Proofreaders: Gwen, LSL and Red
Drip-drop...and so the story continues. O_o
I stare dumbly at the files that has appeared out of nowhere, my mind instantly becoming more of a mess than it already is. Then the sound comes back as if it thinks I haven’t had enough.
I really want to break down in tears right now.
“Don’t come after me…it wasn’t me….” I hug my head and protest weakly.
I snap around and run back up to the second floor. I scramble towards the west stairwell as fast as I can. I’m dashing but I stop in my tracks when I see what’s by the stairwell. Seven files, laid out in a row, quietly awaiting my arrival as if they always have been.
I automatically turn to look to the east to make sure that I haven’t accidentally run back to the east stairwell.
The sound goes off like a bomb in my head, putting everything else on pause. Flames slowly spread to my body. Every cell seems to be burning.
I scream at the top of my lungs towards nothing, “Why’re you after me? I didn’t hurt you! Yuan Fei did! Go after him! He’s on the third floor! The one you want is on the third floor! Leave me alone!”
I fall on my behind and pant heavily, exhausted after all the shouting. I strain my ears only to discover the absence of that dripping sound. The bone-chilling feeling has not faded, however, and I actually sense an overwhelming energy building in the air. An alarm goes off in my head but I don’t know how the danger is going to present itself.
Suddenly, something yanks hard on my leg! I’m sprawled out on the floor, a bit dizzy, but my leg feels fine. It’s as though my leg just jerked on its own. I drag myself up slowly and then that something grabs onto my leg again! This time I can feel the coldness coming from its impossibly firm grip that is clamping tight onto me like a pair of pliers.
This force whips me along. I claw at the smooth floor with my nails, trying to stop it but to no prevail. My cracked nails scratch across the floor, creating a disturbing sound. I wail like a helpless toy being dragged around by its owner. The extraordinary speed that I’m going at makes me realise that I will easily be crushed to bits and pieces if I were to collide with a wall.
I’m guessing its goal is the wall or the windows at the end of the hallway, killing me by shattering all my bones against it. No, maybe I wouldn’t die right away but die slowly from internal bleeding from my organs being pierced by the broken bones, or it will fling me out the window like a high-speeding car suddenly taken off the road. That way, even a two-storey fall would become as fatal as falling off a cliff.
The speed is terrifying. I would have thought I was being dragged by a car if not for the empty space in front of me. So this is how it feels like to get dragged to death by a car. It’s so fast I see stars. I can’t fight back.
It would be even worse if that thing understood physics because it would be instinctively analysing what the force would be given the mass and velocity right now.
I’m so dead, my brain tells me.
But it suddenly stops and flings me away. I somersault in the air like a worn rag towards the stairs. Then I’m hit. I feel something softer than the wall crashing into me. This greatly slows me down but I still feel as if my internal organs have all been displaced. The world spins before my eyes and my body goes numb.
The sound of someone breathing heavily brings me back to earth. That somebody struggles to get up and feebly takes me into his arms, extra carefully as if I were in grave condition. I can feel his arms shaking, not only from fear but also from the incredible impact of the crash.
His voice is so weak. There’s no way he’s fine after leaping to catch a person propelling through the air and then falling onto concrete together. He might even be in worse shape than me. Why is he so stupid, recklessly saving me like that?
I can’t lift my hands, I can’t move my body and I can’t talk with my body still paralysed from the shock. Surprisingly, the only things functioning properly are my tear ducts. I stare dumbly at Yuan Fei’s worried eyes and my tears start trickling down on their own.
“Dun be afraid…. Dun be afraid…. I’m ’ere. You’ll be alright.” His voice is quivering so much I can barely make out what he’s saying.
How much of that is from barely making it out alive? How much of that is from concern for my wellbeing? And how much of that is…from the guilt of his own wrongdoings?
“Dun hurt ‘im…. Sun Le, please dun kill’im…. It’s my fault. It’s all my fault…. Dun kill’im.”
It’s standing on the second floor, quietly watching the two of us barely breathing. My sensation has begun to come back and along with it unbearable pain, as if I were pierced all over by spikes. I taste sweet iron in my mouth. Yuan Fei uses his body to protect me. He’s breathing sporadically, often only exhaling once after inhaling twice. He must’ve broken something.
