Chapter 2: Ghost Mountain Villa 2
It’s strange to say, just as the group arrived at the foot of Gui Mountain, the sky was so overcast it seemed like night. Now that they were climbing up the mountain, it had turned into a gloomy day after rain, with the moist vapor still lingering and white mist drifting throughout the mountain forest.
In this open and quiet environment, the tour guide’s voice sounded particularly jarring and eerie, echoing through the mountains.
“Gui Mountain is a famous tourist attraction in the suburbs of Binhai City. Besides its beautiful scenery, it’s also famous for a legendary tale. During wartime, this place was used as a mass grave because of the numerous corpses buried there. The original small hill of Gui Mountain was transformed into its current appearance due to the large number of bodies.”
Perhaps due to poor signal and rain, the tour guide’s loudspeaker was mixed with crackling electrical sounds, making her already sharp voice distorted and eerie.
The guests who chose to visit Gui Mountain were unaware of its actual situation and rumors, as it was arranged by the production team based on the script. Hearing the tour guide mentioning a mass grave while in this desolate and deserted mountain, they were suddenly a bit frightened.
The tour guide, who had just received the script introduction before departure and was reading it for the first time, paled after finishing and reading.
“Did it startle everyone? After all, it’s just a rumor. Let me share a little secret.” The tour guide forced a smile and said mysteriously to the camera, “Actually—I am a ghost!”
The guests could tell the guide was trying to lighten the tense atmosphere, and they smiled in front of the camera at the right moment.
Yan Shixun, who had been surveying the surroundings, looked toward the tour guide upon hearing the words.
To look good on screen, Liu Yiyi applied a lot of white foundation and heavy contouring. It looked fine on camera, but in reality, with her excessively red lips and the misty atmosphere, it did make her look like a ghost opening a bloodthirsty mouth, seemingly ready to devour the living.
On the other side, the tour guide continued to narrate the history and various rumors of Gui Mountain in a relaxed tone. The guests occasionally exclaimed, fitting the atmosphere.
The rumors about university students disappearing during exploration and villagers seeing a person with only half a body walking in the mountains became more and more bizarre as she spoke. However, the more bizarre the rumors got, the less the people believed. When they finally relaxed, they realized they had overreacted.
Only Yan Shixun, his hands casually in his pockets, almost disappeared from the camera at the very end of the group.
The tour guide and the other guests thought these rumors about Gui Mountain were just myths. However, Yan Shixun, who had roamed the streets for years and interacted with all sorts of people, knew that was not the case.
A hundred years ago, Gui Mountain was just an unknown small hill.
According to legend, it once belonged to a wealthy merchant and was the hiding place for his beloved, where he spared no expense to please her.
But as time passed, the people from those years had either died in the war or were taken away by time, and this saying could no longer be verified.
The only confirmed historical account is that a century ago, a group of bandits passed through Binhai City and temporarily stayed on this mountain. Several months later, the villagers near the mountain believed that the bandits had left, so they went up the mountain to gather firewood. To their horror, they discovered that all those dozens of bandits had met gruesome deaths on the mountain, with sharp claw marks all over their bodies, their abdomens torn open, and their appearance horrifying.
Since then, it became common for travelers resting on this mountain to be found dead on the mountain several days later. Occasionally, people from nearby villages who went up the mountain never returned.
People speculated that the vengeful spirits of those bandits who died tragically had turned into malevolent ghosts and continued to haunt the mountain, preying on passersby.
As a result, this mountain came to be known as the “Gui (Ghost) Mountain,” and locals avoided it.
It wasn’t until much later, when times were peaceful, that the people thought that the name “Gui Mountain” (Ghost Mountain) was not good so it was then adapted into “Gui Mountain” (Rule Mountain) for a more auspicious name.
As for the tour guide’s story about someone witnessing a person with only half a body walking…
That’s also true.
Once, when Yan Shixun was assisting someone in exorcizing spirits, he happened to meet a fellow Taoist practitioner. According to this fellow practitioner, there was indeed a period of unrest on Gui Mountain. After dusk, numerous dried bones and decomposed corpses would crawl out from underground, wandering aimlessly in the forest, unable to leave the boundaries of Gui Mountain no matter what.
After the villagers reported this incident to the authorities, it even alarmed the famous Haiyun Temple in Binhai City. Many Taoists joined forces to search Gui Mountain for a long time but found nothing.
The fellow Taoist practitioner who informed Yan Shixun about this matter also participated in the search. This was how Yan Shixun learned of the incident. The fellow practitioner advised him to pay attention to it and try to gather information through his extensive and diverse social network.
