Chen Ge reread the series of messages sent by Lee Zheng. The usage of punctuation and the overall tone were indeed a variation from how the inspector would usually communicate via messages. The monster described by Jia Ming in the messages was familiar with changing with its appearance and voice; in other words, it would be able to mimic Lee Zheng's voice perfectly. However, since Chen Ge could not answer the call because he was on the hearse, Lee Zheng could only use written messages to communicate with Chen Ge. This was probably a contingency that the other party would not anticipate before making the call.
Could it really be Jia Ming who is sending messages with me?
Once the thought appeared, it crawled around Chen Ge's heart like poisonous briar, causing the man to work up a cold sweat. His finger hung over the top corner of the screen. After a long time, Chen Ge finally replied to Lee Zheng. "No problem, I'll make sure to stay at New Century Park tonight and won't go anywhere."
"Hmm, I'm just writing this to warn you-the man hates you to an extreme degree, and there is currently a warrant out for his arrest, so he might just take this last chance to go find you. It's better for you to stay put at the theme park. In a bit, I'll arrange some of my men to set up a perimeter around the theme park to protect you."
"So sorry for the trouble."
"Don't mention it, it is, after all, due to our negligence that he was able to escape. But remember, do not wander off to anywhere tonight. Once you leave New Century Park, it is going to be very hard for us to ensure your safety."
"Understood." After Chen Ge gave an affirmative reply, Lee Zheng stopped sending Chen Ge messages like there was no need for communication after his goal had been achieved.
"It just feels like something is not right." Chen Ge held the phone in his phone. Without thinking about the feelings of the other passengers, he called Captain Yan directly, wanting to find corroboration to Lee Zheng's story. It was near midnight, but Captain Yan still accepted Chen Ge's call-this went to show how much he valued the input of this young man. From Captain Yan, Chen Ge confirmed that Lee Zheng had not been lying; Jia Ming had indeed escaped from the hospital.
After hanging up, Chen Ge still felt something was off. "Is it possible that the shadow has escaped from Jia Ming's body but now has possessed Lee Zheng?"
If that was true, then things would become a lot more complicated.
"At the hospital, Jia Ming once told the story where he ran into the shadow and Jiang Long at the latter's bungalow. At the time, Jiang Long was kneeling on the ground, covered in blood, while the shadow stood beside him, holding a knife. This is an interesting scene.
"Considering Jiang Long's neighbor's dogs had just been murdered, can I make the extrapolation that it was Jiang Long who killed the dogs? A real estate mogul had no real reason to murder other people's pet dogs, so obviously, if he had done so, it was forced by the shadow. Yes, the shadow was trying to slowly wear down Jiang Long's constitution. From this point, one can confirm there should be some limitation before the shadow can assume full control over an individual. The weaker the victim's constitution, the easier it would be for the shadow to take control of them.
"Lee Zheng is a professional police inspector; it will very difficult for the shadow to take control of a man like that, but that does not mean it is impossible."
Lee Zheng's messages reminded Chen Ge that the shadow had already abandoned its original host so he could not trust anyone that night.
"Xiao Bu once told me, if I dare venture into Li Wan City again, there will be a serious threat to my life. I've just entered Eastern Jiujiang, and something already happened to Jia Ming who was supposed to be under police surveillance. Can I be sure that this is just a coincidence?"
Chen Ge was about to put his phone away when the screen lit up again. This time, it was Fan Chong who was calling.
"You sure are one busy man." The doctor glanced behind him, signaling for Chen Ge to be quieter. Maintaining a high profile at a location like this would bring him no benefit.
"There are only a few people in my contact list. Even I want to know what is up with them tonight." Chen Ge took out the earphone. After he plugged it in, he answered the call.
"Boss Chen! I've cleared the game! I know the truth now! I finally know the truth!"
"Calm down and slow down. I can hear you just fine." Chen Ge lowered his voice, realizing he was indeed creating too much of a commotion.
"I used the save file that you left behind to try again and again, I ran into eleven new side quests, and the eleven side quests corresponded to eleven crime scenes and eleven human lives. I'm telling you, I used my life to explore every corner of the game, slowly pushing the progress forward, but finally, I've completed all the eleven side quests." Fan Chong sounded incredibly ecstatic on the phone.
"Eleven side quests?" Chen Ge had just come across the number eleven on the messages with Lee Zheng. Facing the police's interrogation, Jia Ming had told the law enforcement eleven different stories. Most of the scenarios in Xiao Bu's game were based on real life; in fact, they were probably derived from something that really happened. Chen Ge suspected that the eleven side quests that Fan Chong had cleared were exactly the eleven real murder cases that Jia Ming told the police.