“Dun kill’im…. It’s my fault…. Dun kill’im,” he pleads agonizingly in a feeble voice, not for himself, but for someone who was just beating him up.
You’re so petrified that you haven’t even looked up in the general direction Sun Le is. So why is it that I see sorrow in your eyes of which I am the cause? Why is it that I am the thing for which you’re begging for life?
Is it worth it? I was the one who dumped all the blame on you. I was the one who associated all my suffering with you. I was the one who condemned you even though I knew you had already been feeling extremely guilty.
“Dun kill’im…dun kill’im.”
Gradually the dripping fades away. Yuan Fei is still stuttering, begging in that soft voice of his, getting quieter and quieter until it disappears. He lifts his head so slowly and painstakingly it makes my heart ache.
“He…left, I think,” he mutters in disbelief, as if he had been dreaming.
“I’m…so…rry.” It takes all my efforts to say those three syllables in a voice so raspy it doesn’t sound like me anymore.
He heaves a sigh, his expression neither a smile nor a frown. He relaxes and falls onto the ground, panting for air.
“It’s I who should be sorry. It’s all my fault.”
He’s holding my hand. We’re so exhausted that our hands can only lightly overlap each other’s but the touch of reality somehow brings so much comfort for the soul, as if that space between our palms was filled with a universe of invisible bonds.
“No….” I have so many things I want to say but I don’t know where to start.
“It’s all my fault. Everyone’s gonna die ‘cause of me. I screwed up big time. It’s all my fault. I got everyone into this.”
“No….” My tears keep streaming down as though it’s never going to cease.
“Sorry, Xiao Yu.” He props himself up with great efforts to wipe them away. “Don’t cry…. It’s my fault…. Don’t cry.”
I reach out for him without much thought, naturally forming a hug of unparalleled dependence. I snuggle into his arms and he hugs me tightly.
His shoulder is wet with my tears.
“Don’t apologise.” I choke through my sobs. “I’m not worth it. I betrayed you. I actually told him to go find you. I actually told him you were on the third floor. I’m the worst. I sold you out so I could live. I-.”
“Shhh. Stop talking…just stop talking.”
He lowers his head and plants a light kiss on my lips. I instinctively hook my arms around his neck and deepen this kiss because, in this moment, I’m willing to give up my life for this tender act of Yuan Fei’s. He reciprocates passionately and the entangling of our tongues ignites my feelings deep within.
He doesn’t despise me but instead holds me even tighter. I understand in an instant what he had felt when he confessed everything to me. Right then, what he needed was the unconditional forgiveness and tolerance that he is giving me now, not more hurtful attacks. It appears that another person’s reciprocity during a bitter repent gives you the motivation to live on and jump starts your ashen heart.
I’ve been forgiven. I did such a despicable thing…and yet I’ve been forgiven.
Yuan Fei…I’m really sorry…. Thank you…so much.
Our intense kiss lasts for quite some time and neither of us makes a sound when it ends. We just lie in each other’s arms quietly feeling the other person’s breaths swirling through the air. I don’t know how much time has passed when, slowly but surely, our surroundings become brighter—the sun has begun to rise.
“…probably won’t come….” He mutters.
“Let’s head back.” I whisper.
We slowly get up using the wall for support. Only then do we see the seriousness of our injuries. We’re both grazed all over. My right arm is swollen and my left ankle looks like raised bread. Yuan Fei’s hands are bloody from getting scraped and there is a large, green bump on his forehead. We burst out in laughter after taking a look at one another but immediately yelp from the pain.
I take him by the arm, he takes me by the shoulders, and the two of us ease our way through the schoolyard not knowing whether to go to the doctor’s or back to the dorm. Once in a while we run into some early joggers who stare at us in wonder, some of whom even offers to help us and inquires about our injuries.
