Two lonely, gentle souls were comforting and curing each other. They sat in camaraderie on that stormy night. The rain lashed against the window, like a crazed drummer, but inside the house, it was like a completely different world. The storm was venting anger and dissatisfaction, but inside the room, it radiated Zen and peace. The clock ticked rhythmically, and the teacups on the table were giving off steam. "It should be me who is supposed to comfort you, but once you got me to start bringing up these things. I could not help myself. I believe that I have already gotten past the ugly history, but I know I am just lying to myself."
At the end of the day, Zhang Ya was an adult, so she soon adjusted her emotions. Chen Ge also pulled his hands back. He knew how to gauge the situation and knew how to maintain a comfortable distance from each other so that it would not become too awkward between them. The distance was not too far, but it was not suffocatingly close.
"This rain is probably going to keep on going all night." Zhang Ya stood up to look out the window, and then she pulled back the curtains. She went back to sit on the other side of the couch. "Well, you now know about my past, but from today, I will stop running away from it. Promise me that you will try to do the same. Take the first step and try to move on."
As she said that, she took out her phone. "You need to give your father a call. I am sure he is worried sick about you. Other than that, I wish to have a brief talk with him. I do not wish for what happened to me to repeat itself with you. If you face any trouble in your life, trust that I will do everything within my power to help you overcome it."
Being the target of nasty rumors, being ostracized, being the butt of the joke, Zhang Ya had gone through all of that. She could identify and empathize with the victims, so she cared very much about her students. Despite, or rather, because of all the wounds on her body, it helped Zhang Ya evolve into a kind and gentle soul. She did not become a dancer like her dream, but she became a teacher. Perhaps at the back of her mind, if the teacher did not lie that day but came forth with the truth of the incident, everything might have gone down a different path. She could not change the past, so she chose a different path. At least in her class, she would not allow a similar tragedy to repeat itself.
Everything appeared to be going well, but Chen Ge could not stop the anxiety that was burgeoning in his heart. To have a person experience despair, one had to first give him a good taste of happiness before taking everything away from him.
"Do you still not trust me?"
With the encouragement from Zhang Ya, Chen Ge called his father's number, and the call was connected after it only rang twice. "I am now at my teacher's place..."
It was a simple, warm conversation between family members. There was nothing wrong with it. The father and son shared a friendly relationship. They respected and understood each other. There was no situation where the parent was placed on a higher hierarchy and the child had to listen to the orders of the parent no matter what simply because the parent was the parent.
After Chen Ge finished his part of the conversation, he handed the phone over to Zhang Ya. Zhang Ya and Chen Ge's father spent quite some time discussing Chen Ge's future and his education. At around 11 pm, Chen Ge carried Zhang Ya's sheets and lay down on the couch. He buried himself under the covers. "This is so soft."
"Be careful. Keep yourself tucked in, or you'll catch a cold." Zhang Ya stood at the bedroom door. Her place was not big-it only had one living room and one bedroom.
"You are the one that should be careful. Remember to lock the bedroom door." Chen Ge waved at her.
"Haha. It's not your place to remind me of that, but thank you anyway. Good night."
"Good night, may you have a sweet dream tonight."
After the bedroom door was closed, Chen Ge lay on the couch alone, and he found his brain was drawing a blank. "I have not had such a happy and easy dinner in such a long time already. Furthermore, this is the most relaxing rest I have had in an even longer time. I have a hard time believing I am currently in a world behind the door."
His mind was completely relaxed, he might just drift off without him realizing it, and that would be extremely dangerous. "I cannot let my guard down because the ghost fetus and Yu Jian should be waiting for the moment to strike."
He turned the light off and waited until midnight. He walked into the bathroom to change back into his own clothes. Even though they had not completely dried, it would do given the circumstances.
"It's about time to leave. There are no clues about Yu Jian at Zhang Ya's home. Staying any longer will just be a waste of time." Rationality told Chen Ge that he should leave now and use the rest of the night to search Li Wan City, but when this thought entered his mind, his body tried its best to reject it. It was as if there was another voice in his head that was telling him to stay in this warm cocoon of comfort.
"The reason I am here is to search for clues in Zhang Ya's home. I will not get another chance like this. In other words, this will be my last time here. In many ways, this will be the last time I ever do something like this."
When he reached the door, Chen Ge stopped. He turned his head back to glance at the door to Zhang Ya's bedroom. "At eighteen, Zhang Ya became a Red Specter, and at twenty-five, Zhang Ya became a responsible teacher. The combination of both should be the real Zhang Ya."
Honestly, when Chen Ge first received Zhang Ya's love letter, there was only fear in his heart, and death shrouded him like a heavy cloud. The first time Zhang Ya showed herself was during the livestream for Chen Ge's search for the murderer during the Murder at Midnight Trial Mission. He encountered the murderer inside the small cabin in the woods, and it was Zhang Ya's timely reminder that saved his life.
Then, he picked up his courage to visit Western Jiujiang Private Academy. After he found out about Zhang Ya's story at the dance studio, even though he was still afraid of Zhang Ya, in that fear, there existed a trace of empathy. Due to this feeling, he voluntarily helped Zhang Ya search for the killer responsible for her death. He could still remember the details from their first meeting like it was yesterday.
Truthfully, that was not that long ago. But the things that they had experienced since then could not be summed up easily in one or two sentences. "Before this, I was only given the chance to meet Zhang Ya, who had become a Red Specter. This time, behind the door, I've been given the chance to get to know a different side of her."
Chen Ge walked to the bedroom door and placed his palm lightly against the door. He had no idea whether Zhang Ya was already asleep or not. He hesitated for a long time before he whispered, "I'm so lucky to have met you in this life."
Carrying his backpack, Chen Ge picked up the black umbrella under the table and left the red umbrella behind. He quietly opened the front door. Chen Ge did not fall to the desire to spend the night at Zhang Ya's. He hurried out into the rain. Following his initial plan, Chen Ge decided to continue his search at the eastern side of Li Wan City. The city in the rain was completely different from how it presented itself normally. There were no streetlights and no cars on the road. "It feels like I am the only one left in this world after the sun has fallen."
Chen Ge was a person of the dark. He inspected the buildings one by one, but his search led him to nothing. He did not spot anyone outside or inside the buildings. "The place is getting more and more oppressive, and I feel more and more uncomfortable, but the problem is that I cannot pinpoint where in lies the problem because there is no obvious change to the things and people around me."
The heavy rain finally petered off at dawn. Chen Ge arrived at the school early in the morning. He leaped over the fence and entered the school grounds. He opened the classroom window, jumped through it, and went to his seat. The students gradually filed into the class. The first class of the day was English. Before the teacher arrived, Chen Ge asked Du Ming for his homework and copied it under the record time of ten minutes.
"Thank you. In the future, I shall repay you by offering you a free ticket to my haunted house." Chen Ge returned Du Ming's homework. It was then that he noticed something was off. The boy who was normally such a chatterbox did not say anything this time. He seemed to be in a bad mood. "Are you okay?"
Du Ming still did not answer. He kept his head lowered like he was afraid to look at Chen Ge.
After the morning classes, Chen Ge stretched lazily. He was about to have a chat with Du Ming, but the little fatty grabbed the schoolbag and left like he could not wait to get away from the class, or probably from Chen Ge.
"Something is not right. I have to get to the bottom of this." Chen Ge hurried after his deskmate. As he walked out the door, he bumped right into two other male students.
"I am so sorry." Chen Ge did not want to get into any unnecessary altercations, so he quickly apologized.
"Oi, look where you're going next time. This is such bad luck." One of the students patted his clothes like any contact with Chen Ge would leave traces of bad luck on him. He seemed to have unfettered hatred for Chen Ge and mumbled under his breath. His voice was low, but with his super hearing, Chen Ge could hear him clearly. Basically, he was using ad hominin against Chen Ge, calling him a b*stard for being raised by a single parent, how he was so unlucky that even his own mother had chosen to abandon him.
"My friend, it is not good to talk about another person like that. In the future, I will come and explain to you why it is not good to talk that way about another person," Chen Ge said with a smile on his face. He memorized the faces and voices of those two boys and then left in a hurry. It was not that Chen Ge was open-minded enough to not care about their comments-he simply thought that there was no reason to take things too seriously with people who were about to die.
The two male students thought that Chen Ge was afraid of them, so they grumbled behind him with derision. Chen Ge noticed something sinister from their behavior. Tragedy was about to arrive. The things in this world had started to target him personally. "Have the ghost fetus and Yu Jian finally lost their patience?"
Due to the interruption from the two students, Chen Ge failed to catch up to Du Ming. He took a detour around the education block before arriving at the rooftop with his backpack.
Opening the door, Zhang Ya was sitting alone where they had sat yesterday. There was a lunch box placed next to her. It was like she was waiting for someone.
"I'm surprised that you came." Zhang Ya waved for him to come over. "When did you leave this morning?"
"I left once the rain stopped. That was the first time I spent the night at another person's house. It was quite embarrassing." Chen Ge sat down beside Zhang Ya, and for some reason, his heart started to race.
"Have you had your lunch?"
"It's not good for your development for you to keep skipping lunch like this." Zhang Ya opened the lunch boxes that were stacked together. "Coincidentally, I prepared another box today."
