Lu Chu had smelt this scent before from Zheng Wei, and in the female dorm room 604.
He immediately turned around, and ended up looking the human head who had flown up to his height straight in the eyes. There were only a few centimeters between him and this ghost.
It really was a little girl’s head – her eyes without whites looked innocent and clear. She had blueish skin tone, and there were signs of decay on her face. She was floating at Lu Chu’s eye level, and when she saw that Lu Chu was also looking at her without showing signs of fear, her dark eyes were lit up as the corner of her purple lips rose in a smile, “big brother,1not actual big brother, just a way for someone younger to address an older male. I haven’t manifested, but you can notice me?”
Xu Yuan had long closed his eyes and covered his ears in fear.
Unafraid, Lu Chu said, “who are you?”
She didn’t answer, but grinned and laughed in an innocent and pure manner, then started to float around in the dorm room. Her eyes that didn’t have any whites carried a trace of curiosity, which was terrifying to the point of making their scalp tingle.
It was as if Zhang Cheng had been enchanted. his gaze followed along the floating rotten head. There weren’t any traces of light in his eyes, and as he looked, he started to let out a foolish laugh.
At the same time, his left cheek slowly cracked, revealing that squinting eye.
Lu Chu frowned.
She floated around, stopped in front of Lu Chu, then looked towards Xu Yuan, who had closed his eyes and covered his ears and suddenly grinned and said, “I’ve seen you before.”
The voice wasn’t loud, but it floated directly into Xu Yuan’s ears that he had blocked using his own hand. Hearing this sound, Xu Yuan was so scared he crouched down onto the ground, and buried his head between his legs. He muttered to himself as he trembled, “I can’t hear anything…… I can’t hear anything……”
She followed Xu Yuan’s movements and floated lower, then confirmed, “I’ve seen you before.”
After that, a faint blue light came from the space below her head, and slowly, a body appeared. The skin on the body she manifested also glowed with a light blue colour, and the white dress she wore appeared at the same time. She squatted in front of Xu Yuan, titled her head, and looked at him curiously with those pure black eyes.
Lu Chu asked her, “who exactly are you?”
She looked up towards Lu Chu, then pointed at Xu Yuan and said, “I’ve seen him before, he knows.” Then, she continued to talk beside Xu Yuan’s ear.
Lu Chu and 7 looked at each other, and he felt that he might be able to talk to this simple ghost with a terrifying appearance.
He had just thought so, but before he acted, he saw Xu Yuan suddenly stop shaking, then placed down the hands that he was using to cover his ears and look up. Both of his eyes were dull as he stared straight at the little girl.
Lu Chu wanted to go up and pull Xu Yuan, who looked as if he was possessed, yet realised that he was unable to touch him. There seemed to be some sort of invisible wall between them, placed in the middle that separated him from the little girl and Xu Yuan.
To the surprise of the originally worried Lu Chu, the little girl didn’t do anything to Xu Yuan, but simply kept looking at him with her weird, naive eyes. A moment later, it was as if Xu Yuan was bewitched, and he looked at the little girl’s face, then muttered to himself, “Zheng Ran.”
The little girl smiled, “as expected, you remember me.”
Lu Chu whispered this name to himself, “Zheng…… Ran?”
The little girl was very happy, “big brother, it’s me.”
“Who is, Zheng Wei, to you?”
“My older brother.” Then, the little girl asked Lu Chu that question again, “big brother, you can notice me even if I don’t appear?”
Lu Chu didn’t answer her, and instead, he asked, “where’s your brother now?”
She shook her head, and smiled innocently, “tell me first, then I’ll tell you. If not, you won’t be able to go anywhere.”
When Lu Chu heard this, he turned back to look at the tightly closed dorm door. Inside the dorm, 7 was standing beside him, while Xu Yuan was squatting on the ground, with his head raised as he stared blankly at the girl with the pale and rotten skin. Zhang Cheng was standing in the innermost part of the dormitory, with his back against the heater and the balcony. His eyes were blank, and there was an extra eye on the left side of his face, half squinting as if it was smiling.
In the narrow and cramped dorm room, four people and one ghost quietly stayed together, forming a strange sort of harmony.
The little girl kept staring at Lu Chu with great curiosity in her eyes. After a while, Lu Chu nodded and said, “I can sense it.”
When the little girl heard this, she got up excitedly and floated up to Lu Chu’s eye level, “how do you sense?”
Lu Chu said, “I can smell your scent.”
“Other than that?”
Lu Chu shook his head, “nothing else.”
“I don’t believe you,” the little girl’s expression changed, and she said darkly, “if not, my brother wouldn’t get me to stay away from you.”
Saying that, she stretched out her bluish hands to touch Lu Chu, and 7 brought his whole body back one step to avoid her touch. She wanted to reach over again, and 7 was about to hold Lu Chu and dodge it once more, but Lu Chu stopped him.
Strange memories flashed in his mind, and Lu Chu chose not to avoid, but instead, he stretched out his hand to touch Zheng Ran’s hand.
The moment they touched, Lu Chu felt a little dizzy, and everything in front of his eyes started to spin and distort, twisting into messy yet aesthetic lines.
Lu Chu had felt this feeling before, at the end of the Doll game.
It was as if he wasn’t himself, but another person, living in somebody else’s skin, understanding their life as he felt their happiness and sadness.