We laugh it off, saying that we were pulling an all-nighter at a cybercafé when some heated gamers lost a game of CounterStrike and started a fight and we ended up getting dragged into it. Then we thank them for their offer and continue our painstaking trek. We are about halfway to the infirmary when we realise that the school doctor wouldn’t be here this early, so we call that off and turn back to the dorm.
“Let’s call in later and go get checked up,” he grunts through clenched teeth.
“Us 308 people don’t need to call in. They wouldn’t take our attendance anyways,” I say in a self-mocking way.
The special circumstances of 308 has made it so that we can pay no regard to the rules, attending or skipping class as we wish, and the teachers would still tell us kindly to ‘take it easy.’”
When we finally make it back to the dorm building under countless pairs of curious eyes, the caretaker leaps over and insists on helping us up the stairs. The two of us share an amused look but let him help. Only then do we realise how damn difficult climbing five flights of stairs is for a wounded person.
“I’ll let the doc in when he gets here in a bit.”
I’m touched by the caretaker’s concern and the discovery that I’ve had a raise in status; the school doctor would come to me when I’m not feeling well.
“Oh yeah…did anything strange happen last night? Did you hear any loud noises?” I carefully probe.
Someone must have heard all the banging and my screaming amid the silent night. It should have caused a disturbance but we haven’t seen any signs of that this whole time.
“Oh…never mind then.”
It’s easy for me to accept the fact that everything that happened last night will only be the memories of Yuan Fei and me. There were only the two of us in that dimension, no other ‘person,’ therefore what happened in the other dimension wouldn’t effect this dimension.
We open the door to our dorm and see Chief standing in the middle of the room.
I limp over, surprised but delighted. “Chief! So you came back! You had us worried!”
I only notice something is off when I draw near. Wu Fan’s eyes are fixed and his lips are pallid and quivering. He’s still holding the small flashlight and it is still on.
“Chief?” I call worriedly.
“Glass….” His eyes are so blank it unsettles me. He’s staring out to the front as if he’s seeing the most terrifying thing in the world. “Glass…broken glass….”
“Chief?” I grab his shoulders and shake him, and he just sways around like a rag doll. “Chief! What happened?! Chief!”
“Go! Go get help!” Yuan Fei barks at the dumbstruck caretaker.
Ten minutes or so later, the ambulance comes and takes Chief away. The doctor originally says that Yuan Fei and I should go to the hospital and get checked too but the police arrives and stops us to have a few words. Therefore, the doctor only does a quick look-over and leaves after not finding any serious injuries.
Thus the two of us who even has trouble walking get brought to the Academic Affairs Office. There are at least a dozen or more officers this time crowding around us in two huddles questioning us. Aside from them, there is a few more rushing in and out of the room. The number is surprising; no wonder they say it’s a ‘big case’. The principal, our homeroom teacher and the Dean of Academic Affairs are the only school staff who could come in but they are only there to act as hosts, leading the way and making coffee.
“Where were you last night?” An officer asks with a note pad in hand.
“Pulling an overnighter at a cybercafé,” I answer casually.
“And what about your injuries?”
“A few guys lost a game and started a scuffle at the cybercafé. We just got dragged into it.” I’m actually pretty good at lying, if I do say so myself.
She doesn’t look too amused. “We didn’t get any reports of a fight in this area.”
“Then the owner probably didn’t call the police ‘cause he didn’t want any complications.”
“Then where is this cybercafé that you went to? What’s the name?”
I pause for a moment before asking with an innocent face. “Does it really matter where we go to game?”
“Mr. Xiao Yu, I ask for your cooperation with the police!” She slightly raises her voice. She is a young officer after all, losing her cool so fast.
“Alright, alright, I’ll come clean. I actually got in a fight with Yuan Fei. I only lied ‘cause we’d get punished by the school for fighting.” I flash a smile at the principal who’s beside me. The officer doesn’t appear to believe me so I shout to Yuan Fei on the other end, “Yuan Fei! We got in a fight ‘cause of money problems right?”
I see his head peeping out from behind a mass of people. “Yeah! You little bastard owes me money!” He purposefully raises his voice.
“Shuddup! You asshole still owe me money! Why the hell should I pay you back?” I speak in my outside voice as well.
