Chapter 13 Let“s Play a Game 4
Feng Bujue sighed in relief when the door creaked open. He did not rush toward it immediately but instead walked toward the cage with the monkey using the light that streamed in from the open door. He opened the lock and the cage door and carried out the fainted monkey.
Item Name: Unconscious Macaque
Item Type: Plot Item
Can be taken out of the scenario: Yes
Remark: A cute, brave monkey, on the endangered species list.
"Plot item, but it can be carried out of the scenario? Hmm," Feng Bujue murmured before trying to place the monkey inside his backpack. He succeeded. Then he exited the room.
There was a well-lit corridor outside the door. The walls were metallic, and the roof was still around five meters tall. There was still no sign of windows, and there were some doors on both sides of the walls, but they were either locked or blocked on the other side by some huge object. This meant that Feng Bujue could only continue down this main corridor. Occasionally, there were red arrows painted on the wall to tell Feng Bujue which direction to go in. After some walking, he understood that there was nothing useful on this path, so he picked up his speed and ran down the corridor, following the arrows. It took him about eight minutes to reach the end of the path, and before him was a metallic door that was painted red.
The door did not have a handle; instead, in the middle of it was a wheel like one seen on a large safe. Feng Bujue gripped the wheel and tried to give it a turn. It was then that he realized that the lock was tight, and he needed to exhaust plenty of energy before he could get the wheel to turn.
After turning the wheel halfway, the door started to move. Cold air rushed out from the gap, and Feng Bujue was gripped by a bad feeling. When the door opened, he noticed that the metallic door was very thick, and thus, the room was obviously a sealed cold storage room.
The interior of the room was literally a winterscape; the ground was covered with white snow, and there was frost on the walls. He lifted his head to look. Other than the lights, he noticed that three corners of the ceiling each had a tube placed vertically that was about one meters long. Once the door was open, white snow started to filter out of the tubes. Thankfully, even though the mouths of the tubes were big, only a flurry of snow was falling, not enough to influence Feng Bujue's visibility.
Feng Bujue took a deep breath and breathed into his palms. He rubbed his hands together as he walked into the room. Once he did, he noticed something out of place. The ground of the room was much lower than the bottom of the door and the corridor outside the door. So, the thin layer of snow that he had seen earlier was actually thicker than he thought. He stepped into the room, and his feet sank into the snow, up to his ankles. The chill came so suddenly that Feng Bujue jumped several times to get the blood flowing back to his feet. Alas, it was to no avail. The snow was so soft that the only way to stop himself sinking into it was to increase his surface of impact, so the man made the quick decision of kneeling down…
He did not close the door. In his kneeling position, he crawled to the opposite wall. There was another door there, but there was no wheel to open it. Instead, it had an electronic lock that was built into the door. There were four empty spaces on the lock, and next to the lock was a moveable iron plate. The square plate was about ten centimeters long and wide, and it had a small handle on it. Once Feng Bujue pulled the plate open, the door behind him closed on its own.
Behind the plate was a small space. A tape sat inside, and what he needed to do next was fairly obvious.
Feng Bujue took out the tape and the Walkman. He replaced the tape inside with the one that he had just found and then pressed play. "Merry Christmas, Ash. This is a time for family to be together, and at the same time, the Christmas spirit represents the importance of selfless sacrifice and blessing…"
As Feng Bujue listened to the recording, he studied the room again, but this time, with a closer look, he noticed a newspaper that looked fairly new stuck to one of the walls. That particular wall itself also deserved a closer look because it did not look as frozen as the other walls. Even though manmade snow was filling up the room, the temperature in the room was not that low, and the words on the paper were still readable. One of the more conspicuous headlines was "They are not that different from us". The picture attached to the article was that of a group of homeless people seeking heat around an oil can. The background was white with snow, and so was the ground. Of course, the article was written by Ash.
"You often appear at charity parties, showing yourself in front of the camera, but we both know that you have never donated to a charitable organization before. You inspired others to not look down on the homeless, but you never once showed respect to those more unfortunate than you. Your snobbishness and bigotry revolted the people around you. You once gave a voice to the elders through your articles, saying that they deserve more of our attention and understanding, but every year, you used your job as a reason to skip celebrating Thanksgiving with your own parents.
"Ash, more than once, you've stood on the moral high ground to criticize others, but your actual actions show that you are indeed no different from those you criticize.
"Now, you shall be given the chance to experience how it really feels like for these helpless souls. Inside this snowy room, there is a piece of paper with the password to unlock the door. All you need to do is use your bare hands to reach into the snow and search for that paper.
"Just like those people who died from the cold on the street, searching for that small piece of hope. You do not have any time limit, but if you find something, you'll be able to survive until dawn…"
When the recording ended, Feng Bujue was already shivering. The outfit given by the game ensured that the players would feel comfortable in an environment around twenty degrees, but once the temperature rose or dipped, the players would feel the corresponding effect to their body. This room that was no different from an icy cave that had a subzero temperature, and the tubes on the ceiling were still adding snow to the room, increasing the thickness of the snow layer little by little.