Since Yan Shixun had made an agreement with Zhang Wubing that he would leave the show only if he ranked last in the popularity vote, he hadn’t paid much attention to the specific arrangements of the program. It wasn’t until today that he realized the first destination was Gui Mountain.
But with the agreement in place and the live broadcast format, it was too late for Yan Shixun to back out now.
The trees on both sides of the path up the mountain gently swayed, and the leaves made a faint rustling sound.
Yan Shixun glanced indifferently in that direction, and the leaves stopped trembling.
The other guests were chatting and laughing in front of the camera as if they had recovered from the recent scare. However, suddenly, one of the female actresses screamed, “Ah!”
Everyone was startled by her scream, and they all turned to look at her. The camera immediately focused on her.
The actress’s face turned as white as a sheet, and her legs were shaking uncontrollably. Despite her frightened state, she managed to force a smile toward the camera, which looked even more unsettling than crying. She said, “I… I think I stepped on human bones.”
Upon hearing her words, everyone immediately looked down at her feet, and indeed, a pale and grim-looking bone had been crushed into two pieces under her foot.
Several timid girls screamed and quickly hid behind others.
One of the male artists was also somewhat startled, but considering they were still live on camera, he mustered the courage to step forward and help the trembling actress move away.
“It’s… it’s okay! Don’t worry, Ding Xi, you just have a small heart. These are probably animal bones.”
After observing for a while and noticing that the director hadn’t reacted, he thought it might be a prop, so he relaxed. He continued with a smile, “This just proves that the ecological environment in Gui Mountain is well-protected. There are probably many lovely little animals here. Interested viewers can come and visit. The air here is really fresh.”
Hearing his words, the hearts of the other guests, which had been pounding rapidly, gradually calmed down. However, their gazes towards Ding Xi, the actress who had screamed, were no longer friendly.
“Sister Ding Xi, I never expected you to be so easily frightened. Your scream scared me too!”
“Maybe Xixi has been under a lot of stress recently, feeling too tense? It’s a good opportunity to relax here in Gui Mountain.”
Everyone around her was saying this, making Ding Xi herself feel like it was her own problem.
As the others continued up the mountain, Ding Xi turned back, her gaze complex as she looked at the broken bone.
—She had no idea what human bones looked like; her attention had been focused on finding the camera just now. In fact, she didn’t even realize she had stepped on the bone.
The reason she knew she had stepped on a human bone was that when she accidentally broke it just now, she felt a breeze pass by her ear, faintly whispering to her, “It hurts so much”…
Was it an auditory hallucination?
Without waiting for Ding Xi to figure it out, she saw the young man who had been walking at the back bend down and pick up the bone with his slender fingers.
“Hey, don’t—” Ding Xi instinctively tried to stop him.
Yan Shixun glanced at her, then continued to examine the bone. “From the look on your face, it seems like something happened just now.”
Ding Xi was startled: “How did you know?”
Yan Shixun casually tossed the bone into the nearby woods to prevent it from being stepped on again. Then he wiped his hands with a handkerchief and said to the air, “It has nothing to do with her. You left your things lying around and didn’t even notice the missing shinbone. Whose fault is that? Here, I’m returning it to you.”
Ding Xi watched Yan Shixun’s actions and words, and her hair stood on end. “W-Who are you talking to?”
After that recent incident, Ding Xi was already feeling a bit scared.
Now she was staring at Yan Shixun with narrowed pupils, and her body was trembling uncontrollably. It was as if she would faint on the spot if Yan Shixun said anything unusual.
However, Yan Shixun had already moved past her and continued to walk uphill. “Oh, I have a habit of talking to myself. I have autism.”
“Aren’t you coming? They’ve all gone up, you’re staying here alone?”
Ding Xi took a look around and realized that there were only two staff members with her. The others had moved far ahead, leaving her alone. Fearful of being left behind, she hurriedly took a few steps to catch up with Yan Shixun.
Although this person seemed to have a bad temper, he didn’t look like a bad person. Most importantly, when he had just brushed past her, she suddenly felt a sense of coldness being dispelled, which was quite reassuring.
Yan Shixun glanced sideways at Ding Xi, who was walking alongside him and didn’t say anything.
Despite a minor incident along the way, the group arrived smoothly at the villa that the director had reserved.
As the director had described, it was a luxurious and historically significant villa with a blend of Central European styles from a century ago. It featured beautiful pointed roofs and stained glass windows.
Even though it was built in the mountains, it was well-maintained, with no signs of gloom or decay. It looked more like a five-star private resort. From afar, the architectural and artistic beauty was truly impressive.
