Chapter 1: The Black Cat

Next morning.

Near the entrance of a district, Xiao Bei was with Yang Chen, eating youtiao and drinking soy milk along one side of a deserted street.

Yang Chen was Xiao Bei’s friend from the university. After graduating, he had been working overseas. This year, it wasn’t easy for him to make a trip back.

“Are you sure? A black cat, in the middle of the night, climbed up your window and nearly scared you to death? Come on!” Yang Chen brushed it off, chewing half of his youtiao. “You must be having a nightmare and were still half asleep. You are not living in a single storey house! To be frightened by a cat that can’t get to you, you really have no guts.”

“I know it happened. And I was awake! I’m sure of it!” Xiao Bei slapped the table. When he saw the surrounding people giving him a peculiar look, he hurriedly lowered his voice. “What I said is the truth, and it is up to you to believe it. I’m really unlucky. It’s one thing that I’ve lost my job, but to have nightmares every day,  and now, even a cat wants to scare me. It’s truly funny.”

“Fine, fine, don’t get this agitated this early in the day. Maybe that cat had climbed up through a tree. There’s no need to make a fuss over it. Whatever the reason, you should find something to divert your attention to. You may feel better if you keep busy.”

Xiao Bei rapped the surface of the table with his fingers, the beat like mini drums, resounding about. .“Do what? I’m sick of those boring jobs. It is true that I still have to work but I can’t force myself to do it, so how? Forget it. This year’s unemployment rate was like it was sitting on a rocket. Do you know those jobs that no one wants in the past? Now around 10 university students are fighting for it. What kind of situation is this? It’s still you that is lucky, to be able to find a cushy job that you like.”

“Èn, let me think for a moment.” As YangChen said that, one hand was supporting his chin and the elbow was on the table, the other hand was casually fiddling with his chopsticks.

“Ok, let’s do this. Before, you felt that I was more fortunate right? I will make a call to allow you to follow me for a period of time. I believe at the end, you will change your mind.” YangChen took out his phone and called, “Wèi? It’s me, it’s like this, I got a friend who recently wanted to find something to do and aren’t we currently lacking manpower? Yes yes yes, no problem. Later I will bring him. Rest assured, I know my limits.”

After hanging up the call, he turned his head to stare at Xiao Bei and said word by word, “You will definitely be shocked.”

The wind suddenly seemed to grow.

“È? Hā, I didn’t hear what you just said, you think that I will stun? Don’t make stupid jokes. Oh right, as a celebratory gift of me finding work, this meal will be on you. Hēi hēi.” Xiao Bei laughed, not bothered in the slightest of what YangChen had said.

He then dug his ear with his pinky finger before calling for the boss.

“Two more buns! Take away!”

Yang Chen shook his head helplessly and both of them left the district.

Though the sunlight was unable to scatter the biting cold of winter, the pale gold color unconsciously gave people a feeling of warmth.

At an alley.

When Xiao Bei once again met that familiar face of a robber, he who was still holding onto half of the bun nearly bit his own tongue! With his still oily mouth, his face showed a stupefied expression as he met this man named Liu Xin, left side of his face marked by 3 iconic,  long scars.

“Yí? Xiao Bei? What happened to you?” Yang Chen noticed Xiao bei’s reaction, and jarred him a bit.

XiaoBei touched the two corner of his mouth. “No…nothing…just felt a little…excited…no…just a little nervous….”

He then stretched out his right hand and felt that it was not right so he quickly swiped it against his butt, wiping the oil off before stretching it out again.”Hello, I’m XiaoBei, first, first….”

“Hā hā, it should not be our first time meeting right?” Liu Xin hearty laughed.

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This time it was Yang Chen’s turn to be shocked.

“How? You two? Know each other?” Yang Chen went into a daze.

“Hā hā, we happened to meet once. The world of coincidence is really bizarre.” Liu Xin went to explain to Yang Chen about his and Xiao Bei’s first meeting and due to Xiao Bei’s awkward expression, it stirred him into laughter.

Xiao Bei’s complexion kept changing. He wished that he could find a pit and jump into it.

However, he also knew that that time he was really silly. He is not stupid but is rather smart.

“Xiao Bei ah, you, you, you really are something. Next time, don’t walk with me or I will be losing face. Back to the topic, many people, when they meet brother Liu for the first time, would not think that he is a good person. It’s just how he looks, and one cannot do plastic surgery just because of this right? Once you stayed in contact with him for some time, you will know how good brother Liu can be!” Yang Chen marvelously tried to smooth what seemed to be an awkward situation. Afterward, he, alongside Liu Xin, lead Xiao Bei through many turns before entering into an antique shop.

The room was tidy. It seemed that it was cleaned regularly and there was not even a speck of dust in those little holes that usually don’t attract any attention to.

Old fashioned square tables for eight people, rattan chairs; ornamental wooden windows; byobu.

The shop was filled with an antique charm.

The 3 sat down after Liu Xin had placed a cup of tea in front of them. Liu Xin took a sip before saying, “Xiao Bei ah, I’ll first introduce to you the work we do before you consider whether to come or not. I cannot stress the possible dangers involved.”

Xiao Bei’s heart shivered and hastily interrupted, “Brother Liu, it’s not grave robbing, is it…?”

Liu Xin laughed. “Hē hē, to tell you honestly, in the past, I was a grave robber, but you can rest assured that I no longer do that anymore. What we mainly do is adventure and assist (探险协助). This is something you may not have heard before, so I will explain to you. Actually, grave robbers isn’t a simple job like what everyone thought. Many people that gave up on this job were not able to make an income. So they came together and create a new job. Some love adventures but were not willing to go solo so they need somebody to come along with them. Currently, we need those with rich survival experience to be of assistance, so people like us after changing to this job profession will fill up the lack of manpower.”

“Wait.” After hearing what Liu Xin said, he could not help but to once again interrupt. “Brother Liu, your meaning I understand, but I did not have your experience and I fear that I may not be able to do it, ah!”

“This, you do not have to worry; just listen finish to my words.” Liu Xin put down his cup and slowly said, “Your nature is similar to Yang Chen. Your purpose is to follow the group and manage the supplies. However, there would be times when the environment may be a bit difficult. Though you are at the rear, and just have to set up a temporary supply station, there are times when you may meet danger like landslides, sandstorms, and others.”

Xiao Bei picked up his cup and lowered his head without uttering a word. He was contemplating.

“Brother Liu, how about this, let Xiao Bei and I together handle the job we just accepted, it’s simple, no? After having some experience, he can decide whether to join in.” Yang Chen who had not spoken all this while, suddenly weighed in..

Xiao Bei hesitated.”This…can?…but I’m still a little scared….”

So the reason why Yang Chen wasn’t able to come back home was due to this.

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Though Xiao Bei liked risky adventures, he still felt that his own little life was more important, else he wouldn’t be troubled by his nightmares for so long.

Yang Chen had already opened his backpack which he carried along. He took out this time job’s information.

Suddenly, a photo fell out which attracted Xiao Bei’s attention.

His pupils abruptly shrunk.

“I have decided to participate in this trip! Give me the information!” Xiao Bei sudden voice caused Yang Chen and Liu Xin to be shocked. At this moment, Xiao Bei’s body trembled.

On seeing his abnormal behavior, Yang Chen curiously picked up the photo.

The photo was shot outdoors and was something he was previously investigating on before leaving. In the photo, there were two people standing beside a steel support in an ordinarily small valley. The two people were bending their backs and were surveying a small section in the area. Following Xiao Bei’s line of sight, he looked at the lower right corner.

Yes, there it was.

A black cat.


 

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