His hand hanging over the bamboo basket, Chen Ge slowly turned around. Starting from several days ago, he had discovered the changes to his body. Even if he had only three to four hours of sleep, he would still wake up refreshed the next morning, his senses were extra sensitive in the dark, and his mind turned agile. The only drawback was the sudden chill that gripped his body. It would not be alleviated even if he wore thick layers.
"Looks like you've noticed it." The old lady raised her arm to reveal the row of red pieces of string that were tied around her wrist. Each string was attached to a small jade pearl. "Of course, a living person will not be able to digest the Specters' favors. A few years after the village massacre, probably due to my constant interactions with ghosts, weird things started happening to my body, the most obvious being the drop in body temperature. No matter the season, my body rarely feels warmed."
Chen Ge had the condition the old lady described, but there was a small difference between them. Chen Ge held the basket that carried Ah Qing's children and returned to the small room. "Granny, you noticed the drop in your body temperature a few years after dealing with the Specters?"
"To be accurate, it was ten years later, and at the time, I was just like you; I didn't pay it much attention." The old woman sounded kind. "Your condition is still light, so you must have started interacting with them several years ago, right?"
"Several years?" Chen Ge's eyes twitched, and after some hesitation, he told the truth. "I saw my first baleful Specter several weeks ago."
The room became silent. The old lady stuttered, probably due to old age, "Sev... several weeks ago?"
"In any case, it's less than a month." Chen Ge touched the back of his hand, and it did feel colder than normal.
"I live in a haunted village and thus interact with ghosts often; the noticeable changes occurred a few years later. You only saw Specters several weeks ago, so how come the body temperature changed so soon?" There was confusion in the old lady's voice. "Did you garner the attention of many ghosts at the same time?"
"Not really." Chen Ge counted in his heart. "Those directly related to me are like ten."
The old lady was silent as she processed this message.
"Probably it has to do with my home. I live inside a Haunted House, so you can consider them my housemates." Chen Ge turned to look at his shadow. "Right, there's also a Red Specter hiding in my shadow; she sticks close to me."
The old lady did not speak. Using her own arm as support, she nudged backward like she was trying to get away from Chen Ge. Noticing the changes to the old lady's behavior, Chen Ge was unsettled. "Granny, how did you resolve the problem? If the issue isn't solved, what will happen in the future?"
"Our situations are not the same; I don't think I can help you." The old lady removed a piece of string from her wrist. "Extended exposure to ghosts will gather Yin energy inside the body. The bead on this string is made from Heat Jade. The people rear the jade, and the jade rears the people. If you wear this long enough, the Heat Jade will balance the Yin and Yang energies in your body. Other than that, you'll need to go to crowded palaces and absorb the sunlight."
"I'll remember that." Chen Ge nodded. There would be crowds at New Century Park in the morning, and the number of visitors would only increase.
"Be careful, my legs became like this because I didn't pay close attention to this." The old lady tied the string back on her wrist. "Actually, I planned to give you several jade beads, but based on your situation, even if I give you all of my Heat Jades, it won't be useful. The key now lies in you." She looked at the row of babies on the wooden bed. "There is a difference between humans and ghosts; make sure that line is still there."
"Okay." Chen Ge was frustrated, but he had no solution. He did not tell the senior that Specters' Favored was just the beginning for him. After winning five baleful Specters, his title might upgrade!
"If there's nothing else, take the child and leave. The person hosting the ceremony is called Zhu Shumei; she's my handpicked successor. She's a kind woman, and as long as you do not purposely show up before her, she will not harm you." The old lady raised her hand. "After midnight, the creatures inside this village will rouse. Be careful when you leave the village, do not enter doors that are open, do not answer when people call your name, hide when you see bright lights, and do not touch any of the coffins."
After thanking the old lady, Chen Ge grabbed the basket and retraced his step. He could sense the pure kindness inside the old lady, so he did not doubt what she said.
Just like I thought, those who are favored by the Specters have pure, kind hearts.
He crawled out of the tunnel, and the cold gripped Chen Ge. There was only a wall of difference, but the world changed.
"You've found the child? Let me hold him." Master Bai took the kid.
When he saw the leaf on the baby's lips, he tried to take it off but was stopped by Chen Ge. "That leaf seems to be able to stop the baby from crying, don't touch it."
Chen Ge had wasted some time inside the old lady's home. Chen Ge waved for Master Bai and Ol' Wei to join him at the ancestral hall's door. He pulled out Ah Qing's map. "The ceremonial procession will pass the wells around the village; we must be careful not to run into them."
The trio soon decided their route, left the ancestral hall, and walked down the street. The ceremony was still ongoing, and the village had changed. Those who had left returned, and death was in the air. All the old houses became creepy, like their original owners had returned for the night.
There were knockings coming from inside the coffin, and unknown footprints could be seen on the streets. The blood on the walls turned vibrant like time was returning to that night. Chen Ge's group turned a corner when Master Bai, who carried the baby, suddenly stopped.
"Did you hear that? Someone is calling my name." The cold wind brushed against their faces, and there was a wispy female voice that resounded in their ears.
Reminded of the old lady's warning, Chen Ge told Master Bai, "Ignore it. No matter what she says, do not answer back."
The three continued to move forward. The previously-clean roads were filled with paper money, and the white paper on the doors of old house fell off. The wooden boards creaked. The sound of the woman became clearer, and it felt like it was coming from all sides. They could not tell where she was coming form, but they did know she was getting closer.
This village is hiding a Red Specter and many tortured souls. Since the Red Specter hasn't awakened yet, these souls will probably attack us so that they can take over our bodies and leave this place.
Chen Ge knew that with the awakening of the many ghosts, the real horror of this three-star scenario was showing itself.