Meanwhile, Lu Yizhan and his colleagues were investigating the disappearance of the children from the welfare home.
“Say, this matter should be under the supervision of the criminal investigations department or some special department right?” The expression on the face of Lu Yizhan’s colleague wasn’t very good. “Look at the surveillance of the children disappearing. This isn’t something we can handle!”
“Four children heard the sound of a flute early in the morning last night. They lined up and went out to the playground to play. The evilest thing is that these children didn’t seem to be hypnotized or sleepwalking. They specifically avoided the surveillance. This shows that the four children were all conscious. They played on the swings in the playground and then one hour later, these children suddenly disappeared from the surveillance!”
The colleague started to swear. “Damn, the children are gone but the playground equipment is still moving. I couldn’t sleep well after watching the surveillance last night…”
Lu Yizhan’s colleague couldn’t help rubbing the goose bumps on his arms. “Now there are five children left. They were originally supposed to be transferred to another welfare home. Then the hospital suddenly made trouble, saying that everyone has to stay in this welfare home for investigation. It’s too damn weird!”
Lu Yizhan frowned. “Let’s go to the dean first.”
“The dean? I don’t think she will say anything.” Lu Yizhan’s colleague murmured. “This old woman never reported the missing children at all! If it wasn’t for the subsequent mushroom poisoning incident that resulted in the death of children and upgraded this case to a higher level, we wouldn’t have come here and found that the number of children wasn’t right. No one would know that these children are missing!”
“Then we have to go and ask.” Lu Yizhan’s tone was calm. “She must know something.”
In the dean’s office, Mu Ke’s father discussed the donation with the dean before going to talk to others. There was only the old dean left in the dean’s office. The old dean sat in a chair and looked at Lu Yizhan who came to her. “You asked me why I didn’t report the missing children?”
Lu Yizhan nodded and the old dean suddenly laughed. She opened a drawer with trembling hands, pulled out a pile of documents and handed them to Lu Yizhan “Young man, are you new here? I reported it every time they disappeared. Yet did I ever get a child back? Thus, I stopped reporting it. In any case, this welfare home is about to close down.”
Lu Yizhan frowned and read the documents the old dean handed him.
The oldest report was from 10 years ago. All of them were reports of missing children but the final investigation result was that the children ran away by themselves so there was no follow-up.
“Every year, our private welfare home will hold a performance on Children’s Day for the kind-hearted people who invested in our welfare home, so that the bosses who spend money can see the situation of the children they raised. However, children will always go missing after the annual Children’s Day performance. The investigation result is that the children ran away on their own.”
The old dean spoke very slowly. “At that time, you police officers suspected that our welfare home was abusing the children so that they wanted to run away from home. Then the investigation found that they weren’t abused. Even if the children ran away, we didn’t do anything extraordinary to the children. There was no such thing as selling human organs or pedophilia. The police investigated thoroughly but nothing was found.”
The old dean raised her eyes. “It is very common. Children run away from home and disappear.”
“It is hard to find missing children. These small children are just like grains of rice falling into a sea of people. Looking for the children who are trying to avoid you is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Thus, every year they disappear.”
Lu Yizhan’s colleague couldn’t help interjecting. “However, this time the surveillance showed that the children were sitting on the swings and then disappeared! This isn’t a case of them running away!”
“The thing you said is too strange. How can it happen? It is because our surveillance system has been used for a long time and is old.” The old dean downplayed it. “Perhaps it is broken?”
Lu Yizhan’s colleague choked up and felt he was going to have a heart attack. He wanted to sternly question the dean but was stopped by Lu Yizhan.
Lu Yizhan asked calmly, “It is our fault for not finding the children but you should still report it, right? It seems you haven’t reported it for more than a year? I checked the documents and there hasn’t been any for the past few years. You said that children go missing every year. So what is the truth of the matter?”
The old dean was silent for a few minutes. Then she turned around and found a large file bag from the bookcase behind her. It was covered in dust. She blew off the dust, opened the strings tying it shut and pulled out a thick book that looked like a photo album from it.
The first page showed ‘The 200X Children’s Welfare Home Art Show’. This was obviously the archive of this private welfare home.
In the photo, dozens of children stood in a restrained and awkward manner beside a group of men in suits and leather shoes. They showed cute and fake smiles that they had been taught thousands of times and had small lipstick marks on their foreheads. Their lips were painted red in a gaudy and old-fashioned manner.
