"Can you hear their voices? They are telling me their stories and pain. Even though their bodies have perished, their lingering spirits have remained." The man slowly opened his arms, and the changing side of his face slowly settled down to become his own face.
He looked at Chen Ge. "I once personally witnessed something like this. The girl was standing at the edge of the roof. The firemen tried their best to talk her back from the edge, but the passersby who were gathered were cheering for her. They saw her death as a type of entertainment. I know it's not appropriate to say that, but that is the truth. They took out their phones to take pictures and urged her to jump. Then they would record everything-they might even share it online and couple it with an emotional response.
"These people are not an exception. It's because of their existence that so many people that should not have died were forced to the edge of despair."
Chen Ge looked at the man on the opposite side of the track. He understood the man to a certain degree, but it did not mean that he agreed with him fully. "Friend, I understand that there are many terrible things and people in the world-they are all around us-but other than them, there are still many more beautiful things in the world. The mix of good and bad forms the foundation of our lives. I think that your teacher has quite a good point-you are someone who sincerely placed himself in the shoes of your patients and are a good man, but you are not suitable to be a suicide prevention hotline operator.
"You said it yourself, you hope to change people into someone who can absorb and release love, but you did not realize that you have been subconsciously and slowly influenced by your callers. Your world was slowly corrupted by these terrible things, and all you can see are those ugly and disgusting things.
"Actually, the world hasn't changed; it has always been like that. The thing that has changed is you."
The Red Specter on the other side was a kind-hearted man. This was also the first time that Chen Ge had seen a pure and kind person become a Red Specter after their death. This went against his previous experience with Red Specters. They were normally formed from a collection of negative emotions, desperation and despair.
The man had become a Red Specter not because of extreme hate or extreme love, and not because of negative emotions or resentment, but because of kindness. A normal person needed to shoulder the painful pasts of many suicide victims-that was impossible in Chen Ge's eyes, but the man before him had managed to do that. From a certain perspective, this Red Specter might have greater potential than Zhang Ya, but the man did not seem to know how to utilize it.
The man did not expect Chen Ge to counter his perspective. He looked at Chen Ge straight in his eyes. There was a unique type of emotion turning in his eyes. His calmness was shattered, and he appeared rather agitated. "Do you know why I told you these things, why I chose to share them with you?"
"Why?" Chen Ge had not expected to convince the man with just a few words. He knew that a person's way of thinking was not going to be so easily changed. He simply thought that the man must be so tired of shouldering all that pain. Be it when he was alive or after death, perhaps he could try to find a different way of living.
"The phone number that you've saved in your phone, that was my operator number. The people that you've called and talked to, those are the victims that I failed to rescue." The man's tone and expression became weirder and weirder. His facial features slowly twisted. If he had given Chen Ge the impression that he was no different from a living person at the beginning, that sense of humanity had now completely disappeared.
"The callers were your test. If you did not help them, mocked their deaths, or ignored their plea for help, then you would have soon joined the legion of shadows behind me." The man had moved from one extreme to another-this type of thinking was very dangerous.
"Looks like I'm quite lucky. Does that mean I've past the test?" Chen Ge knew that it was not so easy to gain a Red Specter. He had spent plenty of energy to convince normal Red Specters like Yan Danian and Xu Yin to join him. To get Zhang Ya, he had even sacrificed his happiness for the rest of his life. To gain the reward, one had to provide the same amount of effort. Everything provided by the black phone was an equal trade. There was no shortcut or bargain.
"You were supposed to communicate with seven callers, but I did not expect you to pinpoint one of the callers' location just from environmental clues; that is something that I would not have been able to do."
The man's expression was still scary and savage, but his eyes had softened by a lot.
"I also did not expect you to risk your life to save someone who is nothing but a stranger to you. In fact, you rushed to the track and jumped before a train before you could consider whether the person was a human or a ghost. Did you consider this? If you were a few seconds slower, then you would have lost your life too."
