"Number One is unique. He is different from everyone else; he was the first student at this school." Zhou Tu's eyes scanned the other members. "In other words, he is a big reason the school is what it is now."
"When you mentioned the painter, I felt a natural sense of fear. Just the word caused fear to grip my heart." Zhang Ju's body was almost dyed red. His face was like melted wax, looking very scary.
"That is a normal response because before you became a monster, you would have met him. You are one of his creations." Zhou Tu revealed another secret. "Everything that you've experienced after you entered the door was personally arranged by the painter, but there was a little accident in your case."
"How do you know about these things? Didn't you say earlier that you do not know anything about the painter?"
"Because I am like you. To be more precise, other than the painter himself, everyone is his creation!" Zhou Tu's words belied his deep-seated fear. "You, me, Lin Sisi, Wang Yicheng, and everyone at this school, we are all the painter's creations. Ever since we entered the door, we started our lives inside the painter's script."
"If it is as you say, then what is the explanation behind the accident that happened to Zhang Ju?" Chen Ge did not fully believe in Zhou Tu yet. This was not because he suspected that Zhou Tu was lying to him, but there were certain things that Zhou Tu would not know about either like Zhang Ya's existence. The door pusher in Western Jiujiang Private Academy was Zhang Ya, so no matter the case with other people, of the fourteen paintings, at least one would not be the painter's creation.
"The painter was too careless. He didn't expect someone to betray him." Zhou Tu sucked in a deep breath and turned his neck around with difficulty to look at Zhang Ju. "You should have heard of the name Chang Wenyu."
"Of course, she betrayed her promise and stole my left eye and made me her scapegoat." Zhang Ju had a bad impression of Chang Wenyu.
"Who she betrayed wasn't you but the painter." Zhou Tu's voice hastened like he was using his last breath to defend Chang Wenyu. "Chang Wenyu was the second person to enter this school and the only person who has successfully escaped this place!"
"What are you trying to say?'
"She used actual action to tell us one thing. Other than following the painter's script, there are other choices for us to pick. We need to obey not the painter but the real owner of this school." Veins popped around Zhou Tu's neck. His physical condition was getting worse.
Since the beginning, Chen Ge had been curious about the school's owner. After all, they might be a Greater Red Specter. "Can you tell me who the real owner of this school is?"
Zhou Tu looked at Chen Ge deeply and uttered, "We are."
"Yes, all the despair of the bullied is forged into the school's foundations. After a lost and young soul enters the door, they are combined into a monster that keeps growing." Zhou Tu pointed at himself and the people around him. "We are inside this monster's body; we are part of this monster. This place has our memory, but it is also our home and our body."
Chen Ge understood what Zhou Tu was trying to express. The owner of the School of the Afterlife was not one person but a kind of spirit. After the door-pusher died, there was no new door-pusher who came to support the negative emotions behind the door. The door kept searching for despair and led these despairing souls behind the door. Chen Ge suddenly understood why the black phone would name this place the School of the Afterlife.
The school was a normal scenario, but under the influence of despair and negative emotion, the scenario itself gained some kind of consciousness, and thus, a door that could move on its own was born. Other doors were pushed open by people in despair and were frozen inside a part of the blood world, but this door would voluntarily show up next to victims in despair. It offered an escape to those people and provided a home for wandering souls, but at the same time, it deprived them of their lives.
"No, something's wrong," Chen Ge suddenly said. "If there is no way to leave this school, how did Chang Wenyu manage to do so? The children who enter the school should be given some kind of choice, and each choice made corresponds to a type of ending!"
"Even though I have no idea why you would suddenly bring that up, you're right." Zhou Tu followed Chen Ge's lead. "The school has its own consciousness, and everyone who enters the school will be given a choice. Different choices lead to different outcomes. Some choose to go back to real life after experiencing despair; some embrace the despair and become part of the school; some choose to give up, forget everything, and close their eyes. There are many choices. At least, that's what Chang Wenyu told me."
"If what you're saying is true, then the school is not a bad place, at least not for these despairing children."
"The school itself is not wrong; the one who's wrong is the painter. He has changed the rules and cut off the way out, forcing everyone to stay here." Zhou Tu's voice was getting louder, but his body was getting weaker.
"Why would he do that?" Zhang Ju could not understand.
"I have no idea what he's planning. I only know that there was someone who tried to challenge the painter. Chang Wenyu was successful while the others and I failed." The weak Zhou Tu leaned on Zhang Ju. "Whenever there's a problem in the art room, the painter will show up. He will be here soon. If you do not wish to have your memory erased and turn back into a mindless puppet, you have to figure out a way to leave."
"Do we still have time?" Zhang Ju was pessimistic. "We are facing the painter. The few of us do not even stand a chance against him."
"It'll be fine." Zhou Tu's pale face showed a smile. His twig-like finger pointed at Chen Ge. "Chang Wenyu has returned. I can sense her presence on you."
"On me?" Chen Ge was shocked. "Are you sure it's Chang Wenyu? Not another person?"
"I am sure." Zhou Tu did not catch the other meaning that Chen Ge was trying to hint at. He nodded affirmatively.
"But I haven't met Chang Wenyu. How could I have her presence?" Chen Ge shook his hands.
"Perhaps you have something of hers on you or are related to her. Maybe you two are lovers."
"Stop right there." Chen Ge gritted his teeth. "It sounds like you're trying to set me up."
Zhou Tu did not think it was that big of a deal to sense Chang Wenyu on Chen Ge. He kept persuading Chen Ge. "We've all forgotten part of our memory. Perhaps among that missing memory is the secret. There's no need to worry. My hunches have always been accurate."