Nate’s head hurt like crap. And everything was dark. And it smelled like rotting garbage. He groaned and sat up from where he was sprawled on the floor, clutching the side of his head in one hand.
Looking around as his eyes started to adjust to the dark, he saw large heaps around him of what he could only assume, from the smell, was garbage. Had he fallen down the trash chute?
Fallen...everything rushed back to Nate’s mind as he remembered everything that had happened. Mark and Suiko were dead...Nate was executed...Malcolm saved him...so many things didn’t make sense, and all this thinking clearly didn’t help his splitting headache...
Nate remembered he had hit his head on something and blacked out. Curious, he looked up to try and see what it was. Almost instantly, he spotted what appeared to be an upturned sofa on the top of a garbage heap. He must have hit his head on the hard undersurface of it and fallen onto the pile of garbage bags he was sitting on now.
Nate stood up and carefully walked over the garbage bags, looking for a way out. He froze when he heard a muffled thud behind him, and turned around to see that it was just another bag that had fallen down the chute.
Nate turned around again when he heard a strange rustling. Looking behind him once more, he saw that the garbage bag was moving.
He watched in shock as a familiar figure got out of the bag, stood up, and brushed himself off, looking around. He froze when he spotted Nate staring at him.
“Nate, you’re alive!” Randy exclaimed happily.
“Randy?” Nate asked incredulously. “What are you doing here?”
“Just taking my afternoon stroll,” Randy sighed sarcastically. “I’m here to rescue you!”
Nate blinked. “Me? But...you all voted...”
Randy sighed and looked away uncomfortably. “We...we were suspicious when Malcolm stepped in to save you. And Dimitris had been acting fishy, too. We didn’t realize that until after the trial, however...we all feel really guilty.”
“So...you guys believe I’m innocent now?” Nate asked, a small flicker of happiness growing inside him.
Randy nodded. “Yeah. We’re all really sorry.”
Nate gave a big smile. “Haha! That’s great! Now we can find the tru-” He cut off, looking up at Randy’s head. “Uh, Randy, there’s a soup bowl on your head.”
“Huh?” Randy said, then slapped the bowl off his head. “Gross. That’s what I get for sneaking into the trash chute. Everyone thought I should go because this suit would be stealthy or whatever. Maybe it would if it wasn’t inside a properly lit house.”
Nate chuckled. “Anyways, do you, uh, know the way out? There is one, right?”
Randy nodded. “Well, there’s that door behind you there. That might be a thing.”
“Oh...I didn’t see that, I didn’t really get a good look over there yet...” Nate replied sheepishly. “Anyway, we should head up, right?”
“Yeah, let’s go!” Randy declared.
Nate and Randy stepped into the Dining Hall, where all was quiet and everyone was eating breakfast in silence.
Breakfast, Nate thought. I must have been unconscious down there all day. His stomach growled. I also haven’t eaten all day.
Everyone looked up at surprise at Nate.
“Nate?!” Josh exclaimed in pure shock. “Hey, you’re alive!” Leroy exclaimed with a big smile, then paused, his face falling. Everyone else at the table, including Leroy, had awkward, guilty looks on their faces.
They must really feel bad, Nate thought sympathetically.
Nate gave a small smile. “It’s okay, guys.”
“What?!” Everyone exclaimed.
“It’s alright,” Nate repeated. “Don’t feel guilty about executing me.”
“But...we all thought you had done it! We were too quick to look things through...” Bruce said sadly.
“That’s not your fault,” Nate objected. “It was despair. What Dimitris wanted. That must be why he executed me. To keep you all in despair longer.”
“That sick bastard,” Brayden said in disgust, frowning.
“What do we do now, then?” Leroy asked.
Nate grinned. “We find the real culprit. We have a lot to talk about.”
“Like Malcolm?” Josh piped up.
“Yeah, Malcolm was there!” Randy added. “I thought he died or something!”
“Malcolm was able to survive through consumption of the magical energy within his vials,” a voice said, and everyone whipped around.
Standing behind Nate and Randy in the doorway was the white figure, still unrecognizable, but not as transparent. It was standing like a normal person with its ghastly arms calmly crossed over its torso.
Nate and Randy both took a step back, filled with utter shock, and the white figure walked right inside.
“Thank you,” It said.
Its voice was incredibly strange. It spoke inside Nate’s head, with no audible voice or any sign of being male or female. It was almost like the voice people sometimes heard in their heads when they read books, except this voice was being projected to everyone. Nate could tell by the looks on their faces.
The white figure took a sweeping look around at everybody. “Look, I’m not allowed to reveal my identity, and I’m not allowed to give away the culprit for this murder, because you’re all supposed to find this new hope for yourselves. But I can still help you out, and make sure you can all escape this place safely.”
