After breakfast, Jiang Lan put some snacks and bottles of water in his backpack, and Jiao Tu held Suan Ni in his arms. The three of them went out.
Their destination was Qing Yang Lake Park.
Just as the name indicated, this park surrounds the whole lake, with a lot of greenery and many recreational facilities.
During weekends, many residents from the surrounding apartment complex would bring their children to the park. The park was big enough that even during peak time, the place was never crowded.
Jiang Lan had been here before with Suan Ni, so they knew the place well.
Because Jiao Tu was nervous around strangers, he chose a spot deep inside the park and stayed away from the crowd. They went there by a less-walked path on the lakeside.
Early summer is the perfect time for outdoor activities. The willows and the lotus in the lake sway gently with the breeze, which carries the scents of different plants.
It was totally different scenery from that offered by the ocean.
Jiao Tu had never been to a place like this and was entranced. Following Jiang Lan, he acted like a curious child. One minute he was admiring the lotus bud about to blossom in the lake. The next minute he was watching intently a group of koi fish converging in the shallow water. Jiang Lan brought some flake food, which he shared with him, asking him to feed the fish.
He sprinkled a little to the water, and many koi fish gathered around him, begging for more.
Jiao Tu bent down and slowly sprinkle the food while Suan Ni stayed with him and watched the fish with great interest; sometimes, he tried to catch one with his paws.
Jiang Lan leaned against a railing and watched them with smiles on his face.
After the flake food was gone, Jiao Tu turned to look at Jiang Lan, smiling.
Jiang Lan said.” Look, the human world is charming.”
After a pause, Jiao Tu nodded. This place was not as scary as he imagined before he came here. His smile was genuine and bright now.
“There is a lawn ahead; we can have a picnic while flying a kite.”
Jiang Lan led them forward to the place he mentioned, then he brought out a picnic cloth and spread it on the lawn. Next, he placed the fruits, snacks, and soft drinks on the fabric.
Today’s wind was very suitable for flying a kite. He bought one just for this occasion.
After finishing assembling, the three of them tried to launch it on the lawn.
After Jiang Lan released the kite into the air, Jiao Tu ran against the wind with his string pool while Suan Ni tried to keep up with him. Their eyes were fixed on the kite, which was slowly gaining altitude.
When the flying kite looked stable enough, Suan Ni jumped onto Jiao Tu’s shoulder and directed him to release more string, letting the kite fly higher.
It was the first time Jiao Tu flew a kite, and he was very excited. Under Suan Ni’s direction, he reeled in or let out the string to stabilize the kite. Soon their kite was flying very high, shrinking to a bright red spot in the sky.
Jiang Lan was watching them from not far and reminded them.” Don’t let it fly too high. The string might snap under too much pressure.”
At that moment, Jiao Tu gasped and stared into the sky with a blank look. He held up the empty string pool.” The string snapped.”
The kite was slowly falling towards the lake. Jiao Tu was anxious.” I will go to pick it up.”
Then he ran towards the lake with Suan Ni. Looking at their departing figures, Jiang Lan shouted.” Be careful. Don’t run too far away.”
Too late, the two brothers were already too far away to hear him.
Luckily, the kite didn’t get blown into the lake. When Jiao Tu reached the bank of the lake, he saw his kite was hanging from a willow branch.
“I will get it.” Suan Ni jumped from his shoulder to the willow tree, trying to get the kite. Jiao Tu waited under the tree.
Behind him, a ripple appeared in the lake together with a faint mysterious fragrance drifting into his nose. Jiao Tu wrinkled his nose. He didn’t like this smell.
At this point, the ripple grew stronger. There seemed to be something flapping on the lake surface.
While Suan Ni was trying to untangle the string on the tree, Jiao Tu curiously turned to look over the lake. Black hairs were spreading like seaweeds on the surface. He happened to be near a nine arch bridge
The long black hairs were floating out from under the bridge, followed by a beautiful woman’s face.
Her skin was extremely pale, with a cold tone even more intense than the bridge’s white paint. Her slanting eyebrows and the corner of her eyes were painted red. But her eyes were all black, without a trace of white.
Just like that, she floated on the surface of the lake. Her pitch-black eyes were fixed on Jiao Tu with a barely perceptible smile on her red lips.
The fragrance grew in intensity. Unblinking, Jiao Tu watched the woman with much curiosity,
After a while, the woman’s face suddenly broke into a smile, and her face’s left side began to slowly decay. At this moment, half of her face remained intact while the other half was all rotting meat and exposed bone. Intense malice started to appear in her eyes, which was still fixed on Jiao Tu. Suddenly she turned to dive into the bottom of the lake. At that moment, her disappearing long hair and her colorful clothing were like a blossoming flower.
