Blinded by the cold wind, you follow your instincts and walk along with those around you.
Flakes of snow fall into your collar, making the cold seem as if your skin's being needled with tiny broken needles.
In the wind, you hear someone push the heavy wooden door open...
Luke: Finally. Everyone, get inside.
Marius: There was only light snow when we headed up the mountain. I didn't think it would turn into a full-blown blizzard...
Marius: The mountain roads were tortuous, and the snow turned it into a nightmare. What was the Zeng family thinking?
Artem: [Player], are you okay?
You: ... I'm fine.
The chilly winds push you inside. You blink a few times, trying to make out what lies ahead.
You: This is the... Blizzard Villa?
With the misty snow behind, and in front of you... a mountain estate, without the classical elegance you'd imagined it to house.
You: It's so dark... Is there no one here?
A classical and elegant main hall lies behind the thick wooden door.
Carved fence panes, hanging red lanterns, and the exquisite tables and chairs all convey a solemn atmosphere.
But the hall is empty, save for the whistling of the wind and the creaking of the moving lanterns...
Everything sleeps quietly in the darkness.
Vyn: Are you sure this is our destination?
Marius: Yuchen Town is not big, and there's only one villa. This must be it.
Luke: The living room is exquisitely furnished and most likely carefully maintained every day.
Luke: It's clear that someone used to live here, but now...
Luke bends down on one knee to carefully observe the surroundings.
Marius: It's a little strange. We were invited to the treasure auction...
Marius: Since it's an auction, we shouldn't be the only ones in attendance.
Marius: So, why haven't we seen anyone else yet?
Artem: Maybe something changed.
Artem: The blizzard is heavy, it'll be difficult to make the journey back down the mountain.
For a moment, everyone falls silent.
It is late in the afternoon and the snowstorm comes in full force. It grows increasingly darker and colder outside as night approaches.
Under these circumstances, it looks like it's not worth going down the mountain now.
You: Why don't we check out the backyard?
You: We'll have to find a place to rest if the snow doesn't stop...
Luke: Shh, quiet.
Luke's whisper interrupts you. You bite your lip and look to him in confusion.
Luke: I think there's someone here.
All eyes turn to the gray shadow in the room.
Luke: Someone's coming.
As soon as he says that, you hear several faint footsteps coming closer...
In the darkness, a vague outline of someone gradually appears.
Someone presses down on something that makes a mechanical sound, and in the next moment, the world lights up.
The entire hall is flooded with light. The warm yellow light drives away the prior darkness.
The interior is decorated with refined simplicity, making people feel like they've been transported back thousands of years ago.
???: Distinguished guests, we're sorry for the undesirable hospitality.
A middle-aged man dressed in a traditional outfit welcomes all of you with a smile.
Luke: You are...
???: Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Winters, and I am a butler of Blizzard Villa.
Winters: Distinguished guests, are you here for the auction? The storm is taking a turn for the worse. Please, come in, take your conversation inside.
Everyone's response to his warm greeting is relatively calm.
Marius: Excuse me, what was that about?
Marius: The whole hall was dark... The Zeng family really does have a special way of welcoming their guests.
Winters: I'm terribly sorry for that.
Winters: A wire came loose somewhere, causing a power outage in the main hall.
Vyn: Seems like the timing of our arrival was too coincidental.
Winters continues to smile, despite the veiled sarcasm in Vyn's voice.
Winters: *sigh* We are short on staff. Counting me... there are only four household staff.
Winters: The staff were making preparations in the kitchen while the other guests dined in the dining hall.
Winters: *sigh* That's why there was a delay in repairing the hall's switch.
Winters: And our master... is too busy sorting things out for the auction. I'm very sorry for the inconvenience.
As he speaks, the guests that have finished eating come out of the dining hall.
Many of them peer towards the entrance, checking out the people who've just arrived.
As more people enter, the noisy chatters bring life to the once-cold living room.
It also confirms what Winters just said.
Winters: The storm outside is getting worse...
Winters: How was your trip here?
Winters can expertly segue into another topic after a humble explanation and apology, like an experienced butler.
Artem: Thank you for asking. The whole trip went smoothly.
You: The snowstorm suddenly hit us while we were halfway up the mountain.
Winters: *sigh* Yuchen Town has always been like this—snowstorms every winter.
Winters: The snow is exceptionally heavy this year. I don't know when it will stop...
The butler smiles and looks warmly at all of you.
But for some reason, you feel a little uneasy...
You: (Huh? Am I just... overthinking it?)
Luke: Oh crap, if the snow gets any thicker, it'll be hard to get down the mountain in a few days.
Winters: Distinguished guests, please don't worry. No matter how heavy the snow is, it will eventually stop.
Winters: Besides, our villa offers all the finest facilities, so please rest assured and enjoy your stay.
Winters: And... would all of you kindly please show me your invitations?
Marius takes out a gold-stamped card covered in red velvet and hands it to the butler.
Looking at the invitation, you can't help but remember what happened that day...