Clothes and shoes that were one size bigger than he needed, a dirtied face, and clear eyes that were filled with shock. The child hid behind the old lady's clothes, showing only half of his face.
"You can hear my voice?" Chen Ge put down the backpack and reached out lightly toward the boy. "Do not be afraid. I will not hurt you."
The boy who hid at the back of the closet behind the clothes looked at Chen Ge cautiously. He stared at Chen Ge's hand like it was a foreign object and hesitated for a long time before giving him his hand. The chilling small hand slipped into Chen Ge's palm. The warmth that he had not felt for a long time caused the boy's eyes to slowly widen.
"Have you been here for a long time?" Chen Ge pointed at his feet. He wanted to ask whether the small boy had been staying behind the door, but the boy seemed to misunderstand him. He waved his hands and started to gesture wildly. After Chen Ge studied him for a long time, he finally understood that the boy was in the middle of playing hide and seek with the rest of the children. He was hiding there because, well, he was hiding from those who were going to capture him.
Seeing the boy who tried his best to communicate with Chen Ge, the latter shook his head lightly. The other children did not play to find him at all; they were probably pranking him all along. He had been so serious, hiding inside the closet, but in the end, the one who would open the closet doors to find him would most likely not be the other children but the original tenant of this place calling him to come out for food.
"Have you considered making more friends? Have you ever wondered what life's like beyond the window? Have you ever had the urge to see outside the world?" Chen Ge had found the key person behind the door-Jiang Ming-but there was one question that boggled his mind. What was the relationship between this Jiang Ming and the other Jiang Ming in real life? This Jiang Ming inside the door might represent the hearing that the Jiang Ming outside the door had lost, but the chance of that was not high. Combining all the clues and signs, the door would only show up when Jiang Ming outside the door was soundly asleep, so this Jiang Ming inside the door probably represented the actual consciousness of Jiang Ming.
In this world constructed from his memories, every movement and character somehow correlates to the real life. Jiang Ming wishes to play with his friends, and he hides in the room that gives him the most warmth. This should be the most beautiful and treasured memory that he has.
Chen Ge wanted to say something else, but Jiang Ming's eyes suddenly changed. They turned from shock to terror in an instant, and tears were practically flowing out of his eyes.
He's looking behind me!
The smell of alcohol crawled into his nostrils. Without saying a second word, Chen Ge lunged forward, grabbed the boy, and rolled to the side. The alcohol bottle slammed into the closet wall. The glass bottle shattered everywhere, but it did not make a sound. The thick blood vessels bulging on his face, the drunkard monster had entered the room. He had probably heard Chen Ge talking.
This thing sure is stubborn, and the most troublesome thing is that it is impossible to kill.
Chen Ge held the Doctor Skull Cracker's Hammer with one hand and carried the boy in his other arm. The boy was shocked. He was like a kitten who was tortured, and his body was shaking nonstop from fear.
The fear toward his drunk father is deeply embedded in his heart. It is this fear that keeps on providing power to the drunkard monster, making him stronger and stronger.
A plan started to form in Chen Ge's mind.
If I can help the boy overcome his fear and use actual actions to tell him that his drunk father is not unbeatable, things might look up for the boy.
That was easier said than done. To change a memory that deeply inserted in one's mind was too hard.
"Jiang Ming, please do not be afraid. As long as I am here, I will not allow anyone to hurt you." Chen Ge placed the boy on the chair, and he gripped the hammer with both of his hands tightly.
With the rate at which he is gaining strength, I can kill him with my hammer at least ten more times.
With all the preparation done, Chen Ge was about to make his move when the door of the room was opened from the outside. An old lady with a head of peppery hair walked into the room while holding a bowl of noodles. The old lady had a hunchback, and she looked at least seventy years old. The expression on her face was one of genuine kindness, but when she saw the drunkard monster, her expression shifted immediately. She put down the bowl of noodles, grabbed the cane that was leaning against the bedside, and slammed it repeatedly on the monster.
