Chen Ge wished to go to warn the middle-aged man, but it was already too late. The cats' meowing grew louder and louder. He hurriedly went to hide in the nearby stairwell. The elevator stopped on this floor. There were no footsteps or the even sound of breathing. Moments later, there came the sound of knocking on the door. The knocking appeared to happen out of thin air. There was no precursor to it at all. It was like the person teleported to the middle-aged man's house and tapped on his door.
"The middle-aged man might reveal my presence to him."
The knocking was incredibly loud, but it did not seem that no one came to open the door. Chen Ge was currently standing on the steps. Even without his power of sight, he was exceptionally calm. In those circumstances, he had chosen not to run but to stay and observe. Ying Chen did not know the situation that he was in, so the situation was temporarily still beneficial to him. The knocking continued for quite some time before the door finally opened. The middle-aged man's voice came from down the corridor.
"Ying Chen? Why have you come to knock on my door? Is it because it's time to pay the building maintenance fee again?" There was a trace of barely hidden annoyance in the middle-aged man's tone. It was clear that he did not take Chen Ge's warning to heart.
"My younger brother, Ying Tong, has sneaked out from home. He still has not come home yet, so I'm very worried. When I came up the stairs earlier, I heard there was someone moving on the floor, so I thought about coming here to ask. Have you seen my younger brother?" Ying Chen's voice sounded incredibly young. He appeared to be much younger in this world behind the door compared to the real Ying Chen in real life.
The world behind the door was built based on the door pusher's memory. In other words, a deduction could be made that this younger version of Ying Chen had left the deepest impression on Ying Tong. Therefore, Ying Chen had done something to Ying Tong when they were both very young, and that incident had been a traumatic experience for Ying Tong. It seared a part of his mind, and he would always remember his elder brother's voice from when that incident happened.
"You have to be more careful since he is a blind kid. It is your fault that you did not close the door and watch over him carefully, and now that he is missing, why have you come to bother me?" The middle-aged man's attitude could not have been worse. From the way he treated Chen Ge, one could see that he was not a friendly guy.
"I'm so sorry. Here are some date cakes that my relative from my hometown sent me. I hope you will accept them. If you happen to see my younger brother, would you please come and tell me? He has extremely poor eyesight, and I am so afraid that some accident might happen to him."
"Date cakes? Why are they so red? Have they been stuffed with food dye?"
"No, they are made from pure natural ingredient, and the taste is exquisite. Please do give them a try. If you think they taste good, I still have some back at my home." Ying Chen was very passionate. So far, he had acted as the middle-aged man had described him to be, a perfectly kind and innocent young man.
"The taste is indeed not bad, although it is quite different from the ones I bought from the street. Okay, if I ever see your little brother, I will be sure to notify you." The middle-aged man spoke with his mouth full. It sounded like he was munching on something. Then, the door closed.
"The middle-aged man did not mention anything about me, but the problem is, Ying Chen did not enter his home, so he should be standing right outside his door right at this moment." The sound of the elevator opening came from the corridor. Chen Ge planned to leave, but at that moment, he heard the meowing of the cats. The sound came from the middle of the corridor. "Ying Chen did not get on the elevator!"
He leaned against the wall, and Chen Ge hurried down the stairs. He did not dare make too loud a noise, but because he was blind, he was unable to move as fast as he wished. If he accidentally tripped or made any noise, he would certainly be captured by Ying Chen. For now, he was unable to predict where Ying Chen was. The cats kept on meowing, so that could only mean that the madman was coming toward the staircase.
"Hey!" The front door was opened again, and the middle-aged man's voice came out from the corridor. "Why are there so many letters inside this bag of date cakes?"
"Those were addressed to me from my relative. I am so sorry. I forgot to take them out from the bag." Ying Chen's voice came from directly above Chen Ge. He had already entered the stairwell, but he was on the fourth floor, while Chen Ge had just slithered to the third floor. Chen Ge was covered in a sheen of cold sweat. He held his breath and froze where he was. "I will take the letters with me. Remember, if you see my little brother, please do come and tell me."
The cats had stopped meowing. When Ying Chen's voice began again, he had already left the staircase and walked to the middle-aged man's door.
"Okay." After saying that, the middle-aged man added not long after that, "Why do you keep trying to peer into my house? Are you suspecting that I am hiding your little brother?"
"It's not that. I merely thought that..." The voices from the corridor suddenly stopped, but they were quickly followed by the sound of a heavy object hitting the ground.
"Ying Chen has made his move on the middle-aged man?" Chen Ge gritted his teeth. The man was swift and cruel with his actions. He did not hesitate for even a second. This kind of enemy was very scary and dangerous. "I have to leave this building as soon as I can. I'd better stay away from him before I recover my power of sight." Chen Ge did not know what kind of power Ying Chen possessed, and he had no idea what kind of world this place was. His understanding and conception of the world was not complete just based on his senses of hearing, smell, and touch. He did not dare stay in the same place for too long. Chen Ge picked up his pace and hurried down the stairs.