Several guests looked at the villa and nodded in satisfaction. They felt that despite being a variety show, the production team was quite generous when it came to their accommodations, and they considered it a real vacation. None of them felt like they had come in vain.
The camera also focused on the villa at the right time.
After live streaming for so long, apart from the guests bringing in their own fan base, the scenic beauty of Gui Mountain and a few minor incidents had attracted quite a few viewers and subscribers, who were curious about the unfolding events.
[The lineup of guests is pretty good; they are all popular actors and idols right now. But how come the director is a newcomer? I’ve never heard of the production company either. And just now, they mentioned there’s even an amateur participant. What’s going on with this show?]
[The amateur guy is so lucky to be on a show with my favorite idol. I’m envious; I also want to get up close with my idol.]
[I majored in geology in college and have actually been to Gui Mountain. But why does it look different here? The mountain’s geological structure seems completely different, the opposite even. Is this really Gui Mountain?]
[There’s one guy who’s quite good-looking, but I don’t recognize him. I also couldn’t find any information online. Is he a trainee from some entertainment company? The one with the number four.]
Apart from introducing the scenery and assigning tasks to the guests, the tour guide also had the task of monitoring the live chat and comments in real time, responding to questions, and managing the comment section.
After all, this travel variety show, named “Heart-Pounding Journey of Ninety-Nine Days” was being broadcast live on a video platform.
As the director, Zhang Wubing, despite having no prior experience, was able to obtain permissions to host the program and Livestream on the platform due to his background as the third-generation heir of a wealthy family with connections to many second and third-generation heirs in the entertainment industry.
Any user of the platform app could enter the program’s live channel to watch and subscribe.
However, the program had strict rules against any violations, including inappropriate comments and messages. These had to be managed by the program team, and if there were any violations, the user responsible might temporarily lose their live broadcast privileges.
Therefore, the tour guide and the production team needed to actively manage these comments and messages in real time.
As Liu Yiyi was about to respond to the comments regarding Yan Shixun, she noticed a person walking out of the villa towards them.
This person was dressed in a sharp suit, despite his age, he stood with a straight posture, reminiscent of a high-class household’s steward, with impeccable manners.
“Welcome, after your tiring journey, please come inside and rest. We have hot water and dinner ready,” the elderly man introduced himself. “I am Zhou Shi, the steward of this villa. If you have any needs during your stay, please feel free to let me know.”
Having climbed the mountain and gotten wet from the rain, the coldness in the mountains had left the guests tired and chilly. Upon hearing that there was food and hot showers available, they immediately followed the steward into the villa.
Ding Xi, who had been following Yan Shixun all along, also breathed a sigh of relief and happily followed the others inside.
The camera faithfully recorded the joyful expressions on everyone’s faces.
Yan Shixun, with his hands in his pockets, leisurely took a few steps backward and completely moved out of the frame. He then turned to ask Zhang Wubing, “Do you have any intention of adding more money? Just add my usual fee for the work.”
“?” Zhang Wubing was a bit puzzled. He had known Yan Shixun for many years and knew that Yan Shixun earned some money by helping people deal with ghosts and spirits. Although he was not wealthy, he was not the kind of person who would suddenly demand more money midway.
“Why are you suddenly saying this, Brother Yan? Didn’t we agree on everything before coming here?”
Zhang Wubing replied, “Brother Yan, if you urgently need money, just tell me directly, and I’ll definitely help. I may not have a lot extra, but I can still come up with a few million.”
Yan Shixun: “……”
He looked at Zhang Wubing in frustration and said, “Why don’t you just change your name to Zhang Youbing?”
Note: the joke here is that Zhang Wubing means Zhang with no illness, but Youbing means Zhang with illness or possibly with a stupid brain, he’s just playing with the word.
Even the hints couldn’t get through to him; what’s wrong with his brain?!
Zhang Wubing: “???”
Yan Shixun, unimpressed by his friend’s remark, let out a hum of annoyance and followed him into the villa.
The villa was indeed spacious, spanning four floors and even equipped with an elevator. The ground floor consisted of the living room, dining area, and kitchen, while the three upper floors housed bedrooms and study rooms.
The steward explained that due to recent rain, the fourth floor had some leaks and was undergoing repairs, so everyone was free to choose their rooms on the second and third floors.
Excitement filled the air as everyone rushed to claim their preferred rooms. Laughter echoed through the villa, creating a lighthearted and entertaining atmosphere that even resonated with the viewers in the live chat.
However, Yan Shixun, indifferent to where he would sleep, paid no attention to selecting a room. He had slept outdoors under the open sky before and was more interested in exploring the other parts of the villa.
As the steward accompanied several guests to choose their rooms and introduced them to the villa, the ground floor, including the living room and dining area, remained empty and devoid of any signs of human activity.
