“What—?” Dong Linhai couldn’t hear him clearly.
Lin Hangzhi cupped his hand around his mouth like a horn and shouted in his ear, “I said– Found her—!”
“Where is she?!” Dong Linhai’s gaze followed Lin Hangzhi’s finger and landed on Xia Qiongyun. Due to her shorter height, Wang Que could only see the top of her hat.
The young lady was watching the performance, and she was surrounded by her companions. From time to time, she would exchange a few words with her friends. The pulsating light lit across her face. Her long hair hung behind her back, and her diamond earrings could be faintly seen. She was looking at the stage with the same excited expression as everyone else, different from the reticent but very reliable Xia Qiongyun that everyone knew. Maybe, she would have been like this.
It wasn’t convenient to act now. Lin Hangzhi waited patiently. Half an hour later, the show finally ended. Lin Hangzhi and Dong Linhai’s eyes and ears were liberated. As the audience began to leave the venue in an orderly manner, Dong Linhai shot the others a meaningful look and they began to move.
Xia Qiongyun went to the bathroom, not noticing that she was being followed. There was a long line of people at the door of the bathroom. How could they draw her away? Or, should they directly “kill” her to wake her up?
“Let’s try and see if Sister Xiao Xia can recognize us first.” Wang Que closed her eyes, sent out a thought, and a teddy bear suit appeared on her in the next moment. She lifted the thick headgear to reveal a gap and said, “I’ll attract the others’ attention. You both can take Xiao Xia to a place where you can talk easily.”
Dong Linhai and Lin Hanzhi nodded. After talking it over, they came up with a plan.
The bear’s appearance had drawn a great deal of attention. The young women who were lined up instinctively liked this cute plush doll, especially when Wang Que took the initiative to make cute movements so as to encourage everyone to interact with her and take pictures.
Xia Qiongyun stood in place some distance away, watching other people interact with the large bear. At the moment, someone called out from behind her, “Excuse me, are you Miss Xia Qiongyun?”
Xia Qiongyun turned around. There were two Asian men behind her, both wearing black suits. They seemed…somewhat familiar?
The thinner-looking man said in English, “We’re staff here. You’ve been selected as this show’s special guest. Please follow us to collect your gift.”
Xia Qiongyun was very wary. Her brows furrowed and she asked, “Wasn’t the performance already over? Why is the lucky guest announced just now?”
Lin Hangzhi continued to fabricate, “That was our momentary negligence, so I came to you to remedy it right away. You can take a look at your admission ticket. There should be a special mark on it, which represents the lucky guest.”
Xia Qiongyun skeptically took out the admission ticket from her handbag, and sure enough, there was a six-pointed star in the upper right corner—Was this here before?
Xia Qiongyun still didn’t believe it. “Can you show me your credentials?”
Dong Linhai and Lin Hangzhi took out their temporary work permits, and Xia Qiongyun finally said, “Sorry, I’m not very interested in the gift.”
She didn’t believe them.
Lin Hangzhi exchanged a helpless glance with Dong Linhai and said, “Okay, I’m sorry to disturb you. I wish you a good evening.”
Xia Qiongyun nodded. She turned around to line back up for the restroom, and just as she raised her heel to take a step, her mouth and nose was suddenly covered from behind.
The sweet, pungent gas was inhaled into her nasal cavity, and Xia Qiongyun almost instantly became dizzy. Just before her consciousness completely disappeared, she heard her companions’ alarmed screams.
The world sank into darkness.
Dong Linhai rushed into the elevator, carrying the unconscious Xia Qiongyun. Lin Hangzhi and Wang Que followed close behind. Before Xia Qiongyun’s companions could chase after them, the elevator door closed and they were lifted up.
When the elevator reached the top floor, they picked a room at random and swiped the card in their hands. With a beeping sound, the door opened. Everyone filed in, and Wang Que locked the door.
Dong Linhai placed Xia Qiongyun on the bed. They needed to wake her up before security personnel arrived.