"The middle-aged man is definitely a dead man. If Ying Chen mistakes him as the intruder, it'll be perfect. But with Ying Chen's intellect, he will have more suspicion. I must be prepared for the worst. It is not yet time to lower my guard."
With his hands on the wall, Chen Ge walked down the stairs while counting in his mind the number of floors that he had already descended. "Assuming it's like real life, Ying Chen's family lives on the seventh floor, so I should have reached the ground floor now."
There was a landing between the stairs connecting the two floors. It had been consistent so far as Chen Ge went down the building. But once Chen Ge moved to the assumed ground floor, he did not step on a level land, but instead, there were more stairs!
"Is there a basement in the building where Ying Chen's family live?" Chen Ge rummaged through his mind, and he came to a horrifying conclusion. He remembered very clearly that the building that Ying Chen showed him definitely did not have a basement. "This world behind the door is not the same as the one in real life! Damn it!"
Chen Ge was unable to see anything. But Chen Ge had not been discovered by Ying Chen. Other than the help of the cats, there was another reason behind this, and that was because he had been to this building before, and there was a basic layout of its location formed in his mind. By comparing the map with the one in his mind, Chen Ge would not be completely lost. But now that he realized the map in his mind was not one hundred percent identical to this building behind the door, the fear that he had toward the unknown was instantly amplified.
"Should I continue to move down the stairs or knock on the doors of the tenants to ask for help? Another issue is that this building does not have a basement in its real life counterpart, but this staircase continues to move down, so one cannot help but wonder, where does this lead?"
He should have been on the ground floor, but the staircase kept on going. Chen Ge did not know wherein the problem lay. Why would there be an extra basement in this building behind the door?
"Could there be a reflection of the upper seven floors and lower seven floors? Just like how the world behind the door is the reflection of the world outside the door? The top seven floors are filled with normal tenants, but the lower seven floors are inhabited by Specters and ghosts?"
Standing in the stairwell, Chen Ge moved several steps down into the basement. He did not feel any discomfort or feel as if anything around him had changed. The surroundings appeared to have remained the same as well.
"This should not be a reflection of the seven floors aboveground, so is there a possibility that this is an endless loop, Penrose stairs so to speak? The ground floor of the building leads to the top floor of the building, and the top floor of the building is connected to the ground floor. For a blind person, repeating the action of going up and down the stairs will evoke an especially strong sense of despair in one's mind. It will seem like there is no end, and one was just making a futile struggle."
Normally, a person would not have this kind of experience, but it was different for Chen Ge. After all, not that long ago, he had done a nightmare mission at Jiang Yuan Apartments that required him to blindfold himself to get up the building. That had given him a taste of how a blind man would ascend the stairs of a building. Darkness, loneliness, and a fear of the unknown festered at the bottom of a person's heart. They would combine to form a demon that represented fear, and the demon would slowly swallow one whole.
"I cannot keep going. This world behind the door is different from its layout in real life. This means that I need to be extra careful." Chen Ge retreated to the place that he believed was the 'ground floor'. With his hands on the wall, he moved down the corridor. He searched the whole floor and, he came to a very despairing conclusion.
"There is no exit. I cannot leave this place."
Despair started to grow inside his heart. Chen Ge realized that he had seriously underestimated the difficulty of this world behind the door.
"Am I experiencing what Ying Tong once experienced? There is an exit to this building, but for him, the building is akin to his prison. Or rather, it's as if the building is essentially his whole world. He is unable to escape from this place."
Biting the tip of his tongue, Chen Ge used pain to force himself to calm down.
"Looks like, if there is any hope to break this endless cycle, it will be with Ying Tong. He is the door pusher of this door, so he should know how to 'open one's eyes'. Therefore, I need to find Ying Tong before Ying Chen manages to catch up to me!"
Without any clue and deprived of any aid, inside a sealed building, a blind person needed to find another blind person while the former was being chased by a crazed murderer. Chen Ge had not experienced a mission of this kind of difficulty before.
"From now on, I will have to memorize each step that I have taken, every location, and every direction that I am facing."
The world behind the door differed from the real world. Chen Ge could not use that as a basis of comparison anymore, so Chen Ge needed to come up with a new map in his mind. This was something that was incredibly difficult, but Chen Ge had to try to increase the chance of his survival.
Since he could not see, so he had to memorize all the routes that he had taken before. Only by familiarizing himself with the layout of the building would he be able to run without the fear of tripping over something unknown. He might even be able to set down trap to deal with Ying Chen.
Constantly going into hiding was not Chen Ge's style. He wished to use everything within his surroundings to resolve the danger once and for all. Even though he had lost his sight, if Ying Chen merely treated him as a normal blind man and was playing with Chen Ge like how a cat would toy with a weak mouse, then Ying Chen would be in big trouble. The one person that he should definitely not underestimate was Chen Ge.
