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Valin website logo

Valin-Steel.com logo

This page describes the puzzle paths found on Valin Steel's website: http://valin-steel.com

Discovery

Tweet valin soundcloud 20170212

On 2/12/17, Valin posted two sound files to soundcloud and shared them via his twitter account.

Solution
Subtract one of these soundfiles from the other (using Audacity: load both, invert one, then play them together as a single track)

The result is the following soundfile:

Valin 01 o1

"So you've finally decided to question what you've been taught. Good. Who am I, you ask? Just your host."

The "Who am I? Just your host" was a hint to access http://valin-steel.your-host.xyz. Eventually LEVELS found out about Valin getting hosted on your-host.xyz and were able to get him kicked off. He then migrated his entire site to http://valin-steel.com.

Homepage

Valin website homepage

This page has a half-inverted levels logo and a slightly edited sub-text compared to the original LEVELS slogan (“Those who are blind will follow the path down which they are led”).

The main body of the page was filled in De finibus bonorum et malorum. (Latin thing from which the gibberish lorem ipsum placeholder is derived).

There are 2 things to find on this page.

Solution 1
The lorem ipsum on the page has certain letters bolded, spelling out:

“If puzzles are all that will get your attention puzzles are what you will get”

Solution 2
Additionally, the difference between the De finibus bonorum et malorum real/original text and valin's version spells out (after “if puzzles are all that...” is removed from the string):

“It is sad I have to entertain you to lead you to truth”

Both “puzzles” and “truth” are clues to more hidden pages.

/puzzles

http://valin-steel.com/puzzles/ was discovered on 2/12/17.

Valin website puzzles

This page contains a quote from Helen Keller.

"Many persons have the wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness... is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." — Helen Keller

As well as the following text:

BALNNEBILEDMLNDINADELNDM
LEDRLELNNABIBMDILNINLEDR
LELNIANADRLNNIDEDNDNBMLE
BNLMLNIMNABILILRLNDMNADR
DRDILALNLRINLEDRLELNBEDR
LELNNMBEBIDILNLRNALNIEIN
NANABNLELNIADRNANMLNBELR
LNNIDEDNDNBMLEBNLMNIINNI
Solution
Originally this was solved via paired cryptogram. After further analysis, it is a checkerboard cipher (http://www.und.edu/org/crypto/crypto/.chap08.html#CHECKE). Each pair of letters in the cipher-text corresponds to a single plain-text letter. The pair of letters is used to look up the row and column in the grid using the keywords BLIND for rows and REMAIN for columns. “Blind” comes from possible words you can make from the corresponding odd # letters (as well as the Helen Keller quote), “Remain” from the even # letters. For example, BA=I, LN = [space], NE = K.
  R E M A I N
B V A L I N S
L T E . , ' _
I B C D F G H
N J K M O P Q
D R U W X Y Z

It translates to:

“I knew you were only here for puzzles. Don't worry, there are many others to choose from at puzzles.php”

http://valin-steel.com/puzzles/puzzles.php redirects to the forum’s “Tutorials and Challenges” category (http://levels.boards.net/#category-4). Valin can be mean :( extremely creative! [edit from Valin himself]

/truth

http://valin-steel.com/truth was discovered on 2/12/17.

Valin website truth

This page contains another quote:

"All secrets are deep. All secrets become dark. That's in the nature of secrets." — Cory Doctorow

It also contains the following text: You have reached the "path" that will lead you to the truth. Be warned, you may not like what you find along the way. Question everything you've been told. They're not an ARG. They're not a "ARG school." You may think you know their secrets. You don't. Are you ready to face reality, or will you continue to let yourself be distracted by their "diversions"?

The word “diversions” is a link to http://valin-steel.com/truth/diversions.php.

/truth/diversions.php

http://valin-steel.com/truth/diversions.php was discovered on 2/12/17.

Cupcakes

This page contains another quote:

I can resist anything except temptation. — Oscar Wilde

It also contains an image of cupcakes that contains the next puzzle.

http://www.valin-steel.com/assets/images/cupcakes.jpg

Solution
If you open the cupcakes.jpg image in a hex editor you get the following at the end of the file:

05 09 06 0F 07 05 02 00 06 03 06 01 06 0E 02 00 06 01 06 0C 07 07 06 01 07 09 07 03 02 00 06 06 06 09 06 0E 06 04 02 00 06 01 02 00 06 04 06 09 07 03 07 04 07 02 06 01 06 03 07 04 06 09 06 0F 06 0E 02 00 06 09 06 06 02 00 07 09 06 0F 07 05 02 07 07 02 06 05 02 00 06 0C 06 0F 06 0F 06 0B 06 09 06 0E 06 07 02 00 06 06 06 0F 07 02 02 00 06 0F 06 0E 06 05 02 0E

By removing all of the leading zeros, then reformatting back to Hex pairs, you get:

59 6F 75 20 63 61 6E 20 61 6C 77 61 79 73 20 66 69 6E 64 20 61 20 64 69 73 74 72 61 63 74 69 6F 6E 20 69 66 20 79 6F 75 27 72 65 20 6C 6F 6F 6B 69 6E 67 20 66 6F 72 20 6F 6E 65 2E

Translated into text, this gives:

“You can always find a distraction if you're looking for one.”

"Distraction" is a hint to find http://valin-steel.com/truth/distraction.php.

/truth/distraction.php

http://valin-steel.com/truth/distraction.php was discovered on 2/12/17.
Levels cupcakes

This URL redirects back to the LEVELS cupcakes page (https://levels.your-host.xyz/cupcakes/). The page was originally created by LEVELS as a thank you to member “Kate” for tweeting out a LEVELS-themed puzzle made of cupcakes!

