Chapter 48 Playing to Death 04
Ye Youya took off her clothes and entered the bathroom. She turned on the water heater and adjusted the shower to a comfortable temperature. She reached out to test the water, a hint of hesitation crossing her face. Then she stepped into the shower, and let the water cascade over her. She fumbled to press the shampoo and started washing her hair.
Unaware, Ye Youya didn’t see the face of a middle-aged man protruding from the bathroom wall. His features were pronounced, with wide-open eyes that appeared somwhat creepy. He couldn’t help but smile with satisfaction after licking the water droplets sprayed onto the wall by the shower.
Here it happened again.
The disgusting and disturbing gaze lingered on her body. Ye Youya felt goosebumps on her neck and arms, and a nauseating feeling churned in her stomach, making her almost want to vomit.
She cautiously touched the towel, but it felt like something had licked the back of her hand. Startled, she quickly grabbed the towel and moved away. After rinsing off the shampoo from her hair, she wrapped herself in a bath towel and stood near the curtain, staring at the bathroom wall.
As Ye Youya leaned against the curtain, she didn’t notice a person-shaped figure gradually forming behind it. The figure pressed against her with a strangely contented expression. She suddenly turned around and pulled back the curtain, but there was nothing behind it.
However, she couldn’t relax her vigilance. She could sense another presence in the house, a person or something else. That thing often peeped at her, its gaze disgusting and perverted. Lately, it had become more brazen, even attempting to touch her.
Ye Youya carefully inspected the entire house but found nothing unusual. She began playing scriptures, and the nauseating gaze finally disappeared. When she went to sleep at night, she turned off the scriptures, climbed into bed, and fell asleep.
Previously, after playing the scriptures every day, the thing wouldn’t appear throughout the night. So Ye Youya fell asleep feeling safe. But in the middle of the night, she felt something licking her face, and in annoyance, she woke up and opened her eyes to see a face protruding from the wall.
Ye Youya looked down and saw that the creature had already crawled halfway out of the wall, attempting to violate her. Seeing her awake, the creature revealed a disgusting smile. Ye Youya’s pupils contracted, and she couldn’t help but scream, “Aaaah—”
When Mao Xiaoli was cycling through Lychee Garden, a heavy object suddenly slammed onto the rear seat of her bike, making a loud noise. The bicycle shook violently, and the front wheel lifted off the ground by two centimeters due to the sudden impact. She turned around and saw a mountainous figure on the bike seat, solid and steady.
Mao Xiaoli glanced downward, her gaze catching the almost invisible rear seat of the bicycle beneath the twenty-kilogram mass of fat. She also noticed the slightly depressed rear wheel. After a few seconds of silence, she spoke, “Chonky, did you gain weight again?”
Chonky stared at Mao Xiaoli with cold, emotionless eyes, and took out a cardboard sign with the words “No” written on it.
Mao Xiaoli chuckled. Every night, it would go to the branch office to mooch food, along with indulging in fried dried fish snacks, especially when Chen Yang cooked. After eating Chen Yang’s food, who wouldn’t gain weight?
So, Mao Xiaoli took Chonky to a fitness center near the school gate. There was an electronic scale at the entrance, and passing students loved to weigh themselves on it. Mao Xiaoli got off the bike, holding Chonky while he clung to the rear seat as steady as a rock.
“If you dare, come down and weigh yourself. You definitely weigh more than twenty five kilograms,” Mao Xiaoli said, but Chonky ignored her. She continued, “If you don’t want to weigh now, it’s fine. I’ll tell Brother Chen when we get back. Anyway, weighing over twenty-five kilograms isn’t good for a cat’s health. Brother Chen will definitely make you lose weight.”
Chonky twitched his whiskers, lifted his head, and locked eyes with Mao Xiaoli. “There used to be a subtle curve from your neck to your shoulders, but now everything above your chin is just a mass of flesh. I can’t even find your neck.”
Seeing Mao Xiaoli’s determination to know Chonky’s actual weight, Chonky reluctantly took out a cardboard sign that read, “You’ve gained two and a half kilograms.”
Mao Xiaoli didn’t believe it, so they both stepped onto the electronic scale. After seeing their actual weights, they fell into silence and quickly reconciled, even establishing a subtle camaraderie. As Mao Xiaoli let out a sigh with a hint of sadness, she prepared to push the bicycle pedal but heard someone calling her from behind.
Mao Xiaoli turned around and saw a girl gasping for breath as she ran up to her. “M-Mao Xiaoli, right?”
“Do you need something? Are you here to buy talisman or do you have news?”
