Nate felt sick.
The sound replayed in his mind over and over.
Why had Dimitris felt the need to lead Mike into a false sense of security? Was executing him just not enough?
This place was truly full of despair. Nate wanted out of it.
He sat up in his bed and sighed shakily, trying to calm himself. Soon, he was going to either be killed by someone or lose his mind and kill. And he knew he’d get caught. Nate wasn’t special. “Actor” meant nothing. So what? He could impersonate an old woman. Not like he could sing hits like Casey, or build amazing structures like Bill.
Casey and Bill. Both people who were dead now.
Dead, like everyone else, would be.
Dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead-
Nate nearly fell off his bed in surprise. He whipped around.
A glowing white figure stood by his nightstand.
“Nate, your hope.”
The figure said these words softly, then seemed to glitch away into thin air, as if it were a hologram fading out.
Nate stared at the spot where the figure had been a second ago, his heart pounding.
“What...was that?” He whispered quietly to himself.
The figure hadn’t been that easy to recognize. It looked like a ghost. Nate had managed to determine that it was a human, but not who it was. They seemed strangely familiar, though...
“Nate, your hope” Had that... thing been reminding him not to fall to despair...?
Nate felt something new flourish through him. Was this his hope?
He got out of bed, his feet planting firmly on the ground. Today Nate wasn’t going to sit around and mope. Nate was going to solve the mystery.
The mystery of the fourth floor.
The mystery of the mastermind.
The mystery of this mansion.
Nate marched out of his room, down to the Alchemy Room. He didn’t bother to go for breakfast. Potatoes could wait (for once).
Being sure to stay clear of the Alchemy desk so as not to awaken Malcolm, Nate faced the bookshelf on the left wall, the wall Trevor had been found dead in front of.
Nate remembered what Mike had told them.
Mike sighed. “The fourth floor is only accessible through the Alchemy Room. Malcolm won’t tell you anything, but just pull some books out of the shelves. One is a lever that slides the bookshelf back to reveal the passage up.”
Nate just had to pull out books until one revealed some kind of passageway.
Nate decided to start with a pale blue book near his hand.
Nate blinked in surprise as the entire bookshelf moved back and slid to the left, revealing a small passageway with stairs spiraling up.
“First try,” Nate muttered to himself. Looking back at the quiet Alchemy Room, he turned and walked up the stairs.
After a few spirals, he finally made it to the top, slightly out of breath.
He walked in and got a good look at the fourth floor.
It was just as Mike had described, there was a large, widely spaced room with many tables, each complete with an Alchemy station, a cauldron, some bottles, etc.
The walls were a plain pale blue, the same color as the book Nate had pulled, and the floor was shiny and white, probably quartz or something. There were no windows on this floor, which was strange considering how there were usually windows in the mansion (they were blockaded with iron bars, but they were still there).
A doorway was in the back of the room, and Nate headed towards it, getting a good look at the room and its stations as he walked past.
He turned the corner and-
Nate yelped and leaped back in shock as Leroy jumped out. Brayden and Josh walked out from behind him.
“Haha, gotcha,” Leroy laughed.
“What are you guys doing here?!” Nate asked, shaken from being jump-scared the second time that day.
“We came up here to investigate the fourth floor,” Josh explained.
“And I’d like to ask you the same question,” Brayden said sternly, being the usual, suspicious Brayden.
“I came up here to explore, too,” Nate admitted.
“By yourself?” Josh asked.
“Well...I was, uh, motivated with...hope today,” Nate explained.
“NOPE,” Leroy interrupted, holding up both paws.
“Motivated to...” Brayden started.
“What? No, I didn’t want to kill anyone!” Nate explained hurriedly to Brayden. “You see...I woke up this morning, and something told me to not lose hope.”
The three of them stared at Nate.
“I think Mark’s got to him,” Josh said quietly.
Nate sighed. “No-it was like, a spirit thing. It reminded me about hope, then disappeared. I saw it once before, too, when I was unconscious from being hit on the head by Suiko,” Nate told them.
“Some...spirit?” Leroy asked confusedly.
Nate nodded. “Then suddenly, I felt like I could do anything. So I came here. I know it sounds weird...but that’s actually what happened. This whole place is weird.”
Brayden’s eyes widened. “Hah! Weird? You don’t even know. Come look at this.”
He, Josh and Leroy turned around and headed the other way, down the hall. Nate followed curiously.
There were only two or three doors down the hallway, each labeled “SUPPLY CLOSET 1-3”, but there was a door at the end of the hallway that was unmarked.
“What’s this room?” Nate asked curiously.
“Why don’t you see for yourself?” Brayden said and stepped aside.
Nate frowned and reluctantly opened the door.
