Chapter 51 – Ink Brush of Virtue (6)
First Published on Wattpad, Reposted on Ainushi
If you asked Zhao Yunlan, besides Shen, he doesn’t want to bring any third wheel. But considering black cat Da Qing’s vigorous protest the other day, Zhao squeezes out an ounce of responsibility from his brain full of rainbows, butterflies and unicorns, and gives Guo a call, telling him to come along, and help him learn in fun and games… ah, no, it’s practical training for the newcomer.
Pitiful little officer Guo, it’s been over half a year since he first started working for the SIU, but he still knows next to nothing. Till now, there is finally a tiny hint of basic training for him.
Guo is a responsible and diligent kid, and naturally, he wouldn’t have the Chief wait for him. As soon as he gets the phone call, he rushes out at the speed of light, and to avoid morning traffic, he sprints towards the subway station. He tries to get on board at the busiest station, but is crammed out of the carriage twice. Third time’s a charm: a fierce old lady gives him a kick from behind, and he is jammed inside just before the doors close.
All soaked in sweat, Guo arrives at the hospital, and realises he is there too early. The day-shift doctors are only just arriving at work, as for their Chief, well, he is still too captivated in whatever paradise he calls home sweet home.
Guo rubs his hands together, withdraws his necks, and waits in the freezing winter of Dragon City for more than two hours. A whole pack of tissues is used for his runny nose, and his whole body almost crystallises into a snowflake. Finally, the belated Zhao arrives… oh, and Professor Shen too.
Guo is so cold that he can’t speak clearly anymore, “Chi… Chichichichichichi- Chief Zhao.”
Zhao is rather amused by his appearance, “When did you arrive? How long have you been waiting?”
“Al… almost three hours.”
Zhao doesn’t ask things like “why didn’t you call me” or “why didn’t you go inside”, he is used to it… if Guo wasn’t stupid, is he still Guo?
But Shen is quite surprised, “Why don’t you go inside if you got here early?”
Zhao locks the car, and carelessly tosses the car keys into Guo’s arms, and chuckles, “He doesn’t dare.”
Bingo. Guo shamefully sucks up a trickle of snot, and glances at Shen.
Shen sees it, and patiently says, “Morning, have you had breakfast?”
Guo nods, and at the same time thinks with his messy brain: why is Chief Zhao bringing “family” to work?
On the face of it, it seems like the Chief has a problem. And yet, Guo can’t help but feel like a gargantuan third wheel. Greatly embarrassed, as he sees Shen and Zhao whispering to each other, he only dares to stand three steps away, head drooped and shoulders shrugged. His frozen face is looking all the more miserable, like a small eunuch following behind.
It’s influenza season, and the hospital is too crowded to begin with. As Guo tries to keep his distance, swarms of people quickly surpass and surround him. While he tries to wriggle his way out of the crowd, at the same time he stands tall on his toes searching for the other two men. But when he finally manages to bust out of the horde, Zhao and Shen are nowhere to be found.
Luckily, he came here once before, so he knows to go upstairs to in-patient department on the sixth floor.
As he arrives on the sixth floor, some doctors and nurses are hurriedly pushing a patient, and Guo quickly steps aside to make way.
He tilts his body, and accidentally looks towards a window.
After having witnessed “filthy things” on reflective glass for several times already, Guo is quite mentally disturbed. He now has a habit to close the curtains and turn on the TV as soon as he gets home, cover the reflective table with a tablecloth, and only ever lift open the laptop when he’s using it.
But it only took a careless glance, and Guo’s eyes are drawn to the glass.
He sees a person outside the window of the sixth floor. A man, slender, wearing a shabby beanie, and from underneath it his coarse-skinned ears and white hair can be seen. He is wearing an equally shabby cotton-padded jacket.
Instinctually, Guo senses his eccentricity. His heart begins beating rapidly, and yet sometimes, the more terrified you are, the harder it is to look away.
As Guo slowly looks down, his mouth widens, and a look of extreme horror emerges on his face… he sees the man floating mid-air, and he has no legs!
The man’s legs are cut from near the pelvis; on the narrow window, Guo can clearly see the irregular wound: a short segment of bone protrudes from within the rotten flesh, and it’s, it’s still bleeding! The blood oozes out of the gaps of the window, dripping on to the ground, gathering into a small puddle, like it will never stop flowing.
But the doctors and nurses passing by don’t seem to notice.
The legless man quietly glares at the in-patient department, half his face covered in dirt and blood. His eyes are popping out and his face is void of expression like a frightening wax figure. All he does is creepily eyeing the people that come and go, and tilting up his parched and cracked lips slightly to one side, wearing an inexplicably begrudging, mirthless smile…
Right this moment, a hand forcefully pats on his shoulder out of nowhere, and Guo’s fear reaches a certain level where he can’t even scream, and only silently leaps up, eyes dilated, and even his breathing stops. The heart in his chest “kachunks”, and skips a beat.
Not exaggeratingly, Guo clearly feels a surging urge to pee.
Luckily, he soon realises it’s Zhao patting him on his shoulder, and so he forces the urine back inside.
Zhao sees his pale and petrified face, and his hunchbacked and cross-legged awkward posture, and frowns, “What’s up with you now?”
Guo opens his mouth, attempting to explain, but his brain is a blank slate. He is still trapped in a state of temporary mutism, and all he can do is raise his trembling hand, and point towards the window at the end of the corridor.
