Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
As the business car pulled into the main city, Lan Yu looked out from between the tall buildings and saw a vast expanse of greenery, like a huge city park in the distance. In the midst of the greenery, there were a few ancient-looking buildings, very different from the Sasu Planet architecture that had been seen along the way.
“Where is that?” He couldn’t help but ask Lu RanKong beside him.
Lu RanKong followed his line of sight and casually replied, “That’s where my house is.”
“Mn…” Lu RanKong said, “You can’t see it from here, it’s still deep down there.”
Lan Yu looked steadily in that direction, imagining Lu RanKong’s face as a child. Imagining him running under those green trees, lying on the lawn and soaking up the sun – forget it, I’ve had enough of the Ferris wheel.
Sure enough, Lu RanKong pointed it out for him in the distance, talking in a voice only two people could hear, “I dug out all the bird’s nests in the tallest tree, the eggs were delicious when baked, you don’t even know, there are a dozen nests up there…”
The street was clear, and the business car was fast, so after turning right in a different direction, Lan Yu couldn’t see the green, and the street was lined with skyscrapers.
They continued to drive forward for about half an hour, when the business car stopped at a gate. This was a completely closed, fully automated gate, with a sign on the side: Empire Medical College Affiliated Research Institute.
Seeing that Lan Yu and the two of them were looking at the line, Director Wang explained, “With the name of the institute like this, it won’t attract attention.”
After the automatic identification of information monitors, the gate slowly opened, the security guards on duty at the door peeked out uneasily to see Director Wang pressed the car window to reveal his face, then sat back.
“It looks like you’re still doing a good job of security.” Lan Yu said.
Without waiting for Director Wang’s reply, Lu RanKong lazily said, “It’s only after the fact, right? If you were usually so cautious, you wouldn’t have let the Lontan person take advantage of you.”
Director Wang didn’t say anything, his face embarrassed.
The vehicle drove into the Institute and stopped in front of a small fountain, Lu RanKong and Lan Yu pulled open the door and got out of the car.
“Is the surveillance outside here that day blocked as well?” Lu RanKong looked around the clearing, walked under a tree, and looked up at the camera above.
Director Wang said, “Yes, he arrived in Kabul’s car then came in, found all the surveillance and blocked it all. The car stayed at the institute when he escaped, so we don’t know which direction he escaped to.”
“He’s quite powerful, very careful.” Lu RanKong said as he walked.
Opposite the fountain was the laboratory building of the Institute, which had only four floors. The night Kabul was found, he was in the data analysis room on the second floor.
Lan Yu didn’t make a sound and Lu RanKong said, “No hurry, let’s take our time. By the way, where is the researcher? We want to meet him now.”
“Didn’t something happen? I didn’t dare to let him go to work in the past few days, he’s at home on leave, and two employees of the institute have been assigned to take care of him.” Director Wang asked cautiously, “Should we inform him to come to the institute now?”
Lan Yu knew that the care was fake, but close monitoring was real, after all, no one would dare to let their guard down after such an incident.
Lu RanKong shook his head and said, “No, we will go to his home later, let’s visit your institute for now.”
The two of them walked towards the first floor passageway, while Director Wang was giving an introduction to them, “This area is our sterile biological laboratory, where our researchers work.”
On both sides were bright and spacious laboratories, and through the bulletproof glass on the doors, one could see all kinds of instruments inside, and researchers in full sterile attire were busy.
Director Wang followed by whispering, “There is a key substance in the stabilizer, called chime, only produced in a desert planet at the edge of the Sasu Planet system, the quantity is very scarce, so the stabilizer can’t be produced in large quantities, as the consumption will be less and less.”
Lan Yu had heard Lu RanKong talk about this before, but Director Wang spoke more carefully, so he still listened carefully.
As the three of them slowly walked forward, Director Wang continued, “We have been trying to replace chime with other substances for many years. Not to say that there are any results, but we were only able to allow the stabilizer to continue to retain the activity after the loss of the chime substance. But no replacement for the chime was ever found, so the stabilizer remained active, but not very effective.”
