frowned in disgust. He looked around and saw a plunger leaning against the tile wall in the corner, picked it up and stabbed it into the center of the toilet without thinking.
As the plunger fell, a hissing sound like a poisonous snake vomited from the toilet bowl, and the hair that climbed to the edge of the toilet bowl began to twist and tremble, as if it was suffering from great pain.
Once, twice, three times, the hair couldn’t stand the pain in the end, as it abruptly retracted, and then finally disappeared through the hole straight down.
Shen Jize waited for a few more moments with a slight gasp to make sure that the hair no longer appeared, then pressed the flush button and put the plunger back in place. He closed the toilet lid with a thud, went to the sink and squeezed the hand sanitizer to wash his hands, then looked in the mirror and ran his fingers through his hair to fix his bed hair before pushing the door open.
“The bathroom tank did have a little problem, I just fixed it.” Shen Jize stopped dead in his tracks as soon as the words left his mouth.
Lu Rong was standing in front of his single bed, looking at the posters hanging on the wall. It showed a rocker with a guitar on his back, wearing a black undershirt with English swear words, tattoos all over his exposed body parts, nose, eyebrows, ears and lower lip pierced with large and small rings.
“This isn’t my bed, the one you’re sleeping on is.” Shen Jize had some regrets about letting Lu Rong see the other phase of his life.
Lu Rong, however, didn’t see any problem and was ready to find out about the singer once he got out of the illusion, everything Shen Jize liked he wanted to know about it. He looked at the poster and then his eyes dropped again, stopping at an object next to the pillow.
Shen Jize also looked over, secretly said a bad word, rushed forward to take it away, but Lu Rong was one step ahead of him, and snatched the object.
“Stool deer.” Lu Rong looked at the wicker-woven orb in his hand, touched the four bamboo sticks stuck on it, and smiled like a little fox that stole something. He turned his head to Shen Jize, his eyes shining with pleasure, “Brother, this is your bed. Look, it’s the stool deer.”
Shen Jize looked aside somewhat uncomfortably and digressed stiffly, “I’m going to go next door now, just wait here in the room. Don’t run around ah, other places may be dangerous. Wait two or three minutes until I come back.”
After saying that, he squatted in front of the bed, reached under it and took out a strong baseball bat. Anyway, it didn’t matter if Lu Rong had found out that this was his bed.
Shen Jize flew out of the room and closed the door with a bang, and Lu Rong was a little uneasy about him being alone and wanted to chase him out, but at that moment, there was a strange sound coming from the bathroom again. This time it wasn’t the sound of flushing, but a thumping sound, both like someone was knocking urgently on the door, and like someone with a stick knocking desperately on the wall.
Lu Rong’s mind wandered as he opted between going after Shen Jize and checking the bathroom.
——If there was something scary in the bathroom, he had to get rid of it quickly, so it wouldn’t scare his brother.
He walked towards the bathroom, pushed the door in in case Shen Jize suddenly came back, and left the door unlocked. Turning back around, his eyes fell on the toilet with its lid closed by the wall. The noise was coming from the toilet, which was like there was something alive inside, desperately trying to get out, lifting the lid up a crack and falling back down, banging it.
Lu Rong strained his pretty face, standing and looking around the bathroom. His eyes skimmed over the bare bathtub and sink, stopping at the stainless steel bar on the wall where the towels were hung.
He took two steps forward and grabbed the bar and pulled it out, but the bar was firmly fixed to the tiles and wouldn’t budge even after a few tries. If he turned into a deer, he could pull the bar out, but Shen Jize would be back any minute, so it was obviously not a good time to turn into a deer.
The thing in the toilet seemed to sense someone outside, struggling more fiercely, and finally with a thud, the lid was overturned, and a large mass of black gushed out in a scramble. The thick black mass hanging on the side of the toilet, millions of twisting and spreading downward, was actually a mass of hair acting like a living thing.
Lu Rong thought that it was stained with water from the toilet, and instantly felt a pang of nausea. He took two steps forward to get the plunger in his hand. But before he could make any move, those hairs suddenly stopped spreading outward, as if someone had pressed the pause button.
Then, they trembled in unison, the black curtain swirled in a fine pattern, and slid quickly in the other direction of the toilet, seemingly as far away from Lu Rong as possible, full of fear of the plunger.
Lu Rong looked at the plunger in his hand, walked to the toilet, and found those hairs shaking even more.
“Scared?” He lifted the plunger closer to the hair.
Sure enough, the hairs were shaking as if they had been electrocuted, and they were making a hissing sound full of fear.
“Not even if you’re scared.” Lu Rong said indifferently and poked the plunger down into the toilet.
The hissing sound between the hair was even more piercing, full of resentment and panic, but the pain could be heard, trembling like a million poisonous snakes in a desperate struggle.
Lu Rong’s face didn’t fluctuate, only stabbing down time after time, making a muffled sound of pounding. The hair tumbled and twisted for a while, but could no longer resist and retreated back into the hole as if running away.
