825 I See Myself
"Quick, it's very dangerous inside the building. This is the safest route." Chen Ge had the most experience. He avoided all possible rooms that might pose a danger and swiftly climbed up to the third floor. Stepping on the outside box of the air conditioner, Chen Ge half-squatted on the outside of the building, waiting for the rest to catch up. "The secret will be revealed soon. The key for the lock is on its way. When Zhou Tu enters the art room, everything will be answered."
Zhou Tu used to be an obedient child. He lived within the rules set out by his teachers and parents, and he never stepped one foot out of the boundary. He was well protected from danger and thus was spared the 'bad scenes' that were privy only to the bad kids. When they reached the third floor, Zhou Tu's arms were already shaking. He did not dare look down, and his face was pale. "Sir, are we there yet?"
"It's on the fourth floor." His hands holding the edge of the windowsill, Chen Ge climbed to the outside of the art room and glanced in through the gap in the curtain. The art room had returned to normal, but the colors on the oil paintings appeared to have become more vibrant like the paintings had just been done, and the paint was still wet. The windowsill was too small for even one person to fit. Chen Ge was worried that Zhou Tu might lose control once he caught sight of the oil paintings, so after ensuring the safety, he signaled for Zhou Tu to climb into the room next to the art room.
"Go in first. Don't worry, I'll be behind you." The fourth floor was very high. The night wind buffeted against their bodies. Zhou Tu forced a nod and climbed, following the direction given by Chen Ge. After Zhou Tu got into the room, Chen Ge waved for the others to follow.
"One, two, three, four?" Other than Zhou Tu, four shadows had slipped into the fourth floor.
"There's an extra one?" Chen Ge was the last to enter the room. He looked around with a frown. The room was not big, and the only people there were his club members. "When you guys came in, did you sense anything weird?"
"There's nothing obviously out of place, but once I saw the building, there was this discomfort, and now that we're in the building, that feeling only grew," Zhang Ju said, and the scars on his face started to crawl like snakes. He seemed to be very anxious. Zhang Ju's shirt was almost red. He was one step away from being a Red Specter. To make him feel uncomfortable just being in the building's vicinity meant that there were probably more than one Red Specter inside the building. This place was more dangerous than Chen Ge had thought. Combined with the extra shadow that he had seen, he reminded himself to be more careful.
"After we go to the art room, whether Zhou Tu awakens his memory or not, we have to leave this place," Chen Ge told them. After everyone agreed, they left the room. The corridor of the fourth floor had not changed much since the previous time Chen Ge visited it. It was eerie and dark like it had not been used in years.
"Zhou Tu, the art club that you're looking for is on the fourth floor, and the scene from your dream is just next door." Chen Ge smelled the stench in the air once he exited the room. He knew very well that the upside-down monsters were patrolling the area. So far, they had not attracted their attention, but the longer they stayed, the bigger their chance of being exposed. This time, Chang Gu might not show up to save them again, so he had to move fast.
"Stop looking around and head over there. Haven't you been yearning to join the art club? Open that door, and the memory from your dream will be awakened!" Chen Ge had already wasted a lot of time there. The longer he stayed, the more unsafe he felt. Chang Gu's appearance had given him hope of clearing the scenario another way.
"It's right here?" Zhou Tu walked out of the room and stopped before the door. He grabbed the door handle but did not have the courage to push it open.
"Why are you hesitating? The answer that you're looking for is behind the door! No matter the result, as long as you wish to recover your memory, don't hesitate! Open it!" Chen Ge had lost his patience. The extra shadow seemed to have disappeared. The stench around them thickened, and the anxiety that he felt grew. Zhou Tu was the last member to have his memory recovered. He had witnessed what had happened to the rest, he knew the imminent pain, so he was under a great amount of pressure. To live in a fake but safe world or to regain his painful but true memory—anyone would struggle to choose. Zhou Tu was caught in a difficult conundrum. He gritted his teeth, and his chest rose. His knuckles turned white before finally pushing the door open!
Because he shoved so hard, the door knocked into the wall, creating a loud crack. The member of the club huddled to the door and gazed into the room.
"This looks like a normal art room."
"They might look gory, but there is no scent of blood. Those red colors should be paint."
"Were these paintings done by students? Why would they paint something like this?"
The other members mumbled among themselves. They were curious about the art room. Only Chen Ge and Zhou Tu were quiet. Chen Ge had been there once, so he could keep calm. However, Zhou Tu looked like he had lost the ability to speak due to shock.
"Don't just stand there. We'll get spotted." Chen Ge waved for everyone to get into the room. He walked in last.
"Mr. Bai…" Hearing Chen Ge's voice, Zhou Tu seemed to snap out of his trance. He pointed at the art room with a face filled with disbelief. "This… is right from my dream."
"I know. Now you understand how surprised I was when I heard your description, and that's why I promised to bring you here." Chen Ge had a warm smile on his face like he was a big brother who could forgive anything. "Go in and take a look. Search for your past. Think about why you're here. No matter the choice you make, I hope you remember this—we are not enemies."
Zhou Tu might be a Red Specter, so Chen Ge had to be prepared to ensure that he would not be surprised by a sudden betrayal. Entering the art room, everything was red. The walls were red; the tiles were red; the paintings were red; even the stain on the wall was red. This was a red world. It was like a living hell, but at the same time, colored with an indescribable sense of artistry.
Zhou Tu looked at the thirteen easels in the room dumbly. His eyes moved over the easels one by one before falling on the fourth easel.
"I've been to this room before, I've taken these steps." Slowly walking to the fourth easel, when Zhou Tu looked at the painting that sat on the easel, he froze.
"Zhou Tu?" No matter how hard they nudged him, he did not reply. There was a rush of red coming from the bottom of his eyes. His soul seemed to have been sucked into the painting.
"I can see it. The me inside the painting crying out to me."