Lin Ke and He Ling had already left, Bai Huo re-filled the two wine glasses on the table.
”I, I’ve never been good at studying. Unlike my older cousin, he was always better than me at everything. But I have a special skill that he doesn’t.” Ma Zhong leaned in close to Bai Huo and said with an air of mystery, “I see things that others can’t.”
”So, you can see chains on my wrist?” Bai Huo asked.
”Of course, how could I not.”
”Really now, so is it silver or black?”
Ma Zhong stammered but couldn’t answer.
”So, you’re actually a swindler.”
Ma Zhong pulled Bai Huo’s sleeves: “Ah don’t go, ah, that’s not it, my eyes aren’t always reliable, I just quickly glimpsed it under the moonlight, I didn’t get a good look.”
”It’s been snowing heavily all day, what moonlight?”
But after saying that, the two simultaneously raised their heads, only to find that the heavy snow had stopped at some unknown point, and the layers of dark clouds had split open, leaking a sliver of moonlight.
There really was moonlight.
Bai Huo was stumped for a moment, but the color of this moonlight wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t a clear white moon, but a hazy red moon, it looked like a blood-colored gauze had covered the moon. As it’s colloquially called, lunar halo.
Ma Zhong pointed and hissed: “A bad omen ah.”
”How did you come up with five years?” Bai Huo asked.
”That, I really divined that from your facial features.” Ma Zhong laughed mischievously and explained, “Little comrade, you’re not like ordinary people, you’re…”
Bai Huo looked at him doubtfully, his fingers under the table clenching.
”You’re in the same profession.” Ma Zhong had a look of ‘you can’t fool me’.
Bai Huo relaxed and snorted. Under the table, his fingers loosened.
”Don’t worry, I’ll never tell a soul,” Ma Zhong’s swollen eyes worked hard to squeeze out a sincere expression. “Zhong Ye can’t do anything else, but if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s staying loyal!”
”Excellent!” Bai Huo turned his head, “Boss, he’ll cover the bill!”
”Wait, wait a minute…” Ma Zhong pounced on Bai Huo’s thigh, saying miserably, “Big brother, don’t do this, I have to take care of my aging parents, you can’t help people half-heartedly. How… how about I tell you another piece of industry news, then will you give me money for the meal?”
Bai Huo was thinking about the little dragon at home, he sighed: “Uncle, you have five minutes, if you don’t tell me why you came here, you can stay here and wash dishes.”
”Talk, I’ll talk.” Ma Zhong stood up and began to undress.
”What are you doing?” Bai Huo recoiled. “I have principles.”
“Where, where, found it, fortunately it didn’t break.” Ma Zhong chuckled and pulled out a quail egg-sized glass bead from the inner pocket of his thermal underwear. “Have you ever seen one of these?”
Bai Huo was disgusted and didn’t reach for it: “What is it?”
”So, you haven’t seen it yet,” Ma Zhong said proudly. “There’s a blood-sucking worm in it, it feeds on bat blood. It’s a magic device of us geomancers, it can point out the location of anomalies. I came to Xi City after receiving its guidance. “
Bai Huo stared blankly.
The evening light wasn’t very bright. In the glass bead, a sesame seed-sized blood worm could vaguely be seen slowly squirming towards a certain direction. Although it looked disgusting, Bai Huo immediately determined that this bead and the compass had the same principle behind them. It could be called a low-end version of the compass. Seeing this, Bai Huo’s heart burst into tears, who would’ve expected that humanity’s counterfeiting ability would be so powerful.
”I don’t want to hide it from you, I really did come to Xi City with a purpose,” Ma Zhong resolutely said. “You know my older cousin, the famous zoologist professor, in fact, it’s all a pretense. The entire Xiao family, from his generation back, have been looking for a legendary animal.”
”What animal?” Bai Huo had a bad feeling.
Ma Zhong looked left and right, then whispered: “Dragons.”
Bai Huo’s expression didn’t fluctuate, instead he laughed, looking like he’d just heard an extremely rare joke: “Dragons? Did all that studying turn them stupid?”
”Ah,” Ma Zhong said worriedly. “Why don’t you believe it? In 1934, a dragon crashed in Yingkou city. In 1999, Wuhan city, the mystery of the falling trees on Mt. Mo. You can search it up, these things can all be found online now. There really are dragons in this world!”
Bai Huo said helplessly: “Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, but what does that have to do with you?”
Ma Zhong exposed a rare bit of embarrassment: “I, from childhood, my aptitude has been mediocre, my cousin has always beaten me at everything. So, I thought, well, what if I found a dragon before he could…”
Bai Huo understood, this guy was a con man, he interrupted: “You just ran to Xi City because of that?”