To maintain the dexterity of his fingers, Feng Bujue kept blowing his breath into his hands. He went through the recording quickly in his mind, and the last sentence was definitely out of place.
"Just like those who died from cold on the street… find something and survive until dawn…"
Based on his conjecture, this was a hint. A hard to understand hint, but a hint nonetheless.
Feng Bujue stood up again. The area under his knees was completely frozen, and even if both of his legs were submerged in the snow, it did not matter because the pain receptors had become made numb from the cold. He wobbled his way to the newspaper and studied the article and picture closely, hoping to glean some clues from them.
Feng Bujue knew that this was the best chance to look for clues. He would only resort to brute force when all else failed. If he just poked his hands into the snow and started scooping, in less than five minutes, his fingers would be frostbitten, and his body temperature would be lowered even more. That would cause his reaction to slow down and place him in some sort of a trance. In which case, puzzle-solving would become even more difficult.
"Something that allows homeless people to survive until dawn…" Feng Bujue voiced the sentence to help him focus. "Several people surrounding a can, burning some rubbish to keep the fire going until dawn? No, that is not it…"
Suddenly, the image of an uncle wearing sunglasses flashed through his mind. "Could this be it? The three important items to a homeless person—a box, a dog, and a radio."
Then he started moving.
The newspaper was stuck on the wall with cellophane tape fixed on its four corners. Feng Bujue removed the newspaper from the wall while trying his best to ensure the center part of the paper was not destroyed in the process.
"A dog is not possible, unless I build one from the snow. The radio… I guess the Walkman counts. That leaves the paper box…" The newspaper had already been removed from the wall. Even though it was missing four corners, that did not affect what he wanted to do. As mentioned earlier, the paper looked brand new, so the folding signs on it were quite conspicuous. Normally, a person would not have folded the paper more than twice, but there were signs that this particular piece of paper had been folded many times. This proved that it had been folded into a certain shape before.
Feng Bujue followed the folds and remade it into what it was. His hands were still not yet frozen, but he could already feel the effect of the subzero environment. In fact, in his menu, next to his Life Points, the special status box already stated that he was currently 'freezing'.
Even though the paper was missing the edges, following the folds, Feng Bujue managed to put it back in its original shape—a very small paper box.
Feng Bujue placed it in his hand to study. He turned it around and finally saw a string of letters and numbers where the edges met each other.
The letter format on a newspaper would never be the same overall; there would be the difference in font and size. For example, the size of the font used for the headline, body, and picture captions would be different. Feng Bujue noticed that those connecting letters and numbers had the same font and size, and they were all capitalized. They were spaced apart when the paper was flattened, but when folded into a box, they joined together to form the code.
"FM27.3MHZ…" Feng Bujue read. "The wave band for a radio station…"
He set the Walkman to radio mode. He got mostly white noise from the channels, and it was no different for FM27.3. But since he had confirmed that particular channel, he increased the volume and patiently waited. As he expected, after forty seconds of white noise, a throaty voice said, "Nine, five, two, seven."
Then, it was swallowed up again by white noise.
Feng Bujue rushed to the door and grumbled as he keyed in the password, "Is there a special significance to this string of numbers?"
The code was correct, and the door opened. Feng Bujue practically rolled out of the room. When he landed in the outside corridor, he started rolling around on the floor. Then, he stood up and did twenty squats. When he was doing all that, he looked at his status in the menu. His Life Points had dropped down to sixty-seven percent, but at least he had recovered from the freezing status.
Regardless, this was much better than him squatting on the ground and digging through the snow. He believed that would have cost him even more. Feng Bujue had always been unlucky when he played games, like the exercise that was no difference from searching a needle in a haystack; he had absolute confidence that he would never have found the paper until he had searched through every inch of the snow.
After clearing the second game, he did not close the Walkman immediately, and he soon discovered the secret of that particular channel. Every minute, FM27.3 would repeat the four digits.
After his body temperature rose back to normal, Feng Bujue continued forward. He believed that the scenario did not forget the condition where Ash had to get to the hospital to seek treatment within however many minutes after he escaped, or he would die. The initial recording stated that he had forty minutes to find the exit, or he would die from the toxin inside his body. However, unlike the Freezing status, there was no Poisoned status in his status bar. Therefore, it was impossible for Feng Bujue to tell whether the drop in his Life Points was due to the cold or the poison. In any case, this was not a poison that had a visible effect. If anything, it seemed more like a plot point. To put it simply, Feng Bujue had to complete the scenario within forty minutes, or it would be game over.
Twenty minutes had already passed. Feng Bujue did not take long to clear the second round, and combined with the five minutes he used to clear the first round and travelling time in between, when he reached the third round, he should have fifteen minutes left. The system must have incorporated the time needed for players who chose to scoop through the snow for the second round, and that would definitely have taken up more time. Therefore, in terms of time, the next round should be the last. If he finished that, Feng Bujue would clear the scenario.