Chapter 20 – The Collector (1)
Jiang Yujin, who hadn’t opened his eyes for half a day, finally did so. Although his vision was still blurry, he could at least make out vague figures. Noticing that more than one person had entered the room, he said, “You brought friends to play again today?”
Chen Jing responded and Xiao Pang politely greeted him. Zhang Xin, realizing, also followed with a greeting.
As the unfamiliar voice became gradually clearer, Jiang Yujin slowly focused his eyes and looked up, immediately catching sight of Zhang Xin’s oddly perplexed expression. He waved his hand, “Coincidence.”
Surprised, he said, “So, you’re Chen Jing’s friend.”
To tell the truth, even Zhang Xin hadn’t realized that the person mentioned in the car earlier was Chen Jing.
No wonder the other person had mentioned frequently returning with injuries.
The situation was hard to explain for a moment. Noticing the curious gazes from the other two, she said, “It’s a long story.”
Chen Jing and Xiao Pang diverted their gazes.
Jiang Yujin sat on the sofa in his pajamas and started watching TV while the three entered the room.
Zhang Xin struggled to explain the twists and turns of the educational trip.
Chen Jing listened silently, falling into a thoughtful silence.
Upon hearing about this matter, surprisingly, his immediate reaction wasn’t disbelief; he even found it reasonable.
Xiao Pang, on the side, listened eagerly. After the topic concluded, he mentioned the gains from their outing today:
“We asked around. The invitation letter doesn’t necessarily have to be used by the person it’s addressed to. As long as we inform the organizers, someone else can go instead.”
Meaning, they didn’t have to acquire the invitation letter themselves. They just needed to find someone who had it and negotiate an exchange.
Zhang Xin asked, “Did you find someone with the invitation letter?”
Xiao Pang nodded, “We found two people willing to negotiate.”
At this point, he paused mysteriously, glanced at Chen Jing, then continued, “But later, after careful consideration, we ruled out one of them. So, currently, there’s only one person willing to hand over the invitation letter.”
Zhang Xin curiously asked, “Why was one ruled out?”
Chen Jing fell into complete silence, and Xiao Pang seemed to struggle to organize his words for a while before saying, “That person is the son of a big shot. His condition was for Chen Ji—for us to help him pursue someone, and once caught, he’d transfer the invitation letter to us.”
Zhang Xin said, “That condition doesn’t sound too bad.”
Pursuing someone might be challenging, but it was far better than demanding an exorbitant transfer fee or asking for bizarre tasks.
Xiao Pang averted his gaze, didn’t dare to look at Chen Jing again, and said, “The thing is, he wants to pursue someone… it’s a bit inappropriate, you know.”
Zhang Xin wasn’t quite sure and asked why it was inappropriate.
Xiao Pang closed his eyes, “That person you saw when you entered the house, that big shot’s son wants to pursue him.”
He spoke in circles, and it took Zhang Xin a long time to grasp the implication.
Her initially calm eyes gradually widened. She pointed toward the door of the room, with an indescribably strange expression, and asked, “Him?”
She was referring to the person currently outside, sitting on the couch watching the kind of countryside romance movies that middle-aged people loved.
Xiao Pang nodded with a serious expression.
The convoluted turn of events was as staggering as Zhang Xin’s experiences in the past few days. It was hard for her to believe that the person riding the electric scooter on the road was the conglomerate son’s target. It was equally difficult to fathom that this same person openly produced the invitation letter. What was even more shocking was the request for Chen Jing’s help in pursuing the person who was, in reality, the adoptive father of Chen Jing.
Zhang Xin finally understood why they found it inappropriate and why Chen Jing had remained silent throughout the discussion.
The room fell into a terrifying silence, only interrupted by the melancholic background music coming from the TV outside.
Zhang Xin asked, “Alright, what’s the condition of the next person?”
Xiao Pang replied, “The second person wants a specific type of alcohol. It’s from a small brewery that ceased production over a decade ago, so this kind of alcohol is no longer available.”
The alcohol wasn’t expensive, but the challenge lay in its rarity.
Zhang Xin contemplated silently.
That seemed quite difficult to acquire.
After a prolonged silence, Chen Jing finally spoke, “There’s a wine shop nearby whose owner enjoys collecting alcohol. Once we sort out our current tasks, we can ask him if he has this particular kind of alcohol. If not, we’ll figure out another way.”
The three discussed in the room, and when they left again, the person lying on the couch had started to doze off, blinking sleepily.
It was hard to imagine someone wanting to pursue this particular individual.
Without disturbing him and perhaps due to the uncertainty of how to confront him after hearing today’s events, Xiao Pang and Zhang Xin left quietly.
After watching the two leave, Chen Jing closed the door. Before the eyes of the person lying on the couch completely shut, he asked, “What do you want for dinner tonight?”
Jiang Yujin turned over to get more comfortable, casually saying, “I’m going out to see friends tonight. You can eat on your own.”
He always said that whenever he went out to drink. Chen Jing didn’t say much, just cautioned, “Drink less.”
The fact that he would be going out to drink tonight was exposed, but Jiang Yujin showed no sign of embarrassment or response; he just slept peacefully.
As the sky gradually darkened, the last rays of light disappeared from the city skyscrapers.
Jiang Yujin woke up when it was nearing evening, the living room dimly lit, and the high schooler was nowhere to be found.
