The math teacher was stumped. He stared at Chen Ge for a while before slamming the ruler on the podium. "Sit down and stop looking out the window. Du Ming, come and solve this."
The round-faced kid walked to the board while Chen Ge reached into his backpack. "Everything here feels too normal... so normal that something must be wrong."
It felt like a lifetime before class was finally over. Chen Ge accosted the round-faced kid and led him to a corner.
"What are you doing? You're being too obvious if you want to borrow my homework to copy."
"I want to ask you something. You have to answer me honestly." Chen Ge pointed at himself. "What kind of person am I in your eyes?"
"A lonely, sarcastic, and unpopular student with horrible attitude in class." The round-faced kid did not hold back and let Chen Ge have it.
"Have you always had such a low opinion of me?" Chen Ge looked at that familiar round face. Even though he knew that the boy was telling the truth, it was hard to be happy to hear that.
"I suppose so." The round-faced kid did not seem to realize the dangerous situation that he was in.
"Fine, I'll ask another question. Have any strange things happened at our school lately? Like noises coming out from a supposedly empty classroom or moving specimens in the lab." Chen Ge's openly curious face softened the kid's heart. He took out a result booklet from his schoolbag and handed it to Chen Ge.
"Why are you showing me this?" Chen Ge accepted the booklet and saw that Du Ming was second in class.
"I'm a top ten student across the grade and the second in class, and you come to me to ask about ghost stories in our school?"
"What do your good results have to do with ghost stories? Will a good student not run into a ghost story?"
"The reason my results are good is because I spend the time others waste on meaningless ordeals studying."
"That's enough. If you weren't such a nice guy, I would introduce you to a ghost story right this moment." Chen Ge was rather speechless, but considering the age of the person he was dealing with, he could understand why. "I'm not going to lower myself to your level. Next question, did anything bad happen at our school, like school bullying or accidents among the student body?"
"What is in that head of yours really?" The kid shook his head and took back his result booklet. "Have you been under too much pressure lately? Then again, your results are fourth from the bottom, and they're getting worse. It will be hard to answer to your family. My suggestion is for you to focus on your studies and forget about all other nonsense."
Putting the booklet back into his schoolbag, the kid left.
"The kid has the same attitude as I remember." Chen Ge had not been that good a friend with Du Ming; they had gotten close because they were both isolated from the rest of the class due to different reasons. They were like victims found in the same boat. There was no camaraderie.
Soon, the school became quite deserted, and the place quieted down. Chen Ge did not leave. He decided to stay and explore the school. With this place as the center, he would then widen his exploration to the rest of the town. "I have to be careful. The sun has almost set."
The sky darkened, and the atmosphere became more sinister.
"The night will not be as warm as the day. The town will tear off its disguise and reveal its fangs, biting into every innocent person." Chen Ge turned back into the education block. He carried the backpack and looked into every classroom. He checked many rooms but spotted nothing out of place. He walked all the way to the roof, where he heard footsteps. "It's already after school hours. Who would be at the roof?"
Holding the hammer, Chen Ge entered the corridor. The door to the roof was not locked, and he squeezed it open slightly. The roof of the school was the place closest to the sky. If he lifted his head, it would feel like the heavy rain clouds were falling on him.
"Is no one here?" The chilly wind bit into his skin, and raindrops fell on his face. The rain came very suddenly. Pulling his gaze back, Chen Ge walked back down the stairs. As he planned to leave the education block, the rain started to pour.
"This should be normal rain, right?"
The rain behind the door might contain a curse or resentment. Chen Ge extended his palm outward to the rain. The raindrop gathered in his palm, and chills seeped into his skin.
"This might not be the first rainy day I've encountered in the world behind the door. I should pay attention to any ghosts that possess an umbrella. There should be plenty of them. After all, haven't they always been a good hiding place for spirits in modern culture?" Chen Ge was spacing out when a shadow loomed over him. "Who is it‽"
Whipping his body around, Chen Ge saw a startled Zhang Ya.
"Why are you still here? Did you forget to bring an umbrella?" Zhang Ya stood behind Chen Ge holding an umbrella. The shadow was from the umbrella that she held over his head. They were the only people left at the education block. Chen Ge looked at Zhang Ya, and his lips opened. But his heart suddenly raced, and he stumbled a step back.
Seeing how flustered Chen Ge was, an amused smile appeared on Zhang Ya's face. "Are you afraid of me?"
"Okay then. Who knows when the rain will stop? I'll walk you to the bus stop." Zhang Ya walked to Chen Ge's side with the umbrella. "Come on then."
Chen Ge, who always took the lead, somehow found himself following Zhang Ya's instruction, and the thought of his investigation was abandoned. The smell of shampoo drifted into his nose. Chen Ge's eyes kept wandering to Zhang Ya. This was probably what happiness felt like. The rain continued to pour. The pedestrians hurried to find a cover. The streetlights blurred through the curtain of rain, and the whole world was swallowed by the sound of rain pattering.
"Hmm? Did you say something?" Zhang Ya heard Chen Ge say something, but it was blocked out by the heavy rain.
"It's nothing. You should walk on the other side of me. The cars might splash water on your clothes. We don't want that." Chen Ge carried his backpack and scurried to the other side. They then noticed each other's wet shoulders. Neither of them wanted the other to get wet, so both of them got wet from the rain. Walking down the raining street, neither of them spoke until they reached the bus stop nearest to the school.
"Which bus are you taking?"
"Route 104." Chen Ge gave a random answer and stood quietly next to Zhang Ya. He did not wish to speak. He just wanted to steal glances at her. The world behind the door was created from his memory. Even though it had its absurdities, the majority was a reflection of reality. The reason Zhang Ya appeared in this form had something to do with Chen Ge's own memory.
"My bus is coming. You'd better head home soon and stop loitering about." Zhang Ya took out her phone. "This is my number. Message me when you're home so that I know you're safe."
After exchanging phone numbers, Zhang Ya got on the bus on Route 4 and waved at Zhang Ya through the bus window.
The bus disappeared in the rain, but Chen Ge still stood where he was.