"The middle-aged man that I met earlier had something akin to livor mortis settling on his body already, and his body temperature was practically non-existent, so the chance of him being a living person is zero. If I look at it from this perspective, is there a chance that the entire tenants of this building are filled with dead people?
"Some of their deaths might be related to Ying Chen while others might have been caused by the ghost fetus. In their eyes, Ying Chen is a very good and kind person. Now what I need to do is try my best to correct their misunderstanding of Ying Chen and have them see the real Ying Chen. That way, hopefully, I will be able to get them to lend me their aid and give me their trust."
The cats had not started to call, so Ying Chen should be quite far away from him. Chen Ge walked to the corner of the 'ground floor' and knocked lightly on the door that was closest to the staircase. In this dark and quiet world, the sound of knocking echoed hollowly. Even Chen Ge himself felt unsettled. It felt like someone was watching him from the door.
"Is the apartment empty?"
Chen Ge moved down to the next door. He knocked for a long time, but no one came to open the door. In fact, he did not hear any movement from inside any of the apartments. He knocked on five consecutive doors, but none of them opened, and this caused Chen Ge to become quite desperate.
"After Ying Chen deals with the body, he will continue his search throughout the building to look for Ying Tong. If he hears the knocking, he will definitely come to check, so this is the best window of opportunity that I have."
Chen Ge moved faster. He kept on knocking until he reached the seventh door when the iron door at the other end of the corridor was suddenly pulled open.
"Are you looking for someone? Why are you knocking on so many doors?" A woman's voice came from behind Chen Ge, and it gave him quite a jolt.
After he adjusted himself, Chen Ge turned around. "Yes, I am looking for a child. His name is Ying Tong."
"He is the boy that lives on the seventh floor. He has lost his sight..."
"I know who he is. But why are you looking for him here? This is not even the seventh floor." The woman was conversing with Chen Ge when a child's painful cry suddenly came from inside her house. The wail was rather similar to how Ying Tong sounded in Chen Ge's memory. But he could not be confident that the child in the woman's house was Ying Tong. After all, he had only heard Ying Tong say one sentence when he was outside the door.
The sound of footsteps clicked across the floor. The woman was returning to her own home while Chen Ge trailed behind her. The woman appeared to be in a hurry. After she entered her house, she did not close the door. Chen Ge almost tripped on the threshold of the door as he followed behind her.
It is that strange smell again! The horrible stench!
The woman's room smelled the same as the middle-aged man's room. It reeked of a stench that was a mix of many different things that had gone wrong. The smell was very pungent. The sound of a child crying and wailing kept coming from inside the house. Chen Ge was worried that the loud commotion might attract Ying Chen's attention, so he reached over to the door and clicked it shut.
"What is wrong now? Weren't you being fine earlier? Did you see something that scared you?" The woman sounded urgent and anxious. Then came the sound of drawers and cupboards being thrown open. It sounded like the woman was desperately looking for something. Even though Chen Ge previously thought the child's voice sounded similar to Ying Tong's, he had changed his mind because of something the woman said-'Did you see something that scared you?'
Ying Tong was a blind boy, but the child in the woman's room was not blind.
"Stay in there and do not move! I will go and find the medicine for you!" The footsteps echoed around the small room as they came toward the front door. Chen Ge stood back to let the woman pass, but he accidentally bumped into the woman because he could not see where he was standing and where she was moving.
"I am so sorry. I did not mean to do that."
In the dark, Chen Ge wanted to hold the woman to stop himself from falling, and in his panic, he accidentally grabbed the woman by her elbow. The woman had exceptionally thin arms, and her elbow was twisted at an unnatural angle. Chen Ge was quickly flung away by the woman. She seemed to be rather incensed as the tone changed to her voice.
"I am sorry, but I cannot deal with you now. I need to go upstairs to borrow some medicine."
The front door was open, and the woman walked out. Then the door was slammed shut again.
The child's crying slowly died down, and a veil of silence fell over the room.
"The woman's body is unnatural twisted. In fact, it is quite similar to those twisted dolls in Ying Tong's bedroom. Other than that, she has a very low body temperature..."
Ten minutes later, the front door was thrown open again, and the woman returned to the room.
Chen Ge heard a liquid being poured and someone swallowing. After the child had stopped crying, he moved deeper into the door. "Do you mind telling me what kind of disease your child suffers from? Don't be afraid, I am actually a doctor."
"A normal doctor cannot cure his illness anyway." The woman walked out from the inner room and strode to stand before Chen Ge. "Have you heard of aichmophobia?"
"Is it a kind of fear toward a specific object?"
"Yes, once the kid sees anything sharp or pointed, he will act up. Anxious, desperate, despairing, and noisy, he keeps on imagining that people will use those sharp objects to poke into his eyes."