Nate blankly said the word out loud as he stared at the cow in front of him.
The small room was empty except for a fenced pen with an AstroTurf floor. In it was a single brown cow.
“This is literally the whole room,” Josh said. “Just a cow.”
“Why...?” Nate asked.
“We have no idea,” Leroy admitted.
“Moo…,” the cow murmured.
“This thing obviously has a purpose,” Brayden said thoughtfully with a frown.
“You sure about that?” Nate asked. Nate was almost certain that this cow was not the mastermind.
The cow lowered its head and tried to chew the fake grass.
“Definitely not the smartest thing in the mansion,” Josh said.
“How is a cow creepy?” Nate asked.
“There’s a freaking cow here for no reason, that’s how,” Leroy muttered.
“Well, we should probably head back,” Josh said. “Everyone must be up by now and waiting for us.”
The four nodded in agreement and headed back down to the first floor. First the white figure, then the cow. What was happening?
“Where’ve you guys been?” Bruce asked, concerned, as Nate, Brayden, Leroy, and Josh entered the Dining Hall.
Nate’s heart sank at how empty the house now felt. There were only half as many people as there had been when they first entered the mansion. They had started with sixteen. They were down to eight. Him, Brayden, Leroy, Josh, Bruce, Greg/Suiko, Randy, and Mark.
“We were checking out the fourth floor,” Brayden explained.
“Ah, and did you see anything you liked?” Mark asked calmly. “You know...for a weapon? To murder someone?”
“Er, how about you guys get something to eat, and tell us about it at breakfast?” Bruce asked. Everyone hastily agreed, and the four newcomers went to get something to eat.
Soon, Nate was sitting down with a nice potato on his plate. He was about to take a bite when he noticed Leroy staring intently at the potato.
Before Nate could ask, Leroy had slapped the potato out of Nate’s hand. It went flying and hit the wall with a smush.
Everyone stared in shock at the splattered potato, until realization filled everyone’s eyes when they saw that the inside of the potato was murky green.
Mark burst out laughing.
“Ahahahahaha! Good nose, Leroy!” he exclaimed.
“What the heck, Mark?!” Randy exclaimed with a look of disgust. “Poison?!”
“Haha, just testing your hope...kind of,” Mark chuckled with a mischievous glint in his eye.
“You tried to kill me again!” Nate exclaimed angrily.
Mark smiled. “Ah, like it would’ve actually worked anyway. Like I said, hope test.”
“These ‘hope tests’ are going to get someone killed,” Brayden growled.
Mark grinned wider, sitting back in his seat and propping his head on his hand. “Well, I don’t plan on killing anyone soon. Heck, when you find the next body, I bet you I’m not even gonna be the culprit! And then you’ll all suspect me at the trial, but we use our hope to unravel the true culprit. Just like always!” He threw back his head and laughed some more.
He’s like an entirely different person, Nate thought anxiously, as Mark got up, said bye to everyone while still laughing, and left the Dining Hall.
“What’s his problem?” Suiko asked.
“I thought you liked Mark, Suiko?” Josh asked.
Suiko growled. “Not when he gave me away with the whole ‘almost killing Nate’ thing, and when he’s trying to be the crazy guy. I’m supposed the crazy guy!”
Nate sighed, but at least even the serial killer agreed that Mark was out of his mind.
“I suddenly don’t feel as safe in this house,” Josh admitted with a glance at the green potato wall splatter.
“You felt safe here at some point?” Randy asked with arched eyebrows.
“No, but now I feel less safe than I once did,” Josh explained.
As everyone began to leave the Dining Hall, Nate stopped Leroy.
“Hey, uh, thanks for saving my life,” Nate thanked the Bacca. What else was he supposed to say?
“Haha, it was nothing,” Leroy reassured him. “Mark’s just being usual Mark.”
“He’s changed, though...” Nate said worriedly.
Leroy nodded, the smile fading from his face. “Yeah...but, the more we all stick together, the more I trust everyone here. None of us, with a few exceptions, have tried to kill or showed signs of wanting to kill. And I think that we’re stronger than Mark and his hope bullcrap!” He declared happily.
He’s got a point, Nate thought and walked back to his room.
As he got to the door, he looked over and saw the white figure standing a couple feet away, in the middle of the hallway.
Nate gave a small gasp of surprise. The figure didn’t move but just stared at Nate with intent eyes. Its face was clear but not distinguishable. Its expression was obviously meaningful.
Nate blinked, and the figure was gone. He stood there, shivering for a moment, then decided to head down to the Alchemy Room, and see what Malcolm knew about ghosts in the mansion.
When he got there, however, Malcolm didn’t appear.
Nate frowned. The book was open. The table was working fine. Why wasn’t Malcolm here?
