The familiar cigarette evoked Chen Ge's memory. He had never been an overly sentimental person, but at that moment, his footsteps slowed to a stop.
"Just how many things were you guys hiding from me to abandon me and come to such a dangerous place on your own?" Chen Ge knocked on the door, but there was no reply, then he called out softly, "Is anyone in here?"
As he finished saying that, a gasp of pleasant surprise came from inside the room. "Boss Chen‽"
The iron lock behind the door slid out of place, and the intricate lock system started to move. After a long time, the door that looked so normal on the outside finally opened. Fan Chong dressed in his pajamas stood behind the door. There was sign of tears left on his face. When this overweight fellow over one hundred kilograms saw Chen Ge, he stampeded at the latter, preparing to bury Chen Ge in a bear hug.
"Please control yourself." Chen Ge took a step back. He could see how excited Fan Chong was.
"I knew you would come! Boss Chen, you have no idea how close I was to not being able to see you again!" Fan Chong's voice started to break when he was telling his story. He had many things to tell Chen Ge, but he did not know where to start. He paced back and forth in the room, the folds of fat on his stomach shuddering with his every step.
"Calm down first, do you have your phone on you? We spoke on the phone several hours ago, so let me check your phone records." Chen Ge was testing Fan Chong. When Fan Chong disappeared, he had dropped his phone inside his room. In fact, it was Fan Dade who latter picked up Fan Chong's phone and had a brief conversation with Chen Ge.
"I don't have it with me. I was in too much of a hurry when I was trying to escape, and I dropped the phone in my room." Fan Chong pointed at his extra-large pajamas that did not come with any pockets. Chen Ge nodded and looked into the room; this was a normal rental room. There were beds, tables, and electric fans-there was nothing that jumped out at Chen Ge.
"Why would you be hiding at a place like this? Who brought you here?" Chen Ge was under the impression that Fan Chong had been kidnapped by the shadow, but from the looks of it, that did not appear to be the case.
"Honestly, I have a hard time believing what happened myself." Fan Chong nudged his oversized body to the side and walked to the window.
"This is the underground basement. What's the point of building a window in the room? Is this some kind of self-hypnosis?" Chen Ge gripped the hammer tightly and stood at the door, afraid that this might be a trap.
"She brought me here." Fan Chong pulled back the thick curtains. The cement wall outside the window had a painting that had been done with cheap crayons. There was a mountain, a river, a smiling sun, flowers that would never wilt, and a family full of smiles.
Chen Ge's gaze followed the movement of the curtain before resting at the corner of the windowsill where a little girl was seated. She was in a red dress, staring at the painting on the cement wall like it was some kind of ageless art.
"Xiao Bu?" This was not the first time that Chen Ge had seen this girl, but every time, the feeling that he got from her was completely different. Sometimes, she came with a warning, other times detachment, and this time, there was a certain helplessness.
"It was she who dragged me away when we were on the phone earlier." Fan Chong's eyes twitched like he was still afraid when he thought back to what happened then. "Tonight, it was not my big brother who came home; it was someone else. I still have a hard time believing it. I failed to notice anything out of the ordinary and shared the same room with him for so long."
"Your big brother was replaced by the shadow?" What Fan Chong said matched Chen Ge's earlier suspicion. "Is this what Xiao Bu told you?"
"Yes, my brother did not come home tonight, and I am worried about him." Fan Chong sat on the bed, and the old bedframe creaked under its weight. It felt like the thing could collapse at any moment. Compared to his size, the bed seemed so small.
"These beds seem to have been prepared for children," Fan Chong explained as he sneaked a glance at Xiao Bu. He was worried that he might damage the bed as well.
"Prepared for children?" Chen Ge sensitively caught the key term that Fan Chong used. "On the phone, you told me that after clearing the game, Xiao Bu entered this building. What is so special about this building? It looks not so different from other buildings in Li Wan City whether you look at its interior or exterior."
"I'm not sure, but I heard this from Xiao Bu as well. Many years ago, an epidemic swept Li Wan City, and this was the only building that was avoided by the infected."
"Only building avoided by the infected? What do you mean?" Chen Ge still did not quite get it.
"It's a long story. You'll understand everything once you finish Xiao Bu's game. The game uses Li Wan City as the setting and perfectly replicates what happened in Li Wan City at the time." Fan Chong had cleared all the side quests, so he was familiar with all the plot. "Human nature is a very complicated thing. It can shine like the sun to bring warmth and comfort to the weak and helpless, but it can also be a dark abyss, dark and cold, dangerously bottomless.
"The source of the epidemic was Li Wan Hospital. The doctors were at a loss, and they could not do anything to stop the spread of the disease. Some of the patients knew that they were not long for this world, so some of them came up with the idea of taking revenge. They contaminated several medical devices and food supplies with their own blood, and soon, the disease started to spread.
"First, it was mostly the other patients, but eventually, it caught onto the doctors before spreading to half of Li Wan City. The epidemic continued to grow, and people were living in constant fear. Many who caught the disease contracted symptoms like they had gone mad. Even though they did not commit direct murder, many innocent people died because of them, so in reality, they were not that different from actual serial killers.
"At the time, the whole of Li Wan City was thrown into chaos, and the only serene oasis was this very building.
