They sat on the living room sofas. Two officers chose to sit on one side and Jiang Lan Xue Meng on the other side while Zhao Qunfang sat on the center sofa alone. After the officers showed her the printed chat records, she started to appear uneasy. At this moment, she looked very awkward, with her eyes darting from side to side.
Following the procedure, officers asked a few questions, and she replied in a halting manner, frequently contradicting herself.
Jiang Lan listened in silence.
Two days before May 1, a death took place in this apartment complex. The deceased was named Li Chunhua, aged 42, and lived in the No.1 block. Like Zhao Qunfang, Li Chunhua was a divorcee who lived alone. Li Chunhua had a cleaner job in a building, while Zhao Qunfang worked the cash register in an underground supermarket in the same building. Their similar life and the fact that they were neighbors brought them close to each other.
But on April 27, Li Chunhua suddenly died alone at home without apparent cause. On that day, Li Chunhua superior noticed her absence and couldn’t reach her by phone. So he went to her home and discovered her body.
Li Chunhua died in peace with a mysterious smile on her face. But the police autopsy failed to reveal the cause of death. The autopsy report indicated that the deceased body hadn’t sustained any outside and internal injury. Her medical record didn’t show any severe illness before her death. She simply died without cause.
And in April, two other deaths occurred similarly, with causes unclear.
The police went through Li Chunhua’s social connections and noticed her frequent contact with Zhao Qunfang. But a week before Li Chunhua’s death, Zhao Qunfang suddenly quitted her job at the supermarket and no longer commuted with Li Chunhua to work. They still maintained their contact in WeChat.
“On April 24, Li Chunhua sent you a message that said: ‘The master has made his power felt.’ What did she mean by that?” An officer pointed to the chat record.
Zhao Qunfang lowered his head and clenched her fists without thinking.” I…I don’t know….”
The officer raised his voice, continuing to press her.” In the record, your reply to this message was,’ see, I didn’t lie to you.’ Do you really not know? Or you want to conceal the truth from us?”
Zhao Qunfang suddenly raised her head. In a trembling voice, she contradicted herself again.” I, I just forget….We two are a little superstitious, and I ran into a powerful master. So I introduced her to the master. But I don’t know what she wanted.”
The officers stared at her as if ready to pierce her soul.
“What master? How do you come to know that master? Does quitting your job have anything to do with Li Chunhua and that master?
“We called him Master Sui. I don’t know where he is. We…We just ran into him in the street.” Zhao Qunfang’s answer was a little coherent now.” I quitted my job because I followed that master’s guidance and won a lottery with a 150000 yuan prize.”
The two officers exchanged a look; obviously, they didn’t know anything about winning a lottery.
“How do you contact the master?”
“We couldn’t contact the master. The master told us that if he wanted to contact us, he would find us.” Zhao Qunfang’s eyes showed fear at the mention of that master.
Jiang Lan became sure that this master must be the Tai Su.
But he still didn’t know the nature of her relationship with the Tai Su, considering that she had called them to report that jewelry shop operated by the Tai Su.
Jiang Lan coughed to get their attention and raised his hand to indicate he had something to add.” Comrade Police, I have something to say.”
When the attention of the officers was on him, he continued.” On May 4, my street administration office received an anonymous call from this lady to report a jewelry shop named Wishes Come True. She said in that call that this shop was an evil cult which was organizing superstitious activities to prey on people.”
Zhao Qunfang suddenly became agitated and shouted.” Bullshit, I have never made such a call.”
She appeared to be in a highly agitated state and began to curse loudly. No amount of police persuasion could make her calm down.
With a helpless look, Jiang Lan pointed to his ear.” I answered the call myself, so I recognize her voice. You can also come to my office to verify the phone recordings. Before May 4, she had also made several calls to report the shop. That Sui Master might have something to do with the jewelry shop.”
The officers speculated that there might be an evil cult behind all of these. They stood up, and in a stern voice, they said to Zhao Qunfang.” We will verify the facts about the phone call and jewelry shop. After that, we will see you again. At that time, we expect your full cooperation in telling us the truth.”
Then they were gone.
Xue Meng and Jiang Lan were one step behind. Zhao Qunfang loudly cursed them and kicked them out of the door.
When she was alone, she collapsed on the floor, trembling. After a while, she climbed to the sofa with great difficulty. The moment she sat down, her phone rang. She glanced at the phone screen with fear and saw that the incoming number was not an ordinary number. It was 4444Number four is considered an ominous number in China because it sounds like death in Mandarin and Cantonese.
Zhao Qunfang ground her teeth and shuddered in fear. After a while, she mustered the courage to reject the call.
