Holding the umbrella, Chen Ge walked into the raining city. He could not tell whether he was doing this for the mission or really wanted to help the woman. Perhaps it was a mixture of both.
He took a taxi to Jiujiang's Children's Home. Even though it was already way past the visiting hours, due to various reasons, Chen Ge knew the guard that was posted at the door and the teacher who looked after Fan Yu at the Children's Home. After waiting for a few minutes outside the door, Chen Ge was led into the children's home by that same teacher.
"Are you here to see Fan Yu? The child has gotten so much better compared to before. I do not know what happened, but he stopped closing himself up inside his own world, and he started to attempt to interact with others. The paintings that he draws are no longer that scary. Other than black and red crayons, he has started to use other colors as well." The teacher was very happy, and she could not stop praising the improvement that Fan Yu had shown.
Chen Ge had no idea whether Fan Yu's change had anything to do with the painter at the School of the Afterlife or not. Perhaps the knot in his heart had been undone, or perhaps the painted had gone to visit Fan Yu after he snuck out from the door. Anything was possible because the painter was an entity that Chen Ge could not understand.
"Actually, I am here for something else." Chen Ge followed the teacher into the building. He put the umbrella away and took out the picture from his backpack. "Do you mind leading me to the headmaster at the children's home? I have something important to ask him."
"The headmaster has left already. You can ask me any question that you have in mind. There is nothing at this children's home that I do not know about."
"The thing that I wish to know is from ten years ago. At the time, this children's home was still a private orphanage. At the time, you would've been at school, right?"
"Ten years ago?" The teacher thought about it before saying, "How about you go and ask the guard? He's the employee that has been on the payroll the longest. He has been watching the gates since this place was a private orphanage."
"Okay." Chen Ge invited the guard into the room, and he passed the picture to the old man. "Do you have any memory of this boy?"
"He does not even have a face. How am I supposed to tell?" The guard took the picture and placed it close to his eyes, his wrinkles folding together. "Besides, who can remember things that are from ten years ago that clearly?"
"Try to think about it. At the time, the orphanage should have had a girl with very bad memory. This boy should be the girl's best friend."
Hearing the information provided by Chen Ge, the wrinkles on the elder's face deepened. He thought for a long time before suddenly tapping Chen Ge on his arm. "There was such a girl! Let me take a gander at that picture again!"
The guard held the picture by both hands and studied it for a long time. "I cannot remember the boy, but I have some recollections of the girl that you mentioned. She was abandoned by her parents when she was very young. Apparently, the reason was because she had a congenital deficiency of the brain. She had a poor memory and problems doing normal chores, and her intelligence was stunted."
"Congenital deficiency of the brain?" That was a new term for Chen Ge.
"That was what I heard. The girl was quite pretty, and she was obedient, but she kept forgetting things. Many other children were adopted, but she was the only one left at the orphanage." Looks like the elder's memory was being jogged. "From the age two to around ten, she had spent more than ten years at the orphanage. Perhaps she missed the crucial period to cure her disease. The girl's illness and symptoms became graver and graver.
"Initially, she could remember the names of her friends and teachers, and with the teacher's training, she could not only live on herself but also help around the orphanage. Even though the girl had a bad memory, but she was very hardworking. She never complained when she was bullied, so the orphanage ignored the problems and allowed her to stay to help around.
"But who knew her conditions would get worse until she could not recognize people's faces anymore? All she could do was the basics to keep herself alive, and anything else was beyond her capability. She was already too old, and she was no help around the orphanage. In fact, she needed other people to spend time to help her. Slowly, the people's attitudes toward her changed.
"The children at the private orphanage were all still young, so she stood out even if she did not want to. After that, I do not know what got into the boss' mind. He knew that the girl had problems with her memory, but he assigned her to watch the gates with me. The leader said that was so that she had something to do, and she would not waste the place's resources, but I have a feeling that the real intention of the leader was to abandon her. He probably even hoped that she would go away on her own and get lost."
At this point, the elder sighed.
"Hope that she would go away and get lost? How could you tell that was the leader's intention at the time?" If that was really the case, everything changed. Chen Ge felt like Fang Yu's change started then.
"The management kept sending me away to distant locations to deliver documents. I would run all over the city, and she would be left behind alone to watch the gates. There was one time after I returned that I realized the girl wasn't inside the booth or the house. I ran all over the orphanage and its surroundings to look for her, and I finally found her under a big tree near the mountain behind the orphanage. At the time, I was so angry. I demanded to know why she wandered away from her post. She told me that she saw a kite that flew very high in the sky.
"I was so scared for her. Thankfully, the kite ended up stuck in the tree and did not fly away." Even after so many years, when the elder thought about it, he still sighed with lamentation. The girl had left a deep impression on him.
"Sir, when the girl was guarding the gates with you, did any boys come to accompany her or treat her very nicely?"
"No, she was always alone."
"This is hard." Chen Ge looked at the picture in his hands and thought back to what he was told to find any clues that he might have missed. "Sir, when you said that Fang Yu got lost the first time, she saw a kite and ran after it. But according to her personality, she was not someone who would do that, so why did she chase after the kite after she saw it? Did she like kites a lot? Could the kite have been some kind of symbol for her?"
"You're making this to be too complicated." The elder was about to deny him when his eyes suddenly widened. "Wait a minute! Yes! The kite! There was a boy at the orphanage who was very close to Fang Yu. The boy was such a chatterbox. I believed he suffered from some kind of illness as well. He had a tendency to repeat the same thing. It was fine the first few times, but hearing him repeat the same thing every day would drive anyone nuts."
"So, it was the boy who found Fang Yu?"
