"After you? Why would that woman be after you?" Chen Ge also walked to the window. The faceless woman with the red hairclip, Chen Ge noticed, had been purposely following them.
"How should I know? I don't even know her!" Wu Jinpeng did not look like he was lying. The eyes when he saw the woman only spoke of fear-there were no other emotions mixed within.
"Why are you so afraid of this woman?" Chen Ge asked another question that he had no answer to. "Is she going to kill you? What will happen to you if she manages to catch up to you?"
After hearing Chen Ge's question, it was Wu Jinpeng's turn to use a strange gaze to study Chen Ge. "Isn't it scary enough to be chased by a faceless woman? Brother, if she'd managed to catch up to me, do you think I'd still be able to stand here to have this conversation with you?"
"I mean, perhaps we do not need to keep avoiding her. If we do not try to understand her, we will never beat her, and being caught is just a matter of time."
Before Chen Ge could convince Wu Jinpeng, the faceless woman had already reached the downstairs of the building that they were in. Her head that was dangling downward slowly lifted as she looked upward. The face that was devoid of all the feature seemed to be staring at Wu Jinpeng; the woman completely ignored Chen Ge who was standing next to him. The red hairclip appeared to be dripping blood. The pregnancy dress that did not fit her body dragged on the ground.
"Why are you standing there spacing out? We need to leave!" Wu Jinpeng dragged Chen Ge into the room next door. "After she comes up here, we will jump down from the window of the second floor! As long as we can disappear from her line of sight, we will be able to get a brief period of peace."
This was not the first time that Wu Jinpeng had done something like that. His movement was practiced and familiar. The physique that was much stronger and bigger than his actual body in real life enabled him to do many high difficulty activities. It was a piece of cake for him to jump down from a second story window.
"Quick, come down now!"
Standing next to the window, Chen Ge hesitated for a small moment. But within that brief second, the door behind him suddenly started to vibrate like something was hammering against the door. He had no better idea. Chen Ge hugged the backpack and leaped out the window. He landed on both of his feet and rolled to neutralize the falling impact. Chen Ge did not have time to check the condition of the items inside the backpack to see whether they had survived the fall because he could hear Wu Jinpeng urging him to move on already. The two guys crawled up from the ground and raced toward the other side of the street as fast as they could.
"Where are we going now?"
"I really have no clue. No matter where you go, you will be chased by that monster. The only thing we can do is run as far away from her as we can. And then we will repeat this whole process when she reappears." Wu Jinpeng answered without turning his head around. The words slipped out between hungry mouthfuls of air. He had no idea when he would be able to escape from danger. It was as if the whole world was his enemy; everywhere he turned, there was a monster, and he was being constantly chased by a faceless woman that he could not shake loose. Taking a break had become something of a luxury.
Chen Ge studied Wu Jinpeng, who had not stopped running since they met each other. Slowly but surely, Chen Ge could see this man's encounter overlapping with what had happened to the Wu Jinpeng in real life. The man should have been through this period of helplessness and hopelessness before. Every day, he woke up in panic, but with the burden of responsibility pressing on his shoulders, he was forced by life to keep on moving forward. Perhaps Wu Jinpeng in real life had all forgotten about this period of this life, but it was remembered clearly and with extreme detail by Wu Sheng.
The child was a precocious little young man. He knew many things that he should not for his age, but it did not mean that he could understand all of them. During the crucial period where his worldview was being constructed and built, he was given a false perspective by the ghost fetus, and something within him changed. There was a connection between then world behind the children's doors and the real life; one could find incidents or actual people behind their doors that corresponded to real life. This should be the unifying factor that was unique to all the worlds behind the doors of the nine children.
If Chen Ge had to guess, the doors of the nine children had all been influenced by the ghost fetus. Following behind Wu Jinpeng, carrying the backpack, Chen Ge's mind was clocking in overtime. With the evidence that he had collected so far, it was basically a confirmed fact that every child corresponded to a door, and the door would only appear after the child had fallen asleep. But of the nine children, Chen Ge was the only exception because if there was a door that appeared beside his bed after he fell asleep, Xiaoxiao and the white cat would have reacted to it a long time ago.
