Chapter 1 - The Sinister Apartment
Li Yin suddenly opens his eyes.
His heart hurts intolerably, as though it is being burned in an inferno.
It is here...again?
This time, is it my turn?
Li Yin props himself up and switches on the bedside lamp. At this point, the intense pain of his heart is finally slightly relieved.
He gets off the bed and puts on his slippers. After that, he walks out of the bedroom and arrives at the living room outside, switching on the light.
He sees that thing.
On the snow white wall in the living room, a line of words written in fresh blood suddenly appears. If ordinary people see this extremely creepy scene at this moment in the middle of the night, they will be scared soulless.
But Li Yin barely responds.
“It is my turn again… ”
He carefully inspects the line of words.
“From June 7th to July 7th, Year 2010, head to the Village of Tranquil Water by X city’s cityside and live there for this entire month.”
This line of creepy blood words blurs immediately after Li Yin finishes reading it. It seems like the wall is absorbing the blood. Gradually, it...disappears.
The Village of Tranquil Water...
Li Yin memorizes this name.
Although he wants to go back to bed, it is impossible to fall asleep again. So instead, he turns on the living room lights, makes himself a cup of tea and starts to drink it. He has no habit of smoking so tea is a substitute. Perhaps coffee will achieve a better effect. But Li Yin always feels that savoring the aroma of the tea is the easiest way to calm his mood.
Looking at the reflection of his face on the surface of the tea, Li Yin grasps the cup tightly.
It has been… almost one year since he moved into this apartment.
Although one year cannot be considered long, to Li Yin it feels like countless years have already passed.
The next day, when the early morning sun just begins to rise, Li Yin who curled up by the dining table wakes up.
He fell asleep wearing only a thin pajama, covered with only a single fur blanket which might cause him to catch a cold.
The tea leftover in the teacup in front of the table is already completely cold.
He checks the wall clock in the living room. It is already… 6 a.m..
Li Yin rubs his eyes, before washing up and dressing neatly. Afterwards, he makes himself breakfast by frying an egg that he slips between two slices of bread he bought yesterday and applying a small dash of salad sauce. This will be it for today’s breakfast.
Li Yin is actually very proficient at cooking. Because he has lived alone for a long time, it is necessary to learn how to cook. After so long, he has naturally learned a variety of delicious cuisines.
Biting into the homemade sandwich and then taking out the milk from the microwave, Li Yin flips opens up his planner. He begins to make plans for the next month - the month of June.
He is an web novelist. As he is quite well-known on the internet, he is already currently in a writing contract with a company. So normally, he only needs to write at home to receive pay for his manuscript to earn a living.
“It won’t really be a problem.” Biting into his sandwich, he says to himself, “I’ll be fine as long as I bring my notes with me in June and post new chapters of my novel. Yeah...it’s just that anything can happen during that time.”
He puts down the calendar down, then chews the bread and fried egg inside of his mouth. His hands clench tightly into fists.
I must stay alive… I must come back here alive!
After putting on his clothes, he walks out of his room, but does not lock the door.
His room number on the 4th floor, room 404, is very inauspicious. But he was not the one who could make the decision on which room he wanted.
He comes down to the 1st floor of the apartment. There are no residents on the 1st floor. It is instead a huge reception room similar to that of a hotel. There are sofas and chairs placed everywhere in the reception room for people to rest.
There are 3 people sitting on one of the sofas.
Seeing Li Yin coming towards them, those three people stand up simultaneously.
One is a bespectacled tall man wearing a suit, the other is a fresh-faced young boy wearing a hat, and the last one is a young lady in a green western-styled dress with a very cute and pretty face.
“You guys… Did that line of bloody words appear on your walls as well?” Li Yin contemplates for a second, and asks.
Those three people all nod coincidentally.
They are all residents of this apartment.
“So it is like that. Then at least this time, I will have 3 teammates.” Li Yin feels a bit relieved, and sits down with them.
The 4 of them have equally serious expressions.
“Li Yin... ” Looking very worried, the pretty young lady in green says, “Will we really... be okay? This time, we need to stay for a whole month? And it's at a rural village that is far away from city? ”
“Yeah,” the bespectacled man in the suit says: “I checked the map. The boundary of X city is backed by huge mountains. It is very desolate and remote. Not even the Hope Crew (1) can make contact with them. It is a truly primitive rural mountain village.”
“China has far too many villages.” Li Yin remains resolute. “Of such poor and primitive villages so disparate from the cities, there are definitely not just a few. Don’t think too much. Anyway, this isn’t the first time.”
“But...I’m still very…” The bespectacled young man in the suit seems to want to say something more but he is stopped by the boy in the hat.
The atmosphere once again descends abruptly into silence.
Another long period of time passes without anyone showing up. Probably, the bloody words that materialised on the walls of the house only appeared in front of the four of them.
“It’s almost seven.” Li Yin looks at his watch and says, “The three of you can head to work first. I’ll continue to wait here. If there are new members, I’ll call you guys.”
Li Yin’s calmness and acuity help them feel secure. So one by one, these 3 people stand up and leave the apartment.
Just then, Li Yin is already accessing on the internet on his phone, but he still cannot find any information on this place called the Village of Tranquil Water. But since it was already said that it is at the borders of X city, they will find it eventually.
If they cannot find it only depending on these clues, then the bloody words will provide instructions towards a more precise address.
When it is June 7th, they have to enter the Village of Tranquil Water. And before July 7th, they definitely must not leave that place by any means.
Definitely must not...
Time flies. Soon, the day has arrived.
Right now, it is 2 in the afternoon.
