Chapter 300 Going Up 8
"Just what the hell had happened that it turned into a situation like this," Feng Bujue mumbled to himself in the dark. "At this moment, I should be carried on the back of my teammates like some useless dead weight…
"Sigh… Looks like a man who is as impressive as me, no matter how hard I tried to keep myself out of sight, will be as bright and as eye catching as fireflies on the darkest night…
"The dark yet deep gaze, the five o'clock shadow, the Godlike skill, they have all worked against me and have betrayed me."
He entertained himself deeply with this string of statement. Due to the darkness of the surroundings heightening their hearing, and due to the fact that they were inside an enclosed space, which allowed sound to travel very far very easily, Brother Jue's words rode on the winds and entered the ears of his other three teammates without missing a single word.
"This really is the first time in my life… that I have met such a shameless character." Autumn Zither lowered his voice to express his disgusting feeling of the Feng Bujue.
"But he is still able to talk about nonsense like that even in this kind of situation…" Weighty Words was amazed by Feng Bujue courage and ability to keep calm and cool in this kind of situation. He added, "I suppose you can consider it a manifestation of his incredibly stable and powerful mental institution."
"This man is so incredibly hard to read…" Ambitionist said and could not help but to feel the shiver go through his body, and he touched his glasses. "He is the type of opponent that I would not like to meet regardless of the circumstances…"
"I cannot agree more with that," Autumn Zither added. "It is hard to imagine what kind of situation will happen if there is a character like that in the group during the course of a Killing Game."
On this point, the three strategists were of the same mind. Weighty Words added, "If he is not on our side but a member of the enemy, it will definitely something that is not good to be handle… Have you noticed this? Be it planning or putting it into action, many things that Brother Feng has done appeared to be senseless and pointless on the surface, but in actuality, they carried their own importance… Now that I think back about it, everything that he has done so far has proved very useful to a certain degree in our journey. Of course… that is excluding his… what we shall say it… the unique sense of humor of our Brother Feng."
"A conspiracist uses strange stratagems and surprising tactics; a tactician borrows the state of the situation to tip the scale to his side," Ambitionist said meaningfully. "The former is normally a member of the malicious sort. Normally, they are too weak, so they use such dirty tactics to make up the difference and bring advantage to their side. Even if they succeed, the effect will only last a moment because there are too many loopholes, and it can be seen through and figured out easily. Their forms of tactics can be undone quite easily.
"The latter is the real king on the battlefield. He follows the wind of the battlefield, and his stratagem often has no obvious sign to be seen on the surface. He is the king of strategists and can rarely be stopped. Normally speaking, intellectual players like ourselves should strive to follow the path of the latter, but Brother Feng, he…"
"He seems to be falling further and further down the path of evil," Autumn Zither concluded with sign of regret in his sentence.
"Those who can come up with grand conspiracies are very clever, and those who can come up with tactics are impressive, but if there is someone who can ensure that every single one of his conspiracies will succeed, then he can be considered a god," Ambitionist said.
"Ha… if we were in a Three Kingdoms world, Brother Feng would probably be the kind of strategist who would place his strategies inside a box and have his generals open them when they were out fighting on the battlefield to prove that he could foresee the future from behind the battlefield," Autumn Zither mocked.
The three discussed Brother Jue behind his back. This was because they were all squatting around the edge of the circular hole. As long as they kept their voices down and kept their faces looking down, their voices would not travel so far. Therefore, Feng Bujue was not privy to a single word that was said by this bunch. Of course, even if Brother Jue overheard them, he would not be ashamed in anyway. If anything, he would feel even prouder because of it.
About ten minutes later, Feng Bujue slowly and without any nervousness returned to the side of his teammates. From his expression, it looked like the situation was not that good.
"Looks like you come back with nothing," Autumn Zither commented.
"Hahaha…" Weighty Words laughed. "Actually, we should be thankful that Brother Feng managed to return to us unscathed. At least he has managed to prove that there is no source of danger on this level for now."
"Then, the four of us should split into two groups and conduct a more thorough search of this floor. We should be able to find some cl…"
Before Ambitionist could finish his sentence, Feng Bujue cut him off with some startling news. "I found a dead body down that direction."