However, the lack of a door by his bed did not mean that one could exclude Chen Ge from the nine children because he had a real blood door within his vicinity. Compared to the other children's flickering doors, the door in the toilet of Chen Ge's haunted house was an actual blood door.
"Does this mean I will have to go into that door to take a look?" Chen Ge thought back to a moment in time when he believed he was confronted with three different doors. "One of them should belong to the ghost fetus, the second probably belongs to the version of myself who is being killed again and again by the doctor, and who does the last door belong to?
"Hasn't it already been proven that the door will only appear and be pushed open when one is at the deepest point of their despair? Is it possible that I have pushed open the third door myself? Am I the door pusher for the door inside the toilet of the haunted house?"
Even though he had multiple Red Specters with him, Chen Ge did not have the courage to enter that door. He still remembered what Doctor Gao had told him at the underground morgue.
"It has to be hiding something extremely scary to be able to scare Doctor Gao." Chen Ge decided to reserve the door at his haunted house for the last night. If the ghost fetus was not hiding inside the other eight candidates, this was the only possibility that remained. He knew that the chance of the ghost fetus hiding behind the door at this haunted house was very low. After all, the ghost fetus' main territory was Eastern Jiujiang, and all the spirits and ghosts that had interacted with the ghost fetus before had said that he had treated Western Jiujiang as some kind of restricted area. Chen Ge did not believe that the ghost fetus would take the risk to sneak behind the door at his haunted house.
"There are no clues, and nothing appears to help bring me closer to the truth." Chen Ge sighed under his breath. "Just what were the emotions of the person who first pushed open that door?"
To chase these thoughts that currently had no answer, Chen Ge turned to look behind him. The faceless woman was still chasing after them, but she was not moving fast. In fact, from the way she looked, it did not look like she was determined to kill Wu Jinpeng; she did not seem to even bear a grudge against him. With Wu Jinpeng leading the way, Chen Ge ran through all the nearby streets, and he became more and more confident that this was the old city.
"Wu Sheng must have spent a part of his childhood in the old city. Something that he refused to remember once happened here, and because of that incident, his whole family moved to Western Jiujiang."
Wu Sheng's world behind the door comprised several streets; it was probably one-fifth the size of the actual old city. There were limited locations where they could hide themselves. To avoid the faceless woman, they would have to enter the rooms on both side of the street, but entering the house might push them into encounters with the monsters inside the houses. They kept moving and running. Eventually, some of the monsters came out from their houses and joined the chase.
"Just what do we have to do to escape this place?" The terror in Wu Jinpeng's eyes was practicing overflowing. When his large body turned and saw the horde of monsters chasing after them, he started to shiver.
"We have already run all over these few streets on the eastern side. How about we move to the western side? Perhaps we can find a place to hide there."
After following Wu Jinpeng for some time, Chen Ge had noticed that no matter what kind of danger they were in, Wu Jinpeng would not head toward the western side. He had been avoiding the streets on the western side on purpose.
"No way!" Wu Jinpeng denied it directly. The swiftness with which he answered the question added to Chen Ge's suspicion.
"It's okay then, I will follow your instruction." Chen Ge had a fairly good guess as to why the man refused to go that way. He could empathize with what the man was trying to do.
"As long as we can hold on until dawn, there should be no more problems. I am sure by then everyone will return to normal," Wu Jinpeng said to convince and console Chen Ge, or perhaps it was for his own benefit. "After the night passes, the sun will rise."
"Yes, you are right. Eventually, the sun will rise." Chen Ge patted Wu Jinpeng on his shoulder. "Since we can't go to the western side, I suggest we try to find an exit on the eastern side."
"Okay." Wu Jinpeng just gave his promise when a string of urgent dog barking came from the western streets. Hearing that sound, Wu Jinpeng's face shifted dramatically. Pushing away all the warnings that he had made earlier, he immediately rushed toward the western streets.
