TRA V1C6

Slowly getting closer to the tragic truth…

Translated by: TaffyGirl13

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Chapter 6: The Last One

Whoosh…whoosh…

So familiar…what is this sound?

Whoosh…whoosh…Waves? The sound of waves rushing back and forth? But, why is there an ocean? Where is this? Which ocean is it?

He was helplessly standing at the edge of the dock in fright. There was a foreign sea stretched out endlessly before his eyes, the whistling of the sea winds and turbulent waves rushing through his ears. A few unidentifiable seabirds circled around above with piercing squawks. The ear-splitting screeches seemed to be mocking him, mocking his weakness, mocking his cowardliness.

It was true, he really was terrified.

He did not want to board that yacht. However, the long and narrow, snow-white yacht was serenely docked near the shore, waiting for him. It was a white apparition that had adventitiously floated over with a tempest that would bring him adrift into the distance, never to return to land.

“No, I don’t want to go.” He shook his head and took a few steps backwards.

“Hey! What’s wrong, Piggy1, scared?” A voice called out his nickname with a playful laugh.

Zhu Nan turned around to see Ouyang Shuo walk over with luggage on his back. He hooked an arm around Zhu Nan’s neck and pulled him along so that he staggered forwards.

“What’s the matter? Don’t tell me you’re afraid of getting seasick?” Xu Yi Feng strode up to his other side and grabbed his arm. Together with Ouyang Shuo, the two’s combined strength dragged Zhu Nan up to the yacht.

“Oi, hurry up, you guys! Professor and Hua Xia are already waiting on the boat!”

Far ahead of them was Qin Ni in a minidress, her bare, slender and well-proportioned legs exposed to the sea breeze as she walked, unafraid of the cold. She turned to wave and smile at Zhu Nan’s group.

Zhu Nan suddenly froze as if possessed, and then began to head up step by step like this.

“Damn brat! Don’t try to punch above your weight!”

At this moment, a fist struck down on the top of Zhu Nan’s head as Wei Jin Ping brushed past him. He shot Zhu Nan a look of contempt before quickly catching up to Qin Ni and intimately hugging her delicate and frail shoulders.

Zhu Nan suddenly snapped out of his daze. However, in the blink of an eye, the white yacht was already within reach.

“No! I don’t want to go on! Let me go! I don’t want to go on!”

He screamed and shook in fear, his limbs flying all over the place as he resisted with everything he had. Yet in the end, he was unable to break free and was still dragged over, practically along the ground. It was just a distance of three steps – the entrance to the yacht was right in front of him like a gaping, bloody mouth of a monster waiting for him to enter right into the trap.

No! I refuse! I refuse!

As he cried piteously in absolute terror, he suddenly jolted awake. His body continued to tremble as his eyes lifelessly surveyed his surroundings. After spacing out for a moment, he finally let out a long breath.

So it was another dream.

This was no longer the first time he had dreamed of that journey out to sea eight years ago. The dreamscape filled his body with fear every time. Whenever he woke up from these dreams, he would basically collapse in cold sweat—if he could still sweat at all.

With the trauma still lingering, Zhu Nan opened his eyes and looked down at his own hands.

The condition seemed to have worsened once again.

He remembered that the layers of scales had only covered up to his wrists yesterday. Today, they had already spread to his palms.

At this rate, it might not be long before he would turn into a person entirely covered in scales—no, rather, a monster through and through.

He bit hard on his lip, trying his best to calm the shakiness in his breathing, even if his body continued to tremble non-stop. He wanted to make himself look less frightened. He was even starting to feel like he had turned numb long ago. When had the first scale grown out from the bottom of his feet? A month ago? Two months ago? Or four months ago?

Oh, heavens! He could no longer even remember how long he had stayed in the darkness of the basement.

At first, he could still calculate the date according to when food was delivered daily, factoring in the time and the day-to-night transitions to figure out when he should sleep. But now, he no longer cared about any of this. He ate when he was hungry, he slept when he was tired. He thought that this would make his life easier, yet he was just lying to himself the whole time.

When he had first realised his legs were slowly being joined together by a mucous membrane, slowly coming together, slowly merging into “a single leg”, he had finally lost himself to hysteria.

He had screamed out hoarsely, slapping the cement ground with all his strength, trying everything to move his “pair of legs”. However, those legs could no longer stand upright, could no longer move like a normal human.

Thus, from that day onwards, the lower half of his body had been kept in seawater.