"Yes, Fang Yu has a bad memory, and she would forget what the boy repeated the next day. Every day was like a new day for her." With the prompt from Chen Ge, the guard finally started to remember things from back then. "The two of them should have been friends, but they had different destinies. As Fang Yu got older, her illness worsened, but the boy's illness became better as he got older. But even after the boy became normal, he liked to stay with Fang Yu. He was three years older than Fang Yu, and whenever anyone dared to bully Fang Yu, he would be the first one to defend her."
"But what does that have to do with a kite, and where is that boy now?" Chen Ge had a feeling that the ghost he was looking for was that boy.
"I cannot remember which year it was, but that year, the teachers took the children from the orphanage for a spring outing. They were flying kites at the dam in Eastern Jiujiang. The boy and Fang Yu's kites both got lost in the woods. They both went searching for it, but the boy got lost, and we only found Fang Yu, who'd fainted."
"The boy got lost?" Chen Ge frowned. If the boy had gotten lost, his trail might have gone cold.
"After Fang Yu woke up, we asked her what happened. She said that she and the boy went into the woods to find the kites. They saw a path that led to a house that was surrounded by flowers, and the laughter of many children came from inside it. The kites dropped on the fence of the house. When they reached for the kites, a group of unknown kids came to grab them, wishing to drag them into the house. At the last moment, the boy pushed Fang Yu out of the way before he was dragged through the door, and he closed the door from the inside."
The elder's words might not have meant anything to other people, but it was different for Chen Ge. He had been to the little house with flowers next to the Eastern Jiujiang's Dam before!
At the time, he had been studying at primary school, and it was the first year anniversary after he moved from Eastern Jiujiang to Western Jiujiang. His parents had forbidden him from going to Eastern Jiujiang, but that day was an exception because it was a school field trip. It was at the Eastern Jiujiang Dam, and it was the same house with the flowers and children laughter inside the woods.
Chen Ge managed to survive that ordeal was thanks to the doll that he had made, which he carried with him at the time. Director Luo's daughter was living inside the doll, and she was now New Century Park's guardian spirit.
"It should be the same place!" Chen Ge did not expect Fang Yu and the boy to have been to that place as well. Their past had somehow crossed his own past.
The object that I have drawn this time does not appear to be that simple. Chen Ge picked up the backpack, but he did not act rashly. "If you don't mind, I still need one more thing from you."
"Say it." The teacher had a good impression of Chen Ge. She believed that Chen Ge was a very kind and loving person.
"Can you find me the information on the boy? I have a date here. I believe it is his birthday." Chen Ge turned the picture around. The date written on the back was December 21st.
"I will try my best, but please don't get your hopes up."
"Thank you for your help." After saying goodbye to the teacher and the old guard, he opened the umbrella, swung the backpack over his shoulder, and ran out of the children's home.
It is not too late to take revenge for the incident that happened to my primary school self.
He did not stop for rest. He hailed a cab to Eastern Jiujiang's Dam.
Whenever I come to this kind of isolated place, the weather is horrible. It's either raining or howling with winds.
The taxi drove away quickly after dropping Chen Ge off outside the dam. He walked by the roadside for a long time with the umbrella. The memory of his childhood was blurry, but thankfully, the surroundings had not changed that much. The dam water rippled quickly, and the rain pelted his body. The surroundings were dark, but thanks to his Yin Yang Vision, even without a light, he could see clearly, and it appeared like Chen Ge had melted into the darkness.
I remember walking into these woods.
Chen Ge had no idea what had happened around the dam for the past decade, but this place had gotten even more deserted than before. The few locals that stayed here had moved away, and the woods had expanded to cover the mountain.
Activating the recorder and flipping through the comic to summon the headless woman and the boy with the stench, Chen Ge finally made his trek into the woods.
The raindrops fell on the leaves, and it created a rhythmic sound in Chen Ge's ears. The world inside the woods seemed to be a different world compared to outside.
Not too far into the woods, Xu Yin appeared silently beside Chen Ge. Chen Ge did not call his name, but he appeared on his own. This meant that he had sensed something dangerous, and the thing could have killed Chen Ge before he had the chance to appear. There was nothing strange around them, but the few Red Specters acted strangely, like the danger was hidden around them.
The leaves danced in the wind, and the rain slid down the leaf veins. Chen Ge walked for quite a while in the woods until he lost track of the passage of time. The deeper he went into the woods, the lower the temperature and the quieter it became. Xu Yin led the group. Red blood mixed with the rain. He moved away the rotten branches, and a well-beaten path appeared before them.
Wilted flowers ran down both sides of the path, and at the end of the road, a gray little house could be seen through the gaps in the trees.
"When I was small, I came here with my own handmade doll. You didn't kill me, only heavily injured the doll. I have always been a fair person. Today, I will not kill you, but I will beat you to your last breath and then take you away in the comic."
In the raining night, the few Red Specters followed behind Chen Ge as they moved quietly forward. "Not everyone can discover this place. If not for Xu Yin leading the way, I probably wouldn't have found it so quick."
As he approached the little house, Chen Ge's memory started to overlap with real life. What he had forgotten surfaced in his mind, and his memory had never been so clear before.
"Be careful." He had almost been killed there, so Chen Ge could not be more careful. At the same time, though, he felt as if he was getting closer to the truth. The fence of the house was toppled over, and moss grew over it. There were many empty vases left in the yard. The vases were interesting. They were the same size, and they would fit the skull of an adult perfectly.
Other than the vases, there were some toys left outside in the yard. There was a broken wooden horse, a rusted seesaw, and a swing missing a rope.