But the phone calls persisted. She widened her eyes and rejected again. After she rejected the calls for the third time, the phone calls stopped. Instead, a text message appeared.” Come to Iron Bridge Bay at half-past eleven tonight.”
After the visit to Zhao Qunfang, two officers asked for the address of the Street Administration Office. They went there to obtain the phone recording. Jiang Lan and Xue Meng remained here to finish their jobs of collecting data. At 4:30 in the afternoon, they drove back to the office to clock out.
Jiang Lan spent a few minutes tidying up his desk, putting Suan Ni in the backpack. After that, he took a bus to visit Grandpa Yao in the People’s Hospital Almost every city in China has a hospital named People’s Hospital. Because Xue Meng was heading in the same direction, they took the same bus. Xue Meng could no longer contain himself while sitting silently by Jiang Lan’s side at the bus’s rear. He leaned closer to whisper in Jiang Lan’s ear.” Those victims, did they make wishes to the deity statue in their dream?”
He had turned this over in his mind for a long time now. If he was still skeptical about the existence of deities or ghosts after his talk with Jiang Lan in the morning, what happened in Zhao Qunfang’s home almost removed his lingering doubts.
Perhaps the dream was real, and the Sui deity was real.
Perhaps there were evil ghosts and monsters lurking in the darkness in this world.
Xue Meng felt a deep chill despite sitting in a poorly ventilated, crowded bus.
A glance at Xue Meng revealed his uneasiness and fear to Jiang Lan.
In a modern society founded on the scientific principle, most ordinary people are skeptical about deities and ghosts. Naturally, they are frightened when confronting the hard truth. Xue Meng could be considered brave when compared with other mortals. It was a wonder that he managed to contain himself for this long.
“It doesn’t matter how they died.” Jiang Lan said in a soft tone, avoiding answering his question directly.” Their fate was set once they allowed themselves to be tempted. These weak-minded are easy prey for the evil spirits.”TL’s note: Despite his friendship with humans, Jiang Lan still has deep-seated contempt for weak humans.
What he said confirmed Xue Meng’s suspicion.
Even as he was recovering from the shock caused by Jiang Lan’s revelation, he felt what Jiang Lan just said reassured him somehow.
Whether evil spirits exist or not, Being firm, refusing to be tempted was the best defense against any evil.
“You are right.” Xue Meng looked at Jiang Lan with shining eyes. At this moment, in his eyes, Jiang Lan stood taller like a master with hidden power.
Xue Meng grasped Jiang Lan’s hand and said in a joking manner.” From now on, I am your adopted son. Please protect me and let me share your good fortune.”
Jiang Lan didn’t know whether to laugh or not. He shook off his hand.” Get out. I don’t have an ugly son like you.
Jiang Lan got off first when the bus reached the Hospital.
It was Grandpa Yao’s third day in this Hospital. After Jiang Lan went to work, it was Xiao Hei who took care of him. Jiang Lan was worried about him because he just entered human society and might run into trouble.
When he came to Grandpa Yao’s ward with a fruit basket, Grandpa Yao was teaching Xiao Hei to reach Chinese Characters. They were having a good time.
Xiao Hei had human forms, but he didn’t have any schooling and could barely read. Before his retirement, Grandpa Yao was a middle school teacher and instantly saw that this young man was illiterate. So he took it upon himself to teach him to read.
Grandpa Yao complained to Jiang Lan when he came to the bedside.” What’s wrong with this young man? How come he is still illiterate? When I ask him whether he has nine years of compulsory education, he played dumb with me.”
Xiao Hei blinked at Jiang Lan to ask for help.
Jiang Lan offered a plausible explanation.” Oh, he is an orphan. He lived in a poor mountainside village before coming to the city. He didn’t even go to primary school before he took a job.”
Xiao Hei nodded in agreement.
Grandpa Yao’s complaint turned to pity.” Oh, poor boy. No problem, I will teach you everything from the beginning.”
Xiao Hei broke into a broad smile at this offer. At this moment, he looked the part of a simple village boy.
Jiang Lan took a seat in the ward and asked Xiao Hei’s plan for the future. Xiao Hei wanted to get a job after Grandpa Yao was discharged from the Hospital. “When I learn a few characters, I will take a job working as a delivery boy.”
He had no education and work experience. Working as a delivery man was his only option.
Jiang Lan said.” I will buy you an electric bike.”
Xiao Hei scratched his head awkwardly.” Grandpa Yao has already offered to lend me money to buy an electric bike and a phone. I can pay him back when I earn some money.”
Jiang Lan didn’t insist on this. After a brief chat, he waved them goodbye and returned home.