He pointed into the darkness. This statement was like a pail of cold water being splashed down on his teammates' heads. The atmosphere instantly dropped down to subzero temperature, and the group stayed silent, not sure what to say. Feng Bujue then continued, "To be precise, I found a rather well-preserved crime scene."
The other three were still silent. They wished for him to finish his sentences before they gave their thoughts.
"And then…" As they expected, Feng Bujue was still not done.
"From that direction…" He pointed to the other side, "I found the dead bodies of the killers."
"Killers?" Autumn Zither repeated with shock. "There is an 's' to killer? There's more than one of them?'
"Indeed. Based on my initial investigation of that crime scene, I deduced that there were four culprits in total who worked together," Feng Bujue said.
"And all four murderers have been found dead near the crime scene?" Ambitionist asked.
"No, only two of them are dead," Feng Bujue said. "The remaining two have escaped up to the fourth floor."
"Hold on a second, you have found the path that leads up to the fourth floor?" Weighty Words asked.
"Yes, it is just over there along the way. There is a spiral staircase that leads upward to the upper floor." Feng Bujue pointed to a third area. "Thankfully, when the other two who survived the murderers escaped, they left behind clear traces, so it was very easy to discern. It was unwise to give chase like that, so I decided to return to share all the information I'd collected first."
After he was done, his teammates sank into yet another stretched silence. After one minute of wordlessness, Feng Bujue broke the silence and said, "Fine, now that you have gained a cursory understanding of the situation, come with me. I will show you the few points of interest according to chronological order."
The 'chronological order' that he mentioned was key, and the other three understood what he meant instantly. Actually, the order in which Feng Bujue had found these three locations might not be the order that he had described them. But after his own observation, he cleaned up a timeline, and thus, the tour was going to follow the sequence of 'first crime scene, second crime scene, and the path that leads to the fourth floor'. The three followed Feng Bujue all the way to the one of the corners of the third floor. When they were halfway there, they were assailed by this awful stench. Naturally, it was the scent of bloated bodies and decay. It did not take long for them to discover a cadaver lying on the tile cast in the light of the flashlight.
The victim was… a witch. She wore a thick, black dress made of cotton, and the cape she had on was tattered, dirty, and smelly. She was as ugly as Medusa on a bad hair day, with a giant hooked nose in the middle of her face and welts with leaking pus on the tip of his nose and her chin. Her thick lines of wrinkles were like scars, and her eyes bulged even in death. How did that description and appearance qualify the victim as a witch? How else could the witch's hat, a broom, and an apple that had fallen or been placed around the dead body be explained?
The hat was black in color with a high top and wide brim; the broom was wooden, the one seen ridden by Mr. Potter; and the apple was bright red and juicy, like it had just been plucked fresh from a tree.
"Let me give you a brief explanation. There are two fatal wounds in total," Feng Bujue explained as he squatted down next to the body. He continued with his explanation next to the smelly dead body like it posed no pressure to the man at all. "And the two wounds are quite easy to discover."
He extended his flashlight and focused the light at the top of the witch's head. Under the light, one could see that the witch had been scalped. The brain matter and blood leaked out to the ground, and the brain that should be inside the skull was nowhere to be seen.
"The first wound is on the head itself. Someone used a sharp weapon and sliced her scalp open right along her hairline," Feng Bujue said. "Regarding the actual location of the missing brain… you will understand it later."
The three teammates were filled with respect in response to Feng Bujue's seemingly casual explanation of the victim's autopsy. It appeared like Brother Jue had been through a lot and garnered respect from his teammates.
"The second wound is on the chest." Feng Bujue lowered the flashlight, and the light moved downward with it to shine on the witch's torso. The witch's chest had been split open. The rib bones were pried open from the sides, and the internal organs were all exposed to open air.
"The heart and the gall bladder have been harvested." Feng Bujue pointed out. "There are varying degrees of damage on the other organs, but at least they still remain inside the body."
"Then… how did you make out that… there are four murderers in total?" Autumn Zither asked.
"Oh, the hint for that is quite obvious." Feng Bujue stood up. "First, it is undeniable that she is a witch."
As he stated that fact, he pulled up the flashlight and shone it at the wall that was two meters away from the dead body. At that moment, the three teammates showed a look of surprise because there was a bloody sentence that was left on the wall. This sentence was written in English, and the system provided the translation.