The image is an official LEVELS creation and translates to:

“This is a special page and gold stars for our members.”

Later, LEVELS added a puzzle piece to the page. As stated by the URL, this is all a distraction from the real solution to the diversions page.

/truth/diversions.php CSS cupcakes image

This is a 2nd (and more important) puzzle on the /truth/diversions.php page.

Viewing the source on this page reveals the following CSS code that appears redundant at first glance.

Valin website truth css
Valin ϲupcakes

Upon closer inspection, the “c” in cupcakes in the CSS snippet is actually a different character (like a cyrillic keyboard’s c). By copy-pasting that url you get:

http://www.valin-steel.com/assets/images/%CF%B2upcakes.jpg

(as opposed to http://www.valin-steel.com/assets/images/cupcakes.jpg if you open the image from http://valin-steel.com/truth/diversions.php in a new window).

Solution
The image contains a hidden .wav file at the end (open the file in a hex editor, then search for "RIFF". Delete everything prior to RIFF, then save as a .wav). The wave file contains morse code. The easiest way to decode the morse is to open it in Audacity and view it visually.

When translated, it becomes:

“Sometimes we only hear and see what we want to until reality hits us.”

"Reality" is a pointer to our next page.

/truth/reality

http://valin-steel.com/truth/reality.php was discovered on 2/12/17.

There are two ways to find this page:

  1. Using the quote on /truth as a hint: "Are you ready to face reality, or will you continue to let yourself be distracted by their "diversions"?"
  2. Using the quote from the /truth css cupcake image: “Sometimes we only hear and see what we want to until reality hits us.”
    Valin website reality

There is another quote here:

No man is happy without a delusion of some kind. Delusions are as necessary to our happiness as realities."— Christian Nestell Bovee

As well as instructions and more cipher text:

So you're ready to begin to face reality? Good. But don't think I'm just going to hand it to you. Knowledge is gained through effort. Here's a haystack. Find the needle.

VOFEv?<8yUkg\)mWzhM_P,TORRHagjImi?b1.NJvVR2m]i+d5B
`CB<GA=I8N`QG|j60Jq-pv/Q4<jmON_@PK7@8/'5>(,jAoJ:2&
ZXcZ<NsXMqf[`fUGU<&,!ra[-Rz&<[ZEbYONjrUf4kpD"u'am`
21q<kTreA]pKR&gP!"q%8T@XHo|1E/NUp/uYI8p:E05FaKF2{f
ebjTiar7Bgs@k3|w1<uwZ_k9DaJ>V+iY?{'B68d{*zN@x6"Euk
j=tyX]YiVZp0r,|?`m&H"O"L>I2m>V*XCMX"KY=c^F#=h\iWY'
+c_BDAA8_b`afa`ah^B68V-33x9j!+gQ&o=8}3ijKt&R1Y,D`b
(a'cDg-,#\e9\:XI"0&,:@']r(>{a2,rh=Iz0`Vj2a!ymh"e:V
@#Et0gK|3\]Y~tYw@8(FRhV"2r:b)#gvT[<4q7_TBkpp1x8~`p
sa(y3h=zysM1;Q;'4\kB_]]!}=HdkW#0hYXJpEt:hpxRpc)TpD
Solution
ROT-46 the text

It will turn into the below:

&}tsFmjfI%;7,W='J8{/~Z$}""v17:w=9m2_\|xF&"`=-9Y4cp
0qpjuokwf|0!uL:d^xA[@F]!bj:=}|/n~yenf]UclVZ:o?xh`T
*(3*j|C({A6+06%u%jTZOB1+["JTj+*s2)}|:B%6b;@rPEU1=0
`_Aj;$B5o-@y"T7~OPASf$n(v?L_s]|%@]E)wf@hs^ct1yt`K6
52:$91Bep7Cn;aLG_jEG*/;gr1xl&Y9)mKUpdf4KXJ|nHdPsE;
:kDI(-)9&*@^BZLm0=TvP}Pzlw`=l&X(q{(Py)k3.tQk8,9')U
Y3/proof/20161018.pdf&[aaHg:OY7!T?kfMa9:yDT"_)Zr02
V1U3r7[ZQ,5g,h(wP^TZhnU-BVlK1`ZB8kwJ^0&:`1OI=8P5h&
nQsD^7yLa,-)ND)GnfVt"8&P`Bh2WQ7F$+jbAe/$p;@@_HfN0@
C1VIa8kJIC{_i!iUb,;p/--OMkv4;'Q^8)(x@sDh8@H"@3W$@r

Most of it remains gibberish, but look closely to find the small amount of non-gibberish (“needle in the haystack”): /proof/20161018.pdf (http://www.valin-steel.com/proof/20161018.pdf)

Note that this is dated 10/18/2016, which is about the time the original incarnation of LEVELS shut down. It was also revealed by Valin on 2/12/2017, which was before LEVELS created their FAQ page several days later that lists these same names and their responsibilities

/truth/monitor

Valin website reality arrow

On 2/16/17, Valin updated /truth/reality.php saying “Shall we continue?” and added a new link accessed by clicking an image of an arrow.

The link went to a page in a subsection called /monitor.

wVWZsNXYlJXY19We.php (menu and slitherlink)

http://valin-steel.com/truth/monitor/wVWZsNXYlJXY19We.php

This link contains 2 images: a kid’s menu (kids menu.gif) and a slitherlink (scan.gif).

[to be continued...]

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