It was an enormous, transparent glass tank filled with bitterly salty seawater. He was like a fish being kept in a glass container. He had begun to learn how to move his own “legs”, slowly cutting through the water like a fish’s tail to smoothly shift forwards or backwards. This was his only means of motion.

Obviously, he could crawl along the ground using his arms, but that expended too much energy. And to his shock, he had discovered that, compared to drying out on land, he seemed to enjoy soaking in the seawater more. The feeling of the seawater surrounding him made an inexplicable sense of pleasure rise from the bottom depths of his heart like a catalyst to excite him. Was he soon about to turn into some type of amphibious creature?

He bitterly chuckled as he slowly waved his “legs” to swim to the other end of the glass tank.

Because, it was time to eat.

 

There had been six students to journey out at sea along with Yu Zhi De that year. Now, only one final person remained – but this person had hidden themselves and could not be found. Where in the world is Zhu Nan? Is he alive or is he dead? If even he is dead, then I’m afraid that this bizarre string of incidents will have lost its last clue.

Ye Xiao sat in the office, tiredly leaning back against the chair. He rubbed his forehead as he read through each of the autopsy reports before him. The first was for Ouyang Shuo, who had committed suicide in the restaurant. The second was for Wei Jin Ping, who had committed suicide by jumping off a building. The third was for Hua Xia, who had committed suicide after strangling his wife. The fourth was for Xu Yi Feng, who had died in his own bedroom. The fifth was for Qin Ni, who had been bitten to death by her son, and the sixth was for Qi Jiao Bao, who had been shot to death by Su Mu.

There were two others after these six autopsy reports as well; one belonged to Qin Ni’s ex-husband, Qi Yang. The other belonged to the delivery service’s employee, Yuan Lang.

These two bodies had been found in the large deep freezer at Qin Ni’s home. The causes of their death were unclear, though the forensic investigator had performed a dissection and found these two people’s half-digested flesh inside the stomachs of Qin Ni and her son.

Eight functioning lives had now turned into a few lines of text on the thin papers of the report lying atop the desk.

Blood, corpses, killers, and the killed. The profession of a criminal investigator inevitably faced these cruel realities, and Ye Xiao had long since grown used to it, not feeling too much regret from such things. However, on that night, the child had fought to give him one last smile while facing death, making him unable to forget [the scene] for a long time.

“Damn it! What the hell is going on here?!”

Ye Xiao slammed a fist down on the table with a bang. His colleagues around him gave him odd looks, but Su Mu sitting across from him did not even raise his head. Instead, he ignored Ye Xiao and continued organising his files as usual.

“Genetic mutation…why would a normal human go through a genetic mutation?” Ye Xiao murmured as if speaking to himself. To his surprise, Mei Mei next to him responded. She chuckled, her long bangs covering her eyes as she turned tor peer straight at Ye Xiao through her pitch-black hair. She slowly asked, “Do you want to know the reason for genetic mutations?”

“Why?” Ye Xiao blinked curiously.

Mei Mei swatted her bangs to the side to reveal slanted, black pupils locked onto him. She laughed lightly and replied, “Actually, every person’s body has the potential to undergo genetic mutations; they simply lack a trigger. Once the factors mature, humans will change so that they are no longer human. Human beings can become any type of life form, any time of unimaginable and strange creature. Typically, we refer to these unknown beings as monsters. For example, werewolves, vampires, and apemen are actually all transformed from humans.”

Mei Mei finished speaking and lowered her bangs back down. She then leisurely turned her head to lift the book in her hands up and begin reading it with keen interest.

Ye Xiao couldn’t help but glance at it. All he saw on the book’s dark cover were the shocking words: “Ten Major Unfathomable Phenomena of Human Beings”. The corners of his lips twitched as he speechlessly retracted his gaze to point it across from him.

Su Mu’s head was lowered to check some kind of case file. He did not seem to have any intention of paying Ye Xiao any mind.

Ever since that day, the atmosphere between the two had turned slightly awkward. In reality, they had never gotten along with each other from the beginning. From a work perspective, they could even be called the “absolute worst” partners in the criminal investigations unit. However, now the originally taciturn Su Mu had become even more silent.

The communication they shared was near zero now. It was truly difficult to imagine how they could breakthrough this case with united effort.

However, Ye Xiao did not ponder too deeply into this issue. He simply felt that he should come up with a way to dissolve the barrier between them. No matter what, Su Mu had saved his life that night after all. This was an irrefutable fact, yet he had angrily called Su Mu cold-blooded. Anyone would feel uncomfortable in those circumstances.

