Back at the Haunted House, some of the visitors had already started to figure out the guide to clear three-star scenario. Chen Ge needed to come up with a new scenario to maintain the freshness of the Haunted House, to keep the visitor's anticipation at an all-time high.
The 3.5-star Li Wan City was currently his best possible choice. As the bridge between three-star and four-star scenario, this special scenario would be able to provide his visitors with a much-needed buffer period. This was to avoid visitors who had just cleared three-star scenarios charging right into challenging a four-star scenario.
"Are you okay in there? Do you need help?" Scissors' voice came from the door, and when he spoke, Chen Ge could hear the tattooed man speaking over Scissors. "Be quiet! Try not to scream at a place like this. You have no idea what things you might attract!"
Hearing the voices that came from outside the bedroom, Chen Ge replied succinctly. "Temporarily, there are no signs of danger inside the house. You can come in here."
Picking up the pair of red high heels, Chen Ge walked out of the bedroom. Holding Doctor Skull-Cracker's hammer with one hand, carrying the pair of high heels in another, and with a white cat curled around his shoulders, with how Chen Ge presented himself then, it was incredibly hard for others to treat him as a normal individual.
"What did you discover?" That tattooed man walked over. The reason that he was followed Chen Ge was because Chen Ge was very powerful, so the chance of him escaping when following Chen Ge was the highest. His purpose was pure and simple.
"The door has been hidden. There should be a secret room in this place." Chen Ge walked to the cupboard in the living room and pushed it with the maximum of his might. The blood fog was palpable enough to look solid. It rushed out from the secret entrance, and like a wave, it shoved Chen Ge rudely back several steps.
"This is the source of the blood fog; we'd better be careful." The blood fog left a sticky sensation on their skin, and it felt strangely uncomfortable walking through it. Their clothes stuck to their bodies, and the blood vessels in the air felt like they were trying to crawl into the people's ears and nostrils.
"Are you sure we should be going down?" The drunkard's Adam's Apple was shaking. "How come it feels like we're voluntarily walking into a trap?"
He shook his head and took a step back while carrying the doctor.
After Chen Ge saw everyone in the group come closer, he voiced his opinion. "No one knows what is inside this secret tunnel. Half of us should stay out to watch over the surrounding while the other half will follow me to go down here. That is the safest solution."
"The people who stay outside mustn't be too weak. They must at least be able to give out a warning when they are attacked, so I suggest Scissors and the police stay behind." Chen Ge had his own consideration. Of everyone there, he trusted Scissors the most. "One is a crazed serial killer and the other is a police officer armed with a gun. With them watching the exit, there shouldn't be too much of a problem."
"Can I please stay outside as well‽" The drunkard raised his arm high. "I am carrying the doctor, so I won't be able to run fast. If I follow you, one death might lead to two bodies."
"Are you sure that is the correct way to describe your situation?" The tattooed man pursed his lips. Actually, he did not want to go down this path either, but he could not come up with a suitable excuse.
"Alright, the two of you can stay, but the rest of you have to follow me." Chen Ge then turned to look at the smiling man. Actually, this man was probably the strongest aside from Chen Ge, but to leave the safeguard of the only exit to a stranger, Chen Ge was too cautious to do something like that. Out of Chen Ge's expectations, the smiling man did not say anything. He walked to the door and appeared as honest as they came.
"What happened to this man? How come he is so different from the man who was on the bus?" Chen Ge used his Yin Yang Vision to study the man closely. With that, he noticed how awkward and frozen the expression on the man's face was. There were droplets of blood red sweat sliding down the man's sideburns. He seemed to have run into a monster that was beyond his expectations in Li Wan City, so he desperately wanted to leave this place.
Chen Ge did not ask for details. He and the smiling man had some sort of a mutually beneficial relationship. They were working together because they happened to have the same goal. However, if there was a split in their thoughts, they would not hesitate to sell the other person out.
"This is the criminal that I was tasked to apprehend, so I have to watch over him constantly. Therefore, I apologize, but he cannot follow you to go down this place." Lee Zheng pressed firmly on Jia Ming's shoulders and his tone was very unshakeable.
"You can find dangerous criminals everywhere in this place, but a police officer working for justice cannot be rarer here." The high-schooler revealed a mysterious smile, and the expression on his face made others uncomfortable.
"No problem." Chen Ge wanted to separate Jia Ming and Lee Zheng and then use his own method to discern whether Jia Ming was the shadow or not, but since Lee Zheng had showed such firmness in his attitude, Chen Ge did not push. After all, Lee Zheng was only acting within his accepted personality. If he handed Jia Ming over without hesitation, then Chen Ge would have been suspicious.