The town in Xiao Bu's game was based on Li Wan City, so it is only logical for these eleven murder cases to be related to Li Wan City.
After giving it some thought, Chen Ge asked softly, "After completing all the side quests, did you get any kind of hint? Or something akin to a reward?"
"That is why I'm calling you, boss! After clearing all the side quests, the computer screen started to bleed. The grayish style of the game started to change again, and this time, all the buildings turned blood red. Both keyboard and the mouse disconnected, and I lost control of Xiao Bu. She stood inside the game and waved at me. It was real scary. At that moment, I really thought she was about to drag me inside the game with her."
"Focus on the important details please, what happened next?"
"She started to move on her own and entered one of the red buildings. Right then a new window popped up to reveal a line written in blood-Mommy is probably here." Fan Chong took a big gulp of water, still reeling from excitement and fear.
"Was there any specific thing about the building that stood out?" Chen Ge quickly followed up with this question.
"It looked quite normal, nothing special about it, but there was a poster for a theme park pasted outside the wall of the building. Boss Chen, this is the most important reason I'm calling!" Fan Chong sucked in a deep breath. "The theme park on the poster should be New Century Park. Hell, I even saw your Haunted House on the poster."
"You spotted my Haunted House inside the poster?" Chen Ge voiced the question out loud.
"Yes, I have no idea what this represents, but I believe that this means that the game creator probably knows you, and this should be some kind of super hidden Easter egg." Fan Chong was practically buzzing with emotion.
"Nowadays, the theme park has already stopped relying on posters for advertisements. Furthermore, the appearance of my Haunted House hasn't changed for decades, so the poster you saw was probably left behind by my parents." What Chen Ge said only made sense to Chen Ge. He really did not expect to find a clue left behind by his parents inside Xiao Bu's game.
He thought back to everything that Fan Chong had said. After clearing all the side quests, Xiao Bu entered a specific building, and the only thing she said was that her mother was probably inside this building. Chen Ge had no idea whether Xiao Bu had found her mother or not, but Chen Ge realized that his own parents had probably entered that building before.
Is this a clue left behind by them, or is the poster another trap laid by the shadow?
Since the shadow's power was too unique, it could masquerade as anyone. After a brief pause to figure things out, Chen Ge suddenly posed this question to Fan Chong. "What is the brand of the e-bike that you're currently using?"
"Huh? It's from Ai Niao. What's wrong?" Fan Chong was on a high-he had finally cleared the game after spending days trying to work through the game. He had been desperate to find someone to share the joy with, but he did not expect Chen Ge to suddenly ask a question like that. Without even thinking about it, the answer had already slipped out of his lips.
"Nah, nothing's wrong." Chen Ge sighed in relief. Fan Chong was probably the real one, so he answered the question perfectly. "Anything else happen after Xiao Bu entered that red house?"
"I'm sorry, but I can't tell. That is where the game was stuck. I've reloaded the game several times, but that is the furthest I can go. I believe this should be the ending. Xiao Bu, who was in search of her mother, stepped into the deepest part of her nightmare and found the room where her mother probably once stayed in this city filled with murderers and ghosts. The game decides to end there because it wants to have an open ending. This way, the players can come up with the ending that they prefer on their own." Fan Chong had played this game endlessly for a month. He had already gotten attached to the experience without even realizing it; it was as if he had lived through the experience himself.
"You've already gotten addicted to this game, haven't you? Just focus on your computer tonight. If something else happens, call me instantly." Chen Ge had a feeling that more things were connected than he previously realized, and as the dots lined up, he was forced to continue moving forward. "Be careful. Something big might happen in Li Wan City tonight. No matter what happen, do not leave your home tonight."
Chen Ge turned to look at the strange and weird passengers on the bus; all of these 'people' were heading toward Li Wan City. That was their final destination.
"Don't worry, I'll stay to watch over Xiao Bu tonight, and if there're any changes, I'll call you at first notice to bring you the latest update." Fan Chong just finished saying that when there was door knocking coming from the speaker. "Boss Chen, is there someone knocking on the door on your side?"
"That's impossible. I'm outside, and there's no door around me. The knocking came from your side." Chen Ge narrowed his eyes. "Don't go to open the door, and don't disconnect the call."
"The knocking is from my side? But how come it sounds like it came through the phone?" The excitement slipped away from Fan Chong's voice-in its place was uncertainty and confusion. The knocking in the phone became clearer. Chen Ge held his breath to hear better. Fan Chong was also holding his breath, but in his case, it was because he was scared.
"Please don't harm me, I've not done anything bad in my life." There was the sound of a chair being moved; it sounded like Fan Chong had moved to hide inside his bed. However, that did nothing to stop the constant door knocking.