Gradually, the things in front of him became clearer, and Lu Chu discovered that his field of vision had become shorter. His body was moving forward without his control, and there seemed to be someone beside him, talking.
The distant sound beside his ear came closer and closer, and Lu Chu heard ‘himself’ say in a young female voice, “big brother, I want to go back to school in the county. The people here bully me.”
The boy beside ‘him’ smiled and said, “do you know what bullying is? Get along with everyone, and study hard. Big brother is planning to go to the high school here, and at that time, you’ll be able to go to the same high school as your brother.”
When the young boy had finished talking, Lu Chu felt that ‘he’ had lowered his head, and made a sound of acknowledgment.
The both of them continued forward, and went from the dorms to the school building.
Lu Chu was certain that right now, he was Zheng Ran.
He was standing in Zheng Ran’s perspective as he looked at what had happened in the past; in Zheng Ran’s past memories, experiencing her depression and unwillingness.
Zheng Ran followed in the footsteps of her brother, Zheng Wei, and moved from a county to the city for school.
In middle school, people started to rebel, and a group of young people who started to imitate gangsters appeared in their class. The cliques that they formed had guys and girls, who were proud of fighting, took pleasure in bullying other people, and were ashamed of learning. Zheng Ran, who had been studying hard, wasn’t originally involved with them, and studied calmly and earnestly every day.
The start of everything that happened later was a school midterm exam. There was a bad student in her class who happened to be allocated to the same examination room as her, and they were even seated front and back to each other.
The boy had passed a note to Zheng Ran, telling her to pass him her answer key to him, but Zheng Ran, who had always been studying hard, had never done such a thing before. She was afraid of being caught cheating by the invigilator, but even more afraid of offending this person, so she could only write her answers down and pass it to him.
Because of her fear and nervousness, Zheng Ran didn’t do well in that exam.
As for the boy who copied her papers, he had never listened in class, and even if Zheng Ran copied her entire paper and passed it to him, there would still be things that he wouldn’t be able to understand. He had purely copied it, so, naturally, his points were lower than Zheng Ran’s by 20.
Somebody who joked around with the boy said that Zheng Ran deliberately gave him the wrong answer, and the boy believed it. He wouldn’t believe the truth even if Zheng Ran showed him her paper and explained it to him. He felt humiliated, so he found a group of people and took advantage of the time after the physical education class was dismissed, and surrounded Zheng Ran in a corner of the school.
“This girl isn’t from around here?” One of them said.
“Of course not, just listen to her accent, her pronunciation isn’t that exact at all, listening to her speak is like listening to some idiot, I’m gonna die laughing.”
“The idiot who gave me the wrong answer on purpose.”
Zheng Ran stood amongst more than a dozen girls and boys, endured their insults, and gradually, these people started to get into the mood. Their insults escalated, and turned into beatings. She was scared, but could only endure.
Bullying a person was addictive.
In a middle school class, most of the bad students would regularly bully a selected few people in the class. Unfortunately, because of that exam, Zheng Ran became a permanent member of the ones who got bullied.
Because she was weak, it was fun to bully her, and those people squeezed out everything that they could from her.
They pranked and locked her up in the west toilet of the male dormitory, telling her that somebody had died in that place before, and it would be best if she obediently stay there all night with the door shut and didn’t ask for help, if not, the ghost of the dead person would plunge her head into the hot boiling water of the water tank. Thus, Zheng Ran ended up shivering all night long in a toilet cubicle on the third floor toilet of the old male dormitory. Since she didn’t return to her dorm all night, the dorm keeper marked her, and those people also spread rumors that she was compensate dating.
They pulled her out while they were doing an experiment in a laboratory, burned her skin with cigarettes, and told her that if she didn’t do as she was told, they would lock her in the fifth floor of the laboratory building. Someone had died there before too, so anybody who stepped onto the fifth floor would have their right leg sliced off in order for it to be observed under a microscope.
They sent her out to do things, and threatened that if she dared to tell her parents or teachers, they would rape her.
Zheng Ran was innocent by nature, and wasn’t that courageous. She told her brother Zheng Wei several times that the people in class were bullying her, but Zheng Wei only thought that it was a simple fight between classmates, and just persuaded her to get along with them.
Everyone else in the class just watched, but didn’t dare to do anything.
Over time, the resentment started to build up in Zheng Ran’s heart, until one day, she started to resist, and bit one of them. Those people were angered, and felt that their authority had been challenged, so they surrounded Zheng Ran and started to beat her up like crazy.
By the time everything was over, Zheng Ran’s internal organs were hurting, and she had already lost the strength to walk.
She struggled back to her dorm room, and finally breathed her last in room 604 of the female dormitory.
Lu Chu experienced everything Zheng Ran had experienced, and while it was hard for the resentment in his heart to calm down, he also finally knew why the previous two had died in such a strange and terrifying manner.
They were just bearing the seeds that they had sowed.
It was very strange. As a person, their most inhuman period turned out to be when they were thirteen or fourteen years old. They were rebellious, and didn’t bother paying attention to the law. They thought that they were the only one that mattered, and thought that they could control other people’s lives.
The most terrifying thing about school violence wasn’t the violence itself, but that the reason behind the violence, often, wasn’t because of something that the victim had done wrong.