"Help us stay guard over the entrance. We'll be back in a minute." The tunnel behind the cupboard was incredibly narrow, and only one person could squeeze through at a time. Naturally, Chen Ge was leading the group. He summoned Xu Yin, held the red high heels, and nudged forward one step after another. After moving about five meters, Chen Ge felt like he was no longer enveloped inside the blood fog but instead had fallen into a blood lake, and every single step was harder to make compared to the one before it.
What kind of trap will the shadow set? Collapsing the entire building to bury us alive? Or detonate the door that has gone out of control and kill all of us in the process?
Many different scenarios appeared in his mind, but before Chen Ge could figure out an answer, the door that had been pushed open by Xiao Bu at Li Wan City appeared before his eyes.
The door of the iron cage that was used to detain Xiao Bu's mother had been distorted out of shape. Thick vines of blood vessels crawled onto the door like they had a mind of their own. Compared to a normal door, there were several details that were unique to this door.
First, the door that was swimming with blood vessels was filled with cracks like it could crumble at any moment. Secondly, the four edges of the door were conspicuously ruined, and a large piece that was supposed to sit in the middle of the door was hollowed out. If the door was compared to a human being, it felt like a person's head and four limbs had been removed.
"Look at the bottom of the door." Chen Ge discovered the biggest difference with this 'door'-there were endless black-reddish fingers reaching out from underneath the door to pull at the wooden frame, preventing it from closing fully.
"I've seen many doors, but this is the first time that I've encountered something like this." The fingers had bumps and hollows like they were victims of boils and pox. In any case, they looked really scary.
"These fingers should belong to the lingering spirits of the hospital patients. When the epidemic swept Li Wan City, the death count that came from this place was undocumented, but it had shrouded the small town was with a suffocating air of resentment." The tattooed man wiped at the cold sweat around his forehead. He made sure to stay as far away as he could from the fingers. "The shadow probably chose this particular door in Li Wan City because he wanted to make use of this pool of negative emotions."
Endless blood fog rolled out from behind the gap in the door. The fog was so thick with negative emotions that even Chen Ge who had nerves of steel would suffer from hallucinations when he went too close to the door, much less everyone else.
"We've found the door, but I don't think this is the exit." Chen Ge looked through the gap of iron cage; it was a total sheet of redness on the other side of the door. "How about we try to smash these fingers into the pieces? Will that release their power over the door?"
"We should ignore those fingers; they are merely a vessel for the pain and negative emotions. They do not affect us in any way." This was the first time that the smiling man had spoken in a normal tone. "The biggest issue here is that this is an incomplete door. So, if we wish to escape through this door, we need to fix the missing parts of the door."
"Li Wan City is too big for a treasure hunt like that." The tattooed man had already given up. "No wonder there is no one left behind to guard over this place-there is no need for that at all. The shadow has already planned everything-he is steps ahead of us."
"Don't be so quick to give up." Chen Ge studied the seriously-damaged door and suddenly turned to address the tattooed man. "You mentioned earlier that most of the outsiders came through the ghost apartment to enter this place?"
"Yes, but the ghost apartment is just a smokescreen." The tattooed man was hit by the powerlessness he felt before the shadow. His years of investigation had amounted to nothing.
"No, the shadow will not do something that pointless. There has to be a purpose for him building that ghost apartment." Chen Ge walked to stand before the door. "The ghost apartment is situated at Ming Yang Residence. I once followed the police to Ming Yang Residence on one of their investigations, and we discovered the cut up remains of a girl at the place. There were four limbs and a head. Her dismembered body parts were hidden in the four buildings at Ming Yang Residence, and her head was buried right at the center of the residential area."
"What are you trying to say?" The tattooed man still had not caught up to Chen Ge's intention.
"The girl who was killed was the person who pushed open this door. Her remains were dismembered and hidden in Ming Yang Residence, which is the location for the ghost apartment. And the most important thing is..." Chen Ge pointed at the blood door that had gone out of control. "Doesn't this door look like a person who has lost their head and four limbs?"
That knocked the sense into the tattooed man, and he was the first to elaborate. "For the door-pusher, the door is the vessel of their spirit or their body! I think I get it now; you're saying that the parts that are missing from the door have been hidden by the shadow at Ming Yang Residence! The girl's remains correspond to the broken door!"
"It was not the shadow who pushed open the door at Li Wan City, but somehow, it was taken over by the shadow. To fulfil his own goal, he purposely made this door go out of control. If that is the case, then where is the original door-pusher? Has she chosen to surrender, or was she brought under the shadow's control via certain means?" Chen Ge was not making a startling discovery, but most people would not have time to slow down and figure out these things under such extreme circumstances.
"Looks like locating the door is merely the beginning. I've underestimated the whole situation." The tattooed man had a bitter expression on his face. "So, are you going to the ghost apartment now? Over the few years, there have been people who tried to go there, but none of them ever returned."
"We need to find the missing parts of the door if we ever want to leave this place." Chen Ge waved for them to move; it was time for them to leave. "This tunnel is too narrow. If the shadow has set up any traps here, we'll have nowhere else to run. After we find the missing parts, I'll have to open up this tunnel further."
"The door that has lost control is the source of the blood fog covering Li Wan City. Actually, now that you mention it, I'm surprised we haven't come into more resistance. Unless, of course, the shadow already planned to give up this place." The tattooed man had a better understanding of the shadow. He moved cautiously, but before he finished, a scream came from outside the tunnel.
"That's Jia Ming!" Hearing the scream, the people in the tunnel moved faster. When Chen Ge rushed out, he saw pairs of red hands grabbing Scissors and dragging him upstairs. When Chen Ge started to chase after them, Scissors had already disappeared down the corridor.
The surroundings were eerily quiet like what he had seen earlier was merely a part of his imagination. Lee Zheng, Jia Ming, Scissors, and the drunkard... everyone who had waited outside earlier had disappeared. It had only taken several minutes for the whole thing to occur.
"You sure know how to jinx things." Chen Ge glanced at the tattooed man. The latter did not expect something like this to happen either.
"Then what should we do now? Go to the ghost apartment or go find them first?"
"We have to go rescue them." Saving innocent victims would bring Chen Ge additional rewards, and he had confirmed that all the innocent victims had been captured-those who remained with him were monsters and murderers. Chen Ge gripped the hammer and ran in the direction that Scissors had disappeared earlier. The high-schooler and tattooed man followed closely behind him, but the smiling man stood where he was, unmoving.
"Are you all so desperate to die?" A chilling voice came out of the mouth plastered with a smile. The smiling man looked at Chen Ge. "This door is the source of the blood fog, and laying any trap here will cause unpredictable influence to the door. This is against the shadow's purpose. So, he is more likely to use our discovery of the door to make us put our guard down and slowly lure us into the real lethal trap."
"I have an opinion that is different from yours. The shadow is very good at psychological battles-he has given us endless hints to undermine our truce to achieve his own goal. For this kind of tactic, the more people we have on our side, the easier it will be for him to sow discord. There is no need for him to harm those people. If anything, I feel like he has started to panic because things have gotten out of his control. That is the only reason he would choose to intervene in such an obvious manner."
The few had already disappeared down the corridor. Chen Ge, who was dragging the hammer, did not appear to be too much of a hurry. He checked one room after another. Since there was still space in his backpack and comic, he was going to take away anything that he thought might be useful.
"But neither of us has done anything, right? Is it because you have predicted the location of the door's missing pieces and that unsettled the shadow?" In the tattooed man's heart, the shadow was akin to Li Wan City's god, and God would not make mistake or even panic.
"That should only be part of the reason. If I'm not mistaken, it might be because there are some other visitors who arrived at Li Wan City today, and the shadow had to exhaust part of his time to deal with said intruder." Chen Ge had the feeling from the very beginning that the shadow had not come at him with its full strength. The shadow appeared to be busy with something else. Chen Ge had felt that feeling when he was dealing with the glutton monster at the hotel, and after he realized there were not as many dangers as he imagined at Fan Chong's place, that suspicion only grew.
"No matter what, this is a good thing for us," Chen Ge concluded. "I'm not afraid of the shadow coming for us. As long as he makes his move, his secret will be exposed. I'll be more afraid if he keeps himself hidden. The deeper he hides, the more unsettled I'll be."
Mingling with the few real murderers, Chen Ge did not feel out of place. In fact, he did not notice that he had become the center of the group. Heading upstairs, Chen Ge noticed that there were many gray human-shaped stains left on the walls. Their bodies were contorted in different postures, but all of them spoke of pain.
"This place was once the housing apartment for Li Wan City's hospital staff, and it was built before the advent of the epidemic. However, could this place have once housed the patients of the hospital as well?" Chen Ge did not touch the stains. He suspected that the shadow's trump card was somehow related to these patients of the disease.