“We won’t be able to wake her up for the time being. Let’d just do it.” Lin Hangzhi took out from his pocket a small glass bottle filled with a white powdered medicine and a syringe, as well as a tiny bottle of transparent liquid.
Wang Que asked, “What’s this?”
“Cyanide.” Lin Hangzhi used the syringe to transfer some saline solution into the small glass bottle. The powdered medicine inside the bottle began to dissolve. His movements were practiced and proficient, and very quickly, the chemical compound was evenly mixed. He then drew all the mixture into the syringe.
Xia Qiongyun lay quietly, like a breathing corpse. Her hair was still very long, so that Lin Hangzhi couldn’t help but recall the first time he saw her in the Labyrinth of Time.
Lin Hangzhi swept the memories out of his mind. Even in a dream, killing one teammate was an extremely cruel act. Because of the increased pressure, he took the initiative to take the task upon himself.
Lin Hangzhi took a deep breath, rolled up Xia Qiongyun’s sleeves, and pushed the needle into her arm.
The highly toxic substance was injected into her vein.
Victor stood up. He walked from the central area of the carriage toward the end. The bathroom door sign showed that it was unoccupied. He pushed the door open and walked inside. Soon, the sign on the door was locked to red.
He stood in the small space, facing the mirror. After taking his mobile phone out, he dialed the number on top of his address book.
After a few short rings, the phone was connected and a gentle female voice sounded. It was his wife, Karina.
“Why did you call me?”
“I suddenly wanted to hear your voice.” Victor stared at himself in the mirror. He spoke Russian in a low voice, “I’ll be there in about four hours. Are the children okay?”
“The family’s all good. We’re planning to pick you up together.”
In the background, he could vaguely hear his little daughter laughing as she asked if her father was calling. A smile appeared on Victor’s face, and the hand he was using to hold the phone slowly tightened as he quietly soaked in his wife and children’s every words, as if to imprint those voices forever in his heart.
They talked about unimportant things, like the weather, the neighbors, work, financial expenditures, the children’s learning situation…A knock came from the bathroom door, and Victor covered his mobile phone to shout, “Sorry. Please, can you use the bathrooms in the other carriage?”
The knocking on the door stopped. Victor released the mouthpiece, and the woman on the phone said, “Where are you? Is it inconvenient to call? Or, should we hang up first?”
Victor immediately said, “Don’t hang up, Karina. I’m fine. Let’s talk for a while.”
His tone sounded too much like he was pleading. The conversation continued, but the woman on the other side already noticed that something was wrong. “What’s wrong, Victor? You don’t seem too good today.”
“I’m fine.” Victor smiled and looked into the mirror. His violet eyes were full of tenderness. “Let me talk to the children for a bit.”
The little girl immediately took over the phone and shouted, “Daddy! When will you get home?!”
“As soon as possible,” Victor said. “Have you been listening to Mama at home?”
“From now on, when Daddy is away, you need to continue to listen to Momma.”
“Anna and Kasha are still in school. Wait for me to get them, and we’ll come together to pick you up from the train station.”
The train gradually slowed, and the news of the stop was broadcasted on the radio. The smile on Victor’s face slowly disappeared. He whispered, “We’ve arrived at the stop early. I love you and the children, Karina.”
With regards to her husband’s sudden confession, the woman only felt a little bit of shyness that came after a long absence, and she didn’t notice the deeper meaning behind it. “I love you too. I’ll see you in four hours.”
“Okay. Goodbye, Karina.”
The train came to a complete stop. Victor hung up the phone, and the smile on his face disappeared completely. He walked out of the bathroom, but didn’t return to his seat. Instead, he directly left the train.
The biting cold wind poured into his neck. He let out a long breath, causing white mist to drift from his nose and mouth.
The platform separated two railroad tracks. On the other side, another train was approaching and was about to enter the station.
The conductor didn’t notice the man standing by the side of the platform. Victor tucked his hands into his pockets, and a whistling sound came to his ears. A few seconds before the train reached him, he jumped off the platform.
Xixi: Sniff, sniff. Victor got me teary-eyed.