The scary and horrifying drunkard monster started to panic when he saw the old lady. For some reason, he looked like he was afraid of this fragile-looking senior. The drunkard monster did not feel pain when Chen Ge smashed his head in with the hammer, but after being slapped several times by the old lady's cane, he could not stand it anymore and quickly slithered out of the room. The old lady briefly chased after him, brandishing the cane, before she returned to her room.
She closed the door of her apartment angrily. Then she walked into the bedroom, came to the boy's side, and caressed the side of Jiang Ming's face lovingly. The old lady had Jiang Ming come to the table to have dinner. She served him the noodles that she had just made. They were piping hot, and they looked mouth-wateringly delicious. Jiang Ming ran over to have his dinner. The old lady then turned her focus to Chen Ge. The surprise in her eyes was no less than that of Jiang Ming.
"Granny, can you hear me?"
The old lady nodded.
"You still have your senses with you? We can communicate? It will work even without an actual conversation!" Chen Ge took out the ballpoint pen that was taped together from his pocket and then removed the comic from his backpack. He had all the stationary ready. Studying Chen Ge, the old woman said something, but Chen Ge could not hear her voice at all. She pushed away the ballpoint pen that Chen Ge offered her and turned to walk toward the living room. Staring at her back, Chen Ge suddenly realized. This old lady was different from the other characters behind the door.
Her body was faded like she could disappear at any moment. Most importantly, Chen Ge sensed a chill from her body. Using his Yin Yang Vision, Chen Ge realized that this old lady did not appear to be the product of Jiang Ming's memory. She was an actual lingering spirit that was about to disperse at any moment!
Without an object of possession, a lingering spirit could only exist for a limited time in the world. The rule was the same even if one was behind the door. Even though the old lady's memory had overlapped with Jiang Ming's, granting her more time in this world, that was all. It would not allow her to survive forever. One day, she would still disappear. When that happened, the old lady behind the door would be formed from Jiang Ming's memory completely. Perhaps she would still protect Jiang Ming behind the door and make delicious noodles for him, but she would not be the same kind old lady anymore. It would only be a mirage that Jiang Ming had made to console himself.
Chen Ge was getting more and more intrigued by the truth. He walked to the old lady's side. She was taking out a pen and some paper from the drawer, and she started to write on it. With every character that she wrote, her body would become less real. When the old lady finished writing, she handed the paper over to Chen Ge. It had a short sentence written on it.
'Be careful of the snail.'
"The snail?" Chen Ge had entered the door many times, and he could be considered to have gained a great understanding of the world behind the door. The scariest thing in this place was a Red Specter, and something scarier than one of those would be a Demon God, but the old lady warned him of a snail?
"The snail is even scarier than that drunkard that you can't kill no matter what?" Chen Ge asked in a whisper, and the old lady nodded.
"I get it now, but how are we supposed to get out of this place?" Hearing Chen Ge's voice, the old lady placed her finger on her lips, signaling for Chen Ge to lower his voice, and then pointed at the character snail on the paper.
Is the way to leave also on the snail? Is this snail the nickname of some Specter, or does it epresent something else completely?
Chen Ge was still thinking when Jiang Ming finished the bowl of noodles. He carried the empty bowl and stood up from the table. It seemed like he was going into the kitchen to wash the dishes. He was stopped by the old lady. The old lady ruffled Jiang Ming's hair kindly and then used her apron to wipe Jiang Ming's lips clean. Then she stood before Jiang Ming and pointed at Chen Ge. Jiang Ming understood her immediately. He grabbed Chen Ge by his hand and very happily pulled him out of the room.
"Where are we going?" Chen Ge knew that the old lady did not mean him harm. From what she did earlier, she had probably told Jiang Ming to take Chen Ge to do something important. When Jiang Ming heard Chen Ge's voice, a very innocent smile appeared on his face. He quietly slid his hand into his pocket like he was eager to share his secret with another person.
Moments later, Jiang Ming took out the shell of a snail from inside his pocket.
He cupped the shell of the snail carefully in his palms like it was the most important treasure to him in this world.