Three Graves 2
In a night that didn’t seem as dark as it should be, the streetlamps casted a longer shadow on everything.
In the quiet evening, even a drop of water by the streets could be heard loud and clear.
Lin Chen and Xing Cong Lian walked on the flagstone pavement.
It was only 7 o’clock in the evening, yet most of the shops in the streets were already closed.
In a sense, HongJing was quite an unproductive city.
Yan Jia Alley was still the same, a bit narrow and quite long.
The only thing that changed was the shops on both sides of the street.
According to Xing Cong Lian, the municipal government redeveloped Yan Jia Alley during his absence.
Having renovated the houses on both sides of the lane, they then rented the space out to students who wanted to start their own business in the literary and art industry.
Hence why some shops turned into cafes and tea houses while others became studios and handicraft workshops.
The walls yellowed with age were covered in flowers and fences.
Sometimes, one could see cats resting on the French windows.
The old street was now full of warmth and liveliness.
A yellowish light illuminated an ancient door plate.
In front of a weathered wooden door squatted two people, looking pitiful as though they were two small pets waiting to be fed by their owner.
Xing Cong Lian stopped, looked at the two by the door and then helplessly said, “If you guys look like this, our neighbours will call the police.”
One of the two was immersed in an online game and looked up with bright eyes.
“Ah, what police Boss, why is your WiFi off I helped you crack your neighbour’s and your neighbour’s neighbour’s password..
Can you let me in for some food”
The other person, who was squatting with him, didn’t utter a single word.
Lin Chen looked at the person whose eyes were red, as if not believing what he was seeing.
“Ah, didn’t we talk over the phone just two days ago” Lin Chen’s tone was a little soft, with helplessness mixed in with it.
Before he could say anything more, the person jumped up and hugged him tightly.
“Senior, please don’t scare me like that anymore!”
Knowing that someone cares about you provides warmth, yet sometimes could also be a shackle.
Lin Chen entered the house, tugged in by Fu Hao.
Listening to the professor’s endless complaints, Lin Chen thought to himself, Maybe this is the legendary spoiled child act
Xing Cong Lian stood by the door and turned on the light.
The moment the light was on, Professor Fu’s nagging came to an abrupt stop.
In front of him was a classic Chinese-styled courtyard, the ground light shining bright among the grass and trees.
A cobblestone path connected the front door to the main hall, and on the left side was a small green pond.
Under the light, the surface of the water radiated with a cold glimmer.
Fu Hao was dumbfounded for a few moments before he spat out, “What the **”
After that, he took two steps backwards, walked out the door and looked at the door plate before rushing in and pulling Xing Cong Lian.
“Why’re you just barging into someone else’s house like this! As a public servant, you shouldn’t knowingly break the law!”
Xing Cong Lian was also shocked by his outburst.
He looked at Lin Chen with eyes that seemed to ask, What’s wrong with your junior, now Wang Chao had already rushed ahead long ago, turned on the WiFi and then rubbed his hands together to prepare for another round of his game.
Lin Chen patted Fu Hao’s head helplessly and explained on Xing Cong Lian’s behalf, “The municipal government remodeled this old street as part of their transformation project.”
“And the project also included changing a house”
“The house he used to live in before was rented to a gallery so he moved here,” Lin Chen repeated Xing Cong Lian’s explanation to Fu Hao.
Professor Fu’s expression was full of disbelief.
“Why would the government replace his shabby house with this one Isn’t this a garden” A stone arch bridge stood above the water and bright red kois swam in the pond, creating ripples on the surface.
“Look, Senior! There are even koi fish here!”
“En, would you like to pay your respects” Xing Cong Lian asked with a teasing smile.
“Lao Xing, let me remind you now.
Do not touch money that should not be touched, got that” Professor Fu spun around with an apprehensive expression.
“You should always remember your identity and not get shot down by the sugar-coated cannonball of capitalism.”
Xing Cong Lian was quite amused and asked Lin Chen, “Did your junior change careers into political studies”
“Lao Xing, don’t play around.
You are a crime police officer.
