I looked at the time—it was already noon. "Let’s make sure our words add up so we don’t run into any trouble with the police later," I said.
"Why do we have to do that?” argued Dali. “It’s not like we did anything illegal.”
I coughed and explained that several aspects were difficult to explain, such as the disappearance of Two-Face and the death of the two fugitives. Although Song Xingchen acted in self-defense, he was unlikely to cooperate with the police due to his temper. It was better to remove his presence completely. That way, we could fabricate the existence of a hunter who happened to pass by.
Having concocted a reasonable story, all we had to do was make sure our statements matched when the time came. There was one other thing: the treasure!
I recited the code which drew bewildered looks all around. I highly doubted we could decipher the code within the next few hours. After all, it was a riddle that had baffled these criminals for three years.
"Song Yang-gege, will you inform the police about the treasure?" asked Bingxin.
I nodded, "These people are wanted criminals from the 116 case. When the police confirm their identities, they will definitely link them to the treasure. Instead of hiding that information, I'd rather do them a favor and help them along. If they do find it, then that’s for the best. But if they can't, then I’ll gladly help myself to the case and gain some credit for the Nanjiang City Bureau!”
Shortly after we started our discussion, I found that Song Xingchen had slipped away. When I asked Dali and Bingxin if they had seen him, they both shook their heads. The sound of sirens drifted from a distance, indicating the police would soon arrive. It seemed that Song Xingchen really hated dealing with the authorities.
A few minutes later, a team of officers charged into the temple but were soon shocked by the scene that awaited them. The two dangerous fugitives had already been subdued by us.
After giving our statements, I turned to an officer and said, "There are two tasks I’m handing over to you. One is the firearms that these criminals have hidden privately, and the other is the historical relics they stole ten years ago which are probably buried in the temple. They were given a code that goes like this..."
Stunned, the officer said, "Mr. Song, I’ve seen your ID but there’s something I would like to ask. Was this operation planned by the Nanjiang City Bureau?"
"It was all an accident!" I laughed.
The police proceeded to open every statue for inspection and found a total of 17 remains. Six more corpses were dug up from the grounds outside the temple after the two criminals confessed to their crimes.
This major case caused a sensation throughout the province. Later on, reporters even called me to set up appointments for interviews with me but I rejected them all. However, an article was still published in the newspaper under the headline: "Danger Abound In An Abandoned Temple In The Mountains–Quick-witted Students Design A Trap To Capture The Wanted Criminals Alive." In the article, I was given the pseudonym Song Xiaoyu.
We went back to the factory in a police car. I urged Bingxin to return to the city but she insisted on staying for a few more days. It took me quite an effort coaxing her and repeating promises that I would return to spend some time with her before I managed to send the little princess on her way.
When Dali and I reached the factory, the first thing we did was find a beef noodle shop and fill our tummies, after which we returned to the dormitory. Upon discovering the empty corridors, Dali exclaimed, "Oh, no, we've been missing for two days! Is everyone still stuck outside looking for us?"
"That’s impossible,” I replied. “Did you forget about Zhu Xiaohao?"
Suddenly, a group of boys jumped out of nowhere and drummed the buckets in their hands, shouting excitedly, "The detective is back!"
I widened my eyes in shock at the situation. What was going on?
The boys broke out in a noisy discussion, "Song Yang, you’ve hidden such a huge secret from us!"
"Have the criminals been caught? Are you injured?"
"Tell us everything about the investigation!"
I clutched my stomach and waved them off, "Oh no, my stomach hurts! Let me go to the restroom first!"
Dali and I rushed back to our dormitory and quickly shut the door behind us.
As it turned out, Zhu Xiaohao had gone around broadcasting our adventure in the temple, adding many embellishments in the process. He claimed I had a mysterious martial arts expert protecting me and boasted about how he brought my consultant identification to the police, narrating the police’s initial skepticism and how they immediately called for special reinforcements as soon as he showed them my documents.
After returning from the temple, Zhu Xiaohao's attitude towards me did a 180. He no longer “borrowed” my things and hovered around me instead, looking for every opportunity to ingratiate himself.
"Great Detective Song, try the grapefruit I bought!"
"Great Detective Song, tell me about your investigations!"
"Great Detective Song, I'd like to discuss a matter with you. Do you know anyone from the Ministry of Land and Resources?"
His constant droning irritated me to no end.
Fortunately, there was only a fortnight left on our internship, after which we would go back to our own lives and never see this fellow again.
Although we had solved the case, there weren't any developments regarding the relics. Seeing that our internship period was coming to an end, I felt a little anxious and couldn’t stop myself from analyzing the code all day, speculating on countless futile clues.
First of all, the numbers weren’t in sequence, though they probably alluded to something.
They were followed by the twelve Earthly Branches from Ancient China, suggesting that the words in the cipher were a combination of the twelve sections.
I couldn't think of anything related to these words. There must be a corresponding key, perhaps a book, an article or a set of numbers; the list went on. But there was no such thing in the temple. So what exactly was it?
I spoke to Xiaotao, Bingxin and Lao Yao separately and asked each of them to look up information on the temple, using any methods within their capabilities. Unfortunately, the temple was so remote there wasn’t any information of importance.
The day before our internship ended, we had all planned a party but I was still staring blankly at the code in my room. Dali came in and interrupted my thoughts, "Dude, stop thinking about the code! You’ve done nothing but stare at that piece of paper for the past two days. It’s like you aged ten years!"
"What did you just say?" I asked.
I quickly grabbed the mirror to look at myself, relieved to see the same youthful face staring back at me.
"Damn! What’s with that reaction?” chuckled Dali. “I almost thought my words reminded you of something!"
"Dear God, please give me a hint!" I smiled bitterly.
"If you can’t get any ideas from cooping yourself up indoors, you might as well go for a walk!" suggested Dali.
Dali dragged me to an internet cafe and excitedly gushed about a recent popular online game called “An Oriental Odyssey.” He begged me to play with him so I listlessly built a character, choosing a monk for my career.
The monk was born in the White Horse Temple in Chang'an, and as I was performing a beginner’s task, my eye suddenly caught something. Dali leaned in and asked, "What's the matter?"
"There’s a monument in the temple!" I blurted.
Curious, Dali continued to ask, "What's wrong with the monument? Doesn’t every temple have one?"
I stood up abruptly, overturning my chair. According to Dali's later description, I was just like a Fan Jin who had passed the provincial imperial examination when I shouted, “There’s a monument in the temple!” and ran out. Everyone in the internet cafe was staring at me.
Dali ran after me and cried, “You didn't even log out! Aren't you afraid someone might steal your account?"
But at that moment, my mind was preoccupied by other thoughts. I felt as if I was being dragged up the mountain by an invisible force.
"Hey, where are you going?" asked Dali.
"Back to that temple to have a look!" I exclaimed.
Dali hailed a motorcycle taxi to take us there. At the foot of the mountain, the driver said that this was as far as he could take us. As soon as I got off the motorcycle, I ran up the mountain but I could still hear the driver behind wondering out loud, "What's wrong with that boy?"
"Oh, he was just discharged from the hospital," sighed Dali.
My legs carried me swiftly all the way to the temple, heart filled with the delight and thrill one would feel after receiving an admission notice or watching the finale of Detective Conan, perhaps even more exhilarated. The temple had been cordoned off by the police but I ignored the barrier and barged right in.
By the time I had scanned inside and outside the temple, Dali had finally caught up. "Dude, are you possessed?” he gasped. “What have you found?"
I took a deep breath and said, "I know how to crack the code!"Previous Chapter Next Chapter