Chapter 34 – Dating Agency (2)
In the evening, Chen Jing and Xiao Pang entered the dating agency.
There were surveillance cameras inside, but earlier in the day, they had already roughly figured out the layout. They silently made their way to the second floor.
The towel on the second floor was missing, indicating that someone had been there before.
Xiao Pang took out a key hurriedly made earlier in the day, inserted it into the lock, and with a soft click, the door opened.
Chen Jing stepped in first, quietly surveyed the surroundings, confirmed there was nothing unusual, and then proceeded ahead. Xiao Pang followed behind.
It was a pretty standard room – a bookshelf, a desk, a sofa – just a simple office.
The only oddities were the sealed and heavily covered windows and the person lying on the floor.
To be precise, it was a corpse. A woman’s corpse, lying on her side with multiple injuries that didn’t seem intentional, more like accidents during struggle.
The only certain sign of foul play was the eyes on the face of the corpse. They were missing, leaving behind two dark holes oozing blood, dried around the edges. Chen Jing probably saw traces of this blood on a towel by the door, likely from the eyes and ears of the deceased.
This was likely the “Miss Huang” mentioned earlier today.
Having grown accustomed to such scenes, Xiao Pang averted his gaze, while Chen Jing remained composed, turning to carefully inspect the office.
If things were as expected, there should be some sort of passage here. He had observed earlier in the lobby that this office’s room downstairs was different in size and hastily constructed, standing out from the other rooms. It seemed like a makeshift structure, meant to conceal something.
That something was likely the passage to an unknown location.
Xiao Pang slowly moved around the room and accidentally kicked something. He took out his phone and, using its light, took a glance.
It was a pull ring.
This was it.
Chen Jing approached, bent down, and inspected before pulling the ring.
As the ring was pulled, a staircase leading into the depths was revealed. Xiao Pang prepared to step in, but Chen Jing first bent down to listen intently. Then he halted Xiao Pang, lowering the ring.
Xiao Pang realized something and joined Chen Jing behind the ring.
Footsteps gradually approached – two people, accompanied by murmured conversation.
With a soft sound, the floor shifted, and two individuals dressed in dark red attire emerged. Their clothing covered them completely, not a sliver of skin exposed.
Moving stealthily, they unzipped the backs of their attire while conversing in hushed tones.
Their conversation abruptly stopped, followed by soft thuds.
Releasing their hold on the person’s neck, Chen Jing and Xiao Pang caught the falling individuals, silently swapped their attire, and finally stashed both figures into a nearby cabinet.
Having changed clothes, the two exchanged a glance and then disappeared together into the staircase, fading gradually into the darkness.
Once in F City, having endured several hours of car travel, Jiang Yujin didn’t plan to leave immediately. After sipping various sweet fruit wines in the afternoon, he wandered around before heading to an old city area in the evening.
Unlike the modern districts, the old city area was aged yet vibrant, lacking the strict orderliness seen elsewhere. Under the large locust trees along the road, several tables were set up. Older gentlemen in sweatshirts played mahjong, fanning themselves with palm leaf fans. Quite a few people gathered around, and Jiang Yujin seamlessly blended in, feeling entirely at ease.
An auntie brought a large plate of watermelon, and he received a slice. An older man instantly bonded with him, calling him “brother.” When the man went to the restroom, Jiang Yujin temporarily took his place in the game and won twice.
After the game, the older folks became even friendlier with him.
The bright yellow streetlights stayed on from dusk till nightfall. Jiang Yujin changed his position, heading to watch an elderly man play an ancient card game.
People passed by continuously. A person smoking with a row of earrings on his ears passed by the card table, talking on the phone:
“The head of the branch here has been holding back before, and now he said that he knows about 001. I can’t tell whether it is true or not. I guess he wants to get promoted based on this.”
“…The General Administration sent me here just for this. I’ll go find him in a while, then we’ll know.”
Jiang Yujin glanced sideways while gnawing on a watermelon.
Tossing the rind in the trash, he nodded to the old man and slowly turned to leave.
Not far away, an older lady noticed his departure, widened her eyes, and tried to persuade him to stay.
Jiang Yujin waved with a smile, “My son’s finishing school; I’m going to pick him up.”
Seemingly surprised that he already had a school-going son, the aunties watched him leave, eyes wide.
As he walked down the crowded street, Jiang Yujin occasionally glanced at people in the distance, feeling like there was still time, even buying some snacks and eating while walking.
As the path became familiar, when he looked up again, he realized he was back at the place he’d visited earlier that afternoon. However, the earring guy hadn’t entered through the main gate; he had used a key to enter from another side of the building.
After the guy entered and closed the door, Jiang Yujin followed at a distance. Only after a while did he find his own way in.
Footsteps echoed on the empty second floor of the building.
The earring guy reached the end of the second floor, humming a tune and entering a room while checking his phone. He rummaged through the room, finding an unopened set of clothes in the cabinet on the desk.
The moment he found the clothes, a sharp pain hit the back of his neck. He couldn’t even turn around to see what happened and collapsed to the ground.
