I pulled Li Mazi back. “He’s just doing his job. Do not trouble him. It’s more important to see your friend first!”
Li Mazi let it go after I said that. “He’s lucky that I’ve got something more important to do today. Otherwise, I would have to make things clear to him. When I started to roam the streets, he was still wearing diapers and running around with a runny nose!”
I didn’t know how to reply to this shameless man.
Li Mazi continued, “Moreover, we‘re handsome and stylish. At first glance, we can’t be the bad guys, right? We’re helpful citizens, good people! If he doubts us, then he’s got the eyes of a dog!”
I couldn’t help but carefully study Li Mazi’s ordinary appearance. His facial skin was as bumpy as the moon’s surface. I didn’t know what to say, so I could only let out a dry cough.
Li Mazi reacted and gave me a sheepish smile. “I meant you!”
“Li Mazi, I have to admit that I admire you a little,” I said in all seriousness. “Although you’re seldom serious, you have a lot of friends and connections. You know people everywhere...”
Li Mazi looked excited and didn’t wait for me to finish speaking. “Of course! While traveling around the world, we have to rely on ‘friendship.’ Without friends, how could we blend in and work? Little Brother Zhang, I’m not bragging. In this line of business, if you want to do anything or find someone, just call me. I promise that I will satisfy you. If I can’t, my surname will no longer be Li!” Li Mazi sounded content.
I smiled. I was afraid that if he talked more, he would blow himself up and soar into the sky, so I had to change the topic. “Is this brother of yours someone with a big family background?”
“I wouldn't say so!” Li Mazi didn’t agree and pouted his lip. “Little Brother Zhang, we are old friends, so I won’t conceal anything from you. That friend of mine, his ancestors were famous for being poor. As for how poor were they? They said that once there was a beggar who asked to stay the night. When he left their house in the morning, he even paid them ten coins out of pity.”
I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
Li Mazi smiled at me. “However, my buddy’s luck turned out to be good. He had three siblings, who are either in jail or dead. He’s the only one well-off.
One day, a tea merchant passed by his village. Coincidently, he didn’t have enough people who worked for him. Since my friend was an honest fellow, the merchant recruited him and even made him his apprentice. Otherwise, my friend might have starved to death. The tea merchant eventually got sick and passed away after a few years. My friend then inherited his business. But life hasn’t been good for him these past few years as no one had much leisure time or the inclination to drink tea.
His tea business didn’t do very well at first. Then, as everyone’s life got better, people started to enjoy tea once again. Moreover, the weather in the South is suitable and helps to produce good quality tea.
That friend of mine has also been doing better. Sometimes, I think that fate doesn't make any sense. Previously, he was worse than a beggar. Now, he stays in a villa, drives nice cars, and enjoys good food and wine. Destiny is truly unpredictable.”
When Li Mazi finished talking, we stopped at an elegant-looking villa.
“This is the place.” Li Mazi pointed at the big gate. The villa in front of us had an odd atmosphere as the surrounding air was strangely hot and stuffy.
Something wasn’t right.
“Be careful,” I reminded him.
Li Mazi wore a cautious face and stepped forward to ring the doorbell.
A pale, middle-aged man soon opened the door. He opened the door a little and cautiously stuck out half of his head. When he saw Li Mazi, he heaved a sigh of relief, slowly opening the door for us. “Li Mazi, you’re here.”
His voice was very hoarse, and it didn’t match his looks. He sounded like a dying old man.
His face looked like he hadn’t been under sunlight for years. He didn’t have a bit of color. The blue veins under his thin, pale skin were clearly visible, which gave him a scary appearance.
When Li Mazi saw his friend, he was shocked. “Old Gang, you… How did you turn into this ghostly appearance?”
Li Mazi even forgot the words he had prepared to greet his friend and quickly pulled back his leg that had almost stepped into the house.
There was no light in Old Gang’s house, and all the curtains were closed. The room was strangely dark.
Old Gang’s claw-like hand grabbed Li Mazi as if he had just grabbed onto a buoy during a life-threatening situation. “Li Mazi, please save me. If this continues, I will die.”
His sudden move scared Li Mazi. “Hey buddy, I’m here. Don’t worry. I’ve come to help you. Just get off me first. Please, get off me.”
However, no matter what Li Mazi said, Old Gang didn’t want to let go of him. He even knelt in front of Li Mazi.
“All right! Old Gang, let go of me. Your grip is too strong…” Li Mazi grimaced in pain.
“Bong! Bong! Bong!”
We suddenly heard the heavy sound of a clock.
There were three bongs.
The first bong sounded as if it came from a very far distance. It felt like we were in the middle of a mountain pass, and I heard the bell from a faraway temple.
After the second bong, the clock felt near us. It felt like someone had tied us up and struck a bell next to our ears. The sound was ear-splitting, and it almost pricked our eardrums.
Lastly, the third bong wasn’t actually from the clock. It was more like that of a screaming woman who was trying to convey her resentment and grudge through her voice. I even heard fingernails scratching the floor.
After the three bongs, Old Gang looked as if all of his strength had left him. He slumped onto the ground. His eyes became empty as he talked in a shaking voice, “The bell rang! The bell rang…”
Li Mazi didn’t help Old Gang get up. He turned to me with a cautious look on his face.
I was annoyed but found it funny. “Why are you looking at me? Hurry, help him up.”
He kept calling him ‘buddy,’ and now that he was in danger, Li Mazi wanted to run faster than anybody else. Even if I could search through the newest edition of the Xinhua Dictionary, I would never find a word that described Li Mazi best.
When Li Mazi confirmed that my expression didn’t change, he slowly helped Old Gang get up. His actions were hesitant. If Old Gang did anything strange, he would run for sure.
Old Gang didn’t move. He was like a statue.
Li Mazi exhaled. However, as soon as he touched Old Gang’s shirt, he jerked back as if he had just received an electric shock. “Little Brother Zhang, something’s wrong.”
He was scared.
“What happened?” I frowned and walked toward him.
Li Mazi pointed at the absent-minded Old Gang. “Look, his clothes are wet.”
In just a few minutes, Old Gang had become very sick. He was sweating so much that his clothes had turned damp.
The strangest thing was that his face was still ashen, but without a single drop of sweat.
I pushed Li Mazi aside and gently supported Old Gang.
Old Gang was too weak. He leaned against me, and I had to exert my strength to help him reach the sofa.
I turned to Li Mazi, who was still standing by the door. “Switch on the lights.”
“Okay.” Li Mazi turned on the switch.
Old Gang, who was absent-minded just a moment ago, suddenly jolted up. His voice was high and sharp. “Don’t… Don’t turn on the lights!”
The sudden change of his voice surprised me. What kind of otherworldly item could torture people like this?
My curiosity was piqued.Previous Chapter Next Chapter