The girl shook her head. “Neither. Do you remember me? I’m the girl who was attacked by Dong Hong in Lychee Garden last time. My name is Ye Youya.”
Mao Xiaoli recalled her. “I remember you. What’s the matter?”
“I heard from others that you sell spiritual talismans… I don’t want to buy one, but I want to ask if you’re a celestial master. I-I’ve been experiencing strange things lately, and I’m really scared,” Ye Youya said. “I didn’t know who to turn to, but they said you sell talismans. During the incident with the cat spirit, I knew you recommended a celestial master to the principal. So, I wanted to ask if you could help me find a celestial master.”
Mao Xiaoli sized up Ye Youya and handed her a talisman. Ye Youya took it, but then noticed that the talisman instantly turned half black, startling her. “What’s happening?”
“Evil energy has entered your body,” Mao Xiaoli replied, taking back the talisman and throwing it in the trash. “Let me come to your house and take a look. Hop on, I’ll give you a ride.”
Ye Youya looked down, unable to find a place to sit as Chonky occupied the rear seat of the bicycle. Mao Xiaoli turned around and said, “Chonky, get into the basket.”
Chonky flicked its tail with reluctance and squeezed itself into the basket. The basket was too small, and its flesh was compressed into small squares. Mao Xiaoli couldn’t help but burst into laughter, tears almost streaming down her face, and quickly snapped a photo. Chonky remained calm and indifferent, as immovable as a mountain.
Ye Youya hesitated whether petite Mao Xiaoli could carry her on the bike. Just as she was about to speak up, she heard Mao Xiaoli say, “Hold on tight.” And then, the bicycle sped forward at a rapid pace. Mao Xiaoli pedaled the bike with impressive speed, seemingly effortless.
Ye Youya had originally planned to ask Mao Xiaoli to stop so she could take a bus, but she swallowed her words. Instead, she occasionally voiced directions while mostly choosing to remain silent. In those moments of silence, she turned her head slightly, revealing half of her face as she glanced at Chonky. Chonky’s eyes suddenly met her gaze, their calmness seeming to penetrate through everything.
Ye Youya smiled and withdrew her head.
Mao Xiaoli parked the bike downstairs and followed Ye Youya upstairs. As soon as she parked, Chonky quickly jumped off the bike and disappeared. Ye Youya called out, “Chonky—”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s agile. Let’s go upstairs first, and you can describe the situation to me,” Mao Xiaoli said.
“I recently moved in and started feeling that there’s something strange living with me in the room. Often, there would be unexplained hair and ghostly shadows. Things in the house also seemed to have been used by someone else. But the most terrifying part is… I always feel like there are eyes staring at me. Those eyes are hidden within the walls. Then, last night, I suddenly woke up and found that thing trying to crawl out of the wall, attempting to…”
After listening to the description, Mao Xiaoli cursed. “What a pervert.”
Ye Youya led Mao Xiaoli to her bedroom. The bedroom had a large bed, with one side against the wall where wallpaper was stuck. Ye Youya stepped onto the bed and said, “I pasted the wallpaper in the middle of the night because I was so scared.” She tore off the wallpaper, revealing a human face on the wall with all the facial features intact. The eyes stared straight at the bed, exuding a creepy and perverted aura.
Mao Xiaoli pinched her chin, scrutinizing it for a moment. She took out a Five Thunders talisman and attempted to provoke any evil spirits, but there was no wailing from them. After pondering for a while, she turned to Ye Youya and said, “Find a worker and have them dig into the wall.”
Ye Youya was puzzled but followed the instructions. Half an hour later, two workers arrived and moved the bed. Then, they started chiseling the wall. However, as soon as they made a small opening, they realized something was off. The experienced workers cautiously continued chiseling along the wall until they found a cavity. One of the workers reached in and felt a strange hard object along with a round item. He pulled it forcefully and took a look, only to discover a grayish-white ball.
The other worker approached to take a look but couldn’t make out what this grayish-white spherical object was. He also reached in to extract it and ended up pulling out teeth and hair, causing him to scream in horror and toss it away. The worker looked down at the grayish-white ball in his hand. How could he not understand what it was? It was clearly a human eyeball! Startled, his legs went weak, and as he let go, he took several steps back, eventually plopping down on the ground.
Mao Xiaoli saw the teeth and hair in their hands and said, “Just as I suspected.” With that said, she grabbed a shovel and smashed the wall, finally revealing a mummified corpse embedded in it.
Ye Youya held onto the door, her legs weak and trembling all over, her voice trembling as she asked, “A corpse hidden in the wall?”