Sitting up and straightening his wrinkled pajamas, he groped on the table until he finally found his phone and checked the time.
It was almost time to go for drinks.
He changed into fresh clothes in his room, grabbed his phone, and happily headed out.
There was a nearby pub that opened at night, frequented by many in the area. Business was as usual tonight.
He was a regular visitor, and the owner recognized him. When the owner saw him, he greeted Jiang Yujin and even cracked a smile, making his beard move along with his lips.
Finding a casual spot near the owner, Jiang Yujin said, “Same old, boss.”
The owner turned to pour a drink as Jiang Yujin idly looked around.
Today, the shop was crowded, and the TV in one corner was still replaying the morning news, the sounds blending together, creating a lively atmosphere.
Remembering that he had missed several days of the morning news due to work, Jiang Yujin immediately fixed his gaze on the television.
However, today’s morning news didn’t seem to have any interesting stories. It continued discussing the progress of cleaning the river after the appearance of strange species in E City, maintaining a serious and solemn tone.
Just as he shifted his attention away, someone sat down beside him. Their voice was feeble, tinged with the exhaustion of a corporate worker, saying, “Boss, a large draft beer, as big as the tragedies in my life.”
The owner responded, “…Alright.”
It was a rather familiar voice. Jiang Yujin turned his head and saw his long-unseen online friend, Xu Gao, dressed in work attire. They hadn’t met in person but interacted online daily, making Jiang Yujin naturally categorize him as an online friend.
It was surprising to encounter an acquaintance here, and Xu Gao seemed equally astonished. A faint smile appeared on his weary face, worn out by work. “What a coincidence.”
Jiang Yujin asked warmly, “What’s wrong?”
His tone was caring, his gaze sincere, but his face was filled with an interest in the gossip.
Fortunately, Xu Gao didn’t notice Jiang Yujin’s expression of interest in the story. Sadly, he said, “I need to rest my hand for a while, not due to encounters with strange species, but because of pending work. The office assigned me a new task, and it’s just overwhelming.”
He lamented by tapping the table, “It’s impossible to finish, utterly impossible!”
Previously, after a meeting at the office concluded that a person from the Game was near E City, and since A City was nearby, Xu Gao “luckily” obtained a task to locate a player named Yuan Sanshui. All the information he had was the person was male, named Yuan Sanshui, and nothing else. After days of running around, finally, under his collapsed look, the higher-ups finally relented, granting him a single evening off.
The owner listened as Xu Gao poured his heart out, showing sympathy and consoling the young man overwhelmed by work.
Jiang Yujin offered his support while taking a couple of sips of his drink.
Streetlights flickered on, the number of pedestrians on the streets fluctuated, and the sky gradually darkened, leaving only the city lights.
As the other customers gradually left, bathed in the warm yellow light, Jiang Yujin, propped up on his elbows, leaned his face on the table, slouching. He held his glass and nudged Xu Gao’s face, saying slowly, “Cheers.”
Xu Gao slumped over the table, unable to get up, slowly extending his empty glass, “Chee… rs.”
The owner, wiping glasses nearby, glanced at them and asked, “More drinks?”
Jiang Yujin raised his hand like a primary school student, “Yes!”
Though he was starting to slouch and squint, he answered rather quickly.
The owner nodded, “I have discontinued liquor; I’ll fetch it for you to taste.”
Jiang Yujin nodded and thanked him politely. Xu Gao, on the other hand, remained motionless, so Jiang Yujin pulled his head slightly, prompting him to show gratitude.
While the owner went away, Xu Gao struggled to sit up, running his hand through Jiang Yujin’s hair, and asked, “Your hair… it’s black and thick?”
“My hair’s black?” Jiang Yujin waved his hand, “My hair isn’t black…”
The door of the pub, which had originally been marked as closed, opened and made a soft sound, putting an end to this sensitive topic for the middle-aged man.
The middle-aged owner, already half-bald, reappeared with the liquor. Noticing the door open with no one outside, he closed it while holding the bottle.
As the door shut, all the lights in the pub instantly turned off, plunging the space into complete darkness.
In the darkness, the sound of the bottle hitting the ground echoed, followed by a… a snoring sound.
Some kind soul, unknown to them, helped switch off the lights. Xu Gao, who was resting on the table, fell asleep within seconds, slipping into a baby-like slumber.
It was evident this person was truly exhausted.
After contemplating for two seconds, Jiang Yujin decided to close his eyes as well.
After all, the darkness was indeed conducive to sleep.
The pub fell into an eerie silence until the owner’s voice rang out, “I fell to the ground, come and help me up!”
Xu Gao, startled from the sound, jolted upright, half-awake from the alcohol. Realizing he was a public servant, he clumsily stood up, attempting to find the owner in the darkness.
Failing to find the owner, just as the closed door unexpectedly swung open again, a dark figure dashed out at incredible speed. Its silhouette was unmistakably non-human. The dim light outside illuminated spattered bloodstains meandering towards the street, and next to Xu Gao stood a yawning citizen surnamed Jiang, suddenly appearing beside him.
“What’s that thing?” Xu Gao frowned. “Is it injured?”
“Probably hurt in the morning,” Jiang Yujin replied, stifling a yawn, eyelids drooping, utterly exhausted and innocent-looking.