"The first time it appeared, I was almost scared to death. Do you think I still have the courage to stay there anymore? I am still renting that place, but I go over to a friend's place to sleep at night," the tall man said with a painful expression. "I came to Jiujiang to search for a better life. I still have not found a steady job, but I am almost losing my mind."
"I can understand your problem. How about this? Tonight, I will go home together with you, and we will go and check out the haunted rooms together." Chen Ge gave his own phone number to all the tenants. "Go back home tonight. I will go and inspect the rooms one by one. I hope everyone will be able to cooperate with me."
"Why can't you go and take a look at the place now? Honestly, I do not dare enter that place anymore at night. Whenever I step into it, I feel my heart shivering as if someone is staring closely at me." The tall man appeared to have been traumatized by this horrifying experience.
"You can wait outside the door first. When I arrive, we will go into the room together." Chen Ge asked for the details of everyone that wanted to request for a move away. After he jotted down all the strange phenomena, he finally got them to leave in peace after much persuasion and nudging.
Seeing the whole pages filled with notes, Chen Ge was rather confused and confounded by it. If none of the tenants were lying, the intensity of the supernatural activity at this residential area was as high as the two-star scenarios at his haunted house. Almost every room was a background for supernatural activity, and they were the kinds that got scarier and scarier, the kind that would make one's hair stand on end the more one thought about it.
"Do you really intend to return the money to them?" The boy's mother poured a cup of tea for Chen Ge. "I know you wish to help me, but I advise that you do not get yourself involved in this mess."
"Things are not so easy on their end either. I am merely taking their concern into consideration. Since I believe I can help them, why not?" Chen Ge had his eyes on this residential area as he entered the housing agency, so even if the tenants did not face any problems, he would 'create' some problems so that he could step forward to provide his help. That was the highest height of being a good Samaritan.
"The group of tenants still do not trust you. They heard that you are willing to pay them back their rent and deposit, and that is why they came up with all those fake stories to scam you." The boy's mother handed the cup of tea to Chen Ge.
"You think they are telling fake stories? You do not believe them?"
"Of course, I have been a worker here for so many years. If this place was really haunted, I would have handed in my resignation letter a long time ago." The woman sighed. "As you know, the economy these days is not so good. They just want to find an excuse to move away without breaking the signed contract."
"You have worked here for so long, but you have not run into one single strange phenomenon?" Chen Ge was rather surprised. The residential area that the woman described was vastly different from the one described by the group of disgruntled tenants.
"Hiding the fact that a place was a murder scene was indeed the fault of our agency, but you have to understand that in that case, we are also a victim. It was the landlord who lied to us and kept that from us."
"Then, it is your company's lack of responsibility to not conduct a further investigation. Put yourself in their shoes. If you found out that you and your son have been staying at a murder scene, wouldn't you feel more than a bit unsettled by it?"
"As a matter of fact, my son and I are currently living at a former murder scene. We bought it about ten years ago, and the price was at least a quarter lower than the market price. We have lived there for a decade, and nothing out of the ordinary has happened. Actually, most of the time, this talk of ghosts is just a matter of the mind. As long as you do not overthink it, it really does not matter whether you are staying at a haunted house or not." The woman was surprisingly courageous but strangely close-minded. She had a determined heart and a gentle way of speaking, so that combined to make her a perfect receptionist at an estate agency.
"You are also living at a former murder scene?" Chen Ge slowly lifted his head to look at the woman. "And you have been living there for over a decade?"
"That might be difficult for you to grasp, but for a person in the estate agent business like myself, there is nothing that can phase me anymore. Not everyone minds living in places where other people have once passed away."
"I mean, have you not run into anything strange occurrence in the past ten years? Has your child told you anything out of the ordinary?"
Once the child was brought up, it was as if a wall was built around the woman. She lost her interest in their conversation almost instantly. "Even at his current age, he is barely able to call me 'mom'. What out of the ordinary thing could he have told me? I am in your debt for helping me chase them away, but you are trying to wake up a bunch of people who are faking their sleep. They are just trying to scam you. Tomorrow, they will return to demand the promised rent and deposit from you."
"Don't you bet on that so fast." Through the short conversation, Chen Ge noticed the problems with the woman. She not only refused to believe in the presence of the supernatural, she would also subconsciously negate and ignore everything that had anything to do with the supernatural. So many tenants had come to her with the complaints that the place was haunted, but the woman believed obstinately that they were just a bunch of dissatisfied tenants who wanted to break their rental contract. Furthermore, from her tone and expression, Chen Ge realized that the woman was not faking her belief. It was from the bottom of her heart that she believed that the tenants were trying to create a ruckus, and she refused to be swayed by their stories, not even a bit.
"Then I won't disturb you anymore. I will go to the tenants' place to take a look." Chen Ge took the white paper that was filled with handwriting and started his preparation for the mission that night. The woman's son might be the ninth child chosen by the ghost fetus. Getting to know the child and his surrounding living environment would effectively lower the difficulty of the impending mission.