Mao Xiaoli thought it would be unwise to further distress her. After all, she had been sleeping next to a mummified corpse every night. The most disgusting part was that the mummified corpse had a lewd presence, causing an eerie and spine-chilling feeling no matter how you looked at it.
“Call the police.”
Chonky pushed open the window and leaped into the second bedroom. The door to the second bedroom was tightly shut. It paced around the bedside table, then opened it to reveal two photographs. Holding the photos in its mouth, it jumped out of the window and swiftly closed it before agilely descending the stairs.
Landing among the foliage, it peeked out and noticed the loud sound of police sirens nearby. The police had arrived in the neighborhood. Shortly after, Mao Xiaoli came down from upstairs, grabbed the bicycle, and Chonky darted over to occupy the rear seat.
After everyone had left, Ye Youya pushed open the door to the second bedroom and discovered several strands of cat hair on the bedside table. She then pulled open the drawer and found that two photographs were missing. She furrowed her brow, attempting to contact the others.
She didn’t want to risk getting caught and played to death by revealing herself just yet.
Mao Xiaoli returned to the branch office and recounted the incident to the others, but they didn’t pay much attention initially. A few days later, Mao Xiaoli returned with information about the deceased and the cause of death. The deceased turned out to be a heavy drinker who, five years ago, had accidentally fallen into uncured concrete while in a drunken stupor and had slept through the night.
At that time, the building was still under construction, and the workers were unaware that they had poured concrete into the formwork, sealing the person inside the wall. They had no knowledge of whether the alcoholic man was alive or not when sealed within the wall, and the thought of waking up in such a desperate situation was unimaginable.
Mao Xiaol: “The wall that was sealed happens to be right where Ye Youya’s master bedroom is. The police found the surveillance footage from that year, clearly capturing the scene. However, the real estate developer was afraid that the incident would come to light and cause the project to be halted. So not only did they remain silent, but they also concealed the surveillance footage.”
Chen Yang: “Who is the real estate developer?”
“Mr. Qian,” Mao Xiaoli replied. “Quite a coincidence, isn’t it? I believe Mr. Qian is not a good person, and this is his retribution. These past few days, he has already been detained and is under investigation by the police. The news about a corpse hidden in the walls of his building has been leaked. Even if Mr. Qian isn’t arrested, he will still face bankruptcy.”
Mr. Qian had eagerly invested all his funds into real estate after his wife’s death. Now that such an incident had occurred in his own development, who would dare to buy a house from him?
Zhang Qiudao: “Quite a coincidence indeed.” He looked at Chen Yang and asked, “Last time you mentioned seeing Ye Youya at the hospital—is it the same person?”
Chen Yang: “It’s the same person. Back then, Mr. Qian happened to have an eye injury and was staying at the hospital.”
Chonky jumped in from the doorway, holding two photographs in its mouth, which it placed in front of them. One of the photos had an aged appearance, slightly yellowed. It depicted a family of four, a young couple and two girls. The other photo showed an adult Ye Youya and another girl who bore a striking resemblance to her.
Zhang Qiu took the photos and suddenly exclaimed, “Ye Youyou, she’s Ye Youya’s sister.”
Mao Xiaoli: “Who is Ye Youyou?”
“She is Mr. Qian’s current girlfriend, I heard she had a miscarriage.”
Chen Yang took the two photos and murmured, “What a coincidence.” He stared at them for a while and said, “Kou Xuanling, can you contact the Criminal Investigation Brigade to obtain the identity information of the corpse hidden in the wall, including the surveillance footage?”
Kou Xuanling: “Sure, I can do that.”
Mao Xiaoli: “Brother Chen, what did you discover?”
Chen Yang: “I feel like all these people have been entangled in a scheme, interconnected. I want to know if Mr. Qian, Ye Youya, and Ye Youyou are somehow connected to Dong Hong, Yang Hong, and that so-called mysterious organization.”
Mao Xiaoli: “No way.”
Chen Yang: “I’m afraid that could be the truth. Don’t you think we have also been inadvertently drawn into it recently?”
The others were taken aback, and Ma Shanfeng pondered, “First, it was Xiaoli, then the manager. Both of you were involved in the campus cat killing case and the corpse hidden in the wall case. You had contact with Dong Hong and Ye Youya, respectively. Zhang Qiu took on the case of the wooden Bodhisattva and had contact with Mr. Qian and Ye Youyou. Speaking of which, now it’s just me and Kou Xuanling who haven’t been involved.”
Kou Xuanling walked in and said, “Not necessarily. If nothing unexpected happens, it might be my turn next.” He continued, “I already inquired with the Criminal Investigation Brigade, and once they finish processing the request, they will email it to us. I had a question: if Mr. Qian withheld the surveillance footage, he must have destroyed it. So who provided the police with their video footage?”
