(TN: The title is a Detective Conan reference.)
What’s going on?
Wandering Child was startled.
He reached out and touched it again, only to find that everything was normal with his left eye. It was still warm.
This is creepy and really strange!
It’s just like having the two states switch back and forth from time to time.
Is this an illusion or something within this world?
Did Elle’s face also become a skull face similar to that of painter Amos just now?
“Elle, can you hear me?”
At this moment, Wandering Child heard Amos’s call. He turned around subconsciously.
A skeleton was sitting on a chair next to Wandering Child, looking at him with concern.
There was no flesh on its body except for the left eye and back of the neck.
Its left eye was inlaid with a green eyeball. There was a piece of skin the size of two palms on the back of the neck. There was even some pale blond hair on it.
Wandering Child remembered clearly.
Amos was brown-haired and blue-eyed, while Elle was blond and green-eyed.
In other words, this was Elle’s eyes and skin!
“How is your body doing?”
Skeleton slowly asked with a heavy, echoing voice, “Can you see it?”
Can you see it?
Why do you ask if I can see it?
Didn’t I tell you at the beginning that I had a headache?
Wandering Child keenly sensed something was amiss.
Wandering Child was about to answer like this.
But when he was about to speak, he suddenly felt a trance.
When he woke up again, he found that the skeleton had changed back to Amos.
Those eyes were still blue instead of green.
Wait, what happened?
Wandering Child suddenly realized something.
“I can see. My vision is clear. I’m feeling alright now.”
(TN: Wandering Child altered his reply from I can see it (the skeleton) to this reply.)
While Wandering Child answered slowly, he touched his eyes and back of his head, using the ingenious bluffing technique he had practiced in the examination room.
Sure enough, he felt a strange and cold sensation again this time.
Whether it was the eyeballs or the neck, they had turned cold. Wandering Child even felt his sharp and protruding cervical spine.
“I understand now. Among the streamer and his dad, one must be a dead person.”
“Is Amos going to dismember Elle into pieces?”
“Wandering Child, how do you feel!? Are you alright!?” asked Amos.
“I’m feeling fine, father.”
Elle asked softly, “But, I feel my body becoming light and powerful. What’s wrong with me?”
“This is a gift from the Venerated Skeleton, Elle.”
Until then, Amos finally revealed to Elle, “The Venerated Skeleton bestows my ‘god-bestowed paint.’
“The Venerated Skeleton also bestows your healthy and powerful body. His divine power is stored in your body. Therefore, not only will you live healthily, but you will not get sick or age.”
He chuckled and said, “Isn’t this a good thing? This is a benefit that the upright deity can’t give.”
“Elle” was silent for a while and asked seriously, “What is the price?”
“There is no price to be paid.”
Amos replied without hesitation, “This is a one-way ritual to pray for blessing. My transaction with the Venerated Skeleton has not officially started. So you don’t need to pay any price. He even promised me that he would give me paints that amounted to ten folds I got in the past. That’s enough for me to use for a long time.”
With no price to be paid? Do you believe it?
Elle’s face was filled with doubt.
If you don’t have to pay anything, where are Elle’s left eye and the flesh at the back of the neck?
Since he asked me if I can see him clearly, that means he knew that my eyes had been stolen.
But why did Amos think that I didn’t notice this? Did the Venerated Skeleton tell him that?
Annan stared at this scene, startled. Then, he managed to pick up some clues. “Wait a minute,” lamented Annan as the audience.
If Annan wasn’t mistaken, it was possible that Amos didn’t kill Elle.
Or it could be that Amos didn’t realize he had killed Elle!
In that newspaper from forty-five years ago, Elle’s body pieces were scattered all over each painting frame in the form of dismembered flesh. More than one hundred paintings were displayed in the first three levels of the nightmare “gallery” alone.
Isn’t it quite laborious to dismember Elle and put the body pieces into each painting?
Is there such a deep hatred between them?
Elle’s time of death should be after the gallery construction.
