Chapter 523 – Strange World
The moment when the two jokers’ card was drawn out by Xiao Lou, the entire card wall seemed to be destroyed by a magical power and collapsed in front of everyone. Countless cards turned into fragments and fell from the wall. This bizarre scene made the team members stare in surprise but before anyone could speak, Xiao Lou’s eyes went black and he immediately lost consciousness.
He woke up again and found himself lying on a bed.
The room was incomparably familiar to him. There were light blue sheets and quilts, cotton curtains of the same color and no unnecessary furnishings apart from a large wardrobe on one side of the wall. The overhead light was a simple, round ceiling lamp with an embellishment of a circle of lines. Xiao Lou remembered it very clearly. This was what he bought himself from the lighting store.
Xiao Lou rubbed his sore temples and got out of bed.
The floor was covered with his favorite wood-colored flooring and the pajamas and slippers were what he bought from the supermarket. Xiao Lou came to the window in a doubtful manner and pulled open the curtains. Downstairs was the familiar artificial lake with a large fountain in the center. There were willow trees surrounding the artificial lake and casting a circle of reflections in the lake. In the wooden pavilion, several old people were playing chess.
These scenes were so familiar that Xiao Lou thought he was hallucinating. He rubbed his eyes and looked closely. Everything in front of him was so real and was just like what he usually saw when he woke up in the morning.
This was his real world residence located in the Yuhua Community on Nonglin Road in Jiangzhou.
He had just bought this house last year and spent a lot of time decorating it. The environment of the community was very good. There was a supermarket downstairs and the traffic was very convenient. He only needed to walk for 10 minutes to get to the school. He remembered that when he left the community to go to the supermarket across the street, he was hit by a bus. Then he unexpectedly came to the Card World.
Why was he back at home now?
None of his teammates were present and this made Xiao Lou immediately become vigilant. He quickly walked out of the bedroom and looked around. It was furnished exactly like his real world house. Even the small decorations in the shoe cabinet at the door were the same as he remembered.
Was he teleported back to reality?
Or was it an illusion that the Card World replicated from his memory?
Xiao Lou calmed down. He quickly went back to the bedroom to open the closet and changed into clean clothing. He took the mobile phone and keys from the bedside table and prepared to go out. He had just walked to the door and his phone rang. The caller ID said: Mom.
Xiao Lou was shocked. His fingers trembled as he pressed the answer button. “Hello?”
The familiar voice in his ears made him feel sad. The woman asked very gently, “Xiao Lou, when is your school vacation? Go back to Grandma’s house for the Spring Festival. Grandman has been thinking about you and said that she will make your favorite dumplings for this Spring Festival…”
Xiao Lou’s nose suddenly became sore and he didn’t know how to reply.
How long had it been since he heard his mother’s voice?
He might’ve grown up but in the eyes of his parents, he was always their son. His mother used to call him every weekend to ask about his recent situation. They occasionally cared about whether he found someone he liked and when he would bring his lover home…
Xiao Lou had always been very sensible since he was a child. This meant his parents’ attitude toward him was always tolerant and supportive. They respected his decisions and understood his choices. Xiao Lou felt that they were the best parents in the world.
He had indeed received this call on the eve of the holiday. His mother personally called him and spoke the same thing verbatim.
Xiao Lou remembered what he said at that time. “Mom, we have a holiday on the 10th day of the 12th lunar month but after the holiday, I am going to represent the school in an academic conference. This conference is very important and might not end until the 28th.”
Xiao Lou spoke the words from his memory. The phone was silent for a few moments before there was a laugh. “It doesn’t matter. Work is important. If you really can’t come back, we will fly to Jiangzhou to see you.”
Xiao Lou told her, “I think I can go back. After the conference, I’ll go home and clean up. Then I’ll take the plane on the morning of the 30th. It will be around 3 p.m. by the time I arrive. I can have dinner with you on New Year’s Eve.”
The voice on the other end clearly contained a hint of surprise. “Great! Then I’ll wait for you at Grandma’s house.”
Xiao Lou hummed in agreement. He told her to take care of her body before hanging up.
After hanging up the phone, the excitement of hearing his mother’s voice quickly dissipated. Xiao Lou calmed down and thought about things carefully. Did he go back to before the accident? Or was everything an illusion?
Xiao Lou put his hand into the pockets of his clothes and didn’t find the familiar card pack.
He was flustered. Then he opened his phone’s contacts that were full of familiar names that made Xiao Lou more and more confused. He simply skipped to the position of ‘Y’ in the contacts and found the name ‘Yu Hanjiang’.
Xiao Lou didn’t hesitate to call it. There were a few beeps before the call connected. There was some noise on the other side of the phone before Yu Hanjiang’s low, calm voice was heard. “Hello Professor Xiao, are you looking for me?”
Xiao Lou, “……”
Professor Xiao was the name Yu Hanjiang used to call him when they weren’t very close a long time ago. If Yu Hanjiang on the other end of the phone was today’s Yu Hanjiang, he would never call Xiao Lu by this name.
