The thick fog isolated Chen Ge from the bank. The small boat turned lazily while being fixed to one spot, causing the passenger to slowly lose his sense of direction.
"Chen Ge..." That familiar voice called next to his ears again. Chen Ge frowned, and he tried his best to think. However, there was no memory related to this voice in his mind. It was very familiar and friendly, like this voice had once accompanied him for a very long time.
Could this be my parent's voice? But that shouldn't be! How could I not recognize my parent's voice?
In the fog, Chen Ge felt his mind fading, and to stop that, he bit on his tongue harshly.
This doesn't feel like something that should exist inside a two-star Trial Mission. I'm probably being ambushed by something more dangerous.
Chen Ge quickly calmed down. He knew clearly within his heart that since he had ruined the Eastern Jiujiang's culprit's plan so many times, the latter must have hated his guts.
The shampoo bottle in his backpack shook even harder, and the strands of black hair crawled out through the small crack to wrap themselves around the bottle, making it look strange and scary.
"Are you trying to tell me something?" From how Chen Ge saw it, Wen Wen's big sister was also a victim, so she would not help the culprit come and harm him. The hairs bound and entwined together to become something in the shape of an arrow, pointing a clear direction for Chen Ge to follow.
"She's giving you a sign. The body is right there," Ol' Zhou explained.
"The situation has changed. We're no longer in a hurry to solve this mission." Without getting to the bottom of the truth regarding the voice in the fog, Chen Ge was not going to move around aimlessly.
"Ol' Zhou, can you hear someone calling my name from inside the fog?" Chen Ge sat in the middle of the boat. Listening to the voice from the fog, an indescribable sense of isolation was burgeoning in his heart, like someone was whispering him an ultimate truth. He was alone and was always alone and would continue to be alone.
"No." Ol' Zhou shook his head. His tone and expression were no different from usual, and Chen Ge could not see any visible change to Ol' Zhou's demeanor either, but in Chen Ge's eyes, everything was wrong. He stared at Ol' Zhou's face and took from it a sense of chilliness and ghastliness, like Ol' Zhou was plotting something nasty, a wicked plot to take his life.
"Chen Ge..." The murmuring of the voices was like his closest family, reminding him to stay away from these ghosts and monsters.
"It is good advice for normal people to stay away from ghosts, but the situation is unique for my family. Regardless of whether it was my parents or myself, our opinion and treatment of ghosts are different from normal people, especially considering the situation that I'm in. Without the aid of my spectral friends, I would not have been able to survive this long." Chen Ge knew the truth clearly. "I treat these ghosts as my friends, so naturally, I do not believe that they would do anything dangerous to me. Furthermore, compared to human beings, ghosts are often more authentic and trustworthy."
Looking at the surface of the water, Chen Ge kept his gaze sharp and determined. "I do not know who you are, but you've gotten too far ahead of yourself. You want to turn me against my ghost friends, but you've failed."
Even though his mental faculty was not completely all there, it did not alter Chen Ge's attitude toward ghosts. This was a viewpoint that had been cultivated in him since he was a wee babe. With the influence from his parents and the black phone, his understanding of ghosts was different from a normal person.
"Your voice sounds very familiar and even friendly, but the thing that you want me to do can only bring me harm. The real entity that wants to kill me is you. Stop relying on these tricks, come out and face me. Let me see who you really are." The fog consumed the dam. The small boat twirled, carried by the water current, and the memory in Chen Ge's brain slowly became as fuzzy as the fog around him.
"Chen Ge..." The voice that called his name was incredibly familiar, but this was the scariest thing. Because he did not know such a person, in his memory, such a voice definitely did not exist. That sense of familiarity had nothing to do with memory; rather, it felt like it was branded into his body.
He had encountered a similar experience in the past. When he was doing the Nightmare Mission at the tunnel, after taking the forty-fourth step, there was also a similar voice calling him from deep inside the tunnel. It was the same cadence, same tone. Chen Ge gripped his fists tightly, seemingly having remembered something.
After the voice appeared inside the tunnel, he had seen something extraordinary-he had been killed when he was very small. He would never forget that strange experience of watching himself die. His thoughts were pulled toward that particular incident, and he started to uncontrollably reminisce about it.
"I once entered the tunnel when I was very young, and the person who killed me was standing behind me. From the looks of it, I was very familiar with this person." The boat shook, and so did Chen Ge's body. When Chen Ge extricated himself from the heaviness of that memory, he realized with a start that other than himself, there was no one and nothing else on the boat.