Chen Ge heard clearly from his side. The knocking should have started at the living room door before slowly moving to the bedroom door, like something had entered Fan Chong's room, and the thing was slowly moving toward him.
"Don't panic. Turn on your camera and face the camera toward the door-I'll help you take a look." Chen Ge was worried for Fan Chong as well. However, he was not physically in Li Wan City, so even if he wanted to help Fan Chong, he could not.
"O... okay," Fan Chong stuttered. He worked his phone as the sound of knocking grew. Before he managed to fix the camera, Fan Chong's scream suddenly echoed through the phone. "Big Brother! Save me! Inside the room! He's inside the room!"
The scream was followed by a loud struggle. The cupboards and chair sounded like they were toppled over. The knocking on the door became intense until ten seconds later when the knocking disappeared as suddenly as it appeared, and it became eerily quiet on the other side of the phone.
"Fan Chong?" Chen Ge called softly into the phone, but there was no answer from the other side.
Several seconds later, there was the sound of slippers brushing against the floor as someone jogged over. Then it was followed by Fan Dade's surprised yell. "Xiao Chong‽ Fan Chong!"
Through Fan Dade's yelling, Chen Ge could confirm that something had befallen Fan Chong. He shouted into the phone, trying to get Fan Dade's attention.
"Hello? Boss Chen? Were you on the phone with Xiao Chong earlier?"
"Is Fan Chong injured? Can he still speak? Can you pass him the phone?" Chen Ge was worried about that overweight shut-in.
"But he's not at home! The living room door and bedroom door are both open. It feels like he has just run out of the house!" Fan Dade's words were like a bomb, shaking Chen Ge's heart.
"Not inside the room?" Chen Ge was instantly reminded of the shadow. "Why would he go after Fan Chong? And how did he even manage to locate Fan Chong?"
"Was it you who asked him to go out?" After hearing Chen Ge's voice on the other end of the phone, Fan Dade felt much calmer. He placed immense trust in this Haunted House operator who was much younger than he was. With his help, many problems could be resolved easily.
"Someone broke into your home earlier; it was probably a murderer on the loose called Jia Ming. I suggest you call the police immediately and tell them everything you know. Other than that, inspect all the locations that you can use to hide inside your house. Make sure to keep yourself safe before the police arrive," Chen Ge said in a serious tone.
"A murderer? Why would he come to our home? There is no way Xiao Chong would have provoked someone like that!" Fan Dade's voice rose several pitches out of panic.
"I'll be there in a minute. Focus on what you need to do now. Call the police and take care of yourself."
"Okay, I will call the police now." After Fan Dade hung up, Chen Ge looked at the phone screen, and his fists slowly tightened. His adversary practically kidnapped Fan Chong while he was on the phone with the man. The enemy this time definitely placed some huge pressure on Chen Ge.
"The approaching sound of knocking signifies that the shadow is on the move, but does this mean he is doing this alone or with the help of some other ghosts?" Chen Ge put the phone away. He gripped his hands together with his head lowered to rewind the events in his head. Suddenly, his eyes grew as big as saucer. "Something is weird. Before everything went quiet, the last thing Fan Chong yelled out sounds quite weird now that I think about it. It sounded like someone was clamping their hands over his mouth, and he yelled out those words while he was struggling."
Chen Ge took out some paper and pen from his backpack and wrote down everything Fan Chong yelled.
"Big Brother! Save me! Inside the room! He's inside the room!"
Four terms that sounded like they had nothing to do with each other. At first glance, it probably signified Fan Chong was screaming to get help from his big brother, who lived in the same house as him, but thinking of it from another perspective, if the 'save me' was not directed at his big brother but at Chen Ge, then the whole meaning of the sentence changed.
"Is it possible that Fan Chong opened the door to Fan Dade's room, but he realized how strange his brother was acting compared to usual, like perhaps he was holding a knife in his hand. In that situation, he gasped out for his brother and then turned to the phone to plead for help from me. The 'he's in the room' will come to mean the strange big brother has entered the room to detain him."
The same sentence had a completely different meaning based on whom Fan Chong was addressing.
"Could the shadow have possessed Fan Dade after escaping from the hospital? Then how does that explain what has happened to Lee Zheng and Jia Ming?" Chen Ge felt the hair on his back standing on end-he was getting increasingly unsettled. "Hopefully, I'm simply overthinking this."
If Fan Dade had fallen victim to the shadow, then Fan Chong's home would be a death trap. The shadow would be waiting for Chen Ge to arrive to claim his life.
"Shall I go save him?" Chen Ge's eyes scanned the other passengers in the car. His eyes narrowed as a plan started to form in his mind.