Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
The smell of Crow Wing wafted into the nostrils, making Lan Yu feel a sense of déjà vu, but he just couldn’t remember. He took a small sip, the rich aroma of the wine covered his taste buds, and there was a hint of bitterness in the middle, seemingly with a saltiness of the sea.
This drink was indeed good, but the bitterness was a little too much. If it was a little more lightly sweet, he thought that taste would be better. Lan Yu couldn’t think of the source of the taste and stopped thinking about it, while talking softly with Lu RanKong, not moving to look at others.
“Do you think there’s anything wrong with this bar now?” Lu RanKong asked.
Lan Yu replied hesitantly, “I don’t know…”
“Tomorrow I’ll have the owner of the bar come here and have him gather all the employees together and we’ll interrogate them one by one.” Lu RanKong said.
Lan Yu didn’t find anything suspicious, so he lost interest in staying any longer, finished the Crow Wing and then offered to leave. Lu RanKong obediently picked up his jacket on the back of the sofa, and stood up with him.
Yun Jie rushed to see them off, glancing at Lu RanKong’s glass, noticing that the sticky note attached to the bottom of the transparent glass had not been removed, his eyes suddenly darkened, and Lan Yu noticed it.
As he passed the bar, the bartender smiled slightly at the two men, “How did you like your Crow Wings tonight, gentlemen?”
Lu RanKong gave him a thumbs up, saying, “It was great…”
Lan Yu took two steps out and then turned back and asked him, “Have you ever seen me before?”
The bartender was stunned and shook his head, “No…”
Lan Yu nodded his head and followed Lu RanKong out the door, looking back to see the bartender still looking at him. Lu RanKong put his jacket on Lan Yu’s shoulders and said, “It’s really cooler at night on Sasu Planet than on Zata Planet.”
Lan Yu followed him towards the parking lot, but after a few steps, his pace slowed down again.
“What’s wrong? Did you forget something at the bar?” Lu RanKong asked, turning his head.
Lan Yu held up a finger to stop him from talking, tilted his head in thought, and said, “I remember where I smelled Crow Wing.”
“I smelled it next to Kabul’s bed.”
“By the bed? Didn’t Kabul say he never drank at home?” Lu RanKong narrowed his eyes.
Lan Yu recalled, “The smell was slight, but distinctive, so I remembered it.”
Lu RanKong stood without making a sound.
Lan Yu lowered his head and wrinkled his brows in contemplation, muttering, “No, no, something is wrong here.”
“What’s wrong? Tell me.”
The two were standing in the middle of the street talking when a car passed by and honked its horn. Lu RanKong pulled Lan Yu onward to the vacant lot across the street and got into his sports car. The sports car started to slowly pass through the congestion again, moving like a turtle, and a child ran past the car holding a kebab, with the oil from the kebab dripping onto the front hood.
“You just asked me what’s wrong, I’ll tell you.” Lan Yu solemnly raised his index finger, “First…”
When he saw that Lu RanKong was staring ahead and not looking over, he held up his index finger without moving and didn’t go on.
Lu RanKong avoided a few pedestrians, then carefully brushed past a booth before slamming on the brakes and looking at him, “Okay, first.”
Lan Yu said with satisfaction, “You drive, I’ll continue.”
Lu RanKong looked ahead and let off the brakes and Lan Yu explained, “First, I smelled Crow Wing by Kabul’s bed and I didn’t smell the same odor on him after he got up, which means Crow Wing was emanating from his quilt or bed sheets.”
“Mn, that makes sense, I didn’t smell an odor on him either.” Lu RanKong said.
“Second…” Lan Yu held up another finger.
Lu RanKong had just pulled out of the congestion when he slammed on the brakes again and looked at Lan Yu, repeating solemnly, “Mn, number two.”
Then he turned back, let go of the brake and kept going.
“Secondly, this kind of bar’s special drink can only be drunk in the bar. No one can take it home and spill it on their bed, besides the bar doesn’t let you take it away.”
Lan Yu finished and asked Lu RanKong, “Do you think my findings are useful?”
Lu RanKong didn’t turn his head, just used his left hand to control the steering wheel and his right hand to hold his two fingers together and said, “I think your findings are very useful, so I am driving on the way to Kabul’s house, let’s ask him again to confirm.”
The black and yellow streamlined sports car roared through the city on the highway, passing one car and leaving even the hovering buses whirring overhead behind, and soon reached the West Side, stopping in front of Kabul’s house. Two staff members accompanying Kabul heard the car and poked their heads out of the second floor window, and after seeing Lan Yu and Lu RanKong getting out, they quickly went downstairs and opened the door.
Lu RanKong briefly explained to them before leading Lan Yu up to the second floor and knocking on Kabul’s bedroom door.
“Come in…” Kabul just burrowed out of the virtual cabin and looked a little stunned to see Lu RanKong and the two of them returning.
Lu RanKong didn’t say anything, but went straight to his bed and started sniffing, then leaned down and sniffed above his quilt a few times, before turning to Lan Yu and saying, “Yes, it’s the smell of Crow Wing, very faint.”
Lan Yu stood by the door and asked, “Kabul, you were asked during the day if you had been drinking at home and you said no?”
His eyes locked on Kabul, discerning every nuance of his expression.
Kabul closed the virtual hatch behind him and said, “No, I don’t like to drink in the first place, let alone bring it to the house.”
“I’ll go look elsewhere.” Lu RanKong said to Lan Yu and left the bedroom and went downstairs to the dining room.
Lan Yu stayed in the room and continued to ask, “When did you change the sheets?”
Kabul replied blankly, “A week ago…”
“A week ago, was it before your accident?”
Kabul thought for a moment and said, “The sheets were changed just a day before the accident.”
“You didn’t find the sheets smelled bad?” Lan Yu asked.
Kabul’s face started to turn red and he said, “I take a bath every day, how could there be a bad smell?”
“The odor I’m talking about is not necessarily a bad smell.”
Kabul calmed down under Lan Yu’s cold gaze and recalled, “I did smell a little, I thought it was the sheets that had been in the closet for a long time.”
Lan Yu walked to his closet, opened the door one by one, and when he found the compartment with the sheets, he leaned in close to smell them. There was only the faint scent of laundry detergent and anti-moth pills.
Downstairs, Lu RanKong apparently didn’t find anything in the dining hall, so he questioned the two staff members again, their voices coming up intermittently.
The sound of footsteps coming up the stairs outside rang out, Lu RanKong came in and shook his head at Lan Yu, “No, indeed, the two staff members weren’t in the habit of drinking, let alone bringing the bar drinks here.”
Lan Yu walked to the window, looked outside the dark shrubs from, mused, “This smell should be related to the Lontan person that night, and also related to the Black Crow Bar, proving that our previous suspicions are in the right direction. I just don’t understand why the Lontan person would leave the smell of alcohol on Kabul’s sheets.”
Kabul was still bewildered, but when he heard that the odor was left by the Lontan person, his face changed, and he couldn’t resist scratching the back of his neck.
Lu RanKong said, “The Lontan person arrived at Kabul’s house early, the exact time is not clear. After he drugged the water cup, he had been hiding, waiting for Kabul to drink the water and then fall into a drowsy state. If I am correct, he should’ve been hiding in some room on the second floor.”
Kabul said nervously, “There are a total of three rooms on the second floor. Except for the master bedroom, the guest bedroom is empty, except for a bed. The third room isn’t too big and is used by me as a storage room.”
“Let’s go check it out…”
Kabul led the way, explaining, “The military department has already checked the storage room and found nothing unusual.” He said as he opened a door on the far side, “This is the room…”
Lu RanKong entered the storage room, which was said to be a storage room but actually only housed three virtual pods.
Kabul said with some pride, “This is the Z9 Dream series from Haiyin, I have all three generations of this series.”
Lu RanKong smiled, “It’s quite expensive, isn’t it?”
“As long as I can afford it with my salary, it’s not expensive, not to mention that the virtual pod is such an item, how can we measure it by price? The main color of the first generation is different from the second generation, showing the world in warm colors, and the sense of manipulation is also slightly different, slightly sluggish…” Kabul, like any game addict, began to talk excitedly at the mention of his virtual pod.
Lu RanKong opened the pod closest to the door, half leaned down and sniffed it, and said to Lan Yu, “I found it, he was hiding in here.”
Kabul suddenly stopped talking like a chip jam.
Lan Yu also came close to the virtual pod and sniffed it, confirming the statement, “He’s been hiding in here waiting for Kabul to fall asleep.”
Lu RanKong put down the virtual hatch and turned around, as Kabul rushed forward to reopen the lid, “Leave it open to ventilate, I’ll scrub it again tomorrow.”
The three of them left the storage room and walked back into the bedroom when Lu RanKong suddenly said, “I think I know why the smell of alcohol was left on the sheets.”
“Because of what?” Lan Yu and Kabul both looked at him together.
“The Lontan person was unable to use their original form, so before coming to Kabul’s house, he took control of a human body. He used this body to climb through the window into the house, drugged the water glass, and then hid in the storage room’s virtual cabin. He may have been an employee of the Black Crow Bar, or perhaps a customer who had been drinking inside and inadvertently got the drink on him, so that smell was left right there in the pod.” Lu RanKong said.
Lan Yu nodded in agreement, “That should be the case.”
Lu RanKong continued, “He waited until Kabul passed out, then he came out of the virtual pod and invaded Kabul’s mental domain.”
“That’s right…” Lan Yu nodded again.
“What about that body he had before?” Lu RanKong entered the bedroom, stopped in front of that bed frame and turned around, “After the Lontan person entered Kabul’s body and that body had lost control and collapsed, he then put that body on the bed and also rubbed the smell of alcohol on the sheet.”
Kabul looked at his bed and drew back a breath.
“He drove Kabul’s car, arrived at the institute at 3:00 in the middle of the night, and flew away after being discovered by security. A time when he would have arrived at Kabul’s home at the first opportunity to take the body he had started to leave behind.” Lu RanKong said.
Lan Yu’s eyes lit up, “This is far from the Institute, and he was in the form of the Lontan person. Kabul’s car was left in the Institute, proving that he had other transportation parked near the Institute.”
Lu RanKong nodded, “Right, so although there’s no surveillance in the neighborhood, the nearest highway intersection is certainly there. A car that passed through the highway intersection around four o’clock that night, if we look, we can find the suspicious one.”
Lu RanKong finished speaking and clicked on the terminal, and Lan Yu didn’t know who he was talking to, but heard him give the name of the place to the other party, and asked to send the surveillance video of last Wednesday, October 13, around 4:00 in the morning.
After hanging up the terminal, he said to Lan Yu, “Come on, let’s go downstairs.”
The two men exited the bedroom and headed downstairs, with Kabul hurrying behind them to follow. The two staff members were sitting on the sofa, idly playing with the terminal, when they heard the footsteps and hurriedly stood up.
“Sit, don’t get up.” Lu RanKong greeted like a host, “What would you like to drink? A drink or water?” He said as he walked to the dining room and opened the refrigerator.
“No, we brought our own glasses.” The two staff members said with restraint.
Kabul then felt like a host and hurriedly said, “I’ll go make coffee now.”
Lu RanKong stopped, “No, we’ll just have water.”
He took out two bottles of water from the refrigerator, unscrewed the cap of one of them, and handed it to Lan Yu. Lan Yu took the water and just sat down on the sofa when Lu RanKong’s terminal rang.
He looked down and tapped out the floating screen, and a surveillance video of an intersection began to play on the big screen, with the time on the bottom left showing 3:50 a.m. on October 13.
Lan Yu recognized that the picture was the intersection one had to take to come here after going down the city highway. The road was empty and there wasn’t a single car in the surveillance video, as the number of people going to the West Side was low and it was past midnight.
Lu RanKong fast-forwarded until the vehicle appeared before stopping, and then fast-forwarded again after writing down the license plate number, and soon saw from 3:50 to 4:20.
At that moment, a white van appeared on the screen, and flew forward after exiting the highway intersection. The windshield looked like it had been shattered, with cobweb-like lines on it, so it was hard to see who was inside.
Lu RanKong pressed pause, remembered the license plate and was about to fast forward, Lan Yu sitting on the sofa suddenly said, “Wait…”
Lu RanKong let go of his hand, Lan Yu got up and walked to the floating screen, pointed to a small black dot on the car and asked, “What is this?”
Lu RanKong came closer to look, and then zoomed in on the piece, the black dot gradually clear, a winged flying crow shadow appeared in front of the eyes.
“Black Crow Bar…” The two men uttered at the same time.
Late at night on the city’s highway, a black and yellow streamlined sports car’s engine roared toward the main city.
“Do you have the KH5 with you?” Lan Yu asked Lu RanKong, sitting in the passenger seat.
“HR5, I have it with me, I have two in my coat pocket, grab one yourself.” Lu RanKong raised his right arm and exposed his jacket pocket.
Lan Yu took one and put it in his own pocket, saying, “Since he can drive a bar car, it proves that he’s a bar employee, so it will be easier to find the target.”
The sports car soon got off the highway and came back to the congested section. After passing slowly, it stopped in the parking lot across from the bar.