It was indeed a question, but at the moment they had no leads.
Mao Xiaoli: “By the way, Chonky was also deceived, wasn’t he? If Ye Youya is also a member of the mysterious organization, then she deliberately played Dong Hong. But it seems that Dong Hong genuinely intended to kill her if Chonky hadn’t intervened. When I entered her room, I didn’t see any cat toys, cat food, or photos of cats. She doesn’t seem like a cat lover.”
Chonky shook off some cat hair, and Chen Yang looked at it thoughtfully. He pinched the cat hair that had fallen on the table and said, “If what you said is true, then we might be exposed.”
Kou Xuanling’s phone chimed with a new email notification. He opened it and saw a video and a document. He then logged into his computer and opened the video to watch it first.
In the video, a drunkard stumbled into view and then fell into the concrete. Chen Yang pointed to a corner and said, “There’s someone here.”
Kou Xuanling paused the video and zoomed in. It was a young girl. Chen Yang said, “She has been following the drunkard… and she looks somewhat familiar.” He compared the photo in his hand and said, “It’s Ye Youya.”
Chen Yang opened the file on the drunkard’s real information and said after reading, “The corpse in the wall is the foster father of Ye Youya and Ye Youyou. He had a drinking problem, a tendency towards violence, and a history of molesting young girls. Not long after the foster father disappeared, the foster mother went insane and was sent to a mental institution. There has been no news since then.”
Kou Xuanling: “Is the foster father’s death related to Ye Youya?”
“It’s possible,” Chen Yang replied. “Now Dong Hong’s death is related to Ye Youya, and Mr. Qian is also involved with the two sisters. If Yang Hong is connected to Dong Hong, and assuming they are all indeed connected to the mysterious organization, then these individuals should belong to the same group. However, they each have different roles, some as hunters and some as prey, and some know the identity of the other party while others do not.
“Alternatively, they may know, but they are unaware that they themselves could be played to death as well. For example, Yang Hong wore a mask before committing murder. The deceased cannot seek revenge if they do not know who caused their demise. However, when Dong Hong appeared and brutally killed the woman in red, it exposed Yang Hong’s identity, and he became a target for the malevolent ghost seeking vengeance. Dong Hong, unaware of Ye Youya’s identity, was killed. Mr. Qian was unaware of Ye Youya and Ye Youyou’s existence and was manipulated by them together. Assuming that each person’s motives and every step of their actions are instigated by someone, they unknowingly become pawns in the game of manipulating others’ lives.”
In other words, with each step they took, they unknowingly entered a position of being manipulated until they found themselves stepping into the despair of death.
“We don’t know what lies behind it, but one thing is certain: that entity is highly skilled at toying with people’s hearts.”
Mao Xiaoli: “What should we do?”
Chen Yang lowered his gaze and said, “We wait for them to come to us. Until then, we gather as much information as possible about them.”
Ma Shanfeng stepped forward and addressed the people in the living room, “There has been progress in the investigation regarding the mysterious organization that we entrusted to the Criminal Investigation Brigade. They mentioned that it may involve occult matters and requested the intervention of the celestial masters. I have shared the information in the group chat for you to review.”
Upon hearing this, the group looked up, quite surprised. Chen Yang opened the document and commented as he read, “They’re quick.”
Zhang Qiudao and the others gathered around to take a look. They discovered that it not only documented the cases of Dong Hong and Yang Hong but also included over a dozen seemingly unrelated cases that could be connected through subtle clues.
Once these connections were linked together, it revealed a vast and all-encompassing spider’s web looming over their heads, causing an involuntary shiver.
Among the cases, one stood out as the most typical, occurring in different sanatoriums. The victims were doctors from various provincial capitals, each meeting their demise in different ways. Superficially absurd and coincidental, these deaths were classified as accidents. One doctor died from severe malnutrition, weighing less than 17.5 kilograms at a height of 180 centimeters, resembling a skeleton.
This type of death was referred to as “skeletal death.” The doctor had stayed in the sanatorium continuously for half a year without returning home. After his family received news of his death, they caused a scene at the sanatorium. A forensic examination confirmed that the doctor did indeed die from severe malnutrition. Furthermore, colleagues revealed that he suffered from severe anorexia. The revelation drove his family into even greater madness.
They argued that the doctor had a lifelong passion for indulging in delicious food. How could he possibly have anorexia? Before his death, he unexpectedly became so thin, not even reaching 20 kilograms. Even if he had severe anorexia, the sanatorium should have promptly sent him for medical treatment.
