Author: 长洱 / Chang’er
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Fate was a two-way journey.
The early spring in Honjing was still very cold.
At least after the sting, the rain was also abundant. The clouds outlined a vivid scene between heaven and earth, full of lush foliage that was about to bloom.
The sound of bicycle bells jingled from everywhere, as if it was a small bell to wake up insects, as they passed by countless flower stands lined up on the side of the road displaying creamy yellow carnations or lavender orchids that pedestrians could buy for a fraction of the cost.
Xing Conglian parked his car on the side of the road, got out, and stopped under a sycamore tree.
There was a flower stand there. The young flower girl, wearing a fleece hat, blushed when she saw him. She smiled sweetly at him when he gave her ten yuan and handed him a bouquet of lilies like usual.
The lilies carried the fragrance of dew. He ruffled the girl’s shaggy hair, then turned around and walked deep into the street full of flower stands.
At the end of the street was a hidden cemetery. As he got closer, the fragrance of flowers gradually faded, replaced by the smell of incense.
The cemetery wasn’t on the outskirts of a beautiful mountain but close to a large river with a bridge named Taiqian.
More than half a year had passed since Lin Chen fell from that bridge.
The lake gurgled as the water covered the pebbles on shore as Xing Conglian walked through the scattered tombstones. He stopped and put down the bouquet of lilies in front of the tombstone closest to the lake shore.
There wasn’t a picture on the tombstone. The name was painted in red ink. Perhaps because there was too much oil in the paint when the words were painted, there were small ink stains leaking from the edges of the characters that looked like tentacles belonging to some kind of insect.
He casually sat down cross-legged in front of the tombstone, then lit a cigarette and let the fire burn out the smoke, little by little.
That day, after Lin Chen and Feng Peilin fell off the bridge, they searched high and low but could only find Feng Peilin’s body.
For three days and nights, without sleep, he experienced for the first time going from full hope to crashing into despair.
Until now, he sometimes remembered Lin Chen’s face when he fell into the river.
He had seen the faces of many people before they died, but he had never seen anyone as calm and collected as Lin Chen. It was as if he was going out for breakfast, or as calm as the autumn leaves that were about to fall from the branches.
He often wondered if Lin Chen was dead. After all, they didn’t find any corpses. Perhaps one day, Lin Chen would appear in front of this makeshift tomb, pick up the lilies in front of his tombstone, and lightly smell them.
Therefore, Xing Conglian liked to come here often, especially when he had nothing to do. He would sit here in a daze.
This gave him some comfort.
He sat in front of Lin Chen’s grave and looked around aimlessly.
At that moment, his cellphone began to vibrate.
“Captain, he’s appeared again,” the caller said.
“In the Shifang section of the Hongjing Highway…”
“There were no casualties.”
Xing Conglian hung up the phone and stared at the tombstone. He took a deep puff from his cigarette, then threw it on the ground and stomped out the spark with his heel.
The Hongjing Police Criminal Division was no different from the way it was after Lin Chen left.
In the office, most of the police officers had already left, leaving only a technician watching videos behind.
Xing Conglian grabbed the iced lemon tea from Wang Chao’s hand and took a sip. It was so cold that it made his teeth chatter.
“Captain, although you don’t mind, I do. Can you please buy your own drink?” Wang Chao snatched the iced tea back with one hand and turned the mouth of the cup in disgust, while his other hand never left the mouse.
“How is the situation or the kid?”
“See for yourself,” Wang Chao said as he clicked play on the video.
It was an edited video recording of a passenger bus for eight minutes on the highway.
It was just after six in the morning. The stars and moon had just faded. Both sides of the highway were full of soft reeds. When a bus sped past, the reeds near the roadside would sway like waves.
There were a lot of people on the bus. Because it was so packed, water vapors from people’s breaths condensed into mist on the bus’s window. Most of the passengers had their eyes closed as the atmosphere seemed to be full of drowsiness.
On the seat by the window, a woman with a child tore open the packaging for a lollipop. The little girl took the cantaloupe milk-flavored candy and licked it.
Suddenly, a huge road sign with white characters on a green background appeared outside the window. The bus was going so fast that the road sign only flashed momentarily, leaving behind only the afterimage of the large font in people’s eyes.
This road sign seemed to have activated a peculiar spell. The mist outside the window seemed to penetrate into the car all at once. The surveillance screen began to shake violently, and the video became blurry. The curtains flew up and all the passengers leaned to the left.
Only when a loud sound pierced their eardrums did the driver slam on the brakes. The screeching sound of the emergency brake combined with the booming sounds of the horn was deafening.