”Yes, I peeked at my cousin’s research and noticed that he’d mentioned Xi City quite a few times. Plus, the worm was guiding me here, I just wanted to take a look. Who knows, maybe I’d get lucky and bump into a dragon, bahahaha…”
Bai Huo: “…”
”Ah, the direction is settled, look.” Ma Zhong pointed to the blood worm, which had stopped squirming around in the marble, and said.
Bai Huo looked at it, his complexion changing slightly.
This direction… seemed to be his house?
Bai Huo suddenly remembered the day he’d surveyed the crime scene with Luo Wen Xu. The compass had been pointing to the southwest, Wuluo Mountain. At that time, he’d thought that something even more powerful had appeared, which had attracted the compass’ interest and made it change directions. Judging from the results, that conclusion made sense. A dragon birth really was a heaven-sent event.
But what if, that wasn’t it?
What if there was never anything wrong with the compass’ direction, and it was always pointing towards the murderer?
”Damn it!” Bai Huo’s face instantly paled, because he was anxious, even his voice was raspy. He jumped over the table with one hand and ran out the door.
Ma Zhong was dumbfounded, a few seconds later, he shouted: “Ah, what about the bill…”
On the way, Bai Huo’s intestines turned green with regret. He shouldn’t have left the little dragon cub alone at home, such a defenseless child, if anything wanted to hurt him, it would be too easy.
From a distance, he saw that the house was dark, and his heart sank.
”Fat chicken!” Bai Huo ran at full speed and kicked open the door. The living room was empty, no one was on the sofa, on the ground, broken glass was scattered, and the grilled fish on the table had been knocked over.
In the dark room, only the sound of Bai Huo’s harsh breathing could be heard. The snow outside the window reflected a shimmer of light, which illuminated his pale face. Bai Huo turned around the house in a rough search, and miserably found that not only had the little dragon disappeared, even the fat bird was gone.
By rough calculation, he’d left around four hours ago, the child couldn’t walk steadily yet, so he couldn’t have gotten very far if he was by himself.
Looking at the snow in the courtyard, Bai Huo stepped out. Fortunately, there really was a string of human footprints entering and leaving the yard. Judging from the size, it should belong to an adult male. It went from the door straight to the courtyard, finally, it vanished under tire tracks of a car coming and going. Looking at the state of the footprints, less than half an hour had passed.
”Hey, Coral?” Bai Huo reacted quickly, and immediately called the Dragon Association. He was wearing a thin knitted sweater, standing in the cold wind, his hand on his forehead, his eyebrows tightly wrinkled. “Are any of the association’s people there? I need your help to find someone…”
A few meters away, a police jeep slowly approached, the lights flashing.
Bai Huo was too engrossed in self-blame to notice: “Yes, a young water dragon, smoky gray, a newborn…Don’t ask for details, I’ll tell you later… A photo? No, I don’t have a photo, you…”
The jeep slowly pulled up to Bai Huo’s side, and a window rolled down.
Bai Huo turned to look, inside the vehicle, two small pairs of eyes met his: “…….”
Ji Bei was holding a humanoid baby dragon, leaning out of the window to ask, astonished: “Director Bai?”
”… How can I help you find someone without a photo? When did you pick up a dragon child? Why didn’t you report it to the association? You know this is a breach of principle, right? You’ll be punished….” The female voice on the other end of the phone was still chattering.
”Forget it, I don’t need it.” Bai Huo clenched his teeth and hung up.
As soon as the little dragon saw him, his eyes reddened, and he reached out towards him through the window, feeling wronged, his nose sniffling.
Bai Huo quickly took the child from Ji Bei, and wrapped him in his arms: “Shhh, are you okay?”
It was only then that he realized just how ice-cold his hands and feet were – he’d been scared senseless.
Ji Bei turned off the engine and got out of the jeep with a stack of documents in his hand. Outside, the temperature had dropped to minus seven degrees. Leaving the heater, the temperature plummeted, Ji Bei staggered, holding the door to stand firm.
”Sorry, Director Bai. When I came over, I heard a child crying inside the house, so I entered the yard without authorization.” Ji Bei panted, looking apologetically at the little dragon and Bai Huo’s close embrace, “This is…your son?”
Bai Huo had stared vigilantly at Ji Bei since he’d appeared, only nodding slightly.
Ji Bei felt that he had really been too bold, he explained: “The child opened the door for me. I saw that there wasn’t an adult at home. I thought he was hungry, so I took him to buy some milk nearby.”
“I’d stepped out,” Bai Huo nodded to him. “Thank you.”
The little dragon was lying on his shoulder, clinging to him tightly, a posture that shouted ‘Never leave me again’.