"Before it was rebuilt, the building was once an orphanage. The developer thought that there would be quick development in Eastern Jiujiang, so they bought the land and built new apartment buildings. At the time, they gave wonderful promises. They would reserve part of the new houses for the orphans and orphanage staff to ensure that the children had a place to stay. However, after the buildings were built, the supposed orphanage was only limited to the first and second floor basement.
"During the height of the epidemic, all the staff at the orphanage forbade the children from leaving. Then they went to guard the passage that lead underground. They had made the decision to stop anyone from entering the orphanage, including themselves.
"One day and one night later, help came. No one knew for sure what really happened, and there was no information about this online. In the game, it was merely stated that all the orphans were rescued, and none of them were infected."
At this point of the story, Fan Chong's voice started to take on a different shade. "Honestly, I have serious respect for the staff of the orphanage. They are quite possibly the only force of good that Li Wan City had."
Human beings were an interesting thing species. Even in the ugliest and dirtiest environment, some could still bloom into the most beautiful of flowers.
"No wonder other buildings are filled with human-shaped stains but this building is so clean." Chen Ge had the answer to one of the questions in his heart, but that only led to more questions. "But how come Xiao Bu came to this place at the end of the game? Is it because it is supposed to represent her kindness?"
All the door-pushers were wreathed in the deepest despair-self-salvation was something that was almost impossible.
"You should have noticed the posters on the underground corridors, right? One of the side quests in the game involved a young husband and wife who arrived at Li Wan City. They sought out Xiao Bu and constructed a haven for Xiao Bu with this building." Fan Chong tried desperately to remember the last few scenes from Xiao Bu's game. "They wanted to help Xiao Bu, but in return, Xiao Bu had to promise to do them a favor."
"What kind of favor?" Chen Ge knew that the young couple in question was none other than his parents. The familiar cigarettes and the Haunted House posters everywhere pointed to that undeniable fact. Only his parents would be shameless enough to carry the posters for the Haunted House everywhere they went.
"Yes." Fan Chong turned to look at Xiao Bu. Seeing no response from Xiao Bu, he continued. "They wished for Xiao Bu to become the shadow for their child."
"Please explain that in detail." Chen Ge narrowed his eyes.
"You've seen the fonts used in the game-they are incredibly hard to read. I believe the message was that the shadow of their child has gone missing, so they wished Xiao Bu could become the new shadow of their child. I know that is very hard to believe, but that is exactly what the game said. In the game, Xiao Bu did not agree to their terms immediately. Therefore, they built this haven in Li wan City. After Xiao Bu made her decision, she should come to this place to wait for them, and then they would help her deal with the shadow." Fan Chong did not really understand the words that left his lips, and he had no idea how impactful these words were on Chen Ge.
"To make a Red Specter into a shadow, yes, this is truly an idea that only they'd come up with." Now that Xiao Bu had entered the haven, it meant that the girl was willing to become Chen Ge's shadow. However, his parents not only did not follow up on their promise to deal with the shadow but also disappeared. All this made Chen Ge feel awkward around Xiao Bu-he did not know how to face her. "Oh well. As long as the shadow is killed, no matter by whose hands, the promise should be counted as completed."
Entering the room, Chen Ge walked to the window. Xiao Bu looked not older than eight. The red dress that flowed like blood formed a great contrast to her startlingly pale skin. Just getting close to the girl caused Xu Yin to elicit a great warning.
"She looks very powerful." This was the first time that Chen Ge had dealt with a door that had gone out of control. He had no idea what kind of influence would befall the door-pusher once the door went out of control, but based on what he knew, the door-pusher seemed to get stronger once that happened.
"The people who made you that promise were my parents; I am the child who has lost the shadow." Hearing this from Chen Ge, the eyelashes of the girl who had been spacing out moved. She slowly turned around, and a suffocating presence washed over Chen Ge.
"This..." The red dress floated in the wind. Xiao Bu was missing her arms and legs. There was a large missing gap at the spot where her heart should be.Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click for visiting.
This child is a perfect replica of that door! Other than the head, which has been represented by the heart, all the other missing parts represent the door perfectly!
Staring at the girl silently, Chen Ge finally understood why Xiao Bu would voluntarily enter the haven. No one would volunteer to give up their freedom.
Ignoring Xu Yin's warning, Chen Ge took another step forward. His heart winced with slight pain. "I'm not here for any kind of promise. You are too heavily injured, and I trust that I won't be able to understand even a fraction of your pain, so I will not stand at your perspective to provide you with empty consolation. I know the words must sound empty.
"But a promise is a promise. I will help you deal with the shadow so that you will never be alone again in the future."
Chen Ge stopped before Xiao Bu and slowly squatted down to look at the expressionless face at eye level. "The view outside this window is painted. After the shadow is done with, I'll bring you to see the world. We'll go to places you want to visit, to see the world that is waiting for you."
Chen Ge did not bring up the favor. He was not going to make Xiao Bu into his own shadow.
Perhaps sensing that Chen Ge was not lying, Xiao Bu blinked several times. Blood leaked out from the corner of her eyes, and the droplets of blood gathered to form a sentence.
"One without shadow is not long for this world. Are you sure you don't want me to be your shadow?"