Finally, there was nothing left inside the toilet, so he put down the plunger, pressed the flush button, covered the toilet lid and went to the faucet to wash his hands without hurry. When he left the bathroom and went back inside to sit down, Shen Jize pushed open the dormitory door and walked in.
“Brother.” Lu Rong tilted his head and called out.
Shen Jize stood in the doorway with a baseball bat and looked at Lu Rong sitting in a chair. His skin was as white as smooth jade, his eyes were curved, his eyelashes long, and he sat in the middle of the room like a fragile and beautiful rag doll. Shen Jize watched him for a few seconds and then lovingly extended his hand, “Come on, get up.”
Lu Rong got up and took a few steps forward and took the hand.
Shen Jize’s hand was warm and long, just enough to hold him in his palm as he walked out, “We’re going to find a way out of the illusion, and we might encounter something scary along the way, like the ghosts and monsters we saw in the illusion when we were kids.” He paused, saw Lu Rong didn’t show fear, and curled his eyes and smiled at him, then continued, “But it’s okay, I will deal with those ghosts and monsters, no matter what you encounter, don’t be afraid.”
“I know.” Lu Rong replied obediently.
“If you’re too scared, cover your eyes and don’t look. Just remember that I’m next to you and will protect you.”
“Mn, Brother is so nice.”
Outside the dormitory was a long corridor with the doors of the rooms on both sides wide open, apparently Shen Jize had started to check them all.
As Lu Rong was led past the rooms, he saw that there were only empty wooden-framed beds inside, smelling of mold and rot.
“This building has only four floors. I have also checked upstairs and downstairs, but there’s no access. Let’s go out and find a way out.” Shen Jize pulled him down the stairs, the sound of their footsteps echoing in the empty dormitory building.
When the two of them just stepped out of the dormitory door, they were in the thick fog. There was a chaotic white blur around them, and they couldn’t see anything clearly in the distance. Shen Jize held Lu Rong with one hand and clutched the baseball bat with the other, walking carefully in the direction of the gate from memory.
“Follow me, don’t get lost.” He vigilantly inspected the heavy fog around him, watching out for anything that would suddenly come out of it.
“Alright.” Lu Rong obediently answered, and pressed closer to Shen Jize, half of his body leaning on his arm.
Shen Jize only held his hand tighter.
“Brother, do you also often enter the illusionary world?” Lu Rong saw that he did look experienced and couldn’t help but ask.
Shen Jize didn’t notice the word ‘also’ and said, “Occasionally.”
He had been in this situation seven or eight times since he and Lu Rong entered the illusion together when he was a child.
At first he couldn’t figure out the purpose of the illusion, it seemed that it just wanted to trap him inside, deliberately creating some twists and turns to hide the passage out in an undiscovered corner. He could always get out safely by searching carefully every time.
The power of the illusion seemed to be increasing constantly, and spirits and ghosts that shouldn’t exist in this world were beginning to appear. But probably because he was the creator of this illusion, he could also do damage to those ghosts and monsters, no longer like when he was a child, and could only be chased around.
He wasn’t afraid of these ghosts and monsters, but he was afraid that they would hurt Lu Rong.
Lu Rong noticed a dark shadow flashing in the fog to his left, and he was about to warn Shen Jize when he suddenly said, “Be careful and hold on to me.”
“Okay.” He held Shen Jize firmly in his grip, thinking that if any ghosts jumped out, he would have to protect him.
Under his feet was a brownish-red plastic floor, their steps on it were quiet, so Shen Jize knew it was the basketball court, and if he kept walking along the left side, he would soon reach the gate.
But they hadn’t found the light to get out, and must search the school once. The passage, even if well hidden, would be detected when passing through. This private high school was located in a prime location, so the campus was small and easy to navigate.
A cool breeze blew through, dispersing some of the surrounding fog, and a building was faintly visible directly in front of it. Then the fog came back to fill in, tumbling into a mass that seemed thicker than just now.
“Across the grounds is the school building, let’s go check it out. There are only three floors, so if the passage is there, we’ll find it soon.” Shen Jize held Lu Rong, his eyes alertly watching around, as he comforted him.
The person behind him didn’t answer, only moved the hand he was pulling, as if in response to say he knew.
Shen Jize took two more steps forward and suddenly felt a hint of something wrong. He stopped dead in his tracks, and a chill crept up his back from his heart, then quickly spread to all his limbs.
The hand he was holding in his palm was no longer soft and tender with warmth, but became dry and thin and hard, and like a thousand years of ice, the coldness seeped into his skin. Shen Jize held his breath and slowly turned back, and when he saw the person behind him, his pupils suddenly tightened.
Behind him was a strange woman with a pale face and two tears of blood hanging under her eyes, with a strange smile on her face, looking eerily at him. Her hair was blood clotted on her head, hardened into a stiff lump, her pair of withered hands were like firewood and it was holding his hand.
And Lu Rong had disappeared.