The candy in the little girl’s hand fell to the ground. The surface of the milky yellow lollipop was stained with dirt and dust from the floor as it kept rolling towards the back row.
After the bus stopped in a temporary parking zone, all the passengers woke up as if from a dream. They hurriedly looked around. After a while, they found that there seemed to be no other vehicles around.
The road was empty, horribly empty.
They subconsciously turned to the driver. Several young, strong people stood up from the back rows. As if they were in danger, they tried to rush out.
However, everyone was stunned when they saw a gun, which was pointed at the driver’s head.
Somehow, someone had reached the driver’s seat first.
It was a very young boy, wearing a sooty cashmere scarf. The scarf covered his mouth and nose, revealing only slightly raised eyes that were like moist glass and gave people the urge to want to kiss it.
They all watched as the boy leaned close to the driver’s ear. It seemed like he was saying something.
Now, this was a legal society with strict gun control. Most people had never seen a handgun with their own eyes let alone encountered a loaded one on a highway robbery.
After waiting for dozens of seconds, the hijacker didn’t seem to make any movements, causing the passenger to begin to whisper.
The mother put her arms around her child and patted her lightly. The men stood up vigilantly. The atmosphere in the bus gradually became turbulent. The bold young people began to walk up the aisle, trying to get closer to the cab.
The hijacker’s eyes narrowed slightly, as if smiling.
In the next moment, the gun went off.
It was a real gunshot, like a firecracker exploding or the sound of a tire popping. It slightly shook the mist that had piled up on the side of the road.
Everyone’s first reaction was to close their eyes and cover their ears.
At the same time, the bullet grazed the driver’s forehead and shattered the car window on the side of the cab. Glass shards fell all over the floor. The driver gritted his teeth and shrank into a ball, trembling all over.
The passengers, who had been holding on to luck, suddenly realized that the young boy with the gun was a serious hijacker.
The car instantly became silent.
However, the young boy standing in the front of the bus simply smiled. His eyes curved into a beautiful arc. He stretched out his arms and jumped on the panel of the bus as he put down the gun in his hand.
Was the vicious hijacker about to speak?
Was he going to say something like, “Hand over all your money or I’ll kill you” or “If you don’t want a bullet in your brain, put all your valuables in the bag”?
Some of the passengers had already taken off their gold watches, but then they heard a strange thing.
“Ladies and gentlemen, take out all your candies, but not anything citrus-flavored. I don’t like them!”
The young boy said this as if this was all just a game. He was tossing the gun in his hand from his left hand to his right hand when suddenly he stretched out his hand and pointed the barrel at the driver who was planning to act. “I said, please don’t move.”
His soft voice invaded every passenger’s ear like warm water.
Everyone thought they had heard wrong. They looked around in confusion, as they didn’t know what to expect.
“Hurry up. I’m not joking around.” The young man sat on the panel again and laughed. He was wearing light blue jeans and had on a pair of bright yellow Nike shoes. His feet were dangling in the air, swaying gently left and right.
Just when all the passengers were still immersed in unknown confusion, a resounding “boom” sounded. The boy had pulled the trigger again.
This time, the bullet flew straight to the front of the bus. The windshield exploded with a “bang” and cold air burst in from the outside.
The wind blew up the boy’s jet-black and soft hair and made the driver’s face as cold as gold foil.
As if by magic, the young boy pulled out a maroon velvet hat from his jacket pocket and thoughtfully put it on the driver.
But in the next second, he pointed his gun at a restless middle-aged man in the front row who was about to pull out his phone and coldly said, “Hurry up!”
The middle-aged man trembled as he took out half a roll of Halls from his pocket and handed it over.
The young man accepted the candy with satisfaction. He took one out with one hand and popped it in his mouth, then stuffed the candy wrapper into his pocket.
When a leader acted, naturally, it would drive a group of followers. White cold candies, lemon drops, pink bubble gum, and a plethora of colorful candies fell into the pockets of the young boy one after another. One passenger even handed over a box full of golden Ferrero. The young boy looked at the chocolate in disgust and refused.
Eight minutes later, all the candy on the bus was swept away.
The on-board pager of the bus would come on from time to time. Red dots on the pager kept flashing. The teenager started to get annoyed. He turned off the tablet-sized pager and took it off the shelf.
“I wish you all a pleasant journey.”
After he finished speaking, he jumped onto the front-most console of the bus and blew everyone a kiss.
The next moment, they saw him jump out the broken front window without hesitation, rolled onto the highway and scampered down it as if he was flying into the vast reed forest like an egret returning home.
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