“So the Lontan person came to the door.” Lu RanKong looked in through a glass window and said, “That means that the Lontan person has been following your institute and knows about your research progress from the mouth of an important researcher.”
The director didn’t make a sound, as Lu RanKong turned his head and said, “It doesn’t necessarily mean that it was an important researcher, I guess, not to mention the ordinary staff of your institute, even the janitor and security guards know the research results, right?”
Director Wang wiped his face, sweating, “It was indeed an oversight, an oversight.”
Lu RanKong snorted coldly, “This wasn’t an oversight, it was dereliction of duty.”
“It was my negligence, it was my negligence, after this is over, I will accept however the military department wants to deal with me.” Director Wang said with a good attitude.
The three men finished the first floor and went up to the second floor, where Director Wang took them to the right and said, “It was in the data information room over here where Kabul was found.”
Director Wang swiped open the door to the data and information room and the three walked in.
“Although information is now kept on chips or on the internet, I still believe more in the old way, with paper documents in a safe, at least there’s no risk of being deciphered.” Director Wang explained.
Lu RanKong laughed and said, “That’s right, otherwise the Lontan person would have invaded the network unnoticed, and you might not have found out until now.”
Director Wang went to open one of the safes and asked, “Do you need to see the data?”
“No need…” Lu RanKong stopped, “We’re just looking at the interior, we’re not interested in specific information.”
Lan Yu looked around and exited the room, taking a few steps forward to find the hidden camera behind the fire hydrant hanging on the wall.
The angle of that video showed that it was this camera that captured the footage.
Lu RanKong also came out and said to him, “Come on, let’s go to the research room.”
Director Wang led the way again, and the three of them got into the commercial vehicle waiting downstairs and went to the researcher’s house.
According to Xiao Liu’s guidance, the business car turned onto the main city highway after driving on the street for a few moments.
“Our institute has a dormitory assigned to the researcher, but Kabul didn’t like it, so he bought a detached villa in the west city, preferring to drive an hour or two to work every day.” Xiao Liu explained.
Lan Yu said, “Your salary is quite high, if all the researchers can buy villas.”
He was particularly sensitive to houses recently, and when he heard villa, he subconsciously blurted out.
Xiao Liu hurriedly shook his head, “Not high, the west city is not developed yet, so no one buys houses there, and the credits Kabul spent on a villa can’t buy a bedroom in the main city.”
Lan Yu nodded and said nothing more, when Lu RanKong beside him approached him and said, “I have a house in the main city. We will go there to live after we finish our business.”
“Is it in the place we saw earlier?” Lan Yu asked.
“No, that’s my father’s house, my house isn’t in there.” Lu RanKong said, as if afraid that Lan Yu wasn’t satisfied, and added in a whisper, “The environment is also very good, there are green trees and lakes, and the same big villas as Kabul’s. I remember that there seems to be a swimming pool or something.”
“There seems to be a swimming pool or something… You don’t know anything about your own house?” Lan Yu asked.
Lu RanKong replied, “I seldom go there, only Uncle Chen will help me look after it occasionally, and send someone to clean it.”
“Then let’s go check it out after we finish our business.”
“Okay, we’ll stay there for the time being.”
The business car drove for a while more, got off the highway from some exit and turned onto a wide road. This was the west city, and as Xiao Liu said, because it hasn’t been developed, the way looked relatively desolate, few homes and low-rise, basically some factory buildings. There wasn’t much traffic on the road, so the business car sped all the way and stopped at the entrance of a small community.
The neighborhood gate was still quite grand, but the retractable door was wide open, and the security booth next to it was locked. There was rainwater rust on it, with no security guard in sight.
“The houses in this district are sold at a very low price, and are remote. Not many people live here, so the property company also withdrew.” Xiao Liu explained.
Lu RanKong rolled down the car window, looked at the obsolete camera hanging on the top of the gate and asked, “Is this working?”