"Whether it's real or fake, I would have done the same thing because a human life is on the line. I could not hedge my bets, even if I was ninety-nine percent certain that this was a trap. For the possibility that a human life could be saved, I am willing to be tricked." Chen Ge's voice was even but powerful. It sounded comforting to the listener.
"Then you're really an idiot." The man paused, and complicated emotions entered his eyes.
"So be it, perhaps I really am an idiot. I've done many similar things before. Many people have called me out on it, but I've gotten used to it myself." The atmosphere slowly softened, and Chen Ge asked probingly, "Now that I've passed your test, what are you going to tell me next?"
He looked at the Red Specter across the tracks with anticipation. His eyes were glowing as he scanned the crowded black shadows behind the man. Being stared in that manner, the man frowned slightly. "Indeed, this has never happened before. This number is merely a tool that I used to silence and appease the hatred of the suicide victims. I used it to sift out the creeps that dared to mock the dead and then take their lives away. You have passed the test, but that only means that you've earned the right to live."
"You've used this number to kill?" Chen Ge's voice turned icy. He really did not expect that this number, which had once saved so many lives and represented hope for so many people, would end up becoming a tool to kill. The man treated the same number in a completely different manner prior to and after his death. This made Chen Ge feel a certain way.
"I know that you'll think that is weird, but doesn't that fit the wishes of certain people?" A smile appeared on the man's strange face. "After my death, this number that has saved so many lives was painted by these crazies to be a number that is cursed by the devil. Those who called the number would be cursed and become unlucky. They would get into accidents and die. They even wreathed a horror story around me. What I'm doing now is merely turning their stories into reality."
There was no joy of revenge in the man's voice-it just sounded cold and detached. Chen Ge understood the man's thoughts. He had never wanted to hurt anyone, but he was the one who had ended up being hurt the most. Even after death, he could find no peace, if the man's personality did not change after experiencing all that, then something was really wrong.
After giving it some thought, Chen Ge slowly spoke. "Actually, we are rather similar. We are the type of idiot who will give up everything to place ourselves in the shoes of other people, but in the end, we end up losing ourselves."
When the man heard Chen Ge, his frown relaxed. He was about to say something, but he was interrupted by Chen Ge. "But we're also completely different. The road that I chose is different from yours. You chose to silently keep everything in your heart until, eventually, you couldn't fit anything in anymore and collapsed. Actually, you do not need to lead such a tired life. You cannot change everyone, but the person whom you can change is yourself. I'm not trying to get you to change who you are-I just hope you'll understand your own importance."
Chen Ge used his own experience to try to persuade the man. "I've met many horrible people in my life, and they all came from different walks of life. They came after other people's lives to either cure the illness in their heart or to fulfil a certain belief. They would stop at nothing and would destroy everything to get what they wanted. Of course, there are those who were born with a broken heart and sealed the love that they could not enjoy in the wall. I've seen many similar stories."
Chen Ge kept his tone even and calm. He had really experienced many things in this short period of time. The man studied Chen Ge and believed that Chen Ge was not lying. "If you've seen so much evil in the world, why would you risk your life to save a dead person? Did you realize that this was a trap from the very beginning, speculate about my intention, and then purposely do something like that?"
In the man's eyes, Chen Ge was a very clever person. He had managed to figure out the caller's location from the background noises on the phone. Now, he started to form suspicions about Chen Ge, believing that this could be a trick.
"Yes, I've met many bad people, but I was not influenced by them. I have my own way of living, and I have my own principles. No matter what they said or did, I knew that I only had to make sure that I did one thing well." Chen Ge stood across from the Red Specter. Their power was not on the same level, but in terms of presence, they were quite similar.
The man had this similar concern before, and he asked Chen Ge without thinking about it, "What is it?"