Don’t let Inspector Huang know you’re living in such a house or you’ll be skinned alive, if not killed!” Fu Hao continued to advise him in earnest.
Through his nagging, there was an underlying concern in his words.
Xing Cong Lian ruffled Fu Hao’s hair that was already turned into a mess by Lin Chen earlier and said with a sincere smile, “Don’t worry, Professor Fu.”
The three stood by the pond with Fu Hao doing most of the talking.
Lin Chen and Xing Cong Lian only teased him from time to time.
Suddenly, a cry came from the main hall.
“Boss, I’m starving!”
“There are instant noodles in the first cupboard on the left side of the kitchen,” Xing Cong Lian replied, raising his voice for the little friend in the main hall.
“But I don’t want to eat instant noodles again!” Wang Chao continued to shout.
“Then order some takeout.”
“I’m tired of the nearby takeout.”
The three then moved into the main hall.
Wang Chao was laying on the table, lifeless and looking forlorn after losing a game.
“What do you want” Xing Cong Lian asked.
Hearing the question, Wang Chao’s eyes brightened and his gaze fell on Lin Chen before saying, “Ah Chen, can you please cook for me”
Wang Chao, a little comrade with an abundant experience in crime investigation as a member of the police force, said every word based on solid reasoning.
Among the four people present, let’s not talk about Xing Cong Lian who lived off braised beef instant noodles and street stalls’ spicy crayfish.
Professor Fu, on the other hand, had lived in the school all year round and looked like he had been poisoned by the canteen food over the years.
Lin Chen, however, had lived alone for a long time.
Having lived a bitter life for a few years, it was only natural that cooking should become a second nature.
Wang Chao licked his lips and said, “I reaaaally want to eat a home-cooked meal.”
In fact, there was no problem with Wang Chao’s assumption.
The only problem was, a man on a first name basis with the instant noodles on the supermarket’s shelves had no ingredients in his home for Lin Chen to show off his skills with.
Lin Chen stood in front of the sink, washing the wilting vegetables while the noodles were left to boil in the pot.
In the end, it was still braised beef noodles.
Xing Cong Lian leaned against the counter and said to Wang Chao who was rummaging in the refrigerator, “Don’t bother looking.
You’re the one who cleaned the last of the salted ham the day before yesterday.”
“Why don’t you buy more groceries!” Wang Chao looked at him with anger.
“Because I work hard everyday,” Xing Cong Lian answered in a matter-of-fact way.
Wang Chao choked on his words, slammed the refrigerator closed, then rushed back to his laptop, ready to win two more rounds.
Professor Fu took two steps back to make way for him, but his gaze remained glued on the outdated refrigerator with doors that opened both on the top and bottom.
All this while, Professor Fu had been observing the house with great concern.
How to say it Even though the old house had been renovated with exquisite windows and doors along with a magnificent main hall, on the shiny floor tiles there was no decent furniture aside from the antique-style square table brought in from the previous house
Besides being empty, this whole house only had emptiness, and when people spoke, voices would echo for a long time.
Seeing this, Professor Fu let go of his worries a bit.
And then when he saw the empty kitchen with only an old refrigerator in the corner, what was left of his worries died down.
Comrade Lao Xing was really just lucky, he thought.
It was the same old braised beef noodles with some vegetables and eggs, nothing new.
After dinner was settled, Lin Chen took Fu Hao to the balcony for tea to prevent Professor Fu from lecturing Xing Cong Lian on morals and ideologies again.
The spring breeze was not that cold and with the balcony facing the river, they could see the sparkling lights on both sides reflected on the water’s surface.
Professor Fu, who had seen all kinds of things in the world, be it good or bad, relaxed in the chair with a cup of tea in hand.
He was so comfortable that he felt like humming.
“Senior, have you really decided to stay here” Professor Fu asked, eyes half closed.
There was only the sound of running water surrounding them, rendering everything else silent.
Hearing Lin Chen’s slight, nasally hum, Fu Hao looked at his face.
There were so many words to say and so many questions he wanted to ask, but he found that he couldn’t.
After a while, he forced himself to say, “Then you can’t be as brash as before.”