The backpack, Ol' Zhou, Xu Yin, and Wen Wen's sister had all disappeared, and he was the only one left behind on the boat. Fog swallowed up everything, and Chen Ge felt like he had been abandoned by the world. An indescribable feeling of loneliness gushed out from his heart. The temperature continued to drop. A thin sheen of water was coating his exposed skin, and it felt cold to the touch, a big difference from what a normal living human being should feel like.
"What is happening? Is this the special power of a unique ghost that I've not faced before?" He sat down on the boat and grabbed the paddle. Even at a time like this, he had not given up, and he was getting ready to fight.
"Chen Ge..." The voice began anew, and this time, Chen Ge could hear clearly that the voice was getting close to him.
"This is a strange feeling. I once heard this voice inside the tunnel before. When I first got the black phone and did my first Nightmare Mission, this voice also came from inside the mirror. When Doctor Gao destroyed the underground morgue and connected it to the blood world outside, I also felt this sense of familiarity. In fact, the door at the Haunted House's toilet also occasionally makes me feel like it's very familiar, like there is something behind the door that has been calling after me."
His mind was filled with tons of different information. Chen Ge's head was heavy with the information overload. "Have I forgotten something very important? Is it related to my parent's disappearance?"
"Chen Ge..." The voice started again, and it was just several meters away from Chen Ge. Taking a deep breath, he placed the paddle into the water and moved the boat. He decided to go take a look for himself. He rowed for three meters before Chen Ge saw a blurry shadow in the fog. The shadow was small, probably a child.
"The dead body of Wen Wen's elder sister?" He was still thinking about the black phone's mission, which had become sort of an instinct for him. The small boat continued to move forward. As the distance between them closed, the fog started to part to the sides, and the shape of the shadow became clearer and clearer. It was not Wen Wen's sister's body but a little boy.
When he saw the boy's face, Chen Ge's hands that gripped the paddle tightened subconsciously as a chill ran up his spine. This child was the younger version of himself. The familiar face and the friendly voice... but the different thing was, the boy's neck was snapped, and his head was basically dangling off his shoulders. His facial features, twisted beyond belief, radiated a sharp pierce of venom and resentment that Chen Ge had not experienced before.
"Yes, it was my own voice." Chen Ge had thought that the voice was very familiar, but he only realized then that the voice that had been calling him was his very own voice.
"Why would I be calling after myself? Who exactly is this child? How come he looks exactly like me when I was young?"
His brain was about to explode, and Chen Ge massaged his temples with more force than one would feel comfortable with.
"Have I forgotten about something?"
Actually, since the door at the Haunted House's toilet had shown up, Chen Ge had been suspicious about this. Only those in the depths of despair would be able to push open the door, and there was such a door at the Haunted House. Then, the question was, who pushed open that door?
Was it his parent or himself?
When Chen Ge was trying to figure out an answer, the child in the fog lifted his head to look at Chen Ge on the boat. It was hard to describe the gaze of the boy. There was envy, resentment, and an undercurrent of a complicated emotion. This was a very lonely child; he was unable to communicate with anyone else. His body was cold, his face was ugly, and his mind was twisted-the desire to destroy made up every cell in his body.
"Chen Ge, save me..." The familiar voice came out from the boy's lips. He stared at Chen Ge with both eyes. Then, his feet slowly floated above the water, and a different person's shadow appeared behind him. From the size of his physique, it seemed to be an adult. He placed his arms on the young Chen Ge's shoulders and lifted the child up high before slamming him deep into the water.
When the adult's shadow left, Chen Ge could hear a whisper of his voice. "This time, he should be completely dead. There is no way he will return again."
The water rippled, and the adult's shadow disappeared. Chen Ge looked at this scene with shock. When he was doing the Nightmare Mission at the tunnel, Chen Ge had similarly seen the young version of himself being murdered by an adult, and now, when he was conducting the water ghost mission, he realized that he was bearing witness to another murder of his young self.
"What is really going on?" He rowed the boat to the spot where the child had been pushed into the water, and he looked down. His eyes narrowed, and what he saw was quite cruel. The child with the twisted limbs and a bobble-like head was slowly sinking into the water.
The face that reflected the features of Chen Ge's own looked at him through the water. His expression became more agitated as all the pain turned into resentment like he was unwilling to just sink like that into the deep, dark water. His lips slowly opened, and his twisted arms waved upward. The frail body started to float upward, and that scary yet familiar face was approaching in Chen Ge's eyes.