"I will go with you since there are no customers now. Even if someone does come, they will be scared away by those old tenants." The woman packed her stuff, grabbed a bag, and walked out from behind the service counter.
"Is that really appropriate?"
"It is our job as estate agent to help our customers take look at their prospective houses. If you really return their deposits to them and take on all their rooms, then you will be one of our biggest clients in the future. How is this not appropriate?"
The two walked down the old, deserted street to enter the rather aged residential area close by.
"Jin Hwa Apartments and Jiu Hong Apartments used to be separated, but due to some unknown reason, the wall between the two apartments was broken down. Now, the two apartments are in one residential area."
The woman was a good estate agent. She had memorized all the details regarding this place in her heart.
"The one with the brand-new white coat of paint is Jin Hwa Apartments. They were built about twenty-six years ago. Most of our tenants are staying at this place. Jin Hwa Apartments consists of two separate buildings, A and B, and each apartment building has nine floors. Back when it was built, it was one of the tallest building around the old city. It came equipped with an old-fashioned elevator. By the way, this is where my family lives.
"The few squatter, gray-looking buildings on the side are Jiu Hong Apartments. There are four buildings in total. Initially, the developer wanted to build many high rises that rose up into the sky, having nine floors as the name suggested, but some kind of problem happened when they built onto the fourth floor. Regardless, the name Jiu Hong Apartments has stuck."
After entering the residential area, the woman was conspicuously more relaxed and at ease.
"Actually, Jiu Hong Apartments is not a bad place. They are facing the river that runs through the city on the western and eastern side. On the southern side, there is a small fruit orchard, and it is connected to Jin Hwa Apartments by the northern side. Other than the lack of good lightning, it is a good place to live."
"Are you sure estate agents can say things like that? Those are just blatant lies, right? This place is so isolated that there are barely any people around, and you are telling me this is a good place to live?" Chen Ge took a good look around. The place where Jiu Hong Apartments was situated was very backwoods. The place was basically cut off from the rest of the city on both the east and west side by the rivers, and eerie looking woods were situated on the northern side. If the woman did not mention it, he would not have believed it was a 'fruit orchard'. Even after the woman had said so, Chen Ge was still not convinced that it was the truth.
"At least the air here is very fresh, and it is untainted by the city. You have to understand how difficult it is to find a place as clean as this sanctuary in the middle of a bustling city."
Once the woman finished, she noticed that Chen Ge had stopped moving. She followed the direction of Chen Ge's gaze and noticed that Chen Ge was staring at a sign pasted on the wall outside the Block A of Jin Hwa Apartments. The general content was that this place was haunted and warned people to stay away from it if they could.
"This is just one of the tricks came up by the tenants, venting their emotions. Ignore it." The woman moved silently to remove the sign. After taking a quick tour, Chen Ge had familiarized himself with the layout of the residential area. Jin Hwa Apartments was connected to Jiu Hong Apartments, and there were two entrances. The bigger and more official entrance was on the side of Jin Hwa Apartments, and the other entrance was closer to Jiu Hong Apartments. It led toward that creepy orchard.
"Why does the entrance lead to the orchard? What is the purpose of placing it there? Do people go to the orchard often?"
"Initially, the developer of Jiu Hong Apartments planned to design that spot as a bio garden, but the plan did not take off. The concept was a bit new-fangled at the time, and many people did not even understand what it meant, so most of the people did not agree, and the plan was eventually left abandoned."
A poor, old, tattered, and eerie location was turned into an untouched natural paradise in the middle of the city by the woman. That was probably her professional skills kicking in.
"There is no need for you to give the sales pitch. I am here to solve the tenants' problem, not to find a place to rent."
Jin Hwa Apartments looked at least relatively normal. From the surface, it was a typical residential area. Other than the lack of tenants and a still quietness, there was nothing wrong with it. In contrast, Jiu Hong Apartments next to it was completely different. It was the direct opposite of Jin Hwa Apartments. There was not even one human life that could be seen. It was more like a deserted building than an apartment housing area.
"I say, is this residential area completely empty?"
"It's not that bad. There are good old tenants who have lived here for a very long time. The rent here is very cheap, and you can get cheap supplies around the area. After some time, you will get used to it, and you might even find the freedom quite enjoyable."
"Those who can get used to living at a place like this are not so simple themselves probably."
Narrowing his eyes, Chen Ge swept the few old buildings. It was just a quick glance, but he had already noticed some very scary details. On the balcony of the third floor of the first building, there hung a row of wigs. The tenant was probably a hairdresser, but this was the first time that Chen Ge had seen someone dry their rows of wigs out in the sun and rain in such a manner before.
"What's up with the wigs?"
"The tenant on the third floor of the first building of Jiu Hong Apartments was a teacher at hairdressing school, but after his school shut down, he brought all the fake head models and wigs home. Since this place is so close to the water, the air can get pretty humid at times. So, he occasionally puts his wigs out in the sun to prevent them from getting moldy." The woman was not lying when she said that she had been living here for years. She was familiar with most of the tenants there.