“Children go missing every year but I don’t report it every year.” The old dean looked at the children in the photos and stretched out her tone. “Even if someone invests in this welfare home and it can last a year or two, it won’t be long before it will go bankrupt. Therefore, it is okay to tell you about these old things.”
“A lot of the children aren’t easy to discipline. If I say it in a good way, they have strong personalities. If I say it in a bad way, they have wild tempers and like to run outside.”
“Some of them aren’t running away from home but to escape from a crime.”
The old dean turned the page as she spoke. This page was similar to a record of the children’s education. The top said: [Orphans Bai Liu, Xiao Ke and five others beat up the investors who came to watch the June 1st performance. They robbed the investors’ property and mobile phones. The punishment is cleaning up the whole hospital and fasting for one day. The follow-up punishment depends on whether the situation is improved or not. Additional punishments might be added.]
“For example, these children beat up the investors after the show and ran away at night. I didn’t report the incident and let them run away. It is because if they didn’t run away, these children won’t have good results in a welfare home invested in by these investors.”
The old dean’s fingers tapped on the punishment in a meaningful manner. “At the very least, the punishment won’t just be fasting for a day.”
“Dean, can I look at this group photo?” Lu Yizhan’s focus was elsewhere and his expression was more solemn than ever.
The dean handed the book to Lu Yizhan. Lu Yizhan turned to the previous page that said ‘The 200X Children’s Welfare Home Art Show’. His eyes quickly searched the children in the photo and finally locked onto one child in the corner.
Even though this child had lipstick painted on and a big red dot between the eyebrows, he didn’t look funny at all. There was a subtle feminine beauty but this beauty was destroyed by his unwavering eyes. There was a type of precocity beyond his age. His cold eyes seemed to regard all the other children as idiots and he was very eye-catching.
No one was more familiar with this face than Lu Yizhan. Lu Yizhan’s eyes froze on the child in the photo. He pointed to the child and looked up at the old dean. “Who is this child? What is his name?”
“This child?” The old dean looked over and seemed to fall into a memory. “He was the one who took the lead in beating up the investors and running away. Thus, I have a deep memory of him. When he came to the orphanage, he only said that he was called Bai Liu (6).”
“No.” Lu Yizhan slammed his hands down on the table and stared at the old dean. “He is called Bai Liu. He was indeed once called Bai Liu (6) but he changed his name when he was 14 years old. He never called himself by this name again. He was raised in the same public welfare home as me. He can’t be in this private welfare home!”
(Rainbow Turtle: So to explain this part, Bai Liu’s name uses the character Liu = Willow. The Bai Liu mentioned by the dean uses the Liu = 6. Hence, the numbers nickname I mentioned in a previous note. This comes up often in the novel and it is hard to distinguish, so I will put a six next to it in parentheses when it means the Bai Liu (six) name)
“But…” The old dean looked at Lu Yizhan in a somewhat confused manner. “Did you recognize the wrong person? This kid named Bai Liu (6), shortly after escaping, an investor found him and brought him back. He couldn’t leave here and Bai Liu died soon after.”
“Died? What was the cause of death?” Lu Yizhan asked in a strange voice.
The dean sighed. “He died in a very strange way. He accidentally swallowed a strange coin with a hole in the middle of it. It got stuck in his trachea and he died in a few minutes. Since he suffered some bad things before coming to our welfare home and after he ran away, we… all suspected that Bai Liu committed suicide.”
Lu Yizhan moved his eyes stiffly. In the black and white photo, Bai Liu had no expression on his face. His eyes were lowered slightly and he looked a bit sleepy. His hanging hair was wet like it was soaked in sweat after the performance. Lu Yizhan felt like his chest was being heavily suppressed by an invisible and strange thing. He looked at the thin boy in the photo and was a bit out of breath.
This was Bai Liu from 10 years ago.
Bai Liu stepped forward and picked up the doll next to the seesaw. This was a handmade doll. The reference template was obviously him but the texture was very old. There was still a trace of a ribbon thread on the doll’s leg. It seemed like this was a handmade doll to give as a gift. Usually, this type of doll would have the date it would be gifted or the date of production.
Bai Liu examined the doll to try and find out if it had a date. Finally, he found a handwritten date inside the torn off head.
This was indeed a doll made 10 years ago.
Bai Liu had only started working two or three years ago and he only dressed in the white shirt and suit pants after that. The coin hung around his neck only arrived after Bai Liu joined the game since it was the physical representation of the system.
His current outfit was used on a doll made 10 years ago. Then his head was twisted off and left here.
Bai Liu’s eyes narrowed.