Lin Dongxue hurried to mediate in order to prevent the family from quarreling further.
She decided to ask them individually. Of course, the first was the head of the family, the children's father. The two went to Jiang Hui's room. Lin Dongxue's first impression was that Jiang Hui was a very rebellious girl.
There were many posters of rock stars posted all over the room, and the books on the shelves were all of horror. The upper column was full of novels and the bottom shelf was full of magazines such as “Cowards”, “Boys and Girls”, and “Terrorists”.
What stood out on the table was a skull-shaped pen holder.
Lin Dongxue asked, “What kind of child was Jiang Hui?”
“Well, officer... Can I smoke?”
“As you please!”
The father lit a cigarette and sighed. “I blame myself. I was busy with my business for the first couple of years after I married. I rarely had a chance to accompany my daughter and her mother at home. I was born in the countryside and life was really hard. When I came to Long’an, I started up a business by myself. From setting up a stall, to operating a store, to now owning my own company, I have worked hard with lots of suffering throughout the years. I’m a man, right? It’s what I have to do. I can’t take care of both my family and business. I had to do lots of socializing outside and I often couldn’t come home…”
Lin Dongxue interrupted him. “Sorry, what I want to hear is about Jiang Hui.”
“Oh, sorry! Jiang Hui is a very clever child. When she was in elementary school, she won the first prize in the calligraphy competition. She’s someone I don’t have to worry over. I may not have been a responsible father because I was always out networking and negotiating business, but her relationship with her biological mother had never been that good. I have never missed a payment for their living expenses. If I earn 10,000, I’d give them 6,000. Jiang Hui has not missed anything monetary since she was a child. She was three when I met Hua Mei, which is my current wife. At the time, my original partner and I quarreled so much that she even stopped the car to grab onto Hua Mei’s hair. It was very ugly to look at.”
“I admit that Ming Ming's mother was originally a little three, but she was more supportive of my career. I am not the kind of scum like people think who abandon their partner after they get rich. I didn’t even have that much money at the time. When raw rice had already turned into cooked rice and I got her pregnant, I formally divorced my ex-wife. Hui Hui was awarded to me. Although I didn’t go home often, I have never neglected Hui Hui financially since birth. I bought her everything she wanted. I know I've never shown favoritism or been partial to any one of them. I'm just a bowl of water for the two children to share equally...”
Lin Dongxue sighed softly. Isn't this still just him talking about himself?
Lin Dongxue asked, “Can I please ask what day is Jiang Ming's birthday?”
“When is Jiang Hui’s?”
“Huh...” the father scratched his head. “July or August!”
“You mentioned that the bowl of water is shared equally, but I really can’t tell. The note written by Jiang Hui herself in her diary mentions that you are a ‘fairy’ who rarely shows up and always smiles, but she can’t guess your thoughts.”
The father heard this and his ears became red and hot. He covered this up by scratching his head. He said, “I’m really too busy with my career. I have no way to take care of my family. Otherwise, why would I ask my parents to take care of these two children? Officer Lin, are you married?”
“Can I not answer?”
“Don't get me wrong. What I mean is you will understand when you get married. Men are business-oriented, after all. The burden on their shoulders is quite high! A man who spends his days with his wife and children at home is bound to be an unproductive and unsuccessful person who lives off his wife.”
Lin Dongxue snorted softly and changed her question. “Did you notice anything unusual before the two children disappeared?”
The father shook his head. “I don't know. I only rushed back after learning of the news. Because of this, I’ve lost tens of thousands of yuan in business. Haii, why do children still make us so worried even after growing up?”
“Yeah, making money is way more important,” Lin Dongxue ridiculed him sarcastically.
The father slapped his thigh. “Yes! Yes, you are more reasonable. You have nothing to talk about without money. Nobody understands the sacrifices I’ve made for this family… You are a person who understands me. Can you leave down your contact details?”
“Don't get me wrong,” the father laughed like an idiot. “I mean, you won't have to make a trip all the way over here to learn about the situation next time.”
“I want to talk to Ming Ming's mother.”
“Okay, I’ll tell her to come in!”
As soon as the stepmother came in, she pointed to the poster on the wall and said, “Officer, look. What does this child have going on in her head all day? You can smell smoke in the room. She usually smokes secretly!”
“No, that smell was just left by her father.”
“Oh... But she also smoked in the past and I caught her doing it several times. She actually said to me, ‘Don't care about me!’ Yes, I'm the stepmother, but I've never shown favoritism since marrying into this family. I served my parents-in-law, cooked the food, and swept the floors. I pour my heart out for this family. Some children just don’t know how to be grateful. Do you know what she looks like? I’ll find pictures for you to see...”
The stepmother took out her mobile phone and flipped through the photos. Lin Dongxue glanced at all the pictures of Jiang Ming. The stepmother said embarrassingly, “Oh, I can’t seem to find her photo in such a rush. I’ll describe her to you! She is a girl with hair shaved like a boys. She wears earrings but only in one ear, making her seem like neither a girl nor a boy! She often hangs around boys at school and comes home late at night. When she comes home, she smells like alcohol. What do you think can she do with a bunch of boys like that as a girl? By the way, she also bought some jewelry, books, and CDs. She usually doesn’t have that much pocket money. How do you think a girl like that can find all that money? I dare not think further!”
“Her father said that he usually buys Jiang Hui whatever she wants.”
“You’re listening to him?!” The stepmother raised her voice, “When is he around to do that? He only has time to send money to the house. Jiang Hui’s pocket money is 800 yuan a month. Of course, I'm afraid she will spend it all, so I usually give it to her little by little. However, I never take her money. Whoever’s money it is, I give it to them. “
“How much does Jiang Ming spend?”
“We share a bowl of water equally. Jiang Hui has eight hundred and our Ming Ming also has eight hundred. There is no favorite child.” The stepmother sat down and sighed. “She was quite polite when she was young and even called me ‘Auntie.’ Later when she went to junior high, her whole personality changed. She’d throw things around whenever she was upset. I said a few words to her and she talked back and scolded me as a little three and a fox spirit. She even ran away from home more than once. This child has thorns on her and won't let anyone touch her. Honestly, I’ve never starved her or left her out in the cold. I really took her in as my own child and raised her with all my heart, but she stepped all over it. Her dad was usually busy working outside and only came back after months and months. If my family didn’t have Ming Ming, such an obedient and sensible child, I really don't know what the point of living would be. If she dares to do anything to my Ming Ming, I... I... I will fight her!“ The stepmother wiped tears away.
“Before the two children disappeared, did you notice anything unusual?”
“Any clues are fine, such as where they said they would go.”
“That morning, Jiang Hui quarreled with me and said that I ruined her home. She always talked so harshly. She seemed to say... Ah, I remember now, she stared into my eyes and said that one day, she’d make me regret! Jiang Hui must not have an ounce of goodness in her heart! And that diary entry? My God! A child thinking of such a terrible thing. If she dares do anything to my Ming Ming, I…”
3. In East Asian folklore, foxes are depicted as a familiar spirit possessed of magic powers. These foxes are depicted as mischievous, usually tricking other people, with the ability to disguise themselves as a beautiful woman who seduces men for mere mischief or to consume their bodies or spirits.