Chapter 3: Chilling Interview

In Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, and Japanese, the pronunciation of the number 4 was similar to the word for “death”, so it was often considered an unlucky number.
For example, some buildings do not have a fourth or fourteenth floor, there was no ferry named “number 4” in Hong Kong, and in Taiwan, there were no license plates with the number 4.
When selecting a phone number, we also tend to avoid those with the number 4 at the end.

I used to not believe in these superstitious beliefs, but on that night, I found myself deeply pondering as I looked at the door number above my head.

“Room 444.”

The address on the small advertisement was completely accurate, and even I couldn’t believe that there was a place like this in Jiangcheng.

“Do I even want to go in?”

It felt like reaching the final stage of a game, and my emotions were in a jumble right now.

The pitch-black hallway seemed endless, and I occasionally stepped on dry and cracked wood and dead bugs.
What concerned me even more was that this was the underground fourth floor, my phone had inexplicably gone black, and my only weapon, a German-imported 8,000 volt anti-wolf device, had stopped working.
I’ve lost all means of protection and now have to face everything that’s about to happen with just my bare hands.

The creepy and terrifying environment, along with the cryptic riddle from the old lady earlier, had me on edge, and the more I thought about it, the more fearful I became.

“If everything is just a prank or an alternative reality show, then the other party’s methods are a bit too much.
Besides, I’ve been keeping an eye out and haven’t found any cameras or obvious signs of human intervention.
This doesn’t seem like a prank.”

With my palm resting on the doorknob, I imagined that when I opened the door, there would be a dozen cameras recording me and a well-dressed host giving me a warm embrace while holding a microphone and shouting, “Congratulations, Mr.
Gao, you have passed the test.
Here’s your one million prize money…”

Daydreaming felt pleasant, but reality was often melancholic.

“Creak,” accompanied by the unpleasant sound of the door opening and swirling dust, I stepped into the room.

“I can’t let my guard down.
If the address provided by Xia Qingzhi is accurate, then this place is likely the first crime scene where her brother was killed.
In other words, I am now in a room where a murder has taken place.”

I gently closed the door, and the flickering light bulb above my head emitted a long-lost brightness, which brought me a little peace of mind.

“Is anyone here?” The light was on, but the furnishings in the room gave the impression that it had been abandoned for a long time.

As I stepped on the damp and tattered carpet, I felt an eerie sensation, as if I were walking on hair that had solidified with blood.

Beneath my feet, the floor creaked and groaned, occasionally revealing a hole with the remains of one or two unidentified insects.

The table and chairs in the center of the room were engraved with terrifying words, some of which had long scratches from nails.
It seemed that the people who had once sat there had endured extreme torture and pain.

As I walked towards the innermost part of the room, the words “Underworld Show” were painted on the wall in blood-red paint.
At first, it didn’t seem like much, but the longer I looked at it, the more I felt a sense of grimness and creepiness seeping from the letters.

“Ordinary paint or coating would become lumpy and fall off after being left for a long time, while this color has darkened with hints of a brownish tinge.
Which is a characteristic unique to blood…”

After I searched outside and found nothing, I noticed a small door on the inner wall.
Out of curiosity, I pushed it open.

“Hiss…” The temperature inside the room suddenly dropped, and I took a deep breath, frozen in the doorway.

Inside the not-so-large room was a black lacquer table that measured two meters long.
Three people were seated on the other side of the table, dressed in formal attire, just as I had imagined radio hosts to be.
The only thing that made me feel uncomfortable was that all three of them wore paper masks on their faces.
At first glance, I thought they were three paper mache dolls.

“Are you here for the interview?” The person sitting in the middle raised his head in a mechanical manner, his voice hoarse and low, like the sound of opening a rusty can.

“Yes, that’s right.
I’m here for the interview.” I couldn’t quite make out the three people in front of me.
They could be the cold-blooded killers who murdered Xia Qing’s brother.
So in the face of such ruthless murderers, I had to remain calm.

“I accidentally saw your company’s advertisement and became very interested in your unique platform.
In the age of the Internet, I firmly believe that only innovation and differentiation can lead to success.
That’s why I want to join you.” To strengthen my persuasion, I improvised and placed the crumpled business card on the black lacquer table.

“Interested?” The three masked people looked at each other, and I couldn’t tell if it was just my imagination, but their paper masks seemed to reveal a chilling smile.

“It’s quite a coincidence that you were able to find your way here, but being a host for the underworld show is not something that a living person can handle.” The masked man crossed his hands under his chin.
“May I ask you a few questions?”

“Of course, you can.” I remained calm.
A few years ago, I was expelled from the police academy, and I had almost gone to every HR department of major companies in Jiangcheng with a fake resume.
I had gained enough experience to handle the interviewers and their commonly asked questions, and I had already found template answers online.

With enigmatic confidence, I nodded with a smile, “Please go ahead and ask.”


“Gao Jian.”

“Do you have any relevant work experience? For example, have you ever live streamed on other platforms before?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t have any similar experience, but I have strong communication and adaptability skills.
Based on my personality, I am very suitable to be a live streamer and can work as a host.” Being honest about my weaknesses and emphasizing my strengths was one of the interview skills I had honed.

“You’re right, but the hosts of the Underworld Show are different from those on other platforms.
We not only need to communicate with our audience but also to protect ourselves and survive…”

“Survive?” When the interviewer said this, I realized that things were starting to get out of my control.

“That’s right, it’s simple, just stay alive.” The person in the middle stroked the mask on his face, making the paper mask show a creepy expression.
“There are countless legends hidden in our city—the 13-level staircase in the abandoned village school, the last bus ride taken by the dead, the ghostly faces on the surveillance footage in the early hours of the morning, the little girl in red who lingers at the door… There are too many of these legends, are they all fictional?”

“Probably…?” If I had been asked this question before coming here, I would have confidently said, “Yes, they’re all made up.”

“Wait, are you saying that the hosts of the underworld show have to go to those places every day to discover spirits and find materias?!”

“You’re quick on the uptake.
I quite like you,” the cackling laughter sounded almost inhuman.
“Active in the shadows of midnight, hitting the most terrifying horror in this city.
Don’t you find it exciting?”

“Live streaming scenes of ghost stories—that’s quite sensational.
Maybe it can satisfy the psychological needs of a wide variety people.” I was just responding to the three people in front of me without really meaning it.
In fact, I was already having second thoughts.

To be honest, I don’t dislike watching horror and supernatural movies, but it would be a completely different story if you asked me to be the protagonist of a horror movie myself.

Just the mere thought of having to dig up coffins in the dead of the night, to pry open the doors of haunted houses while possibly being chased by a bunch of ghosts and spirits, made me feel very uncomfortable.

“Ghost stories? No, no, it seems you still haven’t figured it out,” the masked man said, propping his chin on his hands.
His eyes, hidden behind the paper mask, pierced through me like a sword.
“The truth is always more terrifying than stories.
I assure you, the deepest despair you will ever experience begins the moment you discover the truth.”

“What do you mean?”

“The answer lies in this city.
You will become a witness to another world, to witness the true thrill,” the masked man’s words were devoid of any humor.
His tone was flat, dull, and very restrained.

“This doesn’t seem like an act…” I now have about 90% confidence that this underworld stage is not a prank or variety show, and I seem to have gotten myself into big trouble.
My body leaned back as I began to consider retreating.

But the masked man seemed to know what I was thinking, yet I didn’t see him make any move, as the door behind me creaked and slowly closed on its own, “Don’t be nervous, your interview has only just begun.”

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