"Chen Ge..." His mind was a mess, and a strange thought suddenly appeared in Chen Ge's heart. It has returned.
Unable to control its body-or rather, that unique voice-caused Chen Ge's thoughts to be influenced. The boy underwater extended his arms. No one knew what had happened to him when he was still alive. His arms were slightly longer than normal, like someone had forcibly disconnected his arms from their sockets.
The pale and noodle-like arms floated up the water, and the face came closer and closer to Chen Ge. The purplish lips opened lightly, and he was calling Chen Ge's name underwater.
The water surface was like the surface of a mirror, with the adult Chen Ge on one side and the Chen Ge warped by resentment on the other side.
Through the water surface, these two completely different lives seemed like they were about to be woven back together.
"Chen Ge, I am you..."
He could not read any special emotion from the body, and his body dipped uncontrollably deeper toward the water surface like he was trying to take a closer look of his reflection in the mirror. The limbs reached out through the surface. The pale fingers touched Chen Ge's face. The touch was very light. Chen Ge could not tell whether the child wanted to pull him into the water or merely wanted to touch his face.
"Who are you? And why have you been calling my name?" Chen Ge could sense a familiarity from the boy, a connection that went beyond blood ties. It was as if they were originally the same person. "Who killed you? Who turned you into something like this?"
Chen Ge kept asking the questions that were in his heart, but the child in the water did not answer. His fingertips were about wrap around Chen Ge's head, but before it could close completely, another hand fell on Chen Ge's shoulder.
The fingers were long, and the blood trails and cracks were like the exquisite work of a tattoo artist. The first impression that was given by the hand was... it was very beautiful. The fog around the boat suddenly dispersed, and an extremely cold and scary presence appeared behind Chen Ge.
The blood-soaked black hair slid down Chen Ge's body, and it fell into the dark water like a rain of metallic needles. It was an attack without target, sinking into the water like it was trying to turn the entire dam upside down.
Chen Ge could feel the hand on his shoulder gripping tighter and his body that was tipping into the water being slowly pulled back.
A shrill scream came from underwater, and the child who looked like the young Chen Ge morphed into a shadow and slipped away. After it disappeared, the spell on Chen Ge was broken. Like someone just pulled up from the water, his whole body was drenched in cold sweat, and he sucked greedily for the fresh air.
When he opened his eyes next, the fog above the water had already completely dispersed. Chen Ge saw Bai Qiulin and Ol' Zhou squeezing behind Xu Yin, shivering. The usually reticent Xu Yin also had an unnatural expression on his face.
"Did Zhang Ya show up just now?" He touched his shoulder. The hand that had landed there earlier was fresh in his memory. The pale skin was crisscrossed with cracks and blood. "Has she still not recovered from her injury?"
The three ghosts on the boat did not dare answer, like the woman inside Chen Ge's shadow was a taboo that they could not mention. Standing up, Chen Ge looked in the direction that the child had escaped.
Using Yin Yang Vision, he saw someone standing at the bank, and he was pushing an e-bike. The person was on high alert. When he felt Chen Ge's eyes on him, he quickly jumped on the bike and rode away.
"An e-bike?" Chen Ge stared at the man's back, and another person's image appeared in his mind. "He looks suspiciously like Huang Ling's husband."
Xiao Gu had accidentally taken the last bus on Route 104 and saved Huang Ling, but later, Chen Ge had realized that the woman's husband actually died years ago and the man sharing her bed now was someone else.
"Why would Huang Ling's husband be here? Is he the culprit in Eastern Jiujiang? That doesn't seem likely." Chen Ge looked at the taillight of the e-bike and was reminded of something else. When he accompanied Captain Yan to go to Ming Yang Residence to look for the broken body parts, parts of the body had been stolen away, and he remembered spotting someone drive into the residence on an e-bike.
"Was he the one who stole the body parts that night?" Chen Ge had thought that Huang Ling's husband was just a small lackey, but from the looks of it, he was mistaken. He put the issue of the salvage aside for now and sent a message to Captain Yan and Lee Zheng, asking for an update regarding Huang Ling and her husband.
While he waited for the reply, Chen Ge turned to look at the water. He could not help but go through the things that had happened earlier. "When I crossed paths with the shadow at the Fresh Water Plant, it also changed into a young version of myself. Is this its special power, or is he really related to my childhood?"