“I’ll tell ya why!”
Nate whipped around to see Dimitris sitting on the arm of one of the large cushiony armchairs in the room.
“Uh, you can read thoughts...?” Nate asked, frightened.
Dimitris put a hand over his collarbone and gasped in an attempt to look offended. “Me? Never! But I could guess what you were thinking by the way you stared at that table like Greg trying to read Latin. You see, when you first met that lovely AI friend, he told you something important.”
Nate frowned. “What?”
Dimitris rolled his eyes. “He told you he would die without Seto’s magic, right?”
Nate’s eyes widened with realization.
“Without my Master’s magic, I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep going... I hope I can still help find information by then,”, Nate remembered the AI’s words.
“So...Malcolm died?” Nate asked.
Dimitris nodded. “You got it, bud! Too bad, so sad.”
Nate sighed. He didn’t know why this news had struck him so hard. Malcolm wasn’t a real person or anything...but deep down, Nate knew that it meant they had lost Seto for good now.
“Say, Dimitris...” Nate asked suddenly.
“Eh? What’s up?” Dimitris asked.
“Uh...do you happen to know anything about ghosts?” Nate wondered curiously.
Dimitris stared at Nate. “Ghosts? Is this some kind of prank? Because you’re terrible at pranking.”
Nate shook his head. “No, there’s been some kind of...ghost around here that I’ve been seeing. That’s what I came to ask Malcolm about.”
Dimitris’ eyes narrowed for a moment. Then he put on a big smile that, somehow, Nate knew was fake.
“Ghost? Oh, haha, that ghost! Uh, don’t worry, there’s just been...problems with the air conditioners. Makes this mist come out. But it’s not a ghost! No need to worry!” he assured Nate quickly.
“But-” Nate started, but Dimitris had disappeared into thin air.
“-We don’t have air...conditioners...” Nate finished.
That was weird, Nate thought to himself. Dimitris obviously has no clue about the ghost, but he seemed pretty shaken by it. And why did he try to cover it up? What’s he hiding?
“Yo, Nate!” a familiar voice called behind him.
Nate groaned and turned around. “Yes, Suiko?”
Suiko stood in the doorway, casually leaning against one of the sides. “Do I have the news for you!”
Nate raised an eyebrow. “What?”
Suiko snickered. “I’m finally useful for once! I found, get this, I found a body!”
Nate’s eyes widened. “A body? Who?” He demanded.
“Can’t tell you, then you wouldn’t come and look!” Suiko replied.
“Why do you need me to look so badly?” Nate retorted.
“Because we need three people to see the body so the announcement goes off and we can prove that I was actually helpful! I bet we could get Josh or Bruce to come to look, too,” Suiko explained.
Nate sighed. “Look, Suiko...you’ve, uh, tried to murder me in the past. Besides Mark, you’re probably the person in this house I should be trusting the least. I mean, for all I know, you could just be trying to lure me somewhere to kill me for real this time!”
Suiko gritted his teeth. He looked pretty angry. “Fine! I’ll get someone else to come to look! And then you’ll see that I’m not useless after all!” And with that, he stormed off.
Nate sighed. He couldn’t help feeling a little bad. Of course, this was a crazy murderer melon psychopath who had tried to kill him, but he had seemed pretty upset.
But still, Nate was right to not trust anyone, right? He had a good reason, anyway...
Nate headed back to his room, not really knowing what he would do. Maybe just sit down on his bed and think.
Nate sat down on the bed. Suiko was bluffing, right? He must have been lying to try and lure Nate away and murder him alone. Or maybe there was a body, but Suiko was the killer! Or could Greg have done it, then Suiko came and didn’t remember? Who was to say they’re even was a body? He had just seen everyone at breakfast. How could someone be killed so soon?
About ten minutes had gone by as Nate lay in bed, these anxious thoughts going through his mind.
Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. He got up out of bed. He was going to go check.
Nate walked out into the hallway, to see the “ghost” figure standing there again with that intense stare.
Nate sighed. “I’m not even scared of you anymore,” he muttered out loud.
The figure just stared at him.
Nate frowned and took a step towards the direction of the ghost. Instantly, the ghost turned around and slowly walked down the hall towards the second floor, watching Nate from over its shoulder. It faded away mid-walk.
Does it want me to go there? Nate thought nervously. He cautiously made his way down the hall, in the direction the ghost had disappeared. Maybe Suiko had been right...
He went up the stairs to the second floor and took a quick look around the Living Room.
“Ah...hello?” Nate called out nervously. “Sui-”
He stopped mid-sentence as his eyes came to rest upon something on the left wall, by the painting. His eyes widened and he took a step back in panic.