Chapter 1: Death Question
The snow fell for four hours. It didn’t show any signs of stopping.
This place is a barren mountain cabin. Various hunting tools hung from the walls and a long wooden table gnawed away by termites sat in the centre. Around the table sat a group of people. Male, female, young and old, they were all present. There was even a foreigner amongst them.
The room was very cold. Everyone present shivered with a solemn expression on their faces but no one moved to start a fire. The old radio sitting on the table was speaking.
【It is currently 17:30 Beijing time.】
【There are still 30 minutes until the exam starts. Examinees, please quickly head to the examination centre.】
The radio sounds were scratchy and there were also static noises one would typically hear in the background of radio broadcasts from the 1950s. It tirelessly buzzed.
This was already the second broadcast. The first broadcast was three hours ago. It said 【Welcome to examination centre 003712.】 which immediately caused an old lady to faint and even now she had not yet recovered.
Another person didn’t listen to its instructions and attempted to destroy the radio……. After removing the batteries, he ran out of the room like he was possessed. Five minutes later his body fell from the roof together with a pile of snow.
Since then, no one dared to touch it.
【Please enter the centre as soon as possible and avoid loitering outside.】
This sentence was repeated three times. The room was deathly silent.
After a long time, someone sitting at the head of the table muttered irritably: “So who hasn’t entered yet?”
This person had a yellow head of slightly permed hair. His figure was lean, and he was average in height. Both his arms were tattooed with a sleeve of animals. Despite being unable to tell whether it was a dog or camel, it looked quite intimidating.
The person sitting next to him shrank back a little and answered: “Old Yu.”
“Who is Old Yu?”
“The drunkard who vomited the moment he entered through the door. The one who brought along his son and nephew.”
The person who answered pointed towards the wall using his lips and then carefully made a “quiet” gesture.
Lying on the beaten sofa by the wall was the nephew.
It was a 27 or 28-year-old young man. He had a tall figure and his appearance was very extraordinary. When he held the doorframe and lowered his head to enter the cabin, the picturesque mountain pines covered in snow behind him paled in comparison. However, ever since he entered, he constantly maintained a dull expression. He seemed to be a little aloof.
According to Old Yu who rambled incessantly, his nephews name is You Huo.
“He had only returned for two months and came to Harbin to find me during the National Day holidays. I was originally supposed to take him to the airport tomorrow morning. Sigh…….It’s all my fault! Useless!”
Old Yu had drunk until he was completely intoxicated. During the night where there were few people around, he stumbled around.
On the sidewalk in front of the children’s hospital, someone had left a bunch of joss paper1. Old Yu stumbled around and wasn’t able to regain his balance. With one foot stepping onto the joss paper, everything spun and himself, his son and his nephew were all sent here.
When they entered the cabin, he had not yet recovered from the dizziness. No longer able to hold himself back, he vomited all over You Huo. Old Yu sobered up from his drunken state after vomiting but he was too scared to say anything to You Huo.
The people who came here were all caught unexpectedly and were completely unprepared. Only the foreigner called Mike had a set of clean clothes in his bag.
After You Huo changed, he remained distant from the others and laid on the sofa without a word. He appeared to have fallen asleep.
Through the arm that covered his face, you could see a stud earring on his right ear. It reflected the light coming from the oil lamp and appeared very dazzling.
The sky should have darkened but every part of the mountain was covered in snow and it was still bright outside.
A pregnant woman looked towards the cabinet in panic. The time on their phones had become erratic and they could only rely on the clock sitting above the cabinet to tell the time: “It’s almost six. Could Old Yu have……….”
Bang, bang, bang!
Before she could finish her sentence, the sound of something smacking against the door was heard.
Everyone was shocked. They looked over with fearful eyes. The snow piled up on the window was pushed aside and Old Yu’s face appeared through the glass. With exaggerated mouthing, he said: “It’s me. Open the door.”
Everyone was relieved.
Fortunately, he had returned before 6 o’clock and didn’t die.
The two snow covered men entering the house was Old Yu and his son Yu Wen.
“How is it outside?” Everyone hurriedly asked.
Old Yu shivered in place for a moment before slapping his face forcefully. He then slapped his son. When they finally warmed up a little, he said: “I went around everywhere but it was useless! No matter where I went, in no more than ten minutes I would see the cabin again. We can’t get out!”
“Were there other people? Or houses even?”
Old Yu spoke frustratedly: “No, don’t count on it.”
Everyone’s expression fell into despair.
There was no signal on the phone and the time on it had become erratic. The trees all looked the same so it was hard to tell which direction was north, south, east or west. There was absolutely nothing.
This was their current predicament.
Oh, there was also an old radio that noisily reminded them about the exam.
Exam your mum.
The moment Old Yu stepped in, the radio started to make static sounds.
Just being around it for the entire afternoon was enough for the people present to develop a conditioned reflex. They immediately quietened down and looked at the radio.
【All examinees have been admitted. The exam rules are as follows.】
Old Yu and Yu Wen who had just entered the examination centre gulped.
【The exam is conducted within a set period of time.】
【After the exam officially starts, examinees cannot enter the examination centre. You may not leave the centre during the exam without permission. If there is an emergency, you must follow the instructions and leave with the invigilator.】
【Apart from open book exams, you cannot use mobile devices or other communication tools. Please be considerate and turn them off.】
【The exam is point-based. Examinees must write their answer on the designated answer sheet (except in special circumstances) or the answer is invalid.】
When the radio finished speaking, everything once again turned silent.
After a while, the room suddenly started to fall into discussion.
“Who is the invigilator?”
“There are open-book exams?”