We don’t actually need to talk this loud in the average-sized room, not to mention our back-and-forth is just so smooth, so by the time we finish all the officers are watching us warily.
Another older officer who looks like their leader takes the notes from the female officer and exchanges places with her. He tells the principal flatly. “Prepare another room. We’ll question them separately.”
Very soon, Yuan Fei is taken out of the Academic Affairs Room and into some other room, I’m guessing. I can’t help but feel amused; ‘tis too late splitting us up after we’ve agreed on a story. But I must be careful dealing with an older police officer. They often get very sneaky after being on the job for a while, pulling you into their trap at the slightest mistake.
“Would you mind if I smoke?” The old officer asks.
I shrug. “I’m fine with it if the Dean is.”
The Dean quickly replies, “Make yourself at home.”
“Oh? Then I’ll take a puff too.”
I deliberately glance over at the Dean to see him looking at me embarrassingly. Damn that feels good. I remember he wrote in my records for not attending an assembly once in senior high.
“No smoking then.” The officer laughs heartily and looks to me. “You really can’t stand us, huh, Xiao Yu.”
I smile, not giving him an answer.
He lets out a deep sigh and says lowly. “Xu Ping has gone missing.”
My heart jerks a little but I lower my head to hide the distress.
“It appears that the people from Room 308 have gotten themselves into something. It’s one incident after another….” He pauses before uttering four words. “Mu Mu is dead.”
My head snaps up and I gape at him.
“We have just received news of it. He was taking the coach back home and they stopped for a break at a gas station. There were witnesses who saw Mu Mu go to the washroom with some other passengers but he didn’t return even when everyone else had.”
I stare fixedly at his moving lips and listen on.
“The bus driver and the attendant didn’t notice the missing person and it wasn’t until they got to their destination that Mu Mu’s relatives who went to pick him up found that he wasn’t on the bus. We eliminated the possibility that he left midway from the fact that his belongings were still on the vehicle. The local police went to investigate after they received a report and they found….”
I look on quietly, not pushing him, because it’s probably some extremely horrifying thing and I’m already desensitized.
It seems like the old officer wanted to string me along so my calm reaction kind of takes him by surprise but he continues.
“They found one of the stalls in the men’s room locked from the inside and a burnt odour coming from it, but when they opened it they didn’t find his corpse.”
I notice he used the word, ‘corpse.’
“There were burn marks present but the strange thing was only the inside of the stall got burnt. It didn’t spread to anywhere else and there weren’t any signs of smoke on the ceiling. In other words, it was like any other fire—the four sides were all black—but the floor and ceiling were fine, as if the flames were confined at a certain height, even the smoke too. No one would’ve thought there’d been a fire before opening that door.
I must admit that my common sense is restricting my imagination. A washroom stall is ventilated from all sides; you could see outside when you stand up and the floor when you stoop down. It’s not sealed up at all. If there was a fire, how could it have possibly only stayed on the sides and not left marks anywhere else? Was there an invisible shield that separated the space, keeping the flames in one place?
My lips twitch upwards. Impossible? Nothing is impossible with that thing’s involvement.
He questions, a bit shocked by my smile. “You don’t believe me? Do you think I made it up?”
“No, I believe you. Then what? What happened to Mu Mu?”
He looks at me steadily as if trying to catch something from my eyes, but my unfeeling self won’t let anything slip.
“There were ashes of clothing and shoes, currently identified to be Mu Mu’s belongings. There were also lots of fine particles and hard matter that we need to run tests on in order to find what they are, including remnants of human teeth…. We believe we’ll be able to determine if it’s Mu Mu or not from them.
“Clothes, shoes, unknown substances and teeth. What about flesh? And the bones?” I ask flatly.
“That’s precisely what we’re stuck on, Xiao Yu. The temperature must’ve been incredibly high for the clothing fibers to have dissolved to that extent. It wasn’t typical burning. Even if Mu Mu was covered in gasoline, no, soaked in gasoline, it couldn’t’ve reached the temperatures of an incinerator in an open space like that. His body was completely dissolved! No…perhaps it wasn’t him….”
