C26 – The Hanged Man


She looked weird.



She crossed her toes and stepped on her heels, but her speed and figure were quite agile, wobbling a few times before arriving at the door of the rehearsal hall, so it was no wonder that Zhang Xiaofeng didn’t realize that Mu Zi was following him earlier.


Standing in front of the rehearsal hall, Mu Zi suddenly nodded heavily, and with a jolt, she raised her head abruptly.


She looked blankly at the familiar rehearsal hall in front of her and murmured in a somewhat puzzled manner, “…… How did I get here?”


She patted her forehead, and slowly walked into the rehearsal hall.


“Sister Mu Zi is here!” Ji Jian stood at the center of the stage practicing her voice, and when she looked up, she saw Mu Zi and raised her hand in greeting.


Mu Zi absentmindedly nodded, she walked to her seat, looked around and asked, “Where’s Tan Lin?”


“I don’t know, he didn’t come out with you?” Ji Jian asked.


Mu Zi blushed slightly and shook her head.


She didn’t even know how she came out or how she got here.


She suspected that she had entered some part of the game’s progression, or that she had become a part of the game.



This had happened before, and that player had been used as a hidden reward by other players in the same copy, trying to trigger the hidden quest through various means.



That player’s ending was something Mu Zi did not want to repeat at all.


She gritted her teeth and decided to keep this secret in her heart.


The players in the game were each driven by their own great obsessions and desires, who knew what they could do for the rewards in the game, she would not take the risk.


“Do any of you have Tan Lin’s phone number? Make a call and ask him where he is.” Mu Zi said.


Ji Jian said he would call.


The phone rang for half a day and no one responded, Ji Jian moved the phone away from his ear in some bewilderment and looked at the others, “No answer.”


Feng Huai slightly inclined his head and said to Ji Jian, “Keep calling, and keep quiet.”


Ji Jian nodded and dialed Tan Lin’s cell phone again.


All the voices in the rehearsal hall fell silent, and only the sound of shallow breathing could be heard.


In such an absolutely quiet and empty rehearsal hall, the vibrating sound of the cell phone penetrated through the rehearsal hall, which had an excellent sound transmission effect.


Yu Rui and Feng Huai both heard the sound, and they followed the sound, quickly walking towards the stage behind the big curtain.


The remaining few people saw this and followed.


A dozen or so packed up large cardboard boxes were piled up backstage, and the ringing sound of a vibrating cell phone was coming from here.


“How did Tam Lin’s cell phone end up in the cardboard box?” Ji Jian gulped, feeling that this was out of the ordinary and so weird that he couldn’t help but get goosebumps.


The cardboard box was half a man tall, and he couldn’t help but think of some police movie sequences where bloody body parts were disassembled and packed into cardboard boxes to be sent to the remaining survivors.


Tan Lin …… wouldn’t be in there, would he?


As each cardboard box was unpacked, the vibration of the cell phone continued, “ZiZi”, the dull ringing sound made the air become hot and stuffy.


Suddenly, the vibration stopped abruptly.


Mu Ze gently inhaled, “What’s wrong?”


Feng Huai raised his eyes to look at Ji Jian, “What are you waiting for? Keep calling.”


Ji Jian came back to his senses with a slightly distorted expression, and he hastily nodded in response.


[Huff, this Ji Jian is a bit funny, the child is stupid]


[A startled bird of prey]


[The disdain from the newcomer haha, what are you doing in a daze?]


The sound of cell phone vibrations came from the only two large cardboard boxes left in front of them.


Ji Jian swallowed his saliva and looked at Feng Huai and Yu Rui.


With a “zip” sound, Yu Rui tore off the sealing tape and opened the carton.


Inside the carton were some old things, some photo frames piled up in a messy way, and a cell phone vibrating between the frames.



“Ah, so it’s here!” Ji Jian let out a soft cry of relief, it was true that he overthought it.


He fished Tan Lin’s cell phone out of the cardboard box and asked in a puzzled manner, “How could the phone be lost here? It’s too careless. But in that case, Brother Tan Lin is already here?”


Yu Rui took the phone from Ji Jian’s hand and tapped on the screen to slide it up to unlock it.


Tan Lin’s phone didn’t have any password set to unlock it, and after sliding the screen open it was a memo screen with a message left on it:


[I want to be alone, don’t wait for me for rehearsal, I’ll be there for the performance tomorrow].



Ji Jian came over to see, blinked: “Eh this ……?”


The pianist smiled as he saw this from the side, “Then we won’t force it, since Tan Lin wants to take a break, we’ll just rehearse by ourselves first.”


“That’s fine, it’s been rehearsed so many times anyway, and it’s mainly just to ensure the feel and tone. It’s not a big problem for the conductor to miss one rehearsal.” Zhang Xiaofeng nodded.


Mu Zi still had a bit of doubt in her heart, but seeing that Ji Jian and Zhang Xiaofeng had already followed that pianist NPC outside, she had no choice but to suppress her doubts and follow the large group.



Yu Rui pulled Feng Huai back as he lifted up the photo frame that was previously resting on his cell phone, and he saw a drop of blood that had already coagulated on one corner of the wooden photo frame.