Suan Ni untangled the kite from the tree branch and shouted to Jiao Tu.” Little Nine, what are you looking at? Come help me climb down.”
Jiao Tu withdrew his gaze and came over to the tree. Extending his arms, he waited to catch his brother.
Throwing down the kite first, Suan Ni nimbly landed on his shoulder. Jiao Tu picked up the kite and went back to Jiang Lan.
Jiang Lan gave some water to his returning brothers.” I have a backup string spool in the backpack. Do you guys still want to fly a kite?”
Suan Ni sat by him and asked him to massage his legs.” It’s enough.”
Jiao Tu also sat by Jiang Lan while drinking from his water bottle.”It’s enough for today.”
Then he added.” I just saw a person in the lake.”
“En? What kind of person?” Jiang Lan furrowed his brow and looked at him enquiringly.
Jiao Tu proceeded to describe what he just saw. After he finished, he wrinkled his nose.” It’s that smell again! Oh, it smells so bad.”
At that moment, they all heard a sound coming from the lake, like a heavy thing falling into the water.
Jiang Lan became alert and rose to walk towards the lake. After a few steps, he could hear the sound of people gathering, and someone was shouting.” Someone fell into the lake!”
This was followed by other sounds of heavy things hitting the water, it sounded like the rescuers were on the move.
Jiang Lan quickened his pace. When he reached the scene, a young man had already been rescued out of the lake. His eyes were shut, and a rescuer was trying to revive him.
A crowd was gathering. Someone was trying to contact the first-aid ambulance while others were calling the park administration. The whole scene was very chaotic.
An ambulance van arrived within ten minutes. After the medical workers performed first aid, the young man woke up from a coma. His girlfriend was the first to call for help, and she accompanied him to the ambulance.
When the medical workers carrying the stretcher passed by Jiang Lan, Jiang Lan smelt that fragrance Jiao Tu mentioned a moment ago.
This fragrance was not intense, having a kind of distant and cold feeling. When you tried to smell it, the fragrance was faint at the beginning, slowly gaining intensity. After a while, Jiang Lan could detect a rotting smell in the fragrance.
No wonder Jiao Tu said it smelt bad.
Jiang Lan walked over to the lake and bent down to look at the water. Because of the rescue efforts, the water around him was a little murky.
He walked back and forth by the lakeside, but he didn’t find the woman Jiao Tu described.
The crowd was now dispersing. Jiang Lan didn’t find the clue he was looking for, so he had to go back in disappointment.
When the three of them walked back the way they came by the lake, a faint rippling sound came from behind. Hearing this, Jiang Lan turned to look at the lake. In the middle of the lake, a few strands of black hair were floating, followed by an extremely pale face rising from the water. On this face, a pair of pitch-black eyes without whiteness was looking in their direction.
Squinting his eyes, Jiang Lan wanted to walk to the lake to get a clear view of this thing. But the lake woman suddenly sank into the water and disappeared.
The lake was very calm now as if the women had never shown up in the first place.
Jiang Lan didn’t want to dig deeper now because he was trying to have a good time with his brothers today. After making a mental note to come back later to investigate, he left with his brothers.
In the afternoon, the three brothers had their dinner in a restaurant.
Jiao Tu rarely left the Dragon Palace, and his diet mainly was seafood. Jiang Lan was afraid that he couldn’t stand spicy food, so he ordered a tomato broth hot pot for him. But Jiao Tu took an instant liking to the spicy hot pot after trying a little. With red-rimmed eyes and a red nose, he kept demanding more spicy broth-cooked beef slices.
Jiang Lan poured him a cup of iced coke to water down the lingering spicy taste in the mouth.
Jiao Tu poured it down his mouth and looked at the meat cooking in the hot pot.” More meat, please.”
Jiang Lan was amused and picked up the cooked meat for him.
After the hot pot, they toured the night market. Their outing lasted until a little past eleven o’clock.
Tonight, Jiao Tu didn’t sleep in the aquarium. After returning to his original form, he squeezed onto the same pillow with Suan Ni, who surrounded him with his body. The two brothers stayed on the inner side of the bed while Jiang Lan was sleeping outside.
After a day like this, the three brothers fell asleep almost instantly.
In the middle of the night, silver moonlight shone through the gap between curtains and fell on the wood floor. The sound of water could be heard in the bedroom, wave after wave as if a ripple was spreading.
A faint cold fragrance drifted around the nose.
Jiang Lan felt he sunk into the water. His whole body had a feeling of being immersed in cold water, mingled with the touch of hair, which brought on slight itchiness.
He abruptly opened his eyes. The room was all quiet without the sound of water or the smell of cold fragrance.
Except for the silver moonlight.