On the precipitous mountain road, Li Yin along with those three people, are walking forwards step by step.
This mountain is called the “Black Crow Mountain”. After checking many times, they find the Village of Tranquil Water is to the west of this mountain. The steep slope of the mountain makes transportation to the outside world very inconvenient. Thus the village is almost isolated from the rest of the world. People sustained their lifestyles through agriculture. Without running water and even electricity, this place can be considered very destitute.
The bespectacled man in the suit is named Qin Shoutian. As he is a journalist of a small newspaper, he is constantly on the run between news scenes, so it is not that tiring for him. But the other two people -- the boy in hat, Luo Hengyan, and the pretty young lady in green dress, Ye Kexin -- are both ordinary white collars workers who sit in the office everyday. After hiking a couple of miles of mountain trails, their shoes have already been scruffed raw. They all feel exceptionally tired. But still, no one dares to rest. They must arrive at the Village of Tranquil Water as early as possible before the sky gets dark.
With a compass and map on his hands, Li Yin does not seem to be too exhausted.
“Li… Li Yin”, Luo Hengyan asks breathlessly, “How, how long more does it take to get there? My, my legs are about to drop off.”
“You can stop whenever you want,” Li Yin looks at the compass and says, without even turning around. “As long as you are not afraid of dying. I don’t care about leaving you behind.”
“How...how can I!” Luo Heng Yan knows Li Yin’s character well. No... actually, everyone is like this.
The residents who live in that apartment will all become indifferent towards other people’s life or death eventually. It has only been half a year since Luo Heng Yan moved into the apartment.
Passing another mountain, Li Yin’s spirits rise. Gazing towards the foot of the mountain, he says, “Quick, look! We have arrived!”
Unsurprisingly, there is a huge village. Although it looks dilapidated, the houses are not as poorly constructed as they imagined. At first glance, there are several hundreds of houses built on a spacious piece of land, some with two storeys. Rows and rows of rice fields stretch in between the houses, and they can see a lot of farmers hard at work.
Since they have arrived, they should be safe.
The four people rush down to the foot of the mountain excitedly.
To enter the Village of Tranquil Water… That is then equivalent to completing the orders of the bloody words.
There is no one, who can violate the orders given by the bloody words.
When they arrive at the foot of the mountain, Li Yin suddenly notices a pretty farm girl passing by, carrying two buckets of water. He immediately intercepts the girl.
“Ma’am... ” Li Yin walks up to her and asks, “This place… is the Village of Tranquil Water, right?”
That farm girl seems to be around 17 or 18 years of age. With her big eyes, she looks very charming.
“Yes, that’s right. You guys...” That farm girls looks at Li Yin and asks in confusion, “Excuse me, you are...”
“We are tourists from City K. After all those walking for so long on the mountain trails, we want to take a rest in this village.”
The girl immediately brightens up as she says, “It’s so rare to actually see people from the city come here! My name is Xiu. You guys can follow me. I’ll bring you to Uncle Wang’s restaurant. Plain noodles made by Uncle Wang tastes really good since it’s made from well water”
Well water… As expected, this village seems to have no running water?
Moreover, when they were overlooking the village just now, they did not actually spot any telephone poles. It seems like this village is indeed relatively outdated.
Since that farmgirl, Xiu, is quite welcoming, Li Yin’s group decides to follows her lead.
At this moment, Li Yin’s line of sight unintentionally moves to one of the buckets that Xiu carries on her back. The water in the bucket looks quite clear so it is uncertain whether it is well water or stream water.
But then...As though he has been electrocuted, Li Yin’s body jerks!
From the bottom of the well, a deathly pale, pupiless woman’s face abruptly emerges!
This face showed up too suddenly, giving him no time at all to react.
Li Yin immediately retreated a few steps, his heart palpitating wildly. Then he walks forwards and peeks at the bucket again… But it remains a bucket of clear water. There is nothing weird about it.
But, Li Yin knows that what he just saw was definitely not an illusion.
“Miss… Miss Xiu…” Li Yin forcefully represses the terror in his heart and says, “We, we should not bother you any more. You look quite busy carrying those buckets”
After that, without even waiting for Xiu’s response, he turns his head around quickly and walks toward his three other companions with large steps, giving them a meaningful glance.
The three people understand him instantly and hurry to follow Li Yin, leaving Xiu alone. Xiu stands blankly in her original spot, wondering how she has offended them.
As they walk in the village, the group’s unfamiliar faces attract many people’s attention as the villagers stare at them in bewildered suspicion. Why are there tourists here despite the fact that the Black Crow Mountain does not have any ancient sites or renowned attractions?
Ye Ke xin asks Li Yin in a low voice, “Mr… Mr. Li Yin, just now...did you already see ‘that thing’?”
Li Yin remains silent, only nodding his head in response.
They have long expected that it is impossible for the month to pass peacefully after they arrive in the Village of Tranquil Water. But they did not imagine that the moment they stepped foot into the village, and in day time, that such a thing…
Li Yin looks at the sky above his head. It seems like the sun is slowly being covered by the clouds.
This time...Among the four of them, how many of them can return to the apartment in K City alive?
It has already been a year... Li Yin has experienced this kind of thing many times.
He almost died many times.
Almost died at the hands of ‘those things’.
‘Those things’ - where they come from and why they appear is still unknown. But they are everywhere. At any time, at any place, they can kill you where you stand.
And in the whole world, the apartment in K city is the only place one can hide from ‘those things’. Only in that place is their security ensured.
This, is the inviolable rule that the residents of that apartment must follow.
- The Hope Crew is China’s equivalent to the Red Cross Foundation.