“Tam Lin’s blood?” Feng Huai asked in a lowered voice.


Yu Rui let out a “hmm” and frowned at the other cardboard box.


The bottom of the carton was a dark reddish-black color, almost blending in with the dark floor tiles, and could not be seen without a closer look.


Seeing this, Feng Huai pursed his lips, took the scissors used to open the carton before, and made a heavy cut.


Inside was a box of red wine, which was leaning in the carton, and one of the bottles was uncorked, spilling out red wine.


Feng Huai loosened his nerves, it turned out to be wine.


The two of them left the backstage of the rehearsal hall one after the other, and no one thought of looking up.



On the dome of the backstage of the rehearsal hall, which was nearly ten meters high, a man was hanging upside down on the roof like the hanged man in the tarot cards.



His eyes were round and bloodshot, as if they were about to come out of their sockets.


His lips were sewn tightly together with thin black thread, and his hands were clasped behind his back, hanging upside down from the dome, swaying slightly.


Still alive.


It was Tan Lin.



Those eyes were filled with madness and despair, and he desperately wanted to scream, wanted to open his mouth, wanted to call out to that line of people, but even though he pulled his lips to the point of blood, those black threads firmly tied his lips.



He couldn’t make a sound, like a mute man with his tongue pulled out.



His neck had a small but deep slit, the blood from the cut little by little condensed, the small blood beads got more and more plump – full and round, until it could not support the weight of the blood beads, snapped and dripped down on the ground ten meters below.



The backstage curtain of the rehearsal hall fell at the same time.


No one saw this drop of falling blood.



The rehearsal went smoothly, and Yu Rui, as the orchestra’s leader, sat in the seating area under the stage and watched.



All the players who got the game identity were given the artistic skills corresponding to the identity.


Feng Huai settled down and held the strings in his hands, feeling as if he was born to be one with the cello in his hands.



A beam of light shone down from the top of his head, gently skimming over his face, the light and shadows made his features more profound, and the slightly yellowish, warm-colored light added a layer of warmth and softness to his appearance.


To describe it in cliché words, it was like a prince in a fairy tale.



Yu Rui looked at him calmly, this wasn’t a prince in a fairy tale, this was the king that only belonged to him.



Even if he seemed to be warm and soft, under the surface, he was still an indifferent and arrogant soul.



He knew very well that he wasn’t the only one who had been changed by the game, any of the first people to enter the [game] could no longer resemble their former real-world selves.


They had had countless identities, and those identities were ones that in the real world they might never become or aspire to in their entire lives, but they had even fulfilled those identities in the game for their entire lives.



This was the charm of [the game] that attracted most players.


They were both extraordinary and like the masses.


The [Game] made them the biggest contradiction, and no one in the real world could understand their existence unless they found another [Player].



Yu Zhi was lucky to find another [player] who was one of the first to enter the game. They licked each other like young animals, snuggled up to each other for warmth, and became each other’s back and reliance.



A round of rehearsal ended, the pianist was the first to get up from the piano bench, he patted and caressed his palm and smiled, “Fantastic, tomorrow’s stage will definitely be a stunning masterpiece that will amaze the whole audience.”


Ji Jian laughed dryly, thinking that the word ‘masterpiece’ was too auspicious to use at this moment.


Yu Rui stood up from the stage, his eyes glued to Feng Huai’s body, and suddenly said, “I didn’t realize that your hands are so suitable for holding the strings.”


Feng Huai raised his eyebrows slightly at that, “What else do you think it’s suitable for holding?”


“Some kind of hard, long, thick and straight one.” Yu Rui let out a soft “hmm”, his gaze was straight and deep, as if it was permanently resting on Feng Huai’s body.


He thought for a few seconds and added, “Such as a long staff.”


[Patchwork I thought Yu Rui was driving]


[I’m dirty I’m dirty I’m dirty]



[It’s normal to think wrongly]


Feng Huai suddenly looked at Yu Rui, a flash of surprise passing through his eyes.


The weapon he used to be accustomed to was a scepter. Unlike the broken Cross Heavenly Scepter, where the scepter pointed, it was within the reach of the light.


[Eh the newcomer doesn’t seem right? Am I overthinking it?]


[With hindsight, I realized that there seems to be a taste of temptation in Yu Rui’s words …… and not just a flirtation-tease, I was wrong]



“Come along my friends, it’s getting late, I don’t think we all want to be chased by the Night Watch all night again tonight, do we?” The pianist said with a smile.


Ji Jian and Zhang Xiaofeng both winced at the sound and took the lead in greeting and leaving the rehearsal hall.


Mu Zi, still harboring a secret in her heart, said, “I still want to practice a little longer.”



[It’s not like it’s a real performance, and the excuse of wanting to stay and look for clues is too clumsy]



[So this mission is to find the source of the Phantom of the Opera? But the Phantom hasn’t appeared until now, right?”]



[It makes sense ……]


When the pianist heard what Mu Zi said, he cocked his head and lightly answered, “Alright then. Be sure to be careful at night~.”



Mu Zi shivered slightly as a cool breeze from nowhere pierced around her neck.


