Countryside, in the woods.
Reasonably lush trees occupied the area, growing in sporadic clusters in this wild land, and had somehow managed to link up into a single stretch. A few dirt roads wound through the woods, scattered by scraps and litters, as well as several shallow cesspools giving off a strong odor.
It was safe to say that no love birds would choose such surroundings to get passionate.
However, Li Suchun liked it here, for it was the most ideal hideout. He arrived before dawn, found a shady mound, and dug a shallow pit. He then let the white corpse lie in it before covering it up with a thin layer of soil.
To finish up, he gathered a great amount of twigs and leaves, then covered the pit, making the disguise look as natural as possible.
On any ordinary day, he would proceed by either looking around nearby or catching up on sleep by the white corpse, feeding on bread and bottled water only. He would spend the entire daytime guarding the corpse.
Ever since he became a fugitive after killing those people, he had spent every single day like this, from sunrise until dark.
But not today. Sitting down by the mound, Li Suchun held a water bottle in his right hand while his left hand clutched his trousers involuntarily, even shivering slightly.
After bolting away from Xiahe Village, he had been haunted by a sense of threat since then, as if a net was closing in; he felt like a fish in the net, a rat in the hole.
He was well aware of the consequences of letting Liu Changhe live the other night, which for him could mean a big trouble. At his age, he was yet to gain enough experience to deduce what measures the police would take. His instinct alone was making him restless.
Taking another sip of the water, Li Suchun strained the empty bottle, which crunched in his hand.
To reach the neighboring province, he had to make a detour around Luobi. His two options were to go around from either the west side or the east side. He was about to push on with his journey tonight, but had turned rather hesitant by now.
Pondering for long in silence, he suddenly tossed the empty bottle aside, dug out a ragged blanket from his woven bag, and huddled himself up like a beggar by the mound.
What's with all the fuss!
He had no other way out. For him, it was either moving on, or staying where he was. While there might be a glimmer of hope in continuing with his journey, remaining here meant starving to death—probably even before the police got to him.
Winter had just arrived and the sun was setting early.
Li Suchun was so used to the loneliness and waiting that the sky seemed to darken before he even realized how long the day had been. When the last streak of sunlight vanished onto the western horizon, the woods instantly fell into gloominess.
Only then did Li Suchun open his eyes; he had kept himself as still as a dead man. Folding up the blanket, he looked around to make sure no one was watching, then made a conjuring gesture with his fingers. "Up!"
With that, the white corpse broke through the soil, bolting upright in front of him.
Looking at this hideous, primitive zombie with a faint smell of blood, warmth and a sense of security welled up in his heart. He said softly, "Let's go!"
With the technology and resources of a mere county, finding two people could be extremely difficult without knowing their exact whereabouts.
Lingbi was surrounded by intricate terrain with uneven, undulating ground and low hills covered by dense woods. Limited by their manpower, the police could not launch a full-scale manhunt, but only guard the exits of all passageways, spreading their men out by grids. Following the arrangements of the county police station, all groups moved into action at noontime that day. The surveillance went fruitless after half a day. The first shift had been relieved and the second batch was on guard at the moment.
Being the less fortunate ones, Big Liu and Xiao Zhang were allocated to the night shift, which meant they would have to stay up the whole night on a dirt road by Poplar Village and could not rest until the following morning.
The dirt road might seem nothing out of the ordinary, but it was the only way leading to Luobi. That was to say, if those two people were indeed in the area, they must walk this road at some point.
Xiao Zhang was a young man in his twenties and this was probably his first time to be assigned to a task like this. He was constantly complaining. From time to time, he would dart a look towards the direction of the county town, grunting, "Sigh, the drama must have started by now…"
"Why? Got a date tonight?" Big Liu, a veteran police officer, asked in passing.
"I was going to take my girlfriend shopping and watch the drama. It turned out neither was going to happen. She's mad at me at the moment."
"Give her some sweet talk, then."
"She's not talking to me. She's not answering my phone calls and would not return my messages. What am I gonna do?"
"Well, girls are just like that. She'll be alright tomorrow."
Tapping the ash of his cigarette out of the car window, Big Liu chuckled, "My mother-in-law's birthday is today and I've already booked the restaurant. So what? You've got be there when there's a case."