"The other tenants have no issue with him doing something like this?"
"He has done nothing wrong. He's just drying the wigs out in the sunlight. How does it affect others?"
The wigs stood in a row on the third floor. As scary as they were, it was still acceptable. His eyes continued to move upward, and on the fourth floor, Chen Ge saw a human shadow standing behind the curtain. Ever since Chen Ge stepped into this place, the human shadow had not moved from his spot.
"Do you know who lives on the fourth floor?"
"It is a single middle-aged man. He is rarely seen outside his home. No one knows what he does for a living, but whenever he's seen, he's dressed from head to toe in branded clothes."
"Then, there is a very big problem with that. Why would a person decked out in expensive clothes choose to live in a place like this?" Chen Ge had already memorized the man's room location in his mind.
"Who knows? Perhaps he is running away from some debt."
As his eyes continued to move up, Chen Ge discovered something else on the fifth floor. The room on the leftmost side had the curtain pulled off slightly, and through the gap, half of a binocular and some professional camera equipment were exposed. If not for Chen Ge's Yin Yang Vision, he would not have caught sight of those things.
"A peeping tom?"
Out of habit, he turned to the opposite building. There were female undergarments of various colors and even different sizes hung on the balcony of the fifth floor on the second building. If that was just everything, Chen Ge would not have minded it, but the problem was that he noticed many very big and bulging black plastic bags that occupied the balcony as well. Who knew what was stuffed inside them?
"Hey! It is rude for you to stare like that," the woman warned Chen Ge softly. "A pair of sisters live on the fifth floor of the second building. They are both quite young, and they came from the countryside. They are quite innocent and new to the city."
"Innocent and naïve?" Standing inside the residential area, Chen Ge already felt a headache coming. The problem with this residential area was much more serious than he thought. Most of the normal tenants were gearing up to leave already, and those who wanted to stay were abnormal to a certain degree. "Other than the ghosts, I will need to be careful of the tenants as well."
There were too many extenuating factors to consider. It was surprisingly hard to get to know the boy, but at this point, Chen Ge had no other choice but to keep going. After moving around for half an hour, Chen Ge was covered in sweat. He was feeling rather fatigued.
"You lack physical training. We have not even walked for that long." After this period of interaction with Chen Ge, the woman realized that the man was quite a good person. Even though he might come up with some strange comments and have a naturally suspicious personality, he was quite an interesting person and was quite approachable and kind.
Chen Ge wiped away the sweat from his forehead. He also felt that this was very weird. He had never had any problem with his physique before. He rarely felt tried, but as the ghost fetus trial mission continued, his physical condition had continued to spiral downward.
To become a complete person, one must fulfil two conditions-a coffin that buries the past and a body brimming with life. Could the vessel that the ghost fetus is planning to use be mine? Or perhaps when he is completed, will I become a defect?
It was the final day for the ghost fetus mission. Chen Ge knew that allowing his thoughts to wander to impossible places was not going to help his case, but he could not stop himself. It was as if his body could sense that something bad was about to happen.
"You do not look so good. Is it from the sun? Do you want to stop by my place to take a quick rest?"
"That's not a bad idea."
The woman did not expect Chen Ge to take up her offer so readily. After a pause, she led Chen Ge into Building A of Jin Hwa Apartments. They took the old elevator to the fourth floor. Before they walked out from the elevator, they could hear the screaming and crying of a child.
"Damn it!" The woman jogged to Room 401. She pushed open the door and dashed into it. The place was a complete mess. Plastic cups littered the ground, and puddles were everywhere. The fruit basket on the coffee table was overturned, and different kinds of fruit rolled all over the ground.
Chen Ge followed the woman into the room. He noticed that all the lights in the room was switched on. Not only that, all the drawers and cupboard doors were pulled open. Even the fridge was left open, as if someone had been searching for something inside the room. Side-stepping the fruit and trash on the ground, Chen Ge walked toward the bedroom and then saw a gut-wrenching scene.
The boy had cried until his eyes had swollen shut. A scary noise was coming out of his mouth. His teeth were tightly gritted together, and the expression on his face spoke of pain. The boy seemed unable to control his emotions. His whacked heavily and repeatedly on the woman, and he even used his mouth to bite on her shoulder.
"Do you need some help?"
"It's fine. Xiang Nuan is just afraid."
Blood was coming out from her shoulder wound, but the woman maintained her posture. The boy knocked heavily into the woman's body, but she lightly caressed him, her fingers trailing gingerly down the boy's back. After a few minutes of this, the boy finally returned to normal. He plonked to the ground and pulled on the woman's sleeve with an innocent expression on his face.
Chen Ge had many questions, but to not impose too much on the woman, he waited for a long time before he asked them. "How often does this happen? Why didn't you just send him to a special ed school?"
"I sincerely do not know where to start." The woman rubbed her shoulder and looked at the boy on the ground. "Xiang Nuan is a bit different from other children."
 Jin Hwa can also mean Golden Shine.
 Jiu Hong can also mean Nine Great.