Ye Xiao scratched his head as he contemplated to himself for a moment. Suddenly, his eyes lit up, and he rushed downstairs to buy a can of soda. He then passed it over to Su Mu and beamed as he said, “Um, here’s a soda. My treat.”

Su Mu looked up to stare at him blankly.

Ye Xiao rubbed his chin and chuckled. “Er, didn’t you treat me that day too? It’s only proper to reciprocate.”

Who would have known that, after a few seconds of silence, Su Mu would suddenly snort and reply, “Did I say I was treating you to the drink that day?”

“Ah, what do you mean?”

“Remember to pay me back after we receive next month’s salary,” Su Mu coldly stated. He then stood up and strolled out. When he reached the office door, he glanced back to add, “Don’t forget to pay for the meal that day together with it.”

Stunned, Ye Xiao blankly stood there with the can of soda still in his hand as he stared at Su Mu’s back getting further and further away. His face darkened as he was rendered completely speechless for a moment. Finally, a nearby colleague kindly reminded, “Aren’t you two responsible for Qin Ni’s case? Su Mu just requested a search warrant for Zhu Nan’s home. You’re not going together with him?”

“Ah? What?”

Ye Xiao started, then immediately chased after Su Mu. He shouted as he ran, “Oi, wait for me!”

Zhu Nan’s home was not in this city; he had simply studied university here. His home was instead in the small, remote village that was close to the suburbs. Su Mu had already visited once previously and was now familiar with the route. He continued to walk on ahead in front while Ye Xiao could only follow tightly behind. The two were silent the entire way.

 

It’s already been so long since I left home. I wonder how Mom and Dad are doing. Do they resent me for being an unfilial son? Zhu Nan often pondered this to himself. However, feeling regret at this point was no longer any use. Who had asked him to make a wrong choice back then? One mistake had triggered the next, and then the next…finally leading to the ultimate loss that could not be turned around.

He could not blame anyone else but himself.

Zhu Nan lowered his head, a hint of a bitter smile appearing on his face of anguish and despair.

Placed in front of him was a Ziploc bag with plastic wrap around it. The bag was long and thin; it was impossible to guess what it contained based on its external appearance. He blankly stared at it for a while before reaching out to grab the package. With practiced movements, he bit his teeth into a corner and pulled to roughly rip the bag open.

With a plop, a white object dropped into the water. Soon after, trails of crimson slowly floated up from the bottom of the deep-blue water.

Zhu Nan stooped down to stick his head under the water. Like an actual mermaid, he nimbly and smoothly did a flip before rising back upwards. When his head broke through the surface, there was a bloody, broken leg impressively held in his mouth.

This was his lunch for today. A human leg.

He gripped it with his deformed, curved hands and carefully scrutinised the tender, white leg. This leg was not long, and its bones had not yet fully matured. It looked like a round lotus root with its bulging calf. Despite having already been removed from the body, the skin was still taunt and supple. This was the leg of a child that had not yet reached of age, the leg of a girl likely fifteen or sixteen years old. The small foot was even wearing a pink sock with cartoon art.

The woman that had come to drop off the food had said that this child had just died from a car accident this morning.

Zhu Nan let out a sorrowful sigh. He was not in any rush to eat his meal because this leg reminded him of his younger sister.

“If Xiao Qian was still alive, she would also be around this age, huh?”

He quietly spoke while gently caressing his lunch, as if the leg before him really was Zhu Qian.

“Xiao Qian, Xiao Qian, it’s Gēge that’s no good…it’s Gēge that let you down…”

He murmured this in a daze as his anguish suddenly surged forth. He tightly hugged the broken leg in his arms and began to sob uncontrollably, the large tears pouring out ceaselessly and dropping into the seawater dyed crimson with blood.

 

What? Zhu Nan has a little sister?

Ye Xiao stared in shock at the photo in his hand. The image had a youth with a crew cut together with a girl around seven or eight years old. The girl was not exactly pretty; her slender monolids and her slightly tilted upwards lips were identical to the youth’s. A single glance was enough to tell that they were a pair of siblings.

The youth was Zhu Nan during his days as a student, and the girl was his younger sister, Zhu Qian. Judging from the walls of the house and the simple, crude furniture, taking on the burden of living expenses and school fees for two children might not have been an easy matter for the Zhu family. Especially since Zhu Nan had also studied at that high-end university.