This made Bai Huo’s heart soften, and his tone unconsciously eased a few degrees: “Alright, alright, say thank you to uncle.”
”No need.” Ji Bei’s cheeks were red form the cold, he smiled. “Your child is very well-behaved.”
Bai Huo’s heart was filled with delight after hearing someone praise his child.
The little dragon cub was truly clingy with him, but he vehemently rejected outsiders. Even the fat chicken had been bitten by him. But he’d willingly followed Ji Bei, which made Bai Huo feel somewhat surprised. At the very least, this child didn’t seem to hate Ji Bei.
Because of their innate superior senses, dragons had better intuition and perception of danger than human beings. Even newborn cubs were sensitive to a human’s breath. Whether someone was malicious or not, the dragon cub could feel it.
Ji Bei was a famous detective. His body carried a righteousness that had been honed over the years. Such a man also had poor health, had no aggressiveness, and his personality was soft and easy to get close to. It made sense that he would be able to recruit the cub.
But Bai Huo still felt bitter about it.
”Did you come over for something, Officer Ji? Let’s go inside and sit.” Bai Huo asked.
Ji Bei waved his hand and smiled: “It’s late, I won’t disturb your rest. I’ll leave as soon as I report to you. It’s about the progress on the most recent case, the captain should’ve already called to tell you about it. I came here to give you some abnormal data we’ve collected on the third case. Our team repeatedly analyzed it all night, but they couldn’t find anything. I heard the captain say that Director Bai is a very thoughtful man, so I thought you’d be able to give us some new ideas if you read the analysis.” Speaking of this, he handed the documents to Bai Huo.
Bai Huo felt surprised and embarrassed, but it was hard to reject. Afraid that Ji Bei would faint from the cold any moment now, he promptly agreed, saying that he’d call him the moment he figured out something.
”Then I’ll head back first.” Ji Bei started up the jeep and smiled. “Kids have poor resistance. You should go inside soon, before he catches a cold.”
”I really don’t need to send you off? Why don’t you call Captain Luo?” Bai Huo was worried, if something really happened because he came looking for him, he’d be upset.
”No, he’s busy,” Ji Bei said with a self-deprecating smile. “I’m still a policeman, how can I be that delicate?”
Bai Huo nodded. “Okay.”
Bai Huo carried the dragon cub into the living room, then warmed up a towel to wipe him down asking: “What about the fat bird? What happened?”
The little dragon pointed out the window, and drowsily leaned into Bai Huo’s arms.
In the snow, a police jeep wobbled along.
”Horns on my head, Tail behind me, No one knows, How many secrets I have…” There was the sound of a rather old-fashion nursery rhyme in the carriage, the singing voice sounded especially ethereal in the snow.
Ji Bei had deliberately played the nursery song in order to calm the child down. He’d really seemed to like it, holding his milk bottle and listening attentively to it. If he didn’t know that it was impossible for such a small baby to understand, he would’ve thought that the child was listening to the lyrics. Ji Bei liked children. It was easy to feel sleepy when driving alone, so he didn’t turn off the song on the return trip.
The street lamps were broken, and the road ahead was bad. The snow was already up to half a tire. It was getting more challenging to drive; Ji Bei was already working the jeep like a donkey.
After driving out a few kilometers, he noticed the forgotten scarf on the front passenger seat. The child had been clutching it when he’d carried him out, and he’d refused to let go of it the whole journey. But as soon as he met his father, the precious scarf was immediately forgotten. Ji Bei found it amusing. That Bai Huo didn’t look very reliable, who would’ve guessed that he and his child shared such deep feelings? He was very envious.
While he was pondering, there was a ‘thump’ sound at the front of the car, as if he’d hit something.
”Huh?” Ji Bei stepped on the brakes.
It was 4 o’clock in the morning, the surroundings were deserted. Except for the thick snow-covered road, there was no signs of human activity. While Ji Bei stretched his neck, a strange black shadow appeared at the edge of the headlights’ range.
”Who’s there? Show yourself!”
Many years on the police force had trained him, he quickly became alert, reaching for the gun underneath his seat and unlocking his seat belt.
Just as he got out of the jeep, before Ji Bei could even straighten up, the distant black shadow flashed. Something bit his neck using inhuman speed. He only felt a sharp pain, and his eyes went dark, losing consciousness.
in the same profession: 同行 -Idk what he means by this. Maybe he’s saying they’re both con men, maybe it’s a euphemism
help people half-heartedly: If you’re gonna help someone, help them till the end
Damn it: A better translation would be ‘Gosh!’ or ‘Darn!’, but what kind of person says this after learning that a murderer is after their kid. Wtf Bai Huo
The nursey song JB was singing: