Two-Way Trip 18
The world is big, making it natural for there to be a lot of stories in it.
Hence, finding an answer among thousands of stories is harder than finding a needle in a haystack.
After Lin Chen followed Xing Cong Lian out, Lin Chen thought that because the latter was reasonable and walking so quickly, he was probably in a hurry to find the answer.
Contrary to his expectations, however, Xing Cong Lian detoured the parking lot and brought Lin Chen straight to the management centre’s canteen.
It was past meal time, so the ordering window had been closed long ago.
At the minimart near the entrance, the old aunt looking after the store was dozing off with a cat, and none of the lights were turned on.
Xing Cong Lian walked inside the minimart and came out with two instant noodles in hand with hot water already poured in.
It was braised beef flavored, once again.
Lin Chen wanted to help, but Xing Cong Lian signalled towards his pocket with his elbow.
Understanding what he meant, Lin Chen put his hand inside the man’s pocket and to no one’s surprise, his fingers came into contact with an unopened pack of cigarettes.
In times when one is restless, the addiction to nicotine would indeed intensify.
Lin Chen patiently tore the plastic wrapping, took out a cigarette, and then placed it in between Xing Cong Lian’s lips.
The man turned halfway to let Lin Chen take the lighter from his other pocket.
Xing Cong Lian then leaned down, nudging the cigarette closer to Lin Chen’s hand.
With a click, the cigarette was lit by a dancing flame.
In the dark surroundings, Xing Cong Lian’s long eyelashes could be clearly seen as his eyes drooped down.
The pupils covered by his eyelashes were green, clear as water.
This seemingly ordinary move made Lin Chen’s heartbeat accelerate.
Retracting his hands, Lin Chen then put the lighter back into its original pocket.
Taking a long inhale from the cigarette, Xing Cong Lian suddenly felt content.
He didn’t speak and focused on his smoke before taking Lin Chen back to the car.
Placing the two cups of noodles on the hood, he patted it and asked, “Can you go up”
Lin Chen was speechless.
Xing Cong Lian drove an off-road vehicle with a high chassis, so Lin Chen thought, even if I can’t get up, it’s not like you can carry me. Thinking so, Lin Chen braced his palms on the hood then stepped on the bumper to hop on.
It was only when he stabilized his body that he found out why Xing Cong Lian chose this place.
The jeep was parked right in front of the reed field.
Egrets flew in the distant sky.
The afternoon sun was warm, but Lin Chen could feel a cool breeze on his face, making it quite comfortable to bask in.
Lin Chen took the cup noodles and moved them, allowing Xing Cong Lian to also climb up.
The instant noodles were still hot so when the lid was taken off, steam wafted towards LinChen and Xing Cong Lian’s faces.
Xing Cong Lian thoughtfully handed a fork over to Lin Chen.
Neither of them spoke as they began to eat their late lunch in silence.
After taking two bites, it was only then that Lin Chen realized he was starving.
The hot soup and springy noodles entered his stomach, and he felt a little soothed after being tense and nervous all day.
“I’ve known you for this long, yet I still don’t know where you’re from.” Xing Cong Lian suddenly commented.
The wind was very mild and the field very green.
Those words were spoken like the start of a casual conversation.
“I lived in Feng Chun.”
After answering, Lin Chen remembered that the other man only needed to make a call and all Lin Chen’s information would be delivered to him within minutes.
Asking this seemingly casual question was telling him that Xing Cong Lian never explored his past through this means.
After that, Xing Cong Lian continued to eat his noodles without saying anything.
Lin Chen noticed that even though Xing Cong Lian was only eating instant noodles, his back was straight with steady hands and he ate at a rhythmic pace, appearing as immovable as a mountain.
Lin Chen suddenly recalled a joke by his teacher a long time ago — the way someone eats and how they make love showcases their character the most.
Noticing this, Lin Chen thought that Xing Cong Lian was really quite terrifying.
However, this feeling lasted for a short second as Xing Cong Lian finished eating his noodles within moments.
Even the soup was completely cleaned off.
Xing Cong Lian put the cup back on the hood and laid on his back as if he was going to sleep.
“Have psychologists ever said that if you couldn’t understand something, you’d have to change your mindset”
Lin Chen looked at him and nodded, saying, “Because it’s hard to create new ideas with a pre-existing mindset, so…”
Before he could finish, his elbow was pulled.
It wasn’t clear when Xing Cong Lian sat up, but he took back the instant noodles and placed it on the windshield wiper.
Without a sound or pause, Xing Cong Lian pulled Lin Chen down to lie together with him.
“Then let’s get some sleep,” Xing Cong Lian said.
Just like this, Lin Chen was forced to lie down on the hood.
The more baffling fact was, there was a man beside him.
The hood was icy cold.
The wind carried with it the familiar scent of mint cigarette and instant noodles.
It was clean and warm — reassuring, even.
Lin Chen felt so calm, it was as if he didn’t have to rack his mind to think of anything.
Lin Chen was feeling a little drowsy when he heard a whisper from the deep, familiar voice next to his ear.
“You’re not actually going to sleep, are you”
“I just had a sudden thought.
Since he wanted us to find an answer, could I assume that he has no other way out except help from the police”
Opening his eyes slightly, Lin Chen said, “Seems like it.”
“Since he’s made up his mind to seek help, when he called the police, he should have already expressed what he wanted.
Like what you’ve said, he already laid the clues in front of us.”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“The first clue he gave us was HongJing Highway, seeing that everything happened on this highway.”
“You continued your analysis to say that because he was able to persuade the hostages, his reason must be a heavy one.
In this world, something that can make people feel heavy-hearted must be something that involves life and death.
So, an incident on this highway that involves lives…”
“A car accident” Lin Chen was snapped out of his drowsiness.
“You mean, he wants us to find the truth about a specific car accident”
“If my thinking is correct, the reason why he wanted the reporters to come along is to have a public revenge.
He wanted to make the perpetrator, or the one who had orchestrated the accident behind the scenes lose their reputation.”
Lin Chen thought about it again and felt that his train of thought was getting clearer.
“It’s quite reasonable.
We’re going to have to trouble Wang Chao again.”
“It’ll be his honor,” Xing Cong Lian said.
He took out his phone and dialed the tech geek’s number.
Wang Chao felt glum, very glum.
“Check how many traffic accidents occurred on HongJing Highway in the past year.” Xing Cong Lian’s voice came from the speaker as Wang Chao held the phone between his ear and shoulder.
Hearing this, Wang Chao felt even more tired.
“Boss, d’you know Even if there are just three accidents per day, it will still amount to thousands of accidents occurring on this highway in a year.”
“Quiet down and listen to me.” Xing Cong Lian sat up cross legged.
“First of all, eliminate those without casualties.”
“Then, filter through the list of casualties and see if there’s students or teachers from Feng Jing School.”
“Eh, boss, the data transfer and troubleshooting is going to take some time.
You need to wait for a bit.”
Finally, filter once more through the list of families of the casualties and see if there are any children around 15-18 years old and if there are, see if they are students from Feng Jing School.”
“Oh oh, I get what you mean.
But I’m on the highway right now, the wifi is not very good.
You’ll need to wait a bit longer.”
Something was unusual and Xing Cong Lian immediately zeroed in on it.
“You’re not in Lao Peng’s car”
“No, Boss Peng seems to be near the area where the hostages were taken.
Manager Yang said that since he’s going back anyway, he’d lend me a car to take me there…” After reporting his situation with a casual tone, Wang Chao hung up.
Xing Cong Lian put down the phone with a frown, but he didn’t speak.
“What’s wrong” Lin Chen asked.
“It just occurred to me that the kidnapper had actually given us another clue.”
“The bus’s tablet.”
In fact, at the beginning of this case, the kidnapper had already delivered the tablet to the police using absolutely arduous means.
But Wang Chao had carefully checked all the information in the tablet and there was nothing abnormal about it other than the strange driving route recorded by the GPS.
“Didn’t you say that this tablet went through a bizarre route that is impossible for humans to mimic”
Xing Cong Lian glanced at Lin Chen before ruffling his own inch-short hair and jumping off.
“Of course, it’s impossible to accomplish this with only one person.
But in fact, it’s very simple.
The navigation system is based on the highway route calculation.
But he can jump off the highway and take a shortcut.
And after that, he only needs to pass this tablet to someone and that person will give the tablet to another person and so on.
After several passes, of course the route will turn weird.”
“Someone is helping him.” Lin Chen sat up but didn’t move any further.
What do you want to do, and what was the reason you used to persuade all those people to come together and help you
Xing Cong Lian once again hit the highway, but this time he didn’t rush, driving like he was sightseeing through the green reed field.
Seconds passed, turning into minutes while the time inched ever closer to the agreed 90 minutes.
Time was running out.
Against its torrent, no matter how hard you think or how much effort you put, they were only a drop in the bucket.
The spring breeze and scent of grass always lulled people into a sense of relaxation without their knowledge.
Outside the window were reeds taller than people.
The young man Lin Chen and Xing Cong Lian were up against might be hiding inside that grass, playing with the children.
However, in the next moment, perhaps a sniper’s bullet would pierce right through his skull.
Because there was no answer, there will be no grand reunion.
The road in front of them shone under the sun, as if covered in a thin layer of wax.
There seemed to have been an accident here, as the traffic ahead slowed to a crawl.
Red lights lit up from the rears of the cars not too far away.
Xing Cong Lian stepped on the brake from time to time to avoid a collision, and after some time, the car came to a stop.
Just as Xing Cong Lian stopped, the cars in front started moving again.
In front of their jeep was a black Buick.
Just as it moved, the bus on the right side of the lane suddenly cut in, getting ahead by the length of half a car’s hood.
When the driver of the Buick saw the bus cut into his lane, he was unwilling to give in after being impatient from waiting and stepped on the accelerator in rage.
However, the bus driver was also unwilling to stop, so the two collided with a loud bang.
Because of the difference in size, a part of the car’s top was flattened and the windshield shattered.
All the passengers in the bus were stunned agape by the sudden accident they encountered.
Seeing this situation, the bus driver immediately got off the bus and went to the car, kicking the front and shouting : “Fuck! Even if you want to die, I don’t! Lao tzu’s bus is full of people, do you want to die!”
Even after the enraged bus driver shouted at the car driver, he still felt it wasn’t enough.
Seeing that the driver was stuck inside, he kicked the door with all his strength, as if he could seal it this way.
At that moment, the angry bus driver felt a tight grip around his throat before he was thrown over.
When he wanted to get back up, there was a pain in his back from being pressed down to the road.
Xing Cong Lian retracted his knee and gripped the bus driver’s hands, taking a pair of handcuffs out to cuff him.
His actions were both swift and resolute.
Then, Xing Cong Lian got up and went to the black Buick.
The airbags in the car all popped up and the driver was so stuck he couldn’t even budge an inch.
Lin Chen was knocking on the window, looking like he was asking the driver to report their condition.
Right at that moment, sounds of police sirens appeared on the opposite lane.
Xing Cong Lian turned back, and as he stared at the flashing lights in the distance, he frowned.
TL Checker(s): Zryuu