Xiao Lou tentatively asked, “Has Group Leader Yu been busy lately?”
There was the clear sound of leather shoes stepping on the ground followed by the sound of the door opening. Yu Hanjiang seemed to have entered the office and came to a quiet environment. Yu Hanjiang answered in a low voice, “I have been really busy lately. By the way, I happen to have a tricky case. It is a serial murder case and we found a rare drug in the victim’s cup. I would like to ask Professor Xiao to examine it.”
Xiao Lou endured the awkwardness in his heart and replied, “No problem. I will go to the Forensic Identification Center to work today. Group Leader Yu can come over at any time when you are free.”
“Okay, I will see you before 3 o’clock in the afternoon.”
Then he hung up the phone.
Xiao Lou listened to the beeping sound in his ears and his mind was a bit confused for a while. The current situation was too weird. Logically speaking, there would be a notification like ‘Welcome to the XX secret room. The task of the secret room is XX and the clearance time is XX’ after they entered the secret room. However, this time he woke up in his own home and there were no notifications.
It was as if he had a long dream and woke up to reality.
It was currently the end of December. Due to the poisoning case, Yu Hanjiang had come to ask him for assistance. Xiao Lou remembered that the sun was bright that day and it was Yu Hanjiang who called him first. Now he was the one who called Yu Hanjiang. Yu Hanjiang’s words were basically consistent with his memory and Yu Hanjiang wanted help identifying a rare toxin.
Xiao Lou took a deep breath to stabilize his mind and opened the door to go downstairs.
The illusion of the community was exactly the same as what he remembered. As he walked to the door of the community, the familiar security guard smiled at him. Xiao Lou smiled back, hurriedly left the community and took a taxi. “Go the Jiangzhou Forensic Identification Center.”
The taxi driver hit the timer and took Xiao Lou to the right at the intersection ahead.
Xiao Lou sat in the back and looked out the window. It was rush hour and the road was blocked. The people around him were rushing and there were many students in school uniforms riding bicycles. There was a key middle school of the city nearby. Xiao Lou saw this familiar blue and white school uniform every day when he went to work.
The vivid faces on the sidewalks, the crowded buses, the students in school uniforms, the familiar scent of the bun stores on the street… there was also the driver who complained in an authentic dialect. “Ah, there is a traffic jam in this area every morning. The streets are like ants moving. Why do you think there are so many people?”
Xiao Lou came back to his senses and smiled politely. “Life is forced. Most people have to go to work or to school. There is no way to not encounter a traffic jam in the morning rush hour. Master, pay attention to safety when driving. I’m not in a hurry.”
His job was a forensic science professor at Jiangzhou Medical University. If he looked back on the day when Yu Hanjiang looked for him, he had no classes today and didn’t need to go to school to work. He went to the Forensic Identification Center because Yu Hanjiang asked him for help.
The driver drove Xiao Lou around and at 9 o’clock in the morning, he finally came to the identification center.
Xiao Lou took the elevator upstairs and met two familiar colleagues in the elevator. They greeted him with a smile. “Professor Xiao, why did you come here today? I remember that you aren’t on duty!”
Xiao Lou answered, “There are some things that need to be dealt with. I will use the laboratory later.”
The woman with a sophisticated ponytail said, “Okay, Professor Xiao. You can swipe your card later and register.”
Xiao Lou thanked her. The elevator stopped and he went into his office to change to a white coat.
According to memory, Yu Hanjiang would come to the office at 9:30 a.m. to find him.
There was half an hour left.
Xiao Lou sat at his desk and carefully sorted out his thoughts. His experience with his teammates in the Card World was by no means a dream. This meant the world he was in now couldn’t be real. It was impossible for the keepers to be so kind to send them directly back to reality. In addition, Yu Hanjiang’s reaction was too wrong if this was really a free gift from the two jokers’ secret room that allowed them to return directly to reality.
What to do?
If this was a hunter pretending to be Yu Hanjiang, how could Xiao Lou deal with him? His card pack had disappeared. This was the worst. How could he fight hand to hand with Yu Hanjiang with no cards?
Xiao Lou frowned and thought for a moment. Then he remembered one thing.
In order to avoid encountering clones in this secret room pretending to be a teammate and stabbing everyone in the back, Xiao Lou made a suggestion to have everyone set a secret code to check their identities.
There was no need to mention Yu Hanjiang’s secret code. This Yu Hanjiang was definitely not the one that Xiao Lou knew in the Card World.
However, Chief Shao’s secret code was even more special.
Shao Qingge had said to Xiao Lou, “If you see me in the two jokers secret room, tell me that you recently want to buy stocks and which stock do I think has a better chance of rising. If it is someone disguised as me, they will definitely give you the name of a stock. If it is the real me, I will say the stock code 180376521… do you understand what I mean?”
Shao Qingge wasn’t talking about a stock code but his real world mobile phone number.
Xiao Lou found that Chief Shao was really lucky in critical moments. Chief Shao just inadvertently said a phone number but now it came in handy. No one had expected that the two jokers’ secret room would bring everyone to the real world environment. They expected a wilderness survival environment with countless fierce hunters waiting for them.