She responded vaguely and looked up again at the clock hanging above the rehearsal hall – 21:02, about two hours before the theater closed and the night watchman began his patrols.



She had a notion of time in mind, and she’d be out of here sooner rather than later.


The pianist then turned to Yu Rui and Feng Huai, who hadn’t made any movements, and asked, “Do you also plan to stay here?”


Yu Rui said, “I want to take one last look at her who is so beautiful, after all, after the performance ends tomorrow, we will be leaving the Sife Opera House.”



Feng Huai nodded, “Since it’s not time to close the theater yet, we want to take a good look at what was once the Sife Opera House when there’s light.”



Yu Rui and Feng Huai’s words seemed to please the pianist, he looked agreeable, “Oh yes, the old Sife is the most beautiful landmark of the 21st century.”


He gently tilted his head sideways, his hand clenched into a fist to cover his lips, as if he was making a big decision.


He twisted his head suddenly to look at Yu Rui and Feng Huai, “Yes, I think she would be happy if someone admired her as well.”


“Tell you what, I’ll show you the ruins, I think you might like it.” The pianist said.



[Players Yu Ru and Feng Huai, triggered the hidden side quest: visit the old Opera House at night and look for clues to the Phantom. Completing the side quest rewards 2 points]



Mu Zi heard the pianist’s words and realized that this might be a quest trigger.


She approached with big strides, “I want to go and take a look as well.”


The pianist lightly waved his hand, and Mu Zi felt an unseen resistance pushing her away, and she was surprisingly unable to take another step forward.


“Didn’t you say you wanted to concentrate on practicing? It’s better to practice.” The pianist said, then turned to Yu Rui and Feng Huai, “Let’s go.”


Mu Zi: “……”


[Eh sis Mu Zi, this is a smart mistake, right? The veteran player lost her hooves]



[In front of Yu Rui, a first generation gamer, who dares to say that he’s an old player haha]


[She didn’t realize that the key to the game was the pianist, did she? She should’ve gotten the pianist to say what he wanted to say to find the clues.]


[You’re the only one who can talk upstairs.]


Mu Zi watched helplessly as the person walked away, she gritted her teeth and tried to move forward again, expecting to be blocked back, but she didn’t realize that the blocking force in front of her suddenly disappeared.


Her eyes lit up and without hesitation, she trailed after Yu Rui’s group.



Feng Huai glimpsed Mu Zi’s figure out of the corner of his eye and said softly to Yu Rui, “Looks like we have a little tail.”


“Let her be, since we’ve already claimed the mission, she won’t be able to curry any favors.” Yu Rui said.


“Unless the quest node is robbed by her.” Feng Huai remembered when Yu Ru reminded him.


Yu Rui smiled softly at his words, “With me around, can she snatch it?”


[666666, indeed]

[TN: 666666 —- cool/awesome ]


[But I’m sure Sister Mu Zi wouldn’t do such a classless thing.]



The live broadcast room was swiped with heated comments.



Mu Zi’s reason for following up was simple, the side quest was part of the reason, and the other part was that she vaguely felt that her abnormality started last night when she entered that abandoned performance hall.


She wanted to figure out what had happened to her. She had a vague intuition that the only way she could find out was to be in a part of the old Sife site again.


The pianist led them down a flight of stairs, and after seven turns, they came to a large door that had been cordoned off in yellow.


While he pulled back the cordon without thinking and pushed open the gate, he said, “This was once the practice room where many singers you can name used to practice.”


The heavy door was covered in dust, and when it was pushed open, dust particles flew up in the air, choking Feng Huai and the two of them, who had to cover their mouths and noses.


After a while, the dust particles slowly sank, and their sight became much clearer.


In front of them, there was an architectural interior with stone carvings, almost the same architectural style as last night’s performance hall, and the candelabras of the beasts were situated in the four corners of the room.


Seeing this, Mu Zi involuntarily took a step closer, completely forgetting that she was secretly lurking behind someone else at the moment.


“Eh how did you get in here!” The pianist saw Mu Zi and raised his voice.


Mu Zi didn’t bother.


She walked over to the candlestick and tilted her head to look at the carving of an alien beast lying on the candlestick, concentrating as if she was communicating with it about something.


She nodded slightly, her pupils turning a narrow glowing green color again at some point.



Feng Huai frowned slightly at the sight, sensing something abnormal.


He walked over in large strides, and just as he opened his mouth to call out Mu Zi’s name, he saw the other party violently twist her head and turn it around.



The original round almond eyes were cold and stern, and the narrow pupils were like a feline’s that shrunk into a thin vertical line, quickly crossing a flash of cold green light.



When Feng Huai saw this, his footsteps lurched, and then without hesitation, he took a few steps back and returned to Yu Rui’s side.



[2333333 Newcomer’s second move]

[TN: 233333 – lol]



[The newcomer saw it’s safest to be by Yu Rui’s side]


[Why do I feel that Boss Yu seems to be smiling?]


[Amused by the newcomer’s goose-stepping appearance?]


[It’s not like …… it’s just, faintly, a little bit of satisfaction? I must have been blind and misread it.]


[Upstairs, +1]

[TN: +1 —- I agree]





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