"What happened?" Chen Ge quickly moved to follow the man. With his Yin Yang Vision, even over that much distance, he could see several figures standing on the western streets. "Do not go there!"
Chen Ge reacted as fast as he could, but he still failed to stop Wu Jinpeng. Without a care for the world, he charged into an alley on the western streets. There was an old, dilapidated looking storage room at the end of the small alley. Wearing a pair of shirt that did not fit him, a pair of beautiful eyes blinked continuously. They seemed to take in everything that they saw curiously. Seeing the child unharmed, Wu Jinpeng sighed greatly in relief. He signaled for Chen Ge, and with the child, they went to hide inside the small house.
"Daddy, Big Huang has run out," the boy said in a small whisper. It appeared like he was normally quite a reticent child.
"You stay at home. I promise that I will bring Big Huang back." Wu Jinpeng touched the boy on his head. The terror and fear that characterized the man earlier had completely disappeared. His eyes were warm and kind; the only thing out of place was the quick breathing.
"Okay." The boy nodded obediently. When the father and son spoke, the whimpering of the dog appeared again, and this time, it sounded very close to them. Other than the sound of the dog barking, the sound of a crowd started to gather. Various unsettling and uncomfortable noises drilled into Chen Ge's ears.
"Where does this stray come from‽ What if it bites someone? Is no one going to look after it!"
"My family still has a small child. What if he is harmed by the stray! Who will be responsible?"
"Get the hell away, you blasted dog! I do not have time for you!"
"Beat it! My mom said that all strays carry disease with them! We need to chase it away!"
Initially, Chen Ge thought that only he could hear these voices, but when he turned around, he realized that both Wu Jinpeng and the boy were able to hear them as well because Wu Jinpeng had used his hands to cover both of the boy's ears. The smile still lingered on his face as he pulled the boy into his light embrace.
"Daddy, they are beating Big Huang. They said that Big Huang is a stray, but he is not."
"Don't you worry about that. I will go and rescue Big Huang now. You just stay here and do not move." Wu Jinpeng then gripped Wu Sheng's hands to have the latter cover his own ears. "Close your eyes, and I promise, when you open your eyes, Big Huang will be here with you again."
"Of course, when have I lied to you before?"
After Wu Sheng shut his ears and closed his eyes, Wu Jinpeng finally stood up.
"You are not seriously considering going there, are you?" With his Yin Yang Vision, Chen Ge saw clearly that there were around ten figures standing on the street.
"I have made the promise to my son." Wu Jinpeng pushed open the wooden board that acted as the door. "Brother, can you do me a favor?"
"What kind of favor?"
"I will go and distract their attention, and after I have lured all of them away, I need you sneak in to rescue Big Huang."
Wu Jinpeng and Chen Ge jogged out of the small house one after another. Wu Jinpeng, who led the way, did not turn back. However, behind him, Chen Ge turned back to look into the small house. The boy was still following his father's instructions. He had his hands over his eyes and his eyes clamped shut. The sound of cursing and scolding became louder and louder. Big Huang was whimpering for help. It was being surrounded by a mob of people. They planned to beat Big Huang to its death right there on the street.
"Don't let it get away!"
"Go after it!"
"This stray sure runs fast for what it is!"
"Where are you going now that we have already broken your leg?"
"Rummaging through the trash every day to look for food, the strays are all carriers of disease! Stop playing around. Quick, go ahead and kill it!"
Many voices crawled into Chen Ge's ears. They sounded extremely grating. They were not human noises; they were more like knives.
"Stop!" The disfigured shadows moved out of the way, and Wu Jinpeng saw Big Huang, who was covered in threads, cowering on the ground. His eyes turned red immediately. "Big Huang is not a stray! He is my dog! He has never injured anyone, and he would never go through the trash to look for food!"
After they heard Wu Jinpeng, the shadows turned around to look at him. The cold and lifeless eyes fell on Wu Jinpeng, but they did not seem to care what he had to say. The threads continued to sew through Big Huang's body. "I swear I will look after him! My son always plays with him. He has never been injured by the dog before. Big Huang is the most obedient pet you could have ever wanted. Please return him to me."