Zhao looks up with suspicion, and follows Guo’s pointer… not particularly glistening, but not particularly filthy either. Besides a little dirt and tiny fractals, nothing can be seen.
Zhao asks, puzzled, “What did you see?”
As Guo panickingly looks up again, he is shocked to find the window completely blank; he sees nothing.
He frantically glances around, realising no-one is looking, and lowers his voice, speaking on the verge of tears, “I saw a man floating outside the window… no, half a man, his legs were cut off, blood dripping from the gaps of the window, and spilled everywhere.”
Zhao looks at him while frowning: Guo sucks a trickle of snot back in with all his might, still the same silly look that has “come bully me” written all over it.
Zhao knows he isn’t lying. From what he knows of Guo, he finds it highly unlikely that this kid has the intellect to support the demanding task of “lying to the Chief”.
He heads for the window, but his revealing watch does not respond, and only calmly walks by the second. Zhao touches the window sill, and opens the slightly rusted window; just a small gap, and a chilling northwesterly comes gushing in.
Yet it’s just a breeze. Besides chill, he doesn’t feel anything else.
Not long after, a young female nurse comes running towards Zhao by the window, and protests, “Hey, this mister, will you please close the window? If you need fresh air please go outside, there are patients here, and they can’t stand the cold.”
Zhao closes the window, turns around, and gives the young nurse an apologetic smile, nodding.
The girl is stunned by this high-quality handsome, and struggles to react. After a while, her face reddens, and she feigns a discontent mumble, and rushes off.
Shen, who walked towards them not long ago, can’t hold it anymore, and coughs lightly, intentionally blocking the way of the girl staring back with his body.
Zhao glances at him with a half-smiling face, and pulls his scarf gently. Leaning forward, he whispers into Shen’s ear, “Did you catch a cold? Why are you coughing?”
Shen hastily stumbles backwards. The look on his face and his movements make Zhao suspect that if he were to wear a long gown, he would flick his sleeves and lower his head, saying, “in broad daylight, men shall not stand too close”.
He can’t help but laugh subtly.
“What are you looking at?” Shen’s ears grow reddish, and awkwardly changes the subject.
Zhao glances at Guo, who stands far far away, not getting anywhere near the window whether dead or alive. He summarises what happened briefly.
Shen ponders, and lowers his voice, “Logically speaking, he shouldn’t have a third eye. But it’s very bewildering, I think he can see what happened in a place from reflective surfaces.”
Zhao frowns, “How so?”
“Do you remember the first time we met at Dragon City University, I suddenly appeared and interrupted him?” Shen says, “Actually, the night before I heard something happened, and suspected that it was related to the escaped hungry ghost. I sent a puppet to investigate the bedroom of the victim, and the puppet left before sunrise. But when this young man climbed up to the window sill, he and my puppet suddenly had a strange connection. I was afraid of blowing my cover, so I had to stop him… it’s just that I didn’t know you were there.”
That day, someone, by unknown means, cut off his sense of Zhao’s whereabouts.
In Guo’s report, he did mention seeing a skull on the window, and something along the lines of “a figure in a black cloak in the eyehole of the skull”. But Zhao only skimmed through the report, and found that ninety percent of it was fabricated bullshit, and so he used the report as drink coaster… he never expected Guo would be able to write anything useful anyway.
“Which means that last night, there was a legless man… or ghost, peeking in from the window?”
Shen lowers his voice even further, “Didn’t you say these two were sent in in the middle of the night? If I had a plan to hurt people, I’d probably come see for myself what happened to them.”
Zhao smirks, “Oh you wouldn’t hurt anyone, even when you kiss someone you do it so secretively…”
Shen cannot get used to whispering in each other’s ears, and even touching on such a private subject in the eyes of the public. His face reddens instantly, and he interrupts him, bellowing, “Stop that nonsense!”
Zhao shuts his mouth. But a slut is still a slut, even with his mouth closed. He uses his gaze to invade and sexualise, and he does it skillfully and with great experience.
Finally, Shen can’t stand his eyeing up and down his body, and turns around, heading to the rooms with wide steps.
The three awkwardly walk towards the patients’ room, and Guo realises that the bestial solo lament from the other night has turned into a duet, and the first victim isn’t here anymore.
Big officer cap from a police branch comes out with a difficult face, holding Zhao’s hands, as welcoming as the Fourth Red Front Army meeting the Second Red Front Army in victory all those years ago. He says with great anguish, “You must be Chief Zhao? I’m Li. Our Chief ordered me, and I have been waiting for you all day.”
Zhao asks, “Where’s the victim from yesterday?”
Office Li says, “He is almost dying, sent to the ICU. The hospital is about to send these two over there as well.”
Zhao asks, “How is he almost dying?”
Officer Li says, “He was screaming through the day, like a fish out of water. His eyes widened, and he couldn’t speak. He was in a comatose state, he would quiver occasionally, and he wouldn’t feel anything from the legs
down… is this really poisoning? All these years I haven’t came across a drug that can get someone in this state.”
“Maybe it really isn’t poisoning.” Zhao looks at him, and Officer Li finds this man’s eyes dark and hollow, as if he had some kind of insinuation. Li trembles. Zhao pats him on the shoulder, “After all, the hospital doesn’t have a conclusion yet, anything is possible… you work on moving them first, I’ll talk to the victim, and figure out what’s the situation.”