He looks uncomfortable. He doesn’t know how to explain the scene to me. But I can imagine.
The so-called unknown substances are mostly carbohydrates, minerals, fat, protein.... Add those together with 65% H2O and you get a human being.
I remember my chemistry teacher telling us it only takes a couple of bucks to purchase all the elements that make up a human being. So little is the physical worth of a human being.
My silence makes his determined expression falter. He sighs and continues, “To be frank, I don’t have the power to get involved. I’d get in big trouble if my higher-ups ever found out…. But I must, because my child might be in danger here.”
Confused, I ask. “And you are?”
Xu Ping’s father?
“Xiao Yu, I hope you can understand my concerns as a father. I’ve been urging Xu Ping to come live at home after the first incident in Room 308 but he told me you aren’t locals, you don’t have anywhere to go, so he couldn’t abandon you. And now he’s missing…. Every one of you kids is running into trouble. I don’t know when it’ll be Xu Ping…so if you know anything….” Mr. Xu’s breath hitches, stopping him mid-sentence. I see him turn his head away, fighting back the tears, and my heart pains, tears beginning to wet my own eyes.
He’s right. Xu Ping could have left a long time ago but he chose to stay. He was never part of anything from the beginning and yet he never left us. Such a person has….
A heart-rending image of Xu Ping surfaces before my eyes and I quickly shut my eyes. I don’t want to think of the horrible sight because I’m about to burst out in tears.
“The principal’s office….” I softly say.
“Did you…find anything in your office?”
I slowly turn to look at the principal and Mr. Xu also turns to him with a curious look. A bit caught off guard, the principal stutters, “N-no, nothing in particular.”
“Did something happen there? Is it related to Xu Ping’s disappearance?” Mr. Xu pushes.
I’m not sure how to reply. If the room is very ‘normal’…how could I start talking about seeing Xu Ping all cut up and dead as a doornail?
“Oh right, the janitor found a cell phone in front of my office but didn’t know whose it was,” the principal mentions.
“Why haven’t you told us before?” Mr. Xu roars.
“I-I didn’t think it’d have anything to do with the case.” The principal’s face is bloodless.
“I’ll go get it right now!”
The principal comes back with the cell phone very soon. I take a quick peek at it—it’s Xu Ping’s cell phone.
“It’s Xu Ping’s phone. I bought it for him.” Mr. Xu’s voice wavers.
He snatches the phone away and looks back at me after quickly looking through it. “You are the last one he called with this phone…. What did you talk about?”
What did we talk about? Nothing…because Xu Ping wasn’t the one who picked up.
“Xiao Yu, tell me what happened! What did Xu Ping say to you? What was the last thing he said? It doesn’t matter if it was irrelevant! Just tell me!”
Mr. Xu’s blood-shot eyes are almost popping out of their sockets. He looks so awful that I feel sorry for him.
“He said….” I mumble. “He said that he was going to the principal’s room to get our files…to look for any clues.”
“And then?” He urges.
“And then…and then….”
I rack my brains. I realize I can’t tell him the truth no matter what even though I know I shouldn’t lie to this pathetic father who is losing sleep because of his son. “And then it got really late so I called him asking why he hadn’t come back yet. He told me that he’d be back when he got the files.”
“Nothing…. The call ended there.”
“How?” Mr. Xu points at the phone in a fury. “It says you talked for five minutes and twenty-four seconds! There’s got to be more!”
I feel my temples throbbing with pain and frown. I close my eyes and massage them. “Really, there was no more. I couldn’t remember every single thing even if you made me. Anyways that’s what we talked about.”
He falls quiet, appearing to be considering the legitimacy of my information.
“Money was the breaking point. Both I and Yuan Fei have been way too high-strung lately and we needed to let some of that out so we got in a fight. There’s nothing else to it…. It’s nothing to do with Xu Ping going missing.”
He ponders on my words before asking, “What about Wu Fan? Why has he lost his mind all of a sudden?”
“I’ve no idea….” I curl into myself and hold my painful head. I breathe, “He was like that when Yuan Fei and I got back to the dorm. The caretaker can testify. I don’t know what happened…. I don’t know.”