“Yes, we once had a daughter as well. However, she later got leukaemia and has already passed on.”

Zhu Nan’s mother stood at the doorway of her son’s bedroom, watching the two young police officers that had suddenly paid a visit. She stopped speaking for a moment after slowly saying these words, then followed up with another question. “Officer Su, please tell me, have you have learned anything of my son’s whereabouts?”

Su Mu was currently rummaging through the drawers of Zhu Nan’s desk. Hearing these words, he looked up and harshly answered, “No.”

“Um, please don’t worry. As soon as we have information regarding your son, we will notify you immediately.”

Ye Xiao hurriedly added this out of kindness.

Zhu Nan’s mother silently looked down and did not say anything else.

The middle-aged man behind her sighed and patted his wife’s shoulder.

Zhu Nan’s parents were factory workers that had worked arduously and lived life honestly this entire time. Yet they must have had a debt from sins committed in their past lives or something, as their young daughter had died several years ago, and now their only remaining son was also missing. Bringing up this situation would inevitably stir up melancholic feelings. Ye Xiao wanted to provide some comforting words, but he instead heard Su Mu ask, “Did your daughter, Zhu Qian, die due to her leukaemia at the time?”

Zhu Nan’s mother started.

“I saw this photo the last time I visited and investigated further afterwards. Your daughter, Zhu Qian, was diagnosed with leukaemia ten years ago, and there were treatment records at the hospital too. However, there was no death certificate from the hospital. In that case, what I want to know is, did Zhu Qian truly die as a result of her leukaemia that year?”

This question made the mother with two greying strands of hair freeze up, unable to make a sound for a long time. A trace of a conflicted emotion flickered across her face that seemed significantly older than her age.

At this moment, Zhu Nan’s father spoke up. “I’ll answer this question of yours instead.”

As he spoke, he guided his wife down to take a seat on the living room sofa. He then fished out a shoddy cigar and lit it. After taking a hard drag, he said, “Mr. Officer, to be honest, my daughter did not actually die from leukaemia.”

“Oh? What do you mean?” Ye Xiao looked at him in surprise.

The middle-aged man let out a bitter chuckle before confessing the truth. “As you two officers can see, our family is not rich. It was extremely difficult to raise two children as it was, yet Zhu Qian had also gotten such a terrifying illness on top of that. At the time, Zhu Nan had just tested into university and was using money too. In order to support both the tuition and hospital fees, we borrowed money from all kinds of places and fell into deep debt. Honestly speaking, in the end, we had practically abandoned hope in our daughter’s treatment. But then, Zhu Nan coincidentally went to attend a school excursion out at sea—”

“Wait, an excursion out at sea?” Ye Xiao couldn’t help but interrupt.

“Yes, and it was free as well. Apparently, it was a way to reward excellent students. At the time, Zhu Nan had been elated and told us that we could send a family member out as well. Upon hearing this, Xiao Qian had immediately fussed about going out to play with her brother out at sea. Although we had our apprehensions – after all, the child was severely ill and needed to take medicine daily – Xiao Qian had never been that excited or eager since her illness. We truly could not bear to reject, so we eventually agreed. I still clearly remember that it was a bright morning on a summer day eight years ago when Zhu Nan brought Zhu Qian out together with him to set sail. Before leaving, both brother and sister had turned to smile at me. However, that smile instead became my final memory. Xiao Qian never returned.”

The man spoke slowly and calmly, though there was a distinct sadness behind his tone too.

“What exactly happened?” Ye Xiao urgently asked.

The man glanced at him and replied, “An accident.”

“Accident?”

“Zhu Qian was playing on the deck and accidentally fell into the ocean. By the time they realised she needed rescue, she had already drowned in the ocean and was nowhere to be found.”

“Fell into the ocean…” Ye Xiao furrowed his brows, seemingly having doubts.

Su Mu turned to meet the man’s eyes as he asked, “In other words, you did not personally see how Zhu Qian died?”

“Yes, this was all what Zhu Nan told me afterwards.” The man put out the cigar in his hands and drew out a long breath. After some thought, he continued, “But later, I had suspicions: could Xiao Qian have actually voluntarily jumped into the sea back then?”

“You mean suicide?”