Director Wang sat in the back seat and said, “The Ministry of Military Affairs came to investigate, the surveillance system here is turned off, which is the same as not having a single camera.”
The vehicle slowly entered the gate and drove on the driveway full of fallen leaves and dead branches. Those shrubs on both sides of the driveway were unattended, they were growing wildly, and some branches were reaching inside the car windows.
After driving out again, the business car stopped in front of a villa, before opening the door, someone upstairs looked down, then shrunk back.
“That’s the staff sent by the Institute to take care of Kabul.” Director Wang said as he got out of the car.
The door to the room quickly opened and the group walked in.
“Where is Kabul?” Director Wang asked the staff member who opened the door.
“He’s sleeping in his bedroom on the second floor.”
“How is his spirit these two days? Is there anything unusual happening?”
The staff member shook his head, “No…”
Lu RanKong and Lan Yu went straight up the stairs, and as the others followed, Lu RanKong stopped them, “Don’t go up there, we need to ask him something alone.”
Director Wang responded, and all of them sat together on the sofa in the living room downstairs.
The villa wasn’t very big and not much decorated, only simple flooring and painted walls. The two walked to the master bedroom, Lu RanKong raised his hand and knocked on the door, and after knocking twice, a wan voice came from inside, “Come on in…”
When they pushed the door in, they saw a young man with unkempt hair sitting on the bed, squinting at Lan Yu and Lu RanKong, sensing that they weren’t his two colleagues, so he felt for the glasses on the bedside table and put them on.
Lu RanKong also didn’t wait for him to ask, so he opened the door, “Kabul, I am Colonel Lu RanKong, this is Colonel K, we were sent by the Ministry of the military on orders to investigate the Lontan person that invaded your mental domain, to steal data from the Institute, please cooperate.”
Kabul froze for a moment before responding and began to skilfully recite, “Last Tuesday, I didn’t touch anyone after work, drove straight home, and didn’t meet anyone else on the way, nor in the neighborhood. There were no lovers, partners, parents, friends, or even housekeeping robots in the house because I like the quiet—”
“Where do you usually go to spend your time?” Lan Yu interrupted him.
“I don’t have any pastime, just play games at home using the virtual pod, and I don’t like to participate in any entertainment activities.” Kabul said.
“What about eating?”
“Meals are just made at home by myself.”
“What about the ingredients?”
“The ingredients are delivered to my door by the automatic delivery machine.” Kabul said, “I don’t like to touch people, it makes me feel uncomfortable.”
Lu RanKong interjected, “You mean you’ve never had contact with anyone outside the institute in your time?”
“I don’t touch people from the Institute either.” Kabul frowned and complained, “It’s been crazy having to see so many people over the last few days, repeating the story of that day over and over again, and having two people staying at my house.”
Lan Yu kept looking at his face and noticed a few pimples on his face, flushed with red. He took his eyes off the pimples and asked, “Do you recall if you ever told anyone that you worked at the institute and had access to the data room?”
“No way, even my parents didn’t know I was at the Institute and thought I worked at some hospital.” Kabul was adamant, “Let alone anyone else, I would never tell.”
Lu RanKong looked at the glass of water on his nightstand and asked, “Is that the water you drank from that glass that day?”
Kabul said, “Yes, but this is another glass of water, and that one has been taken away by the military.”
Lu RanKong went to the only window in the bedroom and looked down, “Is your window usually open?”
“Yes, I rarely close the window, and the man from the military department who came to investigate also said that the Lontan person climbed into the house through this window and gave me a psychoactive narcotic in my glass of water.” Kabul said as he got up to close the window, as a stabilizer researcher, he habitually began to explain, “Because I have taken stabilizers, he invaded my mental domain. Unless my mental body is squeezed out, it will not be able to occupy my body peacefully, since I will keep fighting with him for the right to the body. Even if I am squeezed out of my body, maybe a day, maybe a few hours, my mental body will automatically return into the body. He simply used a mental body anesthetic on me to be on the safe side.”
