Chapter 2 – Sundial of Reincarnation (1)
Editor: Misaki Yata
Quality Checker: Krrizis
First Published on Wattpad, Edited and Reposted on Ainushi
The street lights flickered like fireflies in the wind, and darkness reigned over the light in this dismal and dreary night. A young girl’s staggering steps bashed at the bumpy brick road. Suddenly, she tripped and fell on her knees heavily.
In the suffocating heat of a summer’s night, Li Qian panted and puffed vigorously, her fingers tightly clutching her clothes.
She heard the thumping of her heartbeat and the thumping of someone else’s footsteps.
The noise seemed to originate from a pair of old, soft-soled cloth shoes, and the wearer seemed to be stumbling due to a leg disability.
Li abruptly looked behind her but there was nothing in her sights besides small, swiveling insects by the street lamp.
She had a delicate look, and normally, she would have been considered pretty. But now her hair clung uncomfortably to her face, messy and soaked in sweat, and her cheeks and lips were becoming paler by the minute. She was looking a lot less pretty than how she usually was.
Gradually, her expression became strangely unsettling, almost like an evil smirk or a malicious glare, with a remarkable yet indescribable hint of pure terror.
“Go away.” She bolted up and said, grinding her teeth, “If I can get rid of you once, I can get rid of you twice.”
The footsteps stopped.
Li rolled up her sleeves, her snow-white arms now covered with goosebumps. In the cooking heat of summer, something unseeable was making her cold.
She picked up a brick from the ground as the footsteps closed in on her from all directions like a swarm of bone-devouring maggots. But still, there was nothing within her sights.
The unseen is the most terrifying.
Li began to scream as she smashed and bludgeoned the air with the brick.
The brick began to grow heavier and heavier and the coarse surface pained her palm. Exhausted, her eyes grew dark; hunch-backed, her arms rested on her crooked knees. Puffing and panting, she inadvertently stared at the ground.
Li’s irises began to narrow and her entire body began to tremble with vigor. The brick in her hand dropped to the ground, plunging onto her toes in her sandals. But as though she had not felt the pain at all, she stumbled backwards, her knees bent and she crashed down, sitting on the ground.
A shadow… it’s a shadow!
The street lamp was directly in front of her, so how was a shadow cast despite nothing blocking the light?
The shadow looked like black ink that spattered across the ground and a figure watched her for god knows how long.
Li was paralyzed on the ground but the shadowy figure was standing upright.
If you haven’t done anything wrong, why are you so terrified by a shadow?
She seemed to hear a screeching laughter.
It was dawn, almost five o’clock, the phone on the bedside drawer rang with a ghastly howl.
Zhao Yunlan worked overtime from dusk till dawn, and when he got home, he just rolled right into bed without even taking his clothes off. Just as he had gotten himself comfortable, the phone had yet more work for him.
He opened his eyes blandly, his double eyelids drooping heavily and stared at the ceiling in contempt. After three seconds, he rose like a zombie, struggling to hold up his squishy brain, and reached out for his cell phone.
Zhao’s room was remarkably chaotic; it was even worse than a dog’s lair.
His clothes were scattered everywhere, both on the bed and the floor. Nobody knew whether they were meant to be washed or worn. The big twin bed had all sorts of miscellaneous objects on it, some being of rather unimaginable sorts: a single sock wrapped around the corner of a laptop, a pair of sunglasses, an umbrella, an origami top hat, and a whole can of cinnabar powder. With all these piles of garbage cramming up one space, there was only a tiny spot of space enough for a single person to sleep on.
Zhao wore a greatly resentful expression that looked as if he was just about to burst out swearing. But when he picked up the phone, his tone was awfully normal, perhaps having gotten used to this kind of life, “What’s happened now?”
“Someone died,” Wang’s voice came from the other side.
“Last night or this morning, just a while ago.”
“Hmmm…” Zhao ran his hand across his face, “let Old Chu take care of it.”
“Chu Shuzhi went on a business trip to Xiangxi.”
“What about Lin Jing?”
“Got transferred by Hell.”
“Fuck me… What about Zhu Hong? Oh never mind, there was a full moon yesterday, she must be on leave. Who else is at work?”
“Me, but it’s almost sunrise so I have got to go soon.” said Wang. “There’s still Da Qing and the new intern Guo Changcheng.”
Zhao feebly yawned, and said, “Tell Da Qing to go with the intern, give him a chance to learn.”
“Guo can’t go anywhere right now.” Wang explained. “When he came over last night, he passed out on the floor and he’s still unconscious.”
“……” Zhao asked, “What scared him?”
“Old Wu and I.” Wang even added, “I told you to find a professional shroud shop to make Old Wu a new body. What Zhu Hong makes with sandbags and paper can never look like an actual person.”
Zhao silently sat on the edge of the bed, and slowly sighed, “It’s against procedure for me to go there in person, it might scare others… but I guess I have no choice. Fine, tell Da Qing to wait for me. I’m coming.”
He hung up, showered in three minutes, and sped towards University Street in his car.
Zhao slowed down the car right around the corner, and a black shadow suddenly fell from the sky. A round ball of animal fur came crashing down like a grenade, almost leaving a crate on the front of the car.
Zhao swiftly slammed the brakes, rolled down the window and yelled, “This is called an automobile! It’s a transportation device, not your litter box! Don’t try to break it will you!?”
On the front of the car sat a pitch-black cat, so fat and round that it seemed to have no neck, possibly being the African cousin of Garfield.