"To be myself." Chen Ge was a normal-looking person, but he had a very bright smile. He was able to bring comfort to people around him no matter the time. "Society is very cruel, but I made sure to maintain my own warmth. I do not care about the chaos in the world; I only hope that I can maintain my honesty and kindness and stay true to myself. That is more than enough."
"That is all?" The man opened his lips to say something, but the train came through right then to separate him from Chen Ge. The ground shook, and what the man said later was swallowed up by the trundle of the train. Chen Ge could not hear him clearly.
The train ran toward the horizon. The light slowly disappeared, and the surroundings were swallowed up by darkness once more. In the dark night, Chen Ge and Red Specter stood on opposite sides of the track.
Neither of them spoke. Chen Ge had no idea whether his persuasion had worked or not. He sincerely wanted to help the man-he really could use the man to save more people in Eastern Jiujiang. He felt like he shared a same target with the man, so they should definitely work together.
With his hands in his pocket and the night breeze in his hair, Chen Ge stated everything that was in his heart. "Stop holding on to so much pain. There are so many things in this world that you have not experienced. There are so many people standing behind you, and they have placed their last hope on you. You should try to live the life that they were not given on their behalf. Become the person that they want to be with their hopes and dreams-I think that is the real thing that they want to see."
Standing in the night, no one could see the crowded shadows behind the man. He stood where he was for a long time before walking over from the other side of the track. With every single step, the blood on his body disappeared. When he stopped before Chen Ge, the red shirt had returned to normal. He looked just like a normal guy. If he had not found out earlier, even Chen Ge could not have guessed that this was a special Red Specter who shouldered the will of so many suicide victims.
"You shouldn't trap yourself inside that small circle. You are not alone. You should let them enjoy happiness and light. After all, that is the thing that they desire the most in their lives." Chen Ge saw the man nod in agreement, and he revealed a kind smile. "The best life is one with spices. Why don't you follow me for now? I can introduce you to many new friends to regain that warmth and happiness."
"Follow you?" The man's tone was confused. Normally, people would stay away from ghosts, but this young man did not appear all that normal.
"I'm already quite surprised that you're not scared by me. There's no need to force yourself."
"Nothing is forced." Chen Ge did not expect the man to consider him first at a time like this. He reminded himself not to be too eager, or he might scare the man away.
"Your issue is that you always put other people first. I've welcomed many homeless 'friends' before, and I believe that they would be happy to have you join us." In a few days, Chen Ge planned to do something big in Eastern Jiujiang, so he needed as many friends as he could find. Furthermore, the man could transform into a normal person. This was a very powerful ability. Other people would think that he was just a normal Specter, but in reality, he was an extremely scary Red Specter.
No matter what Chen Ge said, the man did not reply. He was different from other Red Specters-he had retained all of his memories from when he was alive. Unlike Zhang Ya and Xu Yin, he had his own autonomy.
"I will go to your place to take a look, but not now." The man showed a rare smile. "After I finish the will of all the spirits that depend on me, I will follow your instructions and try to start a new life."
"The wishes of all the suicide victims?" Chen Ge thought about the mass of shadows following the man. If he completed the wish of every single of them, he probably would not meet the man until several years later.
Chen Ge did not want to wait for years to use the Red Specter that he had won from the black phone. He thought about it and said, "Can you complete so many wishes on your own?"
"That is my promise to them, so no matter what, I will do it."
"You misunderstood me." Chen Ge waved his hands. "I'm actually asking, would you like me to help you complete their wishes? That will make things go faster. I am sure you don't want the victims' souls to remain tormented in this world for too long, right?"
"You want to help me?" This time, the man was really touched. No one had ever treated him like Chen Ge.
"Don't worry, I don't ask for anything else. I just want you to realize, even if the whole world has abandoned you, there is someone who is always willing to stand by your side." Chen Ge extended his hand toward the man. "By the way, I have not asked you for your name. How should I refer to you?"
The man was silent for a very long time before reaching out to shake Chen Ge's hand. "My name is Zhang Wenyu."