It read: "There's no place like home."
"My friends, this is the hint." Feng Bujue showed them.
"Hey… this is…" Weighty Words understood it already, but the other two were still quite confused.
"Indeed, this is Dorothy's line from the Wizard of Oz." Feng Bujue shone the flashlight at the feet of the old witch again. "Look, she is not wearing any shoes. I count that as circumstantial evidence."
"You have got to be kidding me…" Autumn Zither and Ambitionist finally had an idea who the 'four murderers' that Feng Bujue was referring to were.
"Yes, this puzzle is so easy, it is like a joke." Feng Bujue shone the light on the body and continued to explain. "It is clear that the four ganged up on the witch. The lion tore open her torso and took away the 'courage'; the tinman took her 'heart' and then used his axe to spilt the witch's skull open so that the scarecrow can have the 'brain'. As for Dorothy, I believe she got away with the witch's shoes."
He used a very light tone to explain this situation, and he coupled it with the sentence that was left on the wall.
"The person who wrote this on the wall of the crime scene is most definitely an idiot who did more than they should, or they are an absolute genius." He pouted his lips as he shook his head before leveling an inquisitive gaze at his teammates. "But this sentence baffles me for a bit. What do you guys think?'
"My thought is… aren't you a bit too calm about all this?" Autumn Zither felt like pulling his hair out. "When I said, 'you have got to be kidding me', I meant this is such a defilement of someone's childhood memory."
"Oh… that is what you meant. Oops." Feng Bujue shrugged. "Unfortunately, I have nothing but scorn for children's literature, even though personally I have perused quite a number of them myself…"
"Artists are all indeed a bit special…" Ambitionist quietly slid in a mocking comment before pulling the focus back to the matter at hand. "Regarding this bloody sentence… I believe there are two possibilities.
"First, the killer has nothing to do with the group of four from the Wizard of Oz, and the sentence was purposely left here by the real culprit to misdirect us. Two, assuming it is really Dorothy's team that murdered this witch… then this sentence was quite possibly placed here by the system and not written by anyone."
"Hmm… That is similar to my initial analysis." Feng Bujue nodded before he shone the flashlight at the carcass again. "Okay, let us move onto the second point of interest. Oh, right, now that we do not need to preserve the crime scene anymore, we should take everything that we can. Perhaps they might have some use."
Therefore, other than Feng Bujue, the other three all took one object for themselves. Ambitionist already had a flashlight in his hand, so he chose the smallest object, the apple. Following Brother Jue's suggestion, Autumn Zither took the broom. When Autumn Zither asked him why, Feng Bujue said that Autumn meant leaves, and leaves were swept us with a broom. Weighty Words was left with the witch's hat.
Item Type: Plot Item
Can be taken out of the scenario: No
Remark: Ruby red apple, looks appetizing.
Item Type: Plot Item
Can be taken out of the scenario: No
Remark: Other than sweeping the ground, it appears to have other uses.
Name: Pointy Hat
Item Type: Plot Item
Can be taken out of the scenario: No
Remark: If you do not mind the strange smell coming from inside, feel free to wear it on your head.
The explanation of these three items had followed the overall style of this scenario—there were no obvious hints. The actual use of these objects needed to be figured out. Since the item properties had mentioned clearly that none of these could be taken out of the scenario, it meant that they would likely be related to the puzzle solving somewhat.
"Looks at these bloody footprints…" As Feng Bujue led his teammate to the second crime scene, he used the flashlight to show them the tracks on the marble floor. "The most obvious are the footprints of the lion, and the one less conspicuous is left behind by the tin man. The lighter trace of woolen shoes are made by the scarecrow, and thus, the last remaining small row of footprints naturally belongs to Dorothy."
They walked along the wall, and as they spoke, they had arrived at the second crime scene. It was less than a hundred meters from where the witch was found dead.
"What in the world is this?" Autumn Zither said.
This time, they were greeted with two dead bodies. One of them was a little girl wearing a blue dress and cotton shirt, and the other was a large lion. Like a tour guide at some trip, Feng Bujue walked forward and started to make the introduction with some excitement in his voice.