After the lunch break, Chen Ge returned to the classroom, and Zhang Ya returned to the teacher's lounge. The second period after the lunch break was still Zhang Ya's class. Chen Ge was quite happy, but during that class, the classroom door was suddenly pulled open. Mr. Si waved at Zhang Ya from outside the door. It appeared that he had something important to tell her. Before she left, Zhang Ya had a smile on her face, but when she returned, her brows were creased deeply together. However, she soon reverted to her usually bubbly self. She knew better than to allow her personal emotions to affect her students.
After the class was over, Zhang Ya hurried out.
"Has something happened?" Chen Ge carried his backpack and chased after her. Once he got to the corridor, the whispering of two students travelled into his ears.
"I heard that the new teacher was just given a stern lecture by the discipline head. It was apparently because she got a bit too close with one of the students here."
"But that's probably just a teacher being concerned about her student, right? There is nothing wrong with that."
"Who knows what is happening behind closed doors? I heard that the new teacher already has a trail of bad history following her. She always gets into similar trouble, and that's why she was sent to a small town like ours to teach English."
"Are you being serious? This is some serious allegation."
"Someone told me that, but I am sure it's all true. I mean, just look at her."
"You have a point there. Such a beautiful woman coming to a small town, I doubt it is for the meagre salary of an English teacher."
"That's right. These days, you can't trust anyone, not even figures of authority who are supposed to protect you."
Chen Ge had no idea where the rumors started, but he knew it would be pointless to tell the students to shut up because that would not stop the rumors from spreading like a pandemic.
"The ghost fetus and Yu Jian are probably waiting for me to make my move."
After everyone had left, Chen Ge stood near the teacher's lounge. The rain outside the window had started to fall again. Zhang Ya was once more the last to leave the teacher's lounge. She spotted Chen Ge, who had been waiting for her, and Chen Ge noticed her at the same time. Chen Ge had no idea whether his presence would continue to bring trouble to Zhang Ya or not. After he ensured that there was no one else in the building, he chose to walk toward her.
"Why are you still at school? Shouldn't you be at home already?" Zhang Ya asked with the usual smile on her face. She was adept at hiding her real emotions. Looking at her smiling face, one would not think that something was bothering her.
"Please don't suffer being wronged just because of me. You can tell me anything. I will do anything for you." Chen Ge took out the black umbrella that he had removed from Zhang Ya's home. He did not return the umbrella to Zhang Ya. "You are the only person around me that I can share my feelings with so openly."
"I know." Zhang Ya walked closer to Chen Ge, and she repeated what Chen Ge said in a softer and gentler tone, "You are the only person around me that I can share my feelings with so openly."
She opened the red umbrella with a ghost of a smile lingering on her face. "Actually, I need you to do many things for me. For example, I need you to pay more attention to your studies. Do not get into any fights with your family. Try to befriend the other students in your class."
"I will try my best to do all those things. I will fulfill all the requests that you have for me, but in return, I need you to promise me one thing." Chen Ge looked at Zhang Ya seriously.
"What is it?"
"If you one day feel like the pressure is too much for you to bear, before you leave, I hope that we will be able to see each other one last time."
"Why do you think I'll leave anytime soon?" Zhang Ya shook her head. "You are overthinking things."
"That does not matter. Just promise me that you will do that." Chen Ge pleaded like a child.
"Alright, I promise you. If the day comes that I feel like leaving this place, you will the first to know," Zhang Ya replied rather helplessly.
"Okay then." Chen Ge's face lit up like a child.
"You are such a kid sometimes." This time, Zhang Ya's smile did not feel so forced. It was a genuine smile. "Since you brought your umbrella today, you should go home now. Remember to send me a message when you reach hone. If you find it difficult communicating with your family, you can give me a call any time. I will help you communicate with them."
"Don't worry about me." Chen Ge lived up to his promise. He did not wander about the city that day. After Zhang Ya left, he left the school by leaping over the wall just in case the guards saw them and started yet another rumor. Chen Ge purposely tried to increase the distance between them, and he returned home early that day.
"Big... big brother..." When Luo Ruoyu saw Chen Ge, she happily came to the door to welcome him home, but Chen Ge did not step into it.
"Ruoyu, are you home alone?"
"Yes, yes. Daddy... daddy, still... work." Luo Ruoyu looked at Chen Ge confusedly as if wondering why he was not stepping into the house. Her blinking eyes kept staring at Chen Ge.
"Then I will wait for him here." Without closing the door, Chen Ge sat down. Luo Ruoyu followed him and leaned against him. With nothing better to do, Chen Ge decided to tell her some stories to pass the time. As the only member left in the Ghost Stories Society, Chen Ge had a library of stories to tell. However, in the stories that he told Luo Ruoyu, he purposely left out the darker parts and only told her the brighter parts of human nature.
After who knew how long, Chen Ge's father finally returned. He looked even more tired than the day before, and the arms that carried the bags of vegetables had obvious black threads all over them.