As a result, he opened his eyes and came to the quiet, peaceful and familiar Jiangzhou City.
Xiao Lou took out his phone and called the number that Shao Qingge had told him. Soon, a familiar voice came from the other side of the phone. The man seemed to have just gotten up and there was a hint of sexy hoarseness in his voice. “Hello. Who is this?”
Xiao Lou said, “Chief Shao, I am Xiao Lou.”
Shao Qingge seemed stunned for a moment. Then he raised an eyebrow. “Who is Xiao Lou? Where did you get my private number?”
Xiao Lou, “……”
Something was wrong. Nothing was right!
Could it be that everyone had forgotten their experience in the Card World? Or were the Yu Hanjiang and Shao Qingge he talked to not themselves?
Xiao Lou took a deep breath and calmly asked, “Do you remember Ye Qi?”
Shao Qingge laughed. “Who is Ye Qi? I don’t know him.” He rolled over in bed and said lazily, “This gentleman, I don’t know where you got my private number but I don’t like being close to strangers. I will hang up.”
He neatly hung up. Xiao Lou looked at the dark mobile phone and was thoughtful.
A moment later, Xiao Lou made up his mind. He went to the laboratory, found a miniature syringe, opened a box of anesthetic and sucked it into the syringe. Then he hid the syringe on his body. If this Yu Hanjiang was a hunter, Xiao Lou didn’t have any cards in his hand so he couldn’t just sit still. He would be subdued in three seconds if he started a fight with Yu Hanjiang. He might have a chance to escape with a single injection of anesthesia.
Xiao Lou returned to the office and patiently waited for the time to pass.
It finally reached 9:30 a.m. and there was a knock on the door outside. Xiao Lou said, “Come in.”
The door was pushed open and Xiao Lou met a pair of familiar, deep eyes.
The man today was wearing light casual clothes. The fitted brown trousers showed that his legs were particularly straight and slender. His handsome face was serious as he held a stack of documents in his hand and the sealed sterile box used by the police to collect evidence.
He walked over to Xiao Lou and held out his hand. “Hello, Professor Xiao.”
This person was exactly the same as Yu Hanjiang in his memory who came to the identification center to find him!
Xiao Lou’s heart was beating extremely quickly. He was really afraid that the next moment, Yu Hanjiang would pull out a gun and aim it at his head. Xiao Lou’s left hand gently clenched the needle in his pocket while he reached out his right hand to shake hands with Yu Hanjiang.
Yu Hanjiang put the documents on the table. “I brought over the toxin sample found in the cup of the deceased. Professor Xiao, I would like to ask you to do an appraisal.”
Xiao Lou was frightened but he tried to remain calm on the surface. “Group Leader Yu, please come with me.”
There was a result for the identification in the laboratory after a short time.
Xiao Lou said, “This toxin is called Ciguatera and it comes from deep sea fish. The Ciguatera toxin is mainly found in the head, intestines and reproductive organs of fish. High temperature heating or freezing won’t destroy the toxicity of the toxin. A small amount of this toxin will cause vomiting and abdominal pain while a large amount can lead to death. Judging from the sample you brought, the purity of the toxin is very high. The murderer deliberately extracted the Ciguatera to kill.”
Yu Hanjiang frowned. “In other words, the murderer is familiar with deep sea fish and knows the method of toxin extraction. They should be a professional in chemistry and pharmacy. They should have long-term exposure to fish containing this toxin?”
Xiao Lou nodded. “It should be like this.”
Yu Hanjiang held out his hand again. “Thank you, Professor Xiao. I know what to do.”
Xiao Lou reluctantly shook his hand. “Group Leader Yu is welcome.”
“I will invite Professor Xiao to dinner another day. I will go to work first.”
Then he simply turned to leave. Xiao Lou watched his back and couldn’t help being stunned. Wasn’t this Yu Hanjiang a hunter? Why didn’t he act?
Xiao Lou called out, “Group Leader Yu.”
Yu Hanjiang stopped and turned around with a cold look. “Professor Xiao, do you have something else to say?”
Xiao Lou asked with a smile, “Do you have a girlfriend? I have a very beautiful colleague and I can introduce her to you.”
Yu Hanjiang frowned in a disapproving manner. “Thank you but no.”
He turned away without looking back.
Xiao Lou looked at his upright back, mood very complicated.
This Yu Hanjiang shouldn’t be a hunter but the Yu Hanjiang in his memory.
His mother who called him wasn’t really his mother either. It was just a re-enactment of his memory.
Perhaps all his teammates were in such a closed world at the moment. None of them could contact each other and all the teammates they encountered were those from before they entered the Card World.
Therefore, in this word, Yu Hanjiang’s attitude was so indifferent that he would politely call Xiao Lou ‘Professor Xiao’. Shao Qingge didn’t know Xiao Lou. Xiao Lou’s mother would call him to ask if he was going home for the New Year and his colleagues would greet him with a smile.
Xiao Lou finally understood that he was trapped in his own ‘memory world’.
Partially proofread: Paranoid Kitten