But it happened to be convenient for Yan Shixun, allowing him to investigate without hindrance.
This century-old villa, despite minor renovations and some modern amenities added over the years, still retained its old-world charm.
As Yan Shixun lifted the white tablecloth with gold embroidery on the dining table, he noticed the solid wooden table beneath it had been there for a few years already.
It seemed to be an original piece, matching the overall style of the villa. Yan Shixun could even see several deep knife marks on its surface, with grooves tinged with black as if oxidized blood.
Just as Yan Shixun’s fingers brushed over those deep knife marks, he heard a sound from the kitchen behind him, resembling the noise of an iron pot falling to the ground.
Could there be someone else?
Yan Shixun immediately walked briskly toward the kitchen, forcefully pushing open the partially closed door.
In contrast to modern kitchens, the villa’s kitchen still retained its century-old design, with a wood-burning stove.
On the stove, a large iron pot sat over roaring flames, its contents bubbling and simmering. Next to it, spice jars were open, and a chopping board still held neatly cut vegetables, all indicating that someone had been cooking here moments ago.
However, upon a closer look, there was no sign of anyone in the kitchen. The marble floor was immaculate, with no traces of a fallen pot.
Yan Shixun released his grip on the doorknob and approached the stove. He lowered his head slightly to peer into the pot, where a deep red dish simmered in thick sauce. However, the texture of the meat within remained indiscernible.
Just as Yan Shixun picked up a pair of chopsticks from the side and was about to carefully inspect the food, a flat male voice suddenly interrupted his action.
“Wouldn’t you like to see your room, sir?”
Yan Shixun turned around and saw that the old steward had somehow come back from upstairs. He was standing less than thirty centimeters away from him. If he had been startled and turned a little more abruptly, he would have been face to face with the old steward.
“I apologize for being impolite, allowing a guest to come to such a dirty place.”
At this moment, the old steward, unlike the professional and elegant image he had outside the villa, spoke with a monotonous tone, even his gaze seemed hollow, staring at one spot without moving.
The old steward smiled with impeccable but stiff manners. His cheeks seemed to lack elasticity: “Are you hungry? Then, please return to your room, tidy up a bit, and wait in the dining room. Dinner will begin shortly.”
“I’ll take a look and see how dinner is coming along.”
Yan Shixun wasn’t just not intimidated by the old steward’s strange state; he became excited. The madness that had been suppressed beneath his calm demeanor was now eager to break free.
A glint of excitement flashed in his dark, intense eyes, and he curled his lips into a reckless smile. “I love dishes made from human flesh the most, seeing that it’s on the menu here is truly delightful.”
The old steward’s empty eyes were locked onto Yan Shixun, and his tone remained flat. “The guest is joking.”
With that, he raised his hand and reached for Yan Shixun.
Yan Shixun reacted swiftly, stepping aside to avoid being face-to-face with the old steward’s wrinkled and age-spotted face. In the same motion, his elbow accidentally knocked over the open spice jars on the counter, causing a heap of red and white powders to spill into the pot.
At that moment, Yan Shixun saw a glimpse of rage on the old steward’s face.
“Oh, I’m really sorry. I have a mild case of cerebral palsy, so my hands and feet aren’t very agile.” Yan Shixun raised an eyebrow and put on a surprised and apologetic expression. “I’ve ruined this perfectly good dish. What should we do? It’s inedible now.”
The old steward emitted a rapid “huff” sound in his throat and took several minutes to regain his composure. He stared at Yan Shixun with those dim, unreflective eyes, and finally managed to squeeze out the words “It’s okay.”
Yan Shixun shrugged and turned to leave.
He walked with a leisurely and confident stride, showing no hint of remorse.
“It seems our fourth guest is eager for a ‘castle exploration,’ not even caring about the room.”
As Yan Shixun stepped into the living room, Liu Yiyi noticed him from upstairs. Leaning against the golden staircase, she smiled at the camera and teased Yan Shixun, “All the rooms have been taken, except for the one near the stairs. It might get a bit noisy there. We just checked, and due to the old nature of this house, the soundproofing doesn’t seem to be very good. Our fourth guest doesn’t mind, right?”
Yan Shixun lifted an eyebrow, looking at the smug woman, and said with a sly smile, “I have no problem.”
He could always feel a pair of eyes, tightly fixed on him from behind.
Before pushing open the door to his room, Yan Shixun turned around, and his gaze met the eyes of the old steward standing at the edge of the first-floor living room.
The old steward slowly and stiffly raised a faint smile.
Hidden in the half-light and half-darkness position.
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