From the intensity to the tone of the voice, everything he said sounded real and authentic. It was as if Wu Jinpeng had said something similar in real life and Wu Sheng had memorized it word for word.
"Give it back to you? How could a homeless man like yourself guarantee that this b*stard will not injure other people? If you are so free, you'd better take better care of yourself first before you come to mind other people's business."
"This has to be a joke. You said this is your dog. Well, if the pet of a homeless man is not a stray, what is it?"
"Yes, the man himself probably rummages through the trash to look for food, much less his dog."
The voices became sharper and ruder. Wu Jinpeng's body kept shaking, but he tried to reason as rationally as he could. "My boy is not in a good condition. The dog is his only companion. For us, the dog is more than a pet-he is part of our family."
"This can't be real. You have a son? What, bringing a child around will garner more pity when you go begging for money?"
"By the way, listen to this. If the dog of a homeless man is a stray, what is the child of a homeless man? Could it be a street child? That's just too much!"
"My boy is not a street child!" Both of Wu Jinpeng's arms were shaking. His eyes were burning with fire as he picked up the random objects around him and threw them at the group of people. "As long as I am alive, the dog that I own is not a stray, and my child will never end up as a street child!"
The figures turned to focus their hatred on Wu Jinpeng. All the monsters' lips were sewn shut, but for some reason, even though their mouths were unable to make any noise, the grating voices did not disappear. After they were attacked, the monsters collectively took out the large needles and black threads from their pockets and rushed at Wu Jinpeng like a wave. According to the plan, Wu Jinpeng would lure the mob away, and that was the time for Chen Ge to sneak out from the other side to come and rescue Big Huang.
Big Huang's body was sewn with threads. Blood leaked out from the wounds on various parts of his body. The dog had been beaten to death while he was alive. This Big Huang was slightly different from the dog that Chen Ge had seen at Wu Jinpeng's house in real life. If this was all real, or at least had really happened in the past, then the Big Huang in real life was probably the second pet that Wu Jinpeng had taken in. Carrying the dog that had already passed away in his arms, Chen Ge lifted his head to look at the small house. The boy inside the house was still holding his hands over his ears, but both of his eyes were wide open. He had witnessed everything. The pair of eyes that seemed to be curious about everything lingered persistently on the dog within Chen Ge's embrace.
"This is too traumatic for a child his age to witness." Chen Ge did not know what to do. It would be too cruel for the boy if he returned with the mangled carcass of the dog. Even though this was the world behind the door, he did not wish for the boy to relive that trauma and despair one more time. "A boy who is still too young to really comprehend the meaning of death had to witness one before his eyes in this kind of manner?"
Chen Ge placed Big Huang's body inside his backpack and then carried the backpack in both hands into the small house.
"Where is Big Huang?" The boy lifted his head to look up at Chen Ge.
"He was getting a little bit sleepy, so he went down for a rest."
Several seconds later, rushed footsteps came from the alley. Wu Jinpeng pushed open the wooden door. "I have temporarily lost them. In a minute, I will lure all of them to the eastern streets."
"I will go with you. I worry that you need to deal with so many of them alone."
"That would be immensely helpful, thankful." Wu Jinpeng tossed an appreciative gaze at Chen Ge. As he was about to leave, the boy reached forward to grab at the corner of his shirt.
"Daddy, why are those people chasing after you?" The boy looked at Wu Jinpeng with his pair of innocent eyes.
"Daddy is playing hide and seek with them. Would you like to play with us as well?" Wu Jinpeng ruffled the boy's hair lovingly.
"Then you should hide inside that wooden box and try to not make any noise. You will win if you stay put and don't come out of the box. Do you understand me?"
"Understood." The small boy jumped into the box and curled up inside the corner of the box.
Wu Jinpeng pinched the boy on the tip of his nose. "You cheeky little thing, make sure that you are not spotted by the other people. Wait until I come back to get you."