“What’s an answer sheet?”
“To think that you’re discussing it. You all must be crazy.” The tattooed man played with his swiss army knife. You couldn’t tell what he was thinking.
“Then what should we do?” The eyes of the pregnant woman were still swollen from crying. She said quietly: “Don’t forget about that…..”
She pointed to the roof.
The tattooed man thought of the body and his face also paled. He stiffened for a moment before finally accepting the situation. Holding the swiss army knife, he waved it in a particular direction: “Little brat.”
Yu Wen looked left and right and then pointed at himself: “You……mean me?”
“Yes, you. Come, sit here.” The tattooed man patted the seat closest to him.”
“I, uh……..” Yu Wen turned around to look at his brother only to see his brother still lying on the sofa like he was dead. He suppressed the curses inside him and said: “I’m 18.”
What’s more, the tattooed man is at most 25 or 26-years-old. How dare he call him little brat.
“It doesn’t matter how I call you!” The tattooed man was impatient, “Come here. Let me ask you. Are you a student?”
Yu Wen: “I guess so.”
The tattooed man frowned: “Can you do exams?”
Old Yu reflexively said: “He can! He grew up doing exams!”
“You can shut up.” Yu Wen said rudely to his drunkard old man.
But after he scolded his father and turned around, he saw that everyone in the room was staring at him.
Yu Wen: “…………….”
He thought about his words and said: “I just finished the University Entrance Examination in June and I have been playing like crazy for the past three months. I’ve already………Yeah, I can’t do them very well anymore.”
The pregnant woman had panicked for the entire afternoon. She smiled with great effort: “That is still better than us. It was only three months for you. We have long forgotten now.”
“No.” Yu Wen found the situation a little absurd and even forgot about his fear, “Don’t you guys read novels or watch movies? Would it truly be an exam in this horror kind of setting? It’s probably just a cover!”
“Cover for what?”
Yu Wen rolled his eyes: “How would I know? Anyway, people just die everywhere in horror movies. Who the hell would suddenly come and test you on maths and physics? Is this cabin built by the Ministry of Education?”
He still didn’t feel like he had said enough. He added at the end: “Hah.”
His cousin who was lying on the sofa like a dead pig was finally awakened by his “hah”.
Yu Wen turned around to look at him.
He saw You Huo sit up and look at the group of people through half-open eyes. You Huo then kneaded the back of his neck. The legs resting on the old wooden floor were long, making the sofa appear even smaller.
The timing seemed to have been calculated and the moment he lowered his hand, the clock above the cabinet started to ring to signal that it was 6 o’clock.
Static sounds were emitted through the radio again.
【It is currently 18:00 Beijing time. The exam has officially begun.】
【As another reminder, examinees are not allowed to enter the centre after the exam has started and you cannot leave without authorisation during the duration of the exam or you will be punished.】
【The other examination rules are as per the standard.】
After it threw out a threat in passing, it paused for two seconds and said:
【Exam duration: 48 hours.】
Yu Wen: “…………..”
【We will now be distributing the exam papers and the answer sheets. I wish you all the best.】
After the radio was done, it once again died off.
Yu Wen: “…………….”
Goddammit, shouldn’t the exam paper and answer sheet be distributed first???
The pregnant women cried out in panic: “That wall!”
She was referring to the wall above the fire stove. The empty wall that was covered in several knife marks now had a few more words ——–
Topic: A group of travellers came to a snow mountain…….
Exam details: The response will be collected every 6 hours. If no points are earned within 6 hours, you lose qualification to participate and will be evicted.
Below that was a large blank area. It was like the response area in a test paper for answers to be written in.
What question is this? What is it asking? What do we answer?
Everyone was confused.
Not to mention 6 hours, even if you gave them 600 hours they didn’t know how to earn the points.
At this moment, a gust of cold wind that carried small beads of snow rushed into the room causing everyone to shiver.
They looked over at the source of the wind and saw that You Huo had walked over to the window and had opened half of it.
“What are you doing?!” The tattooed man was furious.
You Huo had one hand in his trouser pocket and his other hand was about to reach out. Hearing the yell, he glanced back. However, perhaps it was because the look was so fleeting, it looked cold and arrogant.
The tattooed man was even more enraged: “Don’t you know to say something before opening the window? What are you going to do if something goes wrong?”
“Who are you?”
You Huo threw out those three words and no longer paid him any attention. He again stretched out his left hand.
Old Yu could no longer hold back. He urged his son and whispered: “You ask.”
For some reason, Old Yu had always seemed to be afraid of this nephew of his.
Yu Wen shouted: “Brother, what are you doing?”
You Huo retracted his left hand and waved at him. Finally, he gave them his answer: “Testing out the consequence of leaving the examination centre.”
Everyone present gasped. Crimson red blood flowed down his fingers onto his palm. With his pale skin, it looked even more shocking.
He casually rubbed it off and once again fiddled around with the windowsill. He picked up a rusty tin can and threw it out the window.
Under everyone’s gaze, the tin can was smashed into smithereens and it scattered across the snow.
When they once again looked at the “Exam Details”, everyone’s eyes were filled with panic.
By the wall, You Huo once again closed the window. His eyes swept past each and every one of their backs.
As for Yu Wen who had some experience with exams…….You Huo understood him well.
During the three years of high school, this high school student messed around with love and the wrong group of friends. He would often skip class to play games at internet cafes and he suffered from a strong case of eighth-grade syndrome2. Even now, he had not yet escaped that dangerous period.
It would be better to rely on a dog than him.
As for the others….
Old, frail, sick, pregnant, and even a thug.
All five deadly poisons are present.
The opening question is a death question3.