The big, fat cat looked around, and after making sure that there was no one around, flicked its whiskers, and said, “Stop babbling and get out. Haven’t you noticed that smell?”
The air was filled with an inexplicable foul odor like that of a bio-weapon. Covering his nose, Zhao got out of the car and asked the cat, “Did you just fart? What’s that smell?”
Ignoring his remarks, the black cat jumped off the car and started walking ahead.
A few police cars had already stopped by the side of the road, and a police line had been set up at the entrance of a small narrow alley.
Zhao rummaged his pockets, and after a long while, finally managed to locate a scruffy staff card. The policeman guarding the police line didn’t look too well. He quickly glanced at Zhao’s card and returned it, and then rushed off to a wall and started vomiting.
Zhao scratched his bird’s nest of a head, bewildered, “Is my photo really that nauseating?”
The cat, who was walking quite some distance ahead of him, impatiently turned back and urged him with a long and angry “meow”.
“Right, right, the important stuff. Damn, this smell. I can’t even stand ten steps.” Zhao crouched down and crossed the police line.
Zhao had just arrived yet someone already seemed to have been waiting for him.
“Are you from the Special Investigations Unit?”
In the Ministry of Public Security, everyone knew of the enigmatic department called the “Special Investigations Unit”.
They certainly were not low-tier officers but nobody knew what exactly it was that they did. Every time someone from the SIU(Special Investigations Unit) was involved, it was always by the orders of the higher authorities, and nobody could object.
But if they weren’t present, nobody would knew where to find them.
They belonged to the MPS but weren’t always closely monitored. They were strictly organized and their procedures were completely non-transparent. If the media didn’t have official approval, they would never have been able to locate the SIU, let alone interview or report anything about them.
To be honest, nobody knew how they did things. When a case is handed to the SIU, it’s as if it was entering a black box, and the only thing that came out was a mysterious report.
Sometimes, staff members from the SIU were even more baffling than the most bewildering of cases.
Their case reports were always detailed, logical, and impeccable; giving a full account of the entire process of solving the case and catching the criminals involved.
But there was one aspect that was unceasingly suspicious – the criminals always died by the end of the case.
While most of the cases they handled involved heinous crimes that most of the suspects most probably deserved such demise, it was perhaps… a little too coincidental.
The police officer in charge of the investigation was a senior policeman named Yang. He offered Zhao a friendly handshake and sized him up curiously, “What should I call you?”
“Zhao, Zhao Yunlan. You can just call me Little Zhao.”
Old Yang was quite taken aback. Never would he have thought that this young man was the Chief of the SIU. He gave Zhao an even closer look and realized that he was tall, slender and handsome like a model from a fashion advertisement. Though it must be said that his outfit was not very pleasing – a scruffy shirt which was half-buttoned up, only half of it tucked in while the other half not, and not to mention that bird’s nest of a hairstyle.
But Chief Zhao was the Chief after all. No matter how messy he looked, even if he ran naked on the street, lower tier officers would probably have to praise him for trend-setting.
“Oh dear!”, exclaimed Old Yang, “You’re Chief Zhao! Excuse me for my ignorance, who would have thought our Chief is so young and accomplished!”
Zhao was rather used to flattery, and naturally replied with some utterance of formality.
Presently at this moment, someone was growing impatient, and a loud and clear “meow” could be heard. Old Yang looked down and saw a black shadow which swiftly climbed up Zhao’s pants, shirt and onto his shoulder.
Normally, seeing a black cat with green eyes at a crime scene would be rather ominous but this particular cat was just a bit too plump, which instead seemed to lighten up the situation rather than darken it.
Old Yang stared at it and it stared right back. “This… this…?”
Zhao embarrassingly adjusted his pants which were almost pulled off by the cat and laughed, “This is our cat manager. He is really hard-working, so he doesn’t like it when we chit chat during work.”
“…” Old Yang was left speechless.
The black cat arrogantly stretched its neck, albeit with difficulty due to its sheer size, and impatiently swung its tail.
Zhao got the message and showed Old Yang the little badge sported around the cat’s neck.
“This is a SIU special permit. It’s basically equivalent to our staff cards. Don’t worry, he is an experienced cat so he knows his way around.”
“…” Old Yang began to find this whole ordeal rather nonsensical.
A moment later, Chief Zhao carried the cat and followed Old Yang into the crime scene.
The further they went, the nastier the smell got.
A female corpse laid in the narrow alley, wearing a t-shirt with “Dragon City University Orientation Camp” printed on it. Her eyes and mouth were open. Her body laid flat in the shape of a star and her stomach, had been cut open and emptied.
Old Yang covered his nose with a paper towel, visibly disturbed.
The fat cat on Zhao’s shoulder let out a long “meow”, leaped onto the ground, and circled the corpse twice. It then stopped beside the corpse, sat down, and stared at Zhao like a well-trained search dog.
Zhao walked towards the corpse, and took out a pair of scruffy gloves from his ragged pocket and put them on. He examined the spot the cat was sitting on, and carefully lifted up one of the corpse’s arms.
Old Yang, leaning forward for a closer look, saw a bloody hand mark on the floor.
That definitely couldn’t be a human’s hand. The palm was only the size of a child’s hand yet the fingers were at least twenty centimeters long. Old Yang had been a policeman practically his entire life, and he’d never seen anything so bizarre.
While Yang was still stupefied, Zhao remarked in a serious tone, “From this point onward, the SIU will be in charge of this case. The handover procedures will be completed in two working days.”
Old Yang never got the chance to reply as Zhao pointed towards a dilapidated door and asked, “What’s this place?”