“In Feng Pei Lin’s case, I understand that you wanted to escape surveillance by playing dead.
Although it’s not good to stay in hiding all the time, at least it’s better than how you kept putting yourself in danger.” The calmer Lin Chen behaved, the more Fu Hao’s motherly nature was magnified.
“And about the hijacking case in the highway, I know you getting involved was a coincidence.
It also wouldn’t have been realistic for you to wash your hands off it, but that was too dangerous.
The cartel was audacious enough to silence a bus full of people and boldly plant a bomb under a police car – that is beyond extreme.
If it wasn’t for Huang Ze who suppressed the news, you would have gotten famous again.
What would you do if the cartel targets you next”
Professor Fu was distressed and Lin Chen was helpless, having no choice but to comfort him.
The police have a witness protection system.”
“You don’t take this matter seriously at all!” Fu Hao put down the tea cup and raised his voice.
“Then, what do you want me to do”
Perhaps because of the spring breeze, or maybe something else, Lin Chen’s voice sounded a little soft.
Fu Hao felt as if something had tugged on his heartstrings and he hurried to appease Lin Chen, “It’s fine, it’s fine, it’s pretty good now as it is.
Since you’re living with Lao Xing, he can protect you in case someone barges into your room and tries to kill you.”
The topic was changed just like that.
It needed to be said that Lin Chen really knew how to handle his junior.
“Somehow I got a bad feeling when you said that.”
“Sigh, isn’t that because you’re ill-fated”
“So, Professor Fu, do you know of any method to change one’s luck” Lin Chen asked with a smile.
“I think Lao Xing is really lucky.
Look, the government was renovating the streets and he moved to such a nice place in an instant.
I heard that some people are born with hardy lives, that is, they are born to live a good life.
Hurry and stick close to him so you can take away all his good luck.”
“mmkay.” Lin Chen kept smiling and looked at the lights on both sides of the riverbank.
Lin Chen didn’t continue to talk, and there was only the sound of flowing water around them.
Fu Hao was not used to the silence; he ruffled his hair and suddenly thought of something.
“By the way, Senior, the day after tomorrow is Teacher’s 60th birthday.
“What’s the matter” Hearing Fu Hao stop halfway, Lin Chen knew that something was up again.
“Are you going”
“What does Professor Fu mean Do you want me to go, or do you not want me to go”
“No, of course I want you to go, ah.
Even if I don’t want you to go, the old man wants you to go.
It’s just, our teacher has a lot of students and a lot of them are going this time…”
“Well, I’ll just let you know.
Many of them wanted to take advantage of this birthday party to host a gathering.
Fucking hell, remember Zheng Dong Dong, that wretch He insisted on recommending you to be the host, saying that you had good grades and did so well that you must be a social elite now.
That asshole sounded so arrogant in the group chat, and I was so irritated looking at him mocking you so openly.
He probably wants to take this chance to smear your rep…”
“I don’t remember,” Lin Chen interrupted Fu Hao’s tirade.
“What do you not remember”
“I don’t remember who Zheng Dong Dong is.”
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t remember him.
He’s not that important, anyway.
He was in the class next to ours, but he is seriously irritating when he gets vile.
But honestly, since this is the old man’s birthday, it would be quite bad if you don’t go.
Or we can just visit him in his house later at night It’d be more convenient to chat too.”
“No, I don’t mean that.” As Fu Hao was talking, Lin Chen took the kettle from the coffee table and added some more hot water into his cup.
“Since I don’t remember who he is, then what do his thoughts, words, or even what he does matter to me”
“Well, yeah it’s not important, but the gathering…”
“What you wanted to say is now all of my classmates are successful in their careers and I, the one with the best results in university, am just falling lower and lower.
I’m but a humble consultant to the police, so meeting them right now would easily lead me into feeling uncomfortable, right”
Fu Hao didn’t expect that Lin Chen would be so straightforward about this.
After thinking for a while, Fu Hao found himself unable to say what he’d wanted to say.
The words stuck in his throat and his face turned a little red.
However, under Lin Chen’s burning gaze, he could only nod his head.
“This is a job I’m happy to do.
Why should I feel uncomfortable”