The three of them went back to the village.
Before they reached Secretary Huang’s house, they heard his frightened voice calling for help even from a distance. When they got closer, they could see he was limping forward, dragging one injured foot. He kept looking back as if something was chasing him.
He looked extremely frightened; his cursing was mingled with loud cries for mercy.
Looking at this man, Xue Meng mumbled.” He is mad, nothing is chasing him.”
“The devil was in his mind.”
The miasma was formed from hatred and grievances. Secretary Huang must have committed many crimes and had stayed in this miasma for too long. He was now haunted by evil spirits.
Looking around, Jiang Lan saw that the miasma had begun to ebb away, and the night sky was not so dark anymore. This must have something to do with the lightning or the destruction of that tower.
When they were just a few meters away from Secretary Huang, he looked up and saw them. His eyes were wild with terror as if he had seen something extremely terrifying. Screaming” Monsters”, he turned to run back, trying to escape from them. But his limp feet couldn’t carry him far. He fell to the ground after a few steps. Filled with horror, he crawled forward to a village house and knocked on the door with all the remaining strength.
Knocking sound reverberated in the village, but the door remained tightly shut. No one wanted to help him.
The pleas for help were soon replaced by his cursing.
The three of them didn’t stop to watch him. They went around him and walked to his house to retrieve their belongings.
After they reached Secretary Huang’s house, they saw a person standing behind the door. That person seemed to be frightened by their sudden appearance and walked back.
That person was Secretary Huang’s silent wife.
Jiang Lan turned to look back while they were walking into the house. He saw she had returned to the doorway, looking in the direction of Secretary Huang with a weird smile on her face.
Jiang Lan and Ying Qiao waited in the main room while Xue Meng went to the west wing to retrieve his phone.
Two minutes later, a shout came from the west wing.” My phone!!!”
Jiang Lan asked without thinking.” What’s the matter?”
Holding a shattered phone, Xue Meng walked to them with a nasty look on his face.” This is a brand new phone I just bought. If I know who broke my phone, I will kill him!”
Jiang Lan leaned to look at the phone, which was twisted by the strong force, broken beyond repair. He said with pity in his eyes.” Oh, it was utterly broken.”
Xue Meng cursed incessantly while Ying Qiao kept a straight face.
He glanced at him and said in an emotionless voice.” I did it.”
Xue Meng instantly paused his cursing. He now had an almost comical look on his face.”Ha?”
“Your phone, I damaged it.” Ying Qiao looked serious.” I will pay for it when we get back.”
Why didn’t you say so at first?
He said with an ingratiating smile.” I didn’t curse you a moment ago….”
Then a thought seemed to strike him.” You heard the will I recorded on the phone?”
Ying Qiao didn’t reply to this question.
Jiang Lan seemed to understand his silence.
Despite Ying Qiao’s silence, Jiang Lan knew for sure he must have heard the will Xue Meng left in his phone. Looking at that twisted phone, Jiang Lan realized he must have been terribly worried about him.
He took Ying Qiao’s wrist and gently shook it.” Sorry for making you worry like this.”
Jiang Lan was perfectly capable of handling the situation in the Three Water Village. But Ying Qiao didn’t know that. After hearing Xue Meng’s will, his extreme reaction must mean he thought something terrible had already happened to Jiang Lan.
Knowing this, Jiang Lan felt a little guilty, but a sense of warmth soon replaced that.
Before, Ying Qiao liked to say he treated him like a little brother. Jiang Lan thought he was just joking. Now it suddenly dawned on him that Ying Qiao really meant it and cared about him.
Ying Qiao looked at him.” I am glad you are all right.”
The more he acted calmly, the more Jiang Lan felt he must have gone through a shock, but his self-esteem wouldn’t permit him to admit it. Jiang Lan suddenly opened his arms and hugged Ying Qiao. Patting his back, he tried to comfort Ying Qiao.” What Xue Meng said in that will was not true. Nothing happened to me.”
He tried to hug Ying Qiao, but he was about ten centimeters shorter than Ying Qiao and much leaner. From the perspective of a bystander, it looked more like he plunged into the arms of Ying Qiao.
Ying Qiao lowered his head, and his chin touched his shoulder. With Jiang Lan’s hair tickling him, his heart rate suddenly became faster.
Before he recovered from the surprise caused by Jiang Lan’s sudden hug, Jiang Lan had already released him.
His chest and his heart suddenly felt empty without Jiang Lan’s hug. Without realizing it, he gazed at Jiang Lan long and hard. In his heart, the warmth of that hug still lingered.
Jiang Lan said to Xue Meng.” I will buy you a new phone, Ying Qiao was really worried about me.”
” No need, no need. If not for you, my life would definitely end here. My life is much more valuable than a phone.” Xue Meng shook his hands.” You two are really attached to each other.”
But they appeared a little gayish….
Xue Meng thought to himself: perhaps that’s what Socialism Comradeship should look like?
After finding the broken phone, they didn’t stay here long and left the village soon after.
The miasma around them had already thinned out, no longer blocking the road. After they went through the miasma, they saw the sky had already turned grey. A storm must have been raging outside before they came out of the village. Now the ground was very muddy, but the air was both fresh and chilly.
The people from the Monster Bureau and the Special Human Bureau had already entered the village. And they were moving towards the burial ground in the north. Two Police vans were parked at the village entrance. Fully armed policemen got off the vans and began their search in the village.
Afraid that someone in the crowd might recognize him, Jiang Lan stood closely behind Ying Qiao’s back.
Luckily everyone was so preoccupied with the tasks at hand that no one noticed him.
Zhang Tianxing also came, waving to them beside his car.
The three of them got in the car. Xue Meng slumped down in the passenger seat and took a long breath.” It’s so good to be alive.”