"Dorothy should have been killed by the lion." He aimed his flashlight at the dead body's head. "A large part of her neck has been bitten out. The wound has torn out the meat and the bones. There is even a deep gouge from a claw on her face like she is a horror movie's main character."
He turned around and pointed at the pair of silver high heels that were lying next to Dorothy's body. "And these should be the witch's shoes. Looks like she did not put them on immediately after killing the witch; she only carried them with her."
"Wait a minute…" Weighty Words corrected him. "How come I remember that… in the Wizard of Oz, the witch of the east wears a pair of red high heels?"
"Actually, that is a simple misunderstanding," Feng Bujue replied. "In the original work by Lyman Frank Baum, the heels were silver in color. But due to the classic position that had been earned by the movie version of Wizard of Oz in 1939, and the influence of the many latter adaptations, it has gotten into the public's mind that the witch's heels are red."
"How do you even know something as obscure as that?" Even Ambitionist was impressed by the encyclopedic knowledge that was showcased by Feng Bujue.
"That is just common knowledge," Feng Bujue replied.
"What do you mean by common knowledge? If you did not say it earlier, I would not have known who the author of the Wizard of Oz is," Autumn Zither admitted directly and with some lack of shame.
"Then I can't help it. After all, that is just common knowledge for me." Feng Bujue returned to the carcass of the lion. "Now, let's look at this fella."
"Obviously, he was killed by a blow from an axe," Ambitionist said as he looked at the lion's dead body. "From the angle, depth of the wounds, and the blood splatter on the ground, he gotten into quite a big fight with the axe-wielding attacker before he died."
"Just from the wounds… we manage to conclude that it was lion who killed Dorothy and then the tin man who killed the lion," Weighty Words added.
"Technically speaking, it should be the tin man and the scarecrow who worked together to kill the lion," Feng Bujue corrected. "Take a look…"
He squatted down and placed the flashlight on the ground. He hugged the lion's head with both of his arms and pried open the jaw of the beast. "Can you see the straw in his mouth?"
"Yes, yes… do you need to tamper with the dead body that much?" Autumn Zither tried to advise him.
Feng Bujue closed the lion's mouth. He patted the fur that rubbed off on his clothes but got his hands messy with blood. He did not mind it that much, so he just stood up to say, "But I believe the scarecrow's power was not enough to hold the lion back even a little. Even if he joined in the battle, he would only have tickled the lion. The actual killer who dealt the killing blow is still the tin man."
"There are some words left here as well…" Ambitionist pointed that out as he shone his flashlight at the wall. Like before, there was a bloody sentence that written on the wall.
"Ah, indeed," Feng Bujue replied. "This sentence is also filled with heavily-suggestive hints."
"When you think you have gotten what you want, you actually lose even more."
Other than Brother Jue, the other three looked at this sentence for quite some time, and finally, it was Weighty Words who first spoke.
"Aside from the literary meaning and philosophical meaning that might be posed by this sentence… the actual situation that it tries to express is perhaps…" He paused for a second before continuing. "After the lion gained 'courage', his instincts kicked in, and he wanted to eat Dorothy. The tin man, with his 'heart', and the scarecrow, with the 'brain', killed the lion after seeing this."
"On the surface… it can be explained like that," Ambitionist concurred.
"Oh? On the surface?" Weighty Words stressed on that term.
Autumn Zither said, "Actually, if you study this further, there are many elements that are suspicious about it."
"For example?" Weighty Words asked.
"If the lion did not have the courage to attack others before he gained his courage, how do you explain the death of the old witch?" Ambitionist replied. He pushed on his glasses. "And then, since Dorothy had already obtained the witch's shoes, why didn't she put them on and leave this place. Don't the pair of shoes have the magical power of teleportation?"
"Hmm… About all these questions, we should put them to the side for now," Feng Bujue said as he bent down to pick up the pair of silver witch's shoes. "Now, please follow me to the spiral staircase that leads up to the fourth floor first."
 This story is from the Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji) in the Biography of Gaozu written by Sima Qian (Approx. 145 BCE – 86 BCE, Western Han Dynasty), where Han Gaozu (Liu Bang) praised Zhang Liang, one of the famous strategists in ancient China, for helping Gaozu become King of Han and create the Han Dynasty. He said that Zhang Liang could devise strategies without going outside and win victory from far away.