He bought a plate of pig feet riceA Cantonese dish popular in China on his way back. The smell of the food reminded him of the Tai Su. This little food was just for taste. Only that Tai Su was enough to fill his stomach.
A scheme was hatched out of his hunger.
Even though Ying Qiao’s boss was already on this case, Jiang Lan himself also had several leads that might enable him to catch that Tai Su……If he acted quickly to devour him, no one would be any the wiser….
He probably couldn’t put him in a cage and feed off him like the last time. He had to devour him in whole and leave some scraps to satisfy Ying Qiao’s boss.
Jiang Lan thought his plan was feasible. After a quick dinner and leaving some snacks and fruits for Suan Ni, he went to Zhao Qunfang’s home.
He was there to try his luck. Judging by how Zhao Qunfang acted during the day, he thought that if she had anything to do with that Tai Su, she might contact him to seek help.
Concealed by the bushes, he fixed his gaze on Zhao Qunfang’s window.
Around half-past ten, the light by the window was put out, and after a while, Zhao Qunfang appeared outside the building with heads down.
Jiang Lan’s spirit was lifted and followed along.
On Hangyang avenue, a yellow Ferrari parked by the roadside.
The young man in the driver seat holding a compass cursed.” This device put together by those monks is so unreliable. It just kept spinning. How the hell do I know which direction to follow.”
They were here to hunt the Tai Su.
No one knew how old that Tai Su was. Besides being foxy and scheming, he was endowed with heavenly privilege unique to the Tai Su clan. It was nearly impossible to trace him with ordinary methods. To find the Tai Su, Cheng Hua borrowed a creature-seeking compass from the Taoist Monks in the Special Human Bureau next door. Combined with a few hairs from Tai Feng to boost its power, this device was Cheng Hua’s latest attempt at finding him.
The compass worked at the beginning. But soon, the compass gave out, with the pointer kept spinning. Cheng Hua was mad.
Sitting in the rear seat, Ying Qiao rapped his finger on the window and sunk in thought. After a while, he said.” Drive straight ahead to Iron Bridge Bay.”
Cheng Hua threw the compass aside with disgust while complaining.” Why didn’t you say so earlier? I wasted so much time with this junk.”
Stepping on the gas, he sped away.
Iron Bridge Bay was not a bay. It was just a half-finished building. Originally it was an office building commissioned by a developer. Since the construction started, a series of accidents occurred in the building site, followed by the developer’s bankruptcy. Frequent turnover in ownership still failed to bring the building to completion. Finally, it was just abandoned. Because it was initially advertised by the developer as Iron Bridge Building and the building site was swamped each time pouring rain assaulted the place, gradually it acquired the name” Iron Bridge Bay.”
In this area, there were many old rundown buildings with residents long gone. At night, dark windows looked like many opened mouths. No one knew how many evils lurking in this darkness.
Jiang Lan followed Zhao Qunfang from a long way off. He saw her walking towards an old building and looked around. Then she knelt down with a scared look on her face.” Master, I am here. Please let go of me. I will return all the money. I don’t want them….”
Her desperate pleas carried across the night sky. After a while, a pale, plump man walked out of the darkness. It was the owner of the jewelry shop.
Hiding in the shadow, Jiang Lan held his breath and fixed his gaze on him.
He looked fatter than before. His whole body appeared like a human-shaped balloon filled with water, full and soft. His body shook with every step he took to Zhao Qunfang, then his body started to stretch and bent in an unnatural curve towards Zhang Qunfang.” Oh, I had fulfilled your wish. Now it is your turn to pay the price.”
Zhao Qunfang looked at his suddenly stretched and thinned body with horror. She was too scared to scream.
The Tai Su gave her a smile and started to extend his arm to his back. As if taking off a piece of clothing, he stripped off human skin, revealing the red and white fresh underneath and his real self without a face.” This body is worn now, so I need your body.”
Zhao Qunfang looked at the human-shaped monster in front of her, trembling. Without a sound, She fainted.
Not far away, while witnessing this scene, Jiang Lan was equally shocked speechless, but for a different reason.
Biting his finger in rage, he stared at the red and white meat, much like a piece of pork with fat and lean meat. Tainted by blood and hatred, the Tai Su’s meat was no longer fresh.
Even at a distance, He could still catch a whiff of the decaying smell.
|↑1||Number four is considered an ominous number in China because it sounds like death in Mandarin and Cantonese|
|↑2||Almost every city in China has a hospital named People’s Hospital|
|↑3||TL’s note: Despite his friendship with humans, Jiang Lan still has deep-seated contempt for weak humans.|
|↑4||A Cantonese dish popular in China|