"You've got a mother-in-law. It's like having your fish in a pot, a done deal. Not me, I'm still fishing!" Xiao Zhang exclaimed.
"Haha, you and your sassy jokes. How many fish have you got with that slick tongue of yours?"
Finding the young man's witty remark amusing, Big Liu retorted jokingly.
Veteran police officers were experienced enough with such tasks and knew how to save their energy, but Xiao Zhang was not familiar with the skill yet. A while later, he fidgeted in his seat, becoming all the more agitated. He said suddenly, "I need to take a leak!"
With that, he got out of the car with a flashlight, walked a bit further into the wild land, and started emptying his bladder.
In order to stay unnoticed, the headlights of the car were not switched on. They were surrounded by darkness. On the other side of the wild land was Poplar Village dotted with sporadic lights.
Tall and thick weeds flourished in the nearby area. Stirred by the night wind, they undulated in the darkness like gentle waves.
Zipping up his trousers, Xiao Zhang was on his way back to the car when he suddenly stopped.
North wind was blowing tonight, which meant the thick growth of grass should lean to the north in unison. However, one particular spot seemed to have broken the evenness.
Straining his eyes in the dim light, he indeed made out an indistinct figure hopping up and down, rising and falling in the grass, which looked extremely weird.
"Atta boy! Gotcha!"
Hotheaded, he flipped his flashlight and shouted, "Who's there? Stop!"
With that, he took after the dark figure.
"God damn it!"
Seeing this, Big Liu, who was sitting in the car, cursed and scrambled out hastily.
The normal procedure under such circumstances was to contact their superior asking for backup and pin down the suspect while waiting. But the little bugger just rushed out like that, sh*t!
"Stop right there!"
Xiao Zhang was in hot pursuit across the wild land, fumbling for his electric prod while running, shouting at the same time. He flitted past the wild grasses, which left painful scratches on his skin.
By now, he was able to discern the shadow he was chasing. There were indeed two people, one running, the other one hopping.
As bold as he was, Xiao Zhang could not help faltering. 'That's just creepy! What the hell is that?'
After some chasing and running, the person in the front seemed to be losing his strength and slowing down. Xiao Zhang was about to catch up with them when the man suddenly stopped, then shouted in a clear voice, "Go!"
The creepy person following him turned around unexpectedly and leapt out in a whoosh, landing themselves right in front of Xiao Zhang. Black, glossy claws made a snatch at him.
Hair on Xiao Zhang's back stood up at once. Without realizing it, he held up the electric prod across his chest.
Hit by a tremendous force, he was sent into midair and flew backwards. His chest was badly mutilated and Big Liu could not tell if the young man was still alive.
Seeing this from behind, Big Liu was filled with rage and took out his gun right away, ignoring the instructions of the officials. The echo of the gunshot reverberated in the silent night, lingering on in the air.
The bullet landed in the grass by the strange person, blasting out a cloud of rubble and dirt, scraps of grass flying in the air.
The man in the front seemed to be startled by this, and stuck out his fingers and shouted again, "Go!"
Here was an illustration of how a veteran differed from a newbie. Fixing his gaze upon the dark shadow, Big Liu held the gun with both hands and steadied his breathing. In the blink of an eye, the person was by his side and raised their claws again. At that moment, he pulled the trigger.
The bullet hit the person's chest accurately, but the sound came out muffled, as if the bullet had dug into a pile of withered, lifeless meat.
The impact sent the dark shadow sliding back stiffly, but it stopped a short distance away and stood there as if it was not hurt at all.
'What the f**k is this thing!'
Staring open-mouthed, the same question crossed Big Liu's head with the same level of horror! He knew the power of his gun too well to doubt if the bullet could put a hole in a body at such close range, but this thing was totally unharmed!
While he was dazed, the dark shadow leapt out again.
Big Liu was smashed away as well, his gun falling on the ground and himself unconscious.
"Come out, now!"
"What happened? I think I heard a gunshot!"
"Over there! Let's take a look!"
At that moment, Poplar Village stirred. Lights were switched on one after another with people shuffling around.
Li Suchun watched the two police officers in silence. In the end, he only picked up the gun and walked towards another direction, disappearing into the darkness.