Everyone stared at it in shock.
“Wait...” Brayden said, standing up. “How do you know all of this? About Malcolm, and the true culprit?”
The white figure seemed to look sad or dreary. “Because I was once good friends with the mastermind of this mansion.”
“Good friends...” Brayden murmured suspiciously, casting a side glance at Leroy, who glared uncomfortably straight back.
The white figure then chuckled, white mist fading off its shoulders as he shook from laugher. “Don’t worry, the mastermind and I aren’t Leroy and Thomas. Or Bruce and Seto. You all actually think both of us are dead, really. Well, I’m actually dead. The mastermind’s not, so only he faked his death. Mine was real...”
“How can you say all this, and not just tell us directly?” Nate demanded. “And are you confirming that you and the mastermind of this school are among the ten houseguests who died here?”
The white figure nodded. “Yes, I am. Oh, and I can’t tell you this directly because you need to solve this case yourselves. To give you hope, you know? I would have come in to help with the other murders, but those ones weren’t...interfered with.”
“What does that mean?” Brayden growled, but the white figure ignored him and turned around.
“Come on. There’s a lot of clues you all missed before that I need to show you,” it said, walking/drifting down the hallway.
“Um, am I hallucinating?” Leroy asked uncertainly.
“This white figure will be great for us,” Brayden said thoughtfully with a grin. “It’s helping us out with this trial!”
“Okay, yeah, Brayden’s smiling,” Leroy said. “This is definitely a hallucination.”
“Hey, wait up!” Bruce called to the white figure. It turned around and looked at Bruce with a confused, slightly surprised face that was too familiar. Yet Nate couldn’t identify it. “Hm?”
“How did you become a ghost, anyway?” Bruce asked. “Are there other ghosts, too?”
The white figure sighed sadly. “Sadly, I am the only ghost. It’s hard to explain how I’m a ghost but nobody else is. Think of it this way though: The mastermind is on the side of Despair, right? I’m the opposite, on the side of Hope. So I’ve got the opposite of Dimitris on my side, too.”
It turned around and continued down the hallway.
“You all seemed to miss many clues this time, right?” the figure asked. “Your choices were clouded with despair, and you rushed to evict Nate. Dimitris’ influence, too.”
“Um, I guess so...where are we going?” Bruce asked.
“To where the clues are,” the white figure said, and walked into the Alchemy Room.
“Hey, do you know anything else about Malcolm?” Josh asked.
The white figure turned to look at Josh with ghostly white eyes. “What do you want to know?”
Josh looked surprised at the ghost’s willingness to give answers. “Um, how did he get out of the Alchemy Vials? And how did he save Nate?”
“Hm, well, Malcolm sort of acted as a magical parasite to the liquid vials. He fed off the energy produced by them until he was able to leave them. He hid so Dimitris wouldn’t find him, but stepped in to save Nate...probably because Seto had programmed him to save the innocent, probably if that situation ever happened to him.”
“You sure do know a lot about Malcolm, huh?” Randy drawled.
The figure sighed. “I’m not Seto if that’s what you’re thinking. To be honest, you all didn’t exactly know me very well in the first place.”
“Like, if you had an early death or something, hmm?” Leroy said with a grin and raised eyebrows.
“I’m not Trevor or Ivan, either. I mean that...never mind. And stop guessing who I am,” the figure said in annoyance. “Someone push the book to the fourth floor.”
Nate pushed the light blue book and the bookshelf slid back.
“We didn’t check the fourth floor at all, did we?” Bruce said as they went up the stairs.
“No, you should have, though,” the figure chided.
“By the way, what should we call you?” Brayden asked the figure.
“Umm...well I obviously can’t give myself away. Call me Mr. Hope.”
“Mister Hope?” Nate echoed in disbelief.
“If it was just Hope it would be a girl’s name.”
“I still can’t believe I’m trusting a spooky scary white ghost that haunts a mansion where people die to save my friends from the mansion where people die that’s lead by an old man with an expensive cane that he doesn’t even need,” Randy groaned.
“Well, it’s not really spooky scary when you put it like that...” Josh said.
“Old man. Ha, he does look old,” Mr. Hope chuckled.
They arrived on the fourth floor, but to Nate’s surprise, everything seemed to be normal. However, Mr. Hope walked right past the main room with the brewing stations, right to the small hallway in the back. They all followed him to the end of the hall.
The room with the cow, Nate recalled.
Nate stepped forward and opened the door.
Everyone gasped (except Mr. Hope).
The floor was splattered with blood. The cow was gone.