Standing behind him, Jiang Yujin lowered his gaze, slightly rotated his wrist, then passed over the fallen man to take the clothes from the cabinet, saying a quiet “thank you.”
But it was clear the man couldn’t hear his words of gratitude anymore.
A living person lying here directly wasn’t a good idea. Jiang Yujin glanced at the office and then opened a side compartment of the wall.
The cabinet door opened, revealing two people bound hand and foot, lying quietly inside.
Jiang Yujin closed the cabinet door once again.
After finding a new place in the office to accommodate the person who fell into a baby-like sleep, he glanced at the room and pulled up the buckle on the floor.
Chen Jing and Xiao Pang walked through the long stairs, and when they finally reached the end, their field of view instantly broadened.
This place resembled an underground city with lights and corridors everywhere. Several metal bridges spanned long distances, connecting two large buildings against the mountain wall, with people constantly moving above.
At the start of each passage, guards stood silently, holding guns, on alert.
The two, dressed in specially made outfits, passed two sets of stairs without making a sound or appearing too conspicuous. They cautiously crossed the metal bridge, surveying the surroundings.
As they proceeded cautiously, footsteps echoed behind them on the metal bridge.
Someone passed by them, similarly dressed in dark red attire, probably a veteran here, looking more relaxed than them. He strolled forward and soon crossed the metal bridge, disappearing from sight.
After crossing the bridge, Jiang Yujin glanced up at the large building attached to the mountain wall.
Also a branch office, this one appeared more magnificent than the one in A City, at least several times larger, seeming to have a base of operations. The only similarity between the two branch offices seemed to be the need for climbing very long staircases to enter.
The guards in front of the building held their guns without deviation, their posture tense. When Jiang Yujin passed by, he nodded and greeted them, expressing his acknowledgment for their diligent work, saying, “Thank you for your hard work.”
Caught off guard by the greeting, the guards were momentarily stunned, feeling a rush of warmth within, and replied, “Not at all.”
Jiang Yujin entered the building this way.
Compared to the strict vigilance outside, there were noticeably fewer people inside the building, with individuals wearing different clothes. Some in white protective suits entered an elevator, while Citizen Jiang, who had intended to climb the stairs, quickly changed his plan and followed them into the elevator.
The person in the white protective suit pressed a floor, and Jiang Yujin, after a brief thought, directly pressed the topmost floor.
Leaders often preferred higher places, so it was likely the branch chief would be on the top floor.
The person in the white suit glanced at him, then averted their gaze, and upon reaching their floor, exited the elevator.
Continuing to the top floor, as soon as the elevator doors opened, a row of armed individuals appeared, aiming their guns directly at him.
The person at the front spoke sharply, “No one except the branch chief is allowed to take the elevator directly here. What are you doing?”
Suddenly facing armed individuals, Jiang Yujin wasn’t frightened. Instead, he spoke firmly and a bit anxiously, “I have important information to inform the branch chief. If it is later, it will be too late.”
As he spoke, he walked, appearing genuinely urgent, his demeanor sincere and natural, making it difficult to believe he was deceiving them.
The person holding the gun was momentarily intimidated by him, unable to advance or retreat. They watched as the other walked deep into the corridor. When they finally reacted and prepared to intercept the person, the other had already knocked on the only door in the corridor, speaking something from behind it.
After a brief silence, someone inside the office said, “Come in.”
Without a doubt, it was the voice of the branch chief. The people standing in the corridor looked at each other a few times and finally chose to return to their original posts.
Jiang Yujin, standing at the door, didn’t say anything, only mentioning that he was from the General Administration, smoothly entering the office.
Perhaps to compensate for the shortcomings of the underground, the office was brightly lit, with machines running to maintain dry air and temperature. Staying here was much more comfortable than outside.
Behind the office desk sat a middle-aged man. Unlike the others, he didn’t wear a specially tailored outfit, just an official white shirt and black trousers. However, his physique had visibly changed, his belly protruding over his belt, and his head gradually showing signs of grey hair.
It was this person who claimed to have seen 001.
Jiang Yujin looked around at the person behind the desk but didn’t recall anything.
Before he spoke, the man behind the desk calmly looked up and said, “The General Administration sent you for 001, didn’t they?”
Not willing to let the other sit comfortably, Jiang Yujin remained standing while the branch chief sat. He glanced around the office before pulling a chair for himself, sitting down more casually than the branch chief, nodding casually.
“They only sent you alone; headquarters doesn’t seem to trust me much,” the branch chief’s gaze grew stern. “Before feeling the sincerity from headquarters, I won’t say anything.”
Jiang Yujin replied, “That makes things difficult then.”
He sat lazily, his tone light and airy. Even though facial expressions weren’t visible, his voice alone could easily provoke someone’s temper.
Suddenly, the branch chief’s expression changed drastically. He leaped over the desk, reaching out directly for Jiang Yujin’s head while he stood up, kicking the chair forward. The branch chief’s hand grabbed the chair, causing it to shatter instantly.
—This person was too fast.