“What about the ‘broken glass’ he keeps mentioning? What does it mean?” He presses.
“I don’t know.”
I bite down, trying to use the pain to escape from the image of Xu Ping poked full of glass. If I had seen him without any preparation or watched as he was slaughtered by that thing…would I be in the same state as Chief?
It’s rare for people to behave in the same way after reaching their breaking point. Chief lost his mind. What about me? Maybe I would wave bloody shards of broken glass around in the air….
“Xiao Yu, are you alright? You don’t look too well.”
“I wanna rest for a bit…I’m wiped….”
I start tipping over as I speak. I guess I must really look bad because the principal has already rushed out for help. Mr. Xu hurriedly helps me over to the sofa before leaving to speak to the officers outside.
I feel myself drifting between slumber and alertness, as if I’m dreaming in my sleep or awake with my eyes wide open. My vision blurs at times and focuses at others and my skull feels like it’s about to burst open under pressure from the inside.
I’m just too tired. I’ll get some shut-eye…. Just a bit.
Involuntarily, I shudder, not even able to get up in fear.
“You really are everywhere.”
I murmur with my eyes half-lidded. I try to open them but they shut on me. Suddenly, I experience a very peculiar feeling. I can’t feel my body or the softness of the sofa I’m lying on. It’s as though I’ve lost all sensation. The shapes before me fade out as if someone has put a layer of gauze over it, showing only rough, clouded outlines.
Slowly, I sit up.
My legs start moving but I can’t feel a thing. My body moves by itself as though it no longer belongs to me; I can’t control anything. I should be shrieking with fear and yet it’s as if I don’t even have shrieking in my dictionary. All I can do is walk like a puppet towards the door with this body.
There are many officers outside the door. Some are walking around, others are busy with work, but none of them turn to look at me. It’s as if I’m transparent. My feet steadily take me out the room. I blankly watch the sight before my eyes. It’s a bit familiar but also a bit foreign. I know I’m in one of the buildings in the school but I can’t quite pinpoint which exactly.
My feet are still moving, taking me up a flight of stairs, and then another, and keeps heading up.
I count to myself: one, two, three, four….
I finally know where I am when we reach the seventh floor. It’s the laboratory building, the tallest building in the school. But my feet are still taking me up. The door that’s usually locked swings open; it’s the rooftop.
Students used to be able to come here freely but I heard it’s been locked up ever since some student committed suicide from here. Which student was that? I didn’t know because rumours are never detailed enough. I’ve never heard of the student’s name but somehow I think I know.
That student…was Sun Le.
My sensation comes back the moment I reach the rooftop. I feel my feet against the cement but I don’t have the power to turn tails and flee. It’s as though my feet are nailed down to the ground.
It has appeared behind me again and I catch that pungent smell once again. Then I feel a hand on my back nudging me forward.
Where is it going to push me towards this time?
I walk forward stiffly. My brain is screaming at me to stop but my legs keep moving forward. I try everything but nothing can stop these legs of mine.
Are you fucking with me? Why didn’t you just let me walk to your destination without ever feeling a thing? Why did you have to let my senses come back all of a sudden? So that I can be filled with dread as I get closer and closer to your destination?
I know where its destination is. I’ve had my eyes on it since the moment I stepped onto the roof.
And that would be the edge of the roof. There are railings but there’s a pipe sticking out to the side. You could easily hurdle over the railings if you used the pipe, and fall towards the earth.
“I…don’t wanna die.”
Desperately, I say to it as my feet step onto the pipe.
And then my feet step forward towards the empty sky without a moment of hesitation. As I fall from the building, my tears scatter into the wind.
Sorry, Yuan Fei….
I wanted to be with you until the end. But there’s only you now._________________________________
Dairytea's comment: Believe it or not, we're nearing the end!? Σ(゜ロ゜;)
ayszhang's comment: I made a serious mistake that I need to correct TAT For some reason, I translated the organ that Cubs died from as liver when it was supposed to be kidney DX!!! Anyways, I have gone back and changed all the livers to kidneys (lol never thought I would ever say that)
The Water Goes Drip-Drop - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.