“Yes. During those few years, we had been constantly bringing Xiao Qian everywhere to seek doctors. We had to watch our savings be used up bit by bit until we carried a great debt, yet we still could not find a way to save that child, and her chemotherapy got more painful as it progressed. Xiao Qian was a mature child, so I often found myself wondering if she might have intentionally chosen to go out to sea with her brother back then – to happily have fun for once and then jump into the ocean to commit suicide.”

When he finished saying this, Zhu Nan’s mother on the sofa had already cried so much that her shirt was drenched in tears.

Ye Xiao was silent for a while as he wordlessly stared at the middle-aged couple that were drowned in grief.

On the other hand, Su Mu’s expression never changed. Focusing on his own business, he continued to ask, “Then was Zhu Qian’s body ever fished up? Have you ever seen it?”

“No, we never saw it again. However, that might be for the best. At the very least, we can still carry a final thread of hope in our hearts that perhaps the child hadn’t died, that she might still be alive.”

Ye Xiao sighed. In actuality, everyone knew that this possibility was near impossible. However, the dead were already gone, and the living needed the courage and hope to continue surviving.

It did not take long for them to complete their search. Ye Xiao and Su Mu left through the Zhu household’s front door.

Zhu Nan’s mother stood there and repeatedly pleaded, “Please, you must find my son. You must find my son.”

Her husband held onto her from behind and comforted her until she finally quieted down, and her stooped, frail back gradually retreated into the worn-down house.

Ye Xiao felt a slight heaviness in his mood, though he couldn’t discern what it was. All he knew was that it was as if there was something blocking his chest. On the long-distance bus ride back, he looked at Su Mu sitting at the window seat and stated, “I thought you would expose the lies right then and there.”

Su Mu turned to meet his gaze.

Ye Xiao chuckled. “There must have been some hidden reason for bringing his own younger sister out to sea that Zhu Nan kept from his family. That wasn’t some time of school-organised excursion at all.”

Su Mu turned to stare out the window again without a word.

“Hey, do you think Zhu Qian is still alive?”

“Don’t know.”

“Then what about Zhu Nan, do you think he’s still alive?”

“Perhaps.”

“Ah, I really don’t want to see anyone else die as part of this case.”

“…”

Su Mu did not respond.

The long-distance bus smoothly travelled down the highway in the night. Ye Xiao and Su Mu sat in the last row. The people in front were faded into darkness, either quietly sitting or whispering to each other, possible as acquaintances and possibly as strangers.

Everyone’s life journeys had gathered at this moment on this small bus. Once they reached the station, they would get off and disperse like the crowds at a theatre once a movie ended. Each person would continue walking down their own respective paths. Perhaps human relationships always continued to cycle like this repeatedly: running towards each other, only to quickly brush past and ultimately become estranged.

Ye Xiao blankly spaced out in the dark and gloomy bus, letting his unrelated thoughts run wild. After a while, he softly muttered as if speaking to himself, “Um, I’m really sorry for last time. I shouldn’t have gotten angry at you. And, thank you.”

The person next to him did not respond for a long time after Ye Xiao spoke.

Ye Xiao couldn’t help but turn his head to look, only to find that Su Mu was lying back with his eyes closed in exhaustion, appearing to be asleep. There was no knowing if he had heard the words just now. However, it made sense for Su Mu to be tired. Frankly, Su Mu had done much more for this case than Ye Xiao had, whether it was in terms of strength used, paths walked, or investigations performed.

Hah, this guy just puts up that icy manner as a front.

Ye Xiao silently laughed as he studied the handsome face that now showed a rare child-like side. As he sat there on the slightly bumpy bus and listened to the sounds of the wheels flying down the cement road outside, he also hazily closed his eyes.


1.  The nickname “Piggy” here is actually 豬男 (lit. “pig boy”), which has the same pronunciation as Zhu Nan’s name (朱楠).  


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2 thoughts on “TRA V1C6

  1. Aaaaahh!! They made up quite fast! I’m happy! Ye Xiao, my dear! You’re such mature and understanding child. I really like your character now. Funny and easy going but he know what’s important and focus on the thing that he need to do now rather than drown in the past! I’m glad author not going to strech their fight…
    And actually i did research on mermaid. From Japan folklore, mermaid said to be a women that commited great sin and cursed to be mermaid. Another legend also said that eating mermaid flesh will make one immortal or they will also become mermaid too after years. Yeah, this is what i find after i read many mangas and novels about it actually. But in this case this seems accurate?
    Thank you for the chapter Taffy! Woho~ ill wait for the next chapter~

    Liked by 2 people

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