Without touching the expected skull, the branch chief was first startled, then puzzled by his expression. Soon realizing something, he said, “You’re not from headquarters!”
He had already inquired beforehand and knew that after HQ’ assessment, they didn’t entirely believe him. They casually sent just one person. The dispatched individual wasn’t particularly powerful, just someone who was usually capable, and willing to undertake thankless tasks, which is why they remained in headquarters and held some authority. In terms of strength, they didn’t amount to much.
Someone who didn’t amount to much couldn’t possibly evade his attack.
Jiang Yujin didn’t respond and evaded the branch chief’s attack once again. Before the chief could grab the wall, Jiang Yujin directly seized the chief’s hand, sounding a bit reproachful and resigned, “Lower your voice. Don’t make a ruckus that reaches outside.”
The incident at A City branch was an accident, just as this was. He only intended to find someone and didn’t aim to take down the entire branch.
Each attack was narrowly avoided, and he was effortlessly held by the opponent. Hearing what sounded like a scolding tone, the branch chief’s already mounting anger exploded.
The room echoed with the sound of flesh tearing apart, as if something was silently growing, emitting an eerie noise.
Lowering his gaze, Jiang Yujin saw the branch chief’s hand, previously restrained, undergoing continuous transformation. The fingers gradually contorted into a strange curvature, disjointed and irregular.
As the fingers disassembled, the bones elongated and enlarged, black markings appeared, resembling the wrinkled claws of a bird. The once normal skin had been torn apart, blood pooling on the floor.
Seeing this kind of change on a person for the first time, Jiang Yujin even considerately released the grip to avoid affecting the development of the branch chief’s hand.
Eventually, the branch chief’s hand completely lost its original form, turning into a black, oversized claw, completely beyond normal human proportions.
It was like a strange species hand. The branch chief’s eyes quietly changed too. The already small pupils vanished entirely, leaving only the whites of the eyes.
Apart from the intact facial features, this person no longer resembled a human.
Not only did the appearance cease to be human, but the branch chief also seemed to lose some qualities as a human. He no longer spoke as before, acting entirely on instinct. He didn’t even care about his office anymore, causing all the appliances to turn into piles of scrap metal.
Faintly hearing some commotion outside, the person guarding outside cautiously knocked on the door and asked, “Is everything all right in there?”
With bent legs, Jiang Yujin pressed the branch chief firmly onto the office desk, supporting himself with one hand on the desk while the other clutched the chief’s throat, smiling and saying, “Everything’s fine.”
The branch chief’s face reddened in slow suffocation, emitting meaningless, hoarse, and feeble low growls.
These were no longer sounds that a normal human could produce.
Amidst the suffocation, the black claws, which had stopped growing, began to wildly expand again, even faster than before, as if draining the last vestiges of life.
The branch chief died. After death, the entire body, except for the claws, instantly shriveled. The claws swelled a bit, but without a continued source of nourishment, they trembled in the air for a moment before sagging down.
Jiang Yujin raised an eyebrow slightly.
This organization seemed to be involved in something strange.
He wasn’t particularly interested in the organization’s business. Despite their conversation, the person who claimed to know him did not recognize him. Jiang Yujin had no other interest here. He didn’t linger in the office, simply left, closing the door behind him when coming out.
The person guarding outside glanced over as Jiang Yujin emerged, trying to get a glimpse of the branch chief inside.
“The matter’s been discussed,” Jiang Yujin shut the door, saying, “The branch chief is working; it’s best not to disturb him.”
He seemed indifferent to whether they would comply, finishing what he had to say before calmly boarding the elevator again, leaving in full view of everyone, his movements natural and fluid.
The person monitoring upstairs returned to their position.
Downstairs, Chen Jing and Xiao Pang groped their way, secretly observing a few people who seemed to notice something was amiss. They eventually went all the way up to a laboratory.
Most individuals on this level wore white protective suits, with some dressed similarly walking in the corridor.
The laboratory had transparent walls made of glass, offering a clear view inside.
They saw a laboratory with vials filled with liquid containing eyeballs. It seemed they were paired, but only one vial still contained an eyeball.
Xiao Pang remembered the female corpse from the second floor whose eyes had turned into empty sockets.
Chen Jing also recalled. Besides that, he noticed the strange species lying in the lab. The B706 specimen, with multiple eyes on its head, most of which were damaged and removed.
In the place where its eyes had been, there was now a single intact human eye.
Before he could observe further, an alarm blared suddenly, piercing the entire building. Footsteps of security personnel echoed through the halls, indicating their consolidation.
Startled by the alarm, Xiao Pang asked, “Have we been found out?”
Chen Jing shook his head.
There were people around, but none showed any intention of attacking them. It was evident they weren’t after them. However, something had obviously happened here.
The incident occurred on the top floor not long ago. A person from the lab went upstairs with a report, knocked on the office door, but received no response. Everyone realized something was amiss, pushed the door, only to find a shriveled, grotesque corpse.
The alarm in the branch rang, its sound reverberating throughout the underground, as all entry points were sealed shut.
Just before the entrances closed, a figure casually left the branch.
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