Would Amos visit the gallery to stuff the dismembered flesh into the picture frame piece by piece when there is no one at night?
That isn’t logical.
Annan’s deduction wasn’t laid on the faith in the father-daughter relationship but Amos’s inferiority in agility. It was an impossible feat for Amos to perform the laborious task without being noticed.
Then, only one possibility was left.
That was the time when Elle’s body pieces entered the painting was earlier than her death.
Her body was separated into pieces before she died.
It could seem absurd at first…
“I think the paint bestowed by the Venerated Skeleton was crafted through Elle’s flesh!” Annan’s pupils shrank.
He suddenly felt a chill in his back.
It was a somewhat bold guess, but it could explain everything.
There was already a price to be paid at the Venerated Skeleton’s first ritual. Worse still, the price had already been paid in advance!
In the third sacrifice, if you choose “half the life span,” you will sacrifice the first part of your life. Hence, you will instantly become an old man.
Then, the “half of the conscience” and the “friendship from now on” sacrificed in the second ritual will not affect the ritual performer. If so, what are the commonalities?
It was the contempt for the lives of others.
Hence, the negative cycle was unstoppable at the second ritual already. Those who went for the second ritual would commit the third ritual because it would no longer cause them a psychological burden no matter which ritual they chose. For example, “eating a certain part of others.”
According to this logic, the content of the third ritual must have influenced the ritual performer to perform the fourth ritual.
The ritual that most pleased the Venerated Skeleton was “the creator killed by his work.” In light of the “sacrifice replacement ritual,” you need to cut off ties with your parents, wives, children, and friends.
Think about it, would a protector who loves arts like this kind of ritual?
Many pictures suddenly appeared in Annan’s mind:
There is Elle’s flesh in every painting at the gallery.
In the basement found on Yiyi’s stream, there is a skeleton where Elle has lost all her flesh, as well as a container with a dead embryo.
Amos swallowed Elle’s umbilical cord.
Amos’s body showed the eyes and skin that Elle had lost.
“I understand it completely.”
Annan murmured in realization, “Amos just got it wrong.”
The Venerated Skeleton was not a shelter for artists and creators at all.
The reason Venerated Skeleton was hostile to the Elegant Elder was not that they competed for artists’ resources.
Instead, the Venerated Skeleton hated all creators.
Therefore, he was the enemy of the artist’s protector – the Elegant Elder.
The Venerated Skeleton mocked the artists’ greed, satirized the artists trying to fulfill their work at all means, and made them pay the price for it. Unfortunately, the price was to become a demon.
From the very beginning, the Venerated Skeleton believed that those who summoned him would hold the ritual to the end.
So, the Venerated Skeleton had already taken away the price for the final ritual in advance – the life of the artists’ “beloved.” He just allowed these sacrifices to go about as usual before the sacrifices realized that they were dead.
To be precise, the lives lost were these artists’ “beloved” before the ritual.
Venerated Skeleton didn’t have to wait after the artists sought fame and lost their conscience, eating the body parts of their loved ones or the replacement after cutting off ties.
It was because the artists no longer valued the beloved’s life in the face of the final ritual.
What an irony.
The fourth sacrifice, the most painful price, was paid at the very beginning.
They had long been unable to look back. At the final ritual, there was no need to look back.
At that time, the sacrifice was already dead at the very beginning.
To completely cut off all contact with the past self, lose all the glory of the original self as if the original body died. Then, they put on the skin of the people they loved and harmed and died slowly in society.
[The creator was killed by his work.]
The ritual dramatically accentuated this theme.
Annan frowned slightly.
In this logic, Amos should have failed the ritual instead.
Otherwise, he should have become Elle’s state. But in the end, Amos coughed up Elle’s eyes instead.
Was this nightmare born when Amos coughed up Elle’s eye? Only then, Annan got to enter the nightmare that “takes Elle’s eyes away”!
Annan’s eyes suddenly lit up.
He finally figured out all the rules of this nightmare!
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