Zhang Tianxing said.” Chief had already granted your guys a day’s leave of absence. You guys need to rest.”
As usual, he fell into silence after this and started the car, leaving the Three Water Village.
Xue Meng turned to look back. The whole Three Water Village was shrouded in a deep grey, appearing dilapidated and gloomy. He asked.” There is no point in carrying on our poverty alleviation work here, what did the chief say?”
Glancing at him, Zhang Tianxing said.” The chief said you will be given new assignments tomorrow.”
Hearing this, Xue Meng covered his face in despair.
The sun had already gone up after they entered the city.
Xue Meng got out of the car first, and Jiang Lan asked Zhang Tianxing to drive them to Ying Qiao’s flat.
Before they got out of the car, Zhang Tianxing suddenly said.” I didn’t detect any anomalies during our first day there. The villagers appeared very normal to us and the miasma didn’t show up while we were there.”
He was trying to explain that he hadn’t overlooked any detail or withheld any information from them purposefully.
Jiang Lan nodded.” I understand.”
It was normal that they didn’t encounter anything unusual when they first came to this village because the appearance of miasma was connected with the death in the village. That old man died in the afternoon while Zhang Tianxing and Xiao Xiaoyu were there. A funeral was held on the second day, and the body was moved to the burial ground.
The burial ground was in the north of the village where they saw the bitten body of that old man. The old man, who villagers claimed was “dead”, just lived past the age of sixty and was sent by the villagers to the living people’s grave to feed Gu Diaos.
Jiang Lan speculated that it was not the first time they did this.
Perhaps a long time ago, there were no creatures like Gu Diao or Tu Lou in the burial ground. Following their traditions, villagers abandoned infants they couldn’t afford to feed in the tower and buried the people who just lived past the age of sixty in the living people’s graves. Coincidentally, those victims’ bodies attracted the man-eating creatures, who thrived in the burial ground.
Their appetite grew stronger by the day. When villagers discovered the existence of man-eating creatures in the burial ground, there was nothing they could do about it.
Jiang Lan wasn’t clear when villagers discovered the creatures and started to feed them with living people. But he was certain about one thing, that this village must have made a pact with Gu Diaos. In exchange for sparing their lives, they had to provide food for those creatures. The feathers in Secretary Huang’s hands were perhaps the token of this deal.
But those Gu Diaos never intended to abide by this deal. In the eyes of those Gu Diaos, the whole village was their food source.
These were just Jiang Lan’s speculations. He trusted the Police would get to the bottom of the whole affair.
Zhang Tianxing nodded.” Then I will go back, say hi to Nini for me.”
Waving him goodbye, Jiang Lan went upstairs with Ying Qiao.
It was the first time he visited Ying Qiao’s home. He was now full of curiosity.
As they opened the door, they heard a shout coming from the cub’s room.
He changed into slippers and strode into the bedroom where Jiao Tu sat cross-legged with an iPad. Suan Ni stayed on his shoulder with a paw raised in anger.” Bomb!TL’s note: They are playing a form of card game in which four cards of the same rank are called bombs, it trump all other cards “
Jiao Tu was hesitant.” Then we have no trump cards left.”
Wagging his tail, Suan Ni patted Jiao Tu impatiently.” Trust me, bomb!”
Jiang Lan scanned the room. He saw the bedside table was piled high with a variety of fruits and snacks, and the trash can was filled with fruit peels and empty plastic bags.
They must have been playing games for a long time.
Standing in the doorway, Jiang Lan knocked on the door loudly.
“We can skip lunch, just bring us two bottles of Pepsi.” Suan Ni didn’t even turn to look who just knocked on the door.
He turned to look at Ying Qiao accusingly.
Before he left, he had asked a monster here to take care of them, granting all their wishes as long as they were not too outrageous.
It seemed mere knocking wouldn’t get their attention. Jiang Lan walked into the room and bent down.” How long have you been playing?”
“oh, not long….”
Before Suan Ni finished his sentence, he suddenly realized who was talking to them and was so shocked that he fell to the bed.” Fifth brother!!”
Surprised, Jiao Tu tried in vain to hide his iPad while darting his eyes from side to side.
Jiang Lan kept a straight face as he talked to them.” Do you remember my instructions? Did you sleep?”
Suan Ni hurried to answer him.” Yes!”
Jiang Lan.” When did you get up?”
Jiao Tu was honest. Lowering his head in shame, he said.” Five o’clock.”
Seeing this, Suan Ni rubbed Jiang Lan’s hand in an ingratiating manner.” Don’t blame Jiao Tu. I asked him to play with me.”
Jiang Lan.” Now the use of the iPad is forbidden to you. And you have to reflect on your behaviors now.”
Jiao Tu and Suan Ni lowered their heads in shame.
Ying Qiao watched these two cubs with a look of sympathy. Then he looked at the Little Monsters, who acted as a strict brother. The expression on his face was so cute that his heart melted.” I will keep an eye on them. You can take a shower and then rest.”
Jiang Lan felt maybe he shouldn’t trust his little brothers to Ying Qiao. But his clothing was so soiled that he had no other choice.
So he also brought the iPad with him to the bathroom.
He wouldn’t tolerate his little brother’s addiction to video games.
His fourth brother once told them a story in which a monster cub was very addicted to online games, and he went behind his parents to meet his teammates in the game. But his transformation into a human form was not very stable. During their meeting, he accidentally changed back into his monster form, and his scared teammates called the Police. In the end, he was sent to a Zoo. His parents went through a great deal of trouble to get him out of the zoo.
Recalling this story, he reminded himself that he had to keep a close look on his brothers; otherwise, they might end up in a zoo.
|↑1||TL’s note: They are playing a form of card game in which four cards of the same rank are called bombs, it trump all other cards|