The sanatorium responded to this by coldly presenting the signed contract, stating that it had already been agreed upon before signing that once they entered the sanatorium for work, they were not allowed to leave for one year. Ironically, the deceased doctor was the one who violated the contract and should have been liable for double compensation.
The family members were intimidated by the sanatorium’s response and dared not cause any further trouble.
Next, it was the turn of two doctors from another provincial capital who had also signed contracts with the sanatorium. Enticed by high salaries and bonuses, they entered a fully enclosed and upscale sanatorium. Within a year, they died from suffocation and head injuries. The sanatorium provided explanations such as “died while washing face” and “died while playing hide-and-seek with patients.” The former allegedly drowned after accidentally submerging their face in a basin while washing, while the latter died after accidentally hitting their head during a game of hide-and-seek.
Following that, doctors from other provincial capitals met similarly bizarre deaths, which, upon forensic investigation, were confirmed to be natural deaths. Moreover, since there was the occurrence of one or two deaths among doctors in almost every provincial capital’s sanatorium, no one noticed anything unusual.
Although some family members couldn’t accept the absurd explanations provided by the sanatorium for the deaths and suspected collusion between the forensic examiners and the sanatorium, they found that the sanatorium had disappeared when they attempted to investigate further. Upon inquiry, it was discovered that the sanatorium was a high-end establishment, and due to the disturbance caused by the family members, affecting the patients’ recovery, they decided to relocate the sanatorium. All the necessary procedures for the relocation were properly handled and documented, leaving no room for doubt.
With hundreds of deaths occurring in each city every year, and perhaps even more, events like these, whether resulting from normal illnesses or accidents, were as insignificant as a drop of water falling into the vast ocean, failing to create even the slightest ripple.
Therefore, no one paid attention to and connected the inconspicuous deaths in each provincial capital. The terrifying truth remained undiscovered. It was only when Ma Shanfeng shared the speculation about the mysterious organization with the detectives that a young officer in the team remembered a case of doctor deaths that had occurred in their hometown county a few years ago.
The county town was small, where even the slightest disturbance could become news. At that time, there was a doctor who died in a skeleton-like state. The image was etched into the memory of the young detective, and thus, when they discovered files in the archives related to the deaths of sanatorium doctors, they immediately brought up that particular institution.
After investigation, it was found that there were a total of nine cases of doctors dying unexpectedly in sanatoriums, spread across five provincial capitals and eight cities. When connected together, a pattern emerged: after the death of a doctor, the sanatorium would abruptly relocate from that city, only to reappear in other cities under a different name, continuing to recruit one or two new doctors.
Each doctor had signed the same confidentiality contract, agreeing to work in the sanatorium for six months to a year. Upon their deaths, the sanatorium seemed to be waiting for the arrival of family members to demand an explanation, staging elaborate scenes with forensic examinations, and finally providing absurd yet seemingly reasonable causes of death.
It was as if they were playing a chilling and cruel game, toying with the deceased and their grieving families.
Zhang Qiudao: “It’s like a completely targeted, ice-cold game, where the doctors are mere playthings. Once they sign the contract, they become objects of amusement, sealed within the sanatorium, enduring torment for six months or a year, only to meet a ridiculous demise.”
Kou Xuanling: “There’s something wrong with the sanatorium.”
Mao Xiaoli: “It would be strange if there weren’t.”
“What I mean is, it’s not easy for a sanatorium to simply up and leave a city. There are many patients inside, along with their families… Unless the patients are also fake.”
“The patients are real. Each patient has detailed records, including the causes of their deaths,” Chen Yang said, opening another set of documents. He looked up and continued, “All the patients from the sanatorium have died, even earlier than the first doctor who died in a skeleton-like state. Their causes of death were listed as skeletal death, face-washing death, hide-and-seek death… Yes, they were once patients in a sanatorium, dying in various ways. When family members confronted the doctors, they coldly provided these absurd causes of death. However, due to the patients’ abnormal mental states, even these outlandish causes were accepted.”
Zhang Qiudao: “The deceased were the doctors who once toyed with the patients in that sanatorium?”
Chen Yang: “It’s quite evident.”
“Indeed, it seems to involve some mystical aspects. We need celestial master to intervene,” Kou Xuanling said. “Do you all remember which sanatorium Ye Youya’s stepmother was sent to?”
All eyes turned towards Kou Xuanling as he continued, “Ye Youya and Ye Youyou volunteered at that sanatorium for five years.”
Five years ago, the sisters’ foster father happened to fall into the concrete and was sealed within the walls of Mr. Qian’s building.
Chen Yang:”The timing matches up.”
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