“Mn, you’re right.” Lu RanKong said.
“But my head hurts too much. It’s the aftereffect of that anesthetic it used that caused me to keep losing when PKing people in the virtual pod for the past two days.” Kabul complained angrily.
Lan Yu took a tour of the room while the two conversed.
The room was simple: a bed, a desk and a bookcase filled with lots of materials. There was also a virtual pod in the corner and a closet with a half-open door, which was filled with various plaid shirts. He went to the desk, picked up a book and opened it, when a black card suddenly slid out of the book and fell on the table.
Lan Yu thought the card looked very familiar, so he picked it up. The front of the card was gold, with a black bird printed on it and the words, Black Crow Bar, below it.
Black Crow Bar.
Lan Yu’s heart skipped a beat.
This card was clearly the same as the charge card he found in the dormitory, but with a different texture. This one was very thin, no magnetic strip, just an ordinary bar business card.
“What are you looking at?” Lu RanKong turned his head and when he saw him staring at a card, he came over.
“Black Crow Bar…” He looked at the card in Lan Yu’s hand and only read it once before remembering, “Isn’t this the bar where Xu used to work?”
Lan Yu nodded and went to Kabul who was already sitting down on the bed and asked, “Kabul, since you said you haven’t contacted outsiders for a long time and you haven’t been to other entertainment places, where did you get this business card for the bar?”
“A bar? What bar?” Kabul asked in a daze.
The red pimples on his face combined with his expression made him look a bit funny.
Lan Yu held the business card between his fingers and suddenly sniffled.
“Do you drink at home, too?” He asked.
Kabul shook his head, “I never drink at home.”
“Do you have any wine at home?”
“None…” Kabul said.
Lan Yu frowned, he clearly detected a smell, like alcohol, mixed with the fishy salt of sea salt. The two smells were strangely harmonious and not unpleasant.
Lan Yu didn’t ask further questions, only let him hold the card in his hand.
Kabul looked at the card carefully and frowned for a while before he said, “I remember. Just last month, I didn’t drive one day, so I went to take the hover train after work and met Xiao Liu on the way to the station. Maybe it was someone who handed me the card, so I put it in my bag and it ended up stuck in the pages of a book.”
“Xiao Liu?” Lu RanKong and Lan Yu looked at each other, “Is it the Xiao Liu downstairs?”
Kabul asked blankly, “Is he downstairs? I don’t know…”
“It should be Xiao Liu who accompanied us. Come on, go downstairs and ask him.” Lu RanKong said to Lan Yu.
The two walked towards the outside of the bedroom, Lan Yu took a few steps and then stopped, turning to look at Kabul, his dark eyes deep. Lu RanKong sensed it and stopped to follow and looked over.
“Wh-what’s wrong?” Kabul was a little nervous, subconsciously clenched the corner of his shirt.
After a few seconds of silence, Lan Yu raised his finger and pointed to his face, saying flatly, “The pimples in the triangle area are very serious, so you should pay attention to your facial hygiene and eating habits, use special facial cleansers, and don’t eat heavy foods.”
“Ah… Oh…” Kabul nodded blankly and raised his hand to touch his face.
“Don’t touch…” Lan Yu interrupted in a stern voice.
Kabul dropped his hand in a panic.
Lan Yu pressed the brim of his hat and his voice was cool, “Actually, you can solve a lot of skin problems if you make sure you get good sleep.”
He looked towards the virtual pod placed by the wall, and Kabul followed his line of sight, nodding desperately again.
“I can send you a link later, that one is very effective in getting rid of acne.” Lan Yu turned around and walked out.
Kabul was a bit overwhelmed by that reaction and didn’t make a sound.
Lu RanKong, who was standing silently at the door, suddenly spoke up, “Did you hear that? Colonel K told you to play less with the virtual pod and wash your face carefully.”
“Yes, I heard him.”